State of the (Philadelphia) Union

Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Cait Costello // @caitcostello

With the 2019 season less than a month away, rumors of a deal to sign Marco Fabián breathed fresh life into Philadelphia Union fans feeling adrift and anxious for a big signing in the offseason.

Fabián, 29, joined Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt four seasons ago, where he netted eight goals and six assists in 44 appearances. In 42 appearances for the Mexican National Team since 2012, he’s scored a further nine goals. However, Fabián’s last two seasons were derailed by a back injury and subsequent surgery and recovery.

Still, Fabián would be exactly the kind of high-profile, splashy signing Union fans have been clamoring for and would build confidence in sporting director Ernst Tanner’s vision and direction for the team.

That vision includes a new formation that we saw for the first time in Clearwater during the Union’s 3-2 preseason victory over the New York Red Bulls. After so many seasons of a rigid and predictable 4-2-3-1, it was a refreshing change of pace to see a 4-4-2 diamond formation. I’m particularly excited to see how the two-striker approach changes the Union’s attack this year.

This first look at the new formation also marks our first glimpse into the mindset that has guided their offseason roster decisions. Players we said goodbye to this winter include winger Marcus Epps (New York Red Bulls), midfielder Fabian Herbers (Chicago Fire), and defender Keagan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids). 

The first big-name signing of the offseason was Brazilian forward Sergio Santos, 24, who made 16 appearances for Chilean Primera Division club Audax Italiano in 2018. During that time he scored nine goals, earning his place as the club’s top scorer and tying for 10th leading scorer in the league. Santos will occupy an international spot on the team’s active roster.

Goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel, 22, joined the Union from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg—Tanner’s former club—as part of a one-year loan with an option to buy. Tanner sees an opportunity for Coronel to develop alongside fellow goalkeeper and new Homegrown signing Matt Freese.

The Union also signed centerback Aurelien Collin as a free agent. A former MLS Cup Champion and MLS Cup MVP with Sporting Kansas City in 2013, as well as an MLS All-Star in 2012, 2013 and 2014, Collin comes to Philadelphia fresh off a Supporters’ Shield victory with the New York Red Bulls last season. 

Will these signings help the Union build on the successes (and avoid the painful defeats) of last season? We’ll have to wait until March 2 to see, but I feel cautiously optimistic about the Union’s 10th season—and I’ll feel even better if the team announces that they’ve signed Marco Fabián this Friday when they launch the new away kit.


UPDATE: On Wednesday, Ernst Tanner confirmed the rumors of talks to bring Marco Fabián to the Union, but declined to elaborate any further.

The team also announced the signing of German left back Kai Wagner, 21, from Würzburger Kickers, part of Germany’s 3. Liga. As the third left back on the roster, Wagner provides depth and can be a backup to Matt Real when he likely heads to Poland for the U-20 World Cup in May. Additionally, this extra depth on the left will allow Ray Gaddis to move over to right back, his natural position. Wagner is the eighth international player on the Union’s roster and the third added by Tanner during this offseason.

Featured image: Philadelphia Union/Kylie Willet

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @caitcostello

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27 days to opening day in Colorado

Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

27. That’s how many days we have left until the 2019 season begins. I am EXCITED. The Colorado Rapids made some big roster moves over the offseason and we have finally signed our needed strikers, but let’s rewind a bit first. 

The Rapids did not do well last year, at all. We did not finish last, thanks to the San Jose Earthquakes but we came very close. We did, however, spoil FC Dallas’ postseason aspirations by defeating them 2-1 and making them play in the knock out rounds instead of the first full round. In all, we finished 2018 with an 8-7-19 record – a total of 34 points that included two separate 6+ game losing streaks.

The offseason saw a myriad of changes come in and a retirement announcement from our very own Secretary of Defense. 2019 will see the likes of Deklan Wynne, Kellyn Acosta, Dillon Serna, and Niki Jackson back in Burgundy. Joining the team will be Kei Kamara (Vancouver Whitecaps), Diego Rubio (Sporting KC), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), and Benny Feilhaber (LAFC) – just to name a few.   The Super Draft saw us pick up University of Denver and Rapids U23 player, Andre Shinyashiki. Unfortunately, we said goodbye to a couple well-known faces in the team when goalkeeper, Zac MacMath headed to Vancouver and midfielder Marlon Hairston was traded to Houston.

