Category Archives: Team Updates

Keeping you updated on soccer news

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Atlanta United

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale
Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter

By Christy Casas // @nkstar9

Saturday, June 3: 3-1 Win

Let’s just start off with a slow clap for those who thought the game was out of town and didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t going. Yea, I am looking at me. Good thing I was able to record the game and watched it with the comfort of rewind to assure my amateur reffing skills are up to par.

Vancouver Whitecaps battled it out at home with Atlanta United, both teams sat at 7th place in their respective conferences, clawing their way into a playoff spot. It’s a long season, but every game is mission critical.

Whitecaps have put in a lot of extra time on the pitch with the beginning of the season bringing the CONCACAF champions league playoffs and recently adding two games, and travel, playing in the Canadian Championship. Now with the time to focus on the MLS, it seems like chemistry and rapport are starting to come together.

Last game came with some major frustration with it being one of those games where the ball just wouldn’t fall. One of those games that was decided with a single blow of a whistle. The goal post was a foe and the force was against us. The silver lining? The ‘Caps came out and they wanted it. Though, sometimes it’s double or nothing and the Caps felt that pressure with an early Atlanta goal.

The Costa Rican captain, Kendall Waston, takes on the task of getting the boys back in the game. Waston has been disciplined, calculated, and uplifting this season, as he steps up from the back to bury one when it was needed most. Scratch that, with the momentum of the first goal, he steps up to bury a second goal in just a 14 minute span. This time off a corner from Cristian Techera.

Going into the second half ‘Caps have a 2-1 lead. But what do you know, it wouldn’t be a Whitecap game without a penalty against us. The whistle while the ball is in your box is enough to paralyze any player, let alone looking up, and seeing the man in the middle pointing to that very distinctive spot just a few feet away from your keeper. It also wouldn’t be a Whitecap game with a little bit of drama. Drama here is defined by a referee calling a penalty, having 22 sweaty angry men surround you, then talking to the linesman, then saying JK JK. It’s all good, let’s forgot about what I just did and all play together in harmony.

The third Whitecap goal was icing on the cake, but also provided a bit of confusion. Did Tim Parker score? Did Fredy Montero score? I can tell you one thing, the Whitecaps scored!

Montero got the credit and Vancouver in all it’s glory got the lift in standing and in spirit.

Until next time, #riseupraincity

Featured image courtesy: @WhitecapsFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nkstar9

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Slumping into the Break

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

Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, June 3rd: 1-0 Loss

MLS. It’s not the league of the road warrior. It’s ridiculously difficult to go into an opponent’s stadium and do well. Going into Stade Saputo, the New York Red Bulls (6-7-2, 20 points) had not won an away game since Opening Weekend (vs expansion team Atlanta United) and haven’t scored away since April 1st (in a 4-1 loss against Houston Dynamo).

The form that sent them to the playoffs, that won them the Supporter’s Shield twice in 3 years, and that fans saw coming back in their two most recent wins at home, is slipping away again. Facing the Montreal Impact (4-4-4, 16 points) didn’t make matters easier. This was the team that ousted RBNY from the playoffs last year, Red Bulls Midfielder Felipe’s former team, and the club that had traded to acquire Chris Duvall from RBNY.

During most of the game, the ball stayed on the right side of the field while the Red Bulls had possession. The problem with that is it kept Kemar Lawrence and Mike Grella out of the mix for most of the match. However, a lot of the responsibility fell to Michael Amir Murillo at RB, and he handled the job well. Considering the perceived instability of the back line, defenders Murillo, Lawrence, Aaron Long, and Damien Perrinelle held up quite well throughout the match. Even when Montreal midfielder Blerim Dzemaili made a goal in the 30th minute, it was not because the back line was sleeping on the throw in. Fortunately, the deflection off Dominic Oduro caused the goal to be called back for an offside play.

Following the match, Captain Sacha Kljestan admitted that the team cannot rely on striker Bradly Wright-Phillips to score all the goals; he and the other attackers have to pull their own weight. He should have pointed that out before the match: Grella attempted some fancy footwork in the 42nd minute, as if he was going to dribble the ball right past Impact GK Evan Bush. Then in the 50th minute, Kljestan himself either whiffed the ball or went for the assist: either way, the ball went wide and was another wasted opportunity. Even Felipe, who drew several fouls and took a few free kicks, couldn’t land the ball in the net.

