Timbers blank Sounders in historic matchup

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, May 13: 1-0 Win

What is best in life?

There are few things in life more satisfying than a win against the Seattle Sounders. And

  • a shutout
  • at home
  • against the Sounders
  • for the 100th matchup versus the Portland Timbers
  • on Mothers Day
  • accompanied by two of my children
  • surrounded by a passionate group of over 20,000 Timbers supporters

…okay, I will readily admit that this was PARTICULARLY satisfying.

Rivalry and history

In the run-up to the match, I had a jumble of feelings. Of COURSE, any game against the Sounders is huge. And this matchup was, by most counts, the Timbers’ 100th time to face the Sounders, in one league or another, in one form or another, since 1975.

The rivalry between our two teams is deep, long-standing, and very, very real. There are many videos that address the enmity between the two (Copa90 created a couple of excellent ones: take this one, for example). And this one from several years ago is one of my favorites. While the video’s primary focus is the Timbers Army, the backdrop is a home game against the Sounders, and the attitude and spirit in the stands for a rivalry match are captured brilliantly.

The fact that it was our 100th matchup was also not lost on anyone. The Portland Timbers released a brilliant mockumentary to commemorate the occasion:

The rivalry between the Timbers and Sounders dates back to the NASL era in the 1970s.

The Timbers and Sounders, along with the third Cascadia Beatle, the Vancouver Whitecaps, also have a supporter-created contest among the three teams: the Cascadia Cup.

Dating back to the USL era, the Cascadia Cup is created, owned, and managed by supporters. It is awarded to whichever Cascadia team wins the most points in head to head matches among the three teams (see this page for an explanation of the rules).

The Timbers are currently in possession of the Cascadia Cup, and I get the joy of showing it off to visitors to the Timbers Army fanladen (clubhouse) before every home game.

Out of balance

We relish every opportunity to cheer on our boys as they face off against their greatest rivals. At the same time, supporters on all sides of the Cascadia Cup are very disappointed with the league’s schedule this year. When a rivalry this deep, intense, and enduring exists, it is difficult for supporters like me to swallow a league schedule that intentionally unbalances a rivalry matchup.

As the number of teams in the league changes, the schedule must also change: but it is beyond disappointing that this year the league saw fit to create such an uneven schedule.

For many years, we will have to deal with the reality that some teams will have more home games than others in head to head matchups, which is challenging enough in a rivalry.

This year, however, not only do the Timbers, Sounders, and Whitecaps have an uneven number of home and away Cascadia matches among them: the three clubs don’t even face each other the same number of times during the regular season. This means that, for the first time in MLS history, a regular season Cascadia match will not count in the standings toward the Cascadia Cup.

The last time this happened was during the USL era when it was more common for teams to fold mid-season and for league schedules to change in medias resBased on the unanimous decision of the Cascadia Cup Council, while last Sunday’s match will, of course, count in MLS league standings, the result will not count toward the awarding of the Cascadia Cup this year.

The Timbers Army made their feelings about the unbalanced schedule clear in this three-stick display:

And on the occasion of the 100th matchup of the Timbers and Sounders, that outcome is, to put it mildly, unfortunate.

All right, enough prelude…on to the match!

Match Recap

With a decimated lineup, the Sounders used a formation designed to absorb pressure, shut down work through the middle, and hope for an opportunity on the counter-attack, an approach that worked well for them midweek against Toronto FC. In this case, the Sounders deployed a 5-4-1 with Clint Dempsey as the lone striker. With the injuries the Sounders have suffered, they didn’t have a whole lot of other options, and with Dempsey as the lone striker up top, they weren’t really set up to go on the attack either.

The Timbers went with the same 4-3-2-1 lineup they used to full effect against the San Jose Earthquakes. On a hot day with both sides playing conservatively, it wouldn’t have been at all surprising if the match had ended in a draw; but this was a Timbers-Sounders match, so anything could happen.

While our rivals to the north weren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard, they were also doing a decent job on defense. For most of the game, the Sounders made it difficult for the Timbers to find opportunities. They had a few chances, in particular, this shot by Diego Valeri that was thwarted with a brilliant challenge by Sounders defender Gustav Svensson:

The Timbers had another chance to score, this time from Andy Polo, stopped by Sounders keeper Stefan Frei:

Ultimately, though, the Timbers were finally able to break through, thanks to the vision of Samuel Armenteros, a late-game substitute for forward Fanendo Adi. Armenteros did a brilliant job of threading the needle with this pass to Sebastian Blanco, who slotted it home for the only goal of the match:

Quick Takes

Blanco continues to step up. Between offseason roster changes and a year’s experience to get accustomed to MLS, Blanco has taken on a bigger offensive role this year, with 5 goals and an assist so far this season. He did the job for the Timbers again on Sunday, putting it into the back of the net for the win.