Tim Howard took to Twitter earlier this month to let us know that he’s hanging up his boots after 21 years as a goalkeeper. I know that not everyone was a fan of Howard, but I was – and am. While I don’t have personal encounter stories, I have been impressed with how hard he has worked throughout his career and how he seems to be willing to take the time for his fans.

I think one of my favorite moments from the 2018 season was when a friend of mine came to his first MLS game, first soccer game really, and one of the first things he said to me when we met up at half time was, “Is that the guy from the World Cup? The one with the crazy amount of saves in that one game?” So thank you, Tim Howard, for what you’ve done and for choosing us to end your career with. Enjoy your time with your kids!

Rapids open their season on March 2nd against the Portland Timbers.

Featured image: @keikamara

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @jesshuh15

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A Candid Conversation with Uriel Antuna

LA Galaxy Contributor

By Debbie Haar // @GalaxySoccerMom

After much anticipation, the L.A. Galaxy announced on January 29, 2019, a one-year loan deal with Manchester City for 21-year old Mexican International midfielder Uriel Antuna. Antuna signed a four-year contract with Manchester City in 2017, spending last season on loan with FC Groningen in the Netherlands. In November 2018, he was called up for the senior Mexican National Team for friendlies against Belgium and Poland but saw no play time.

I was lucky enough to sit down and talk to him just a few hours after his loan deal was officially announced by the Galaxy.

Debbie Haar: Welcome to L.A. How’s it feel to be here and with the Galaxy?

Uriel Antuna: Good. It’s very exciting.

DH: How have the practices been?

UA: Hard, but it needs to be that way. I’m used to them now.

DH: So, when did you start playing soccer?

UA: Probably age 3. My Dad loves futbol.

DH: What kind of kid were you?

UA: I talked a lot to my Mom. Sometimes I was a little crazy.

DH: What’s your Mom like?

UA: (big smile) She is crazy! (laughs) She used to bang on the drums in the stands during my games.

DH: Would you like if we said hi to your Mom in this article?

UA: Yes! (Hi Bertha, you did a good job Mom!)

DH: Do you get recognized in public?

UA: I did in the Netherlands.

DH: Did it feel like an invasion of privacy?

UA: No! I love the fans.

DH: Do you get homesick?

UA: I miss my family – this is futbol life.

DH: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

UA: I have two younger brothers age 16 and 12. My brother Kevin plays in Mexico.

DH: We heard about your Mom, what is your Dad like? What does he do?

UA: He is very proud and supportive. He delivers chips to stores for a living.

DH: If you weren’t a soccer player what career would you pursue?

UA: I don’t know, I always wanted to play soccer. I’d like to study. I’m good at math. You show me once and I know it.

DH: Are you superstitious or have any pregame rituals?

UA: I used to. I put my left sock on, then my right sock. Then my left shoe, then my right. But I stopped that.

DH: What’s your favorite thing to eat?

UA: I eat a lot! I like pizza and sushi.

DH: Question. Do you like pineapple on pizza?

UA: Yes.

DH: You’re awesome! On your days off do you wake up early or like to sleep in?

UA: I like to sleep.

DH: Do you drink coffee?

UA: Of course!

DH: What kind of coffee do you like?

UA: Caramel. I love caramel and I don’t like my coffee hot.

DH: Tell me something interesting most people don’t know about you.

UA: I gave up soda eight years ago. I only drink water, apple juice or orange juice. Sometimes sparkling water but not too much.

DH: I watched you score a hat trick in the CONCACAF U20 Championship game, you did some very impressive gymnastics after. Where did you learn to do flips like that?

UA: (laughs) I learned on my bed, then just started doing them on the field.

DH: Do you play video games?

UA: Of course! PlayStation, Call of Duty.

DH: What has been your achievement when it comes to soccer?

UA: Signing with Manchester City.

DH: Does it ever bother you when fans boo or get upset?

UA: No, you get used to it. We don’t want to lose either. I like when fans are fans through the good and bad.

DH: We’re all excited to watch you play. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

UA: Of course.

(Some communication was done via translation app)

L.A. is excited to see you on the field, Uriel. Welcome to the Galaxy.

