Category Archives: Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference

Last Minute Redemption

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

Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, July 5th: 3-2 Win

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I wouldn’t be the reporter I am without my social media presence. Still being relatively new to soccer, I get a lot of context about MLS from the rumblings on Twitter. For example, I learned that the New York Red Bulls (8-8-2, 26 points) don’t usually win on the 4th of July. And that RBNY hasn’t won at Gillette Stadium since 2014. So there was some trepidation on my part going into the game against the New England Revolution (5-9-5, 20 points).

GET WELL SOON: It feels as if the team just got back defender Aurelien Collin and midfielder Mike Grella from injury, and now both are out with injury, with Grella out for the season.

 

PLAY YOUR KIDS: With Grella and Collin out, and defenders Kemar Lawrence and Michael Amir Murillo away on National Team duty (Jamaica and Panama, respectively), RBNY looked to their USL squad to fill out their roster. This resulted in 7 homegrown players available for New York (4 in the starting lineup: Sean Davis, Connor Lade, Aaron Long, and Alex Muyl). RBNY has a solid developmental academy, and the proof is in the lineup. Congratulations to Dan Metzger on his MLS debut.

STAY THE COURSE: What does it benefit RBNY to play against their system just because they’re on the road? The Red Bulls have lacked consistency so far this season, so if that means the team commits to the high press on the road, then that’s how it goes.

BOY THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY: There were three goals in the span of 8 minutes (Teal Bunbury 21′, Bradley Wright-Phillips 23′, Lee Nguyen 27′). Up until the scoring began, the play was so choppy that it was a wonder the ball got anywhere near the net! Going into halftime, the play from the Red Bulls was rooted more in frustration than strategy.

The team ended with 23 fouls and a surprising 4 yellow cards. I have said in the past that if RBNY wants to pull a little of that “Bad News Bears” attitude, I really don’t mind. I’ve met enough of the players to know they’re plenty nice and can go ahead and be a little naughty on the field. The Revolution went hard as well, with 20 fouls of their own, including a foul in the box on Davis that took Daniel Royer to the spot to level the score in the 55th minute.

BIEN TRABAJO: For someone who is 100% Hispanic, my Spanish is not great. But forward Gonzalo Veron is Argentinian, and I’d like to make an effort for him. Veron came onto the field in the 83rd minute to replace BWP and got straight to work. He was everywhere: defense, offense, up and down the field. And then the gorgeous finish on a pass from Felipe in the 90th minute completed the turnaround started by Royer’s converted penalty kick.

Oye, Gonzalo: Me gusto verte trabajar.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?: The transfer window is about to open, and coach Jesse Marsch has already hinted at some changes coming down the pike. I don’t really get excited about this aspect of soccer, because it’s business. I’ve already seen some players come and go, and have to admit that the occasional mercenary can be just as useful as a stalwart mainstay. I’ll take the changes as they come.

The Gold Cup begins Friday, and I’m looking forward to some solid CONCACAF competition. Best of luck to the USMNT and all the MLS players who received call-ups.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

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Carthage, Thy Name Is NYCFC

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, July 5: 3-2 Loss

Ahh, I am sufficiently entertained.

Obviously, New York City FC should have waltzed into BC Place and shaken the Vancouver Whitecaps down for three points. It would’ve been the perfect start to a truly hellish calendar month (no big deal, we’re just staring down the barrel of Toronto… and Chicago… and Toronto again… oh, and the third Hudson River Derby). NYCFC could have taken solace in three road points before the long break.

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, absolutely didn’t.

But it was so fun.

The sort of fun you have at an amateur roller derby match. You go into it knowing you’re going to see people get messy and fight hard, and you’ve resigned yourself to how much you enjoy this particular brand of rowdy garbage. You can justify it to yourself by saying you’re here because everyone shows so much passion and heart, but at the end of the day you’re here for the carnage, and it’s great.

Aside from a few sparks of brilliance here and there, NYCFC and Vancouver did not play beautiful football on this fine evening. They cracked their knuckles and pummeled one another into submission. After NYCFC conceded within the first three minutes (thanks to a tremendous slip-up from the normally infallible Alex Ring) it was game on. The boys in blue clamored all over one another in the box to score the equalizer, which ended up being credited to Maxime Chanot. All good, right?

No, you fool. This is MLS. It’s never all good. Bring on the controversial referee decisions!

I can’t make myself care about arguing ref calls. Nothing interests me less. Every league and every tournament has its share of awful refereeing, and I just… I don’t care, friends. I’m positive there was a fair amount of argument over NYCFC being awarded a penalty after Tommy McNamara and David Ousted collided, because that’s how football fans work, but I put on my blinders and saw none of it.