And then, just what the Red Bulls feared came to fruition: in the 67th minute, the Impact earned a free kick and re-started faster than the Red Bulls thought they would. This allowed Dzemaili to poke the ball straight through to the back of the net. They were caught slow, lost, and behind the run of play.

Coach Jesse Marsch called in the reinforcements (Fred Gulbrandsen in for Sean Davis and Gonzalo Veron for Grella in the 75th minute) and the attack was back on. Had the game been maybe ten minutes longer, RBNY might have had a chance to level it. But then in stoppage time Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier slid off the field and fell into the Montreal bench (they have dugout-style benches very close to the touchline—I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often). While Bernier got up and walked out on his own, the incident killed the run of play and referee Mark Geiger did not add additional time to the three minutes already in place.

The International Break is coming up, and prior USMNT call-ups Luis Robles and Sacha Kljestan are staying home (Murillo has been called for Panama, and Lawrence is expected to be called for Jamaica). This is the time they need to rest and refocus. RBNY is hovering at the red line that dictates who makes the playoffs: while they’ve been there before, it’s not where they belong. They have what it takes to climb the standings. They just need to find it in themselves again.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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They Shaved Paradise

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Saturday, June 3: 2-1 win

New York City FC came up from behind to defeat Philadelphia Union with late game goals by defenders Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens, propelling them to second place in the Eastern Conference.

This pleases me. This pleases all of us.

However, there cannot be too much jubilation. It’s important to remember that this week, NYCFC suffered a tremendous loss.

Cult favorite, club legend, West Nyack’s own Tommy McNamara cut his hair.

If you’re suffering anywhere near as much as I am, I’d like to offer you a brief respite:

(Though TMac did earn his first USMNT call-up after shearing himself, so maybe his hair isn’t the source of his power? No. I refuse to believe this.)

Stay strong, everyone. We’ll all get through this together. See you next week for the U.S. Open Cup!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

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Back in the Game

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Friday, June 2: 2-0 Win

I’ll readily admit to being both testy and trepidacious (read: grumpy and fearful) going into this match. Of course I was grumpy: WHOSE bright idea was it to schedule a Friday 8pm game? Yeah, I know that a later game means that people can probably more easily make it to the match in plenty of time, but holy cow that makes for a long day for some of us. And fearful? Yeah, sure I was.

We had a string of five ties or losses in a row. Not a good look heading into a stretch where we will be missing players on international duty AND getting in a couple of games before our Open Cup match (against Seattle Sounders again, naturally). And let’s be honest, the last time we played San Jose Earthquakes, we were, let’s just say, less than stellar (read: we got our butts handed to us).

On the other hand, our players are pretty much healthy, we were playing at home, and San Jose has not yet managed a win against us at Providence Park. I had my fingers crossed that we could continue THAT streak, at least.

Match Recap

Our lineup was close to the usual starting eleven, with a couple of predictable exceptions. With Darlington Nagbe away on international duty, Dairon Asprilla started in his place on the right wing. This would surely mean a change in the flow of the game: Dairon has pace and is an attacking threat, but he lacks Darlington’s ability to control the ball and make connections. Porter appears to be as tired of the “That’s So Alvas” show as I am, benching right back Alvas Powell again in favor of Zarek Valentin.

We certainly had our share of chances from start to finish. As early as 4′, Vytautas Andriuškevičius had a beautiful cross to Asprilla that gave him a legitimate chance to open the scoring; but his header hit the post and bounced out. Barely two minutes later, we had our second shot at the net, with Davíd Guzmán‘s corner kick finding Roy Miller for a header that was well struck and headed for a score but for a brilliant save by Earthquakes’ keeper David Bingham. Asprilla had another shot at goal around 21′, but he sent it skyward (in Portland, we might say he “Palmered” it; ask around).

Things got interesting after the Earthquakes’ Darwin Cerén got two yellows in quick succession. His first yellow, on a late tackle/shove in the back to Guzmán at 35′, was an unnecessary move and an easy call. The second, a shoulder to Sebastian Blanco as they both went for the ball at 37′, was much less clear cut.  When I watched it live, it looked legitimate; on the replay I’d have to say that Blanco sold it well. (We talk about “professional fouls;” is there such a thing as a “professional sales job?”)

