Category Archives: Team Updates

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Red Cards, Fouls and No-Calls, Oh My!

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

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 15: 2-1 Loss

For our third road game in as many weeks, Atlanta United traveled back up to Canada to meet up with Montreal Impact. Everyone and their brother expected ATL to come out of this one with three points, but due to a couple of questionable calls – and maybe some fouls that weren’t called – ATL ended up with their second loss of the season. It was also the first loss that actually felt like a loss.

The first loss happened in week one, another 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls, but because it was the first game and the atmosphere was amazing, everyone was still smiling and laughing leaving the stadium. We may not have gotten any points out of that game, but we had a team and that trumped whatever the final result was.

This loss, though…this one hurt. All the indicators before the game said that ATL would come out of this one with a win. Montreal hadn’t won a game yet this season and early on in the week, their player Nacho Piatti was still questionable for Saturday’s game, but when the lineups came out around noon on Saturday, there he was.

The lineups also showed some changes for Atlanta. With Yamil Asad out on a red card, coach Tata Martino moved Miguel Almiron out to the left and brought in Kenwyne Jones up top for his first start. Ty Mears was a late scratch due to an ankle injury, so Mark Bloom got his first start at right back.

For Atlanta, the two top stories out of this game were Kenwyne’s first MLS goal and the (rather questionable) red card for Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, both of which happened late in the first half.

Carlos Carmona intercepted a Montreal goal kick at mid-field and passed to Tito Villalba, who got in a cross to Kenwyne for his first goal in MLS. It was a great shot that was perfectly executed and the celebration afterwards deserved five stars.

The bigger story, though, was the red card to Pirez. The Argentinean defender has been nothing short of amazing in the first five games. In about the 45th minute, both Pirez and Montreal’s Matteo Mancosu were in the box, trying to recover a pass. Arms and legs were tangled and it ended with Mancosu on the ground, a penalty called, and a red card for Pirez. Below are a couple of different angles of the play. You judge for yourself.

And then there was this play where a foul was called, but only a yellow card was given to Montreal:

And for a full report on the fouls called (or not) during the game, skip to 7:12 in Simon Borg’s Instant Replay. At least Simon didn’t think it should be a red card. In a nutshell, ATLUTD got MLS’d this weekend. PROReferees have been inconsistent at best and that’s disturbing. But that’s a story for another day.

ATLUTD’s front office says it is their policy to not comment on whether they will appeal the red card, so we’ll just have to wait and see if Pirez is exonerated or not. *Fingers crossed*

The second goal for Montreal came in stoppage time of the second half and was maybe one of the weirdest “how the heck did that happen” goals I’ve seen yet.

HOW?!

Next week is the final away game in this stretch and it’s out to Salt Lake City to take on the new and improved Real Salt Lake under new coach Mike Petke and his famous sweater collection. (If you want some laughs, follow @PetkesSweater on Twitter) Here’s to hoping we can hand my former favorite coach his first loss next Saturday.

In other (happier) ATLUTD news, lots of other things have happened this week:

  • ATLUTD held the grand opening of their $60 million training facility and I was there! Check out that story here.
  • Homegrown players Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin and Academy player Zyen Jones have been called up to the U-17 Men’s National team to compete in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama. While this means we’ll lose Carleton and Goslin as options for the next month, we are SUPER proud of them!
  • Sunday, April 16th marked the third anniversary of the MLS Atlanta announcement. Happy 3rd birthday, ATLUTD!
  • Charleston Battery player and ATLUTD loanee Romario Williams had a pretty good game on Saturday:

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Red Bulls Get the Job Done Against DC United

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, April 15:  2- 0 Win

It’s a holiday weekend.

I have 4 kids, not to mention a family that traditionally goes big for this holiday.
So I couldn’t go to iconic Red Bull Arena for the latest installment of the Atlantic Cup.
And I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

But thanks to the miracle of modern soccer broadcasting, the game was available in the comfort of my (parents’) home.

The New York Red Bulls (3-3-1) began a welcome run of home games with their first meeting against DC United (2-3-1) for this season. RBNY stumbled at the beginning of the season, albeit an improvement from the slow start in 2016, and injuries plague the team (Mike Grella and Gonzalo Veron are still on the Injured list), but they have been determined to turn things around.

And try they did. The Red Bulls dominated the first 45 minutes of play, keeping the ball in the attacking third. They had plenty of set pieces (plays that re-start action, such as corner and free kicks), which have become their signature goal-scoring plays. But they just couldn’t finish. DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid made some great saves during the first half, but RBNY just kept knocking at the door…

It took until the 1st minute of the second half to finally make a breakthrough. Sacha Kljestan, wearing the captain’s armband emblazoned with the logos of the three official supporter’s groups for the club, found the head of Alex Muyl on a corner kick and suddenly it was 1-0 for the home team. The team was able to relax a bit with the lead, and even though it resulted in more time in the defensive end of the field, the confidence was noticeably higher. Then in the 80th minute, thanks to a perfectly-placed pass from Felipe Martins, lead goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips nutmegged Hamid, sending a shot between his legs and doubling the lead. Red Bull GK Luis Robles, known as the Ironman, made some great saves to maintain the clean sheet at home.

