Red Bull Review

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

::wakes up, yawns, stretches::

Hey guys… what’d I miss?

::Reads messages on phone::

EVERYTHING?!?!? I MISSED ALL OF IT????

Sorry, folks. I’ve actually been working 7 days a week for the past two months. I barely got to watch any of the games, let alone put together my thoughts on them.

FIVE, SIX SEVEN, EIGHT: The New York Red Bulls ended August with a 5-match run, including a double during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week. I have been critical of the Hudson River Derby as a legitimate rivalry… until I watched that 2nd half (I only got home in time for the second half… yay, my life).

It had spark. It had fight. It had technical ability and creativity on both sides. And it was a 1-1 draw. Scoring actually happened! Then they salvaged the match against Wayne Rooney and DC United 3-3. Draws during Rivalry Week actually make me giggle.

YOU’RE GONNA BE A STAR: There was an international break that RBNY actually honored, and several players were called to their national teams for friendlies. I personally went to the Ecuador v Jamaica match at Red Bull Arena with my dad, my son, and my Colorado Rapids counterpart. That was pretty great. Not getting to see Kemar Lawrence in action… less great. What can you do?

That same night, Tyler Adams, Tim Parker, and Aaron Long were about ten miles away representing the US. Huge congratulations to Aaron Long, who has taken the long way around (pun slightly intended) to his first call-up. He was never in a US Youth National team. He’s a kid from California (who had made questionable hairstyle choices in the past) who has proven himself as a strong defender and credible attacking threat, with two goals for the regular season.

NOW FOR THE BIG FINISH: With three matches left in the season, the New York Red Bulls are in 2nd place for the conference and the race for the Supporter’s Shield. Sophomore darlings Atlanta United are in the lead… but they couldn’t secure their position against RBNY. They were defeated (again) by the boys in red 2-0, even though Bradley Wright-Phillips was suspended due to yellow card accumulation and Tyler Adams was out with back issues.

Adams has also withdrawn from the US Men’s National Team roster for their October friendlies as a result. Aaron Long will be back with the USMNT.

The Red Bulls face the San Jose Earthquakes tonight at Avaya Stadium in California. I might just stay awake to get back in the swing of things.

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @kerissaward

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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LAFC Weekly Roundup: Playoffs Scenarios, Colorado Preview, MLS 22 Under 22 List, Gold Links

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Chicago Surprise

In an odd turn of events, what should have been an easy win, backfired – as the black and gold fell to the Chicago Fire in a surprising 3-1 road loss. Diego Rossi would score the lone goal for the Los Angeles Football Club.

Looking ahead to their second-straight road match, the black-and-gold will travel to Denver to face the Colorado Rapids in search of clinching a playoff spot.

Danilo Silva has returned to training and is expected to make the trip to Colorado. However, Latif Blessing still remains on the injured list.

Playoffs Chances

A win and we’re in.

LAFC needs to defeat the Colorado Rapids this Saturday to secure a spot in the club’s first-ever MLS playoffs.

Digital Manager Vince La Rosa discussed other possible scenarios, should the black-and-gold have any unexpected surprises.

MLS 22 Under 22 List

On Thursday, the league released their annual MLS 22 Under 22 List with a total of four players appearing on this year’s list, the most in any club:

  • #3 Diego Rubio – Forward, Age 20
  • #11 Latif Blessing – Forward, Age 21
  • #13 André Horta – Midfielder 20
  • #16 Eduard Atuesta – Midfielder, Age 21

Luis Lopez Called-Up

Goalkeeper Luis López has been called up to the Honduras National Team for its friendly with the United Arab Emirates on October 11 at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in Barcelona.

LAFC acquired the rookie goalkeeper from Real C.D. España of the Honduran First Division on January 24, 2018. López made his LAFC debut against Sporting KC on August 11 – after a lengthy recovery from a leg injury.

The 25-year-old will join fellow MLS players Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto in the Honduran squad.

Gold Links

For this week’s fun links, LAFC gifted us another episode of Beita Time and a thrilling background story of Latif Blessing:

Featured image: @lafc Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Playoffs Quest in the wild, wild west continues

Sporting KC vs. LA Galaxy – Match Preview

Where: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS.