I did see David Villa convert his penalty to put NYCFC ahead before the break. I also saw the rising tensions and fighting, at which point I went into full raucous hooligan mode and decided I was only in this match for the bloodbath.

The second half saw both teams running each other ragged, but it was Vancouver that capitalized on NYCFC’s embarrassment of missed chances. After their equalizer (which I missed, due to jamming out on an intense air saxophone solo, and I honestly regret nothing) it was only a matter of time until they broke the boys in blue down one last time. Even after Eirik Johansen made a truly stunning save in the 85th minute, they kept knocking at NYCFC’s door until it broke down, and in the dying minutes of the game Vancouver came out on top.

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Image courtesy: @NYCFC

It was a breathless match, and despite the loss, it was some of the most fun I’ve had watching NYCFC this season. Maybe I was just really in the mood for some chaos. Who knows.

In conclusion:

Let’s round things off with just a few random thoughts:

  • How much time do you think Yangel Herrera has spent watching old clips of David Villa at FC Barcelona? I only ask because he did his best Vintage Diving Villa impression during this match. It was comical how hard he went down, how dramatically he clutched at his face after it got… breathed on, at most. I love it. I’m here for it.
  • Alex Ring didn’t have the best match of his life, if we’re being kind. But who cares? Off the pitch, he’s still an angel. He recently posted on Instagram about a girl named Kia who has battled cancer for most of her young life. With no treatment options left, her final dream is to see the Statue of Liberty. Ring reached out to Kia’s family and invited them to be his guest in New York City and to have Kia accompany him at Yankee Stadium. The next day, he updated everyone via his Story that Kia’s family had taken him up on the offer. It’s an incredible gesture that warmed my bitter little coffee bean heart, and I’m so looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.
  • In less emotional news… I long for another Pirlo goal. Please let us have one before he’s gone forever.

Have you subscribed to Blue Balls NYCFC yet? You should! That way you’ll be notified when their next episode goes up, wherein yours truly will be joining Trey Fillmore to look back on this match, then ahead to the game against Toronto on the 19th. Given what a glorious hysterical mess tonight was, it’s bound to be a banger of an episode.

And now we break for the group stage of the Gold Cup. If you, like me, have no particular loyalty to any CONCACAF national team, Elliott Turner‘s Gold Cup guide for neutrals is fantastic. Vamos Curaçao! Why not?

Rest easy before the gauntlet begins again. See you all when Toronto FC comes to town!

Featured image courtesy: Anne-Marie Sorvin

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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Pigeons vs. Loons

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Thursday, June 29: 3-1 Win

Welcome to the Bird Cup!

I love a meaningless barely-rivalry as much as the next person. Why let it be just another match when you could dress it up with a funny name? Why focus on the game when you could be imagining a tiny fat pigeon pecking a loon’s eyes out? Yes, the loon used its trickery and wiles to gain the upper hand at first, but never doubt the tenacity of a pigeon. A pigeon will wait for hours beneath a cafe table just to steal bits of scone. A pigeon will capitalize at the moment you least expect and leave a loon stranded, adrift, hopeless.

It’s been a long month, my friends. This is where I’m at these days.

Semi-related to all of the above, New York City FC took on Minnesota United FC for the first time, one expansion team opening its arms to another. The Loons are definitely still finding their footing in MLS, and they entered Yankee Stadium without a single win on the road. They were hungry to change this from the outset, and two immediate issues arose that led to them taking the lead over the Pigeons:

  1. Sean Johnson, bless his heart, has been called up for the USMNT Gold Cup squad. Knowing that he’ll most likely fill the role of Mr. Not Appearing In This Tournament is a double-edged sword of suck: He’ll be languishing on the bench while NYCFC trudges on without him. More on Eirik Johansen‘s performance later, but the simple fact is that we’ve briefly entered the Johansen Years, and it is rough.
  2. Rónald Matarrita returned from injury and re-injured himself within the first ten minutes. According to post-match reports, he was wearing a boot and on crutches. This shakes up our defense yet again.

Johansen buttered his gloves before the match, bungled a save in the most spectacular of ways and let Minnesota take the lead early on in the first half. Every time the camera panned to him in goal, he looked positively shaken. He managed to pull it together later in the match and made a couple of critical saves (and, yes, one more butterfingers moment that we’re lucky didn’t cost us again) but boy, it was a shaky match at best. Maybe more consistent playing time while Johnson is away will lead to more confidence and consistent performance, but then again, maybe this is just Johansen. We have to find out the hard way.

