Category Archives: Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference

We Need To Talk About Aketxe: Toronto FC falls 3-2 to the New England Revolution

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

Saturday, May 12: 3-2 Loss

Toronto FC twitter is in a state of panic. Fans fear they’ve stumbled into a time warp. Cold sweats and flashbacks of inadequacy ensue as the collective fanbase tries to claw its way back to 2018 from the pre-Bezbatchenko days of old.

Off the back of a frustrating loss at home to Seattle, a lacklustre Toronto FC team was, for the 6th time this season, not good enough. The concoction of troubles does pose a not insignificant challenge. However, not good enough is not good enough and the expectation is that the best team in MLS can continue to contend with the best regardless of circumstance.

Still, you can’t knock coach Greg Vanney for trying to find a lineup that works within his means, though many do anyway. A serious deficit in defenders saw Michael Bradley start in the centre of the backline once again and Gregory Van Der Wiel joins our crowded roster of injured defenders this week with a minor Achilles issue.

With Van Der Wiel, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund and even former defender turned full-time midfielder Nicolas Hasler all sidelined we have two full strings of defensive lines missing. And that’s just the defensive woes.

Joining Bradley in this makeshift backline then are out of form 34-year-old MLS veteran Jay Hernandez along with Toronto native and recent MLS debutant Ryan Telfer. Telfer came in for an injury prone but healthy Ashtone Morgan who is safely squared away on the bench, protected from Gillette Stadium‘s synthetic turf. Brazilian wonderkid Auro Jr., the only first choice defender of the lot, completed a 4 man backline.

Defensive fortitude was, therefore, less a promise going into this game than it was a chasm built into our team. It’s just a pity that it wasn’t the pockmarked defense but the midfield that was directly responsible for 2 of the 3 goals. The defensive excuse ends up holding little water. Unsurprising considering the defense was a sieve but I digress.

Having historically lost a few big players at important times to the New England Revolution‘s poor turf conditions, it was no surprise that players like Victor Vazquez and Sebastian Giovinco joined Morgan on the bench. Therefore a somewhat patched together 4-4-2 squad entered the fray and quickly lost control of the game.

The troubles started in the 4th minute with an undercooked pass from Bradley to Ager Aketxe which was intercepted and neatly nestled in the back of the net by the Revolution’s Chris Penilla. Far from being Bradley’s fault, Aketxe has been caught out time and again waiting for the ball to come to him. Our number one goalkeeper for a third season running, Alex Bono, also looked like he could have done more.

It hastily got worse for the travelling side. Just a few minutes later in the 8th minute, Aketxe, after conceding the pass to him on the first goal, appears to believe Penilla plays for the Reds and passes the ball directly to him under little pressure. Perhaps to avoid further confusion for him I’ll stop referring to Toronto as the Reds as it’s dangerously similar to the Revs. Bono, who is completely off his line after fancying a dribble out of his box which started the manic panic, is unable to get back quickly enough to stop Penilla’s leisurely lofted ball sailing into the back of the net.

At this point, it was looking dire for the defending champions. Nonetheless, they spent the rest of the first half with the lion’s share of the possession, troubled only once more by a bundled attempt from Diego Fagundez after our defense was once more cut like cheesecloth. Unfortunately, possession without goals is all but useless and Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner denied a few good chances from Toronto, including a good shot from distance by an atoning Aketxe.

The second half arrives, time for Toronto FC to keep their heads down and get back into the game, right? Wrong. Inside of 60 seconds the Reds concede a third before most of the fans could crawl back to their television sets after 15 minutes of raw panic. 3-0 at the 46th minute; the Reds are sinking again.

One small positive to this goal is at least we can hope a first choice defensive line might stop that one. But wait; I spy Aketxe, tumbling backwards, apparently helpless to stop Teal Bunbury. At least he tried this time?

Nonetheless, it’s not over ’til it’s over. At 54’ fan favourite (this fan in particular) Jay Chapman sent a well-timed cross towards goal and Jordan Hamilton helped the Revs score an own goal. Shortly after Vanney sent in reinforcements by way of a newly recovered Chris Mavinga to tighten up defense and Sebastian Giovinco the super sub to save the game (little did we know).

