Category Archives: Team Updates

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MNUFC’s Three-Year Plan Gets More Puzzling with Open Cup Loss

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Imagine spending more than two years searching for and fitting together all the edge and corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Halfway through that third year you still need one or two more pieces, but the frame is coming together. More and more people have been asking you what the final picture is, but you either can’t or won’t tell them, saying only that the little pictures change the game. You’re gathering little clusters here and there, snapshots you can piece together and show off at big gatherings. You’ve given them glimpses, little hints about the final product, especially one particular section. 

Then one night, with everyone watching and waiting anxiously to see a completed section of your puzzle – the part they have been eyeing for the better part of a year – you approach the table, hesitate for a moment with your hands over that beautifully progressing section and… You shove it to the side and start fumbling with loose pieces in the opposite corner while a whole party of of supporters and skeptics looks on.

That is what Adrian Heath did with his United squad on Tuesday.

An Open Cup Final berth was billed as a cornerstone to Heath’s Three Year Plan from the outset in 2017. Open Cup and playoffs, Open Cup and playoffs, Open Cup and playoffs: The buzz words used by Heath & Co as they settled into each MLS season. The third time was the charm for an Open Cup berth and fans – even the most fervent pessimists – could not be faulted for going into the final in Atlanta expecting to see a lineup and formation akin to those laid out for the preceding matches.

Heath has stuck to his favored 4-2-3-1 to start nearly every match in 2019, reverting to a 4-3-3 only when absences dictated it and even then, only for short periods of time. He also held back his favored starters for two important league matches, presumably resting them for the final. So when MNUFC posted a 4-3-3 and a Starting XI that was largely untested in that shape, well – The only thing we know to expect is a surprise and this was no different.

Rookies Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson have performed well for the last couple months, often appearing mature beyond their years, especially when played alongside veterans like Michael Boxall, Ike Opara and Ozzie Alonso. Mason Toye, despite disciplinary issues, has reaped the rewards of having a USL affiliate nearby, finally breaking out of his second-year rookie slump; and newcomer Robin Lod has shown promise in his very short time here, when slotted in for short periods with perennial starters who needed someone to light a fire under their feet. 

Despite all of that, expecting these players to hold off and break down a hot-running Atlanta side, in an unfriendly environment (Say what you will about the NFL, but they got one thing right in setting single-elimination style finals at neutral sites.), was incredibly unfair, especially given the blood, sweat and tears they gave to get there.

Midfield turnovers and final-third panic were, per usual, the Loons’ downfall in Atlanta. Opening the scoring with an own goal didn’t do much to settle the nerves of the defense (In all fairness to Gasper, that ball took an odd bounce and Minnesota veterans have been credited with even uglier own goals off of even poorer decisions.), but completing their own scoring opportunities could have wiped that moment clean from the Loons’ collective conscience. Had Minnesota managed to level the score and bounce back for the win, there is a good chance Man of the Match honors would still have gone to a player on the backline.

While Opara and Boxall (especially Boxall) took flack on Twitter for whiffing on some sitters that could have won the game, the defenders played their roles well in the second half, holding Atlanta goalless on one counter attack after another. Vito Mannone also came up huge, giving up only one goal to Atlanta (and one, of course, to Gasper) despite seeing too much of Josef Martinez.

What a juxtaposition this night was to the two teams’ first meeting back in 2017. On that bitterly cold and snowy afternoon, Minnesota’s defense couldn’t buy a break, losing their home opener 6-1. On Tuesday night, Minnesota lived and died by its defense, holding Atlanta to one goal and then having the best opportunities to score at the other end of the pitch.

While Heath shuffles the midfield and attack – a carousel of MLS rookies and veterans, internationals and hometown favorites – he would do well to leave the back four intact. And not let them beat themselves up for not doing the job on the other end of the pitch, too.

Featured image: MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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LAFC concludes Rivalry Week with 3-3 Draw at home against the Galaxy

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The rivalry continues.

The Los Angeles Football Club and LA Galaxy battled to a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday night. Despite, coming back from a two-goal deficit, LAFC remains winless against its rival.

The Galaxy struck first just two minutes after the whistle when Cristian Pavon found Zlatan on a run across the box. Ibrahimovic calmly slotted a left-footed finish inside the near post beating Tyler Miller for the opening goal.