Blanco’s celebration after scoring the goal included briefly donning a Chucky mask, a move that seemed no doubt bizarre to casual onlookers, but it has a simple explanation. Blanco’s nickname among his friends in Argentina is Chucky, presumably because he is tiny and FIERCE. (His bio says he is 5’6″ but I’m sure that is only in cleats and after some carefully applied hair gel.)  Vamos, Chucky. I’m sure your offensive ability already frightens opposing teams, even without the mask.

Still no clear front-runner at strikerFanendo Adi is still our starting striker, and while he isn’t terrible, he still hasn’t done anything, in particular, to stand out this season. I was glad to see Samuel Armenteros get to the field a little bit earlier this game, subbing in for Adi at 77′.

Both strikers still had some okay plays and some head-scratching moments on Sunday, but ultimately this is a game of results. Take a look again at this pass and tell me Armenteros doesn’t deserve more time in the lineup:

Swiss army knife fullback continues to shine. Right back (and most recently left back) Zarek Valentin is having a good run. He has always had good field sense and soccer intelligence, but his lack of speed has sometimes meant another player starting in his stead.

But with injuries to the squad, most notably with Vytautas Andriuškevičius on the sidelines, Zarek has often taken on a starting role on either side of the defensive line and has done so admirably. As long as he isn’t facing a frightening speed burner on the wings, I like what he contributes to the defense.

Speaking of defense. Hey, guys, the Timbers just recorded their third shutout in a row. The last time they did that George W. Bush was President. No, really. While it is true that two of these shutouts came against less than stellar opponents, it is also worth noting that they coincide with the return of Jeff Attinella and Liam Ridgewell to the starting lineup. Just saying.

What a wonderful way to end the weekend…for some of us.

See you all next Saturday, when the Timbers face Los Angeles FC at home in Portland.

Featured image courtesy: Shawn Levy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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MNUFC faces ever-growing faultline

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

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, May 12: 1-3 Loss

Going into Week 11, San Jose Earthquakes had notched just one win. That was way back on opening night, when they hosted Minnesota United. That night, the Loons started a disturbing trend of going two goals in the hole before halftime. They would give up one more in the second half before Minnesota midfielder Kevin Molino got two back to make the stats recorded under the loss look slightly less depressing.

This time around, Superman himself returned to the lineup after two matches off. A good sign in itself. Then the Loons gave up a penalty kick in the second minute.

Minnesota conceded all possession to the Quakes for the first twenty minutes, allowing themselves to be dispossessed much too easily, failing to carry the ball out of their own half over and over and over again.

Until a pass finally found the right foot of Superman in the 26th minute. And wasn’t it pretty?

He nearly added a brace in the 41st. It would’ve counted in FIFA, but in real life, it dinged the crossbar and was cleared. Defender Jerome Thiesson nearly scored in the first half’s injury time (that one wouldn’t have counted in FIFA), but they went to the locker room deadlocked.

In keeping with debut trends, making his MLS debut this day was referee Victor Rives. And what a performance it was. No one in the black and gray was happy with him after the match, least of all Adrian Heath and Francisco Calvo, especially after this play:

It wasn’t all Rives’ fault though. Sure, some calls (or the lack thereof) were debatable, but Minnesota had plenty of opportunities to take control. Instead, they forgot to put the cap back on the Hoesensauce bottle and paid dearly for their mistake. A lurking Danny Hoesen was assisted by Chris Wondolowski in what may have been the most easily poached goal allowed this season. And open-air TCF Bank Stadium seemingly deflated.

Wondo notched another on a penalty. And so the Loons dropped another perfectly winnable game to the least-winningest team in the west.

You can point to as many mistakes as you want and Calvo knows you will:

“If you want to point at me, point at me. I’ve been playing as a pro eight years. So, I know what this pressure is. So, if you want to say Calvo is doing mistakes, Calvo is not playing well, you can say whatever you want. But we are 11 on the field. Alright? So, if you want to talk, talk about the team. Don’t talk about me or any of my teammates.”

