Montréal Impact Emerge from the Lions’ Den with 3 points

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

After a thoroughly disappointing defeat to Houston Dynamo, Montréal Impact fans were eager to move forward with the next road match, while still nervous that the team would be too fragile to recover from a loss. However, Orlando City had proven to be a comfortable adversary for the Impact since their entry into MLS, and captain Ignacio Piatti had enjoyed scoring 8 goals against them coming into the match, one of his highest tallies against an individual team.

Although de facto right wing starter Harry Novillo had recovered from a late pre-season injury, Orji Okwonkwo was given the start once again as Novillo was not ready to play a full match, and coach Rémi Garde wanted to allow a stable team to build chemistry and rebound from last week’s loss together.

If stability was what Garde sought, his team didn’t initially demonstrate that quality. The first ten minutes of the match in Orlando were reminiscent of last week’s abysmal showing for the Impact, as the Lions pounced while the visitors struggled to find their bearings in the match. Goalkeeper Evan Bush and Lady Luck worked in tandem to allow the Impact to survive an early wave of pressure unscathed. 

The tide turned in the 14th minute, when Samuel Piette launched a long pass toward Saphir Taïder. The Algerian international penetrated the Orlando defense and drifted to the right of Orlando’s 18-yard box as Okwonkwo used his pace to arrive near the penalty spot, where he latched on to Taïder’s cross and punished Orlando’s defensive lapse with a clinical finish the home team sorely lacked.

The Bleu-Blanc-Noir would go on to double their lead directly after OCSC restarted play. Orlando allowed striker Maxi Urruti’s incessant pressing to pay off as he intercepted a weak back pass from a central defender. Goalkeeper Brian Rowe was left with no choice but to sweep Urruti off his feet – however the forward had already passed to Piatti, who needed no further invitation to find the back of the net.

This one-two punch had clearly taken some wind out of Orlando’s sails, as the Impact would go on to enjoy comfortable periods of possession for large stretches of the game. After Okwonkwo had run himself ragged, Novillo made his Impact début, and quickly offered an assist to Piatti off yet another Orlando defensive error in the 80th minute. With his 10th goal against Orlando, Piatti is now the player who has scored the most goals against the men in purple.

Unfortunately for all involved, the match was poorly officiated by a referee new to the league, who allowed a series of increasingly physical challenges to go unsanctioned. It became clear as the clock wound down that tension levels were rising, and there had been several minor clashes between players over the course of the match. Dom Dwyer, who had scored a late consolation goal for Orlando, is a notorious instigator regardless of his opponent.

After a stoppage in play deep in injury time where Novillo received treatment following another robust tackle, Orlando City received the ball. Rather than respecting fair play and returning the ball to a goalkeeper, Orlando elected to go on the attack. This move was poorly received by the Impact, and led to a mass confrontation at the next stoppage in play. Central defender Zakaria Diallo allowed himself to be baited by Dwyer, and received a red card for shoving him in the head. 

OCSC coach James O’Connor would go on to apologize to the Impact in his post-game press conference, as even he felt his team had conducted themselves poorly when ignoring fair play. All in all though, the whole incident was just a blip on the radar in an otherwise satisfying away win.

This match marks the halfway point of the Impact’s six-game road trip, and it is an uphill battle from here until the home opener. The Impact will have next week off as many players depart to represent their countries, and will subsequently enter Blue Hell as they visit Sporting Kansas City on March 30th

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Loons drop three points to Galaxy

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Thankfully, supporting a MLS team in the Central Time Zone only rarely requires the addition of naps and coffee to the pregame regimen, but that was the case on Saturday, March 16, for Minnesota United’s faithful who hoped to see the Loons take their third straight win on the road against LA Galaxy. The 9:30 P.M. kickoff also meant there were more United fans on hand at the Black Hart of St. Paul (the MN Dark Clouds new home base in the shadow of Allianz Field) for the bar’s other entertainment:

That quip from Dina Delicious leaves no doubt that drag queens and soccer fans can coexist in what is simultaneously the city’s oldest gay bar and newest soccer bar. (Click here to learn more about the Black Hart of St. Paul and the people who make it great, Dina included.) And I think Dina was right about the Loons.

