Category Archives: Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference

The Time of My Life with New York Red Bulls

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench 

Sunday, October 15th: 0-0 Draw

The Eastern Conference has already been decided the week before Major League Soccer’s Decision Day. The New York Red Bulls (13-12-8, 47 points), despite what felt like a rickety roller coaster of a season, clinched the final spot in the playoffs with a decisive win at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

When RBNY played Atlanta United (15-9-9, 54 points) on Opening Day for this season, it was a momentous occasion. While the sparkling newcomers opened the scoring, they faltered at not only the feet of legendary Red Bull striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, but also their own: an own goal gave the day to the team of MLS history. And while that’s not exactly how a team wants to win, fans surely took it as a sign of a strong season for RBNY while Atlanta braced themselves for growing pains in their inaugural season. But as the season continued, it was clear: one game does not a season make.

[Insert Flatliners joke about DC United here. What? It’s not like I have a DCU colleague to insult… yet.]

Being the final home game of the regular season, RBNY participated in the league-wide tradition of Supporter’s Day, with live music and drink specials, and a promise of all sorts of fireworks, from the players as well as the pyrotechnic experts. And boy did they all deliver! Atlanta United is.. are.. um.. well..?

They’re physical.

I do a running log of every game just so I can remember it later (You don’t wanna see it, trust me. It’s a total snoozefest). I have nearly 10 statements that include the words “taken down” or “foul by [ATL player].” Add in the only two yellow cards of the match (both for Atlanta: Yamil Asad 61′; Leadro Gonzalez-Pirez 94′) and the only thing I can say is, ‘Ouch. That’s rough.’

But RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch said… a little more:

Their bench is yelling to kick our guys from the bench, okay. So Martino is yelling in Spanish to kick our players.

Is it true? Is Jesse just speaking out of frustration? I don’t know. I don’t really care. Comments like this don’t change anything.

The Ironman vs Mr. Clean Sheet: I’m absolutely convinced that the entire 90 minutes of the match could have been comprised of RBNY GK Luis Robles punting the ball to ATLUTD GK Brad Guzan and Guzan returning it in kind. Would’ve been the most boring game ever… Both keepers were credited with 3 saves and were supported by their respective back lines.

Play Your Kids: The Average age of the players on RBNY is 26 years, 3 months (What were you doing at that age? I had two kids and the most creative I ever got with writing was making wacky fill-in-the-blank vocabulary tests for high school kids.) Atlanta United is not far behind with an average age of 26 years 7 months.

While I write, ATLUTD Midfielder Andrew Carleton is helping make some USMNT U-17 magic in the U-17 World Cup in India. RBNY’s Derrick Etienne was called up for the Haitian national team when they played a friendly against Japan. And of course, RBNY Academy product Tyler Adams was the center of attention after going another 90 minutes in red and white, having figured in USMNT’s U-17 and U-20 teams and their respective World Cup runs.

“We love our young players, and we love to develop them. We
love to teach them to play our style. We like them to be aggressive. We want them to be rewarded for their aggression, for their commitment and you see that in our system, players develop, period, period.”    –Jesse Marsch, post game interview

That’s certainly great, but does that affect the veteran players?

“Obviously, the physical part of the game comes really easy for Tyler Adams. Sean Davis, I thought stood pretty tall today as well and covered a lot of ground. We’ve gotten some good performances from some young guys, and we got to push ourselves into the playoffs.” -Midfielder & team Captain Sacha Kljestan

“Maybe the light is not on me anymore, it’s on the young players… and I love that.”
-Defender Damien Perrinelle

(That’s right: I interviewed Damien Perrinelle… badly. Being a teacher for nearly 20 years, I’m used to being the one doing all the talking. But this is the only way to learn; if he’ll allow it, I’ll take another run at it next chance I get.)

The Result: Before the match, I did an Instagram Live video with my ATLUTD counterpart, and neither of us were sure what to expect. But after the attacks and counterattacks, the free kicks and the corners, the tackles and the warnings, a scoreless draw and no major injuries from either team was just about the best result that could have happened. So let the *other* fireworks begin. These two teams just might see each other one more time during the post-season.

On a personal note: I have to take this opportunity to tell you, the reader, that this writing experience with MLSFemale has been one of the best things to happen to me in recent years. I didn’t know what to expect when I first filled out an application for a media pass at Red Bull Arena. Pretty much every other writer here is a member of a team supporter club/season ticket holder, so I’m taking a very different approach by opting for the press box.

