LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic Hat Trick Wins it against Orlando City SC

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Sunday, July 29: 4-3 Win

At StubHub Center right before the national anthem, the Los Angeles Galaxy always present a Hero of the Match. Prior to facing Orlando City Soccer Club on 29 July 2018, the Hero of the Match was my friend David Rendon. He does a lot of work with veterans to help them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they leave service. Before reading about the match recap, below is the interview. For more information on the program and to help veterans, visit https://www.teamrwb.org

David Rendon, Hero of the Match (Image: Michelle Huitink)

Michelle Huitink: When and how did you become an LA Galaxy fan? Are you a season ticket holder?

David Rendon: I’ve been a Galaxy fan all my life. My father took my brothers and me to our first game at the Rose Bowl back in 96 and we’ve been fans ever since! I was a part of [the supporters] Angel City Brigade for a very long time. Now looking into LA Riot Squad (LARS).

MH: Thank you for your service. Tell me what it meant for you to be a featured “Hero of the Match.”

DR: Being selected “Hero of the Match” means the world to me and my family. In my mind, I am still that little immigrant boy from Guatemala, and all of this is a dream. It still feels weird being called a hero. I don’t consider myself one. This is a great opportunity to make my immigrant community proud and my family proud!

MH: When and where did you serve?

DR: US Army Combat Veteran. Served 12 years and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008-2009. Served as a Wrecker operator and a .50 cal machine gunner. I was also an Honor Guard team leader. Was in charge of funeral and burial details. I’ve been a part of over 250 funeral and burial services for Veterans and service members killed in action.

MH: What impact has being an LA Galaxy fan had on you or your life?

DR: Being an LA Galaxy fan has had a tremendous impact in my life. I’ve been able to travel all over the country following the team. I’ve made so many new friends who are passionate about the sport. Have been able to get involved in my local community through the programs the LA Galaxy are involved with. (The Mission Continues)

MH: Please share your thoughts on the LAFC rivalry. Are there any other teams you would like to see the LA Galaxy play against?

DR: The rivalry between my LA Galaxy and Chivas 2.0?! Hmmmm… I love my Galaxy and will support them til I die! As for the other team, what other team?!!!

I am happy for the city. But they are our rivals. I respect the rivalry but I cannot in good conscience support that other team!

I am a huge NewCastle United fan so I would love to see [the] Galaxy play them. Now that my boy Ronaldo is at Juve, I would love to see them play the Galaxy.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Ticket stub. Image: Marlon Santos Lima

Starting XI

David Bingham; Dave Romney, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik; Chris Pontius, Jonathan dos Santos, Perry Kitchen, Ashley Cole ©; Giovani dos Santos; Ola Kamara, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Bench

Justin Vom Steeg, Daniel Steres, Sheanon Williams, Servando Carrasco, Sebastian Lletget, Emmanuel Boateng, Ariel Lassiter.

Kickoff was at 6:30pm. The weather was balmy. I brought my friend Richard Burck to his first pro match. Fun fact: Richard actually went to school with Chris Pontius’ brother, Tim, and their mothers attend bible studies together.

Orlando City SC were the underdog with 11 losses and bottom of the table in the East, which didn’t mean much since the Galaxy hadn’t been able to defeat low-tiered teams prior. The Galaxy had the home advantage and had an 8-game unbeaten streak. Still, the Galaxy were missing Romain Alessandrini, who was suspended on yellow card accumulation.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Ibrahimovic takes a free kick. Image: Marlon Santos Lima

The first half was off to a wild start as the Lions’ Cristian Higuita scored in the 18th minute on an assist from Sacha Kljestan. The Galaxy answered, though, as Giovani Dos Santos scored in the 39th minute on an assist from Zlatan Ibrahimovic; Gio’s first goal since May 5. The Galaxy’s defensive problems were glaring, and when we thought it couldn’t get worse, Michael Ciani scored an own goal in the 44th minute, making the score 2-1.

The second half kicked off, and Zlatan scored a goal in the 47th minute on an assist from G. Dos Santos. Gio was having one heck of a night as he got a shot off the bar in the 50th minute. Orlando’s Dom Dwyer then scored a header in the 54th minute, making it 2-3. The Galaxy were down, but once again Ibra saved the Galaxy and “Zlataned” the visiting team.