Though Minnesota fielded the same Starting XI for the third straight week against a Galaxy squad in a state of constant flux (with Joe Corona only recently added and offensive stalwarts being plucked one by one from the pitch by injury since opening night), there was one notable absence from the Loons’ bench that may have upset the balance. Head coach Adrian Heath missed training all week and did not travel with his squad due to needing dental surgery, leaving assistant Mark Watson at the helm of a system he knows well.

But something was off from the opening whistle. Even without Zlatan and Alessandrini, LA ran the game. Uriel Antuna, Sebastien Lletget and Rolf Feltscher picked apart a puzzled Minnesota backline, finding gaping spaces in the box that never should have been open and preventing Minnesota’s midfield from creating any danger off the counterattacks. If not for the sticky fingers of keeper Vito Mannone, Galaxy could have led 4-0 at the break. As it was, the 2-0 deficit was one goal too deep.

While the first half spurred plenty of flashbacks to the gloom and doom of road games past, the second half showed that the Loons know where they need to improve and that they’re willing to put up a united front. There was no in-fighting from the Loons.

Instead, Ike Opara and Romain Metanire kept up their composed leadership, Romario Ibarra and Darwin Quintero did what they could with what they were given and both Angelo Rodriguez and Ethan Finlay showed up big when subbed on for Romario and Rasmus Schuller, respectively. Oh, and Jan Gregus, seeing Lletget step off briefly to see to a bleed from his broken nose, did this:

It is doubtful that the 3-2 loss spells the end of Heath’s midfield experiment (heavy on wingers and light on true forwards), especially considering that, a) Abu Danladi made little impact after subbing on for Miguel Ibarra in the 74th minute and b) Rodriguez pulled up lame from his no-quit goal.

However, it does illustrate the importance of the midfield lane and how it can be used. Gregus found it and his effort earned him Man of the Match honors.

In my opinion, dropping three points takes the target off of United’s back. Ending the night fourth in the West gives the Loons plenty to play for while the two-win streak (regardless of the opponent) gives the squad confidence that it can in fact be done. And a perfectly timed international break gives them time to reflect on that.

Minnesota United goes back on the road Saturday, March 30, to face New England Revolution, coffee not required.

Featured image: @MNUFC

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The Houston Dynamo Take Blood, Sweat, and Points At Home

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Top photo: MLSFemale photographer Leslie Chairez perfectly captures the moment before Alberth Elis (foreground) places the ball at Memo Rodriguez’s feet for a goal.

This weekend, the Houston Dynamo hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps, their second Canadian opponent in as many MLS pairings.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Coming off a 1-0 loss in Mexico that took them out of the CONCACAF Champions League, the men in orange were surprisingly emboldened. Their showing at Estadio Universitario against Tigres was an improved effort to their first leg at home, and they showed a crowd of over 41,000 Tigres fans an impressive level of play. But Saturday, ready to focus squarely on the MLS competition (until Lamar Hunt kicks off in May), the Dynamo set their sights on the Whitecaps.

One of the most notable moments of the match came late in the 76th minute as a no-fault collision in the Whitecaps’ box led to Houston’s Mauro Manotas and Vancouver’s Andy Rose being treated for head injuries. Manotas received gauze and a head wrap, while Rose seemed to get the worst of it. He bled profusely and left the match under concussion protocol, having to be assisted off of the pitch.

The Whitecaps had used their last substitution moments before the collision and were forced to finish the match down a man. At the end of the match, as the coaches met briefly, the concern in Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera’s face was clear, and I’m sure that he was expressing hope for a full recovery for Rose.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

While the mid-60s temperatures bordered on cool for Houstonians, the weather is always a factor in these early matches when snow-accustomed teams migrate south to begin the MLS season each spring. There is simply no way for teams from the north to be fully prepared for the Houston environment. In addition to the heat, Houston’s annual spring pollen has recently draped the city in a layer of yellow, and allergy-related ailments are tough to push through.

The match was chilly early on as the cloud cover kept the sun at bay. By the half, most fans had shed their extra layers as the sun came out and gave the day a warmer summer feel. The rising heat index led to increasingly chippy play, lots of late cards, and other uncalled fouls for both sides.

Pollen on the lake and pollen footprints on the deck illustrate the extent to which the Houston area is blanketed with allergens this time of year. – Photos by Darbi Lockridge, from her back porch.