But the bottom line is this: If United can’t find a way to link their play from one end of the pitch to the other – for all eleven to work the same game plan, to play with the same energy and focus during the same match – they will have much bigger problems than San Jose.

And so it goes in the North.

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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“Night Spoiled” New York City FC destroyed by New York Red Bulls

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, May 5: 4-0 Loss

“I don’t have much to say, I’ll be out front
Won’t you come spoil my night?
Feelings come into play and I’m thinkin’
this happens every time.
Spoil my night, spoil my night…”

Before Saturday’s thrashing of NYCFC at Red Bull Arena, and before said night was spoiled, I spent quite a bit of time pondering soccer fandom in the US in general and more specifically the development of franchise rivalries in MLS.  We were, of course, playing our alleged rival in what MLS dubbed the #NYDerby.  There was so much talk in the days leading up to the game about how both NYC fans and NY Red Bulls fans were actually renaming it the “Hudson River Derby” and were resistant to the assumed insistence by the league in naming it a New York rivalry.

As seasoned football fans are quick to point out, a “derby” game doesn’t necessarily indicate a match that underscores the fiercest rivalry.  If you look at Real Madrid, they may play a derby versus Atlético Madrid and fans of both clubs across the city will come out in large numbers, but their true rival in La Liga on any given day would be FC Barcelona.  And in the English Premier League, if you ask any Manchester United fan who their “biggest rival” is, they will answer Liverpool and not Manchester City.  

When soccer fans speak in general about the makings of a rivalry, the common thread is that it’s more than just a geographic commonality.  Fans commented that true rivalries take time and history to develop and that ultimately it’s passion that fuels all.

However, in a league as young and eager to grow as MLS, mere hints of a rivalry by means of geography, team age, and a few contentious games can be accelerated into a full-blown “Rivalry”.  These matches are easy to advertise and market and they sell more tickets.  Both derby games and matches against a league rival grip fans as they give them a rare chance to loudly proclaim which clan they identify with. 

“The beautiful game is for the fans and they are the ones responsible for defining what is meaningful and important and what or who isn’t”. – NYCFC fan Angel Meza

In the case of the New York City and the Red Bulls, some say that it’s not a true historical rivalry and not even a true derby game as the Red Bulls’ home is in Patterson, NJ.  However, there is clearly true animosity and, for many NYCFC fans, it stems from the belief that a New York team needs to actually play in New York State. 

It seems that the perceived highjacking of the “NY” in RBNY was the big rub.  Not that the actual team or its fans had any say in that decision.  No matter, as one City fan succinctly stated, “The one thing that makes a rivalry a rivalry is both sides agreeing it is one.”  And that may be the only thing that most NYCFC and Red Bulls fans can agree on.

Special thanks to the following fans for sharing their thoughts about soccer fandom:  Andrés Emilio Soto, Stephanie Plaut, Osman Sosa, Rollie Joe Carney, Anthony Scarcello and Angel Meza.  And thanks to Post Malone for those lyrics.

Featured image of HC Patrick Vieira: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Chicago Fire: You win some, you lose some

Daniela Calvo - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Daniela Calvo // @DanielaCalvo__

Chicago Fire 1- Atlanta United 2: Loss

Saturday, May 5

After two road games, the Chicago Fire came back home to Toyota Park to host the Atlanta United. The last time the two met the Fire played with 10 men early in the game and eventually lost the game 4-0.

Starting XI

Richard Sanchez; Kevin Ellis, Johan Kappelhof, Damian Lillard, Brandon Vincent; Dax McCarty ©, Mo Adams; Elliot Collier, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Aleksandar Katai; Nemanja Nikolić

Chicago Fire coach, Veljko Paunović kept the same lineup from the previous week against Toronto FC, but in a different formation, Schweinsteiger was moved up from the back line to attacking midfield in order to create scoring opportunities for Nikolić and Katai. 

Daniela Calvo - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Aleksandar Katai (left) and Diego Campos (right) setting up for a free kick. Image: Daniela Calvo

The Fire dominated the first half by keeping Atlanta on their toes in order to minimize them from scoring. The Fire was aware that Atlanta could find space and exploit it by creating a scoring opportunity. But once the halftime whistle blew the score was 0-0.