But I’ve met some amazing writers, photographers, and podcasters, and have been able to share my passion for the club with them (especially Kerissa— the Veron to my BWP). I even introduced myself to Tina Cervasio of MSG, who is a role model in the world of female sportscasting. The guys in the RBNY communications department have been super supportive, and it’s been so much fun to get to know MLS employees and soccer pundits as a result of my writing.

The players have been gracious and open, and I hope to get more time to bring their personalities to you in the coming months, even after the final whistle blows this season. I’ve had the time of my life, and I owe it all to all of you.

(PS– yeah, I know my usual musical theme didn’t come through much in this article. Don’t @ me… oh, you know what– go ahead. I’m a grown @ woman.)

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Home Stretch for the Portland Timbers

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, October 15: 4-0 Win

As of this past Sunday, the Western Conference was still anybody’s for the taking. And even now, it’s down to the wire in the west. Coming into the final week of regular season matches we STILL don’t know who will finish on top, and there is even one playoff spot yet to be decided. I think this actual screen shot from awhile back sums it up best:

The Portland Timbers definitely had some other results fall their way this weekend. Thanks to both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Sporting KC drawing on Sunday against their respective opponents, and with their final two games at home, Portland was poised to make up some ground in the table in their matchup last Sunday against hapless DC United. My only fear going into the game was that perhaps the boys would overlook this match in expectation of the showdown next weekend against Vancouver. Fortunately, while it took them a half to get sorted, the Timbers took care of business, at times in spectacular fashion.

The first half was mostly less than remarkable. While the Timbers had most of the chances, DCU did a serviceable job of frustrating the Timbers’ offense, leading to presses that went nowhere in the final third for most of the half. And then…

Welcome to your nightmare

Poor Steve Clark. He had already been on the receiving end of the fastest goal scored in MLS Cup history when he played for Columbus Crew in 2015, thanks to an all-too-casual back pass from a Crew teammate that Diego Valeri scooped up and sent to the back of the net in the 27th second of MLS Cup final that year. History repeated itself for Clark when Chris Korb sent him an errant back pass, which Darren Mattocks was ready to pounce on. Clark had no choice but to take down Mattocks, which earned Clark a yellow and earned the Timbers a penalty kick, which the maestro coolly slotted home for a 1-0 lead going into the half.

Off to the races

Once the Timbers had scored, DC United was forced to come out of their defensive stance a bit in the second half, and the Timbers made them pay. At 50′, Valeri spotted Alvas Powell open on the right and switch played the ball to him at the top of the 18.

I will readily admit that not five minutes before this, I had been grousing to a seatmate, wondering why Powell was starting and not Zarek Valentin. I’ve talked plenty here about the “That’s So Alvas” show, about Powell’s tendencies to follow a brilliant defensive maneuver by a laughable giveaway, sometimes within seconds of each other. And I thought Valentin had earned the starting spot with his consistent performance over the last stretch of games. I had theorized that maybe putting Mattocks and Powell in the game was just to build their confidence before a possible playoff run or something.

And then Powell did this and shut me up:

I watched that shot sail off Powell’s left foot and into the back of the net and my jaw dropped just a little. I still like Valentin for consistency, but my goodness, Powell nailed it.

As stunning as Powell’s score was, the next one was my goal of the match. Check out Valeri’s work with Sebastian Blanco here at 60′:

I saw it unfold right in front of me, and I still couldn’t believe the magic I had just witnessed: Valeri’s three juggles to maintain possession and get the perfect touch on the ball; the tap to Blanco, who took two quick touches and tapped it back to Valeri, who one-touched it back to Blanco, whose next touch was a brilliant strike to the top of the far corner of the net. The beautiful game, indeed.

Blanco sealed the deal at 86′ with brilliant solo work threading through several defenders, including Clark:

It was a beautiful second half of footy from the Timbers. A Chilean friend next to me watching the match watched as the boys moved quickly through a series of quick, short, one-touch passes, tilted his head and observed almost quizzically, “Tiki…taka?”

I know, right? Who’d have thought it from watching us earlier this season?

Final thoughts

Next Sunday is for all the marbles. If we tie or lose, we will ensure that the Cascadia Cup goes to our hated rivals, the Sounders, and we will finish somewhere between 2nd and 4th in the West, depending on all kinds of scenarios involving a bunch of other teams.

