With interim coach Daryl Shore taking over after Jeff Cassar was fired after three games this season (and no games won since August last season) Real Salt Lake takes it on the road to New York to take on the Red Bulls, finishing with a 0-0 draw and their first road shutout since April 2015 against SportingKC.
RSL had 9 players out on either injury (Horst/Glad/Barrett –knee, Plata – hip, Beltran – back, Allen – quad), international duty (Rimando for USA & Rusnak for Slovakia) or from suspension (Beckerman). For RSL fans this game was a nail biter before it even began.
While we came out strong in the first half, we could not complete passes (5 players on the team had less than 50% pass success rate), nor could we seem to hit the back of the net, although we did have a fantastic debut from Matt VanOekel who had 3 very big saves during this game and became Man of the Match.
Our defense stepped up as well, with Aaron Maund clearing the ball 13 times alone (returning for the first time since August of last year, being out due to injury), and with a couple of great tackles by Chris Schuler. All in all we had 5 shots on target though they fell short of the back of the net, and we continued our card collecting with 5 cards collected this game from referee Chris Penso. Yellow cards were given to the following: Luke Mulholland (57’), Luis Silva (66’), Sunny (68’), Aaron Maund (70’), and Ricardo Velazco (87’).
We did see another debut for MLS Homegrown players, with Jose Hernandez coming in at the 73rd minute of play. This makes him the 7th player to make a club debut in the first 4 games of the season for RSL. With our team looking more and more to homegrown academy players, we are starting to play younger players, but also ones who have proven themselves over the years as they’ve worked their way up to RSL status.
All in all, I think RSL fans were expecting worse with the number of players out and the odds stacked against us. We retained a tight defense, even when things seemed to get a little hot headed up in front while scrambling for the ball between our own players. We did, however, need to work on our possession with us only having a 36% possession for the entire game.
–Brooks Lennon is FAST. Freaky fast. He and Saucedo showed their talents tonight with fancy footwork and constantly keeping up with a very talented Bradley Wright-Phillips. When Plata comes back he is going to have some very talented and fast teammates to work with.
-Matt VanOekel came out strong for his first RSL debut. He did our team, and Nick Rimando proud.
Great result on the road boys! Way to grind it out! Goose 🥚 for MVO and the warriors across the field👍🏼
-We still dominate when it comes to collecting cards. This is not a good thing.
-Fans are getting tired of saying “At least we didn’t lose?” to people after games. We need to pull together against Minnesota United who have let 18 goals past them in the first four games of this season alone.
Featured image courtesy: Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports
Lucky for us here in Atlanta, there was an event to help us quell our thirst for soccer while a handful of our boys are on international duty. ATLSoccerCon held its second annual event today on the west side of town. Set up in an indoor soccer facility, there were supporter groups of ATLUTD and international teams, vendors, Subbueto games, and some jersey, scarf and memorabilia collections. Outside, there was the ever-present beer trailer, a food truck, and a giant foot darts game.
ATLSoccerCon was started by a few of my friends who are massive soccer nerds – and I mean that in the best way. Austin Long is a self-labeled kit nerd and regular podcaster, both on his own (check out his Soccer Nomad podcast here) and also hosts the Terminus Legion podcast (you can find those on Soundcloud and iTunes). Jason Longshore is an editor for the Atlanta United blog, Dirty South Soccer (my favorite source of ATLUTD news), runs soccerdownhere.com, and also happens to be a commentator for the ATLUTD game broadcasts on local radio station 92.9 The Game. He kind of knows his stuff, especially when it comes to Atlanta soccer. JR Francis is a marketing and design guru – he’s the designer behind the Terminus Legion logo (along with tons of other designs). He’s also got the most massive collection of jerseys I’ve ever seen.
A good time was had by all in attendance at ATLSoccerCon and it took our minds off of the injury that Josef Martinez suffered during Thursday night’s Venezuela – Peru game, if only for a few hours.
From what we hear, it’s a left thigh injury. He came back to Atlanta and was scheduled for an MRI today, but no word as of yet what the results were or whether he will be available for Friday night’s game at Seattle. At least we know he’ll be around for a while, though, since ATLUTD finalized the permanent transfer of Martinez from Torino this Tuesday. Oh, and Martinez also won MLS Goal of the Week for this shot in the ATLvCHI game:
Meanwhile, Miguel Almiron played for Paraguay, also on Thursday, in a 2-2 draw with Ecuador, Carlos Carmona stayed on the bench for Chile’s 1-0 loss to Argentina, and Kenwyne Jones played 84 minutes for Trinidad & Tobago in their 1-0 win over Panama.