In the 12th minute, Steven Beitashour lobbed a cross towards the far post. Diego Rossi headed it back across the goal and out of reach of the keeper for Latif Blessing to send the header home for the equalizer.

However, the Galaxy cut celebrations short by quickly responding with back-to-back goals. Ibrahimovic doubled the score on a breakaway set up by Efrain Alvarez in the 15th minute; before Pavon struck for the Galaxy’s third just one minute after that to cap off the wild start to the match.

Blessing got the last laugh during stoppage time when he collected a deflection off a Galaxy defender, rounded Bingham and lightly taps the ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the evening – cutting the deficit to one goal going in the half 3-2.

But the madness did not stop there.

Shortly after the restart whistle, Mark-Anthony Kaye set up a shot for himself outside the box but then passed the ball to Carlos Vela on the wing. Vela led Bingham off his line to slot home his 27th career goal inside the far post to level the match 3-3.

Shortly after his heroic goal, the captain was substituted out in the 61st minute due to a possible right hamstring injury. Visibly upset by the decision – Vela threw down his captain’s armband. However, he was seen going back and forth from the bench to the sidelines to help coach the team – a move we saw him do in Houston this past July.

The new designated player Brian Rodriguez replaced the captain to make his club debut. Defender Jordan Harvey wore the captain’s armband. And Josh Perez, who scored his first goal against San Jose entered for Rossi in the 86th minute. Bradley never used his third final substitution.

Rodriguez quickly went straight after Galaxy’s right back Rolf Feltscher and put the backline under pressure from inside 25 yards, fired the shot straight at the net. But Bingham was there to catch it.

Despite needing to get more familiar with Bradley’s system, in just 30 minutes, the young Uruguayan displayed how comfortable he is with his teammates and looks to be promising for future matches.

LAFC dominated with 65% possession and shot advantage for the final moments of the match, but were unable to find the winning goal.

Walking away with a hard-fought point, the LAFC will continue the race for the Supporters’ Shield on Sunday, September 1 as they host 5th place, Minnesota United.

Featured Image:  Daisy Jimenez

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sounders Rule as Cascadia Cup Champions after 2-1 Win at Portland

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

This is the season of 2-1 defeats for both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. The two teams traded defeats at home this year with Portland taking a 2-1 victory in Seattle and the Sounders grabbing a 2-1 win at Providence Park on Friday. Seattle hoisted the Cascadia Cup trophy in back-to-back seasons after the victory and, most importantly, grabbed a much needed 3 points to remain in playoff contention.

The first half contained a few moments of offensive and defensive highlights from both teams, but nothing as impactful as the show both teams’ supporters groups displayed. For the first 33 minutes of the match, neither supporter group waved flags, sang songs, yelled chants or performed their respective duties as the Timbers Army or Emerald City Supporters and Gorilla FC.

The stadium, usually tightly packed with sound, was still for those 33 minutes. The television commentators had a tough time navigating the silence and, honestly, the players seemed put off as well. However, both teams came together at the start of the match to show support for the message the fans were intending to send to the league. The picture of both teams together is one that I never thought I’d see, but the photo sends a powerful message that two utter rivals can put their dislike aside for the message of anti-fascism and anti-racist.

Photo cred: Jill Peck
Photo cred: Jill Peck

MLS Commissioner, Dan Garber, was in attendance for the match, which may or may not have impacted the display shown by both groups. However, the response the league has shown towards the anti-fascist and anti-racist cry from supporters groups across MLS has been disappointing. A silent protest by two of the most prominent, most vocal supporters groups in what has consistently been voted and considered the biggest rivalry in MLS sends a strong message that hate will not be tolerated in this beautiful game, whether in the stands or on the field.

The match itself had the usual amount of ticky-tack fouls, offensive aggression, and defensive prowess this rivalry has become known for. The Sounders opened the scoring in the 22nd minute after Cristian Roldan thundered home a rebounded deflection from a Jordan Morris cross. Morris spent most of the game running circles around Portland’s Zarek Valentin down the left wing.

Photo cred: Jill Peck

The Timbers were quick to push back after the opening goal, testing centerback-pairing Xavier Arreaga and Kim Kee-hee with many offensive chances. Kee-hee and Arreaga stood strong, the latter committing so hard to the proper shirt tuck that fans are slowly starting to embrace the trend after his stellar showing against the powerful Portland offense.