If we win, though…

If we win, we win the Cascadia Cup, we win the west and a first round bye.

We know from experience that you can go all the way from a knockout round to the Cup, so a tie or even a loss will see us through. But I know the simplest scenario:

See you all next Sunday, folks!

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

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New York Red Bulls – A Marvelous Night

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench 

Saturday, October 7th: 3-0 Win

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies

–Van Morrison

It was ‘neath the cover of October skies that the New York Red Bulls (13-12-7, 34 points) clinched the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, now for the 8th straight season, with a win against Western Conference leaders the Vancouver Whitecaps (15-11-6, 31 points). September was a mess, but as coach Jesse Marsch said after the match, the team was able to turn the page:

“…September was difficult for us and disappointing. You know, we were all
disappointed with the results. But we continued to feel that we were playing well, and it was just a matter of time before we were going to start to have it add up more.”

Fans were stressed. The team was missing chances and dropping points. Mistakes were destroying morale and injuries are still whittling away at the team’s depth. Three players heeded national call-ups (Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Ecsobar to Panama, and Derrick Etienne to Haiti), reducing team strength even further. But Marsch found a way to right the ship.

“Yeah, I mean, I’ll be honest. I’ve been challenging our defenders… to perform at a higher level because we’ve made too many mistakes. […W]e felt like if we could shore that up; if we could find the right balance of personnel and performance in the back that the rest will take care of itself, because there’s a lot of good things happening. So you know, got three good performances from the guys at center back…”

That would be Damien Perrinelle, Aaron Long, and Kemar Lawrence. Lawrence, who played a major role in Jamaica’s Gold Cup run, declined the call for an international friendly in Saudi Arabia. The team, the fans, and my fantasy lineup all heaved a sigh of relief. It’s just too bad that Lawrence got himself a yellow card in the 84th minute and is now suspended for the next game.

Meanwhile back on offense, “all the night’s magic” made the fans stand up and cheer. Forward Danny Royer, just recently back from injury, shot the ball across the face of the goal and in for the 12th time this season in the 33rd minute.

And then, after a call for offside earlier in the match, Bradley Wright-Phillips did what he does best, for the 86th time in his MLS career (and the 17th this season).

But wait– there’s more! For the 3rd time this season, Midfielder Felipe found the back of the net despite traffic in the box and BWP at his side.

As for assists, captain Sacha Kljestan posted 2 more on the night, bringing his season total to 17. Kljestan just might be on track to rack up 20 assists on the season for the 2nd year in a row. Mighty impressive, if you ask me.

So with two games to go, post season plans are being made. Let’s (Moon)dance.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

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Clinched It – Columbus Crew

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, September 30: 2-0 Win

On Saturday night, Columbus Crew SC did what they did not look able to do in the middle of the season—clinch a playoff spot.  What spot they actually finish in is still unknown, but Crew SC will play at least one playoff game during the 2017 MLS season. 

Columbus Crew SC won 2-0 against one of their oldest rivals, DC United, who had a familiar face in the net.  Former Crew SC keeper Steve Clark was picked up by DC and faced his former teammates.  There wasn’t a lot Steve could have done to stop Crew SC’s two goals though.

In the first quarter of the game, Crew SC seemed to dominate play.  Josh Williams headed in an Higuain corner kick in the 14’ to score the game’s first goal.  Clark was pretty much left out to dry by his defense who left Josh unmarked.

In the middle of the game, it was much more of a back and forth match, but unlike earlier in the season, I never felt a sense of dread that Crew SC might let DC back into this match.  Their unbeaten streak has given the team a much-needed boost of confidence and camaraderie, which has started to radiate into the stands as well.

This isn’t to say that DC didn’t have their chances, but Zack Steffen continues to make great saves.  I hope that at some point the USMNT take notice of Steffen.

In the 56’, Artur sent a ball across the field toward Jimenez who let the ball go through his legs to Justin Meram.  Meram hit a beauty of a shot into the far side of the goal.  As the ball went toward the goal, I was pretty sure he was going to miss.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I don’t think Clark had a chance to save the shot.  I don’t think many keepers could have saved it. 

Other thoughts about the match and Crew SC happenings:

TIFOSweat gets a huge shout out for the large TIFO they did to honor Frederico Higuain who had given all of us the impression that this might be his last season in the black and gold. 