In other news, this article by Doug Roberson of the AJC made my day, specifically this quote from ATLUTD’s rookie sensation, Julian Gressel: “On the field, I remember in the second half, you are on the field and you hear the main supporter’s section going ‘Atlanta’ and the rest of the stadium go ‘United.’ I was on the field and I had to take a deep breath for a second and regroup to focus on the game again. It was breath-taking. It was unreal.” The new hashtag #GresselMania is also a thing here in Atlanta, much to the amusement of some of Gressel’s teammates.
ATLUTD has a four (FOUR!!) game road trip coming up this month, mostly to accommodate for Georgia Tech’s spring football games. Our first major test of the season will be next Friday’s game at Seattle, especially now with Clint Dempsey appearing to be in top form after the USMNT’s rather decisive victory over Honduras last night. Holy cow.
In the meantime, since ATLUTD aren’t playing tonight, I’m getting my live soccer fix by watching some former Atlanta Silverbacks players (Poku and Chavez for Miami and Paul Black for NCFC) in the North Carolina FC vs Miami FC NASL season opener. Yay for random cable networks I never knew existed! The game just ended as a 1-1 draw. Good to see those boys in action again this year!
See y’all next weekend when hopefully I’ll be reporting some good news after SEAvATL!
USA Lineup : Tim Howard; Jorge Villafaña, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks (Tim Ream, 70), Geoff Cameron (Graham Zusi, 59); Michael Bradley (capt.), Sebastian Lletget (Alejandro Bedoya, 18), Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe; Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore
The USMNT beat Honduras 6-0 in a huge World Cup qualifying game. They are in the “Hex” which is 6 CONCACAF teams (USA, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, Panamá, and Costa RIca) competing against each other for 3 spots in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The 6 teams will all play each other twice (one home and one away), and the 3 teams with the most points will automatically qualify for the World Cup, the team in 4th place will have to play an inter-confederation play-in game to qualify.
Prior to this game, the USMNT were in last place, with 0 points in 2 games. They lost to Mexico 2-1 on November 11th, and they also lost to Costa Rica 4-0 on November 15th.
The goal scorers for this game were Clint Dempsey (3), Sebastian Lletget (1), Michael Bradley (1) and Christian Pulisic (1).
The Budweiser Man of the Match Clint Dempsey scored his first goals since June 16th, 2016 during the Copa America. He has been sidelined from national team duty after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying – CONCACAF rankings as they stand
There is nothing like watching the Sounders play in Seattle. With March 19th being their first home game of the season since their MLS Cup win, the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field seemed to be more electric than normal. After their Championship Celebration and banner unveiling, the reigning MLS champs went on to beat the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in front of a record high crowd of 45,600.
With Roman Torres out on suspension for misconduct in last week’s match against Montreal Impact, a large question was how the Sounders would do without their star defender. However, the win was never too out of reach for the Sounders, as they started off stronger and more in control than they had during their first two games of the season.
The Red Bulls did put in effort and came away with one goal that came out of nowhere in the 59th minute when Bradley Wright-Phillips headed in a nice cross from Sal Zizzo. The Sounders, however, were unstoppable with three beautiful goals including a penalty kick from Clint Dempsey in the 28th minute after Jordan Morris was brought down in the box by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
Goal number two was a result of an impressive show of skills from Joevin Jones to Nicolas Lodeiro who made a beautiful cross where Jordan Morris was able to head it past Robles in the 66th minute. Lastly, the third and final goal came in the 78th minute after Harry Shipp tapped in a shot that Jones took from outside the box that seemed to be heading straight to Robles.
Yellow cards were not super prevalent in this match but one standout moment was when Red Bulls forward Fredrik Gulbrandsen attempted to earn a penalty kick for his team immediately after the Sounders had taken theirs and was instead met with a yellow for simulation and a Sounders free kick.
Injuries always seem to be around the corner and there seemed to be a couple that might become an issue in the future. Oniel Fisher came off in the 64th minute after a foul by Sean Davis with Alvaro Fernandez replacing him on the field. Jordan Morris played through the limps (and still scored) after he was brought down in the box but came away with an ankle injury. Lastly, Chad Marshall took an elbow to the head while doing his defending but continued playing and doing his thing, as Chad Marshall does.
