Category Archives: Team Updates

Keeping you updated on soccer news

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

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @Kirsten_Hoogs

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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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A Point in The 6

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

Saturday, April 8: 2-2 Draw

Atlanta United FC have earned themselves some serious respect around the league these last two games. Splitting points with both of last year’s MLS Cup finalists is pretty impressive. Tito Villalba found his fire, Miguel Almiron and Carlos Carmona were back in the starting lineup to fuel that fire, and Decatur-native goalkeeper Alec Kann had a hell of a game.

I’m happy to say that Tito is working really hard to prove me wrong. Last week, I said I didn’t think he was a natural forward – and I’m sticking by what I said, but he certainly improved this week. Tito was ATLUTD’s Man of the Match last night with a brace – and what golazos they were! The first goal of the game came in the 15th minute on a perfect through pass from Miguel Almiron to Tito on the right. Tito’s shot went right through Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono‘s hands and into the net. His second goal came a little over a minute into the second half. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez sent a pass that Tito grabbed and then fought his way into the 18 with Chris Mavinga, ending with a shot that went right through Bono’s legs.

It was great to see “La Banda” (almost) completely back together on the field last night. We’re still missing Josef Martinez (two weeks down; 2-4 weeks to go), but in the meantime, it’s great to see Almiron and Carmona back in the starting lineup. Almiron had a couple of shots last night, including an amazing one that should have gone into the upper 90, but was deflected by Bono’s fingertips.

Unfortunately, Yamil Asad got sent off for getting an elbow to the back of Eriq Zavaleta‘s head in the 75th minute. I thought it was unintentional (and maybe embellished a bit by Zavaleta?), but it is what it is. We’ll just have to wait and see what DisCo says about it later this week. On a sidenote, I was wearing my away jersey with Asad’s name and number on it last night at our watch party and felt like I should have gone home when he was sent off.

While watching the replay today, I also heard (it was too loud to actually hear anything last night) that one of the ATLUTD assistant coaches was sent off in place of Tata Martino. From what I understand, Tata was arguing with someone about Toronto’s head coach Greg Vanney talking to Asad before he was sent off. Haven’t heard any more about it since then, so I’m not sure what actually happened.

ATLUTD managed to hang on, despite a couple of close calls, thanks to goalkeeper Alec Kann, who has been fantastic in goal so far this year. So much so that many fans in Atlanta are wondering why we’re even bothering to bring in Brad Guzan this summer. How that fight for starting position goes remains to be seen, but it’s something we’ll revisit in July when Guzan gets to town.

Last night saw the first goal against ATLUTD in over 260 minutes, which only proves how good of a job our defense has been doing already this season – a bit of a happy surprise for the fans here. Up until a few weeks ago, we thought we’d be scoring tons of goals and letting almost as many in, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. At this point, ATLUTD has scored 13 goals, and has let in only 5. A goal differential of +8 is quite a nice cushion, but some more Ws would be preferred.

Additional observations:

  • I love Jozy Altidore when he plays for the USMNT, but he’s so frustrating. Seems to have the same issues at his club team a lot, but that little back heel pass to Sebastian Giovinco for Toronto’s first goal was so pretty.
  • Atlanta’s first homegrown player, Andrew Carleton, was on the bench for last night’s game, which caused quite the stir here at home. We cannot wait for the Frosted Orange (if you’re from ATL, you’ll get that reference) to get on the field for the first time. Personally, I’m hoping it’s at home, but we shall see.
  • Kenwyne Jones needs some more minutes on the field. He came in at the 84th minute for Villalba last night and did a great job, managing to get a couple of chances.

We are currently sitting tied with Chicago Fire for 2nd place in the East with 8 points. That could change, depending on the results from this afternoon’s ORLvNY game – a win for either of them would put them in 2nd. I can’t say I’d complain about either spot – I certainly didn’t expect to be this high up in the standings at this point in the season. It’s a great feeling and I hope it lasts well into the summer.

At this point, though, I’d settle for having the boys home for a game for a change, but we’ve got two away games before that. Next week, ATLUTD remains on the road, and back to Canada to take on Montreal Impact and the following week, they’ll be out in Utah to take on Real Salt Lake. Three weeks till ATLvDC at home, but it can’t come soon enough!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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I’ve Seen This Movie

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Sunday, April 2: 1-1 Draw

Sunday was a beautiful evening for soccer in Portland. Another sold out crowd at Providence Park gathered in anticipation. Darlington Nagbe and David Guzmán were home from international duty. Marco Farfan, the local homegrown talent and Centennial High School senior, was going to get the start in front of family and friends. And scoring machines Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri would have the chance to test a New England Revolution team that could prove as dangerous on the counter as the Timbers. And for a time, we weren’t disappointed.