When: Saturday, October 6, 7:30 p.m. CT.

How to watch: FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.


Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Sporting KC Contributor

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The lion is coming to Kansas City.

Sporting Kansas City will host the LA Galaxy at Children’s Mercy Park as they look to clinch a playoff spot and reclaim first place (even for a brief moment) on Saturday.

The last time these two clubs met was when Sporting KC defeated the Galaxy in a 2-0 victory when they visited the StubHub Center in Carson on Sunday, April 8.

The LA Galaxy is coming in hot off of a two-straight shutout – having defeated the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps – and will look to dash Sporting KC’s playoffs hopes.

LA Galaxy are now 4-7-4 on the road and have been having a turbulent campaign this season. Now with a new interim coach, the Galaxy are just two points away from knocking Real Salt Lake below the line.

I interviewed my fellow colleague, Michelle Huitink to get the insight:

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Araceli Villanueva: LA Galaxy is coming off a two-straight shutout streak and seems to be performing well after Sigi’s departure. But is Dominic Kinnear the answer?

Michelle Huitink: I think having Michael Ciani and Jorgen Skjelvik on the bench is part of the reason the Galaxy are doing well.

Those decisions were made by [Dom] Kinnear, so in that sense, it’s working. He’s been going with basic formations. But, something definitely has been figured out, also among the players. Defensively they’ve really tightened up and are playing confidently. The touches on the ball are much better, they connect more, and are making fewer defensive mistakes. Plus, the absence of Sigi [Schmid] is the reason they are doing better.

That said, I don’t want him to be a permanent coach. He’s been on the coaching staff, so I don’t see him having any secrets. Even when “weaker” links get subbed in, the Galaxy is still able to hang on. I honestly need to see more games to say for sure; the road games will be a good test. So, I can’t really say it’s because he took over.

AV: The Western Conference has been tight this season and with the Galaxy just barely holding on, do you think the team will change anything (formation, roster, etc.) when they visit KC?

MH: Rolf Feltscher is suspended due to yellow card accumulation. Though, I wouldn’t want Ema Boateng to start. [Boateng] has been playing well, too, but he’s a little short in height. His speed and that he gets between defenders are what makes him great, but we need those fresh legs in the second half – that’s when results from him really stand out. Romney and Steres seem like a good combo. Cole‘s experience shows. Additionally, Jonathan Dos Santos is a good connection between midfield and the defense – thanks to Kinnear.

I think we’ll see the same lineup. I would hope they wouldn’t change what they don’t have to if it’s working. Plus, if they keep the same formation and lineup, it can be a better sample for comparing the last two matches to road games. Gio Dos Santos seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth – minus seeing him at the season ticket holder player signing event. And since the playoffs are hanging in the balance, there’s no reason Zlatan Ibrahimovic would miss this game.

AV: Ibrahimovic is red hot right now. However, over the summer he fueled rumors about him potentially returning to Europe after the season ends – what is the latest update?

MH: At the season ticket member event on September 30th at Alpine Village Restaurant, he said he might return next season. The fans started chanting “one more year!” He’s shut down rumors about returning to Malmo despite offers.

In my personal opinion, he’s said his focus is on the Galaxy and he turned down a lot of other offers (and money) to come here. Some would say to stay here, he would want a raise since our backline is paid more.

Featured image: @sportingkc Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Wake Up, It’s (Almost) #DOOP Day!

Cait Costello - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Cait Costello // @caitcostello

There were three main reasons behind my decision to move home to the Philadelphia area after living in South Carolina for a decade: it was because I wanted to be closer to my family, I wanted to live in a bigger city (with public transit) and I wanted to be close to professional soccer.

There wasn’t a single MLS team in the South before 2015, but with my move to Philadelphia, I finally had a team to root for based in the city I love.  My first game was in June 2016, when my boyfriend’s company held a work outing for employees and their families. 