However, not only did Crew SC clinch the playoffs this week, but they also locked up Pipa for another year.  Did the TIFO play a role in his decision?  No one will ever know, but I’m going to go with yes.  He is essential to this team, as I’ve said all season, so I’m glad to see him back for another year.  Now, we just need to lock up Artur.

You can tell both Pipa and Santos grew up playing soccer with a similar mindset.  They are often at the same place on the field at the same time.

If you had asked me to make a bet at the beginning of the season who I thought our starting center backs would be by the end of the season, I would have lost that bet.  Who would have thought Josh Williams and Mensah would be our center back pairing?  But it works.  They look much more confident than any other pairing we have seen this year. 

Finally, I know there was talk on Twitter, and apparently Facebook, about how to handle facing Steve Clark.  Some people wanted to boo him before and after the game and some during the game.  People can obviously do whatever they want to do within reason.    During the game, I laughed when we scored on him and some chanted, “Steve says, ‘Yes!’” as some good-natured ribbing during the game is part of the sport. 

However, I was proud that before the game and after the game the fans cheered Steve.  Despite the goal that will live in infamy during the 2015 MLS Cup, Steve was a solid keeper for this team.  He brought spirit and leadership to a team that desperately needed it, and he loved the fans of this club.  Steve Clark will always be a Crew SC player that I respect and who played lights out soccer in a system where the defense in front of him isn’t always a keeper’s best friend.  Despite how much I respect Steve though, I was glad we scored two goals.

After a break in the action, Crew SC picks back up and plays its last two games on the road to see which playoff spot it will actually have.  And I am going to enjoy the journey.

Featured image courtesy: @JustinMeram

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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All Mixed Up – New York Red Bulls

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench 

Wednesday, September 27th: 3-3 Draw

Now it’s morning but last night’s on my mind

There’s something I need to get off my chest

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written about the New York Red Bulls in league play… sorry about that.

I made my way to Red Bull Arena to see the latest matchup for the Atlantic Cup (a *real* rivalry, mind you) against DC United. As I was driving home from the game, this 311 song came on the radio. I have taken to referencing Broadway musicals while I write these articles, and was all set to do so once again here. But the lyrics, which I had learned in my Junior year of high school, hit me so hard that I had to integrate them here. (And yes, this song is as old as our beloved Metro. And older than a couple of guys on the roster. Let that sink in.) I usually do a full run-down of the game and venue, but I’m going to try something a little different….

For those of you still slightly confused (or ridiculously young), you gon’ learn today:

Many moons: RBNY hasn’t won a league match since August 12th, while DC was coming off  2 wins and were trying to ramp up for a real winning streak.

“But… we’re commanding every game we play. Every single game we play, we’re pretty much controlling the game the way we want to control it. But we have to work so hard for our chances, and then when we do score, it seems like we find ways to literally just give goals away.” — Jesse Marsch, post game press conference

The dream will always be mine: RBNY will make the playoffs. How far they get in the playoffs depends on a lot of things. In the meantime, it’s really easy for fans to get bogged down by a draw like this: it should have been a win. Analysts and number crunchers keep reminding fans that the team is doing well in terms of points and stats. It’s just that those things aren’t resulting in wins.

“The will of the team is a big positive. Really the only negative is that we just can’t seem to reward ourselves.” — Jesse Marsch, post game press conference

Kill ‘dem stunning: Right Wingback Tyler Adams, who is younger than a couple of t-shirts I own, tallied his first AND second goals in MLS at this game (19′ & 74′). The soccer mom in me can’t help but be proud, because not only is he a talented player, he is a level-headed team member.

“We’re confident in our team, and we’re all determined enough to make it.” — Tyler Adams, locker room interview

Next thing you turn around and find the person is you: An own goal. That thing that helped RBNY win more than one game in the past has come back to give the devil his due. Defender Fidel Escobar was credited with the error that caused RBNY to drop 2 points in the 91st minute of the game, when it should really have been sewn up for the Red Bulls. He’s not the first player to do this, nor will he be the last. It will sting, but like a scraped knee after falling off a bike, the only thing to do is get right back to it and prove that was the exception to the rule.