Aketxe ends his day of disaster by making way for Mavinga which allowed Michael Bradley to slide back into his holding midfield role. Toronto FC restores much of its defensive harmony with those 2 simple shifts. It was no coincidence that the goals for the Revolution stop there.

Try as they might Toronto struggled to get back into this game. It wasn’t until the 87th minute that after a bizarre coming together in the Revolution box, Auro earned a penalty in the eyes of referee Mark Geiger. Sebastian Giovinco coolly slots it home but then loses all of his chill. He sticks his hand at the throat of a Revs player who tried to knock the ball out of his hand as he galloped back to the centre line.

The red mist clears and Giovinco pulls his hand back before applying any pressure to the gesture but the damage was already done. Giovinco is shown a straight red card after a quick video review but he is less quick to leave the technical area as he argues with anyone and everyone within three feet of him. He finally leaves and the remaining 3 minutes are played out without incident. It’s really over this time; Toronto FC is thwarted yet again. Giovinco has since been fined for his failure to promptly leave the game. (source)

In spite of all the reasons the side had to fail, it appears Toronto FC impaled themselves upon their own sword. The midfield made tough work for a weak defense and the attack didn’t attack enough. That is until they attacked too much and were asked to leave the game.

Post-game there’s the question of Aketxe that has remained unanswered. When Toronto FC signed him from Athletic Bilbao during the winter window it seemed an exciting benefit to winning the cup. A La Liga player from a renowned academy chose to play here.

Alas, the days of average to high-quality players coming from European leagues, even the top ones, and immediately making first team appears to be coming to an end. At least, that has been the case for Aketxe. After a slow start to the season for him he has struggled to make an impact despite plenty of minutes to do so.

His biggest impact has come against the Revs having been left red faced after all 3 goals. A bad start to the season for TFC all around and a period of adjustment makes judging the individual tough, but I for one have lost all hope of making a Toronto FC player out of Ager. My only hope for him at this point is that he proves me wrong. Fellow Toronto fans, let me know your verdict on Aketxe or lack thereof.

Toronto FC faithfuls must wait another week for a glimpse of the team they have come to know and love over the past 2 and a half years or so. Now Giovinco is suspended for a minimum of 1 game, Jozy Altidore is still recovering from surgery and the defensive absences are far from over. Patience will be key for Toronto fans looking for their Reds to be back at their best. Toronto faces Orlando City SC at BMO Field this Friday.

Featured image: mlssoccer.com

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The Montréal Impact and the No Good, Very Bad Week

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Results: 1-0 Loss @ Chicago Fire, 0-2 Loss vs Philadelphia Union

Hot on the heels of a soul-cleansing 4-2 victory over the New England Revolution, the Montréal Impact traveled to Chicago as part of a busy week. After the emphatic display, fans looked forward to the next performance eagerly, especially as Chicago and Philadelphia are two Eastern Conference foes against whom it is critical to gain points.

Rémi Garde presented a 4-3-3 line-up featuring the attacking trio who had put 4 past New England, and many were starting to feel hopeful with Rod Fanni and Michael Petrasso returning to health.

Unfortunately, an inability to capitalize on promising chances, a defender’s successful stifling of Nacho Piatti and an unfortunate deflection contributed to what would be an unsuccessful day at the office for Montréal. However, there was little time to dwell on that loss. Philadelphia Union were in town on Saturday, a team who had not scored a road goal in 2018 and had not won in their last 16 road games. It was time to make a statement and begin to make a fortress out of Stade Saputo!

The lineup and formation presented for the match vs the Union were identical to the ones from mid-week – no squad rotation had been implemented. Perhaps this was when alarm bells should have begun to ring, but kickoff an hour later made it all too evident that no amount of rotation would have saved the Impact from the humiliating 90 minutes that were to come.

Individual errors would be to blame for both goals conceded, but it was the collective performance that was most shocking. The majority of Montréal players on the pitch displayed varying combinations of lethargy, sloppiness, apathy, and confusion. The Union had a much more disciplined side, and despite having played midweek themselves, they came out fresher and more prepared to claim their deserved 3 points.