Photo cred: Jill Peck

Although Jordan Morris appeared to pick up a knock late in the first half and seemed unlikely to continue, he and the rest of the Rave Green came out blazing in the second 45. In the 47th minute, Morris again drove past Valentin and sent a pin-point pass in to Raul Ruidiaz, who converted from 8 yards out.

Photo cred: Jill Peck

The Timbers pulled one back in the 54th minute when Diego Valeri’s free-kick took a deflection in to the back of Seattle’s net. The rest of the game showed chances for both teams, but after the full 90 minutes and SEVEN additional stoppage time minutes, the score held 2-1 in favor of Seattle. With the Western Conference standings tighter than they’ve been in years, every point counts and these were 3 huge points Seattle desperately needed to take home with them.

Photo cred: Jill Peck

The Sounders will face Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy at home next Sunday at 3:30 PM for another important Western Conference battle. The Sounders are hoping to snap a home winless streak, the longest in franchise history, against the high-powered, Carson-based LA team. It has been reported that both Brad Smith and Victor Rodriguez should be available for selection, providing Seattle with a true first team selection since May.

Featured image: @SoundersFC 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

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Hudson River Derby Part Deux: NYCFC best the NY Red Bulls 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It was NYCFC’s turn to host their regional rival, the New York Red Bulls, during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.  NYCFC had been on a winning streak, beating both FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC in a congested schedule.  

Although City walked onto the pitch with confidence and spring in their step, everything positive was quickly deflated in the the first few minutes.  The predicted runaway train pace of Red Bulls instantly threw a wrench into NYCFC’s plan of tight possession.

Coach Doménec Torrent has been consistent in his post match talks about the type of game that he wants the team to play, and that plan leaves no room for long balls leading to counter attacks.  

In the first 25 minutes of the match, much of the New York City squad looked like deer caught in the headlights of the incoming Red Bulls high, hard, and fast press.  Every attempt to string together an attacking sequence met by Red Bulls pressure was cut short, sent long and then the counter-attacking hounds were released.

Alex Muyl, who seems to have taken over the ‘lead bad guy with the bad mustache’ role from Sacha Kljesten, put one past Sean Johnson in the 10th minute off a pass by “Kaku” Romero Gamarra.  It was increasingly frustrating to watch.

Then something happened, and I don’t know what “it” was exactly, but NYCFC seemed to remember that they were a good team and trained for this.  

The passing sequences were tight and met by RBNY pressure but City seemed to relax and make calm and smart decisions.  Players remembered to make runs and do crazy things like get open.  Once the offensive spigot opened, NYCFC continued for another good 30 minutes, resulting in a successful PK converted by Maxi Moralez just before half time, and later, a fiery finish off a back heel by Héber in the 53rd minute.  

Forward Alexandru Mitrita must be back to full fitness as he oozed speed, accuracy,  vision, and creativity in generating attacking chances. The score could have been much higher for City, had the goal posts and crossbar not gotten in the way at least three times.  Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles also made some unbelievable saves.

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The last twenty minutes probably caused many a nail biter, as a revert to old habits with the Red Bulls piercing the midfield and generating attacks were eventually destroyed by either Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot, or Anton Tinnerholm.  

Of course  an altercation was inevitable given the heightened emotions of the match. This time is was between Ronald Matarrita, who came into the game with a yellow card and Red Bulls Michael Murillo.  Although Murillo started the head butting sequence, it was solely Matarrita who was caught and booked, leaving NYCFC to play with 10 men in the last 4 minutes of the match.  Fortunately, RBNY were unable to level the game.

Next Saturday (August 31st) NYCFC will now have to face Vancouver Whitecaps, their farthest geographic opponent, without key player Matarrita on the squad. After that schlep, the team will be back home for three consecutive games facing New England, Toronto, and San Jose.

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Oh and by the way, New York is blue.

All images are by  Tisha Gale // Twitter: @TishaGale // Instagram: @tishagale15

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC’s late winner over Minnesota United keeps playoff hopes alive

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After suffering through an injury-ridden beginning of the season, it seems Sporting Kansas City have finally found their drive again. Erik Hurtado’s late game-winner led the team to a 1-0 victory over Minnesota United on Thursday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

The 28-year-old’s strike helped Sporting KC preserve their perfect home record against the Loons (5-0-0 in all competitions) and denied Minnesota the opportunity to solidify their hold on second place in the West.