All in all, after starting the season off with one loss and one draw, the Sounders are back to winning and on the right track to defending their championship title.
This result leaves the Sounders ranked as 6th in the Western Conference and is hopefully just the right beginning to keep this winning momentum going. Next week, we face Atlanta United who boast an impressive record so far. Atlanta did beat the Sounders during preseason but then, they have never played Seattle at home so it will definitely be a face-off to watch.
Random but important:
Joevin Jones’ space buns are all-powerful and every Sounders fan should wear their hair that way for the rest of the season.
The Sounders are really good at breaking streaks as they ended one of the longest streaks in Red Bulls history, with 18 unbeaten regular season games. Additionally, they have broken Orlando City’s 17-game home unbeaten run, the LA Galaxy’s 12-game home unbeaten streak and ended the Colorado Rapids 18-game home unbeaten streak while becoming Western Conference Champions last year.
Five Sounders have left Seattle for international duty including Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris who joined the United States national team, Joevin Jones who joined the Trinidad & Tobago national team, Roman Torres joined the Panama national team and finally, Nicolas Lodeiro who joined the Uruguay national team for World Cup qualifiers.
The Sounders left in Seattle will be playing a friendly against Club Nexaca on March 25th which should be a good time.
This game was tough to watch as a fan. This game brought the Vancouver Whitecaps’ second consecutive loss and 2nd straight red card in 3 games. One thing I can say, the game wasn’t boring.
The highlights of the game are as follows: Fredy Montero offside like 18 times, Toronto defense beats our offense in the air every time, we continue to feed forwards in the air, Brek Shea gets carded, Michael Bradley screams a lot, there was almost a full team fight, Armando Cooper is a crybaby, referee is the worst referee I have ever seen. EVER.
Ok, so here are the details. Whitecaps are playing CCL games in tandem to their MLS games and it might be causing some fatigue. They traveled from Vancouver to San Jose, to Mexico and back within a week. All excuses aside, Whitecaps are not looking so hot. The decision making on the field is poor and there seems to be a lack of ability to adjust their game to that of their opponent.
In addition, the midfielders were not making runs into space. There were many opportunities for through balls, but the problem was, our mids were sitting back. They weren’t connecting any passes. They were passing into pressure and losing the ball.
Why do I sound like a high school soccer coach? Because we are talking about the basics of soccer, the BASICS.
The game was pretty physical and was called by what seemed like a ref who had been paid under the table. Just to let you know that I am not being a cry baby, the refs were shown off the field by security. Eventually, after letting the play get pretty dirty, Shea was shown a yellow, then quickly a red after something was mumbled or said to the ref.
Just shortly after the ‘Caps went down to 10 men, Toronto FC came on strong with 2 goals. That’s 5 goals in 2 games they’ve allowed after falling down a man. This is 5 too many in my opinion. If we can’t compete with 10 men, let’s not play with 10 men. Discipline please.
Well, here we are. Let’s try this again #riseupraincity
What’s that, you say? The Portland Timbers are 3-0 and top of the table after three weeks in March? How in the heck did THAT happen?
It has been a crazy start to the season, to say the least. In week two, we won on the road in Los Angeles. The last time a Timbers team pulled off a March road win, I was in high school. (In related news, I am old.) And last Saturday, we managed to defeat a strong Houston Dynamo squad that was having a fine March of their own. Fortunately, the boys came through when it counted.
The first two scores of the match, both on penalty kicks, came from handballs that were so hard to see in person that I had to re-watch the highlights later to know just what had happened. The first, coming at the 10th minute off a ball that deflected off the lifted elbow of DaMarcus Beasley, certainly didn’t look intentional, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?
In any case, Diego Valeri confidently jogged up to the spot and drilled it high and center for the first score of the match. The second, at the 36th minute, was a handball that careened off Diego Chará’s arm as he lifted it up to cover his face during a Cubo Torres free kick. Hard to fault Chará for trying to keep his face from getting drilled, but if you’re going to call the first one you might as well call the second one, I suppose.
There were several long minutes in the first half where I was worried about our ability to withstand Houston’s counterattack, and their score to close out the first half was a perfect example of why. During first half stoppage, we got our clocks cleaned. Alvas Powell was WAY behind the play on the counter, probably a combination of playing so far up on offense and recovering from an injury; and Zarek Valentin, our third string fullback, was playing catch-up much of the half. The result was a quick Torres to Alberth Elis flick, followed by a beautiful and deadly pass from Elis to Romell Quioto for the easy score. If this was a sign of things to come, I didn’t like our chances in the second half.