A rivalry is always a great place to find even more than the usual physicality on the field, and this match was no exception. The head referee’s book was opened plenty, with a total of 5 yellow cards issued between the two teams. There were plenty of tackles and 1v1 plays, and players could be found on the ground nursing a sore shin or knee following these plays. Unfortunately, DC’s Steve Birnbaum had to be stretchered off the field in stoppage time following a head-to-head clash with RB defender Damien Perrinelle, and hopefully he is well. Also, it was nice to see Lloyd Sam again, who was traded to DC United last season. I always hope he does well… unless he’s playing against the Red Bulls.

This coming weekend is not a holiday weekend.
I hope I can make it to the game.
And I hope plenty of others can make it as well.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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Orlando City vs. Alessandrini

Allison - LA Galaxy
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Allison Sorrell @AJSorrell_

Saturday, April 15: 2-1 Loss

This is the most fun I’ve had watching an LA Galaxy match all season — and unfortunately it wasn’t all because of LA. If you’re a Galaxy fan, or even end up watching a few Galaxy matches a couple times a season for whatever reason, you know this team can get interesting. From spectaculars by the likes of Robbie Keane in recent years, to savvy playmakers in the midfield like Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho, this team has always been fun to watch, not just during the playoffs, but even during early season away matches like Saturday’s.

Unfortunately this isn’t really the case anymore.

As LA Galaxy fans we’re still getting used to this too — with regular XI staples AJ DeLaGarza and Keane (just to name the biggest losses) departing and new names Joao Pedro, Nathan Smith, Romain Alessandrini, and Jermaine Jones all becoming regular starters and replacements for these fan favorites. Even our coach Bruce Arena, who had an eight year tenure with the club is gone (Now the head coach of the USMNT).

With all of this change it isn’t a surprise that LA fans are a little pessimistic.

Tweets from even diehard Angel City Brigade fans read “ready to lose this game!” Before the match even started. From another fan that’s been here to see this team raise a few trophies, to say those thoughts are completely without cause would be unfair.

With that being said, it’s no secret that Orlando City SC is a good team, especially at home. Cyle Larin is one hell of a dangerous goal scorer, and you know Will Johnson is enough of a hardworking midfielder to keep you busy. With the opening of the new stadium (which I really need to visit this season mind you, it’s beautiful and the atmosphere looks amazing), this Orlando team hasn’t lost a single game at home (this week’s win making them the first team ever to win the first four games at home at a new stadium). This was never going to be an easy match for LA, a team that has notoriously struggled away from home, and in light of circumstances, the match as a whole turned out much better than it could have for LA.

The most notable part of this match lies with Will Johnson’s goal of the week worthy goal in the 9th minute. Watching the match I was more enthralled with how well placed the goal was than how badly our defense fell apart on the corner and subsequent rebound that led to it.

Which leads me to something we need to talk about — Clement Diop. Diop helped lead LA’s USL side LA Galaxy II to 2nd place in the USL in 2015, but he still doesn’t seem ready for MLS play. He’s been caught off his lines and off guard (does anyone remember the loss at Vancouver?) way too many times. Meanwhile, Brian Rowe, who played 31 matches last season is on the bench “coaches decision” being cited. Diop is just too green for the job of starting keeper. If we don’t want to utilize Rowe, we need to find another keeper.

The final, and most important part of this match for any LA Galaxy fan is Alessandrini’s showing. Not even counting his 83rd minute goal, there’s no one on the field right now for the LA Galaxy that can make as much of a difference as he can (he’s had 4 goals in 4 matches) and to build the offense around him would not be a mistake.

LA is just suffering from lack of confidence, direction, and leadership (it took me a few minutes to even remember who the captain is. That should say enough). Only time will tell if Curt Onalfo’s leadership proves a worthy successor of Bruce Arena’s. We have the talent, we’re just not sure what to do with it this early in the season yet. This isn’t the first time LA has started the season off on the wrong foot, and we all know things will come together soon enough. Until then, none of the three points on the table are coming home to LA.

Featured image courtesy of: @LAGalaxy

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David Villa Did That

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

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Friday, April 14: 2-0 win

I had a different article in my head.

Finding narrative threads in football is what connects me most to the game. I can’t turn it off; in the back of my mind during every match, there’s a little machine whirring away, trying to spin a narrative out of the beautiful game. It’s come in handy with match reporting, and I often find myself forming the skeleton of an article while the game is in progress.