Ibrahimovic ended up scoring a hat trick; the two more goals came in the 67th and 72nd minutes. The last one got him a yellow card for taking off his shirt while celebrating. In the post-match interview, he apologized for being tired and failing to score more goals.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Ibrahimovic hat trick celebration. Image: Marlon Santos Lima

Later that night, it was announced that Ibrahimovic would miss the MLS All-Star Game in Atlanta on August 1, 2018. Per league policy, he will miss the Galaxy’s next match in Colorado against the Rapids on August 4th. Fans are fine with this as Ibrahimovic can rest and won’t have to play on artificial turf or high altitudes.

We’ll have to see how the Galaxy fair without their savior and continuing issues with defense.

The Galaxy are now in third place in the Western Conference and extend their undefeated streak to 9 games.

Universal Studios sponsored the match. Michelle Huitink and Richard Burck pictured with G’s mascot, Cozmo, and a visiting Minion. Image: Galaxy staff/Universal Studios

Featured image: Marlon Santos Lima

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @mchuitink

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Loons Desperately Singing Take Me Home

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

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Weekly Update

Minnesota United FC returns home to Minneapolis on Saturday. With any luck, TCF Bank Stadium will be the site of a renewal of the Loons’ playoff hopes, all but dead after having a homestand winning streak snapped in last weekend’s 4-2 loss in Vancouver.

There were bright spots on Saturday:

– #Ibsonity returned. Midfielder Ibson scored in the 82nd minute and renewed some life in Minnesota’s half.

Forward Abu Danladi, after nearly two months on the injury list, came off the bench in the 87th minute.

– Danladi promptly scored. It was his first goal of the season and leveled the score. (Watch the goal and read a breakdown of the play, as described by Danladi to MNUFC’s Steve McPherson, here)

– We got to watch some brilliant play (and some brilliant goals) from a homegrown 17-year old bound for the Bundesliga.

And, of course, not-so-bright spots:

– #Ibsonity took a dark turn long before Minnesota’s first goal when a classic Ibson backheel was performed at a far from ideal moment. The Caps accepted the turnover at midfield with no complaint and went on to score.

– The aforementioned Bundesliga-bound youth was Alphonso Davies.

– Alphonso Davies currently plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

– Davies notched two assists on the night.

– Davies also notched two goals of his own.

– 4-2 Vancouver.

There’s obviously more to United’s home-turf success than the proverbial “Home Field Advantage.” It looks more and more like there is an extremely negative away mentality that overrides every ounce of chemistry and connectivity in the Loons from one end of the pitch to the other. With a heavy away schedule over the next six weeks or so, they need to find a fix to have any chance at a playoff run.

First though, United needs a win at home against a team that is right on their heels. The Seattle Sounders are unbeaten in their last six matches, most of which they played on the road. Tenth place Seattle is just one point behind eighth-place Minnesota, with one game in hand (and a significantly lower goal differential).

In addition to the typical imbalance of the scales, United has the added disadvantage this week of two mainstays missing training (and recovery time) for the All-Star Game. Defender Francisco Calvo started at left wingback on Wednesday night and put in a solid 30-minute shift against Juventus. Midfielder Darwin Quintero was one of the final wholesale subs late in the evening but immediately added some flavor to the game. Unfortunately, he quickly learned that MLS keepers have apparently shared his highlight reel with their counterparts in Italy, as his patented 19-yard chip shot was picked off by Juve’s keeper.

Fresher legs and new tricks will have to be tried against the Sounders. United will also have to regain their home form from July to get the result they need on Saturday. The Loons need it. The Wonderwall needs it.

Come. On. You. Loons.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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LA Galaxy Remain Unbeaten Against LAFC

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Thursday, July 26: 2-2 Draw

Starting XI

David Bingham; Dave Romney, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik; Romain Alessandrini, Jonathan dos Santos, Perry Kitchen, Ashley Cole ©; Giovani dos Santos; Ola Kamara, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Bench

Justin Vom Steeg, Daniel Steres, Sheanon Williams, Servando Carrasco, Chris Pontius, Sebastian Lletget, Emmanuel Boateng

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Image: Marlon Santos Lima

Both Los Angeles teams faced off for a second time on July 26, 2018, this time at Banc of California Stadium. Fans at the stadium were very loud and it only got louder after kickoff.