We met with a marketing representative from the team, and as a marketing/public relations person myself, I was fascinated to learn the origin and design of the team crest. The boys in blue went on to defeat the Columbus Crew 3-2 on that balmy Wednesday night, and I was hooked from the first #DOOP.

I grew up playing soccer despite never being good at sports that require hand-eye (or foot-eye) coordination. Sports that require endurance and a certain amount of stubbornness—cycling, running and, for a few years, roller derby—are a better fit for me. That’s what drew me to the Union. It’s not a team that spends the most money on the highest-skilled players, but it is a team that works hard and will tough it out.

That’s a very Philadelphia mentality, which is appropriate when you remember that the Union grew out of a group of passionate (and a bit rowdy) fans. No other team in the MLS formed after its supporters group willed it into existence, and the Sons of Ben continue to energize the entire stadium, no matter the score.

Cait Costello - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
My boyfriend and I at the match

For the past two seasons, that passion brings my boyfriend and me to Chester. Watching the Union play is one of our favorite things to do together, and we’ve had the good luck to mostly see wins at the games we attend.

Now, I’m excited to share my love for the Philadelphia Union at MLSFemale. Come #DOOP with us.

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @caitcostello

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Sporting KC splits points with Real Salt Lake in 1-1 draw

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Sporting KC Contributor

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The race for the playoffs continues as Sporting Kansas City remains in second place in the Western Conference as they settle for a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park. The dramatic match saw goals from Ike Opara and rookie forward Corey Baird.

Sporting KC kicked off the match by coming close to scoring early after the whistle blew when Felipe Gutierrez finds the ball. Then Sporting KC earned a great set piece, thanks to a foul by Nick Besler – Matt Besler’s little brother – on Kristian Nemeth. However, Zusi’s curler goes over the crossbar.

Then the tide turned as Damir Kreilach ran the ball down but was stopped by Gerso Fernandes and Opara twice during the 7th minute.

A minute later, Jefferson Savarino runs the ball straight through Sporting KC’s defense to Baird, who then takes the early goal for the visitors giving RSL a 1-0 lead.

Sporting KC was quick to respond by creating a few opportunities but fell flat. RSL came close to doubling their lead, however, Tim Melia was able to misdirect RSL to the right of the goal post.

Trailing by one, Sporting KC consistently pressured RSL’s defense searching for the equalizer. But the home side would see most opportunities get deflected by goalkeeper Nick Rimando – who came up huge having recorded six saves.

The home side would have a chance to level just three minutes after the restart when Gutierrez found Graham Zusi with a diagonal ball, and Zusi sent in a low cross from the right side, but Rimando deflected the ball over the bar in a full stretch.

Opara sparked life back into the game by leveling the match with a perfect header over Rimando off a corner during the 52nd minute.

With the match leveled, the action escalated. Fast.

Opara’s equalizer sparked life into the match, as Sporting KC got their momentum back. But RSL almost saw a chance go begging in the 58th minute when Melia turned away Savarino’s long-distance sledgehammer.

The visitors would go much closer in the 73rd minute, however, when Baird culminated another devastating counter with a chip shot over Melia that caromed off the crossbar.

Sporting KC threatened twice, only for Rimando to intervene on both occasions. Second-half substitute Diego Rubio slipped a lovely pass in behind the RSL defense for Gerso Fernandes in the 81st minute, but the winger’s first touch allowed the RSL goalkeeper to race off his line and extinguish the danger.

Six minutes later, Zusi found Rubio near the penalty spot, but the Chilean’s side-footed attempt through traffic was blocked by Rimando’s extended left foot.

Sporting KC scrambled for the final moments of the match looking to increase their goal but despite all efforts had to split points with the Western Conference foe.

Now Sporting KC will aim at a chance for the playoffs when they host LA Galaxy on Saturday, October 6.

Featured image: @sportingkc Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Montréal Impact Fall Short In a Big Match (Yet Again)

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, September 29: 5-0 Loss

Being a fan of the Montréal Impact is like riding a roller coaster. The team can send supporters to the highest peaks of joy and excitement, as evidenced during their 2016 playoff run, but they can also cause fans to plummet into the pits of despair and disappointment, such as with last night’s non-performance against DC United.