However, I firmly believe that the way a fanbase treats its goalie when the score is down speaks volumes. While the ribbing over his howler won’t stop any time soon, the NYCFC faithful remained supportive of Johansen while he got his bearing, and for that I’m proud.

The boys in blue didn’t let the early concession affect their mentality and kept their focus. Was the first half still a sloppy mess? Oh, absolutely. But it had heart — and that relentless, persistent pursuit of some semblance of cohesion was what eventually led to Alexander Callens‘ equalizer. The play between Callens and Ben Sweat (who racked up his fourth assist of the season!) was gorgeous and truly not something I would have expected from either of them based on their earlier performances. Patrick Vieira has put his faith in these boys, and they’re paying it back in dividends. It warms my exhausted little heart.

From then on, it was NYCFC’s game to lose. Comebacks in Yankee Stadium seem to be de rigueur now, and while David Villa may not be pleased with that, you won’t see me complaining — I love a good remontada.

C.M. Brandon - New York City FC/mlsfemale

When Rodney Wallace sent in a superb cross, nobody could have predicted that Jack Harrison would go for the low header. But he did, aiming it with perfect precision and bouncing it just past the keeper. NYCFC went full throttle once they had the lead, and it was Villa — who else? — who put it to bed just past the hour mark. He nutmegged, he danced around defenders, he struck the ball with his so-called “weaker” foot, and he scored his 52nd goal for New York City FC. Are you really surprised?

I’m still concerned about our defense and goalkeeper situations, but if NYCFC can keep a good head on their shoulders like they did today, I think we can make it through the summer mostly intact.

And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll spend one brief and shining moment atop the table.

I promise I won’t fall asleep before I give you some random thoughts:

  • Every time I remember Yangel Herrera will be going back to Manchester City after this season, I get so very sad all over again. That kid lives his life in beast mode, and he’s a genuine pleasure to watch. His midfield link-up with Alex Ring? Phenomenal. I could watch it all day. Do you think there’s any chance we can save him from The Clutches Of Pep and sign him permanently?
  • How does Alexander Callens wind down after kicking his team into high gear to secure a decisive win at home? So glad you asked. With some Crash Bandicoot, of course. I told you guys he has my favorite social media presence right now.
  • Oh, we signed the kid! That happened. 16 year old James Sands, who spent preseason traveling with the team, has officially been signed as NYCFC’s first ever homegrown player. This profile on him is incredibly sweet, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the team.
  • PIRLO RETURNED AND IT WAS GOOD.
  • Four consecutive wins! One more win and we set a new record! God that really is kind of sad but also pretty exciting!
  • Ha ha ha we won the derby, ha ha ha New York is blue, ha ha ha I still haven’t been able to watch a replay of that match but I hear it was excellent, ha ha ha!

No fireworks and cookouts for the boys in blue next week; they’ll be in Vancouver, getting ready to extend their winning streak against the Whitecaps. Join me in cautious optimism while luxuriating in this not-quite-three-day-but-eh-close-enough-I-guess weekend!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

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Keeping an Open [Cup] Mind

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

Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, June 28

Open Cup Round of 16: 0-0 draw; 5-3 win in PK shootout

Having been eliminated from the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup competition the past two years—both times by the Philadelphia Union—the New York Red Bulls were looking for vindication. Their form slumping of late, still smarting from the loss against NYCFC, it was up to the boys in red and white to make the third time the charm.

OH BEHAVE

Last year, when Philly was in the process of knocking the Red Bulls out of the Open Cup, Jesse Marsch… didn’t take it well.

As a result, he was suspended for the first game of this year’s competition (a 1-0 victory over NYCFC). This time around, Marsch was more even keeled during the match. However, his patience was wearing thin by Extra Time (well… wasn’t everyone’s?).

STILL NOT A RIVALRY

I said this in my last article about the Union. I don’t care if Philly fans want a rivalry. I don’t care if New York vs Philly is a thing in gridiron football. And baseball. And hockey. The Union is just an opponent that the fans enjoy seeing the boys defeat. That doesn’t make it a rivalry. Don’t ask me again.

SIX AT THE BACK?