Featured image: @LAGalaxy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @GalaxySoccerMom

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MNUFC’s pivotal year three spending spree

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

With preseason matches kicking off this week, it is time for that deep dive I’ve been teasing. This will, unfortunately, be a low dive, but I’m sure the next few weeks will give us plenty of material to build on. After all, I believe there’s still some TAM, GAM and JAM (or is it jelly?) in the coffers, ripe for spending.

We’ve had enough Twitter. This one is all words. Ready, Loons? Dive.

Minnesota United is making strides in rebuilding one of its weakest links on the pitch ahead of the club’s third MLS season, with nine additions to the backfield: Osvaldo “Ozzie” Alonso, Jan Gregus, Chase Gasper, Hassani Dotson, Dayne St Clair, Romain Metanire, Mitchell Osmond, Kevin Rodriguez and, most recently, Ike Opara.

Of the five expected to immediately compete for starting roles, only two (Metanire and Opara) are true defenders, but doubling down on the defensive midfielders certainly isn’t a bad thing for this club.

In 2017 and 2018, compounding on the issue of the Loons’ leaky defense was a discombobulated midfield that struggled to move the ball into the final third and struggled even more to maintain possession in their own half, meaning the defense was nearly always on their back foot before they came face-to-face with the opposition’s attack. Adrian Heath’s experimentation with the 3-5-2 sparked hope, but like a line of dominoes, no matter the formation, one mistake would lead to total collapse.

So United needs to get back to the basics. Defensive stalwarts like Opara and Alonso will provide a solid backbone to a successful transition. Both would operate well in either the 4-2-3-1 or the 3-5-2. I would pair Opara with Michael Boxall in a four-man backline, with Calvo and Metanire to their left and right, respectively. In a three-man backline, I see Wyatt Omsberg (or Gasper?) on Opara’s left and Kallman on his right.

There are too many variables for me to lay out the midfield, but in either formation I want Alonso and Jan Gregus orchestrating with Rasmus Schuller and Miguel Ibarra anchoring the wings.

The varied experience brought by Alonso and Opara counteract many of the negatives cited (over and over and over) on Minnesota Soccer Twitter. These are two MLS veterans with hefty postseason resumes, not just grainy highlight videos from another league. Their composure and leadership will balance the youthful inexperience of the fresh legs around them and give the other Minnesota mainstays (i.e. Calvo and Kallman) more favorable conditions to rise to their potential consistently. And I have a feeling that consistency will be the buzzword this season.

Yes, we need depth. Yes, we need more starters. Yes, we need to score goals, too. But when the Loons’ receive their credit statement for the past month, the transaction history will, for the first time since the club’s promotion, hint at forward progress in the building of a team with playoff hopes.

Is the third time the charm? Either way…. [Insert photo of shiny, new stadium here.]

COYL

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

LAFC Weekly Roundup: Preseason, Vissel Kobe, USMNT update, Gold Links

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club kicked off their six-match preseason with a 3-1 victory against Toronto FC on Sunday evening.

Andre Horta, Diego Rossi, and newcomer, Peter-Lee Vassell scored all three goals for the home side, while Toronto’s Drew Moor pulled one back for the visitors late in the match.

Baggio Husidic, former LA Galaxy midfielder, who is on trial with the club – made his debut for LAFC after entering for Eduard Atuesta before halftime. If given a contract, he can provide some depth in the midfield area.

Although it was only the first match and the results don’t benefit much, it was nice to see a win from the Black and Gold after a string of losses that ended their season early last year.

LAFC will host Columbus Crew, Atlanta United, San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver in Banc of California stadium for the remainder of preseason.

Supporters and the public are invited to attend the second-ever international friendly and season ticket members will have an opportunity to attend the final preseason match on Saturday, Feb. 23.

USMNT Update: Zimmerman and Ramirez scores in Sunday’s win

The United States Men’s National Team kicked off a new era under new head coach Gregg Berhalter on Sunday, opening their 2019 campaign with a 3-0 shutout against Panama at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Following the opening goal from Chicago Fire’s Djordje Mihailovic in the 40th minute, LAFC’s favorite duo Walker Zimmerman and Christian Ramirez scored a pair of goals back-to-back – securing the 3-0 shutout. 

January has been a busy month for Zimmerman. After much speculation, Zimmerman and LAFC agreed to a new four-year contract. The center back returns as an elite defender in his prime years – having six years of MLS experience and has been a regular for the U.S. Men’s National Team over the last year.

But Zimmerman wasn’t the only player from the Black and Gold to contribute – Ramirez, 27, earned his first international cap and marked the special occasion with a goal in the 89th minute.

Zimmerman and Ramirez will get another chance to shine on Saturday, Feb. 2, as the USMNT take on Costa Rica in San Jose, California.

Tyler Miller Returns to LAFC

Walker Zimmerman, Christian Ramirez, and Tyler Miller recently completed three weeks of USMNT camp in Chula Vista, California. Unfortunately, the team would leave behind four players, including Miller, before departing to Arizona.

The 25-year-old goalkeeper immediately returned to training with LAFC and played a vital role in Sunday’s contest.

LAFC’s friendly against Vissel Kobe

With the re-signing of Walker Zimmerman and the subsequent return of defenders Danilo Silva and Dejan Jakovic a day later, LAFC is bringing back 18 members of its inaugural squad. And in returning that core, a season after setting the standard for first-year teams in MLS, the club and its fans are asking: What can this group of players achieve with a full season under their belts?

The Black and Gold will have a chance to answer that question as they host Vissel Kobe for a preseason friendly this Thursday.

Vassell, Perez, and Mendoza are Black and Gold

LAFC surprised fans when they traded their first-round pick to FC Cincinnati during the 2019 MLS SuperDraft in Chicago.

But head coach Bob Bradley isn’t to be underestimated and the club didn’t leave empty handed as LAFC selected Peter-Lee Vassell, Javi Perez, and Kevin Mendoza.

Here’s what we know about these three draftees:

  • Peter-Lee Vassell – 40th overall pick

Before hitting the pitch, Vassell is already an interesting case.

The 19-year-old is one the few players who did not get selected out of college. Instead, the midfielder found his route to the SuperDraft via the 2018 Caribbean Combine, being selected MVP and earning an invite to the main MLS Combine. Additionally, he is on the senior international with Jamaica – having recorded eight caps and five goals, thus far.

  • Javi Perez – 64th overall pick

At just 20-years-old, the Spanish midfielder wanted a change of scenery after playing for Spain’s La Liga club Valencia CF – serving as the team’s captain for twelve years.

Perez spent the last two years at the University of Pittsburgh, having started in all 35 games he played. As a senior in 2018, he ranked second on the team with eleven points, four goals, and three assists.

A junior transfer from Spain, Perez was a two-time captain for the Panthers, earning USC All-South Region Third Team honors in 2018 and Second Team All-ACC in 2017-18.

  • Kevin Mendoza – 73rd overall pick

Mendoza spent the past four years at Liberty University, earning all-conference honors all four seasons, including first team accolades from 2016-18. A two-year captain for the Flames, Mendoza finished his collegiate career with 32 goals and 15 assists.

The 25-year-old midfielder graduated from Colegio de Bachilleres in his hometown of Mexico City, while also playing for Cruz Azul’s U-17 and U-20 squads.

Gold Links

Featured image: @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Spotlight on LA Galaxy player: Matt Lampson

LA Galaxy Key Contributor

By Debbie Haar // @GalaxySoccerMom

On January 23 the LA Galaxy signed veteran goalkeeper Matt Lampson in the 2nd stage of the re-entry draft. During his seven seasons with MLS, the 29-year-old has played for Columbus Crew SC, Chicago Fire and Minnesota United FC. During his career, he has made 60 appearances, 194 saves and had 16 shutouts. He once admitted as a kid he wanted to be a goalie because he wanted the “cool gloves”. Goal achieved.

Although soccer is a huge part of his life, I wanted to know and share who Matt Lampson is off the soccer field.

Lampson is a two-time winner of MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year award for his work with cancer patients and survivors, most recently winning again in 2018. After donating blood during his senior year of high school he received the devastating news he had stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. He stated he never once thought about losing his battle with cancer.

We look forward to watching him bring that kind of motivating positivity to the soccer field. He sent out a celebratory tweet on September 24, 2018 stating he has been cancer free for 11 years. He also confessed that there is no doubt in his mind that if he didn’t have cancer he would not be a professional athlete.

In 2014, Matt Lampson founded the LampStrong Foundation, a non-profit with the mission of positively changing the lives of those battling cancer and encouraging survivors and their families to make the most of their second chance at life. After games, you may see him on the field, at both home and away games, with kids who are fighting or survived cancer and their families. Kudos to him for taking the time to inspire and motivate those who need it most.

Who doesn’t like doughnuts? Lampson is no different. The L.A. Galaxy now has it’s own “doughnut snob” and proud owner of an array of doughnut shirts. During an interview last year he took the time to describe the perfect old fashioned doughnut with well thought out phrases such as “texture of a crunch”, “delicately dense” and “velvety smooth on the inside”. He often plans doughnut shop counter takeovers and doughnut tours to raise money for his foundation. Doughnuts are not his only food favorite, he also is a self-proclaimed meat lover.

He has a thing for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He mixed his hobby of art and his fondness of the TMNT and drew impressive pictures of each turtle, painted them, then displayed them proudly on his walls. He has even been known to celebrate with TMNT birthday cakes. At one time he even had a turtle he affectionately called as his precious lil ninja Leonardo.

The fans look forward to seeing Matt Lampson bring his positivity and resilience to the field. Welcome to L.A., we look forward to watching you play!

Featured image: @LAGalaxy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @GalaxySoccerMom

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Montreal Impact’s biggest winter signing won’t set foot on the field

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb 

As the team flew to Florida to begin training camp, Montréal Impact fans were feeling rather blasé about the team’s offseason transfers. Then news broke on Monday evening. Team owner/president Joey Saputo was calling a press conference for the following morning. The topic was quickly revealed to be that industry veteran Kevin Gilmore would be announced as Saputo’s presidential successor. That revelation was met with utter incredulity – Saputo hand over the keys to his beloved team? Never!

Joey Saputo. Image: @impactmontreal

As is usually the case with Impact news, the leaked info was confirmed. In a 45-minute conference, Saputo explained that as the league and the team were evolving at a much faster rate than he could have imagined, he simply could not devote the time needed to properly run the Impact’s organization. It turned out that Gilmore had begun working with the team as an independent consultant in November 2018, and his impressive sports management resumé coupled with his knowledge of the region planted the seed in Saputo’s mind that this could be the right person to take over as president.

Nobody can doubt how much Joey Saputo loves the team he founded in 1993. The team he brought to MLS in 2012, which reached the CONCACAF Champions League Final in 2015 and played one of the most thrilling Eastern Conference Final matchups in the history of MLS a year later. Joey Saputo is the man who brought Didier Drogba to Montréal, which allowed me to fall in love with the Impact. He was clearly ready to invest in establishing soccer’s presence in a fairly-monopolized Montréal sports landscape, with the construction of Stade Saputo and a state-of-the-art training facility. After a thoroughly disappointing 2017 season, Joey Saputo sought out an elite coaching staff in Rémi Garde, Joël Bats and their assistants.

However, repeated criticism of Saputo’s leadership was that his passion could cloud his judgment when it came to the business side of the team. In 2018, when the team was in the midst of a winless May, Saputo mused aloud in a radio interview about selling beloved captain Nacho Piatti. He regularly spoke of the team as being in a small market and having to live in the shadow of the Montreal Canadiens. He would lament the lack of sell-out games in the post-Drogba era while offering little in the way of solutions to bring new fans to the stadium and often alienating supporter groups.

In his statement, Kevin Gilmore addressed several of the Impact’s, and by extension Saputo’s, shortcomings head-on. “We need to understand that we play in a top market and we need to start acting like a big-market team,” he asserted. Gilmore called for wiser spending rather than splashing larger sums of cash. He recognized that MLS has a much younger viewing audience than the other big North American leagues and that the team needed to target those younger fans, to engage with them more. He firmly believes there are enough fans in the city to fill Stade Saputo every week, but the team needs to work much harder to bring them to the stadium. Gilmore feels that the multi-cultural, multi-lingual team represents the city and that the Impact need not cower in the shadow of the Habs, but seize their own identity and stand up on their own. 

Kevin Gilmore. Image: @impactmontreal

How do the fans feel? In his first conference, Gilmore spoke the words we wanted to hear. He has a long history in the sports business, and although he is educated as a lawyer, he speaks like a salesman. In particular, his desire to bring people to the stadium and to come to love the team, rather than attracting people who are looking for a casual outing thrilled the IMFC community. Gilmore cited the importance of highlighting Piatti, who is an eternally underrated star of the league, because if we have one of the league’s best players – the whole city needs to know it.

Gilmore also stated that his previous experiences in the NHL showed him that the administration should not involve themselves with the technical aspects of a team. Given Saputo’s reputation for over-management, it will be a breath of fresh air to know that Rémi Garde and his staff can operate without the president adding his two cents.

As a millennial myself and one of Gilmore’s targets, his insight into what we are looking for as a generation – experiences, engagement, and authenticity – inspired confidence that he is looking to target a younger generation, who will hopefully remain faithful to the stadium longer. Although it is too early for Gilmore to provide specific examples of the changes he will effect, and some difficult decisions made, the long-term future of the club looks far more exciting than it did just a week ago.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @ejp_nb 

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC kicks off preseason on a high note

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City kicked off the 2019 preseason campaign on a high note in a 4-0 victory over Sporting Arizona FC at Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex in Tempe, Arizona this past weekend.

Johnny Russell and Yohan Croizet gave Sporting KC a 2-0 lead before Swope Park Rangers duo Justin Bilyeu and Felipe Hernandez struck late in the second half to secure the victory.

*Full match recap here

The club will play their second match at 11:30 am CT on Wednesday, January 23 when the home side faces a team comprised of USL’s Phoenix Rising FC trialists.

Before Sporting KC set off to Scottsdale for the fifth-straight year, players reported to Pinnacle earlier this month for physicals and welcomed their new teammates: Erik Hurtado, Kelyn Rowe, and Rodney Wallace.

Along with the newest additions to the squad, Sporting KC took a total of 39 players to Arizona. Including four members of the Swope Park Rangers, eight Sporting KC Academy products and five current Academy players, all under the age of 23, and MLS SuperDraft picks Kamar Marriott, Camden Riley, and Franky Martinez. All three players selected in the draft are currently unsigned. Additionally, Daniel Johnson – former midfielder for the Chicago Fire – is the lone trialist this preseason.

Among the thirteen Academy players, ten featured in Sporting KC’s preseason win: the senior team quintet of Daniel Salloi, Gianluca Busio, Jaylin Lindsey, Wan Kuzain, and Tyler Freeman; Rangers trio Felipe Hernandez, Wilson Harris and Will Little; and current Academy standouts Mo Abualnadi and Jake Davis.

Looking at the roster – it appears the squad’s main core – whom most signed new contracts before the 2018 season ended – is back. However, we can still potentially lose players – as seen with the three-team trade in early December which sent Diego Rubio to the Colorado Rapids and saw Sporting KC gain Kelyn Rowe and $300,000 in allocation money.

Sporting KC is set to play seven friendlies in Arizona before returning to Kansas City to host Club Deportivo Toluca in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday, February 21.

Featured image: @sportingkc Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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All[ianz] is bright

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

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

I know I teased a deep dive into a formational rabbit hole in this first piece of 2019, but then Minnesota United FC had a busy SuperDraft first round and I changed my plans. This will instead be a shallow dive into a very deep pool of my thoughts on Minnesota’s 2019 newcomers.

Following a disappointing sophomore season in which the Loons’ overall performance could not quite outshine their horrendous freshman year (they picked up one more W in 2018 than in ‘17, but shipped one more goal, finishing with 71 against, compared to 70 in ‘17), everyone expected – or, rather, hoped – to see Minnesota’s front office make immediate strides toward shoring up their defense and pulling together the stray threads in the midfield. Instead, they jettisoned many of 2018’s signings and then… Darkness. Silence.

Well, not exactly dark. Nor silent.

Oh! And this:

Jan Gregus was announced as a DP No 6. Unfortunately, it’s pronounced like Grey Goosh, not Grey Goose. And, he’s not a No 6. While Gregus was occasionally shifted into the center-back role with his last side, FC Copenhagen, and the Slovakian international team, he usually played more of a center mid or right-wing role.

But that’s okay. Minnesota found themselves a real, true, bonafide, known-entity Number 6. (Yes, that’s a transition, but don’t worry; wings will feature heavily in the true deep dive.)

In a rare transfer-rumor-comes-true moment, Minnesota brought aboard a Seattle Sounders original: captain and center back Osvaldo “Ozzie” Alonso. This is one of few signings in United’s MLS era that makes perfect, immediate sense.