That’s what I was doing while New York City FC was grinding out a win on the road against Philadelphia Union. Between chaos and dashes of bad luck in front of both goals, heroics from both Sean Johnson and Andre Blake, and Jack Harrison’s goal scored in the 52nd minute, I had an idea of where I was going to go with this. Something about a scrappy win still being a win. Something about the morale (or lack thereof) of the stadium and how it did Union no favors in staving off NYCFC. Something about the metaphysical importance of picking up these points on the road beyond just crunching numbers for conference standings. Something, something, something.

Then, in the last dying moments of the game, David Villa wiped out everything I had planned.

I’ve mentioned Villa’s goal in the 2010 World Cup against Chile before. It was the moment that threw football into sharp relief for me, the moment I knew I was in deep. Beyond that, it was a stunning goal: A curling shot off his weaker foot from 50 yards out. Gorgeous. I think about that goal all the time. I never considered he could outdo it.

As the clock turned to the 90th minute, Villa was on the break. Flanked by two Union players, he barely broke stride as he took a shot on goal. A ridiculous shot, the kind attempted in training for the thrill of it (in fact, the kind he attempted last season only to have it hit the crossbar). Nobody thought it was going in, least of all Villa himself.

But he is David Villa, and even at 35 years old, the laws of physics still occasionally bend around him. He shot from 53.5 yards out, chipped the goalkeeper, and clinched NYCFC’s victory in the most impossible way.

I have watched this goal upwards of fifty times tonight trying to understand it. I still can’t. It’s beyond my comprehension. David Villa did that.

Just see for yourself:

On top of all this, when Villa was interviewed post-match about the goal, he said he was tired from running so he just tried the shot. Who does that? Who feels the ache in their legs, the burning in their lungs, the inescapable exhaustion and decides to go for glory rather than peter out? Our captain does.

New York City FC, in its current iteration and with Patrick Vieira’s philosophy running through its veins, its a stubborn club. They will play the way they want to play, consequences be damned. While it may not always work out, it does allow a goal like this to happen. Vieira has said many times that he wants them to have fun with their football. That’s a concept that doesn’t come up too often in professional sports. Have fun. Take that preposterous shot. Why not? Even if it doesn’t work, it’ll be fun — and if it does work, it’ll be legendary.

The goal was all Villa’s and nobody can argue that. But I’m incapable of watching anything — even a goal as jaw-dropping as this — and resisting the urge to pull a narrative out of it. It’s a goal that’s emblematic of the club, of the foundation Vieira has built for this team to play on, of the tenacity to play our way no matter what.

It’s the sort of moment that overshadows all else in the match. However, there were 89 other minutes, so here are a few random thoughts:

  • I’d be remiss not to give Jack Harrison credit for opening the scoring — without that boost of confidence, who knows if we’d still have that screamer at the end? Rónald Matarrita fed Jack a lovely through ball, and NCYFC’s wonder kid beat his defender and Andre Blake to find the back of the net. It was a classic bit of magic from Mata and Jack, and I loved every second of it.
  • I’m waiting on pins and needles for Alex Ring’s first NYCFC goal. He wants it, he wants it so badly, and you can tell the fans want it for him too. Every time he pushed forward, I held my breath hoping that this would finally be his moment. I know it’s coming, I just hope it’s soon. He deserves it.
  • My messy notes for the second half of the match include “RODWAL. OPEN GOAL. AND YOU DIDN’T! AND THEN MAXI DIDN’T!” followed by angry pen scribbles. Yeah… Maybe Villa’s goal will erase Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez’s point-blank, empty net misses from our minds?
  • Is the return of Mikey Lopez imminent? I miss him.

Well, now that Goal of the Year is all wrapped up, I think we deserve a week off to celebrate. Next weekend the boys in blue host Orlando City SC. Until then, you can find me forcing everyone I come across to watch Villa’s goal.

Featured image courtesy: ESPN

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

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Seeing Red

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Saturday, April 8: 2-2 Draw

Song of the match – Help, I’m Alive by Metric

Still undefeated, she croaks, the words dying in her throat, pneumonia and an ashy taste of mediocrity diminishing the conviction and the meaning of the phrase. That and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t at least a little bit disappointed that I missed the Toronto Maple Leafs clinching an NHL playoff spot to watch Toronto FC squander away another 2 points. Nonetheless, we all go marching on.

If I wrote this piece on Saturday night after the match it would have been filled with hatred for Atlanta United FC; the rage I felt that night was one of an instant rivalry and, on second look, may not have been as deserved as I thought. I definitely saw red that night. Atlanta made me angry.

This was due in large part to the histrionics of not once but twice goalscorer Villalba and the fact that it happened right in front of me. To see a player doubled over when there was no clear contact to have caused such pain and a mere 15 feet from where I stood was infuriating. There was also a piece of play that was not caught on camera wherein the same player ran into Armando Cooper of his own volition and then threw himself to the ground as if struck. I got angry early on and I stayed angry.