You know how they say the best defense is a good offense? Well, Marsch decided to reverse that one. I’m going to bust out terms that I haven’t used for a long time: RBNY played 3 fullbacks and 3 halfbacks. Kemar Lawrence played in front of Damien Perrinelle, doing the kind of work up the channel that Michael Amir Murillo has been doing more recently. When pressed to describe the formation at the press conference following the match, Marsch laughed and replied, “We don’t need to call it anything.” Despite losing central defender Aurelien Collin to an apparent hamstring injury, the substitution of Connor Lade (23’) helped to bolster both the defense and the attack. As Marsch said, “It gets the best out of a lot of different guys.”

NOT GIVING UP MY SHOT

RBNY still have their work cut out for them on the attack. Bradley Wright Phillips was outpaced multiple times while trying to make a run to goal, and nearly every corner captain Sacha Kljestan made went to the head of a Union player instead of a Red Bull. The only saving grace is that the same was true on the other side of the field. Lawrence took advantage of his higher position to try a couple of shots, including a diving header that was an inch too short (26’). RBNY went for a total of 17 shots, the kind of attack that is encouraging going forward.

Let me take a moment to say: I have heard the lamentations of many a fan telling Kljestan to Shoot. The. Dang. Ball. He must’ve done this all season to lull the opposition into a false sense of security, because he was completely unmarked and was able to poke the ball right past McCarthy (42’), his first goal this season. While RBNY was unable to hold the lead (Roland Alberg, 86’), they at least held on through Extra Time to force a penalty shootout.

COOL UNDER PRESSURE

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara was primed to be the lead GK when Luis Robles took the position. He has since made appearances with RBNYII, part of the squad that won the USL trophy in 2016. One might think he would have a wandering eye to other clubs, but his value is clear in RBNY. He made a whopping 7 saves, and managed the hefty defensive line like a starting GK. When it came to the shootout, Marsch assured the team that Meara could handle the pressure: “We knew we had a good goalkeeper.” The cheers when all 5 RBNY penalty shots went in were nothing compared to the eruption of the crowd when Meara saved the shot from Picault.

Sylvana Budesheim - New York Red Bulls/mlsfemale

Now it’s a well-deserved weekend off before heading to Jordan Field at Harvard University to face the New England Revolution in the Open Cup Quarterfinals, but not before a return to MLS play… against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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Mid-Season Catch-Up

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

It’s been a busy few weeks for me and Atlanta United. I’ve lost count of how many games we’ve played in the last three weeks. Losses on the road and wins at home. But the important thing is that we’re currently sitting in 6th in the East, which puts us into the playoff race.

I’m writing this while watching the Miami FC vs ATLUTD US Open Cup game in Miami. I’m hoping to have a final score at the end of this article, but right now it’s 1-1 at the beginning of the second half.

These USOC lineups from coach Tata Martino have been interesting. Lots of the kids who don’t play much on the first team. Brandon Vazquez has been on fire – both in USOC, where he currently has two goals, and in regular season play, where he’s got one goal and an assist. This is a bit of a surprise, considering I didn’t think he did well at all in preseason play. I guess good coaching will do that, though. 🙂

In other news, JOSEF MARTINEZ IS BACK! And with a vengance! He played a full 90 minutes in the first USOC game two weeks ago vs Charleston (our USL affiliate) and scored a goal, but didn’t start in regular season games until this past weekend vs Colorado Rapids. He scored the only goal in that game (with an assist from Vazquez) and celebrated by nearly setting himself on fire.

His first goal in the regular season since coming back came a week and a half ago against Columbus Crew, when he came in as a sub. He stated after the game that he was a little emotional after the goal because he was so happy about getting the goal for all of the fans that were chanting his name before he came on. He may not know this, but so many of the supporters also had all the feels when he scored that goal. I was a little teary-eyed myself.

*USOC Update* – Miami just went up 2-1. On a #(@$*@%# set piece, of course. ATL still needs to work on defending set pieces. Sigh.

Back to the regular season…This month has been particularly rough and it’s not over yet. 2 games per week for 4 weeks. After this USOC game, the boys travel to Columbus to take them on at home and then return home for a 4th of July match vs San Jose Earthquakes. And then we get a break during the Gold Cup, although if we manage to win tonight, we will host the winner of CINvCHI on July 12.

*USOC Update 2* – Atlanta just tied up the game. A PK was awarded to us when Carleton was taken down in the box and Julian Gressel got the shot just under Miami’s keeper.

And there it is – Miami FC just defeated ATLUTD on a goal from Poku – OF COURSE. Poku has a habit of scoring the game winner in USOC games. I saw him do it 3 years ago when he was an Atlanta Silverback vs Real Salt Lake.