The match was billed as “the match of the season” by many, and it was more than just a six-point match with enormous weight in the playoff race. It was an opportunity for the Impact to rise to the occasion and obtain a result in a game of crucial importance.

The humiliating 5-0 scoreline — the worst loss in Montréal’s MLS existence — indicates that once again, the Impact failed to seize their chance to put a nail in DC’s playoff coffin. Instead, the Bleu-Blanc-Noir have likely dug their own grave. Over and over, the defense was carved open like a knife through hot butter, while the visiting offense could only put 4 of their 25(!) shots on target.

As the DC goals racked up, the Impact players looked more defeated and downright disinterested in the match. Coach Rémi Garde seemed to know the match was lost, as team talisman Ignacio Piatti — whose night was truly disastrous — was substituted off for youngster Mathieu Choinière. At the end, many viewers of the match felt like they had lost two hours of their lives that they’d never get back.

To make matters more disturbing, this is not the first time in Impact history – or this season – that the Montréalais have failed to “show up” for an important match. We can recently look back to the 3-1 defeat to bitter rivals Toronto FC in late August, where the tactics were also somewhat to blame. I am inclined to also cite the 1-0 loss to a ten-man LA Galaxy back in May, which was the Impact’s first sell-out of the season and a great occasion to win over new fans.

It would be cruel to ignore the tremendous improvements that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir have experienced under Garde and his coaching staff. Piatti has become more generous with the ball, Evan Bush has set a personal record with 117 saves this season and, generally speaking, the defense is significantly more organized than in previous seasons.

It would be equally unfair to forget that the Impact began the season in a bind, with the early loss of defender Zakaria Diallo, meaning they used an international spot and a hefty portion of the salary budget for his substitute Rod Fanni. As well, interesting and dynamic as he has been, Quincy Amarikwa was a last-minute addition to the squad after French striker Jimmy Briand backed out at the last second.

Regardless of the changes in personnel, the team has remained in the playoff picture for many weeks, yet this most recent disastrous performance shows that the spectre of the big-game mentality continues to haunt the Impact.

Is this problem something a manager can take charge of, or does it require the more specialized touch of a sports psychologist? As different managers have come and gone, and the Impact have continued to let huge results slip from their grasp, the answer seems to lie beyond the man at the helm of the ship.

With their playoff fate now well and truly out of their hands, it is time to see what mettle the Impact have within to end their season, starting when they host Columbus Crew next Sunday.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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“Don’t let the ball behind the defense…”

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Official FC Dallas Reporter

By Bailey Brown // @baileystaysposi

It’s been a while, I know. But, a lot has happened since I last wrote about FC Dallas.

We seem to be hitting a groove, but fans are still not entirely pleased. Dallas sits in first in the Western Conference and it just doesn’t seem to be good enough for many. Amongst rumors of Oscar Pareja interviewing for the USMNT team, we must keep going forward because the season isn’t over.

With a win in Vancouver, Dallas is the only team in 23 matches to defeat another team at their home. We are still seeing good stats out of the team and just clinched a playoff spot with our draw in Portland. But, is how we are playing going to be enough?

(Side note: I do think Pareja would be great for the USMNT, but I’m not ready to see him go. It seems that these rumors have been laid to rest. Many people seem to be calling for Pareja to be gone, okay well not many, but enough that it annoys me if he doesn’t get us a star this year. Personally, I think that is dumb. Yup, I said it. Where else is Dallas going to get a quality coach for the amount in the Dallas budget? I mean it. I suppose we can promote from within, but I think a good playoff run after last year is enough to keep him here in Dallas.)

I’m not here to break down the game against Portland Timbers. You can go elsewhere for better coverage of that. And, if I am being honest, I don’t get to watch a ton of games in their entirety. Last night was an exception. I loved it. I mean, I didn’t love everything about the game, but I loved that I just got to sit and watch.