The Honey Badger not only fills a position of need but also brings 10 years of MLS experience to a side still searching for an identity. That resume and his history of playing (thriving even) through pain are nearly enough to overlook the fact that he is not the youthful puzzle piece that the Loons sorely need for league longevity, but his leadership may be more important.

On Friday, January 11, the club made three picks who all look set to join the fight for a place with the club, whether that role is off the bench in 2019 or on loan to train for the future. The two brightest prospects come with chemistry. Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair and defender Chase Gasper, picked seventh and fifteenth respectively, played together for the Maryland Terrapins, the 2018 NCAA Champions.

St. Clair adds depth between the sticks, where Shuttleworth was the only rostered player going into the draft. Ideally, he’d be the second backup by opening night, but if the reports about his distribution style are true, St. Clair will be an intriguing addition to the lineup. And do you see how excited his roommate, Gasper, is in this interview?

That’s how excited I am to see the young fullback training next to Ozzie. This is a player who will buy into a system and develop quickly. We can only hope the aforementioned system is an effective one. There is lethal potential to a backfield with options like Alonso, Kallman, Calvo, Boxall, Gregus and Gasper.

United also picked up Oregon State midfielder, Hassani Dotson, with the fifteenth pick. Dotson is in the Potential Pool: If United hangs onto him into the regular season, he’s bound to be on loan to Forward Madison SC to hone his craft before being plugged into the Loons’ midfield.

How that midfield comes together in the preseason will be the biggest indicator of the season to come. Yes, the defense needs work, the forwards need to score; but defense starts up top. A composed midfield would make the Loons competitive. Those inside puzzle pieces are still floating aimlessly across the field.

So stock up on whiskey (or Grey Goose) and stay tuned for a deep dive into a jigsaw puzzle.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Is NYCFC withering on CFG’s vine?

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

With the distractions of the holiday season behind us and the gloom of winter in full force, MLS soccer fans everywhere are patiently awaiting the start of the new season.

For New York City Football Club fans, things are looking a bit bleaker than usual as the club continues to ignore some of their biggest concerns.  Fan sentiment is currently at a low with team supporters feeling abandoned by owners City Football Group.  It’s bad enough to have the one elephant in the room:  Um, are we just never going to have a stadium? 

But with the second one being now zero prospects for an exciting Designated Player replacement for David Villa, there is a general feeling that NYCFC is being left to wither on the vine.  The New York front office’s last connection with fans seems to have exited with outgoing president Jon Patricof. 

As frustrating as it was in year’s past to understand the front office’s decisions, Patricof was extremely accessible to fans and their concerns.  Clearly bound by CFG’s confidentiality policy, he couldn’t give many answers but was more than happy to talk to season ticket holders and fans.  Patricof understood and cared about the connections that each of us makes with the team and to each other through the club.

Now that Brad Sims is at the helm it is clear that, at least on paper, the focus of the front office is to stop the season ticket holder bleeding and attempt to bring in new fans.  I’m at a loss for how Sims will do this when the top three things that fans want are currently beyond our reach:

1- A stadium in New York City

2- An exciting new player who will help score goals 

3- To win a trophy of some kind

CFG clearly does not know the New York real estate, political nor sports markets.   New Yorkers will only accept mediocrity on our own terms.  Don’t come from out of town and hand us a ‘meh’ bagel and expect us to eat it more than once.  

We exist in a sports market with many options locally and live in an era when we can stream almost any sports game in the world, at any time on our phones.  If CFG and MLS want to grow their profits and the sport in the US in the process, (which will feed the cycle of profitability), they will have to work harder to make NYCFC fans more excited. 

The digital media team under the direction of Mark Booth has done an excellent job at giving us fun and timely content while maintaining accessibility.  The club should be using this offseason to hold multiple STH roundtables and brainstorming sessions with Brad Sims or his senior management staff. Connect directly with all different types of fans and hear them out. Fans need more of this, particularly during this morose period when many are feeling hopeless. 

Soccer fans in the US, for the most part, are a piece of a larger group of Americans who are feeling generally hopeless and exhausted by the national discourse.  We look to soccer as our inspiration, escape and a way to connect with others.  If you want to keep NYCFC fans engaged in our own team and league, the front office needs to step it up in a big way.  

Featured image: @TishaGale

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