As an elementary school principal who deals with a fair amount of playground discipline, I also have to wonder if Cerén would have had that yellow called if he hadn’t just plowed into Guzmán from behind not two minutes earlier. In any case, that second yellow meant that San Jose would be down a man for the remainder of the match.

At stoppage in the first half, forward Fanendo Adi had a couple of chances to put it away when Blanco headed him the ball. Adi’s header hit the post and bounced out. Adi tried to make the rebound play, but his toe poke was unsuccessful. Bingham scooped it up and we were once again denied.

After the first half, I was pretty frustrated. We were up a man, we had MORE than our share of chances, but had nothing on the scoreboard:

Finally, in the second half, we had something to show for all of that offensive effort. At 50′ Valentin found space in the middle of the field, drove forward, and made a beautiful pass to El Maestro, Diego Valeri on the left. Valeri chested it, ran onto the ball, and drilled in a bank shot off the post and into the back of the net. WHEW.

We had another chance at 60′, when we had numbers on the counter. Asprilla and Blanco both had chances to put it away but didn’t manage the task. Adi AGAIN found the post instead of the back of the net at 94′. Fortunately for us, it was once again Valeri to the rescue, who followed up in the box (you know, like you’re SUPPOSED to do when a teammate takes a shot), cleaned up Adi’s near miss, and put the game away.

It was 2-0 at the death, and the final whistle blew. Thank goodness. Yes, my mood at the end of the second half was considerably better than it was at the end of the first half.

Hot Takes

Decent defense. Yes, I know we played a man up for over half the match; but even before that, keeper Jake Gleeson didn’t have a whole lot to do in front of our goal. Vytas continues to look sharp, protecting the left flank well and delivering crisp crosses. Miller and Liam Ridgewell handled the back well. Ridgewell was even more active than usual this game, pushing up when appropriate and still ably covering his territory.

And Valentin continued to make the case for more play time, making smart plays and contributing a key assist. While it’s clear that Powell has more pace and raw talent than Valentin, Powell’s decision making/giveaways were KILLING us on the right wing. I’m okay with Valentin in that spot, though I worry that a speed burner on his side of the field might make him pay dearly on a quick transition.

The post giveth, and the post taketh away. Yes, we know all about posts here in Portland. And Friday’s post action was nowhere near as dramatic as this. But it was still a pretty impressive collection: Asprilla with a post miss at 4′, Adi with a first half stoppage header post miss, Valeri with the post-and-in goal at 50′, Adi AGAIN hitting the post and missing in stoppage at the second half (with Valeri subsequently putting it away). Hopefully the posts are a bit kinder to us next weekend. Speaking of next weekend:

Our finishing continues to be worrisome. At the beginning of the season, looking at all of that firepower, I was pretty confident we would have a season of high-scoring games–and we did, for a time. But that certainly hasn’t been the case lately. And without Valeri’s finishing, we would still have walked away with only a point to show for our efforts, at home, against a team that was misfiring on offense even before they went a man down.

We have a lot of players who should have been able to put together a string of passes and finish. I love Valeri but he cannot be our only scoring threat. Not sure what the solution is, because Asprilla, Blanco, Adi et al seemed to be making good moves and getting plenty of chances. We just need to be able to count on lots of people being able to actually get the ball into the back of the net.

Off the Pitch

Last week was heartbreaking for the city of Portland.

Two men were killed in a stabbing on a MAX train Friday when they tried to intervene as another man yelled racial slurs at two young women who appeared to be Muslim, including one wearing a hijab, police said.

A third passenger who tried to help was also stabbed, but is expected to survive, said Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

We ache for the slain and injured and for their familes; and team, town, Timbers Army alike were compelled to honor their memory and their bravery. Players wore black armbands for the game. The stadium held a moment of silence before the anthem. And the Timbers Army raised a special tifo remembering the names of the fallen: Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche; and survivor Micah Fletcher. The front banner is a line from a poem that Micah wrote while in the hospital recovering from his wounds:

We have seen both the worst and the best of humanity in stark relief. If I have learned anything from the Timbers Army, it is that even in the worst of times, the best of humanity can also break through. Here’s hoping we continue to find and build on what is best in each of us, on and off the pitch.

Featured image courtesy: Nicole Barker/Timbers Army

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

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The Tale of Two Teams

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Yes, it is the tale of two teams–one who gets outscored 5-0 against a team missing two of its starters, and then another team who wins 3-0 giving their opposition few opportunities.   “Who are these two teams?” one might ask.  And the answer will only surprise those who haven’t watched the team struggle for consistency over the past few seasons, Columbus Crew SC.