However, from the safety of my living room I have given the game a second look and I now see an inaugural side full of attacking promise and a whole lot of character for a newly minted squad. And this without having seen what I’ve heard is one of their best players in Josef Martinez. We have only ourselves to blame for a pair of defensive mistakes that lost us 2 points.

As for the red that Atlanta saw, it’s hard to convey my exact feeling towards it.

Having seen the bump on Eriq’s head, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t at the very least pretty vicious. Asad raised his elbow level with Zavaleta’s head knowingly and threw his arm out, an unquestionable foul with intent. What I’m not sure of is what the referee saw on first look. From my view at the south end there didn’t look like much to it but I know Zavaleta is not a player who goes down easily or for long which led me to believe it was serious.

In cases like this, a retrospective ban makes sense. It’s a big call for a referee to make without having a good view of it, and it seems pretty obvious the decision was made upon a video replay on the jumbotron which was seen and reacted to by the crowd and also quite clearly viewed by the fourth official. In my opinion and even at the expense of my own team, unless all big calls are made by video review then none should be. As far as I know, video replay has not yet taken effect in MLS.

Nonetheless, Atlanta need not have worried too much considering Toronto have what must be the worst possible record playing with a man advantage in the past few years (0W-1D-5L in the 2016 season including defeat to a San Jose less 2 men) and despite a win to Vancouver Whitecaps after Brek Shea’s sending off we don’t appear to be improving on that front. So despite being graced by video replay we failed to capitalize on the chance. As usual.

It’s hard to talk about an easily avoidable draw without pointing fingers in this case. However, despite being extremely partial to Nick Hagglund (and thanks to a friend reminding me of my bias) I won’t do what Vanney did and throw a player under the bus. If a player isn’t match fit as Chris Mavinga certainly did not look, it’s up to the manager and staff to decide. It also didn’t appear that Chris really had a proper understanding of his role in the 5-3-2 formation, a miscommunication which is not solely his fault.

When Nick Hagglund came on for Chris early in the second half it was technically a straight swap but visually it completely changed the shape of the team. Nick played yards forward from where Chris sat, and Nicky’s comfortable relationship with the other 2 centre backs and Alex Bono saw Drew Moor cover for Nick when caught out of position (where he wasn’t able to for Chris for both goals) and Bono quickly off his line to make saves he didn’t make earlier on in the game.

It’s easy to blame the new guy for what did look like some pretty rookie defensive mistakes, but if we want to make this team work it will require a more in depth look at where we need to improve. So welcome to the team, Chris, and I hope you see better days.

Besides the obvious errors of Chris Mavinga, Alex Bono also didn’t look his best. He appeared very out of sorts at times and didn’t really seem to get into the game until the second half. This could be in part a lack of playing time with Mavinga, paired with the fact that Bono is getting into the rhythm of regular minutes in the absence of Clint Irwin.

I know he’s better than he was on Saturday, which says quite a bit as he wasn’t all that bad. Most notable to me was his lack of distribution in the Atlanta game, normally he outranks Irwin in my books for goal kicks but on Saturday he just couldn’t seem to find his footing. I still have complete faith in our young back up, though.

On the bright side we finally saw Giovinco on the scoresheet, and what a beautiful goal it was. Jozy’s backheel was delightful and both Giovinco and Morrow’s goals came from clever play on Vazquez’ part. Our midfield was particularly good that night, with Michael putting in a top performance as usual and Armando Cooper the best I’ve seen him. I say this all begrudgingly as we have once again seen an XI without a single Canadian player.

I know Vanney is rotating but I hope in future he’ll incorporate more Canadians into each side and not 3 one night and 0 another. This gameweek I will break apart the MotM crown and hand a piece each to Victor Vazquez and Armando Cooper. It says a lot about their performance that I am giving them these plaudits as they have both crowded my two favourite Canadian players out of the team.

It’s time for me to take another few days to shake off the pneumonia I caught on that freezing wet home opener, and hopefully for the team to also shake off the cobwebs and gain momentum in what we all hope will be another successful season. And for the big hockey games to be played before we see Toronto FC back in the 6, Go Leafs Go!

Featured image courtesy: @torontofc

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @crissypayne

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Home Sweet Home

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Tuesday, April 11 – Marietta, GA

On a beautiful, sunny spring Tuesday, Atlanta United FC had a housewarming party. A handful of fans (and lots of media folks) were invited to attend the grand opening of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Facility in Marietta, GA, just northwest of Atlanta.

This training center has been in the works for almost two years now. First, it was going to be in Dekalb County, just down the street from the location of the very first Home Depot ever (a nod to Arthur Blank‘s former career). Somewhere along the line, it was discovered that the site that was chosen was not an ideal location. From what I remember, the site was previously a landfill and the ground wasn’t suitable for building on.