The LA Galaxy were the visitors this time. LAFC had something to prove at home after the Galaxy had come back to defeat them 4-3 on a wild match back on March 31st.

LAFC was coming off a 5-1 loss against Minnesota.

Both teams have been in the top 5 in the West. The LA Galaxy have scored the most goals in their last 10 games (23 goals) throughout the MLS.

But, this is MLS. It’s anyone’s game.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Kickoff. Image: Marlon Santos Lima

Despite their 7-game unbeaten streak, the Galaxy particularly looked off their game. They weren’t looking like the team they were against Philadelphia Union. The Galaxy seem to take a step forward, but two steps back. Their defense is a painful reminder and also the shock that the G’s are in the position they are. Conceding a goal and being down early, (often being behind 2 goals), and being a second-half team has become their narrative.

LAG kept taking short corners and making passes, but not putting any pressure. Zlatan Ibrahimovic seemed asleep at the wheel as he gave away the ball in the 44th minute. LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman was defending well.

In the 7th minute, LAFC’s Adama Diomande ran with the ball after a poor deflection and was able to cross it to teammate Carlos Vela, who scored on a header.

Mark Anthony Kaye was on the ball when Galaxy’s Perry Kitchen fouled him just outside the box. After an injury break, he had to be helped off the field, tears streaming down his face. We now know he will require surgery for a fractured ankle. Lee Nguyen scored in the 13th minute right off the free kick from that making it 2-0.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Image: Marlon Santos Lima

Any shots the Galaxy had were way off. They didn’t do anything with possession. LAG’s defense got the runaround.

The Galaxy did have chances and were threatening at times such as when Giovani Dos Santos had a shot on goal in the 41st minute and Ola Kamara had a good run but was called offside.

In the second half, Kamara was called offside again at the 49th minute.

Then, in the 63rd minute, G’s keeper, David Bingham, almost got the ball picked off of him as he was about to put it back into play. Ashley Cole was called off for Chris Pontius to make it a more attacking 3-5-2 formation. There was a lot of action for the Galaxy, but they just couldn’t deliver.

In the 76th minute, after a water break and Sebastian Lletget came on for Kitchen, LAFC’s Diomande got a shot right off the post.

Andre Horta made his LAFC debut in the 77th minute as a sub for Nguyen. The Galaxy’s subs made all the difference, but so did this one.

The Galaxy’s tension and spark finally paid off with a goal. On a throw-in from Pontius, Ibrahimovic got a run on the ball and a good cross to Romain Alessandrini, who was able to get it in to cut LAFC’s lead in half. He had been hustling as always and the sheer emotion as he clutched the crest on his jersey clearly showed on his face what the Galaxy fans were feeling.

Image: @LAGalaxy. Ola Kamara and Romain Alessandrini after he scored a goal. The emotion is palpable.

Right after that, Tyler Miller had to make a massive save just after Kamara got on the ball.

In the 86th minute, Horta tried to play the ball back, but it got to Kamara who ran to an empty net, was calm and patient, and tied the game 2-2.

LAFC’s last chance came in the 89th minute as Horta had a shot off the post. Fans anticipated coach Sigi Schmid to use a third sub and were hoping that would’ve been Emmanuel Boateng, but he didn’t. That might’ve made a difference. Vela himself said post-match that if there had been 5 more minutes of stoppage time (in addition to the 4 that was given), LAFC would have lost.

This match only intensifies the rivalry. LAFC fans allegedly assaulted Galaxy fans at the stadium and there appears to have been some vandalism to seats. Fans on both sides need to be better. Security needs to be stepped up as well.

The Galaxy still remain unbeaten against LAFC and for the season are 4-3-3 on the road.

I was at the viewing party but my student attended the match. Photos are courtesy of him as accredited and are used with permission.