On Friday, Columbus Crew SC lost 5-0 to Toronto FC who was missing Giovinco and Altidore.  To be honest, I wasn’t watching.  I was playing a soccer game at the time, so I was following the game’s score on my phone.

As I watched a replay of the game, I didn’t find the first 30 minutes as bad as I thought they would be.  Maybe I was prepared for the worst knowing the final score line already.  Mensah’s foul in the 4’ that led to Vazquez’s putting away a PK was bad–it should have been a red card–and Toronto definitely had a lot of dangerous chances.  However, Crew SC had some chances that they should have finished, which would have resulted in a very different match.

Instead, Toronto’s Justin Morrow streaked down the left side of the field and lasered a ball into the net, and Gregg Berhalter subbed off one of our strongest players, Justin Meram, in the 40’.  Toronto followed this with a goal in the 59’ from Vazquez and two more goals when they were down a man after Marco Delgado was sent off in the 81’. 

Counter this match with the match on Wednesday night against Seattle Sounders where we saw a very different Crew SC team.  Justin Meram and Frederico Higuain continued their fantastic seasons starting in the 10’ when Hector Jimenez slid to get a ball, sent it to Higuain who settled and sent it to the bottom left corner of the net.  Later in the 21’, Justin Meram decided to increase the lead as several Seattle defenders backpedaled as he slotted the ball into the same corner as Higuain.  In the 59’, Meram sent a beautiful pass to Kamara who sent a low shot to the bottom right corner bouncing off the inside of the post careening into the back of the net. 

Zack Steffen made two fantastic saves to keep Crew SC solidly in the lead.  One was a diving save stopping a well-hit shot from Lodeiro in the 57’.  Later, he snagged a charging Fernandez’s shot with his left hand.

Random Thoughts:

  • Crew SC need to get Artur signed and off this loan.  He got sick at halftime during the Seattle game and continued to play.  He is a difference maker and is all over the field.  He needs to be in the black and gold next season too and a few more seasons after that if he continues to play as he has.
  • This team plays better with Ethan Finlay.  He may not be assisting or scoring goals, but he draws defenders and makes dangerous runs. 
  • There were many, many times during this game that I yelled look at Raitala or Finlay.  This team needs to switch the field quicker at times especially when their left back is standing there alone.  Also, Finlay makes these great runs, but they either don’t send him the ball when they should or make the pass too late.
  • Lots of people wanted Gregg fired after the Toronto loss.  I just don’t think that will fix the problems we have.  Gregg is a young coach.  This season, he’s starting to make tactical changes, and he is reflective on his decisions.  I continue to have faith, for now, in his direction for the team.
  • The Seattle game had tons more goals in it.  Kamara had a few more he could have put away. 
  • Having pups on the pitch night at Crew SC may have just brought the team luck.  Should it be a reoccurring event?  I guess it just might depend on our next home match’s result.

So, in the last week, we have seem two very different Crew SC teams.  Maybe, they had to hit the low in Toronto to figure out who they are.  Maybe they thought they were the only ones to defeat Toronto so far this season, so it would be easy to do it again.  But, I like the team that showed up against Seattle.  Let’s hope we see this team again on Saturday against Colorado Rapids.

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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I’m Still Here

Ambrosia Tonkovich - Real Salt Lake/mlsfemale
Official Real Salt Lake Reporter

By Ambrosia Tonkovich // @heyambrosia

Wednesday, May 31: 5-1 Loss

Hey, it’s me again. It’s been a while, I’ve been on vacation. I’ll be honest, I’ve been glad I’ve been vacation. My team has… not been very good. We had a couple of wins, sure. But overall, it’s been pretty bad. This last game was a pretty good indicator of our performance.

I didn’t get a chance to watch this game live. I had made plans to go to a friend’s house ahead of time, and right before I was about to leave the house, I got a lovely notification three minutes into the game: Houston Dynamo 1, Real Salt Lake 0. But that’s not all. It was an own goal. Our very own Justin Schmidt scored an own goal to start what turned into what could be described as an embarrassment against RSL 3 minutes into the game.

