Category Archives: CONCACAF

A Tale of Two Competitions

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Throughout 2018, the Houston Dynamo battled scheduling and defensive injuries through both MLS and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competitions, shining a light on the lack of depth in the squad. In the end, the team failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs, but brought home the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

General manager, Matt Jordan, spent most of the off-season recruiting players that would improve depth, and the start of 2019 is putting his work to early tests. Juggling two competitions again – the CONCACAF Champions League as well as the MLS regular season – the Dynamo have started their 2019 with a grueling schedule, playing five games so far.

By the middle of March, the team and their fans will have pushed through seven matches over twenty six days – one match every three to four days.

The Dynamo’s second MLS match – against the Montreal Impact – on Saturday afternoon brought some of the biggest lineup changes from head coach, Wilmer Cabrera, to date. His usual switches are in the midfield and defensive lineups, always preferring to flank center forward Mauro Manotas with Honduran forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto.

While he has occasionally removed one or the other, this week’s lineup surprised fans with Elis and Quioto starting on the bench, replaced by attacking midfielders Marlon Hairston and Memo Rodriguez. This is a big switch in strategy for Cabrera that shows the increased levels of confidence in the shooting of Manotas, who is quickly climbing the ladder of all-time Dynamo goal scorers.

Photo by Leslie Chairez, Official Houston Dynamo Photographer for MLSFemale

The recipe of two true midfielders further up the pitch may beat the backline shake ups as the answer to the Dynamo’s defensive lapses, as they triumphed over the Montreal Impact 2-1. The Impact scored in the 34th minute and were quickly answered by a Memo Rodriguez goal at 36’.

The match held even through a long stretch, though the Dynamo offense dominated most of the match. Cabrera replaced the midfielders up front around the one hour mark, bringing in his Honduran forward team. The switch paid off, as Quioto snuck a pass to Manotas inside the box in the 89th minute for the game-winner.

Despite the Impact scoring first, the feeling of the match and the statistics tell a story of an offensive victory for the men in orange. The Dynamo doubled the Impact’s offensive stats in shots and corners (14:7 and 6:3, respectively) and absolutely owned the on-target shots – Montreal’s goal being their only on-target shot to the Dynamo’s six.

The Houston Dynamo must take the confidence won in this MLS match to the CCL this week, as they face the huge task of beating the Tigres by three goals in Mexico to move on. They turn quickly from an undefeated MLS squad to an underdog away team in a matter of moments so both players and staff will need to carry Saturday’s lessons and confidence into Universitario Stadium on Tuesday night.

And just as fast, win or lose, they switch focus again to face the Vancouver Whitecaps at home the following Saturday.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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For the Houston Dynamo, It’s Time

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

The off-season for the Houston Dynamo seemed short, especially for a team that didn’t make the MLS playoffs. In November, the Dynamo hired a new President of Business Operations, John Walker. He came in ready to listen to fans and made both bold and genuine gestures to prove that he truly wanted to hear from us.

However, his commitment to this process took time. The organizational changes seemed to push back a lot of the typical off-season fluff that carries us through the fallow time. Rumors of kit sponsors, signings and other potential moves sat pending for days and weeks. As off-season became pre-season, at least one fan assumed they missed the kit launch and hit up the team store for a new jersey—only to be informed that it hadn’t yet been unveiled.

For the team, our pre-season was wrought with inconsistencies—wins, losses, red cards, and Coach Wilmer Cabrera’s continuing habit of changing lineups and even player positions for every match. We have a great mix of veteran and young players with experience all over the globe, but fans are never sure who will turn up or where.

But our first test came this week when the Houston Dynamo met Guastatoya in Guatemala for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). Our starters were the token Cabrera expected surprise. Still, as a group of nearly 50 supporters met in a bar across the street from our stadium, we were primed for the match, ready for anything, and hungry for victory.

What came next was every soccer fan’s dream. My family has an often-repeated line that we found on Twitter last year. In response to a tweet by Andrew Wiebe about fouls against MLS teams in last year’s CCL, @andrewsorg responded, “Do you even #CONCACAF, bro?” This has become our shorthand in rough matches to remind us that the beautiful game comes along with grit and guts, that fouls happen, and that the real match comes when the teams want a victory and fight hard for it.

And, yes, we CONCACAFed. We fought hard, and our defense was relentless, never backing down from Guastatoya’s advances. Our offense found a fluidity that challenged past the Guatemalans’ defense. The teams were scoreless through the 80th minute, and Dynamo fans held their collective breath.

In the 2018 MLS season, we repeatedly lost matches in the final 10 minutes when our defense failed to hold. The 2019 season hints at an end to that curse, however, as we earned a corner just past the 80 minute mark. Romell Quioto sent a high ball to the top of the box that our veteran captain, DaMarcus Beasley, read perfectly. With his weaker right foot, Beasley loosed an absolute rocket through a field of players, sinking a goal.

The Dynamo held on to their 1-0 lead through those last moments, so we meet Guastatoya at home next week with one away goal and a win secured.

And that new orange kit will be unveiled just in time.

Featured image: Sean Ringrose, with permission.