First: that goal. Oh, my goodness. Valeri’s strike at the twelfth minute was one of the prettiest I’ve seen at Providence Park, and is surely already in the running for goal of the year:

Then: Marco Farfan. Absolute poetry. My seats are on the west side of the stadium, which means that when he is working as a fullback I get a great up close and personal look at the action for half of the match–and oh my GOODNESS. It was hard to remember that Farfan is still only 18 as I watched him repeatedly own Kei Kamara. Farfan won eight tackles in his home debut and put in a confident, competent performance, pushing up well and defending his territory brilliantly. If he didn’t finish his spring break homework I hope he can turn in a condensed match report for extra credit.

The Timbers were working the ball well that first half, maintaining confident possession and a one goal lead going into the half. And then…

You know that moment in a horror movie when everybody in the theater seems to know what’s about to happen, but for some reason the characters don’t? When you want to shout at the screen “No, that is NOT just the wind making that scraping noise!” “No, you should NOT all split up and head out separately into the woods!” “No, the bad guy is NOT dead and if you turn your back on him he WILL get up and brain you!”

That is pretty much how the second half felt.

All of us in the stadium could tell what was coming. We all KNEW that a one goal lead would not suffice. We KNEW that we needed to come back with intensity, that we needed to crash the box, that we needed to put in another goal to put the game away.

And instead we watched in gathering dread as the team seemingly started the half in second gear; as Sebastian Blanco missed chances wide; as we didn’t have numbers inside the box when we needed them…and as this happened:

Yep. Told you so, said pretty much everyone in the park. I TOLD you if you didn’t take care of business that the bad guy in that horror movie would get back up and brain ya.

I’m not sure where to lay the blame for this one. Yes, Jake Gleeson misplayed the ball. But if Roy Miller had done the defensive job required, the ball wouldn’t have been a threat in the first place. And if Nagbe had been trailing in the box more for second chances, we might have had a second or third goal, which would likely have iced the game even with the defensive lapse. And if we had used, say, Dairon Asprilla or Darren Mattocks, maybe they would have provided a late offensive spark that would have shifted the momentum in our favor.

Regardless of the reason, Lee Nguyen (who to be fair was not in fact a horror movie bad guy, just a talented player doing his job) leveled the score late in the match, and the Revs took a point in Portland.

Disappointing, to be sure, but yes, a point is better than none. And we are still ahead of our typical March/early April performance in MLS. But the firepower of this team has raised my expectations. One goal at home, especially with acknowledged weakness in the center back position, is not sufficient. I hope we score early and often next weekend, and that we don’t take the foot off the gas pedal in Philadelphia until the final whistle.


Off the Pitch

I got to meet an amazing young man this weekend. Dylan Mapston is a 12-year-old Timbers fan and goalkeeper who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. You can read more about Dylan here. Dylan’s two-year-old cousin, Cheyenne, lives in the Portland metro area and is undergoing treatment for a cancerous growth on her spine (more information and fundraiser here). Dylan has started an effort to raise awareness for children with cancer and to give back to those who are fighting this disease. Dylan and his father flew out to Portland for the Timbers and Thorns matches this weekend, collected teddy bears and toys donated at both matches, and delivered them to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital.

Soccer may be the thing that brings us together, but sometimes it inspires something much greater. It was a privilege to meet Dylan. I’m grateful for his inspiration and perspective, and for demonstrating the Team/Town/Timbers Army connection we know and love. I hope we meet again soon.

Featured image of Marco Farfan courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

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Everyone’s Open Now…Right?

Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin @Kirsten_Hoogs

Sporting KC @ DC United: Home Opener 0 – 0 and freezing

Sporting KC vs FC Dallas: Home Opener 0 – 0 and freezing

Sporting KC @ Toronto FC: Home Opener 0 – 0 and freezing

I’m beginning to sense a trend here, and we need a Mommie Dearest moment…

wirehangers

Sporting KC has personally scored a whopping one goal in their four games, and they have been gifted one by the generous gaff of David Bingham. While both of those goals were at home, we had already opened for business.