After what I’m sure was a bit of a scramble for the ATLUTD front office, a second site was located, just off of I-75 in Marietta. Construction began about 14 months ago at the new site and today was the ceremonial grand opening. The team has actually been practicing at their new home for about a week already and seem to be settling in pretty well.

The facility is gorgeous. There are floor to ceiling windows everywhere and the entire building feels really open and bright. There is a main entrance, which is the door all of the players, from U12s through the first team will walk through. To the right of the lobby are the team offices and to the left are the locker rooms and gym.

Just off the lobby, which overlooks two of the training fields, is the Tactics Room, where the team can study game tapes. This room also holds the trophy case, which already holds a few treasures like the first game ball, Josef Martinez‘s hat trick game ball, signed by the team, and the Soccer in the Streets ATL Champions League trophy that the ATLUTD staff won last year (more on this event in May, when the staff will field another team and I’ll be there with orange slices cheering them on!).

Nearly the entire facility was open for us to explore, so of course we started with the dining hall. They even had food for us to sample – which was great because I skipped lunch to get there on time. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember hearing Darren Eales (ATLUTD President) and Carlos Bocanegra (Technical Director) talk about nutritionists and something or other before. All I know is that the food is delicious and the views of the fields were incredible.

Next, we headed downstairs to the gym, where I nearly fell flat on my face because the first person I saw was Tito Villalba (insert heart eyes emoji here). It must have been a conditioning day for a few of the guys. Tito was on a bike, Ty Mears was running on a treadmill and a few others were working with weights while the rest of the team was out on the field. I managed to get a pic of Tito talking to one of the coaches and Martinez before I was told not to take pictures. Whoops! 😉

We also ran into Josef again in the locker room, where I gave him the Terminus Legion scarf I was wearing. 🙂 Have I mentioned yet how adorable and sweet all of the guys have been? Because they are.

After the first team locker room, we quickly checked out the academy teams’ locker rooms, which are basically giant walk-in closets with cubby holes for the players’ stuff. No fancy round room with 22-foot high ceilings and windows at the top. Just gray and boring. The idea is to make each locker room a little nicer than the next so that the players want to keep moving up until they get to the first team.

We walked around outside for a while and talked to some of the front office staff. We did get to meet the Fox Sports South reporter, Brittany Arnold, who hung out and talked to us for a good 20 minutes.

IMG_3035
Hanging out with Brittany Arnold from Fox Sports South

On a side note, we are still waiting on construction updates on Mercedes Benz Stadium. During his speech, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said something like “when we get into Mercedes Benz Stadium in September,” which caused a bit of gossip later. And as I was writing this, I saw the helpful tweet below pop up. So that’s that, I guess.

All in all, it was a pretty great day. The boys have their home now. Things can only go up from here, right? On to Montreal this Saturday! How do you say “A-T-L” in French?

Images courtesy: Robyn Saghini

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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The Backflip is Back! aka…Tim Howard, we’re sorry we were so mean to you, but not really.

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

By Kirsten Arpin @Kirsten_Hoogs

Sunday, April 9: 3-1 Win

That is how a game should be! They were almosts no more! We have goals, and none of them were goalie gaffs!

Sporting KC played the Colorado Rapids at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday night, and it was finally the game we had been looking for. The defense continued to be phenomenal, Tim Melia is most likely a unicorn, and the offense was finishing against one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the United States.

Speaking of the aforementioned goalkeeper, I was within 10 feet of him, and that was pretty dang cool. Also, Tim Howard, I would like to apologize for how mean The Cauldron was to you. Well, not really. We still love you though…but only when you play for the United States. Otherwise, it’s all your fault.

timhoward
Tim Howard (the bad Tim) before we made him all angry.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

This game was the most fun that I’ve had so far this season. Sporting started the game off with a bang when they scored in the first few minutes. Defender Seth Sinovic had a career first when he scored his very first regular season goal in the 6th minute. Gerso’s shot was deflected by Tim Howard, and Seth caught the deflection with his left foot and slammed it into the goal. He is also only the 4th defender since 2015 to score a goal and have a primary assist in the same game.

The other big moment of the first half was a huge goal line save by Tim Melia that isn’t up for Save of the Week because some people at the MLS offices must be blind.

The first half ended with Sporting up 1 – 0, and then the teams switched sides as per usual. That meant The Cauldron finally got the Good Tim on our side! This Tim we love, and we would never yell at him because he is wonderful. This Tim also definitely won the Battle of the Tims by a landslide. (I have typed the name Tim so many times in this article…so many times)

Timmy Timmy Timmy Timmy Timmy Tim Melia!
Tim Melia (the Good Tim) being amazing as always.

The second half was twice as exciting as the first, and that’s because we scored twice…math!

Gerso Fernandes scored his first ever MLS goal in the 58th minute! He was set up beautifully by his teammates too. Dom Dwyer played a great ball to Roger Espinoza who held back just enough to stay onside. The defender was so preoccupied with Roger that he missed Gerso running up the middle to receive the assist until it was too late. Gerso is also so dang fast that no one could catch him.