I’ll be honest, I’m not the only one to label this game as such. Our very own coach, Mike Petke has said it, our player Tony Beltran has said it… we were a mess. I chose that moment to turn off most of the notifications for the game, head over to my friend’s house, and try to finish the evening in as blissful a bubble as I could. I kept checking my watch anyway, updating my friends (who don’t care since they don’t watch the sport), and slowly sinking more and more into the chair and a depression as time went on.

5-1 was the final score, with Houston dominating over RSL. Am I surprised? No. Is that frustrating? YUP. I’m pretty disappointed with the team’s performance this year. With the coach switch out, the younger players, and the slow but steady return of injured players I’ve been secretly hoping for a better, healthier team.

A couple of wins while I was on vacation kept me in light spirits. I didn’t completely want to get my hopes up, but eh, you win some, you lose some. But holy cow, I just finished watching the game just now and man… I heard ambulances going back and forth during the game and I can only imagine it was to help the obviously burned players off the field at the end of the match. 5-1 is just… painful.

Anyway, I do want to focus on a couple of things. Joao Plata did have a gorgeous free kick. Soared right between two Houston players, right over their shoulders, right into the goal. No one could do anything about it. It was his second goal of the season (I’m sad I wasn’t able to report on the first, he’s been obviously hungry for it), and I’m happy for him.

That was beautiful. The unfortunate part about his play this game though was his defense (or lack thereof) on the second goal that Houston scored. I’m not sure what happened, but there was a weird clearing, like the soccer ball was Moses and RSL players were the sea. Everyone just sort of… stopped. Cleared a path for that ball to go right on in the goal. I watched it a couple of times, and I still don’t get it.

The other thing I want to focus on, well, Matt Van Oekel did have a couple of good saves. Obviously that’s weird to type knowing that the scoreline is 5-1, but he did. It wasn’t just him back there, there is a defensive line for a reason, so he came up strong sometimes when they didn’t, and for that I need to give him props.

So… Anyway. All of this sounds like a big bash to my team. It’s not. Am I disappointed? Yep. For sure. Do I love them any less? Hell no. I’ve loved them for God knows how long. I’m not gonna stop now. Yeah, this is frustrating, but hey, way to help me build some thick skin, RSL. I’m still going to go to games, still going to chant, still going to lose my voice every home game, even when we lose.

Events this match:

3’ Goal (own) Schmidt 1-0

15′  Goal Alex 2-0

45′  Goal M. Manotas 3-0

52′  Goal E. Torres 4-0

54′  Yellow Card Sunny

57′  Yellow Card J. Cabezas

62′  Substitution: Out: M. Manotas In: B. García

63′  Goal Joao Plata 4-1

63′  Substitution: Out: Joao Plata In: Luis Silva

66′  Substitution: Out: Albert Rusnak In: José María Hernández

68′  Goal Leonardo 5-1

71′  Substitution: Out: A. Elis In: V. Sánchez

73′  Substitution: Out: Kyle Beckerman In: Omar Holness

79′  Yellow Card B. García

Featured image courtesy: @RealSaltLake

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Well, that was frustrating.

Kirsten Arpin - Sporting Kansas City/mlsfemale
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Saturday, May 27: 1-0 Loss

73% possession, 24 shots, 8 corner kicks, no yellow cards

Normally this combination of stats would lead to a win, but not this time.

Sporting KC went to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park last Saturday to take on the Colorado Rapids, and frankly they dominated the game. It seemed like they could score at any time! They just didn’t.

The game changing moment was when Ike Opara “fouled” Dominique Badji. I would like to note the quotation marks. Many soccer analysts have stated that it should not have been a foul. This is not just an angry fan moment. Ike was going for the ball. Sorry you fell down. But the “foul” led to a free kick that was taken by Shkelzen Gashi. Gashi’s cross found the head of Kortne Ford for his very first MLS goal.

Now, regardless of the validity of the foul, Sporting should have defended better. There were lots of eyes on that cross, and not enough on where it could have been going. Defending crosses is one of our weaknesses, and going into the time when we’ll be down two defenders due to being called up to USMNT it will be even more crucial to remedy this problem.

The rest of the game was really frustrating. Our little Memorial Day family gathering kept getting our hopes up for a goal, but it just wasn’t happening. Our shots were a little too high or a little too wide. We are really missing Dom Dwyer. I’m hoping that he can get back onto the field soon. He started light practice this week, and Peter Vermes thinks that he may be a game time decision on Saturday against Minnesota United.