Although Philadelphia’s performance was simply superior in nearly all aspects, their goals highlight some of the most glaring problems on the Impact backline. First, simple marking was forgotten as lone striker Corey Burke was entitled to a free header to put Philly on the scoreboard just before halftime. Jukka Raitala tried to get back to his man before the damage was done, but like most of his team’s efforts last week, it was simply too little, too late.

Near the end of the game, when both teams were down to 10 men, there was some sort of miscommunication on the backline, as Chris Duvall made an ill-advised horizontal pass near the goal line. Raitala allowed that pass to bobble over his foot, and Haris Medunjanin had no problem seizing the loose ball and sealing the Impact’s miserable fate.

This season has been defined by many, including myself, as a transitional year. And that’s perfectly fine. What is most frustrating is that the promising tactical and technical improvements seen in the early games of the season have disappeared from the Impact’s play and the team who began the season on an encouraging note is barely a ghost of a memory. The drastic regression in performances over the past several weeks is deeply concerning. If this is meant to be a “reconstruction” … is the Montreal Impact in the demolition phase right now?

Next up: The Impact will celebrate their 25th anniversary with a Monday game versus the LA Galaxy, who are suffering their own defensive issues, on Monday, May 21st. To create more of a headache, Impact find themselves back to square one on the injury front – there is only one healthy central defender available! They will also have to figure out a solution to fill Daniel Lovitz’s absence as he serves his red card suspension. There are sure to be goals aplenty…

Featured image courtesy: impactmontreal.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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Can’t Stop- NYCFC battles LAFC to a 2-2 draw

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, May 13: 2-2 Draw

Mia’s Magical Falcon versus the Pigeon

No, I promise this won’t be a drool fest about everything Los Angeles Football Club does right.  Humor me for a minute and I’ll quickly move on.  As a New York City Football Club fan, I’m a bit green with envy.

Banc of California Stadium is beautiful – located in actual downtown Los Angeles, a mere walking distance from the USC campus.  The supporters’ section holds over 3200 supporters.  They have a live falcon.  (Hey, I’m into birds of prey.  Don’t judge.)

The soccer-specific stadium has real grass.  The uniforms are timelessly stylish worn by talented, young international players and they are part-owned by sports phenoms Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and well-known actor Will Ferrell.  I was nervous that the new cool kids in town were going to defeat us.

I hope that some newbies to soccer and detractors of the sport caught some of this match as it was a nail biter with possession ping-ponging from end to end and it was also a fun watch.  From David Villa‘s 402nd goal which was an easy-peasy header rebound off a penalty shot to take the lead 1-0 to Ismael Tajouri- Shradi‘s game tying rebound rocket minutes after being subbed in, the vibe was positively SoCal.  The sun was blinding and the chanting was relentless and intense.

Major props go out to the almost perfect play of LAFC’s Laurent Ciman and Latif Blessing who dished out trouble for NYCFC from the first whistle.  New York City clearly evolved in their strategy of maintaining possession in tight spaces and constantly trying to thread the proverbial needle to maintaining possession but mixing in deep long low balls and high crosses to penetrate LA’s defense.  This game could have gone either way with plenty of missed finishers, great saves, and clearances by both teams.

The good:

  • Tajouri-Shradi is back and scored his fifth goal in as many games.
  • Villa is back in major hustle mode, applying pressure in every corner of the field and was potent in the counter attacks.
  • Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made some ridiculously incredible saves.

The bad:

  • One of the goals LA was credited for was an own goal off a deflection by defender Sebastien Ibeagha.  Ouch.
  • We still have no stadium of our own.

Questions:

  • Will we move forward utilizing this new strategy mixing in long balls or will we go back to our short pass possession method?
  • Is Anton Tinnerholm injured?
  • Why are we not more dangerous off set pieces?

“Can’t stop, addicted to the shindig.  Chop Top, he says I’m gonna win big.”  – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Featured image: nycfc.com

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

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, May 5: 4-0 Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image of HC Patrick Vieira: @NYCFC

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Chicago Fire: You win some, you lose some

Daniela Calvo - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Daniela Calvo // @DanielaCalvo__

Chicago Fire 1- Atlanta United 2: Loss

Saturday, May 5

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

Starting XI

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

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

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

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

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

The Fire played a midweek game against The Montreal Impact.