Subsequently, 8 minutes into the second half, Atlanta’s Ezequiel Barco scored the first goal of the night with an assist from Miguel Almirón. Then 4 minutes after that, it was Josef Martinez who scored the second goal for Atlanta.  Ultimately in the 61st minute, Fire’s, Kevin Ellis scored his first goal of the season with a half-volley and the last one of the match.

The Fire played a midweek game against The Montreal Impact.

Daniela Calvo - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Kevin Ellis, player who scored Chicago’s only goal of the match. Image: Daniela Calvo

Chicago Fire 1- Montreal Impact 0: Win

Wednesday, May 9

Starting XI

Richard Sanchez; Kevin Ellis, Johan Kappelhof, Damian Lillard, Brandon Vincent; Mo Adams, Dax McCarty©, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Alan Gordon, Aleksandar Katai, Nemanja Nikolić

After losing to Atlanta United 4 days prior, the Chicago Fire were looking to defeat the Montreal Impact. This time Fire Coach, Veljko Paunović added Alan Gordon to the starting lineup. Currently, both teams are battling for the middle of the table so this game is an important one.

It took 34 minutes into the game of Aleksandar Katai to find a scoring opportunity, but unfortunately, Impact defender, Daniel Lovitz was there to clear the ball and keep the score an even 0-0 in the first half.

Daniela Calvo - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Bastian Schweinsteiger setting up for a free kick after he was fouled. Image: Daniela Calvo

The Fire bounced back in the 89th minute when defender Kevin Ellis scored the only goal of the match for the Fire marking the final score 1-0. The Fire tend to dominate in the second half, and having young talented players on the bench aides them when its time to sub in to keep the momentum going in the final minutes of the game.

Chicago Fire’s Mo Adams aided the team greatly with his defensive skills. He was all over the field stopping Impact’s Ignacio Piatti from putting them on the board. He was not awarded Man of the Match, but he sure made an impact. 

Daniela Calvo - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Rookie Mo Adams. Image: Daniela Calvo

Images courtesy: Daniela Calvo

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @DanielaCalvo__

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Loons and the Law of Averages

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

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Wednesday, May 9: 2-0 Loss

With two forwards injured and one serving a red card suspension, there were a lot of questions surrounding Minnesota United FC‘s midweek clash at LAFC. While Chris Ramirez is the lone forward with a goal, accounting for just one of the club’s eleven, the concern over getting a result had more to do with how the midfield would piece together with no true forwards in front.

Mids ran the show Wednesday. While they account for the other ten goals, five were made by players no longer on the active roster (one by Nicholson who was traded to Colorado Rapids last week and two each for Molino and Finlay, both out for the season with ACL tears) and two were made by Ibson, who Adrian Heath chose to rest for Saturday’s match against San Jose Earthquakes.

Designated Player Darwin Quintero has accounted for two goals and Miguel Ibarra for one (plus three game-winning assists), but could they function as a ‘forward’ unit?

They certainly tried. Unfortunately, Quintero’s best chance was foiled by the goal post and Ibarra’s two shots on goal were blocked. LAFC had similar run-ins with a goal post, last-second flicks and a keeper with quick hands, but the new club had two key factors on their side Wednesday night: The Law of Averages and defensive placement.

Minnesota had three beautiful shots on goal, out of seven total shots, from five different players.

LA had seven shots on goal. Out of… 29 total shots?! 29 shots from ten different players. Yes, in oversimplified terms, everyone but the keeper sent at least one shot into the box on Wednesday night. So it is actually quite remarkable that they only managed to put two in the net.

The home side also had the advantage of a defensive line, led by Laurent Ciman, which was always in the right place, at the right time, whereas Minnesota’s back four… wasn’t. Captain Francisco Calvo, in fact, found himself out of position a few too many times. His partner, Michael Boxall, who is not typically a fan favorite actually drew praise from Calvo’s fan club defectors who enjoyed the effect of his wall-like frame:

So while dropping three points on the road is far from ideal, the 2-0 scoreline really isn’t so bad. The Loons, hopefully joined by a healthy Ramirez, a rested Ibson and a refocused backline, will be welcomed home on Saturday by fans who have come to not expect much from road games.