Ah well…back to focusing on the regular season, then!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Catching Up

 

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

I’ve been gone for a minute, but life gets busy sometimes, right? Anyway, y’all didn’t miss much. NYCFC came to the ATL and got dished up some revenge in the form of a 3-1 loss, then two losses away at Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire have kept Atlanta United hovering just below the line in the Eastern Conference at 5-6-3 on the season. One thing to note from these games: set pieces have been our downfall. We have got to get better at defending them AND using the opportunity when we get them. NO MORE SHORT CORNERS, PLEASE.

Things are just starting to get a little crazy schedule-wise for the Five Stripes. Last night was ATLUTD’s US Open Cup debut (more on that later), and the next three weeks before the Gold Cup break look like this:

  • Saturday, June 17: home vs Columbus
  • Wednesday, June 21: at DC United
  • Saturday, June 24: home vs Colorado
  • Wednesday, June 28: USOC round 5 at Miami FC
  • Saturday, July 1: at Columbus
  • Tuesday, July 4: home vs San Jose

Throw in a work trip next week for me and I’m exhausted just looking at this. I shouldn’t complain too much, though – this is nothing compared to what September looks like: SEVEN games in 20 days, six of which are home games. That doesn’t include the USOC final, should we make it that far, but an already rescheduled game vs LA Galaxy would have to be re-rescheduled for that. I may be in a coma by October.

In good news, Josef is back!! Martinez went in with about 30 minutes left in the Chicago game last weekend. He managed to make a couple of decent plays, but no goals and nothing spectacular to report. We’re all just SO happy to see him back on the pitch. The bar I was watching the game at got really loud when he stood up to be subbed in.

Wednesday night was ATLUTD’s US Open Cup debut vs their USL affiliate, the Charleston Battery – and what a night it was. The players were announced and had just lined up on the field for the national anthem when the game was delayed because of lightning in the area. A two hour and 42 minute delay later, it was game on.

The lineup was mostly Atlanta’s B team, with a few regular starters (Larentowicz, Almiron and Martinez).

Charleston did not come to Atlanta to lose. They played like it was a playoff game, even without a couple of their usual starters (including Romario Williams, who is on loan to the Battery from ATLUTD, but was called up to the Jamaican national team). Charleston went up early on a goal headed in by Forrest Lasso on a long throw in. ATL answered in the 30th minute with Kevin Kratz scoring his first ATLUTD goal. Charleston went up again just minutes after the ATL goal and almost got to 3-1 when a PK was called, but Woodbine skied the ball over the goal into the supporters crowd.

Down 1-2 at the half, coach Tata Martino was not happy, and he made a couple of subs at the half. Mikey Ambrose came in for Miles Robinson and Julian Gressel came in for Zach Loyd. Three minutes into the second half, we knew for sure Josef was back when he was sent a cross by Brandon Vazquez and headed it into the net. The go ahead goal was knocked in by Vazquez on a cross from Ambrose.

This morning we found out that Atlanta will travel to Miami in a couple of weeks to take on Miami FC – who currently field former Atlanta Silverbacks players Jaime Chavez and Kwandwo Poku. Poku is an ATL fan favorite because of his heroics in the 2014 USOC tournament that let the Silverbacks to the quarterfinals where they lost at home to Chicago. Also, Miami FC defeated Orlando City SC, and I may laugh about that one for a long time – especially if we win vs Miami later this month.

A few random tidbits from the last few weeks:

  • Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin traveled with the U-17s to Argentina for a friendly earlier this month.
  • Lagos Kunga played for the U-20s in the U-20 World Cup in South Korea; he did pretty well, from what I’ve read – including this goal.
  • Kenwyne Jones was called up to the Trinidad & Tobago National team for their WCQs and was injured during warmups for their game earlier this week. :/
  • Atlanta United announced this week that this weekend’s game vs Columbus is the sixth sellout this season (but soccer won’t do well in Atlanta, right?).
  • It was also announced this week that we won’t get Brad Guzan in town permanently until after the Gold Cup in July. Jury is still out on whether he will start or not when he gets here. Right now, it’s Alec Kann‘s job to lose, according to Tata.

I need to go rest up for Saturday’s game vs Columbus Crew. I have a feeling it’ll be an interesting one after their USOC loss to FC Cincinnati (30k+ in attendance! Holy cow!) last night. I will leave y’all with this, though – Greg Garza and his wife welcomed their second son into the world today – and who doesn’t love some soccer babies?