Bobby Burling did receive a suspension for a hit on Benny Feilhaber in the 23rd minute. He got a yellow for it in the game. This marks the third time this season that an opponent has gotten a suspension after the fact as opposed to in game. Someone did the math, and if those players had gotten red cards when they should have Sporting would have played a total of 216 minutes against 10 men teams.

Some good news from this week is that the Fan Vote for the MLS All Star Fan XI opened up. Sporting KC got eight players onto the ballot:

Goalkeeper: Tim Melia
Defenders: Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Graham Zusi
Midfielders: Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber
Forwards: Dom Dwyer, Gerso

You may notice that Ilie is not on the list. This is a travesty! He’s so good! His presence in the midfield has been so strong this season, and if you’ve watched Sporting games in the past you should be able to see the difference he makes.

This season I have been a huge proponent of our defensive line, and seeing that three of them made it into the voting made me quite pleased. It’s easy to see why Ike is on there. In the games where Ike doesn’t play we are not as likely to win. His strength and height put him up with the top defenders in the league.

Matt Besler made it! I knew he was in all star form! His ability to see how plays unfold, and to put not only himself but the rest of his line in the right places is amazing. If he doesn’t eventually end up as a coach then there is something wrong with this world. He is so smart (soccer and book wise…he graduated pre-med!)

Graham Zusi has been getting a lot of flack this season because of his move to defense. With Sporting’s formation they play their two outside defenders up as almost midfielders, and they play the center midfielder in more of a defensive position. This suits Zusi well since he can still be a scoring threat and make assists. Zusi became just the second player since 2010 to complete 100% of his passes and create at least 5 chances in the same game when Sporting played the Vancouver Whitecaps. Take that, haters.

Fun facts

Four members of the Sporting KC roster have been called up for their respective national teams. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi for the USMNT, Roger Espinoza for Honduras, and Tyler Pasher for Canada.

Erik Palmer-Brown has captained the US U-20 squad into the knockout round of the U-20 World Cup! They will take on New Zealand on Thursday morning (after I finish writing, but before posting)…fingers crossed for a good result!

Graham Zusi threw out the first pitch at the Colorado Rockies game on Tuesday, and a few of his USMNT teammates, including Bes, were there to cheer him on!

On Wednesday night my husband and I, and two other Cauldron members, played sports trivia in a fundraiser for the Victory Project against some SKC players. Benny, Ike, and Seth Sinovic made up Team Cavs in 7. We were team Children’s No Mercy Park. We didn’t win, but we had a good time!

This Satuday, June 3, Sporting KC takes on Minnesota at Children’s Mercy Park. The Cauldron will be celebrating Pride Day with special t-shirts and scarves to support the LGBTQIA community!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports

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Mid-Week Mediocrity

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, May 31: 2-2 Draw

Let’s not beat around the bush: New York City FC should have handily won this match. New England Revolution are a bit of a mess this season, having only won four games so far — and all four were at home, to boot.

Despite early energy and pressure that led to a brilliant piece of link-up play between David Villa and Jack Harrison to give Jack his sixth goal this season, NYCFC couldn’t quite keep a grip on a lead. The Revs scored their first equalizer off of a set piece… which is a point of endless frustration for NYCFC this year. Sean Johnson made several spectacular saves on his birthday, but he wasn’t able to keep out Kei Kamara‘s header. NYCFC’s extremely poor marking during the corner didn’t help him at all. That’s why set pieces break us. We just don’t know how to handle them, so it becomes a cheap and easy way for opponents to get goals.

NYCFC seemed to play two separate games during this match. In their own half of the pitch, they were sluggish and lackluster. But once they crossed that midfield line, the fire was lit and the chase was on. Even a little bit of that attacking energy being present in the defending half would have made all the difference.

 

A little more focus during attack wouldn’t hurt either. There was a moment toward the end of the first half when Ben Sweat and Villa both whiffed clear chances right in front of goal. It’s those missed opportunities that come back to haunt you after the scoreline is finalized, and NYCFC will definitely be battling off those ghosts tonight.

Cometh the hour, cometh the one bright spot in this match: Miguel Camargo entered to take Tommy McNamara‘s place, and scored his first MLS goal not three minutes later. He found himself on the end of a gorgeous long cross from Maxi Moralez and headed it straight into goal. It was a lovely moment, and hopefully the first of many Camargoals to come.