But they expect a bit more at home. Namely, for the keeper to not be Man of the Match.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Orlando City breaks Club’s win streak record with match against RSL

Shae Beaudoin - Orlando City SC/mlsfemale
Official Orlando City Reporter

By Shae Beaudoin // @ShaeEliz

Sunday, May 6: 3-1 Win

This past Sunday, Orlando City broke the Club’s win streak record with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake. This marks 6 consecutive wins for the Lions, breaking the Club’s record of 5 straight wins which was set in the 2017 season. Most notably, this win streak includes two away matches, which used to cause us quite some trouble.

If you recall a few weeks back, I brought up the concern about the depth of our defense line. This concern rose again for this match against Real Salt Lake, as City went into this game without captain Jonathan Spector (still on concussion protocol), Scott Sutter (knee injury), and Amro Tarek (broken nose and lower body injury). Instead, the offseason addition, Chris Schuler made his City debut and got a full 90 minutes at that.

I wish you all could have been at the Orlando City Soccer Stadium for this game and stood on The Wall with me. The energy was unreal with fans buzzing from the first kick, urging our team towards the 6th straight win. 

The first half saw Orlando City dominating on possession and having way too many close shots, which, unfortunately, none of them made it in. That didn’t matter to The Wall, though. Every attempt seemed to rile them up even more.

Chris Mueller performed some nice little footwork tricks to trap up Salt Lake’s defense and Justin Meram was more alive and on the ball than I’ve seen him all season. Sacha Kljestan also made quite a few attempts of his own. The team wanted those goals, they just kept misstepping or overshooting.

Maybe they were getting a little too overeager, who knows? Corey Baird of Real Salt Lake tried to diminish spirits in the 12th minute when he managed to slip one past goalkeeper Joe Bendik, but that didn’t put too much of a damper on things. We ended the first half 0-1 and with The Wall as loud as ever.

Second half, the Lions came back with a vengeance, just as we were hoping they would. It took a few minutes to get warmed up, but Dom Dwyer started the fire in the 60th minute. Three minutes later, Lamine Sané got his first goal in purple. Honestly, I think part of the stadium got comfortable with two, but Yoshimar Yotún wanted to be extra safe and tucked away a third goal in the 78th minute.

There were also several great saves by Joe Bendik during this match, or we may have been singing a different tune in this report. (Bendik also got himself a pretty little yellow card, but hey).

Stefano Pinho subbed in for Chris Mueller who went down for injury but don’t worry. He was up walking around again by the end of the game so hopefully, it was just a strained muscle and he’ll be back with us next week. I’d love for him to score on Atlanta. Thankfully, no other new injuries to report this game, our remaining two subs were RJ Allen and Uri Rosell, who replaced Justin Meram and Yoshimar Yotún.

Orlando City is back home again next week where they face off against Atlanta United. City will be pushing for their 7th straight win, Atlanta will be pushing for their 8th. There’s sure to be a whole lot of tension and 90 minutes of pure energy. Will you be there?

Featured image courtesy: Shae Beaudoin

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @ShaeEliz

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Hey, guys, we might have some goal-scorers now

Kirsten Arpin - Sporting Kansas City/mlsfemale
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

One of the biggest questions that Sporting KC fans have had for the past few seasons is, “When will Peter Vermes sign a proven goal-scorer?” Well, guys, I think we’re good.

We’re ten games in (oh man…look at those recap articles…insert sad-disappointed emoji here) and not only are we in first place in the west…say that again for the people in the back…FIRST PLACE IN THE WEST! but we are averaging just over two goals per game, and have a +9 goal differential. All of these things are quite awesome. So let’s discuss these guys, and see what might be in store for the rest of the season.

The Top Guys

Johnny “Russellmania” Russell

Johnny Russell came from Derby (Darby) County, and he hit the ground running. If you haven’t seen this guy score in person, then you are missing out. Though I live super far away from KC now, I was able to take a spur-of-the-moment trip up to Chicago to see SKC win against the Chicago Fire. His goal was not only his first for the boys in blue, but it was also gorgeous. Just watch him blast the ball between three Fire defenders, not that anyone would have been able to stop it…

That was his first goal, but Russell’s crowning glory so far this season was the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps where he became the 8th player in SKC history to score a hat-trick. The coolest part though is that he is the fastest player to ever get three in one game, clocking in at 48 minutes.

He could have probably scored more, but the Verms subbed him out in the 52nd minute for Cristian Lobato…who scored another goal. A 6-0 win was pretty sweet, guys. When you score three goals in one game you are almost guaranteed to be MLS Player of the Week, so naturally, that happened. Please enjoy this goal-a-palooza.