In a possession dominated match, the home side unleashed a total of 22 shot attempts that forced Minnesota’s goalkeeper Vito Mannone into five saves.

In response, Minnesota also forced a spry Tim Melia to make five saves that night. The Loons came close to the opening goal in the 33rd minute when Melia had to make a double save, first parrying aside Hassani Dotson’s shot from distance, then springing to his feet quickly to block Mason Toye’s rebound to keep the game scoreless.

Four minutes later, Graham Zusi challenged Mannone, who pushed his attempt over the crossbar for a corner kick.

KC favorite, Ike Opara made his highly anticipated return to Children’s Mercy Park after a six-year stint with Sporting KC. His presence did not go unnoticed, as he recorded two of the Loon’s 12 shot attempts.

Sporting KC produced several good scoring opportunities but had trouble converting them throughout the second half. IIie Sanchez and Gerso Fernandes entered the match just three minutes apart and made an immediate impact.

In the 88th minute, Johnny Russell’s through ball helped Hurtado finally breakthrough from a tight angle beating the keeper to score the game winner – leading Sporting KC to their second straight win.

With a new sense of energy, Sporting KC will host longtime Western Conference rivals, Houston Dynamo on Saturday, August 31st.

Featured image: Sporting KC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Houston Dynamo – Big Changes, Big Comebacks, and the Big Picture

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

 Since the Houston Dynamo played the Colorado Rapids at home last week, I have written, rewritten, scrapped, and started over on this article more times than I can remember.

It has been a whirlwind week, and I’ve struggled with how to communicate my ideas on the match as well as the state of the club. I’ve gathered some thoughts, so I’ll get this article written before something else monumental happens! 

Just four days before the Rapids came to Houston, the Dynamo front office announced that the club had parted ways with Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera. Cabrera’s time with the club was definitely Dickensian – both the best and worst of times.

While we brought home our first US Open Cup in 2018 and started the 2019 season with the best early showing in the club’s history, struggles also permeated his tenure with the failure to make the playoffs while on that Open Cup run and a steep drop in performance after the banner 2019 start. In short, Cabrera’s willingness to gamble in high stakes moments sometimes paid off, but his unwillingness to fold a losing hand cost the club – often more than they could afford. 

The Dynamo named David Arnaud as interim coach – a familiar face from the assistant coaching staff since 2017. Arnaud is no stranger to MLS as he just transitioned from player to coaching staff with D.C. United in 2016. He came back home to Texas the following year to join the Dynamo staff. As I said on Twitter this week:

With just a couple of days of training together, Arnaud led Houston against Colorado at home on Saturday. After struggling defensively in the first half and passing two easy goals to the Rapids, the Dynamo came back in the second half and tied it up, finishing the match 2-2.

While the team only earned a point, it was an important one. Houston showing fans they can regroup at the half, update tactics, and return with a different level of play is something that has been lacking. While the organization still has a lot of making up to do with fans, the results of the first match in this new era added more hope than fear to the relationship. 

With the playoff line rising further out of reach for the Dynamo, fans begin to determine their place with the club at this point in the season. It’s easy to love a team that wins more than they lose and cities love to tout hardware brought home by their teams. But fans that love their teams regardless of their results and cities that support clubs beyond their ability to win trophies are what make real stories.

Just ahead of their Rivalry Week match up in Frisco against FC Dallas, the Houston Dynamo took the time to meet with their season ticket holders at a private event on Wednesday.

My stepson plays skiball with Adam Lundkvist, I get a photo with some of my guys, and get a selfie with Interim Head Coach David Arnaud.

Meeting players, coaches, and staff outside of the stadium is awesome. Maybe it’s the soccer mom that exists at my core, but I love these guys and I appreciate their efforts. And my Dynamo staff keep the place running so that I can continue to support week in and week out. I take that support on the road to FC Dallas this Sunday as we fight to return El Capitan home

Featured image:  @lesliecphotos

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

LAFC kicks off Rivalry Week with 4-0 win over San Jose

Official LAFC Reporter

fBy Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club is closing in to win their first-ever Supporters’ Shield thanks to goals from Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, and Josh Perez. Together, they have kept the club atop of the standings and undefeated at home, most recently in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Despite having an excellent outcome, the match did not kick off to a strong start as poor passing from the home team led the Quakes to the door of LAFC’s goal. Fortunately, the shot went wide.