But then, the second half came, and something was different. I don’t know what adjustments they made, but Valentin and Powell looked like they were hung out to dry a lot less often. In fact, Valentin redeemed himself in the 57th minute with a BEAUTIFUL left-footed cross from the corner, perfectly placed for Valeri to head into the back of the net, and suddenly we were tied again.
Our third goal of the night was probably my favorite. David Guzmán is a beast, in every good way. I may call him Tenacious D for his work in the back (which by the way frees up Chará, thank you very much), but he also works incredibly hard on the offensive side of the ball. And he was rewarded for his efforts last night with what turned out to be the game winner in the 65th minute. With Beasley trying to clear the ball, Guzmán chested it perfectly to Nagbe, who returned the favor by making a ridiculously good spinning-as-he-hit-the-ground pass to Guzmán, who put it away, then kissed the crest following his first score in a Timbers uniform. Sebastian Blanco is definitely DP quality, but I really think in many ways Guzmán might be our most valuable signing of the season so far.
Fanendo Adi was kind of driving me nuts that night. (Okay, not kind of. He really was.) He managed to line up offside a few times, his footwork wasn’t the best, and he was looking gassed toward the end as he missed chance after chance. But just as I was turning to a friend and saying “WHY haven’t we subbed him out yet?” Adi did this at the 87th minute and put us ahead 4-2. Way to shut me up, Adi.
I don’t want to go on and on about it, so I’ll just say that Cubo Torres was being kind of a jerk.
Alvas Powell reminded me of first-year Powell, which meant moments of brilliance followed by moments of WTF? I do not wish to watch another season of the “That’s So Alvas” show. Hope we’ve seen the last of it for awhile.
Our back line still scares me, but Roy Miller wasn’t horrible. He and Guzmán have some playing history together and it shows.
We made adjustments at the half and they worked. More of this please.
Darlington Nagbe’s ball handling is so solid that I think he might have only had one errant pass the whole first half. I remember because when it happened it felt SO out of the ordinary. I hope he gets a chance to show some of that magic during the USMNT qualifiers this next weekend.
Jake Gleeson. Holy cow, son. You had some saves that first half. Nice work.
Prior to the match, the Timbers had a ceremony to honor Nat Borchers, retired center back and amazing human. Nat took the opportunity to salute the Timbers Army one last time and we tried to return the favor. Now Nat is taking up a new position, this time in the broadcast booth. We love you, Nat. Best of luck in this new chapter.
This weekend also marked the Timbers’ Army’s participation in the Independent Supporters Council’s stand against racism. The tifo display, We Are Your Shining City Upon A Hill, spoke to the Timbers Army’s desire to continue to defend equality as a fundamental human right and to reject racial oppression. In addition to the display, the Timbers Army also sold both “Refugees Welcome” scarves and “Sanctuary” scarves, with proceeds going to charitable organizations who work with immigrants and refugees. And finally, we also held the first of many match day drives, this time collecting food for a local food pantry at Impact NW. Yes, we want to win the battle on the field; but we also want to win the battle for equality and dignity in the broader world.
Well, that was a most excellent weekend. Next stop: Columbus. Hopefully, we can manage to hold down the fort while Nagbe and Guzmán are away on international duty. See you next weekend.
Featured image, David Guzmán celebrates his first goal in a Timbers uniform courtesy: Portland Timbers
Three points? A goal by Benny Feilhaber? A nutmeg goal by Soony Saad? I’ll take one of each, please!
Saturday’s game versus the San Jose Quakes at Children’s Mercy Park started off much like the rest of the season so far. Sporting Kansas City was creating, but not capitalizing, and Tim Melia was staying strong in goal.
*Before I go any further, you should know that there is no love lost between Sporting and referee Jair Marrufo. Some of you may know about the game against San Jose last year when Dom Dwyer was tripped by Andres Imperiale in the box, and was not awarded a PK. Afterwards, both coaches agreed that a PK was warranted.* With that said, there was a good bit of chippy-ness going on (read chippy-ness as Dom getting tripped up three times and play continuing each time). I know Dom has a tendency to “embellish” fouls, but not to that degree.
Now, moving on. There were so many close shots in this game! If the goal was one foot wider the score would have been something like 5-2. Benny missed just wide right in the 18th minute, Jimmy Medranda missed slightly wide left in the 39th minute, Dom tripped in front of the goal after beating keeper David Bingham in the 54th minute and he then missed the far post by about two feet in the 58th (the U-S-A chant by The Cauldron was a nice touch though).
This is the same issue we had the majority of last season. Sporting would get forward and make shots like no one’s business, but they couldn’t convert. The thoughts of many SKC writers were that we needed someone up front to help Dom, ala Krisztian Nemeth, and this off-season we signed Gerso Fernandes, Latif Blessing, and Dom’s Man Crush Monday Soony Saad.
Let’s see how this turns out once the team gets going and some more of these guys get worked into the Starting XI. One other worrisome note is Ilie Sánchez in the midfield. Some of his decisions seem a little questionable, and his passes aren’t connecting as much as I would like them to. Hopefully, he just needs a little more time to gel with the rest of the team.
But on to the fun stuff! Nearing the end of the first half Benny Feilhaber lofted the ball over David Bingham and into the corner for the first goal of the season! Bingham had no chance, and Sporting got to celebrate!
Luckily for Sporting, San Jose didn’t have much of an answer. Our defense was solid minus a terrifying two minute stretch at the end which led to a stoppage time goal by Florian Jungwirth. This would have been an issue, but Soony Saad’s 89th minute shot nutmegged David Bingham and rolled into the goal. We’re going to say it was a goal for Soony…the MLS is saying it’s an own goal off of Bingham…tomato tomato (that is way less effective when you type it). You know a goal is lucky when the team’s tweet about it is “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”.
The ending was probably the best part of the game. If you look at the picture at the top of the article you can see The Cauldron in the distance. At the end of the game The Cauldron sang “When the Wiz Go Marching In”, and the players sang, swayed, and jumped along. It was a great ending to an awesome game!
Week 3 fun facts
Captain Matt Besler and Graham Zusi have been called up to the National Team for the World Cup Qualifiers! You can watch them play against teammate Roger Espinoza when the USMNT meets Honduras on March 24. The other US qualifier is against Panama on March 28.
Forward Dom Dwyer is officially a US citizen! He had his swearing in ceremony on Thursday, so we may be seeing him on the USMNT roster some day soon…
Sporting KC did an “official” team bracket on Tuesday, and it was pretty interesting. The guys who had teams in the tournament got together to make their picks: Matt Besler – Notre Dame, Soony Saad – Michigan, Graham Zusi – Maryland, Ike Opara – Wake Forest, Cameron Porter – Princeton, Colton Storm – UNC. Ike basically took over much to the chagrin of his teammates. Ike’s picks were a Duke vs UNC final with Duke winning. Benny came in once everyone left and lambasted Ike’s choices. The video is on Sporting’s Facebook, you should check it out.
*Note: at the time of writing Duke had just lost to South Carolina. Also, the KU Jayhawks have made it through to the next weekend…Rock Chalk
Have a great spring break, everyone, and I’ll see you for the next game on Friday, March 31st at Toronto FC!
Real Salt Lake had quite the day against LA Galaxy, with five yellow cards (three of which were given to RSL), a red card and a loss with the finishing score of 2-1, LA. This brings them their second losing game in a row (previously gave two goals to Chicago Fire last week), and a lot of things to work on next week while we have Nick Rimando out for USMNT call ups, Kyle Beckerman out for a red card during this game, and several players still out on injuries.
RSL came out looking strong in the first 20 minutes of play. Yura Movisyan had a beautiful header in the 18th minute that brought the entire stadium to their feet for our first goal of the season. Kudos to Albert Rusnak for getting Yura set up with the ball so effortlessly. After a yellow card was handed out to both Luke Mulholland and Beckerman in the 34th minute, and Beckerman handed a red card in the 44th minute, RSL was down to 10 men heading into the ending of the first half.
The start of the second half proved to be a little rocky for RSL being a 10 man team. LA Galaxy caught up to us with an equalizer goal by Dave Romney in the 69th minute, and surpassed us with a goal by Emmanuel Boateng in the 74th, making that his 5th MLS goal. Fun fact: all of his goals in MLS have been against RSL.
I promise it's a coincidence. I got nothing against them 🙈
LA Galaxy did receive two yellow cards from Stoica, one in the 1st minute of stoppage in the half to Romain Alessandrini and again in the 88th minute to Nathan Smith. However, that was small potatoes compared to the impressive number of yellow cards handed out to RSL (In addition to Luke and Kyle, Rusnak and Chris Schuler also received yellow cards in the 61st minute and 90th minute, respectively).
All in all, a frustrating result for any RSL fan, even with a man down. The odds seemed a little stacked against us with cards flying everywhere, but we should’ve tried to pull it together for a home win.
We need to keep trying hard to get more goals. We are tied for bottom of the Western Conference right now. Hopefully we get some injured players back soon, as our team will be super scarce next week, but in the meantime, we need to keep fighting for more goals.
Since we’re collecting all of these cards can we trade them in for a nice lunch or something for the team? Seems like we’ve amassed quite the collection very quickly.
Atlanta United’s second ever home game was even better than their very first game in MLS for a few reasons. First, ATL won 4-0 in front of another sellout crowd – and over 100,000 people have attended the first two home games. Second, the stadium crew had a slightly better handle on conditions in the building and it was a much better experience, at least from my perspective. Third, the vibe in the stadium was, as I’ve seen many times in the last 24 hours, electric.
Atlanta United got their first shutout and potential MLS Golden Boot winner (yep, I’m going there) Josef Martinez added another two goals to his tally. Martinez now has five goals and leads the league. His goals yesterday were spectacular.
The first came in the 60th minute when Miguel Almirón squeaked a pass through the gap that Martinez had left between Chicago Fire’s central defenders. Martinez took two touches, one drifting just far enough to his left to get around Jorge Bava, and it was in the back of the net.
His second goal in the 82nd minute saw him once again splitting the central defenders, this time with a pass from Yamil Asad. Martinez took one touch to get around Bava and then took a shot from a seemingly impossible angle.
The first goal of the game was an own goal for Chicago. MLS Rookie Julian Gressel nabbed a pass from Hector Villalba at the edge of the box and played a cross in front of the goal that was deflected in by Chicago’s Brandon Vincent.
The third goal was my personal favorite because it was my favorite player, Hector “Tito” Villalba who scored in the 67th minute to officially open his MLS account. Greg Garza sent a pass up to Martinez, but it was deflected by a Chicago defender and dropped right at Tito’s feet. After one touch to get in place, Tito launched that ball off his left foot right through Bava’s outstretched hands and into the back of the net. I’m not sure I’ve ever cheered as loud as I did at that moment.
While most of the crowd was busy celebrating the Goal-a-Palooza in the stands, others standing in line at the concession stands said that the lines were so much better this time around. At the home opener, there were not enough concession stands open and what was open was slow. I got in line for a hot dog and a bottle of water about 30 minutes before the game started and gave up about 25 minutes in. I left some money with a friend of mine in line and went back to watch the pre-game ceremonial stuff. The friend I left in line finally came by to hand me my food AFTER Atlanta’s goal (which was around the 25th minute of the game). She also nearly got in the middle of a fight in line. To say this week’s experience was an improvement would be a huge understatement.
There’s no doubt that the improved concessions in the stadium helped the mood of the crowd – maybe not as much as those four goals did, but nonetheless, the crowd was really into this game. The capos in the supporters section kept the chants simple and the sections were loud enough to get the rest of the stadium going. The A-T-L thunderclap and the “Atlanta! United!” call and response were SO LOUD. In person it was amazing to see the crowd coming together like that. When I watched videos last night of the chanting and watched the game again this morning, I may have shed a tear of joy. My friend Jason Longshore of Dirty South Soccer said it best in his Daily Dirt sub-heading today: “Atlanta United’s supporters earn an assist yesterday.”
As of 9:30pm ET on Sunday, Atlanta United are at the top of the Eastern Conference. ATL is also leading the league in goals scored with 11 and are currently in third place for the Supporters Shield. If anyone had asked me a month ago where I thought ATL would be in the standings three weeks in, I don’t think I could have predicted this.
Our next MLS game at Seattle on 3/31 will be a huge test. Three of the four ATLUTD players (Almiron [Paraguay], Martinez [Venezuela], Jones [Trinidad & Tobago], and Carmona [Chile]) that have been called up to their national teams this week are starters. How will the international break affect the team, especially against the defending MLS champions? Sure, we beat them 4-2 in preseason, but the Seattle Sounders played all of their bench and trial players. A few of their starters got subbed in late in the game, but we didn’t really get a sense of how ATL would fare against the Seattle starters.