Felipe Gutiérrez

So, Felipe Gutiérrez was the leading goal-scorer in the league, then he got injured and he was still the leading goal-scorer for another two weeks. That’s what happens when you score five goals in the first five games. Quick side-note: Sporting didn’t score in their first game, so it’s basically five goals in four games.

I would like you to ignore the obnoxious music in this video and watch his field awareness. He knows exactly where the defenders and his teammates are at all times. The goal off of the backheel from Daniel Salloi should have been the goal of the week, but Atlanta United fans stuff the ballot box any time one of their guys is nominated…cough cough.

His reaction time is also crazy. The two goals off of rebounds are sheer perfection. Felipe has been injured basically since March ended. He subbed in against Vancouver but wasn’t on the field for that long, and he’s out now after sports hernia surgery. Depending on how quick he’s back, and how prolific other scorers are, he could possibly still end the season near the top of the leading scorers.

The Utility Players

Penalty Shooter Extraordinaire, Ilie Sanchez

Do you need a guy to take a penalty? (Which SKC are magically getting this season. Not bitter, but we didn’t get one until almost the All-Star break last year. Pepperidge Farm remembers.) Well, we have a guy that can take your penalties. Not only will he make said penalty shot, but he won’t even make a big deal out of it. I wish he could score more, because The Cauldron has a new cheer for Ilie this season, and it is my absolute favorite thing.

My name is…
Ilie Sanchez,
I’m from Barcelona
I play defensive-mid for the Wiz (THE WIZ)
When I walk down the street
Everyone that I meet
Says, “Hey, Muchacho, what’s your name?”
My name is…

Young Daniel Salloi

Young Daniel has worked his way back into the starting lineup since Felipe’s injury, and if Saturday’s game was any indication, he’ll fill in fine. Daniel has scored twice so far this season, and he didn’t play at all in one game since he was coming back from international duty in Hungary. I refuse to do a Hungary pun. Refuse!

This guy is still young, and even if he’s not scoring, he provides a spark on the offensive end. He has four assists on the season including a beautiful backheel on one of Felipe’s goals from above. Check out his goal from the game against Colorado Rapids. Not only is the finish great, but literally every single piece of this puzzle is bomb.

Fun Facts

Matt Besler got a haircut. I’m sad about it.

Graham Zusi cut his hair for charity. I’m not sad about it.

Sporting defeated the Fighting Zlatans…I mean the LA Galaxy. It was great, and I laughed with glee.

If you look at the featured image in the article you can see what the team photos have been like this season. It is the best thing, and I love it. Enjoy the shenanigans.

I’ve finished the first year of my Masters…again…! It’s been a stressful year, but I’m excited to be back with you guys and writing about my team.

Sporting is taking a trip to Atlanta for a mid-week game against Atlanta United, so get ready to check it out along with four other great games.

#ForGloryForCity

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

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Ask and you shall receive: Montréal Impact respond to Coach’s request

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Saturday, May 5: 4-2 Win

Earlier this week, Montréal Impact head coach Rémi Garde’s interview with the media became a talking point around MLS. When questioned by reporters, Garde stated that his players were not used to “training culture.” More shocking were his comments that Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Dominic Oduro, and Raheem Edwards, in particular, were not giving enough effort in training to compete for a spot on the bench, let alone a starting position.

These words were scrutinized by fans and journalists alike as the Impact prepared for their second home game versus New England Revolution after losing four straight matches in April. Everyone wondered if the coach was transforming the team, or if he was about to lose his locker room.

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Image: @impactmontreal

Imagine the surprise of many when the Impact presented their lineup. The familiar comfort of the 4-3-3 returned with two of the players singled-out by Garde in the starting 11: Jackson-Hamel and Edwards featured as striker and right winger, respectively. After being criticized by their manager, the young attackers would have the opportunity to prove their investment and desire to represent Montréal. Nacho Piatti captained the side and returned to his more familiar position on the left wing as he marked his 100th MLS match with the Impact.

The first half saw the Revs largely out-play a low-confidence Impact. On the attacking side, Edwards missed a golden opportunity to finish a cross from left back Daniel Lovitz, and Evan Bush was present to deal with a number of New England corners. To the delight of home fans, Piatti fed a delicious through ball to Jackson-Hamel who had remained just a hair on-side. The striker ran 40 yards alone to beat the keeper and saw his first goal of the season bobble across the line with only seconds left in the half.

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Piatti, Edwards, and Jackson-Hamel hugging for the header. Image: @impactmontreal

As the second half began, worry was in the air. The Impact had held a leading position during the previous two matches (3-1 vs LAFC and 0-1 vs Atlanta United) to start the second half and had folded in on themselves such that the league’s leakiest defense conceded enough goals to lose both games. Would the team try the same failing tactic once again?

The answer would prove to be a resounding “No.” Instead, fans were treated to a sight they had come to know and love over the four seasons Piatti has been with the team: The Nacho Show. Author of the assist to Jackson-Hamel’s first-half goal, Piatti would go on to provide two more assists – another to Jackson-Hamel and one to Edwards as they journeyed down their road to redemption. Finally, the Argentinian magician finished off a brilliant long pass by Samuel Piette to score a goal of his own.

Unfortunately, the Impact’s defensive woes would come back to haunt them again, as they conceded two late goals from set pieces, to finish with a scoreline of 4-2. While it is important to keep in mind that the team cannot continue to ship in multiple goals per game, credit should be heaped upon Piatti for the leadership he showed in creating chances for his teammates who were most in need.

Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Raheem Edwards also deserve their share of recognition for showing up when it mattered and seizing the opportunity they were afforded. Finally, Rémi Garde’s psychological tactics paid off, and perhaps he is instigating a much-needed cultural revolution within the team. Regardless of what challenges are to come in the rest of the season, the Impact deserve to celebrate a much-needed victory.

Up next: The Impact have a quick turn-around, as they make a mid-week trip to face Chicago Fire on Wednesday, May 9th.

Featured image courtesy: @impactmontreal

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Portland Timbers never say die

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 5: 0-1 Win

For the first time since the move out of Buck Shaw, the Portland Timbers defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 at Avaya Stadium on Saturday, putting Portland on the good foot heading into next weekend and hopefully reclaiming once and for all any reference to the Goonies by our neighbors to the south. It was an evenly contested match, but Diego “El Maestro” Valeri had the last word, bending a beautiful free kick into the top right corner of the net at the 88th minute, sending the Timbers Army away fans home happy, and bringing back three points for the boys in green (okay, technically, the kits were white, but you know what I mean).

Recap

The Timbers went into this game in a 4-3-2-1 formation, with a lineup much like the one that proved successful against Minnesota United. After a dominant performance against New York City FCJeff Attinella was back in the starting spot in goal and Liam Ridgewell was once again in the starting XI; but other than that the lineup looked pretty much like the one that we saw in our home opener against the Loons.

The first 15-20 minutes the Timbers looked to have the game well in hand, with most of the possession and with Alvas Powell tearing up and down the right sideline like he owned the place. At the outset, it was almost a three-man backfield as Alvas time and again charged forward with pace and control.

It wasn’t until about 25′ when the Earthquakes’ Nick Lima hit a cross that turned out to be more like a shot on goal, that the momentum seemed to shift. Fanendo Adi had a couple of decent chances, but between his 8′ shot off the post, his 11′ mishandling of a pass from Valeri in front of the goal, his miss at 22′, it just wasn’t his night.

In the second half, both teams had their share of chances. Danny Hoesen made Attinella work hard to keep a clean sheet, and Valerie Qazaishvili had a couple of beauties blocked as well. In the end, though, it was Diego Valeri’s free-kick a couple of minutes before stoppage time that made the difference, and the Portland Timbers continued their slow climb out of the cellar in the West:

Quick Takes

Spotlight on Paredes. Once again, midfielder Cristhian Paredes continues to impress me. Take a look at his distribution yesterday:

Screenshot 2018-05-06 at 6.42.49 PM

See all of those green arrows? Those are successful passes and crosses. See how many unsuccessful passes/crosses he had all game? ThreeDavid Guzman has some very healthy competition for that deep midfield pairing with Diego Chara. Frankly, if Paredes keeps it up, that other D-mid starting spot might just belong to him, regardless of when Guzman is healthy again.

Powell continues to demonstrate maturity and poise (what?!?). I already mentioned that Powell looked like he owned the right side of the field in the opening quarter of the game. I am also impressed that he is managing to keep his head. In a game where no fewer than five Timbers received yellow cards, it is noteworthy that none of the yellow card recipients was named Alvas. Keep up the good work, young man.