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

Chicago Fire 1- Montreal Impact 0: Win

Wednesday, May 9

Starting XI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy: Daniela Calvo

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

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

By Shae Beaudoin // @ShaeEliz

Sunday, May 6: 3-1 Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: Shae Beaudoin

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @ShaeEliz

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

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Saturday, May 5: 4-2 Win

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

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

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Image: @impactmontreal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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New York Derby Day: Oh Baby!

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, May 5th: 4-0 Win

Well! Once again, the New York Red Bulls are facing their rival! It caught up with me way quicker than I thought it would. I honestly thought it happened in July.

Fellow original MLS squad DC United, currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, comes to Red Bull Arena to… um… wait…

(Kerissa clears her throat and whispers in my ear…)

Oh. Not our rival. My bad. Our “regional opponent.”

RBNY faces NYCFC, who are… currently in first place in the Eastern Conference (6-2-2). Going into the match, they had… twice the saves. A higher goal differential. More shots overall.

They’re a strong team. I’ve never denied it. I just don’t want them to do well against the Red Bulls. That’s true of every team. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean a tiny bit more to face down a team that wants to be the Kings of Queens and all the other NY boroughs.

But the fans have a collective nickname for the Red Bulls: they’re “our large adult sons.” It’s a nod to their youth, their exuberance, and their physical presence. Sometimes they’re frustrated; sometimes they make mistakes. But they wear their hearts on their sleeves and they make their fans proud.

YOU CAN’T CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE: Kaku opens the scoring in the 2nd minute– Bradley Wright-Phillips had the initial shot, but NYC goalkeeper Sean Johnson deflected it to Romero Gamarra to bring the fans to their feet.  Then came the 4th minute– Valot chips his shot over the defender and Johnson, who was expecting it to stay on the ground.

And then, of course, Wright-Phillips makes it three (35′). And that was just the first half. Derrick Etienne Jr, subbed on for Danny Royer in the 65th minute, dodged Johnson and angled the ball in for the final goal in the 79th minute. They were all spectacular.

PLAY NICE: The first meeting of the NY Metropolitan area teams for the 2018 season was, of course, met with the usual online banter. NYC forward Jo Inge Berget pondered his first Derby leading up to the match. But the match itself was not much different.

Proximity allowed for a larger away support section than there was for, say, Portland. And of course, there was cheering and jeering that could be heard from my little corner of the press box. Sure, a ton of extra free t-shirts were being hurled, but there’s no such crime as assault with a deadly cotton. But no extra chippiness on the field. And that’s okay. Save it for later in the season.

IT’S PINK FOR THIS RED BULL: Defender Connor Lade shared with the crowd an important moment: the gender reveal for his baby, due in September. This mom couldn’t pass up a chance to see this event. He kicked a ball that was filled with colored chalk: a cloud of pink exploded to the cheers of the team and the fans. Now to supply Connor with a lifetime of Dad Jokes…

WHEN YOU’RE HERE, YOU’RE FAMILY: Prior to the reveal, the entire team walked right up to the South Ward to receive high fives and sign jerseys, having to hop over the signboards to get to them.

It’s amazing to watch the interaction that happens between an MLS team and their fans (I don’t purport it to be exclusive to RBNY). It’s what makes soccer special. As the weather continues to heat up, and the school year and spring youth soccer season come to a close, more families will come to visit “all their sons” at Red Bull Arena.

Featured image courtesy: Kerissa Ward

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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King Kratz the First of Atlanta United

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 28: 4-1 Win

I woke up way too early on Saturday, but for good reason. Breakfast/brunch tailgates are amazing. Also, I got to meet Jillian Sakovitz, who is part of the Atlanta United/Fox Sports South broadcast team this year (and gave her an MLSFemale pin – Too bad it didn’t make it on air, but it was on social media), so that was cool.

The highlight of the tailgate was the return of Brittany Arnold, who was replaced by Jillian this year. Brittany was at the game as a fan this time, so she came early and hung out at the tailgate before going in and later on after the game, too.

The game itself, though…The boys had us worried for a minute (or 57). Montreal Impact bunkered from the start and even more so after going up a goal in the 13th minute. Atlanta United had 73% possession, and most of it was spent trying to get something into the box and past the defense.