Cabrera’s lineup replaced one of his traditional three forward attackers with midfielder Memo Rodriguez, which I believe to be the key to the Dynamo’s continued offensive magic. Forward Alberth Elis scored his first goal of the season off a penalty and was instrumental with assists in the other two goals scored by Rodriguez. Memo’s brace held the Dynamo up to a 3-2 victory against the Whitecaps.

Their seven-point start to the 2019 season is the best on record for this team and could hearken the coming of a new dominance in the Western Conference for the Dynamo, which have often held an underdog status. After playing seven matches in under a month, the Dynamo and the fans are eager to recuperate through the break before meeting the Colorado Rapids in our first away match on March 30.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

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Montreal Impact Suffocated Yet Again In Houston

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

In all of their visits to BBVA Compass Stadium to take on the Houston Dynamo, Montréal Impact have only ever taken one point. If there are matches on the calendar that fans circle with great anticipation, a trip to Houston is not one of them. However, with the positive atmosphere surrounding the team this year, surely the tide was going to change?

Not to be the case.

Time and again, outside factors such as the stifling humidity, artificial turf, and a lack of ambiance in the stadium have been blamed for the Impact’s consistently poor performances in Texas. And perhaps the display the team demonstrated on the field was a result of any combination of those factors.

Ignacio Piatti, the man who makes the sun rise and set for the Impact, was smothered by defenders any time he got a whiff of the ball, remaining well-shackled and unable to contribute to the game. Passes were errant, attacking creativity lacked, and the Impact conceded a late goal – and all the points – after switching off as Houston ramped the intensity up a notch. Over the course of 90 minutes, there was only one team in the match, the team who had played a mid-week game nonetheless.

 As Rémi Garde put forth an unchanged starting eleven from San Jose, fans were pleased to see that the players would get a chance to build off the chemistry that had been building since pre-season. But as many passes went to the opposition and communication seemed non-existent, that chemistry seemed to evaporate before our eyes. Perhaps the Impact need to remain sequestered in a hotel all season in order to maintain continuity?

The highlight of the match for Impact fans was undoubtedly Saphir Taïder’s second goal in as many matches, nearly a carbon copy of his goal in San Jose – the Algerian snuck behind the defense to finish a deep pass, this time off a brilliant cross from Micheal Azira. 

Houston would go on to score immediately after play restarted, before laying a second-half siege to the Impact’s half, much as San Jose did in the previous match.

As the long road trip continues, fans will hope that fatigue does not get the better of the Bleu-Blanc-Noir, as it seemed to do in Houston. Additionally, it looks as though we are in for another year of “Nacho-dependence,”  this writer is off to light a candle for our maestro.

The Impact will take to the road once again, this time visiting Orlando City SC, on Saturday, March 16.

Featured image: @lesliecphotos on Instagram

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Sounders Hold on to Early 2-0 Lead to Beat the Rapids

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

While the 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer, the Seattle Sounders were able to hold off the Colorado Rapids for over 80 minutes at CenturyLink Field Saturday after scoring 2 goals in less than 10 minutes.

While it was a shock to some and a joy to all, Kelvin Leerdam notched the opening goal for the second week in a row. In the fifth minute, Brad Smith sent a cross in to the box that created a mad dash of ricochets and poor clearances. Leerdam somehow ended up with the ball at his feet and hammered home a left-footed beauty that sailed past the Colorado keeper, Tim Howard.

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

In the 8th minute, Raul Ruidiaz smashed home his second goal of the season by finishing off a stellar cross from Victor Rodriguez.

Starting Off Hot?

The Sounders have notoriously played catch-up their past few seasons, including their back-to-back appearances in the MLS Cup Final. With Leerdam and Ruidiaz both notching their second goals of the season and Morris bagging a brace the previous game, the Sounders now have three players with more than one goal.

Last season, the Sounders did not have more than one player with multiple goals until June. The victory on the night also signifies the Sounders first 2-0 start to a season since 2015. While it’s definitely early, the team is certainly making a statement.

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

Keeping A Clean Sheet

While Stefan Frei wasn’t truly tested during the match, the backline and goalkeeper looked seriously solid while putting up a clean sheet. Brad Smith and Victor Rodriguez show signs of being an increasingly powerful wing combo, producing multiple strong runs and overlaps throughout the game. Leerdam’s ability to contribute goals is something he has accomplished at previous clubs and is a welcome change from the usually predominant defensive role he has played with the Sounders.