Armenteros is a savvy player. Take another look at that free kick by Valeri that ultimately proved to be the game-winner. Let’s note, first of all, that Samuel Armenteros was the one who got the foul at the hands of Anibal Godoy. While it is true that this wasn’t the worst offense I’ve ever seen called for a foul, Godoy MORE than had it coming to him, as he had already built up a reputation with the referee by repeatedly plowing into players from behind, finally earning a yellow card after about the fifth offense. Armenteros wisely made the contact evident to officials and earned a free kick in a dangerous spot.

Then there was the free kick itself. Both Shea Salinas and Magnus Eriksson are initially tight on Armenteros, presumably because of the threat he may pose on cleaning up any deflected shot. Take a look at what Armenteros does with them in the wall here:

Armenteros turns from striker threat to offensive lineman, using some impressive blocking to clear a wide space in the wall for Valeri, should he need to use it. As it turned out, of course, Valeri curled the ball high and tight in the corner; but Armenteros was ready to ease the path for him, just in case.

I would love to see Armenteros get significant minutes so that he can find on-field rhythm with Valeri and Sebastian Blanco; it has to be hard to do when you only have a few minutes at the end of a game to sort it out. Adi may be working hard, but I don’t see that much production from him yet this year. We have healthy competition for starting spots in a few roles; I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of that mentality at the striker spot.

The only injury of note the team seems to have suffered was at Zarek Valentin‘s expense, apparently from overexuberant goal celebration with teammates (no, really). Fortunately, he was able to get back into the game in the final minutes while sporting a hefty bandage. He seems to be on the mend:

Next week, the Timbers are back home to face our hated rivals, the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, May 13th.

I. Can’t. Wait.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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Don’t hit the panic switch on the LA Galaxy just yet

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Saturday, May 5: 3-2 Loss

I watched highlights and listened via the radio stream for this match as the LA Galaxy traveled to BBVA Compass Stadium for the match Saturday, May 5, 2018, where the crowd was sold out.

Image @LAGalaxy

Starting XI: David Bingham; Dave Romney, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik, Ashley Cole ©; Sebastian Lletget, Perry Kitchen; Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos, Ola Kamara; Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Bench: Justin Vom Steeg, Emrah Klimenta, Daniel Steres, Servando Carrasco, Jonathan dos Santos, Emmanuel Boateng, Chris Pontius

My heart broke as The LA Galaxy lost at the last minute to the Houston Dynamo, a game that should’ve been in the bag for LA. But, it doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning is winning as Vin Diesel once said in The Fast and the Furious.

It is frustrating to watch a talented team struggle, fight back and then lose. But, the Galaxy aren’t just fighting, they’re chasing the ball and clawing their way from two-goal deficits. I commend them for being able to come back. But, conceding goals early and fighting tooth and nail are not the way anyone wants this to go. The problem lies in our defense as well. At this point, all eyes are on coach Sigi Schmid.

LAG was able to have the same starting XI for two games now. I think consistency is key, but there are many keys to unlocking their success. Giovani Dos Santos scored his second goal on a good run that he was able to keep to the far post. Ola Kamara scored also on an assist from Gio Dos Santos who had gotten the ball off a spinning pass that resembled more of a martial arts move from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This trio combined to make that first and second goal happen. It seemed the team was finally given a break.

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Giovani Dos Santos and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Image: @LAGalaxy

I have to hand it to the Los Angeles Galaxy for showing heart. In the first half, possession was in their favor just barely, but the other side says LA was dominated. David Romney and even Kamara play out of their comfortable positions to do what is asked of them. Let’s give them kudos to come back after being down two goals for the third time this season. David Bingham keeps making numerous saves.

They are two points up from this time last year, the infamous season that everyone keeps referring to; I have to admit, things are not looking good right now. But, I am an optimist. This doesn’t mean I am not realistic. I want my team to win. I want them to be more in control of the game. I want this team to rebuild the fortress that was StubHub Center.

The same problems keep surfacing for the LA Galaxy, which tells me this is fixable. We cannot expect Kamara and Ibrahimovic to carry or lift the team. I hope this wakes up the team because the first two Houston goals were soft ones. We are about to face FC Dallas and Montreal Impact, both teams that are formidable opponents as we are the away team.

Featured image of Ola Kamara courtesy: @LAGalaxy 

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