However, one thing really hit me hard last night and that was when I was talking with fellow members of the Dallas Beer Guardians about what people said were “keys to the match”. One of these keys were to “not let the ball behind the defenders” or something to that extent. I mean, come on guys… isn’t this soccer 101? We should probably try to get the ball in the net as well, right? But, if this is really one of the keys that we are looking at as Dallas fans, we are in trouble.

I will admit, I like seeing Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges in the back, but there has been a disconnect between them and whoever is playing left back and right back. I am seeing that the timing is just off on a lot of shifting and I am sure they’re practicing it, but in games, that can’t be the case. It leaves people especially open on the far post, which is definitely a scare for me.

We have been lucky that it hasn’t hurt us more. This won’t fly in playoffs. Also, where is Pablo Aranguiz? Why did we spend TAM on him and an international spot? I would like to see more of him as a playmaker and really bring that missing #10 spot on our field. (Also, goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez can stop wasting time. I’ll admit, I think we are all sick of it.)

Fans are upset because we aren’t seeing the dominating wins that we know our team is capable of. Instead, we see Pareja seeming to play to draw. Or, maybe even to not lose. I partly understand last night. All we needed was the draw for the playoff clinch.

Going forward, I would like to see us really solidify the plan for playoffs and how it will be executed. I would rather us experiment and figure that out in the next few regular season games so that it’s not an issue come that first playoff game.

I’m feeling hopeful about the future of this season and I hope others are, too. We will just have to sit back and trust in Papi.

Featured image: @MLS

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @baileystaysposi

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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NYCFC clinches a playoff spot

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Wednesday, September 26: 2-0 Win

New York City Football Club clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs after a long-pined-for win against Chicago Fire on Wednesday night.  Fans of NYCFC were desperate for 3 points after our face-plant of an August and September.  For the record, I was cautiously optimistic before this game with the return of the majority of the squad, from various injuries and international call-ups.

There were a few changes to the lineup probably caused by the absence of Alexander Callens due to yellow card accumulation.  James Sands started in an attacking center midfield role alongside Alex Ring who played a more defensive role.  Despite both teams battle against the waterlogged field, causing more slipping and sliding than usual, Sands did a good job of looking to distribute long balls from the center of the field to the flanks.  Not all passes were perfect with gravity having its way at times with Sands but the long balls opened up the field and shook up Chicago’s defense.

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NYCFC’s James Sands fights for possession. Image: @TishaGale

New York City kept to their old reliable theme of quick pass possession with Ebenezer Ofori working well offensively and defensively for the majority of the game – except for the very end.  We had a number of missed and saved shots in the first half with four on target.  Chicago Fire goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, not a regular starter for the team did a good job defending the net.

At the 47th minute, the stalemate was broken by Ring after a quick combination of one-touch passes which went from Maxi Moralez to David Villa and then to Ring.  In the 51st, David Villa put one in on a beautifully patient set up by Moralez.  Moralez had been trying to set up his teammates the whole night with mixed success.

NYC held Chicago to 2-0 due to a few fantastic saves by Sean Johnson and featuring an exceptional defensive performance by Maxime Chanot.

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David Villa & Sebastian Schweinsteiger. Image: @TishaGale
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NYCFC’s Alex Ring. Image: @TishaGale

A positive takeaway was the playing style of James Sands who was constantly pressuring the Fire’s developing offense and working to distribute the ball long and wide to the wings from the center. Were the distributions perfect? No, but multiple times it worked to propel the NYC attack forward from the congested middle of the field.  Sands seems to have learned a lot from Alex Ring’s style of play.

In the first half, a lot of the initial New York City attack was generated down the left wing by long balls from the center midfield to Ronald Matarrita who worked tightly with Villa and Moralez. In the first 45 minutes, both Villa and Moralez seemed to be working to craft the “right” pass to dish to a teammate for a strong shot, rather than just taking the shot themselves. For many of our chances on goal, it seemed like that last pass or the actual shot was off a bit in its timing or pace.