The good side of the this story is that Tim Melia is straight up fire in home openers (and all games actually)! Three clean sheets in three openers with some monster saves thrown in for good measure. I would like to reference a tweet from this past game…

Tim Melia being an actual unicorn has neither been confirmed nor denied, so I’m just going to go with it…Now on to the game!

Toronto, you are cold. You are very cold, and you are very damp. It rained, and rained, and rained, and rained some more. I feel for our Toronto FC writer, @crissypayne, because she was there. She might still be thawing. I felt bad for the poor mascot children who had no coats! Michael Bradley‘s children had coats. Toronto, get those kids some coats!

The game can be summed up in one word really. Almost. Toronto almost scored. Sporting almost scored. That’s about all there was. A whole lot of almosts. Hopefully, now that we’re past everyone’s opening jitters we can start turning those almosts into actualities.

There have been some good things going on among these almosts though. The new guys on the team have all been positive additions to the line up. Gerso Fernandes is starting to get some great touches up front. He had three attempts, an assist on an attempt, and won a free kick in the attacking half against Toronto. Some of his passes were questionable, but there was a good amount of sloppy play on both sides. I’m going to chalk some of it up to the weather, and see what happens as the season continues.

Soony Saad is not technically new, but he had a solid game and was creating chances. Hopefully, he gets some more time to keep working on his rhythm with Dom Dwyer, and they can regain that magic they had a few seasons ago. Latif Blessing was a late sub for Soony, and he was like an instant jolt of electricity! He is fast, and knows how to move the ball both in space and through defenders. The only worry I have with Latif is that he is not very big, and he will need to be strong against some of the bigger defenders in the MLS.

The last new guy is Ilie Sanchez. Last week I was iffy on Ilie, but this week I am all for him. His on ball decisions were good, his passes were concise, and he had an amazing delivery from the corner in the waning minutes of the game! If Dom had been a foot closer it would have been a goal.

The real stars of the season so far have been the back four and Tim. The back line of Seth Sinovic, O’Captain my Captain Matt Besler, Ike Opara, and Graham Zusi has been so solid. Matt and Seth have continued their strong foundation from last season, and with the additions of a healthy Ike and converted midfielder Zusi, the SKC back line is one of the best in the league.

All things aside, Sporting escaped with a point, and their unbeaten streak against Toronto now stands at eight games.

Week 4 Fun(ny) Facts

Toronto fans kept throwing toilet paper on the field which was annoying, but it led to the best moment of the game. Poor Soony…

SKC likes to play April Fool’s Day pranks. See last year when they got Tim Melia and Jordi Quintilla to “audition” for Dancing With The Stars. This year Dom, Soony, and Coach Peter Vermes catfished rookie Colton Storm, or should we say Mark from Cabo… You just have to watch.

I’m excited for Sporting to come back home to Kansas City this Sunday to take on the Colorado Rapids. Game day temp? 72 and sunny, baby!

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

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Oh, what a relief!

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Friday, March 31: 0-0 Draw

Atlanta United fans have a few things to be relieved about after Friday night’s 0-0 draw at Seattle. First, we got out of there with a point. Second, despite definitely missing our regular starters due to injury (Josef Martinez) and international play earlier in the week (Miguel Almiron, Carlos Carmona, Kenwyne Jones), we didn’t falter. And finally, no new injuries…that we know of.

As anyone who knows soccer knows, a 0-0 game can be really good or really bad. This one was really good. Possession was almost literally 50-50 (50.2% for Seattle Sounders to 49.8% for Atlanta, I believe), so there was a lot of back and forth. A few chances for both teams to get a goal, most notably Clint Dempsey‘s header that ricocheted off the post (I could kiss that post!) and Kenwyne Jones’ shot that was blocked by Cristian Roldan (dang it!), both in the second half.

Honestly, lots of us were very nervous about how this game would go. With Martinez injured and Almiron and Carmona not in the starting lineup, we didn’t know what to expect. Tito Villalba was the lone forward with Jacob Peterson and Chris McCann in the midfield to start. As much as I love Tito, I don’t think he’s a natural forward. Maybe it was because Seattle’s defense was all over him, but other than one run early in the game that was stopped by Stefan Frei, he didn’t really have any clear chances at goal.

Our defense, however, did an incredible job. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was a brick wall. There wasn’t much that got by him, which is why he was this week’s Man of the Match (from ATLUTD’s perspective). He’s really been outstanding so far this season. Local ATL guy Alec Kann made us nervous a couple of times, but managed to come out of this game with his second shutout.