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

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Red, White and a Blue Win

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, June 24: 1-0 Win

The weekend victory was punctuated by fireworks over Talen Energy as Philadelphia Union broke their three-match losing streak and missed being the bottom of table by a hair. The line-up changes for the Union brought back Alejandro Bedoya in the midfield and started Giliano Wijnaldum as a left back for the third time in the season (counting the Open Cup game last week.)

It was a slow start to the Metro Rivalry game between Philadelphia and DC United with the first twenty minutes not heralding an advantage to either team. Ian Harkes was given an opportunity to score by ex-Union player Sebastien Le Toux after a corner, but his header was too high. The turnaround in the game came in the 31rst minute by Fafa Picault from a stupendous cross from Bedoya. The play started from the back as Ray Gaddis rescued the ball from becoming a throw in and Bedoya ran ahead to open space on the right.

Alejandro Bedoya in the post-game conference said it was a deliberate cross to the far post as CJ Sapong and Fafa Picault were in position to strike. Picault commented on the volley as something he’s practiced and it certainly paid off as Bill Hamid couldn’t lay a hand on it.

The captain wasn’t the only midfielder in the limelight for Saturday’s headlines as an incident involving Haris Medunjanin and Luciano Acosta got hairy as Sorin Stoica issued Acosta a red card and then rescinded it after Haris spoke against the call.

It would’ve been the second red card against the Union for Acosta, as the last time Philadelphia visited DC, he had garnered the first for a foul on Ilsinho. Medunjanin explained after the game, that he did not feel a kick and told Stoica as much, “I think you need to be honest and I didn’t feel a kick or something, it was just a push.”

Andre Blake was the man of the match as the game’s outcome could’ve looked drastically different in the second half. A penalty kick was given to DC United after Oguchi Onyewu blocked Taylor Kemp’s right-footed shot with his arm. There’s some controversy over the call as there were no other DC men around the ball and Onyewu’s arm was in a natural position, but Blake’s PK save silenced the issue before it could become the Achilles’ heel of the game for the Union.

Another save that rocked the home fans and kept the Union on the winning side came in stoppage time as a header from Lamar Neagle was kept out by Blake’s fingertips. With this game, Andre Blake has tied his career-high shutout matches in a season. It was a bizarre match with questionable decisions from the referee but in the end, rivalry week gave the Union what they needed, which was three points.

For me, personally, I would’ve liked to see more of Marcus Epps, who was subbed in and hasn’t started since the Open Cup game against Harrisburg. He could be a dropped in for Chris Pontius who has yet to find a goal for himself in the season and didn’t have much of an impact on the field this game whether coming from the left or the right wing. CJ Sapong is another attacking player having trouble recently. He scored in the Open Cup game but hasn’t managed to find the net in an MLS game since May against Colorado Rapids.

The players that stood out this match were Andre Blake and Alejandro Bedoya and it’s no surprise that they’ve been called up for the Gold Cup roster as well. Bedoya may not score as often as Philadelphia wanted when they signed him, but he’s been a force on the team. Being captain of the team is no easy feat when you’re losing points left and right, but Bedoya certainly made a difference and led the team to a win with his assist on Picault’s wonder goal.

Blake has been having a couple of tough games previous to this one but we can’t blame the goalkeeper for all of the goals conceded as there is a whole team to get through before the last man standing in the net. Blake has certainly kept his consistency through this last run of matches. The losing games could’ve had a larger margin if not for Andre Blake and the work he does. It isn’t always pretty or a showstopper like the ones from this match, but there’s a reason he was the All Star pick last year and up for ESPY best MLS player this year.

The last of the three-game home stand for Philadelphia Union will be against New England Revolution on July 2nd, but before that, they have another clash with the Red Bulls in NY for the Open Cup on Wednesday. The Red Bulls soundly defeated Philadelphia at home the last time they met. Let’s hope the Union is better prepared and get some payback this time.

Fafa’s goal and Blake’s save are up for goal/save of the week! Go vote for them before it’s too late.

Featured image courtesy: Philadelphia Union facebook

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Columbus Crew vs Impact

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, June 24: 4-1 Win

It was a pretty night both weather and win-wise in Crew-ville Saturday night as Columbus Crew SC defeated the Montreal Impact 4-1. 

My regular Crew SC partner in crime was traveling, so I brought a friend with me who used to have her own season ticket before moving away.  She hasn’t been to a game in several years.  So, it was fun listening to her take on the team.  During the first half, the two comments she made about the team that stuck out to me were:  “They seem like they play very lackadaisical,” and “Why do they keep playing backward?  They need to attack and go forward.” 