In one final first for the game, Sporting KC’s fourth Homegrown player to play in a competitive match, Daniel Salloi subbed in for Soony Saad in the 83rd minute. *Sporting’s other Homegrown players to feature in matches are Kevin Ellis, Erik Palmer-Brown, and our first ever Homegrown player, Jon Kempin (who now plays for the LA Galaxy).

The third goal of the game was scored by our mainstay of the front line, Dom Dwyer. Soni Mustivar played a ball out to Seth Sinovic on the wing, and Seth made a beautiful delivery to Dom right in front of the goal. Dom blasted the ball over a diving Tim Howard, and Sporting was up 3 – 0.

Check out all three Sporting goals here.

Now the Rapids did “score” a goal. In a penalty that could have gone either way, Soni Mustivar tripped up/was tripped up by Kevin Doyle. The referee awarded Doyle a PK, and he got the ball past Tim Melia for the Rapids’ only goal of the game.

Sporting’s defense continues to be spot-on this season. Together with Tim Melia, the back line is tied with FC Dallas in goals against this season only allowing two goals in five games (FC Dallas has only played four games though). Good thing Ike Opara decided that coming back to soccer after a few years of injuries was worth the work and the risk. He is really killing it right now. I would like to make another shout out / apology to Ilie Sanchez. In first article I called out Ilie for his passing, and this week he proved me wrong again by completing 51 of his 52 passes. Lesson learned! I am an Ilie fan for life!

Week 5 fun facts

Four Sporting players earned their way onto Teams of the Week! Defender Seth Sinovic and forward Dom Dwyer made the Goal USA Team of the Week. While defender Ike Opara and midfielder Roger Espinoza were named to the MLS Team of the Week.

Sporting has been having a little fun with photo frames through their app for every game. This week’s frame happened to be of my favorite player, Matt Besler. So I can now say I have a picture with Bes…more or less. Actually just less, but it was pretty cool. MeandBes

This is something I have never seen before, Sporting had a theme night, but the theme night was not for the fans it was for the players! The players had a Russell Westbrook night, and it was great for some laughs! teamruss

I mean Saad Abdul-Salaam with the Tune Squad jersey…Graham’s huge chain…Kevin Ellis‘ poncho…Bes and the sleeveless turtleneck…fresh to death.

Sporting takes on first place Portland in the late game on Saturday. If you’re in KC we’ll see you at No Other Pub in the Power and Light District for the watch party at 9:00 pm!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

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Getting The Job Done

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Saturday, April 8: 1-3 Win

Another weekend away, another win. That makes two away wins so far this season, which is…let me check…yep, two more away wins than we had in all of 2016. Sure, this was against the hapless Philadelphia Union, but we played plenty of hapless teams away last year and didn’t manage to get the job done, so I’ll take it, thank you very much.

Our away support was more than up to the challenge as we once again sold out our entire away support allocation. East Coast Platoon represented the Timbers Army well:

The ugly

The first third of the match was less than impressive. We looked sloppy on offense and even sloppier on defense. (Heck, I think even David Guzmán was giving away the ball, that’s how sloppy we were.) So it wasn’t surprising that this happened:

Richie Marquez put the ball away handily after the corner to put Philadelphia ahead in the 27th minute. You know who was on the back post for the Portland Timbers on that set piece? NOBODY. When you give away the ball on defense and don’t defend on set pieces, getting scored on is a fairly predictable outcome. I gritted my teeth and settled in for another potentially frustrating result against a team we really should be defeating; but unlike last week’s gathering dread, that frustrated feeling didn’t last long.

The sublime

Fortunately, just a few minutes later, we equalized. Darlington Nagbe, who has sometimes (okay, VERY often) been invisible in the final third of the field this year, came up with his first goal of the season just a few minutes later, and it was a good one:

I’m not entirely sure how he found the space to thread the needle to put the ball into the left corner of the goal, but he did it beautifully.

Nagbe isn’t the most prolific scorer; in his seventh year with the Timbers, he has only scored 25 goals in 192 games.  But when he does score, it is quite often something better than ordinary. (Let’s remember, when Nagbe finally scored his first MLS goal in 2011, it looked like this.) This was my reaction when I watched him put it away on Saturday:

score goals

We went into the half at 1-1, and I was of two minds. On the one hand, we were clearly the better team on the field, and had the firepower to be able to put the game away if we came out swinging. On the other hand, I was there last week when we did essentially the opposite. So when the second half came, I took a deep breath, prepared for the worst, and hoped for the best. (This last sentence pretty much describes me at the second half of every Timbers game, by the way.)