Oh, and LGP did this, too:

I watched Friday’s game at a bar with about a hundred other faithful ATLUTD fans who made it to Buckhead despite the *minor* traffic rerouting on Friday. The first time Julian Gressel touched the ball, a huge roar of “GRESSELMANIA”  filled the bar. And when Almiron was subbed in, he got a huge ovation from the crowd at Fado. Chris McCann’s wife was there with us, and she told a friend of mine that she enjoyed it and is planning to come back for other away games to watch with us, which was pretty awesome.

As far as injuries go, Greg Garza went down late in the game clutching his hip, which was distressing to many people who know his history. Fortunately, he did get back up and continue in the game, but it remains to be seen if he will be healthy enough to play next weekend in Toronto.

Other notes:

  • ATLUTD fans don’t know what to do with themselves when the boys don’t score within the first 10 minutes of a game. We may be spoiled.
  •  The ATL players seemed a bit frustrated this week, I hope just because they were still adjusting to the new lineup. I haven’t looked back to compare, but the foul count seems rather high for us this game (18 for ATL, 7 for SEA).
  • Two yellow cards were given to ATL players; to Gressel in the 20th minute for a studs up slide on Roldan (that could have been a red, so phew!) and to Yamil Asad in the 43rd minute for a foul on Lodiero.
  • Interesting note: this was ATL’s first game on turf. Right now, at Bobby Dodd Stadium, they are playing on grass, but when we move to Mercedes Benz Stadium in July, they’ll be playing on turf.
  • The boys will be getting a better look at that turf this week when they finally move to the official training ground! I’m hoping for an open practice soon so I can check it out for myself.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Leave ‘Em Quaking

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday, April 1: 2-1 Win

I love when soccer stresses me out.

Yes, it’s nice to get decisive, comfortable wins. I’d certainly never be foolhardy enough to turn down an early lead and a clean sheet. That feeling of assurance that your team will win is irreplaceable (and rare).

But there’s a certain magic in coming up from behind.

The true mettle of a team tends to show its face when the scoreline isn’t skewing in their favor. It’s easy to fall to pieces when the opponent has the advantage. It’s easy to panic, to get desperate and sloppy. It’s much harder to keep heads up, eyes forward, and minds clear. Despite San Jose Earthquakes‘ early goal on Saturday, the boys in blue managed to retain their focus and pushed hard to come back.

Jack Harrison scored the equalizer just ten minutes in, off of a so-casual-it-couldn’t-possibly-have-been-on-purpose (but it was!) backheel from David Villa. I’m a huge fan of the Villa-Harrison connection. The two of them read each other incredibly well and always seem to know where the other is without looking.

That quick comeback gave New York City FC the confidence to keep persisting through the first half, though nothing came to fruition. Alex Ring, in particular, was doing the most he could to get a goal. It never quite came together, but he was delightful to watch. Ring is graceful with the ball at his feet — the word delicate even came to mind as I was watching him. It’s refreshing to watch.

Image courtesy NYCFC.com

Things never looked hopeless for NYCFC, but the struggle to find attacking harmony in the second half was undoubtedly real. And then, cometh the hour, cometh the man: Just six minutes after his substitution, West Nyack’s golden boy Tommy McNamara found the back of the net. Who else? Who but T-Mac could pick us up when we’re down?

Of course, to credit the goal just to Tommy would be doing a disservice to the beautiful play that led up to it. It truly was a team goal, which makes the turnabout win so much sweeter. Rodney Wallace passed to Villa, who coolly laid it off for Rónald Matarrita — and he could have gone for goal there, he really could have, but at the end of the day Mata is an architect, not a showboat. He saw Tommy with space and handed him the goal on a silver platter. It was one of those glorious moments in soccer where everything comes together so quickly and seamlessly, you have to wonder why you were ever stressed to begin with.

Those three points at home bring NYCFC up to a three-way tie for second place in the Eastern Conference. It’s still early, but I remain confident as ever that this is a stronger, better, faster NYCFC. This comeback just solidified it for me. Nothing is impossible if we keep this attitude up.

What else went down?