#CM2
Image courtesy: @NYCFC

Had the Revs’ second equalizer not come quite so late, I do think NYCFC could have pulled off a last minute win. But with just four minutes left in the match, there simply wasn’t enough time for NYCFC to pull off a coherent counter attack. They tried their absolute hardest, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe if there had been another ten minutes or so on the clock. Maybe. Shoulda, coulda, woulda — didn’t.

So, after four road matches in two weeks, an exhausted NYCFC only managed to squeak out one point at home. That’s a crying shame, and the boys in blue know it. They hurried off the pitch after the final whistle, made their way to a dressing room filled with silent tension. There’s nothing worse than letting down the fans at home — because even though it was a draw, it still felt a hell of a lot like a loss.

Before I go gently into the good night, a few stray thoughts:

  • Rónald Matarrita is still too injured to be on our bench, but not too injured to be called up for Costa Rica’s World Cup qualifiers next week? Okay…
  • In the vein of international football, a quick tip for commentators: Balkans really hate it when you talk about what a great national team Yugoslavia would have, had they only managed to keep those pesky wars from ripping the country apart. Maybe don’t do that. (This came up because the Revs have Antonio Delamea Mlinar, the first Slovene to play in MLS. That fact made me feel positively toward the Revs for the first time in my life.)
  • Until the Revs scored their 2-2 equalizer, NYCFC remained the only club in MLS yet to concede a goal in the final fifteen minutes of a match. And then there were none.
  • Camargo aside, the name of the game this time around was Questionable Substitutions. Frédéric Brillant coming on for Harrison could hypothetically be seen as an attempt to preserve our lead, as attack off/defense on subs often are, but then you remember that Brillant is Brillant and that logic doesn’t hold any water. But sure, in some alternate universe that substitution made sense. You’ll never sell me on poor erstwhile John Stertzer for RodWal in the dying minutes of regulation time, though. If the idea was to try for a last ditch winner, why take off one of the most tenacious players on the pitch for Stertzer? Why? Why, Grand-Père Patrick? Please tell me why.
  • Speaking of, the rumors about Vieira leaving to manage Some French Club (because to speak its name would give it power and we simply cannot have that) can chill out anytime now. While I like to critique (read: backseat manage) him occasionally, there’s no denying that Vieira has been integral to NYCFC’s success, and he should at least be able to finish out the season.

And that’s a wrap on another week of mediocrity at best, bitter disappointment at worst! In just a few days, the boys in blue will take on Philadelphia Union at home.

Which happens to overlap with the Champions League final.

So if I survive that, I’ll meet up with you all here on Sunday, hopefully with three points to celebrate.

(Forza Juve!)

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

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Taking the Bad with the Good

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 27: 1-0 Loss

It wasn’t a surprise that the Philadelphia Union’s winning streak was snapped in Rio Tinto Stadium. The odds were against the Philly team. If they had been able to produce a result against RSL, it would’ve been the first in the Union’s favor over the ten games they’ve played against Real Salt Lake. This game will be the only meeting between the two sides for this season.

Joao Plata got the only goal of the game after breaking away with the ball thirty-six minutes into the first half. Andre Blake had to make more saves in total than the amount of attempts the Philadelphia Union players made on Real Salt Lake’s net. Whether it was the altitude or the trip from Pennsylvania to Utah, the Union looked tired and disjointed. The only notable performance was Blake’s seven clearances, the highest of the season for him.

The first forty-five minutes was a single-minded attack by Plata that got the best of the defense after his fourth attempt. The Union had been caught off-guard before–and though Fafa Picault had a great attempt on goal that was first saved by Nick Rimando and ultimately cleared off the line by Aaron Maund–they did not rectify it like in previous instances of conceding a first half goal. Philadelphia attempted to find the weak spot of RSL’s defense with set piece plays with an early Jack Elliott header that hit the crossbar and a miss by Picault from a Haris Medunjanin cross to no avail.  

The first sub of the match for the Union was Jay Simpson for Picault to give a boost to the attack and give CJ Sapong a shift of pace on the left side of the field. Roland Alberg having been sidelined with an injury got subbed on for Chris Pontius on the wing. It was a painfully uninspired second half with RSL driving the ball where they wanted it for a majority of the time. The last thirty minutes saw little to no activity on the attacking side from Philadelphia with only a shot from distance by a desperate Medunjanin and a blocked kick by Fabinho. The Union debuted Marcus Epps in the dying minutes of the half in hopes of making a difference in the midfield where Ilsinho had been having trouble.  