Miller-Marquez, Part Two

I was annoyed that Roy Miller was nowhere near the post when defending on Philadelphia’s set piece in the first half. So it was nice to see a bit of redemption in the second half when Miller headed the ball in to put us ahead:

Technically, the ball deflected from Miller to Marquez, so I guess you could say that Marquez scored on set pieces for both teams. But after careful research (read: “after bantering about it on twitter with a few friends,”) I decided that Miller should still get credit for the goal since it still looked to be on target after he headed it. Congratulations on your first MLS goal, Roy. Hopefully the second one comes a little faster.

Adi, Bomaye

And the hits just keep on coming for Fanendo Adi. After Darren Mattocks was taken down at the edge of the box, the referee pointed to the penalty spot and Adi put it away, high and center:

Adi’s development as a player has been a joy to watch. When he first came to us, he was a bit of a raw talent: he didn’t seem to know how to use his size to hold up the ball; his footwork wasn’t always the best; and he wound up drifting offside distressingly often. But as he has matured as a player, he has come into his own. He is learning to use his size to good advantage. His footwork has improved. And while he still gets offside a fair amount, his scoring pace is undeniable. The penalty kick in the Philadelphia game put Adi at 46 career goals with the Portland Timbers in 96 games, a healthy rate and one that has already put him atop the all-time scoring list for Timbers in all eras–MLS, USL, and NASL. Well done, Adi.

The Kids Are All Right

Meanwhile, can we talk about Marco Farfan? Once again, the 18-year-old homegrown player and Centennial High School senior got the start, this time while Vytautas Andriuškevičius was apparently deemed healthy enough to be on the bench for the game. Take a look at Farfan’s distribution on that left side:

farfan v philly

That, plus seven won tackles, is a fine day’s work for the young man. I love Vytas, but if Marco keeps putting up numbers like these, he is going to make Caleb Porter‘s job delightfully difficult when it comes to choosing a starting left back.

Other hot takes

Jake Gleeson had a couple of outstanding saves in this game. Well done, Jake. Hopefully you’ve gotten the yips out of your system; we’ll unfortunately need you to pull off more stellar saves like that while we sort out our Spinal Tap drummer situation at center back.

Subs: Well, everybody who wanted Porter to sub more/at all last weekend, congratulations. This weekend he used them all (arguably to good effect, given the foul that Mattocks drew) and then had to go down a man at the end to injury (also Darren Mattocks).

More Saprissa Shopping: Gavin Wilkinson was recently spotted on the sidelines of a Saprissa match, possibly scouting defender Julio Cascante.

In addition to David Guzmán and Roy Miller, if you count Shaquille Jiménez, who is currently on loan to the Timbers USL squad, that would be four Saprissa players coming to Portland. Vamos, Ticos.

Congratulations on the away win, boys. Thank you for putting it away decisively. We look forward to seeing you back at home on Saturday v. Kansas City.

Featured image courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

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RSL vs VAN – Oh, to win again!

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

By Ambrosia Tonkovich @heyambrosia

Saturday, April 8: 3-0 Win

Well, wow. After a very dry spell, Real Salt Lake came back and came back STRONG, with a 3-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps. This was the first game under new coach Mike Petke, the first time we have won since August 12th, 2016, and the first time we brought out the orange ball since 2007 because of the very strong snowstorm that appeared right after the start of the match. But we did it! We came back!

This was a much needed sigh of relief for fans and a huge weight I’m sure off of Mike Petke’s shoulders as all eyes were on him. Fans of RSL were excited to see a young Danny Acosta in his MLS debut as well as have him team up alongside Brooks Lennon and Albert Rusnak as some of the newest signings of the team this year. Based on speed and tactics, I don’t see Acosta going away any time soon.

We started off the match slow, but strong. In a performance reminiscent of 2013 RSL, there we were, on the field and fighting for a win. We were tight, communicative, and most importantly, hungry for the first win of the season. After a couple of ties and a couple of losses we needed this, and boy do we deserve it.

Albert Rusnak played the best game for us that I’ve ever seen him play (he’s always played well, however). He was fast, and even in a couple of inches of snow he had so much control of the ball. He scored our first goal in the second half, at the 54th minute of play and boy was that a nice feeling.

A thing of beauty.

The stands were pretty empty due to the snow (local weather reports it snowed 6.3 inches, it was the last few inches that stuck during the second half of the game), but man were the supporters that chose to stick around happy. I could hear our chants clearly, and there was a new pep to them. It wasn’t chants of hope, everyone could tell that this was a new team. We were a soccer team playing soccer again. What a feeling.

We scored again in the 74th minute, with an assist from Albert Rusnak who got it over to Yura Movsisyan to make the final touch that sent the goal soaring in. It almost made its way out of the net with a touch from David Ousted but it hit the pole and went right back in where it belongs.

Yura 2-0 vs Vancouver

Fans went wild, snow went wild, I (having to stay home for the evening due to injury) screamed so loud I probably made the neighbors a little nervous. Not only are we scoring, but we’ve gained a 2 goal lead?! This is the team I’ve grown to love over the years! This is what I am used to!