Image: Michelle Huitink. Viewing Party at StubHub Center

Featured image of warmups: Marlon Santos Lima

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @mchuitink

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I’m Upset: NYCFC loses to Seattle 1-3

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In honor of my two teenagers and the young players on my favorite team, I have decided to release my NYCFC versus Seattle Sounders version of Drake’s “I’m Upset”.  It will most likely be cringe-worthy to many but it allowed me to work through my feelings of disappointment.  So thank you for humoring me.

giphy

I’m upset
Only 3 wins on the road- it’s disrespect
Seemed wrong I know, I double-checked
Even with return of Jo Berget
Our shut-out streak had to end
I’m all verklempt
Got a lotta love for the Blue
Captain Villa, it’s kinda hard without you
Como está su rodilla?
Can’t win Cups without wins on the road
Every game New York fans expect a win
We have no stadium!
We still have 5 plus years of searching for a home
Atlanta sits up top of the chart with 47
Over in Jersey they talk a lot of trash but they’re still in 3rd.
Word to Coach Dome J- Lew finally seeing the pitch
Why the hell no Chanot?

IMG_0732

I’m upset
Travel 3000 miles, what’s the effect?
Dome worried about jet lag, can’t play their best
Maxi was spent
But this is MLS life
We got points to collect
So what’s next?
After an L to Seattle, what the heck?
Even with good clearances from Seb
At least Medina got one on a cross from Berget
In the end no effect
Only other offense was from Mata on the left
Where was halftime magic from Torrent?
Sean Johnson, we still love you, no disrespect
Got a lot of love for the Blue
Ring, it’s hard to win without you,
Thankful you’ll be back in the next one
Can’t win a Cup without wins on the road.

Domènec Torrent
Head Coach of NYCFC, Domènec Torrent.

Behind the lyrics

After New York City Football Club lost another match on the road to Seattle Sounders, the author/terrible rap lyricist talks about the return from injury of forward Jo Inge Berget, the continued absence of injured captain David Villa and how we still have no stadium to call our own.  In the MLS Eastern Conference,  Atlanta FC has 47 points with 23 games played, NYCFC has 43 points with 22 games played and New York Red Bulls has 41 with 21 games played.  Fans regularly express excitement that coach Dome Torrent continues to give Jonathan Lewis an important role as a “Super Sub”.

The game was about 3000 miles away from their previous game in Orlando three days prior and coach Dome expressed concern about the jet lag.  Fans noticed how unusually winded midfielder Maxi Moralez looked in the second half.

In the first half, Seattle scored two goals, yet NYC usually gets a big boost after halftime, even when they are down.  Alas, despite some strong attacking attempts and crosses by Ronald Matarrita, some good defensive clearances by Sebastien Ibeagha and a beautiful goal by Jesús Medina on a low cross by Berget, New York just couldn’t equalize.

It is also very apparent how vital to the team midfielder Alex Ring is and how deeply we felt his suspension due to yellow card accumulation.  Although I was disappointed in the loss, the team had recorded 4 shutouts prior to the loss and a great portion of the credit goes to stellar goalkeeping by Sean Johnson.  And yet, if City wants to win the MLS Cup, it’s essential that we record more wins on the road.

IMG_0891

Next game is home on Saturday, August 4th against the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Check out my colleagues’ coverage of the MLS All-Star Game on August 1st by following @mlsfemale on Twitter and Instagram.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Red Bulls vs Columbus: RBN-Why?

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, July 28th: 2-3 Loss

Last time the New York Red Bulls faced Columbus Crew, they traveled to Ohio and came home with a goal and a point. This time, hometown hero Mike Grella and the Crew made their way to a steamy Red Bull Arena for the rematch. This time, sharing wasn’t an option.

NEW NOMS ON THE BLOCK: Don’t get me wrong, I am well-fed by the Red Bull organization when I get to the game. But the latest buzz is for something I cannot readily get my hands on:

Being of South American descent, I have a mighty need for these empanadas. But alas, I have yet to try them. Don’t worry- when I get them, you’ll know.

WHO WHAT WHERE: For the third game in eight days, it makes sense to give some of the hardest-working players a rest. Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has become the fastest MLS player to reach 100 goals, began the night on the bench. Alejandro Romero Gamarra, who is currently leading the league in assists, was also seated at the opening whistle. Defender Kemar Lawrence, who has emerged as a decisive force in the defense, never saw the field against Columbus.

So who got the start instead? Aurelien Collin and Connor Lade in the back line, and Derrick Etienne, Jr. up top. I’ve spoken of “Haitian Messi” before. Nice guy. Amazing skills on the ball. But the finishing wasn’t there. Does he lack confidence? That would be disappointing since he does so well with RBII. How will he know what he’s capable of if he doesn’t get more of an opportunity?