  • Death to short corners. I’m over them. Give me a long, elegant arc over the top for a set piece goal any day of the week.
  • Not that I ever want to think about David Villa leaving us, but when he inevitably does, I hope T-Mac is still around. He has all the qualities a captain should possess — dedication, humility, grace under pressure — and, perhaps even more importantly, the undying love of the supporters.
  • My Andrea Pirlo feelings remain complicated. To echo what I said after our opening match, I’m not sure I can conceive of a world where he’s relegated to the bench. It simply doesn’t compute in my head. At the same time, it’s hard to come to his defense after a showing like this one. And yet, because he’s Andrea freaking Pirlo, there’s a tendency to gloss over what his game lacks — to wit, Patrick Vieira was adamant in his post-match comments that he did not sub Pirlo off because he was playing poorly. I can’t imagine we’ll see a reality where Pirlo isn’t starting with some regularity, but still, I’d be interested in knowing what shape the team can take without him.
  • Maxime Chanot was a verifiable wall in this match. He was everywhere, tackling and intercepting and clearing like it’s his job — I mean, it is, but you know. Man of the Match is an accolade that rarely goes the way of defenders, but if I could give it to him, I would.
  • Off the pitch, Rónald Matarrita is leading the team in fashion. Fresh to death, Mata. I love it.
  • To celebrate April Fools’ Day, NYCFC adopted a pigeon. I choose to believe this was not a prank, and I look forward to seeing what Theodore brings to the team. New York is coo.

Next weekend you can find me at Avaya Stadium in the Sounders supporters’ section with my Seattle-loving friends! But I’ll be back on Sunday to watch a replay of NYCFC’s match and report on it… if we win. If I find out we lost, I may mysteriously be too busy.

Just kidding.

Probably.

Featured image courtesy: NYCFC.com

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Young Woman Yells at Cloud: Homecoming and a scoreless draw hosting Sporting KC

Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Friday, March 31: 0-0 Draw

Toronto FC song(s) of the match: Have You Ever Seen the Rain? By Creedence Clearwater Revival AND Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head by B.J. Thomas

I’ve got CCR on repeat and I’m trying to find inspiration in a game that was all washed out. We came, we sang, we drew, we froze half to death. That’s not to say I don’t still have complete faith in this team, that’s not to say I’m not proud we’re still undefeated in the league, but things are starting to feel a bit repetitive.

3 out of 4 games draws, 2 of them scoreless, and one relatively late winner that was more than overdue. And still Sebastian Giovinco hasn’t scored.

Don’t get me wrong, it felt so good to be home. Too good! So good I’ll forgive the cold that settled in my bones and the strange feeling that I had just taken a dip in Lake Ontario on my way to the stadium. Boy did it rain! But still.

Being among the fans again, singing our hearts out, it just felt so right. I hope the players felt it too. I hope BMO Field instills in them the same passion it does me and the thousands of others who sang and cheered like we could still feel the tips of our fingers. And to the Inebriatti guy who still took his shirt off in the second half; you’re really something else! That is passion.

I was, to say the least, not amused last game when we fielded a starting XI without a single Canadian player in it. Raheem Edwards silenced anyone who could have thought that was for the best when he set up a great goal off the bench in Vancouver and Jonathan Osorio asked questions too with his assist.

Edwards is still silencing any dissent with his phenomenal performance on Friday night against Sporting Kansas City. The kid was everywhere! The ground he must have covered! He provided a great option in the absence of Justin Morrow and he was well served in a 3-5-2 formation, a very attack minded player but not without his defensive prowess. Particularly impressive was his far post header save in the dying minutes of the game, a moment that could have proven the difference for SKC. This young local guy has my man of the match vote and I sincerely hope we consider him as more than just a stand in for future games.

Speaking of Canadian players, after reminding myself a dozen times this is not an article about Jonathan Osorio, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that it’s okay to sky a few shots! I know nobody is going to be as upset about this as he is but it’s worth noting that besides missing 3 sitters he had a pretty good game overall. Good passing, good positioning, his defensive game has improved a lot lately, and he always has a good read on the game. The shooting can be practiced! I only hope he isn’t too hard on himself, and finds the positives in his game as well as the room for improvement.

Finally, we unfortunately saw Clint Irwin forced off on injury late in the first half which is never ideal. I wish him the speediest recovery and I’m hearing he’ll miss 4-5 weeks with a hamstring strain. I’m just so glad we have an extremely capable backup by way of Alex Bono. He rose to the occasion and he got that clean sheet and he made two great saves in the process. It’s really nice to have not one, but two goalkeepers in whose hands I feel completely safe.

To my fellow fans: I’m so happy to see you again, we had a great first game back and you lot always make BMO Field the best place to be in the world. To the players: Welcome home and see you in a week. Undefeated, baby!

Featured image of Raheem Edwards courtesy: Toronto FC facebook

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