I don’t disagree with her observations.  I frequently think the team comes out too slow and doesn’t move the ball fast enough.  They either start the game without intensity or lose it as the game progresses, which I think has been an issue for them all year.  As for playing out of the back, I tried to explain that it is part of Berhalter’s style of play, but when I tried to describe the benefits of that style of play, I couldn’t.  Gregg has been tweaking his style of play this year and probably needs to continue to do so. 

With this astute assessment, it wasn’t surprising that the first half showed us slipping into the same pattern of play that have plagued us this season.  Pipa sent a beautiful free kick into the net in the 17’.  The team was joyful and confident.  That ended 2 minutes later when Montreal tied it up after a poor give away by Higuain and as Crew SC’s defense scrambled to unsuccessfully shut down Montreal. 

Then, the second half started, and Montreal dominated possession for the first five minutes of the half.  My only thought was, “Oh no, here we go again.”  I was sure we were going to give away a lead turned tie for a loss. 

However, Crew SC proved me wrong.  They held strong until reinforcements arrived in the form of Kekutah Manneh who was subbed into the match in the 69’ for Justin Meram and Adam Jahn who was subbed into the match in the 87’ for Ola Kamara.

Manneh scored his first Crew SC goal in the 70’ that Ola Kamara dead stopped for him right outside the 6’ box, and then Manneh assisted Kamara 2 minutes later.  Then in the 88’, Pipa scored another goal when Zack Steffen sent a long ball that Adam Jahn headed to Higuain. 

These were pretty goals.  This is the kind of attacking soccer that when Crew SC plays, they win.   Let’s hope they continue this kind of attack against Atlanta United this Saturday.

Random Thoughts:

  • I feel like a broken record….  Injury-free Higuain continues to dominate having scored in the last 4 games.  Those lamenting us keeping Higuain at the beginning of the season are probably glad we did now.  Let’s keep the scoring streak going Pipa!
  • As a very biased Finlay fan, I know he hasn’t scored or assisted since the start of the season, but his work rate kept the defense tired and resulted in multiple corner kicks.  He also drew the foul that provided Higuain with the free kick to score Crew SC’s first goal of the game.  His time will come.   
  • I was surprised to see Justin Meram subbed off in the 69’, but I think Montreal limited his match to some degree.  I’m sure they didn’t want another hat trick from Meram like the last time these two teams faced each other this season, and Montreal gave him slightly less room to maneuver.
  • Okay, I need to discuss Jonathan Mensah.  In the 33’, he sent a ball over to Zack Steffen when Zack had a Montreal Impact player nearby unmarked.  It was a big gaffe.  One that made everyone in my section ready to throw in the towel on Mensah.  However after watching the replay, it looked like he was trying to send the ball to Harrison Afful across the field and mishit the ball, which happens from time to time.  However, he seems to go backwards with the ball too often even when he has players forward to pass to.  At the beginning of the season, I figured it was due to adjusting to a new league, team, and system.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Now, I just don’t know.  I’m starting to wonder if the game is getting to him mentally and causing him to make even more mistakes.   I’m starting to become okay with the idea of leaving him on the bench despite his big paycheck.  I look forward to the time next season when Gaston Sauro is healthy, and he can pair with Naess in the back.

Featured image courtesy: Columbus Crew facebook

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Feeling a Little Blue

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, June 24th: 0-2 Loss

When NYCFC (9-5-3, 30 points) began their run in MLS, I was intrigued but not concerned. It was easy for me to wish them well in any game that wasn’t against the New York Red Bulls (7-8-2, 23 points). I had only recently come back to soccer myself, so it wasn’t strange to see a new team and new fans feeling their way around MLS. That season, RBNY went 3 for 3 in what was being dubbed the “the clash of the crosstown rivals.” HOLD THE PHONE.

Rivals? This is a rivalry? The Red Bulls have had a long-standing rivalry with DC United, dating back to the beginning of MLS when the New York/New Jersey Metrostars had to make the trek down I-95 to RFK Stadium. Rivalries are about history, not necessarily proximity. In the three seasons and now 8 games since (in league play), both sides have done a good job of making this a chippy and rousing battle.

CIVILITY IN THE PARK

After seeing the standard—and sometimes harsh—banter between “red” and “blue” fans on social media, I was slightly concerned about what would ensue on the day. What I found was the usual pre-game atmosphere– red and blue jerseys everywhere, games on the BULLevard, and conversation in the beirgarten. NYCFC was given a special tailgating area separate from the parking lots where Red Bull fans congregate. Then it was time to let the game itself do the talking.