That’s your best bet: There were several considerable bright spots, and I don’t want them to get lost in the quagmire. We saw the return of Danny Royer, who came on as a substitute in the 75th minute. Allow me to highlight the question I asked of Jesse Marsch, the first of my sports writing career (such as it is):

[H]ow did you feel about how Royer came in today? This is his first game back and everyone was excited to see him. What did you think, is he really there with you? Is there still more to work on?
“He’s got to get up to full fitness and everything, but he’s back. Was excited to get him back in the game. I think a high probability that he starts on Saturday, so it’s no time like the present. We need Danny. We need Danny now, so it’s good to have him
back. That is a big positive.”

Speaking of subs, Gonzalo Veron made some amazing runs, including one where he was brought down in the box and awarded the penalty kick, which he converted (78′).

Let go of regret: The sentiment from all the players was the same– let this go and focus on the next challenge: a weekend matchup against conference leaders and Supporter’s Shield contenders Toronto FC. I was never one to predict a result, but now…

You make me nervous
Throat dry
My brain is empty
Don’t know why

(I’ve had this song stuck in my head for nearly 24 hrs now… it’s your turn.)

Featured image of Tyler Adams 1st goal courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

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New York Red Bulls – Caught up in the Twister

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench 

Wednesday, September 20: 2-1 Loss (Open Cup Final)

I.

I just…

Ugh.

I had to sleep on this post. A lot, it would seem.

I didn’t want to get sucked into all the “So Metro” talk leading up to the Open Cup final. The New York Red Bulls had made such a good run, defeating regional adversaries NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, and the New England Revolution. Fans reveled in the stomping out of Cinderella opponents FC Cincinnati and watched as they learned RBNY would have to face Sporting KC* in the final at Children’s Mercy Park. I was all set to attend another Watch party and celebrate a huge milestone in Red Bulls history: this was finally going to be the year the team lifted the Lamar Hunt Open Cup.

Well. Not so much.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Children’s Mercy Park is a fortress, and Sporting hasn’t lost at home all season. They weren’t looking to start anytime soon. As for me, a new job kept me super busy and prevented me from joining fans for the watch party (although I did meet a season ticket holder in my office– woop woop!). Thankfully, the Open Cup had finally garnered enough interest to be aired on ESPN2, so at least I wasn’t stuck watching on a tablet again.

I KNOW ABOUT POPULAR: SKC has now won 3 Open Cups and an MLS cup. RBNY has won 2 Supporter’s Shields, which would be huge if MLS didn’t have playoffs. Usually for me, comparing relative sizes of trophy cases is a serious turnoff. But it just can’t be helped. Both teams have history that spans the entire existence of Major League Soccer, and the Red Bulls should really have more to show for it.

I’M MELTING: There’s no other way for me to put it. Both of Sporting’s goals (Latif Blessing 25′ and Daniel Salloi 66′) came because they caught the defense sleeping. I commend RBNY coach Jesse Marsch for sticking with GK Ryan Meara as he had throughout the Open Cup run, but it just didn’t work as it should have. Alex Muyl was scrambling, Fidel Escobar was gassed. Sal Zizzo made a fatal error, and my personal favorite Damien Perrinelle didn’t even make the 18.

TRY DEFYING GRAVITY: It wasn’t as if the Red Bulls let SKC wipe the field with them. There was plenty of fight in the boys in red and white. The fact that Bradley Wright-Phillips was able to pull one back in the 91st minute shows that they didn’t give up. It may not have been enough, but I respect that it was still a lot.

So… it’s time for the team to focus on the remainder of the season. Maybe go deep through the playoffs. Plan for next year. Why then, oh why can’t we?

*If you weren’t aware, Sporting KC used to be known as the Kansas City Wiz. Between that and my penchant for musical theater, the article headings wrote themselves.

Featured image courtesy: newyorkredbulls.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

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Party at the Benz for Atlanta United

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Since the Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened, Atlanta United have been unstoppable. Here’s a rundown of the stats for ATLUTD between 9/10-24:

  • 5 home games
  • 4-0-1 record
  • Have outscored opponents 19-3
  • 2 hat tricks by Josef Martinez in back-to-back games
  • 4 clean sheets for Brad Guzan
  • 3rd place in the Eastern Conference
  • Still 2 games in hand vs most of the conference (only playing 1 Western Conference team in remaining 5 regular season games)

Going to a game at the Benz feels like going to a party. The huge tailgates before the weekend games (and slightly smaller ones on weekdays) just enhance that atmosphere. It feels like we’ve done nothing but party for 2 weeks straight.