NOT ACCORDING TO PLAN: Head coach Chris Armas came into the match prepared. At their last encounter, the Crew got frazzled with a 5-1-3-1 formation that RBNY ran in the second half, which earned them the draw. But while the Red Bulls made the tactical adjustment, so did Columbus.  “[N]o matter what formation that we’re playing in, if we’re late to plays, a step late, if we’re not up for that part of it, they can just pick you apart,” Armas said of the decision following the match. And that is the overall theme of the first 45 minutes.

First came the foul that yielded a free kick. Jonathan Mensah scored the opening goal (7′). Then Patrick Mullins angled a shot past Luis Robles in the run of play (24′). But the nail in the coffin was the own-goal from Sean Davis (31′). 

DO SOMETHING: BWP and Kaku came on at halftime. And the tide began to turn. Daniel Royer crossed the ball to BWP. Mensah tried to keep the ball away but committed an own-goal instead (50′). Then Royer made a goal of his own (69′).

With the team back in a 4-3-2-1 formation, the possession settled back in RBNY’s favor. Tim Parker nearly nailed a header. Aaron Long almost got a bicycle kick past Crew GK Zack Steffen. A later attempt from Royer went over the crossbar. And Alex Muyl, who made the equalizer in the previous meeting, nearly socked Steffen in the gut trying to do it again. But the Crew saved themselves and took all three points back to Columbus. (And I’ll say it again: SAVE THE CREW. That sentiment transcends competition.)

The MLS All-Star Game is next, with BWP, Aaron Long, and Michael Amir Murillo slated to take the field against Juventus(‘s reserve squad) in Atlanta. Sadly, I won’t be part of the festivities. But I hold out hope for next year.

Featured image:  Bill Twomey Photography. Used with permission.

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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Hat Trick Hero: USWNT 4, Japan 2

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Key Contributor, USWNT

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The U.S. Women’s National Team made a winning start to their 2018 Tournament of Nations campaign on Thursday, defeating Japan 4-2 before a sellout crowd at Children’s Mercy Park.

The long-standing rivals spent the first few minutes going back-and-forth, with both sides creating a few chances to break through.

In the 18th minute, the USWNT found the opening goal, with a brilliant play between Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan. Japan, however, responded quickly two minutes later when Mina Tanaka snuck in behind the defense and chipped a ball over goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher leveling the match.

It was Morgan again who found herself in the right spot after receiving a pass from Emily Sonnett – who brought it down off a cross from Crystal Dunn – and headed home her second goal giving the USWNT the lead again with 2-1.

Shortly after the restart, second-half substitute Tobin Heath became a real magician in the 56th minute; when she got around Japan’s defense down the right side and sent a cross into the middle. The ball bounced directly to Morgan who brought the ball down with her left knee and then smashed her shot into the roof of the net with her left foot completing her fourth-career hat trick.

Ten minutes later, Megan Rapinoe initially sends the ball to Rose Lavelle, who immediately returned the pass. It ricochets off a Japan player and bounces in Rapinoe’s path. Running unchallenged, Rapinoe blasts the ball into the back of the net making the score 4-1.

The final minutes saw Japan desperately trying to add another goal – if not tie up the match; after successfully scoring their second goal in the 76th minute. Fortunately, the USWNT would preserve the 4-2 victory until the final whistle.

The 2018 Tournament of Nations now moves to the East Coast, as the teams travel to East Hartford, Connecticut for the second set of games on Sunday, July 29.

Featured image of Alex Morgan: @ussoccer_wnt

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Let’s catch up on Orlando City

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

By Shae Beaudoin // @ShaeEliz

It’s been a few weeks with the new Orlando City head coach James O’Connor and I’ve been moderately quiet. I wanted to wait and observe before I gave my opinion on him. I’m not the type to see new coaches and give them one game to prove themselves. So I’ve waited it out a few games and now it’s time to get you guys all caught up.

First and most importantly, midfielder Yoshimar Yotún has returned to us after his appearance in the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the Peruvian National team. He was certainly missed and at least for our July 14th win over Toronto FC, I thought the suffering was over and we’d finally start winning again. As per our record since, this was absolutely not the case.

Captain Jonathan Spector has been back off the lineup due to more injuries. Do you guys believe me yet that our captain slot is cursed? We barely saw Kaká last season, we’ve barely seen Spector this season. Maybe we just need to not name captains from now on.

Perhaps the boldest move O’Connor has made since he joined our ranks is benching goalkeeper Joe Bendik. Orlando City signed Bendik back in 2016 and he’s been our starting goalkeeper in pretty much every game since, with the exception of a few Open Cup matches. It’s a spot he rightfully earned. Bendik has saved us from so many potentially devastating matches and was frequently featured on MLS for the Save of the Week.

This season, however, Bendik’s been really off his mark. He has a really bad habit of coming too far out of his box and without a strong enough defense to fill in behind him. That is, except when Spector’s on the field. The synergy there allowed Bendik to stretch a little more while still keeping the goal covered by the defense. Besides that, Bendik’s just allowed some pretty sloppy goals and this season we’ve seen some of our worst defeats ever as a result.

While I think O’Connor’s move to bench Bendik the last few games was bold, I applaud him for it. It was certainly a needed change. Our substitute keeper, Earl Edwards Jr., has been filling his spot and even though we’ve been taking some more Ls, I still think the change was a good one.

Of course, we can’t put all the blame on the goalkeeper. After all, it’s a team effort. Our defense is in a really weak spot right now, Once again, I have to chalk this up to the lack of depth former head coach Jason Kreis created in our 2017-2018 offseason. We lost so many defenders and instead of replacing them, we signed more midfielders. This created the lack of depth for our back line. We’ve got 3, maybe 4, defensive subs on a good day. So how many do we have when we’ve got 2 defensemen out on injury (as we have consistently had all season)?

In all, I think O’Connor is doing the best he can with what he was handed. There are tons of fans already complaining about him and saying he’ll be fired but I think that’s a little extreme. The man was handed a rock and told to turn it into a diamond. Give him some time to figure it out and keep in mind, he’s dealing with the roster we built without him. I’m not saying the roster’s in a bad place. We certainly have a lot of talent on our list, but sometimes that talent just doesn’t play nicely together.

I’m gonna be honest here, friends. You know I’m #CityTilIDie, but I don’t have too much hope in turning this season around. For now, I’m just going to watch the games and enjoy some soccer. I’ll start dreaming about playoffs in 2019. What about you?

Featured image: @OrlandoCitySC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @ShaeEliz

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Tested Loons tear through rested LA

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

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Weekly Update

While Minnesota United kept a self-same 3-5-2 for the third straight match in nine days, LAFC flew in fresh legs after a heavy week of US Open Cup and MLS competition. Some LAFC fans may have guffawed at the matchup which placed the new club of Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela, against a side built from NASL holdovers and a single DP (their newly minted second still waiting on paperwork and an international slot).

They may also have laughed at the final score and Minnesota’s celebrations, comforted by the knowledge that it could have been much different if LAFC’s full complement of starters had been available to play. For Minnesota fans, however, Saturday’s game and the midweek matchup with New England Revolution were reminders of how much fun it can be to watch United when all the pieces come together, when the players themselves can enjoy the game.

I watched Wednesday’s match against New England from a new perspective, standing alongside a team of U10 players, parents and coaches in town for the USA Cup, a youth tournament held at the National Sports Center in Blaine, on the same campus as MNUFC’s training facilities and their former home stadium.

For most of the group from Idaho Juniors FC, that match was their first professional soccer experience. With all the cynicism and bitterness recently surrounding the club, it was refreshing to experience the game through their eyes. Their excitement was a reminder that these shared experiences – the highs and the lows, every moment we share around this team, this game, right in our backyard – should not be taken for granted.

Maybe I would feel differently if I had not had the opportunity to sing Wonderwall with the parents and coaches that night, if some Loons hadn’t taken a break from their celebrations to spend some time with the kids on the field. Maybe. But I would like to think that if the score had been reversed, if it had ended with a 2-1 loss instead of a 2-1 win, I would still feel incredibly lucky to have shared an experience with this club with my new friends from Boise and that I could still revel in the memories with them the next morning while standing on a muddy field in Blaine.