LOVE FIGHT PASSION GLORY

At the start of the game, the Red Bulls honored longtime fan Wendy Herm, who lost her battle with a brain tumor. At the team walkout, the starting XI wore tribute t-shirts and armbands, and a moment of silence was observed.

Following the national anthem, the South Ward raised a pride-inspired tifo. The official pride event for RBNY is scheduled for August- but there’s nothing wrong with showing pride any time!

Defensive midfielder Tyler Adams officially graduated HS the same day as the game, but chose the kit & boots over the cap & gown. He played 82 minutes, with one shot on goal. He, like striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, was too easily contained by NYCFC.

A WELL-MATCHED MATCH

Both teams opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, both teams utilized all their subs, and both teams hit double-digit fouls (including 3 yellow cards each: Murillo 11’, Muyl 77’; Lawrence 90+5’; Chanot 20’, McNamara 28’, Ring 84’) RBNY midfielder Felipe, known for suffering a lot of fouls, was cautioned early on for drawing fouls.

NEVER GET TIRED OF CALLING HIM IRONMAN

Goalkeeper Luis Robles, during his 157th straight appearance, put up 4 saves but was not able to keep a clean sheet. His save in the 54th minute that has been nominated for MLS Save of the Week, his third nomination of the season.

CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE

It’s one thing to get scored on by the opponent at home, but it’s a special kind of disappointment to be scored on by the team RBNY has been able to outscore 18-5 over the course of the “rivalry”. But, as coach Jesse Marsch said in the press conference following the game, “you have to give them credit”. The NYC goals (Harrison, 33’; Sweat 65’) were solid, the result of strong possession and attack. The fans, while more a fan of the f-word than this soccer mom would like, had a good showing and were heard chanting “we can’t hear you” following the first goal.

WANING MINUTES, RISING FRUSTRATION

The yellow card for Alex Muyl (77’) for diving was met with bottles and cans being thrown onto the field from the South Ward. I’ve never seen that before, and with the immediate ejections of the perpetrators, I’m confident it will not happen again. The pace of the game grew frantic by RBNY in an effort to save the game, and the substitutions (Gonzalo Veron, Sal Zizzo, and Connor Lade) didn’t calm the team. When the final whistle blew, NYCFC had made New York **slightly** more blue. They’ll only have to do this five more times to really level the rivalry.

Featured image courtesy: New York Red Bulls facebook

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Drop ‘Em Like They’re Hot

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Columbus Crew SC is dropping points like they are too hot to hold.  Some fans are getting restless.  Some are keeping the faith.  Some are just turning off their TVs because their black and gold hearts can’t take it any more. 

Crew SC continued their point-dropping trend in Atlanta this past Saturday.  Dropping a possible point by allowing Atlanta United to score two goals after tying up the game.  Ending the game with a score of 3-1 Atlanta.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch another game where the wheels came off.  Nor could I bring myself to write about it, so I decided to do a brief look back at the season’s point dropping debacles (where we had a lead or a tie and gave it away) and where we are compared to where we could have been. 

–March 4th against Chicago Fire

Crew SC has the lead in the 17’ and loses the lead in the 73’.  They end in a 1-1 tie.  Crew SC gives up 2 points.

–April 29th against NYCFC

Crew SC goes into the lead in the 49’ and gives it away in the 64’.  They lose 3-2.  Crew SC gives up 3 points.

–May 10th against Toronto FC

Crew SC scores in the 28’ and drops the lead in the 81’.  They lose 2-1. Crew SC gives up 3 points.

–June 3rd against Colorado Rapids

Columbus scores in the 61’, and we lost the lead in the 80’.  They lose 2-1. Crew SC gives up 3 points.

–June 17th against Atlanta

Crew SC tied it up in the 26’ and then lost the draw in the 67’.  They lose 3-1. Crew SC gives up a point.

Columbus Crew SC currently sits 6th in the East with 22 points and a game in hand over most teams in the East.  If we gained all the points I listed above instead of dropping them, we would have 12 more points, and we would be at the top of the Eastern Conference with 34 points.  We would also be on the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings.  In reality, I know it isn’t possible to win every one of those games, but even if Crew SC had held on to some points with ties, we would be in a much better position than we are now.

The majority of these give-aways are happening in the 70’ or later.   Is this due to physical or mental fatigue?  Is it the way we are using substitutions?  Is it at this point in the game where we need to be making some tactical shifts? 

I don’t know the answer, but Crew SC better discover it soon if they want to find the magic from the beginning of the season and soothe the hearts of their fans. 

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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