So many goals to cheer for! NINETEEN GOALS in five games. Eight of those scored by Josef Martinez in the first four games – and back-to-back hat tricks! That guy knows how to put on a show!

Last Wednesday, Yamil Asad had a great game, too. In a 4-0 drubbing of the LA Galaxy, Asad was involved in all of the goals, scoring two for himself and assisting on the other two. (Also note, the boys now wear suits when they arrive for games. *swoon*)

This Sunday, it was a little of everyone. Tito Villalba scored the first goal – another blast into the top 90 of the goal – which seems to be a sweet spot for him (see: Tito’s winning goal at Orlando City in July).

The second goal was a pass from Julian Gressel into the box that Jeff Larentowicz chested into the goal. It was Larentowicz’s first goal for ATLUTD and caused quite the stir on social media on Monday…

The other big news out of Sunday’s game was Miguel Almiron pulling up with a hamstring injury in the 17th minute. He was visibly upset walking off the field on Sunday and it was announced Monday that he will be out for a minimum of three weeks, which means he won’t be playing for Paraguay next week during the international break and may not be back until the last game of the season (vs Toronto) at the earliest.

With Sunday’s result, ATLUTD are now sitting alone in third place in the Eastern conference, just three points behind NYCFC and with a game in hand. Both teams play this Wednesday (ATLUTD hosts Philadelphia and NYCFC at Montreal).

ATLUTD will finally be caught up next week on games played after a trip away to New England and a home game vs Minnesota United – a game that should have been played in August, but was pushed back due to the MBS construction delays.

Other news of note this week:

  • ATLUTD have now scored more goals than any expansion team ever in MLS (63)
  • Homegrown players Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin and Justin Garces were all named on the 21-player roster for the U-17 World Cup in India, being played in October.
  • After his double hat trick performance last week, Josef Martinez was named MLS Player of the Week.
  • Yamil Asad was named to the MLS Best XI and Leandro Gonzales Pirez was “on the bench” for Team of the Week.
  • Kevin Kratz won Goal of the Week last week for his free kick goal vs New England; Tito Villalba’s rocket is up for Goal of the Week this week – and ATLUTD always wins the internet, so don’t be too surprised when Tito wins this one, too.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Crew SC Unbeaten in Seven

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, September 23: 3-2 Win

While the calendar says September, Saturday night at Mapfre Stadium felt like the middle of July as Columbus Crew SC took on the New York Red Bulls in the continued hunt for a playoff spot.

Crew SC rolled out the same line-up that started at Vancouver with two exceptions–Mensah returned at centerback and Justin Meram returned to left wing.  This time, however, we had a different result than Vancouver with a 3-2 win for the Black and Gold.

Scoring started with Crew SC in the 6’ as Higuain sent in a free kick that Mensah headed into the net.  You could see the joy on the center back’s face as he celebrated his goal with the team. 

New York was quick to tie it up in the 14’.  Columbus felt one of the New York players had been offsides, but the AR did not make the call and Bradley Wright-Phillips finished the goal.  BWP was given much too much space regardless.  With a goal scorer like that, defenders should not give him any space. 

Santos was fouled in the 39’, but the ref let play continue on to the Crew’s advantage.  Ola Kamara, virtually alone as a defender tried to catch up with him, tried to chip the keeper to tie the game, but he overshot the goal.  Kamara continues to miss the chances you think he should finish and finish shots that look nearly impossible.

Crew SC took the lead again in the 54’ when Meram took on two New York defenders and shot the ball into the net.

In the 66’, Josh Williams who apparently didn’t want to be outdone by his center back partner decided it was time for a goal.  His first since 2013.  He headed in a Higuain corner kick for goal number three of the game.

New York wasn’t done yet.  In the 69’, Mensah fouled Gonzola Veron.  There was some heated argument from both sides as the foul occurred outside the field of play but kept Veron from getting to the ball.  After video review, the Red Bulls were granted the penalty kick, which Veron finished. 

Crew SC was able to hold the Red Bulls off resulting in a victory and 3 more points toward making the playoffs.

Some thoughts on the match:

Pipa had all three assists in this match.  He continues to show why he is a central cog for this team

Meram scored a goal.  It was pretty.  However, there are a lot of times when he should pass and doesn’t.  I don’t want him to stop trying to take on defenders.  I just wish his judgment on when to do this and when to pass would improve.