At the half, coach Tata Martino decided to make a tactical sub, replacing DM Jeff Larentowicz with forward Tito Villalba, who was getting his first minutes in a month since a hamstring injury in March. Unfortunately, Tito wasn’t much of an impact in this game, although it was good to see him make a few runs and nearly get a goal.

The first Atlanta goal came in the 70th minute when Miguel Almiron crossed a ball to Chris McCann in the box and Chris’ shot was deflected by Chris Duvall‘s arm, resulting in a handball PK for Miggy.

Greg Garza came out in the 75th minute to make way for Kevin Kratz, which turned out to be the best decision Tata has made all season. Three minutes after Kratz came into the game, Miggy was fouled just outside the Montreal box and Kratz stepped up to take the free kick and well…

A few minutes later, Miggy and Josef Martinez combined for the only goal that wasn’t from a set piece.

And finally, ten minutes later, another foul outside of Montreal’s box gave Kratz a chance to get a second amazing golazo.

Atlanta is currently still undefeated at home and has gone undefeated in their last seven games (6W, 1D). The next few games will really test the team, though. Three games in 8 days, two of which are away games: away at Chicago Fire this Saturday, at home on Wednesday vs Sporting Kansas City and away at Orlando City the following Sunday.

In the meantime, though, here are some additional news bits this week:

  • Almiron was named MLS Player of the Week
  • Miggy was also on the MLS Team of the Week for the third week in a row
  • Kratz and Barco were “on the bench” for Team of the Week
  • Tito Villalba and Franco Escobar are healthy and ready to play again!
  • Also, I got to meet Escobar last week when he did a player appearance *heart eyes emoji*

 

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Franco Escobar and me image: Robyn Saghini

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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The Fire Break Even

Daniela Calvo - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Daniela Calvo // @DanielaCalvo__

Saturday, April 28: 2-2 Draw

Starting XI

Richard Sánchez; Kevin Ellis, Johan Kappelhof, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Grant Lillard, Brandon Vincent (Alan Gordon 82’); Mo Adams, Dax McCarty © (Jon Bakero 76’); Elliot Collier (Diego Campos 67’), Nemanja Nikolić, Aleksandar Katai

The Chicago Fire were coming hot from New York after defeating the Red Bulls and were anticipating to trounce the reigning MLS Cup Champions, Toronto FC. Just 48 hours prior to this match, Toronto lost their final game against Las Chivas de Guadalajara in Mexico for the CONCACAF Champions League title. Seeing that the Fire was on a weeks rest, it was apparent that they were going to take advantage and try to win another 3 points on the road.

VAR

The first half was dominated by close calls that led to 3 separate occasions where Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used. The first time was in the 8th minute when Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio scored the go-ahead goal. The reason VAR was used was because Sebastian Giovinco was offside when he passed the ball to his teammate Osorio.

Despite using VAR, the referee made the incorrect call, the goal stands, and Toronto is up 1-0 early in the game. 3 minutes later, VAR was used once more to rule out a second Toronto goal- this time Giovinco put the ball in the net and was assisted by Nicolas Hasler who was ruled offside on the initial playthrough.

But in the 22nd minute, Victor Vazquez scored Toronto’s second goal with an assist by Michael Bradley. The third and final time VAR was used was in the 36th minute when Chicago Fire’s Nemanja Nikolić was hurt inside the box by Toronto defender, Ashtone Morgan-the call was ruled a penalty, which Bastian Schweinsteiger took and missed. The Fire is down 2 goals at the half.

Eye of the Schweinsteiger

In the second half, the Fire did what they do best, which is hustle. Schweinsteiger moved from his spot as defender and took on a midfield position in order to open space and create scoring opportunities. Twenty-five minutes into the second half, Schweinsteiger scored Chicago’s first goal of the match. After pressing Toronto, the Fire equalized the score in stoppage time. Schweinsteiger and Johan Kappelholf assisted Alan Gordon who scored the final goal of the match.

The Fire return home next Saturday, May 5 against Atlanta United at 7:30 PM CST.

Featured image of Sanchez courtesy: @ChicagoFire

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