Thankfully, I will never know because Minnesota won, 2-1, on goals from Christian Ramirez and Darwin Quintero. A much too easily given penalty to the Revs in the 52nd minute was the only damper on a night which saw Minneapolis-based Surly Brewing forced to honor for the first time this year, the “Surly Bird Special,” a free beer awarded to any fan with a ticket stub when a Loon scores in the opening ten minutes of a home game.

Ramirez scored in the fifth minute, his fifth on the season. Quintero added one just before the halftime whistle. Adrian Heath was actually happy after this win because of a number of standout performances by his defense, most notably centerback Brent Kallman.

With that win setting the tone for the conclusion of the homestand, a tired United faced a depleted LAFC. As always, there was concern that goals would come early and often. Indeed, six goals were scored in 60 minutes of play, four of those coming in the first half.

Surprisingly, five of the six goals scored were earned by Loons. An even bigger surprise was that Minnesota successfully defended 15 LA cornerkicks (LA’s lone goal by Benny Feilhaber came from a sequence following a corner in the 26th minute). Perhaps the biggest surprise yet was who opened the scoring: midfielder Rasmus Schuller knocked in a beauty in the 25th minute, with an even prettier assist from Quintero. It was the Finn’s first MLS goal.

Just before the half came a shot from Ramirez, assisted only by a goalkeeper error. 2-1 Minnesota in the 45th minute. Less than sixty seconds later, Quintero added another, assisted by defender Eric Miller, to go 3-1 into the half. Would they fall apart after halftime, with LA coming out of the locker room hot (yet another humid night) and bothered (coach Bradley was irked by the boos his son received when Toronto FC was in town) and hungry to even the score?

No. The Loons ripped open their shirts and unfurled their capes. Miguel “Batman” Ibarra notched the fourth goal of the night in the 56th minute, assisted by best buddy Christian “Superman” Ramirez. Less than two minutes later, the Dark Knight returned the favor, assisting a Superman brace. 5-1 Minnesota. The following thirty minutes saw a flurry of subs (including Ramirez coming off for Romario Ibarra to make his debut), but the tired, tested Loons came out on top against the fresh legs of LAFC.

The press conference and locker room were both much more festive Saturday night than they were for the 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake the previous weekend (the night Heath raged furiously at his players while opposing coach Mike Petke made his now-infamous VAR speech). Heath was happy, the players were happy. And it would seem that happiness made all the difference.

“It’s amazing! Everybody’s happy in the locker room,” Ibarra said of the streak. “We’re all enjoying playing. You can just see it out there on the field. We scored, we conceded and we just didn’t put our heads down. We kept going and we kept playing our game. The second half, we came out hungry.”

Ramirez reflected, “I think [the club] is getting a winning mentality, that every game we need to go out and win wherever we play. In these three games at home, we’ve shown that we want to be playing to fight for the finals.”

But now the Loons go on the road, where they will play for the better part of the next month. Heath holds no misconceptions about the promise of replicating the win streak, saying, “Let’s win one first on the road before we get to three.”

Defender Francisco Calvo had an interesting perspective on the first away match, this Saturday in Vancouver: “I don’t think we have to change anything. Anything. Because, if we play — I mean, I never play in Vancouver, but I think that the field is the same, or more awful than this one, you know. So, I mean, we have to feel like we’re playing at home. Try to do the same thing.”

Have you ever stepped onto astroturf and said, “Ah! Feels like home!”? Neither have I, but the Loons have always had a gritty attitude perfectly suited to such reflection so maybe…

I said, maybe…

Featured image: @MNUFC

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With love, your Rapids reporter

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Dear Reader,

When we last left off, the Colorado Rapids were in the middle of a seven-game losing streak and things were not looking good. Though I ended the article feeling hopeful that things would change, that losing streak became a team record-tying nine-game losing streak and included a loss to a USL side in the US Open Cup. It was painful. However, as Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything. Thankfully, the time for not losing came in the Rapids’ June 13th 2-2 tie with Chicago Fire.

Now, I mentioned in my last article that I am an eternal optimist. What I failed to mention, is that growing up a baseball fan also made me more than a bit superstitious. Up until that Chicago game, I had been wearing my 2016 Marlon Hairston burgundy kit with matching burgundy Adidas shoes. (Yes, I have a thing about matching colors and brands when it comes to my sports gear.) Since the Rapids had consistently lost while wearing that kit, it was time to change things up. So, I wore my gold kit instead. And they tied.