The second half seemed to have more quick one-touches in Chicago’s box and it resulted in two goals.  Was this a purposeful change in attacking strategy or just a coincidence? Either way, the win cemented NYCFC’s place in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Next up City faces Minnesota United at the notoriously poorly turfed TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, September 29th. The combination of questionable turf and a possible tweak to his previously injured abductor on Wednesday, likely means captain David Villa will be missing the match.  Maxime Chanot may also be rested to prevent a re-injury of his abductor, according to coach Domènec Torrent.

Featured image of NYCFC supporter, Laud Amabley: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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The Future of Minnesota Soccer

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

On Tuesday, August 21, just 30 minutes after Minnesota United FC sent out a press release announcing the addition of Fernando Bob, another message appeared in my soccer-heavy inbox.

The subject line: ‘ANNOUNCING a huge step forward for the club’

It was sent out to members of Minneapolis City SC, a Minnesota club which competes in the National Premier Soccer League, but the announcement had nothing to do with flashy player signings (City’s roster is built entirely of Minnesota natives, most of whom play while home on break from the NCAA) or a new stadium or menswear sponsorship. No, it was more tangible than all that.

Minneapolis City SC was opening a storefront, The Club Shop, a retail space to be shared with their kit designer, Stimulus Athletic (founded by former MNUFC striker Geison Moura), and a gathering space for club staff, players and members.

To be honest, this email was a tad more exciting for some of us in the Minnesota soccer scene than Bob’s signing. This lower league club, in only its third season (second in NPSL), has a large following, in part because of its winning ways (the Crows were undefeated through the 2018 regular season) and because of its member-driven business model (members vote for everything from board members to kit design). Basically, a refreshing antithesis to MLS club currently playing just across the Mississippi River.

So how did the idea of a retail space come about?

“The idea was brought up in a pipe-dream sort of way with no real expectation of it ever happening,” said business director Sarah Schreier. “And then, you know how sometimes you might look at available homes or apartments without the intention of ever moving, but then you find this amazing space?  It was like that. It happened very quickly and almost impulsively — but we had to pull the trigger on it or we’d lose it.  We thought we’d give it a go and see what came of it.”

The Club Shop opened on Saturday, September 22 with a day-long event, starting with a Premier League watch party (Liverpool was heavily favored by the standing room only crowd) and appearances by Minnesota soccer legends. Yes, Minnesota has soccer legends. This is the part where I remind you all that despite its sophomore status in Major League Soccer, this fair state had a foot in the soccer door long before this league existed.

Minnesota first hosted a soccer team in 1976, when the Denver Dynamo moved to the Twin Cities and became the Minnesota Kicks. The Kicks competed in the National American Soccer League (the first version) and played in Met Stadium in Bloomington, a space they shared with the Minnesota Twins baseball team.

The first Kicks home game, on Mother’s Day in 1976, had to be delayed multiple times while staff attempted to usher in a crowd significantly larger than the 8,000 expected. After every gate was thrown open, at least 20,000 people watched the Kicks earn their first win of the season.

“We were fortunate that when we came into the state in ‘76 there was no soccer here at all […] so we had to build something from scratch and we only had a short period of time to do it,” explained defenseman Alan Merrick. “So I think that the players that you described – Alan Willey, Steve Litt, myself, Jeff Barnett – we were pioneers of the game here and we built a culture very very quickly and the culture was to win. And it was that simple. We were forthright in everything that we did; we were honest, we were a lot full of endeavor. And we realized that we were, you know, right from square one, going to make things happen.”

Even after the Kicks folded in 1981, the enthusiasm remained. Unfortunately, Minnesota soccer repeatedly fell victim to the financial woes which continue to pepper the American soccer landscape today. After the Kicks came the Strikers (Major Indoor Soccer League, 1984-88), then the Thunder (United Soccer League, 1995-09), the NSC Minnesota Stars (owned by the National Sports Center Foundation and playing in Division 2, 2010) and the Minnesota Stars (under NASL ownership, 2011).

The latest era began when Dr. Bill McGuire purchased the Stars and rebranded the club as Minnesota United FC in time for the 2012 NASL season.

Continued success is dependant on people fostering a love of the game at every level and tapping into the roots that shape Minnesota soccer today.