A breakthrough came just six minutes in with Rossi getting the early lead off the rebound. Eduard Atuesta sent a through ball from the midfield, landing to Perez. Perez one-timed a curled shot towards the far post that was saved, but Rossi was there to bury it.

The nightmare began for the visitors as LAFC was awarded the penalty after Anibal Godoy blocked Lee Nguyen’s shot with his hand and was called for a handball. Carlos Vela stepped up to convert, and score his 25th career goal, after VAR confirmed the penalty. 

In the 37th minute, Vako went to score at close range, but Jordan Harvey made a diving save in front of Miller to deny the Quakes’ player.

And then… insanity broke out.

If the match wasn’t already crazy enough, the Quakes’ head coach, Matias Almeyda, was visibly distraught as the referee rejected his request to review the play – alleging Harvey committed a hand ball. A similar call awarded LAFC a penalty moments earlier. Kevin Stott ultimately ejected both Almeyda and his translator. After four minutes of protesting, the coach agreed to leave, but not without stopping to yell back at a fan.

In the midst of the spectacle the sidelines, the captain put LAFC up 3-0 in the 41st minute, scoring his 26th career goal.

While LAFC was busy running up the score, San Jose did produce an equal amount of opportunities and Miller came up huge every time.

Early in the second half, Cristian Espinoza found space on the right side of the box and lasered a shot near the post that was firmly blocked out by Miller.

Wearing a protective mask, Mohamed El-Munir came on to replace Harvey in the 62nd minute to make his first appearance since suffering a facial fracture on July 19. The next minute, Adama Diomande subbed on for Rossi. 

The Quakes desperately continued to try to get on the scoreboard but the New Jersey native kept them at bay. Miller made a fingertip save on a Quakes’ shot that clanked off the post in the 78th minute. Guram Kashia pounced on the bouncing rebound but put it over the net for a goal kick.

Josh Perez had a total of five chances throughout the match, and his moment finally came in the 80th minute when the 21-year-old scored his first ever goal for the club off a pass from Mark-Anthony Kaye.

Diomande scored late into stoppage time but the ref called him for a foul and took back the goal. Despite the call, the Black-and-Gold secured another three points, putting them up to a total of 61 points.

The win, without a doubt, gave LAFC even more confidence before they host the LA Galaxy in the second edition of this year’s El Tráfico on Sunday.

Just like how fans were chanting, “We want Carson!” following the win, LAFC is presumably ready with a lineup at full strength. But, is it enough beat Zlatan’s mental antics?

Featured Image: LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Rivalry Week: Sporting KC hosts the friendliest rivalry in the Midwest

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Where: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS.

When: Thursday, August 22th, 8:30 p.m. CT.

How to watch: ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes, 810 WHB, ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM

Every point matters. And Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United are not taking the match tomorrow likely.

For the better part of the last decade, Sporting KC has been the team to watch in the Western Conference. Minnesota United has struggled to get out of the bottom places for the first two years of their existence.

This year, the tables have turned for these two Midwestern teams. Sitting in second place with 42 points in a tight race, the Loons will be looking to secure their first-ever playoff qualification, in addition to hosting a playoff game at Allianz Field.

SKC’s turbulent season has been frustrating for both the players and fans. Still stuck in alternating positions below the line and with nine games left, SKC is desperate to keep their streak of eight straight postseason appearances alive.

Both teams will meet for the first time in league play this Thursday for the “friendliest rivalry” in MLS after the Loons eliminated Sporting KC from Round 4 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup earlier this year.

The match will also serve as reunion when SKC favorite, Ike Opara returns to CMP. Despite wearing the wrong jersey – Opara continues to be a dominant defender and has been critical in guiding the Loons.

To help get a better insight on the Loons and their club history, I interviewed my colleague at MLSFemale and Minnesota United reporter, Bridget McDowell.

Araceli Villanueva: Minnesota United struggled for their first two years of existence. Now sitting in second place, how do you think they’ve been able to turn things around this season and can they keep up the momentum with playoffs just around the corner?

Bridget McDowell: Minnesota has finally started to build an identity and team chemistry. The new veterans (Ike Opara, Ozzie Alonso, Lawrence Olum) have added a new level of accountability (something which was building last season, but often dropped off with each poor result). Their guidance has led the squad away from the in-fighting seen often in ’17 and ’18 and towards a more positive approach.