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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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LAFC Weekly Roundup: bye week, National Team call ups, two players loaned to Phoenix Rising FC and links of the week

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

This past weekend was a bye week for the black-and-gold, so let’s take a look back at Los Angeles Football Club‘s victorious win in Toronto:

Over Labor Day weekend, LAFC traveled north and defeated reigning MLS Cup Champions Toronto FC in an incredible 4-2 victory. The win also marks the club’s sixth road win, a first in any club’s inaugural season. In addition to enjoying the best start for an MLS expansion team since 1998.

An early lead, a comeback, this match had it all. The contest in Toronto also saw the family reunion of Coach Bradley with his son, Michael Bradley.

  • Check out the full recap here

The black-and-gold will play again on Sept. 15, when they host New England Revolution. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm PDT.

National Team Call up(s)

André Horta and Shaft Brewer Jr. received call ups to their youth national teams, respectively.

Horta has been called up to Portugal’s U-21 squad for two 2019 Euro U-21 qualifiers, against Romania on Sept. 7 and Wales on Sept. 11.

Portugal is currently in third place in Group H, after falling to Romania on Sept. 7 in a 2-1 loss – two points behind leaders Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania. Portugal looks to bounce back when they face Wales – who is currently below them in the standings. Horta has played three games for the Portuguese U-21s to date.

Meanwhile, Brewer Jr. has been called up to the U.S. Men’s U-20 National Team for the 2018 U-20 Men’s Invitational, a new tournament U.S. Soccer is hosting that will include the USMNT U-20s, the USMNT U-19s, the Venezuela U-20s, and Jamaica U-20s.

The tournament kicked off on Friday, Sept. 7 in Bradenton, Fla. and will conclude on Sept. 11. The U-20s are currently in third place with the U-19s leading the group.

Brewer has been getting fairly regular U-20 USMNT calls this year, and the CONCACAF U-20 Championship (which also doubles as U-20 World Cup qualification) is coming up in November, so it’s a chance for him to stay in the mix for those big games.

With the benefit of a bye this past weekend, neither player should miss any games for their club. And should return to LA in good health to play on Sept. 15.

Blackmon and Pérez joins Blackmon at Phoenix Rising FC

LAFC has loaned Tristan Blackmon and Josh Pérez to Phoenix Rising FC for the remainder of the 2018 season, the club announced on Tuesday.

Blackmon returns to Phoenix after a previous loan spell last month, where he played two games for the USL outfit, both big wins. The 21-year-old rookie was recalled by LAFC ahead of the team’s road match against Toronto FC, in which he played the last three minutes of the 4-2 victory.

Pérez joins Phoenix for the first time, having signed with LAFC during the summer transfer window from Serie A outfit Fiorentina. The Southern California native has yet to play for LAFC, but the 20-year-old is likely one for the future with the black-and-gold.

Per the Right of Recall, LAFC has the right to recall both players at any time. Blackmon and Pérez are eligible to play for Phoenix in their next game, on Wednesday in USL regular season play against Rio Grande Valley FC in Arizona.

Rescheduled Match

The club’s home match against the Houston Dynamo, originally scheduled for Thursday, October 18 has been moved up to Friday, October 12.

Kickoff will remain at 7:00pm PDT.

Links of the Week:

Featured image: @lafc Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Let’s Get CONCACAF’ed!

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

CONCACAF Champions League
1st leg: Feb 20-22 (away)
2nd leg: Feb 27- Mar 1 (home)

Pop quiz: when I say “Champions League” you say…?

Real Madrid?
Juventus?
Barcelona?
Bayern Munich?

Not surprising. UEFA Champions League is huge, with some of the most famous clubs in the world and tons of television coverage. But in this hemisphere, we have our own Champions League competition.

You didn’t know? Be honest with you, until last year, neither did I.

By virtue of being the top MLS Eastern Conference team to not win the Supporter’s Shield in 2016 (just go with me on this), the New York Red Bulls were placed in Pot 1 for the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League draw on December 18th. Other MLS teams participating in the tournament are Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids, and Toronto FC.

The draw could be seen live on Univision Deportes as well as on YouTube. I watched on YouTube as Eddie Johnson and Carlos Pavon rolled the fishbowls of balls and drew them carefully before handing them to Philippe Moggio, Secretary General of the Confederation.

First, the teams in Pot 1 were matched at random to a spot in the bracket for the Round of 16. Then the teams in Pot 2 were matched the same way to get paired up with the Pot 1 teams.

Still with me? Good.

The only sticking point for the draw was that no two teams from the same country could face each other in this opening round.

First, RBNY was placed in bracket spot A3. Then the team to be placed in B3 was named: Club Deportivo Olimpia, un club Hondureño con una historia muy grande en Los Campeones de CONCACAF.*
….
….
Sorry. Soccer Spanish is all I’ve got.

If the Wikipedia page I dashed to for my crack research is to be believed, Olimpia has won this tournament twice, 1972 and 1988. They are based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and enjoy a wide fan base, beyond the town they call home.

RBNY, on the other hand, have only qualified 3 of the last 4 years and before that… nothing, really. In fact, since the creation of MLS, only 2 American teams have won the Champions League (DC United in 1998 and LA Galaxy in 2000). This tournament has belonged by and large to Mexican teams, such as current back-to-back winners Pachuca.

So, now that I’ve dropped a little learning on you, and while you may enjoy the many…many… m a n y competitions available, perhaps you’ll check out the tournament, starting in mid-February. As I like to say, soccer never sleeps.

Featured image courtesy: @CONCACAF

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

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