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

Road Test Ahead

After two dominant performances at home, the Sounders now travel to Chicago next Saturday (3/16) and Vancouver at the end of the month (3/30), following a bye-week during International Friendlies. The road games will be a true test for the team who has always performed better at home.

Featured & all images: @jillmpeck on Instagram

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FC Dallas – LA Galaxy

By Sahara Clay // @SaharaClayMLSF

FC Dallas played LA Galaxy this weekend in Toyota Stadium. It was a sunny Texas day in March and the stadium was packed full of adoring fans. However, there was one question on everyone’s mind: where is Zlatan?

From the beer garden, chants rang out of “Where is your Zlatan?” and “In the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight,” obvious taunts at LA. However, these calls were incredibly valid.

FC Dallas made a huge mistake of marketing Zlatan and this game as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch him play when he was nowhere to be found. Even more embarrassingly, they ran these ads at halftime when it was painstakingly apparent Zlatan would not be found on the pitch.

For such a hyped-up match, nothing much seemed to happen. Yes, FC Dallas won 2-0, but was it the game of a lifetime? Hardly.

In my opinion, Paxton Pomykal was the standout of the match, even though Reto Ziegler and Bryan Acosta scored the two goals of the match. No one showed as much hustle on the field as Pomkykal in every single minute of the game.

In fact, Pomykal is partially responsible for Bryan Acosta’s first MLS goal. It’s going to be very interesting to see how Luchi Gonzalez pushes Pomykal in his debut season as FC Dallas’ coach.

I would love to see Pomykal as a starter this season as his confidence grows on the field. He only gets better. Gonzalez stressed the importance of possession throughout the preseason and Dallas did a great job of implementing that this match.

We ended the match with 64% possession of the ball and even had a whopping 59 uninterrupted passes.

Other notable moments of the match included Edwin Cerillo’s MLS debut after an awesome preseason. Although Cerillo only joined the game in the 79th minute, he had a solid start, with his first touch being a clearance of Joe Corona’s free kick.

Jesse Gonzalez also had a notable save on the field – arguably one of the best of the week – in the 91st minute. His short reaction time saves are some of the best in MLS. Gonzalez and the Homegrowns certainly had an amazing day on the field – pointing towards a promising season if we can keep it up

Featured image: @FCDallas

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Bye, Bye, Bye: Sundry Thoughts on New York Red Bulls

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Matchday 2: Bye Week from League Play

Well… it’s not like I don’t have anything to talk about. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

“… And if they tell two people…”: Look. I’ve ranted about all those folks who complain about attendance at games. It’s forced me to examine the phenomenon myself. Red Bulls are not much different than a lot of MLS teams.

It all comes down to this: a lot of folks in the tri-state area can think of other things they’d rather do than go to a soccer game. Their loss, I say, and I leave it at that. It certainly isn’t my job to look at arena attendance as a problem I must solve.

That being said, the solution may be sitting in front of the average supporter. I work with eight other adults. Just by talking about my writing and the team I cover, two of them are thinking of heading to a game this season.

Like the 1980s shampoo commercial illustrated, word of mouth can be the best way to bring people to a product. The home opener is this weekend– tell your friends.

That old familiar feeling: This is not to say I haven’t been to Red Bull Arena yet this season. I have– twice. For the third year in a row, RBNY earned a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. They started strong with a 5-0 aggregate win over Club Atletico Pantoja of Costa Rica (which meant they got to go to Costa Rica… my snow-shoveling self was a tad jealous).

But the quarterfinal round was a whole ‘nother thing. Liga MX team Santos Laguna, who wallopped their first opponent, Marathon (Panama) 11-2, rode that wave and eliminated Red Bull with an aggregate score of 6-2.

Fans may be asking, “Why,” or better yet, ”Why again?” It’s easy to say they aren’t in full season form, or injuries (Kemar Lawrence most notably) hampered their play. But it’s more than that.

Outspoken soccer pundit Ray Hudson said that CCL “holds a mirror” to MLS teams and says, ‘You’re getting better, but there’s still more work to be done.’ Houston Dynamo was eliminated as well, leaving Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City to try and flip the script.