Players may show frustration, but typically discuss what led to a mistake and help one another improve. I’ve seen quite a few post-match discussions in the locker room, with players huddled around phones watching a replay or getting a teammate’s perspective on an error. The rookies are also upping the standard and pushing the whole squad to work harder.

Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson bring fresh attitudes and their work ethic and adaptability seems to be pushing the others. These players have all been key pieces in the gutsy, gritty victories (and draws) that have landed Minnesota in 2nd.

AV: Thursday’s matchup has been dubbed the “Friendliest Rivalry” for this week. What is your take on the title?

BM: Minnesota Soccer Twitter got a kick out of [Sporting KC’s] tailgate video in which fans shared their views of United fans. “Oh yeah, those guys” and “they’ve got a nice place up there” is a taste of the neutral rivalry this has become. United has drawn Sporting as a USOC opponent since the NASL days so when that trend continued as Minnesota moved into the same league, the same conference, as Kansas City. It’s kind of a forced rivalry. I think it’s become a parody rivalry of sorts.

The first face-off I witnessed was the 2016 USOC match played in Blaine. I stood with the supporters who were screaming at the ref, banging on the boards and frustrated to tears with the result. Sporting’s first visit to TCF Stadium in 2017 served as the bitter rematch. Minnesota got revenge despite GK Bobby Shuttleworth having his nose broken by Dom Dwyer. By the time that USOC draw came around, United fans could only say, “Those guys again?” I’ve talked with many United fans considered SKC their MLS club before MNUFC made the jump. With similar histories, it’s a team and fan base we look up to and a match-up we circle on our calendars every year. If the league is going to call that a rivalry, we may as well have a little fun with it. But if MLS really wanted to invest in this ‘rivalry’, it would pitch in a little money to speed up the endless construction on I-35.

AV: Kevin Molino and Darwin Quintero are a few players that stood out from the last match against the Rapids. Do you think this duo could deliver similar results again on Thursday? Or which players should Sporting KC fans should be cautious of?

BM: They stood out against the Rapids, but not so much against Orlando when they played again at Allianz on Saturday. Molino and Quintero are definitely a strong attacking partnership.

New [young designated player] Thomas Chacon could shake that up on Thursday, though it is not clear how involved he will be. (MNUFC has said he will travel, but haven’t said in what capacity. He’s a likely sub though, with Angelo Rodriguez injured.)

SKC fans should know exactly who to be cautious of: Ike Opara. Many soccer writers and pundits have pointed out recently that SKC has yet to fill the gap left by Opara, leaving that defense uncharacteristically weak while Minnesota’s has been uncharacteristically strong. Opara is a clear leader in this squad so his return appearance will be motivation to win, maybe more so than the ‘rivalry’ atmosphere. Other players? Gasper, Jan Gregus and Ethan Finlay are all on every opponent’s radar each week; this one will be no different.

Bonus question: What is your score prediction?

2-1 Loons. Luck has played a distinct role in Minnesota’s recent successes. That, combined with a struggling SKC defense and an eager Opara, will drive United’s attack, but – true to the “Nicest Rivalry” moniker – it won’t be a complete blowout.

Featured image: Andy Witchger

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

NYCFC cuts off the Columbus Crew 1-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club faced off against an inconsistent Columbus Crew and managed to pull out a win.  As I’ve said recently, I was nervous about how this game would play out. As low on the table as Columbus sits, they have recently taken down good teams on the road, such as during their match with the New York Red Bulls.

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The Good

Defenders Alex Callens and Anton Tinnerholm returned to the lineup from minor injuries.  The first half was smooth sailing for NYCFC as they maintained tight possession in the middle and attacking third –  70% possession in fact.  

The attacking partnership of Héber and Taty Castellanos looked strong with both attempting through balls and diagonal runs in or around the box. Sometimes the passes were a hair off, but it looks like they are getting more and more in sync each game.  Castellanos also continued his goal scoring run by putting one in off a pass by Maxi Moralez in the 36′.  

The NYCFC attack was complemented by the left wing runs of Ronald Matarrita, which opened up space in the middle.  It must be noted that the eternally peppy Mata will attempt to chase down any and all passes.  In this match, his aerial crosses were not necessarily hitting their target, but they worked to scramble the Crew’s defense in front of the goal.  Columbus Crew’s goalkeeper Eloy Room worked very hard in the first half to keep it to one goal allowed.