The refs in this game were horrible.  As a player, I was always taught you play the refs’ game.  Arguing calls wasn’t going to help, so you don’t.  Those words to live by would have gone down the drain had I been a player on the field on Saturday night.  I think the officiating wasn’t great for either team.

After the Red Bulls scored their second goal, I grew concerned that this would turn into another game like Vancouver where they scored to tie it up near the end of the game.  Or, it would be like earlier in the season where we gave away a lead.  I was pleased to see that Crew SC can finish out a match as I’m sure this skill will be necessary if we plan on winning any playoff games.

I do not understand Sacha Kljestan’s moustache.  Please someone explain it to me….

This season has gone incredibly fast and next Saturday is Columbus Crew SC’s last regular season home game against DC United.  It would be nice to get 3 points from this match and help solidify a playoff spot.

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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Columbus Crew SC vs. Sporting Kansas City

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Sunday, September 10: 1-1 Draw

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Columbus Crew SC played Sporting Kansas City to a pretty uninspiring draw in one of Crew SC’s final three home games of the regular season. 

Kansas City struck first scoring a goal in the 19’ on an unnecessary failed bicycle clearance by Jonathan Mensah.  SKC’s Cristian Lobato took the missed clearance and nutmegged Crew SC’s keeper while he was trying to stop the shot. 

There were a few opportunities for Crew SC in the first half to equalize, and they felt like the more dominant team.  In first half stoppage time, Ola Kamara headed in a beautiful goal off a Pedro Santos’ corner kick to finish the half with a 1-1 draw.

The second half didn’t provide a lot to write home about.  This could have been a game like many others earlier in the season where Crew SC gave away a draw for a loss, but they held on for a point. 

Some thoughts about the game:

Pedro Santos is good.  Really good.  I don’t want Kei Kamara back, but I’m pretty sure if he was, Pedro would put every corner kick or set piece directly on to his head.   He can see the field and the plays before they happen.  I think he will be Schelotto-like—making all the players around him even better as he grows to know his teammates, and they grow to know him.

What is with both Santos and Higuain standing together to take corner kicks?  Is it to confuse the defenders with who may kick the ball?  It’s a corner kick.  Most of the time, it is going into the mass of players in front of the goal.  Wouldn’t it be better to have another man in front of the goal or someone to clean up any balls that leak through from the corner kick instead of having two players standing over the ball to kick it?

Honestly, I imagined them having this conversation at the corner flag:

Pipa:  I really should take the corner. I’ve been on the team a long time.  I’m good at it.

Santos:  I’m new.  Let me give it a try.  Plus, if they’re anything like your PK taking ability maybe I should take them…

Then I laughed at my crazy imagination, and figured this is some kind of game plan Gregg has conjured up for corner kicks that I just don’t understand.

Finally, the second half really wasn’t very exciting soccer.  This made Gregg’s substitutions in the second half even more puzzling.  Ola Kamara was subbed out in 64’ for Adam Jahn, Pedro Santos was subbed out in the 65’ for Cristian Martinez, and Jimenez was subbed out for Afful in 84’.   Bringing Afful in, I can understand as he is working his way back from an injury, and I found out later that Kamara is fighting an injury.  However, why not bring on Manneh instead of Jahn for Meram or Kamara?  Why pull Santos off the field? 

It felt like Gregg was playing for the tie, and with Crew SC’s track record of giving up goals earlier in the season, I kind of understand this decision.  However, we are in a precarious spot in the playoff hunt.  We have 1 to 4 games on hand on teams that can challenge us for a playoff spot, and we need all the points we can get. 

Thoughts on the previous week’s happenings:

I’ve been absent writing for the last few games.  Real life has kind of been busy, but I’m back on the beat.  I had some thoughts about the last few matches or off field happenings that I wanted to share:

Nicolai Naess was recently traded.  We evidentially made a profit from his transfer.  He played a great long pass, and he stayed calm on the ball.  I never understood why he got benched.  I feel like his absence is a real loss for the team.  However, I’m happy he will go somewhere he can contribute. 

Frederico Higuain has recently stated that he believes this will be his last season in a Crew SC uniform.  Is this a negotiation tactic?  Who knows?  However, I still feel like Crew SC is a better team with Pipa on it.  I wonder if having someone like Santos on the team that thinks as fast as he does on the field will help change his mind about sticking around for another season.  Seeing Santos and Pipa when they have had even more time to gel on the field would be a sight to behold.