“From that first game, the crowds just kept building and building and the soccer intelligence of the fans developed and developed… And we just kept on building and building and building,” Merrick said. “And to this day, I mean, it’s still building: the high school programs are brilliant in terms of participation.”

With the success of the women’s program at the U of M, the Minnesota Thunder Academy which sends many players to Division I schools, and the impressive results of Minneapolis City SC (from which some players have leaped to the pros, like Brandon Bye of the New England Revolution) the next generation of Minnesota legends are carrying the torch.

“We know that Minnesota players are being produced and produced in good numbers. So I mean it’s indicative now, seeing a store like this, in Minneapolis. It’s a storefront that’s going to have people…” Merrick paused, then pointed to a chalkboard displayed on the sidewalk at The Club Shop’s front door. “Look on the board there: ‘Soccer’ AND ‘culture.’ We have a great soccer culture.”

“We [Minneapolis City] are, in our own way, a throwback to the way things used to be,” Schreier said. “At the same time, we’re building on that and growing the landscape and culture the best we know how.  The soccer landscape is full of ups and downs — now we’re on an up and we want to celebrate that without forgetting an incredible, community-oriented past.”

And so, amidst limited edition Minneapolis City SC merch, throwback Kicks t-shirts and assorted Minnesota soccer memorabilia, people crowded into a South Minneapolis storefront to chat with City staff, watch some soccer and share stories from the past with Merrick, Willey and Steve Litt (Kicks), Minnesotan and Soccer Bowl Champion Joe Warren (Stars) and star forward Pablo Campos (NASL-era MNUFC).

This intermingling of fans, players and staff was a common sight when United played in Blaine and it was a key attraction for many fans. While the move to MLS has detracted from that cultural experience with United, Minneapolis City is enriching it. And these two very different clubs are both important to the future of soccer in Minnesota.

“It makes for a richer community,” explained Schreier. “We use the coffee analogy a lot:  it’s good to have Starbucks and the local offbeat place if you want a thriving soccer scene and both learn from and play off of each other to get better.  We think we can have that complementary relationship with MLS which makes soccer in Minnesota richer, more varied, and more interesting for having us both here,” Schreier explained.

“We’re not here to try and recreate the wheel.   We didn’t create the soccer culture here in MN — it was here before many of us were born — we just want it back! Soccer culture here is not lost.”

And if The Club Shop’s grand opening is any indication, soccer culture is here to stay.

For more information about Minneapolis City SC, check out www.mplscitysc.com and follow them on Twitter @mplscitysc.

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LAFC sets sights on playoffs ahead of road match in Chicago

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club may still be sitting in third place following FC Dallas’ win this past weekend, but the black-and-gold remains in good faith as they look to secure a spot in their first-ever playoffs – following a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Although the match against the Earthquakes had a low-performance attacking-wise, it displayed the importance of set pieces and saw the return of Adama Diomande. Including a strong-willed Walker Zimmerman scored a pair of headers, a first in his MLS career. Regardless, the win will prove to be beneficial as the black-and-gold moves forward.

LAFC’s magic number is now six.

During the press conference on Wednesday evening, Tyler Miller expressed the team’s mentality as being determined and uses their absence from the Lamar Hunt Open Cup Championship as motivation – moving forward for the final stretch:

“I think everyone’s done a great job. Moving forward we five really important games that could set up a nice situation for us getting a first-round bye in the playoffs,” Miller stated.

According to LAFC’s Digital Content Manager Vince La Rosa, LAFC can clinch a playoff spot by taking all three points in their upcoming pair of road matches in Chicago and Colorado, regardless of what Vancouver does. In addition to, possibly earning themselves a first-round bye.

Additionally, those six points would also bring “LAFC level for the highest points total” by an expansion team in its inaugural season – the Chicago Fire currently holds that record with 56 points in 2017.

La Rosa had previously reported that head coach Bob Bradley and the team discussed a goal of 60 points, and after the match against the Earthquakes, Bradley confirmed the goal.

With just five games left in the regular season with three on the road, I’m confident Bradley’s men can finish their 2018 campaign strong.

Featured image: @lafc Instagram

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