In the 78th minutes, my heart soared. Luke Mullholland, while turning to make sure important parts weren’t hit by the ball, was able to nudge the ball in with his side. I remember watching it in slow motion, thinking there is no way that just happened. But sure enough, it did.

Like Mulholland goal vs Vancouver

We were now up, 3-0. Snow was still falling and sticking to the field, people on the side with snow shovels every few minutes making the lines visible again. This game was crazy, and yet it was really happening! We were up by 3!

Come the end of the game, I think everyone had just about had it. At 90 minutes, a stoppage time of “+0” displayed on the screen and the whistle blew. We had done it! Finally won a game after so long! I had almost forgotten the feeling. Players were throwing snowballs! Life was good!

So what now? Well, this being the first game under Mike Petke officially, all eyes are still on him and the changes he makes. Having Chris Wingert and Acosta in the back seemed to really help, and watching fast little Joao Plata on the field for most of the game (subbing out at the 61’) was a welcome site to see as well. With all of the small changes that Petke has been putting into place are we going to see RSL get their flow back?

All I know is, it’s certainly nice to win one again.

Cards given:

  • 29’ Yellow Card to Matias Laba (VAN)
  • 40’ Yellow Card to Chris Schuler (RSL)
  • 42’ Yellow Card to Kyle Beckerman (RSL)

Substitutions:

  • 59’ Mauro Damian Rosales in for Tony Tchani & C. Techera in for Christian Dean
  • 61’ Sunny Saucedo for Joao Plata
  • 78’ Andrew Jacobsen in for Matias Laba
  • 81’ Luis Silva in for Yura Movsisyan
  • 89’ Omar Holness in for Kyle Beckerman

Featured image courtesy: Jeff Swinger/USA TODAY Sports

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The Pirlo Problem

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

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday, April 8: 2-1 loss

While I was on my way to San Jose to watch the Seattle Sounders bottle their lead in the 90th minute, DC United got their revenge on New York City FC.

I kept up with the match in live time as best I could via Twitter, and honestly? It felt a bit like the olden days of supporting NYCFC.

That isn’t necessarily a good thing.

From a first half filled with possession and chances but no actual finesse on the finish to disastrous defensive blunders in the second half, it was vintage NYCFC at its worst. I’ve now watched and rewatched the error between Maxime Chanot and Frederic Brillant that led to DC United’s first goal upwards of twenty times, trying to figure out where the communication breakdown between defenders occurred. My ultimate conclusion: It never existed in the first place, and that’s the crux of the problem.

Ethan White, who’s been a phenom for NYCFC’s defense in his last three starts, was inexplicably benched for Brillant. Now, do I think that switch alone was what doomed the boys in blue? Not at all. Club over players, always. The team was low-energy, and to lay that blame at the feet of whoever is sitting at right-back would be foolish at best.

When Tommy McNamara was substituted on at the hour mark, I know I wasn’t the only one waiting for his patented brand of McMagic. After all, it worked last time, didn’t it? Unfortunately there’s one huge difference between this match and last week’s comeback. Last time, T-Mac took the place of Andrea Pirlo.

Again: I refuse to ever pin the result of a team on one player, for better or for worse. Even if someone’s a superstar or a total flop, it does a disservice to the rest of the team to only laud or blame one member. Pirlo is not the problem for NYCFC.

But he is most certainly a problem.

Even with Tommy’s presence, NYCFC’s pace still left a lot to be desired. After a sloppy giveaway in midfield from Pirlo, DC United scored their second goal of the afternoon. Alex Ring does an admirable job covering Pirlo for the most part, but he shouldn’t have to do it for the full ninety minutes of every match. Leaving Pirlo exposed for a moment shouldn’t mean we’re open for such an aggressive counter-attack. It was messy, frustrating, and somehow exactly what I expected.

The tempo of the game changed palpably just one minute later when Pirlo was subbed off for Khiry Shelton and for the first time all match, NYCFC looked alive. David Villa managed to carve out one goal not long after that, and they never stopped looking for an equalizer, but by that point it was too late.

For next week’s match against Philadelphia Union, I want to see a different midfield from NYCFC. It’s clear that unless the team is structured around him, Pirlo is more of a liability for NYCFC than anything else. I just want to see what we’d look like with him being rested. Just for one match. Just this once. Please.

No random thoughts this time, as only being able to watch a 20 minute highlight reel doesn’t give me much to work with, but I will leave you with this: My wonderful girlfriend Amanda joked about watching the match and writing a report for me. She doesn’t watch MLS, but she is incredibly insightful about football and approximately a thousand times funnier than I am. I didn’t expect her to actually follow through on that threat, but she did — with six pages and over 1700 words of notes. They’re all hysterical, but in the end this one bit sums up the match and my recap better than I ever could:

#cm

Until next week!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

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