Kid and Play: (As if I couldn’t show my age enough…) The young and international talent that RBNY has gathered for this season is nothing short of impressive. From Bronx native Omir Fernandez, who made his first professional goal in the Champions League, to Danish phenom Mathias Jorgensen, who hit the field for the first time in red against Santos this week, the club has their eyes on the future.

Putting them alongside established veterans like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer is the best way for them to elevate their game. Romanian international Andreas Ivan has proven this strategy is beneficial, as evidenced by a goal each in MLS and Champions League. But what may be even more important is what this shows young fans.

Everyone wants to see someone who looks like them in a spotlight, and that includes young people. Fans across the league: bring your kids while teams play their kids. You won’t be disappointed.  

P.S. What– did you think I wouldn’t include the song?

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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Sporting KC dominates in 2-0 home opener victory

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City finally kicked off the regular season at home with a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union to an electric crowd at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday.

After dropping the MLS season opener in Los Angeles and the first leg in Panama for the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals, Sporting KC switched gears and returned to Kansas City.

Missing Roger Espinoza due to red card suspension and Andreu Fontás to an injury – a reshuffled lineup introduced 16-year-old, Gianluca Busio, the youngest MLS starter in Children’s Mercy Park history.

Busio wasted little time proving his starting role, drawing a penalty kick in the ninth minute after Johnny Russell and Krisztian Nemeth exchanged passes in the penalty area. In a scramble to win the ball, the Union’s Auston Trusty tripped Busio from behind, and referee Chris Penso immediately called the foul. Ilie Sanchez stepped up and converted the penalty kick to give the home side the early lead.

Moments later, the Union would have a chance to equalize after Seth Sinovic was called for handball infraction inside the box, but as luck would have it – goalkeeper Tim Melia was a game changer as he dove low to push away Marco Fabian’s attempt, securing Sporting KC’s 1-0 lead into the half. Melia earned his eighth penalty kick save since joining the club in 2015, surpassing his former mentor; Nick Rimando’s record of five penalty kick saves.

The Union was reduced to 10 men after Fabian received a straight red card in the 60th minute. Graham Zusi sent a thunderous strike to see it miss the goal by inches and bounce off the post. Minutes later, Melia was called back into action catching the ball mid-air off a header by Cory Burke.

The 16-year-old midfielder earned a chance to score his first MLS goal in the 77th minute; after Ilie sent a pass over the top falling to Busio, who then try to run the ball into an open net but was denied by a last-minute save by Trusty.

Own goals. We love own goals.

In the 80th minute, Kelyn Rowe sent a pass to Gerso Fernandes but Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott intercepted the play; and instead of clearing out the danger, Elliott kicked the ball past Blake doubling Sporting’s lead 2-0. Even though it technically wasn’t counted as an assist for Rowe, we’ll make an exception.

The last ten minutes saw both sides exchange passes until the final whistle awarding Sporting KC a 2-0 shutout and three points.

Sporting KC will prepare to host Panamanian side Independent in the decisive second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals; before going back on the road to face the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, March 17.

Featured image: Peaty Romano

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LAFC chop down the Timbers 4-1 in second straight win

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club is proving they are the club to beat this season following a 4-1 dramatic win over the Portland Timbers at the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday.

After nabbing their first victory of 2019 against Sporting Kansas City last weekend, LAFC extended their winning streak – with goals by Mark-Anthony Kaye, Christian Ramirez, Adama Diomande and Carlos Vela.

LAFC had a chance to take the early lead in the 10th minute when Kaye intercepted Portland’s ball at the top of their box. He quickly chipped it over Portland’s back line to Ramirez, but it was just out of Ramirez’s reach – sending it over the net.

Just four minutes later, Kaye gets another chance to score and headed one home off a corner kick from the captain Vela, leaving a stunned Jeff Attinella in place. It was Kaye’s first goal since suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year.

After some back and forth, LAFC’s early lead wouldn’t last long. The Timbers’ first real threat came after a corner swung into the top of the six-yard line – Tyler Miller was quick to catch it. But the danger wasn’t over yet. Jeremy Ebobisse managed to break through off a free kick for the equalizer in the 29th minute.

LAFC had to adjust fast again after Latif Blessing – that played right back for the first time – entered for Steven Beitashour, who was subbed off in the 32nd minute due to injury. Beitashour had suffered a blow to the head while defending LAFC’s box before either team opened the scoring, and evaluated for a possible concussion on the sideline. But no further information has been released.

After an intricate sequence of plays starting in the back – Carlos Vela, passed two or three defenders to Jordan Harvey that sent it to Christian Ramirez; who gets the low cross and doubled the lead, 2-1.

The Timbers’ came close to closing the deficit with Ebobisse looking to level the match again. He ran up the middle and before the ball left his foot; Walker Zimmerman stopped him in his tracks with a goal-saving tackle.

Fresh off the bench, Diomande slides one home off of a cross from Vela in the 65th minute. He also delivered the game-winning goal last Sunday.

Carlos Vela secured LAFC’s win with his first goal of the season after curling his shot around Attinella and nestled the ball into the side of the net – Vela also earned three assists that evening.

Moments after Vela’s goal, LAFC gained an advantage as Diego Chara received a straight red on a second caution for a foul on Diego Rossi. Portland would go on to play with ten men.

The black-and-gold stayed focused for the remainder of the half, ending the match 4-1 – earning their second consecutive win at home.

LAFC will look to stay undefeated on the road as they travel to New York City to face NYCFC on Sunday, March 17.

Photo credit: Daisy Jimenez/mlsfemale

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Dueling goalkeepers keep NYCFC and DC United to 0-0 draw

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club opened its 2019 season at home against DC United on Sunday March 10th. What the match lacked in scoring, it made up for in goalkeeping theatrics. Both NYCFC’s keeper, Sean Johnson, and DC United’s, Bill Hamid, kept the game a nail biter with their superb performances.

DC United’s high and heavy press gave NYCFC’s back line a hard time from literally the first minute of play. Once NYC adjusted to the pressure, the midfield and wings started to put together attacking sequences.  The underlying theme of the offense was “Find Alexandru Mitrita” with one NYC counter attack sending “Mitri” into three DC defenders and almost beating them, before DC’s Wayne Rooney and his elbow destroyed the play.

For this match, Coach Dome Torrent tried a different formation with Taty Castellanos in a striker role and Maxi Moralez back to more of a 10 role.  Once again, James Sands started in central midfield alongside Captain Alex Ring. This season, Ring seems to be playing a lot more offensively and has been given free reign to shoot both inside and outside the box.  On Sunday he had two strong shots with one diving header denied by an incredible save by Hamid.  These are shots that would not have been taken in years past.

Johnson was credited with 3 saves on DC United’s on-target shots.  Officially, they had 7 total shots.  Hamid made 6 saves while City totaled 21 shots, with most of them off target. Most of the on-target shots were incredible efforts by both the attacker and the keeper.  If only there was a way to put a little gold star next to the particularly impressive saves by the keeper.

My takeways:

Taty Castellanos gave a strong performance.  He had multiple shots on target (most of them headers) was where he was supposed to be in attacking sequences and generally appeared to work in rhythm with Mitrita.  Does anyone remember the first two seasons when a ball would cross in front of the opponent’s goal and nobody was there to meet it?  That doesn’t happen with Taty.  If given time to germinate, the chemistry between Castellanos, Mitrita and Maxi can only improve.

James Sands played well and helped lead NYCFC’s efforts to control the middle third of the field.  He seemed to be everywhere adding pressure and then accurately redistributing to kick off our offense. Part of the reason Ring is free to push forward and attack is because Sands is handling the defensive role so reliably.

DC United's Wayne Rooney and NYCFC's James Sands
DC United’s Rooney, NYCFC’s Sands

The combination of Ring and Mitri could become very deadly.  Ring finds Mitri with long penetrating passes and Mitri seems equally comfortable taking shots from  outside the box and maneuvering around multiple defenders into the box.  Pair this with Ring’s willingness and ability to shoot from a distance, and opposing defenders will have a hard time dealing with City’s unpredictability.   

What’s going on with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi?  Last season he stepped up big as the second highest goal scorer on the team during a period when we were without the injured David Villa. I was happy to see him come in as a sub for Jesus Medina after not playing at all in Orlando, but he seemed to have lost his spark for firing off shots on goal.  Is he trying to settle into some new role?  I liked his old one.  You know, scoring goals.

NYCFC is back in the Bronx on Sunday, March 17th against LAFC.

Featured image: @NYCFC

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