Frankly, you could’ve skipped the entirety of the match to only see the first thirty minutes and known how the game was going to unfold. By the thirty minute mark, Rimando had made two saves and Blake three. It was down to the keepers and their defensemen in this game and the Union didn’t make the cut this weekend.  

The team boasted about a depth in squad earlier in the week and hinted that was the reason for their winning streak, and while I agree the subbing and implementation of players in different roles i.e. Ilsinho as a number 10, Pontius switching to the right wing, Alejandro Bedoya finding his role in the midfield worked for us, it doesn’t account for human error.

I mentioned before how Jim Curtin might have a problem with the word ‘rotation’ but he’ll have to keep it in mind in the following weeks. Medunjanin and Bedoya have been called up by their respective national teams for the world cup qualifiers during the break. We still have injured players (most recently Fabian Herbers) so Curtin will be put to the test following the international break.

Not to mention the next game Philadelphia has on the road against NYCFC will be no picnic. The team will be slipping down the table. There is no doubt about that, but what matters now is finding the spirit to keep fighting for a good position come September. June comes with the first game of the Open Cup for the Union along with two of the three consecutive home games and they cannot afford to repeat the March homestand.

Memories of the recent past aside, this could’ve just been a bad game and I’m hoping to see more of the Philly of weeks past than the team with the winless streak going forward. In this sport, you have to take the good with the bad. You never know what will happen in MLS.

My prediction for the next game: a Sapong goal, and depending how gracious NYCFC is feeling, a win.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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Catching Stride Away From LA

Allison Sorrell - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Allison Sorrell // @AJSorrell_

After the LA Galaxy‘s last home-stand (a 2-2 draw to Chicago Fire), a four week road trip didn’t seem like a good idea this season for a Galaxy team that’s been struggling more than they have in the past 10 years. With twelve points on the table available on this road trip, it wasn’t extremely misplaced to say the Galaxy wouldn’t come home with many points. I personally, frustrated from the team’s struggles, honestly thought we might end up with two or three. I wasn’t the only one.

We were wrong.

Here we are, two matches in, having accumulated 6/6 points available. I never want us to play at StubHub Center again. For a team that has historically held a fortress at home, and struggled on the road, this is a little weird to watch, but then again, so is this whole season under the watch of Kurt Onalfo. Either way, I’ll take points any way I can get them.

Last Sunday’s match at Minnesota United (3-7-2) had the Galaxy facing a team in a bit of a similar situation. Both teams in question started the season slowly (to put it lightly), and had similar ranking in the western conference. Despite this, once again, the Galaxy came out swinging, winning with a 2-1 scoreline.

I’m going to start with the negative, because this time, there weren’t many. Baggio Husidic’s injury, which has been ruled a broken leg has him out for around two to three months per Onalfo. With the center midfield spot left open by two injured players now, after the midfield was finally finding its form after the match at Red Bull Arena, Rafael Garcia came in to fill in and surprisingly, contributed well to the attack after being subbed in at the 8th minute.

Though there were many chances, the first ball that hit the back of the net for the Galaxy came from Giovani Dos Santos in the 38th minute, only his second in the run of play all season. The Galaxy dominated the rest of the half and for the beginning of the second, until Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez snuck one in at the 66th minute. Thankfully, he did the Galaxy a favor as well in the 84th minute with an own goal to give us the win.

Moving forward, it will be interesting who takes the spot left open by Jermaine Jones, and then again by Baggio Husidic. Jaime Villarreal, the younger of the Galaxy’s homegrown brothers made his first team debut this match. He’s been creating a lot of chances and finishing a lot of balls for Los Dos (LA Galaxy II) in the past few years, and I think he and his brother, who has been MIA for a bit from the first team 18 most of the season, could do some good with all of the injuries currently plaguing the midfield of the first team.

Saturday at San Jose (5-4-4) should be another challenge for a team that’s just now catching their stride. Though San Jose hasn’t had the greatest month, only catching one win out of the four matches played in May, the Galaxy’s real challenge comes in the form of creating chances in the midfield, with players like Garcia, Villarreal, or even Raul Mendiola filling in.

I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but I think we can run away with three points at Avaya Stadium, as well, if we keep the form we’ve had these past two matches.

Featured image courtesy: @LAGalaxy

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