I also know that Ola Kamara wants to renegotiate his contract as well.  This man needs to get paid.  He is our only true forward.  We need to work on bringing someone else in as well because if his injury develops into something more serious, we will be in trouble.  Plus, we just need another forward.

During the LA Galaxy vs. Crew SC game, VAR (video assistant referee) was used three times in pretty significant ways during the game resulting in a PK, red card, and call back of a goal.  All these calls went in Crew SC’s favor.  Being there, I can say it was a crazy short stretch of time.  I’m not sure how I feel about VAR.  It did break up the flow of the game a bit, but I don’t know how often it will impact a game as much as it did this one. 

Finally, I have given Mensah and Abu a lot of criticism this season.  Some justified criticisms–some probably not.  These two have been brilliant in the last few games.  They both seem confident and are working well with their teammates on the field.   Yes, Mensah did make a mistake in this week’s game, but he stayed confident afterward and continued to make strong defensive plays the rest of the game. 

This is a different guy from the beginning of the season.  If the same mistake had happened to him earlier in the season, I think you would have seen shaky play the rest of the game.  Gregg Berhalter may have final found a centerback combination that works and another good center midfield option. 

Hopefully, the team can stay confident and dominant against the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday and earn 3 much needed road points to help solidify the road to the playoffs. 

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Welcome Home

 

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, September 10: 3-0 Win

So many firsts here in Atlanta this season – and this weekend saw another one: ATLUTD’s first game in our brand-spanking-new $1.5 billion stadium. I did an Instagram takeover a few weeks ago when we were invited to preview the stadium. The stadium itself is breathtaking. The atmosphere from Bobby Dodd has definitely carried over – and multiplied – at the Benz. It is LOUD in there.

For the first game, the announced attendance was 45,314, which is on par with the numbers from Bobby Dodd. It was just announced Wednesday morning that the ATLvNE game is sold out as well, which makes it now 11 sell outs in 11 games. I had a slightly unique perspective walking into the stands on Sunday, as I was chosen to represent my SG in the Golden Spike ceremony (a rep from each of the four recognized supporters groups carries the spike in before every game). Below is a video taken by one of the other reps – that’s the back of my head at the front left of the spike.

The key thing about the field at the Benz is that it’s longer and wider than the field at Bobby Dodd (70×110 > 75×115). 25 square yards doesn’t sound like much, but it may have made the difference on Sunday for ATLUTD. Our midfielders (Tito Villalba and Yamil Asad) and defenders (Greg Garza and Anton Walkes) on the sides had more room to make runs up the wings, creating more chances and getting more results.

Speaking of Tito…have a game, kid! He was definitely back on track this week, with assists on two of three goals and a few shots on goal himself. The first assist was a header from a short corner that fell to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who just got a touch on the ball that slowly crept into the net behind FC Dallas goalie Jesse Gonzalez. It was Pirez’s first goal for ATLUTD, and the historic first goal in the Benz. It also reminded me a lot of the first goal of the season for ATLUTD that was scored by Yamil Asad.

The second goal happened so quickly after the second half started, I almost didn’t catch it. Not thirty seconds into the half, Almirón got the ball to Josef Martínez, who scored his first goal since July 4th.

Greg Garza scored his second goal of the season in the 68′ when Almirón passed to Martínez, who stepped over the ball, bringing a Dallas defender with him, and clearing the way for Garza to tap it into the net behind Jesse Gonzalez.

Both goalkeepers had great games, too. Guzan ended up with the clean sheet, but Jesse Gonzalez had some spectacular saves (and was saved by the crossbar a couple of times). Matt Hedges had Gonzalez’s back once in the first half and cleared a ball right at the goal line.

Coach Tata Martino said after the game that it was the team’s best game of the season, and I agree. After a month of long breaks and poor showings, the game the boys played on Sunday was exactly what we all – the team and the fans – needed, especially with the number of games we have in the next few weeks. If they can keep performing like they did against Dallas, getting into the playoffs will be a piece of cake.

Our next game is Wednesday against New England Revolution, who we have not played yet this season, and we’ll play them again at the end of the month. Saturday, 9/16, is the Big One, though. Our final game against Orlando City this season, in front of a record-setting regular season MLS crowd of 70,000+. I will most likely be doing another IG takeover, so go follow the MLSFemale account!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale