LA Galaxy vs. LAFC: Match Preview

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Where: Dignity Health Sports Complex, Carson, Calif.

When: Friday, July 19th, 7:00 p.m. PT.

How to watch: ESPN, ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980

The highly anticipated fourth chapter of El Trafico is finally here and it’s time to blackout Carson once more!

Following a successful road trip in Houston, the Los Angeles Football Club will travel a grueling twelve miles (two hours by LA traffic) to visit the LA Galaxy – who are currently in third place – in search of their first win of the series.

Going into its second year of “El Trafico,” LAFC is currently 0-1-2. And the league leaders have proven to be a force to be reckoned with as they continue to cross out rivals off the list. With Carlos Vela and Zlatan back in lineup for their club, respectively. This is a match you won’t want to miss.

Image courtesy of MLSSoccer.com

It seems all odds are in favor for the black-and-gold. However, Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey should still be on high alert of not only Zlatan but prevent Uriel Antuna; from getting close on the wings. Antuna had strong performances while with Mexico in the Gold Cup, including a hat trick against Cuba. But he still does not level up to Diego Rossi.

Although Bob Bradley has been testing the waters lately with a slightly altered rotation for each match, I predict he will field a full-strength roster. Hopefully, with Tristian Blackmon back in the center back position. And Mohammad El-Munir, Dejan Jaković, and Peter Lee-Vassell on the bench.

Eduard Atuesta will likely rejoin the roster after serving his yellow card suspension in Houston. And his presence could without a doubt be the match’s game-changer for the black-and-gold, especially as he pairs up with Mark-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing in the midfield.

El Trafico, El Clasico, the 12-Mile derby?

No matter how you phrase it. It’s no secret, there is a deep-seeded rivalry between both clubs especially, with the fourth installment of “El Trafico” around the corner in its second year. To help get a deeper insight, I interviewed my colleague at MLSFemale and LA Galaxy reporter, Michelle Huitink.

Araceli Villanueva: It seems the Galaxy has been on a rocky roller coaster ride in their last few matches, recently falling to San Jose this past weekend, how are they expecting to turn things around for Friday’s rally?

Michelle Huitink: I think the Galaxy just needs some rest and have key players back in good shape. Antuna and Dos Santos had just returned from international duty. And Diego Polenta was suspended due to yellow card accumulation. Hopefully, Perry Kitchen and Sebastian Lletget can recover in time. The Galaxy knows how important this game is.

They weren’t necessarily outplayed when they were away in San Jose, and they won at home against Toronto FC, but this last match was worrisome. David Bingham came up huge with 13 saves. But I hope it exposed the defense weaknesses in time for them to tighten up and get it together to play against LAFC. The big problem seems to be lack of leadership and heart, so hopefully, morale and passion can be re-ignited so they’ll step it up for this Friday’s match. 

AV: With Jonathan Dos Santos and Uriel Antuna back from international duty – should we expect the Galaxy’s roster to be at full strength or who could be potentially missing the match? 

MH: Anything is possible. I don’t want to see Emmanuel Boateng start because, despite his hustle, he can’t get the cross nor finish in front of the net. But if he does, I’d bring Efrain Alvarez in as a spark off the bench. Hopefully, we will have a full roster. As much as I’d like to see Dave Romney start – Jorgen Skjelvik is a guy you know you can count on in the backline for a match like this. Daniel Steres has earned his spot. He is consistent, can win 1v1 situations and is overall a great defender. And Giancarlo Gonzalez is also a key player; having had some wild defending in the past. Efrain Alvarez can be a real threat. Jonathan in the midfield is legit lethal as a playmaker and a goal scorer. I would like to see Antuna bring that Gold Cup action on the pitch Friday. The Galaxy doesn’t lack talent on paper. And we’ve seen that they can gel well as a team.

As much as I’d like to say it doesn’t matter who we play or because of the rivalry, regardless it’s important at this point in the season for the Galaxy to win. They’ve slipped to 3rd place. So I feel like the fans have been let down and feel uneasy how the team is going to perform. The best START is for Galaxy to show up for El Traffico like they mean it. 

AV: What is your take on the Zlatan yellow card controversy and MLS’ odd explanation for it?

MH: There just needs to be consistency across MLS. Apparently, the yellow against him for the [Sean] Johnson incident doesn’t count. It is what it is. Besides I’d like to think LAFC would want to face a full roster – whatever the case. 

AV: Friday marks the fourth meeting between both rivals. Now in its second year, are fans more hyped for the rivalry? And what additional precautions have the club made for Dignity Park?

MH: There’s definitely going to be heightened awareness and security. They have made it so that there’s no [general admission]. Everyone has an assigned seat. Fans are definitely hyped. For a Friday, I know many are still planning to tailgate, most likely leaving work early. There’s always a concern for hooliganism. 

Bonus question: What is your score prediction?

MH: 2-1. My score prediction is LA Galaxy win but by one goal. If the Galaxy can score early, I think there’s going to be quite the struggle. I don’t really see based on the Galaxy’s past matches that they can keep LAFC from scoring. The club can get shots, it’s the finish that they’ll have to nail. David Bingham should be on top of his game.

Featured Image: Pro Soccer USA

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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The Red Bulls Have Me Going Round and Round

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, July 3rd: 4-0 loss
Sunday, July 7th: 3-3 draw
Sunday, July 13th: 2-1 win

Summertime, and the living is clearly not easy. I’m bogged down with vacation planning, summer reading assignments, extra classes, and upcoming side hustles. And it’s far from smooth sailing for the New York Red Bulls, as well. While getting themselves back to full lineup strength, they have had to deal with midweek games and disciplinary suspensions. In moments, it’s been downright disappointing.

Overall, however, the team is hitting a decent stride. An international roster spot has been opened with Frenchie midfielder Florian Valot getting his green card. The secondary transfer window is now open, and there may be a new signing in their future. (Or not. I’m not in the business of football business.)

You Would End Up Winning

I didn’t like that Michael Amir Murillo was in the starting XI for the midweek clash against the Houston Dynamo. The Panamanian team had just been eliminated from the Gold Cup. He was still in ‘international tournament’ mode. It’s more physical, and the two yellow cards Murillo earned (44′, 83′) proved that. Wasn’t worth it.  Houston midfielder Alberth Elis had his way with RBNY, earning an assist and a pair of goals. I’m not one for superstition, but I understand the Red Bulls generally don’t do well in the match nearest Independence Day.  It was also a cross-conference match, which softens the blow. Besides, there were bigger obstacles ahead.

We’ll Put You On Your Shelf

Weird how rivalries happen. DC United, one of the original MLS teams along with the Metrostars, is also the original RBNY rival. NYCFC, the regional opponent of the Red Bulls, has made for a sort of rivalry… more on them later. But Atlanta United… man. That rivalry is organic. Atlanta hosted RBNY in their first ever MLS match: they lost. They cannot defeat the Red Bulls in the regular season. And they have yet to score a goal at Red Bull Arena. It’s enough to get under the fuzzy skin of the King Peaches. With another physical bout, Atlanta thought they had FINALLY broken their apparent curse the Sunday after Independence Day. Looks like they had forgotten to factor in Bradley Wright-Phillips. His 93rd minute leveler saved a point for the boys in Red to bring back to New York with them. Not a moment too soon.

We’ve Had Enough

Last season, there were four Hudson River Derby days. It was mentally exhausting, and rather pointless. Sure, NYCFC got themselves a W, but that’s not really enough to elevate the rivalry. Besides, some serious fan issues have overshadowed the boys from the Bronx. There are a good number of stories on that, I have no need to address it. My business is only what’s on the field.

Being on vacation at the time, I was actually reluctant to watch the game. Thanks to notifications on my phone, I felt justified when I saw NYC forward Heber struck first.  But ninety-plus minutes is a long time. Daniel Royer not only leveled the game at the end of the first half with a penalty kick, but also provided the go-ahead goal later on to capture the win for the Metro. It was not without controversy; apparently the assistant referee indicated the ball went out for a corner but the center ref overruled him. Midfielder Alex Muyl thew in the ball quickly, standard procedure for the Red Bulls, and Marc Rzatkowski crossed the ball to Royer’s head. Once again, NY is Red.

There is a lot more soccer this summer. I’m looking forward to it. With love, we’ll find a way; just give it time.

Featured image:  @NewYorkRedBulls

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Breaking Records, Making History: LAFC Continues Its Reign But How Long Will It Last?

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club starts off the second half of the season on the right foot but can they keep it up?

Prior to dominating in 3-1 victory in Houston over the weekend; the black-and-gold was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals this past Wednesday.

It would have been nice to see the club win the U.S. Open Cup championship that they were so close to claiming last season, but now LAFC will continue their run for the 2019 MLS Cup.

But first, let’s analyze the first part of the season and what I think LAFC could improve moving forward:

League Dominance

LAFC is currently sitting atop of the Western Conference standings with 46 points and has made the Banc a fortress with a 8-0-1 home record. They also have a solid road record of 6-2-3 and are leading the Supporters Shield race.

Below them is tight race in the standings with the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, and Minnesota United slowly climbing up all within a point of a each other.

After falling to the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road in April for their first loss of the season, the Los Angeles Football Club exacted revenge in a historic 6-1 blowout at the Banc of California stadium on July 6.

It was a statistics dominated match – LAFC has collectively scored 11 goals between both matches – making them the quickest team in MLS history to reach 100 points in the post-shootout era.

Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi continue to be a pain in everyone’s side having collectively scored 30 goals between them. While his teammate ranks first in both categories, Rossi comes in fifth for (66) shots and second for (32) shots on goal.

According to MLS’ playoffs tracker, if the playoffs started tomorrow, LAFC would earn a bye week as the top seed team. And would play the winner of the Minnesota United vs. the San Jose Earthquakes match in the western conference semifinals.

But considering Decision Day is October 6 with playoffs beginning on October 16 – the club still has some work to do to ensure that future is a possibility.

Roster Rotations

Another game. Another slightly heavy rotation.

Head Coach, Bob Bradley, has stressed multiple times that the current schedule is ‘ridiculous,’ and I agree.

True to his word. Bradley sat out Carlos Vela for the first time this season, giving Steven Beitashour the captain’s armband on Friday. Jordan Harvey, Latif Blessing, Diego Rossi, and Christian Ramirez joined Pablo Sisniega on the bench.

The match saw Tyler Miller back in goal and Peter-Lee Vassell earn the start in Houston, upon return from international duty.

This move isn’t unusual, as for the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the head coach opted to rest a few starters. And started Dejan Jakovic, Mohammed El-Munir, Adama Diomande (who appeared in the 18 for Kansas City), and Lee Nguyen – moving Tristian Blackmon back into the left wing.

In addition to losing Andre Horta earlier this season, LAFC announced on Monday that defender Niko Hämäläinen has returned to English side Queens Park Rangers following the conclusion of his six-month loan with LAFC.

The Battle of the Keepers

Pablo Sisniega has impressed us in the absence of Tyler Miller. The 24-year-old keeper stepped right in and created a 4-2-0 record in just one month.

Miller has racked up a 12-1-4 record with LAFC in 2019, thus far. As well, recording six clean sheets and allowing just 14 goals along the way. But with Miller going away to serve as the third-string keeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team for the duration of the Gold Cup – he returned to LAFC a bit shaky. However, I believe he can regain his rhythm in time.

Additionally, Philip Ejimadu has been doing well while on loan to USL side, FC Tucson – recording 31 saves, 15 clearances, and three clean sheets.

It seems we finally a strong keeper roster this season.

Carlos Vela leading the league

20 games. 19 goals.

Just give Carlos Vela the Golden Boot already!

The Mexican captain is leading the league in (19) goals, (12) assists, (99) shots, (41) shots on goal and is first in the Audi Player Index ratings with 874 points.

Last week, he was nominated as Player of the Week for the third time this season, along with Team of the Week honors.

Vela has played in every competitive match for LAFC this season, going the full 90 in all, except for two of the Black and Gold’s outings, being replaced with 11 minutes to play in April’s 4-0 victory over D.C. United – putting a target on the captain’s back.

During the Timbers match, the captain was seen limping multiple times – having left the pitch entirely at one point. And even though he sat out his first match in Houston, Vela was seen coaching his teammates from the sidelines during the second half.

Biggest concerns moving forward

Even though LAFC seems unstoppable at this point, I have still a few concerns for the team.

First. Let’s talk schedule.

Last week we saw LAFC do a quick turnaround within 48 hours and SB Nation’s Angels on Parade addressed this issue head on. And quite frankly, I agree with their stance. Given the club was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, for the league to allow them to travel to Houston the very next day is ridiculous.

Fitness is still my biggest concern for the team.

Although LAFC has been pretty lucky from crowding up the injury list there are currently three players on the report: Alejandro Guido and Danilo Silva are questionable, while Javier Perez remains out with an ACL Tear.

Scheduling and roster rotation aside, I realize there is always room for error in a match but LAFC continues to make little mistakes from time-to-time.

From Sisniega’s communication error to Harvey’s mistake against Portland, LAFC has gotten lucky in both cases. But if not addressed properly, it can have a ripple effect. Fortunately, LAFC has been great in regaining form during the second half.

What’s next?

After enduring a packed month of international soccer action and a rigorous 48 turnaround, the MLS schedule gets slightly easier for the club until August.

This week, LAFC is back on the road to face the LA Galaxy who are just a striking hour away (two hours if you consider LA traffic) at the Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday, July 19.

Featured Image: LAFC

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Sporting KC turning things around following 3-0 shutout in Vancouver

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After suffering a tough first half of the season, Sporting Kansas City is finally turning things around in back-to-back shutouts.

It seems the only thing the club will have to claim at customs (as they return home) is three points they earned in a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road Saturday night at BC Place.

Gerso Fernandes helped lift Sporting KC to their second straight win by playing a part in all three goals, having scored two of them himself.

For the first time this season, Peter Vermes fielded the same starting XI he used in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire last weekend; giving the backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Botond Barath, and Seth Sinovic their fourth clean sheet in five regular-season matches as a defensive unit.

Tim Melia returned to peak performance after recording six saves to earn his 58th win this season – surpassing the record of Jimmy Nielsen and becoming the new all-time leader in wins since joining the club in 2015.

Controlling over 60% possession throughout the match, Sporting KC pressured Vancouver’s defense before finding the opening goal in the 24th minute.

With Sporting KC in search of a second goal and Vancouver looking to level the match, both sides created chances just before the half. The visitors came close to doubling the lead in the 39th minute as Yohan Croizet’s volley was re-directed by Salloi and went straight to MacMath at close range.

Melia came up huge to turn away Inbeom Hwang’s free kick in the 48th minute. Moments later, 19-year-old Homegrown forward Theo Bair‘s shot misses narrowly wide of the post.

Sporting KC kicked it into high gear after the restart. Felipe Gutierrez wasted no time and immediately doubled the lead with a strike from the top of the box; sneaking it in past MacMath in the 56th minute.

The boys continued the fight to close out the game on a good note, something they had struggled with all season-long. The Whitecaps came close to pulling one back in the 76th minute. But Yordy Reyna’s free-kick ricocheted off the post. Sporting KC went on to threaten for a third goal for the duration of the second half; forcing MacMath to make double saves.

Sporting KC subbed in Johnny Russell for the final moments of the match. And right away, the Scottish forward linked up with his Hungarian teammate, playing the ball to Krisztian Nemeth, who cut it back to Fernandes and he squeezes it through for the game-winner – securing all three points.

With two straight wins and only four players on a once injury-riddled roster, Sporting KC sets their sights on getting back above the line for playoffs.

During the post-match interviews, Melia explained:

“Baby steps, right? We’re just trying to build into our better performances. Getting guys back – being able to bring [Johnny Russell] off the bench, someone who is as explosive as him. I mean, right now things are moving in the right direction.”

Sitting in ninth place with 25 points in a tight race in the Western Conference standings, the club will host FC Dallas who sits just above the line with a four-point difference on Saturday, July 20.

Featured image: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Minnesota Rises Above After 95 Minute Battle For the Ages

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United FC v FC Dallas: 1-0 win

After a come-from-behind victory in Montreal and a thorough trouncing of USL’s New Mexico United in a US Open Cup quarterfinal, Minnesota United returned to conference play on Saturday on home grass against FC Dallas. Their third match in seven days was a big one: Minnesota sat 4th in the West, Dallas 5th entering the weekend. It was everything you’d expect from two evenly matched teams.

Chippy. Cheeky. Scoreless for 90 minutes.

Through the first half, Minnesota struggled to get into the final third with the ball, continuing the trend of easy turnovers and poor passing. For their part, Dallas struggled there, as well, losing many an opportunity to a well-timed tackle or screen play inside of United’s 18. With 43% possession through the first half, Minnesota was level with Dallas on shots taken, 7, but Dallas was more efficient in that area and it felt as if they held the upper hand. That may simply have been due to the visitors’ decision making. By contrast, poor choices and touches abounded for the Loons.

After the 6-1 win over New Mexico, Adrian Heath praised his players for their selfless decisions. “My favorite saying, give it to people when they want it, not when you finish with it and that’s what we did,” he told the press. For the first half against Dallas, and much of the second, the Loons were not living that motto.

But each player held the other accountable in a very much one-v-one match. Most notably, captain Ozzie Alonso was furious with Chase Gasper when the rookie, in a scramble to avoid having to use his less-favored right foot, sent the ball over the touchline rather than allowing it to go out for a goal kick. Gasper wasted no time in making up for the gaff; he went right back to his mark at over 100% effort.

Gasper was one player singled out by Heath after Saturday’s win: “I’ve got to single out the two kids, the fullbacks. I’ve never seen anyone play [Michael Barrios] as well as Chase Gasper’s done today.”

That other fullback, Hassani Dotson, has made himself known in Romain Metanaire’s absence. He may be supplanted on Metanaire’s return, but he will, at the very least, be a known quantity off the bench.

It was a contentious 90 minutes, but the 5 minutes of added time were downright stressful. And euphoric. And then very stressful. And euphoric.

Sophomore forward Mason Toye has been on a tear recently, scoring 3 goals in his last 4 appearances (after going scoreless across 17 appearances in 2018). He added to that tally on Saturday, scoring on the rebound just as the 4th official raised his board announcing 5 minutes of added time.

As 19,906 fans celebrated the goal heard around the Midway, Dallas mounted a comeback. Fresh off the bench, Dallas’ Bryan Reynolds charged toward a loose ball in the Minnesota box and there was little Mannone could do:

“I’m calling for this ball to kill the game and Chase [Gasper] didn’t hear me. I was coming, I was screaming and obviously the crowd was loud. He had the touch, and once I’m there, I’m trying to stand still. And he’s going away from the goal, he’s going wide, he’s not even going through the ball and I thought, with his run he came into me, but. Anyway, he gave it.”

Video review rewarded a penalty to Dallas after Mannone’s collision with Reynolds. Defender Reto Ziegler lined up for the shot as Minnesota fans held their breath. Fortunately, for Mannone, two days of study paid off: “His run up was telling me something different from what I saw in the video[…] It was quite long and on an angle. When he approached the ball, I thought he couldn’t put it on this side anymore, and I thought, let me try and guess over there.”

He guessed correctly. If Toye’s shot was the goal heard around the Midway, Mannone’s stop was the save heard around St Paul.

The locker room celebration was a subdued affair. Joyous, certainly, but quiet. Most of the guys cleaned up, dressed and headed home. They’d moved up to third in the west, the job was done for the night. While the reserves take a swing at Aston Villa in a friendly on Wednesday, most of the starters will have a long rest ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Salt Lake.

Other notes:

  • Ozzie Alonso exited in the second half after taking a heavy shot to the shoulder and another to the gut. He’ll have an MRI on Sunday, but the medical staff is confident his clavicle is only bruised.
  • Romain Metanire landed in Minnesota on Friday after Madagascar’s exit from the African Cup of Nations. Heath said he will get an emotional and physical rest this week before being re-activated for league play.

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Houston Comes Home To Tough Lessons From LAFC

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

The Houston Dynamo have some serious lessons to learn about consistency and LAFC came to town on Friday night to provide a master class. Going into the match, the Dynamo were undefeated at home, but this record doesn’t speak to the disappointing rash of recent road losses; Houston desperately needed to bring fans a win at home both to maintain the streak and shore up the fading confidence of internal and external stakeholders.

Sadly, the result of the match – a 3-1 loss – brought no relief to Houston players or fans, and the only thing left to do is learn from the lessons that LAFC taught and hope that this will mark the turnaround of the 2019 season. 

Houston’s Starting XI was absolutely the flagship effort from this team and had every piece that fans and pundits deemed lacking in previous weeks’ losses. 

Houston had all four Hondurans starting – forward playmakers Elis and Quioto, clutch defender Figueroa, and captain Boniek Garcia in the middle. Lundkvist and Struna shored up the back line, and the (undeserved) defensive scapegoat Garcia was on the bench. This should have been the recipe for absolute victory for the men in orange. 

Conversely, LAFC’s lineup was a snapshot of their depth. Having played their starters just 48 hours earlier in a loss against the Timbers in the US Open Cup quarterfinal, 9 of 11 men were replaced in the starting lineups between Wednesday and Friday.

LA let Houston dominate the first half, conceding a goal from Romell Quioto just 3 minutes in, and it looked like their depth squad was going to have similar disappointing results as the Dynamo’s depth in the last several matches. Houston had multiple chances at goal and, were it not for some late defending against Alberth Elis in the box, the first half could have easily been 4-0 for Houston. The lessons for Houston began in the dying moments of the first half when LA’s Diomande cut loose to tie things up at 1 going into the half. 

The view up the right side – AJ DeLaGarza, Tomas Martinez, and Alberth Elis line up to battle LAFC. Photo Credit: Leslie Chairez

Just as the Dynamo were up minutes into the first half, LAFC came out strong and found themselves up by one early in the second. And while LA showed the Dynamo how to push through a deficit in the first half, Houston did not follow suit and began to fall apart after Diomande’s second goal in the 49th minute. Houston’s comeback chances took another blow when LA brought in superstars Blessing and Rossi early in the 2nd.

While they had more offensive chances, Houston’s errors in the midfield and defense kept them too busy in their own half to stage a comeback. Rossi’s goal in the 88th minute was a final nail in the coffin for Houston but also a moment that many fans in the stadium had come to see. 

LAFC came to Houston and played their depth, looking just like a first team. If the Dynamo can figure out how to duplicate that consistency across changes in lineup, they may find the turnaround that the squad so desperately needs.  A 3-1 loss at home cuts deep in Houston, but the Dynamo are back on the road again to Atlanta this Wednesday.

Featured image:  Leslie Chairez

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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Team Goals And Cup Goals A Reality For The Loons

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United v New Mexico United: 6-1

The biggest US Open Cup match in Minnesota’s MLS history did not disappoint. Allianz Field hosting a quarterfinal against the last remaining USL side in the tournament, a club whose fanbase quickly bought out at least one charter plane and coach bus – a club that reminds Minnesota’s fans of the way things used to be.  But Minnnesota has a new story now and it might include the Cup.

After conceding yet another early goal, a 7’ corner that made the Loons’ set-piece defense look like pieces in a Football Manager match animation, it appeared it would be an ugly match of slip ups. Adrian Heath was critical of his squad in the post-match presser, saying it was exactly that kind of play he’d prepped his squad for, a known favorite of the USL side:

“We’ve watched probably their last four or five games and they’ve come up with sort of trick plays and that was another one of them, but we’ve been through that. It’s not like we hadn’t seen that corner. That’s the disappointing thing and that’s what happens when you turn off for a split second and that’s what happens at this level of football.”

But the post-goal rally by the home United did not disappoint. Just three minutes later, Angelo Rodriguez notched the first goal of what would be his first MLS hat trick. Rookie sensation Hassani Dotson, making another start at right back, picked out Rodriguez and Kevin Molino right in front of goal and sent in a high cross. Both players went up for it and celebrated immediately, with the PA announcer and the press announcing that Molino had notched the tying goal.

It was in fact Rodriguez who got the most vertical (thus, our confusion) putting his head on the ball to send it off the right hand of New Mexico keeper Cody Mizell and into the net.

That aged well. The Loons scored 4 more goals before the whistle sounded for halftime. You should probably just watch them all.

The second half was a more subdued affair, Minnesota allowing the visitors to complete passes and occasional venture outside of their own half of the field – a stark contrast to the first 45 minutes.

Chances abounded for the Loons and New Mexico made some clean counter attacks after poor turnovers. By the 60th minute, it was still 5-1. Fifteen minutes had gone by without a goal and even the cheers had begun to dry up as fans settled in to enjoy the beautiful summer evening. But then the home crowd witnessed the end to what may have been the most difficult drought to watch at Allianz Field.

Miguel Ibarra – the fan favorite winger who returned to Minnesota after a spell in LigaMX to be one of the handful of NASL Loons to make the jump to MLS – had scored but a single goal all season. Despite numerous possibilities, the final ball just hadn’t materialized for Batman at Allianz Field. In the 62’, he fixed that, right in front of the Wonderwall, the fans who’d dubbed him Batman half a decade ago.

As the Wonderwall celebrated the milestone – sadly without smoke, just the latest example of Minnesota fans under-budgeting goal-related expenses – Heath made his fitness management subs, beginning the preparations for Saturday’s pivotal conference matchup against FC Dallas. Rodriguez made way for Mason Toye, Chase Gasper for Eric Miller, like-for-like changes. Ethan Finlay replaced Quintero 10 minutes later.

The remainder of the match saw plenty of runs from both sides, but the Loons sealed the deal and paid their visitors the respect of playing out the remaining minutes with a competitive edge and clean play despite the lopsided scoreline.

New Mexico played to the whistle, looking for a final goal to reward a couple hundred travelling supporters who sang for the full 90 minutes. With just 1 goal to Minnesota’s 6, New Mexico United – players and fans alike – left the tournament with their heads held high.

While Heath and his staff prep the players to face Dallas, the Front Office and stadium staff have some work to do, as well. As delightful as the last few weeks of goals have been, Allianz Field has experienced a few hiccups that left fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. With only lower-bowl tickets available for Wednesday’s semifinal, fewer security gates were opened for fan entry and screening began just 60 minutes prior to kickoff, rather than 90.

Hundreds of fans, some of them still frustrated over staffing and streaming issues during the USWNT Brew Hall watch party on Sunday, were still lined up around the stadium after kickoff. Tweets abound showing fans spending extra time up close and personal with the ‘UNITED’ statue at the southwest corner and the granite bench-barriers on the north lawn.

CEO Chris Wright – who could be heard in the press box, not long before the opening goal, triaging the logistical issues on his cell phone before meeting up with stadium staff downstairs – issued a statement on Thursday addressing both incidents and urging patience and cooperation as the club, and fans alike, adjust to their new home.

After a few more pivotal weeks of league play, MN United and Allianz Field will face their next big test on Wednesday, August 7, when they host Portland Timbers for the US Open Cup semifinal. But first, league play.

The Loons face Western Conference foes FC Dallas on Saturday, July 13, at 7 PM CST.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

L.A. Galaxy’s ‘Mate Behind the Muscles’

LA Galaxy Contributor

By Debbie Haar // @GalaxySoccerMom

There’s a large number of people in the background working to help the L.A. Galaxy be the best team in the league. Those people have jobs ranging from dietitians to equipment managers to technical director. I had the opportunity to get a peek into the career of the Galaxy’s Australian Ace-up-the-sleeve, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Adam “Adds” Waterson.

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Debbie Haar: Tell me about your career with the NSW (New South Wales) Police Force.

Adam Waterson: I started as a strength and conditioning coach with Sydney Football Club in the A-League in 2005. I then worked with various football teams in Australia before opting for a break from football and took up a great role as lead S&C coach for the NSW Police Force. I was there for approximately 2 years before I returned to football and a role with LA Galaxy.

DH: What’s your favorite part of your job?

AW: I really enjoy coaching the players and helping them develop their physical capabilities to perform at the highest level they possibly can. Seeing all their hard work on the training pitch and gym pay off with good performances in the games is really rewarding.

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DH: How long have you been in LA? What’s the best part of living in LA?

AW: Coming on 2 years in LA. The weather is great, South Bay is great, the amount of sports on TV is brilliant.

DH: Does everyone comment on your accent?

AW: Yes, some enjoy it and request me to repeat myself where others take the piss out of it (translation: To mock or make fun of). I like the banter.

DH: Which player can mimic your accent the best?

AW: They are all terrible. Dave Romney tries hard though. Matt Lampson has a terrific South African impersonation.

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DH: There are players from many different countries who speak many different languages. How do you work through language barriers?

AW: The great thing is most speak very good English, those that don’t I try some very basic Spanglish or get one of the boys to translate. Generally, football has its own language through movements, so it’s not too bad.

DH: Do you do all the drills with the players?

AW: I coach a lot of the drills at the start of the training session, then in rehab/gym sessions I tend to observe and correct form and communicate with the players during the drills rather than join myself.

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Photos courtesy of Adam Waterson

DH: Do you give the players pep talks?

AW: Ha ha, sometimes the players do require a little pep talk which I’m happy to do, but most of them are pretty self-motivated to train hard when we do.

DH: Tell me something interesting that happens during daily training sessions that might surprise people.

AW: Every session every player is monitored through GPS and heart rate so we can track their physical output each day.

DH: Do you travel with the team?

AW: Yes, I travel to every away game.

DH: When you are traveling what’s one thing you don’t leave home without?

AW: My pillow, hotel pillows are always too soft!

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DH: Is there a specific drill the players hate to do more than others?

AW: Any isolated running drill in season is frowned upon but they know it’s required.

DH: What the hardest part of your job?

AW: The hardest part is the time away from home due to the regular travel and congested schedule. We work most weekends and public holidays so you tend to miss out on a lot of parties, weddings, etc.

DH: What’s a phrase you say a lot at work?

AW: Grab some water, have a stretch, weight of pass, timing of run, more intensity boys lets go. They take the piss out of my accent on most.

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DH: What’s one of your stand out memories with the team?

AW: The 4-3 come from behind win against LAFC the first time we played them. It was Zlatan’s first game and he scored a golazo.

DH: Do you have a pet?

AW: No, I can’t wait for the day I live in a house with a yard so I can buy a German Shepherd.

DH: What is your guilty pleasure?

AW: Probably too many slices of pizza after games is my biggest one right now.

DH: What’s your favorite thing to eat and drink?

AW: Butter chicken and when I’m out I enjoy a bourbon and soda water.

DH: Last and most important question? Does pineapple belong on pizza?

AW: Yes, it has a place I believe.

Waterson played an integral part of helping the Western Sydney Wanderers win the 2014 AFC Champions League. With his knowledge and expertise on board, the L.A. Galaxy has the foundation needed to go after their next MLS Cup. Next time you are watching a game keep in mind the people behind the scenes like Adam Waterson who spend their days making the Galaxy players the best they can be.

Featured and other images: @LAGalaxy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @GalaxySoccerMom

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Crew’s Woes Continue

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

After an exceptional run by the USWNT in the World Cup and an improvement in the USMNT during the Gold Cup , it was hard to watch the Crew, in comparison, lose their last three games in seven days. The losses continue to mount and while the Columbus Crew fans are definitely grateful to have a team, that team has been difficult to watch.

On Saturday, June 29, Columbus Crew took on Orlando City. In a game where the Crew dominated possession and limited Orlando to three shots, they still managed to lose the game 2-0. The best part of the game was honoring former club coach and legend Sigi Schmid into the Crew’s Circle of Honor at halftime. The Crew welcomed the Schmid family, watched tributes to Sigi, and presented the family with a beautiful collage of Sigi’s time in Columbus.

Then on Wednesday, July 3, the Crew traveled to Salt Lake City to take on RSL. Due to the three games in seven days, Caleb Porter made some line up changes. He gave JJ Williams the start at forward and Eduardo Sosa an elusive start in midfield; Niko Hansen returned from wherever Porter has been hiding him to play in the midfield, where he was joined by Ricardo Clark; Aboubacar Keita made his MLS debut at center back; and Joe Bendik made a grab for the starting goalkeeper position again.

While Caleb had limited player selection due to injury and call-ups when rotating his squad, it was nice to see some players who have gotten very little to no playing time a chance to prove if they were hungry enough to unseat the struggling starters.

Unfortunately, the Crew were unable to finish any shots, and Sam Johnson finished a beautiful opportunity by beating both Crognale and Keita to a long ball that they both let bounce over their heads.

Returning home this past Saturday, the Crew played the Seattle Sounders. In a game that honestly felt do or die, the Crew couldn’t hold on to an early lead and lost to Seattle 2-1.

With a slight tweak in the line up we have been seeing recently, Josh Williams stepped in at centerback, but JJ Williams and Joe Bendik kept their starting spots from the RSL game, playing forward and keeper respectively.

The Crew had hope for a possible victory after a PK by Pedro Santos in the 13′. However, Nicolas Lodeiro, who spent a lot of time rolling on the grass with dire injuries at MAPFRE Stadium, seemed to be the difference maker for Seattle. He sank a PK in the 56′ and scored a final goal for the Sounders in extra time. At the end of the game, multiple Crew players collapsed to the ground–exhausted from giving it their all, their all not being enough.

After the 1-2 loss to Seattle, multiple Crew players collapsed to the ground — exhausted from giving it their all, their all not being enough. Photo by Hilary.

Thoughts about the Team:

This is hard. Watching this team is hard. Because I feel for these guys. I believe they are putting everything they can out on the field. If we the fans feel frustrated, then I can’t even imagine how they feel. Do I think part of this is an emotional hangover from the past season and half of off-field drama? Yes, I do.

Did we have a time under Berhalter where we struggled to score goals? Yes, we absolutely did. But in those cases, we typically had a solid defense who minimized the damage the opposition did to us. This is not happening this year. And while I know we are missing Milton Valenzuela to injury, his replacement Waylon Francis is a very good left back. This can not be blamed on injuries.

Is Caleb Porter getting everything out of these guys that he can? I don’t know. I understand we have injuries and call ups, and while I don’t believe every player is elite caliber, I believe they can play a solid game of soccer. However, the adjustment between playing styles has not been as seamless as many thought, including Caleb himself.

However, this isn’t Caleb’s chosen roster. He inherited a roster in January that he had limited time to evaluate and tweak. Do I think a roster blow up is coming? Yes, I do. It’s already started. There will be many players that I will be heartbroken to lose. But to give Caleb a real chance to develop this club into what he thought it could be, it probably has to happen.

With recent additions coming in the transfer window of Eloy Room, keeper of the Curacao National team, Luis Diaz from Club Sport Herediano (Costa Rica) and Romario Williams from Atlanta United, it is hopeful that these players can make an immediate and positive impact for the struggling Crew when they take the field July 13 in a rematch against Orlando.

Featured image: Hilary

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Certainly not a Defensive Spectacle

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Montreal v Minnesota: 2-3

At long last, it was time for my homecoming to Stade Saputo. Your friendly neighborhood MLSFemale reporter was excited to return to Montréal for the remainder of the season … to watch the beautiful game and to see some goals!

But I should have been careful what I wished for. A red-hot Minnesota United team were in town, and they had no shortage of goals in their boots, but Montréal Impact’s offense had been sputtering along since Ignacio Piatti’s injury.

Anthony Jackson-Hamel was given a rare start, as other attacking options Maxi Urruti and Harry Novillo had failed to tally up goals. He didn’t take long to get off the mark, scoring the opening goal in the 27th second.

However, for as much as the Loons’ defense had been caught napping, Montréal would prove just as guilty. In his return from Gold Cup action, Samuel Piette played a rare miscued pass, forcing a turnover that couldn’t have been more costly — Mason Toye was essentially free on goal, and equalized.

In the 13th minute came yet another goal, as Rudy Camacho bundled home from Saphir Taïder‘s corner to score his first Bleu-Blanc-Noir goal and put the home team back ahead 2-1.

Yet the match was far from over. On a night when the defense was not up to par, another costly turnover sent Ethan Finlay free in front of Evan Bush, who came out to meet him. The two players’ bodies came together, and referee Alan Kelly awarded a penalty. The call was upheld after a VAR consultation, and Finlay converted to equalize once again as boos rained down from the stands.

It would go from bad to worse in the second half. As the Impact had gotten off to a quick start earlier, Minnesota were not to be outdone, and Toye notched his second goal, pulling his team ahead 3-2. It would prove to be the game-winning goal, but the controversy was not over.

In the 52nd minute, Taïder’s cross hit a Minnesota defender on the elbow, and as the team and fans implored Kelly to consult VAR again, he was having none of it. Assistant coach Robert Duverne was ejected for his reaction to the incident.

Montréal continued to pepper the Minnesota goal area with shots and crosses, but to no avail. Visiting keeper Vito Mannone was called on to make several excellent saves, yet at the end, the Impact were unable to make up for a sequence of disappointing defensive mistakes.

Now Montréal must shift gears, as they are to travel to York 9 FC of the Canadian Premier League in the quarter-final round of the Canadian Championship competition on Wednesday. In MLS competition, they return to Stade Saputo on Saturday, July 13th for a match that has been circled on everyone’s calendar … versus the much-loathed Toronto FC.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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