Only time will tell, but I will be biting my nails off at a bar with my Terminus Legion family in 12 days anxiously watching the Five Stripes (not sure I’m in on this nickname yet, but I had to try it) take on Dempsey, JMO and that Seattle crowd.
Some draws may as well be wins. A last gasp equalizer against a rival team. A hard-fought level scoreline that could have gone the wrong way too many times but miraculously didn’t. A point, better than nothing, just enough to keep you afloat on the table. A push into extra time when tournament advancement or silverware are on the line. A reminder that the beautiful game can turn on a dime, to not get too complacent, to fight until the end. A little salvaged pride.
Then again, some draws feel barely a step above a loss.
New York City Football Club scraped out one point against Montreal Impact on Saturday, in what were essentially two separate games.
The first half was all NYCFC. While the boys in blue weren’t quite as explosive right out of the gate as they were last week, they still enjoyed playing aggressive attacking football. Everyone had their moments to shine, but Jack Harrison rose above and put on his own clinic. It would be quicker for me to tell you how many times he didn’t dance his way out of a cluster of Impact defenders, leaving them frustrated and dogging his heels. To simply give him Man of the Match would be doing a disservice to how stunning he was today.
Rodney Wallace scored the lone goal of the match. After providing Alex Ring a cheeky backheel, Ring shot for goal and was summarily dismissed by Impact’s keeper. However, RodWal was there — he stayed composed, collected the ball on the rebound and made his mark for the second match in a row. I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all. Wallace is dedicated in his pursuit of the goal, and he sticks with the play until it’s thoroughly complete. He creates chances in those precious seconds after it looks like the opportunity has finished, and I love him for it.
By contrast, the second half was Impact’s game to lose. Aside from a stunning play between David Villa, Wallace and Maxi Moralez that somehow didn’t end in a goal, there wasn’t much to be done. You could feel the inevitability of an equalizer in the air. Sure enough, Montreal played a ball over the top and caught our defense in dire straights with just enough time for Dominic Oduro to chest it down and score.
At least NYCFC didn’t give up. They stayed hungry for goals right up until the final whistle, especially Tommy McNamara, whose header off a free kick in the dying minutes of the game sadly went over the crossbar. The scoreline wasn’t for lack of trying. NYCFC battled until the end, and that’s what makes the draw sting like a loss.
Well, that and the fact there was a lot of sloppy chaos in front of Impact’s goal. The first half saw three sitters where Harrison, Ring and Andrea Pirlo just couldn’t find the back of the net, while Villa chipped the ball up and over to the wrong side of it. Maxi shot his attempt in the second half just wide. It’s never fruitful to play the “what if?” game in soccer, but at the same time, it’s difficult to deny that the match would have gone in a different direction had we scored even one of these chances.
This wasn’t lost on Patrick Vieira, who remarked after the game that “it will be important for us to take our chances because we are not going to create a lot of chances like that in a lot of games.” I foresee more finishing drills in the future.
What popped into my head during this match? Well…
Wasn’t I just talking about Ethan White? What a game he had! He was solid at right back, and even pushed forward well in the attack a few times. Montreal nearly managed to catch us on a counter in the first half, but White beautifully blocked Ignacio Piatti‘s attempt at a goal. He’s been the unsung hero of our defense over the past two matches.
Color me well and truly shocked that Pep Guardiola let two injured Manchester City players out of England. Ilkay Gündoğan and Gabriel Jesus were present for the match and seemed to have a blast despite the result. Maybe they snuck out after curfew and Pep wasn’t supposed to know. Maybe Pep was still busy frantically rewriting the rules of the Premier League and just didn’t notice. Maybe the story is better in my head.
Jon Lewis made his NYCFC debut! I enjoyed what little we got to see, and I’m sure it won’t be the last of him. Congratulations and here’s to many more games with us, Jon.
I dozed off between halves and had a dream (nightmare?) Tancredi Palmeri was commentating the match. So… that’s where my subconscious is at these days.
Happy international break! I’m one of those rare fans who prefers international soccer to club. My heart just beats in a different way when it comes to the worldwide stage. So I love international breaks — provided all our players return injury-free, of course. If you’re hankering to watch your favorite NYCFC players represent their countries, I’ve got you covered!