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The Bad

The immediate reaction after the match was that NYCFC played terribly in the second half.  The main difference was Pedro Santos being subbed into the game for the Crew.  He played on another level from the rest of the fielded Crew team last night and is incredibly hard to predict and defend.  

Santos’ bursts of speed and runs into open space set NYC’s defense on their heels causing the team to lose patience with their tried and true plan of tight possession which had been set forth by head coach Dome Torrent .  Once Santos entered the equation, the team seemed to get impatient and would send long balls or crosses too soon and then were quickly needing to deal with the ensuing counter attacks.

A bit more good, though

With James Sands out for 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone and Ebenezer Ofori out with a knee injury , Tony Rocha started at midfield and looked like he’s been drinking the Dome Kool-Aid.  With his short quick passes to and from Maxi while making diagonal runs and his physical defensive pressure, he appears to be settling into the lineup.

Maxime Chanot defended extremely well throughout both halves, while goalkeeper Sean Johnson had to become very active in the second half.   At one point fans were worried about both of them as they  were down and clutching their heads after saving an attempt on goal.  Minutes later, Johnson saved a goal just outside the box with his own head.

So many questions

I can say that home fans breathed a sigh of relief to escape that game with three points.  Next up is a match with regional rival NY Red Bulls on Saturday.  

How will NYCFC deal with the typical RBNY high press?  Will they stay patient and stick to their game plan?  With RBNY’s physical style, will Matarrita start with a yellow card on his back?  Will RBNY be able to start the seemingly injured goalkeeper Luis Robles? Will any of this matter as Red Bulls seem to be the LA Galaxy to NYCFC’s West coast counterpart LAFC?

All photos by Juan Carlos Rubiano // IG: @ohcitysaidi // Twitter: @OhCitySaidI

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Rivalry Week: Red Bulls Hit With Their Best Shot

MLSFemale Social Media Manager
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, August 21: 1-2 Win

Ah. Rivalry Week. We meet again.

With a Long History

For those of you playing at home, you are probably aware that I am relatively new to RBNY (and MLS) fandom. But one of the first things I learned was that when Red Bull fans hear ‘rival,’ they think of D.C. United… the Pigeons are an afterthought. So even though this was the second match of the night, the Red Bulls at Audi Field was the first real rivalry match of the special presentation.

You’re a Real Tough Cookie

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this was going to be chippy. And that doesn’t even factor in Felipe Martins’ return to the East coast. But both teams had to deal with ejections before halftime! Wayne Rooney gave Cristian Casseres, Jr. an elbow to the face, and didn’t even look like he noticed doing it.  Then Amro Tarek took down Paul Arriola and got himself a second yellow card.

Did I see the first yellow card? No. It was a blur. But am I okay with the ejection? Also no.

Let’s Get Down To It

The goal that almost wasn’t. Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra caught onto a ball that Marc Rzatkowski crossed towards Daniel Royer. I know that because when Royer didn’t get the ball, he did his signature ‘facepalm’ thing. But Kaku never gives up– Kaku finds a way!

Sorry… that was too easy.

Fire Away

It wasn’t smooth sailing for New York in the remainder of the match. There was a lot of pressure and missed opportunities.  Then Ola Kamara, a newcomer to D.C. United, hit a shot that was nothing short of amazing. The curve on that ball’s path defied physics and completely avoided goalkeeper Luis Robles.

Knock me Down

I’m a teensy bit biased. So when the referee called a penalty for RBNY, I was cool with it. But the first time I saw the replay, I was taken aback. Did Murillo get tripped, or did he just trip on himself? Then I saw it again… he was tripped by the D.C. defender. He just got an extra step before he went down. Royer converted the kick from the spot, and the Red Bulls were on top again.

Defender Aaron Long took a couple of hits to the head, and Robles was definitely dealing with an issue with his left foot by the end of the game. There is a really short turnaround before the next game, so that is unsettling.

See If I Care

There were five minutes of stoppage in the first half. There were EIGHT minutes added on to the second half. Injuries and wild shots just added to the clock. But finally the whistle blew, and the Red Bulls could leave Audi Field with all three points, not a moment too soon.

The latest Hudson River Derby awaits RBNY at Yankee Stadium. NYCFC also had a midweek win, so it will be a battle of momentum. Let’s see how you do it.

Featured image:  @BillTNJ

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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