The next game, I wore the same kit but remembered to bring a matching scarf with me. And they won. (I know, I know. What I wear to the game has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the game itself, but superstition dies hard.) The Rapids have gone on to earn a total of 9 points in the past seven games which has put them ahead of San Jose Earthquakes by five points. With 14 games left, I think the Rapids can break into the top 6 with a shot at the playoffs.

The Rapids have also undergone some roster changes since we last spoke. They released Stefan Aigner from his contract and he was quickly picked up by KFC Uerdingen 05, a German third division side. Joe Mason, one of their offseason acquisitions, returned to Wolverhampton.

The most surprising move out of the club, however, was that of Dominique Badji, the favored forward, who was sent to FC Dallas. In their stead, the Rapids picked up two players in the Dallas homegrown midfielder and USMNT player, Kellyn Acosta, and the Jamaican international midfielder/forward, Giles Barnes.

Both players have debuted since we last spoke, and what debuts they were!

Barnes stepped on the field against the Houston Dynamo after completing preseason with his former Liga MX side, Club Leon. While he presented a creativity and a dynamic that the team had been lacking, he was unfortunately injured after being stepped on and is currently day to day.

Kellyn Acosta debuted in a club friendly against Argentina’s best team, Boca Juniors, this past Tuesday. (Reader, we won! Thanks to a penalty kick scored by Zac MacMath, our backup keeper!) While I was unable to attend the game, I heard from several sources that he played well before he was taken off. I am excited to see him play in person when the Rapids take on Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy on Saturday, August 4th.

I will be hitting the road this weekend and making my way to Atlanta for the All-Star Game against Juventus. I will be sure to update you with my and my co-writers antics that week. Reader, I hope to see you at an upcoming Rapids game. We have 6 home games left! You can find me in the stadium in my gold kit with my scarf held high and my voice nearly gone from screaming.

     With love,

        Your Rapids reporter

Featured image of Badji: John Babiak @photog_johnb

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @jesshuh15

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New York Red Bulls: Remember Me For Centuries

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, July 25th: 0-1 Win

Finally! The Atlantic Cup. The OG rivalry. DC United. Recently opened Audi Field the venue, this was a night for history.

Okay… a *late* night for history. After an extended winter, the Northeast has decided to try on monsoon season. While I would have loved to have made the trip down to DC, it wasn’t in the cards for me. And looking at the scenes at Audi Field, I’m okay with that.

WE’LL GO DOWN IN HISTORY: Just two minutes into the first half, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips found the ball from “Kaku” Romero and made his shot. It wasn’t a bicycle from midfield, but a nutmeg that blasted past goalkeeper David Ousted. His 100th MLS goal. And his celebration was worth the yellow card given for it: BWP yanked off his ’99’ jersey to reveal a ‘100’ jersey. Shout out to Sean Ruiz, RBNY’s kitman.

JUST ONE MISTAKE: DC responded with a goal of their own (Paul Arriola 28′). But guess what, folks?

Enter VAR.

Goal was overturned due to Arriola being offside. It wasn’t a difficult call to make.

HEAVY METAL ROCK MY HEART: Have to take some time to appreciate the massive efforts of defender Tim Parker in this game. While the high press causes reporters to feature attacking midfielders and strikers, the back line is crucial is starting off plays and keeping the ball out of the net when the counterattack is on. While goalkeeper and captain Luis Robles was credited with two saves on the night, he would have had to make at least four more if not for Parker’s efforts in the box.

SOME TURN TO DUST OR TO GOLD: This is the most I’ve gotten to see Everton and England legend Wayne Rooney this season. And he still, more or less, has the sharpness and power that DC was hoping for from him. I can’t help but think he’d be more effective as a starter to give him a chance to really get into the game. Hopefully, he can do some great things to salvage DCU’s season.

WE ALL POISONED YOU: The second half was slightly ruined for me as an at-home TV watcher. The ‘gremlins,’ as MSG’s Steve Cangialosi called them, kept messing with the video feed. I was slightly thankful that there weren’t any more goals that I could have missed. But when the final whistle blew, the Red Bulls moved into second place, and still have two games in hand on Atlanta United.

They return home to face former teammate Mike Grella and the Columbus Crew for their second matchup of the season.

Featured image: @MSGNetworks

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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