Category Archives: Western Conference

Western Conference

MNUFC Sends Some Signals Ahead of Expansion Draft

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

The third year of the Three Year Plan has passed and, while fans of Minnesota United have seen improvement during that time, what comes next is unclear. Of course, no one expects the club to announce its plans for everyone to hear, but a signal of direction can boost supporter morale and confidence. — Or do the opposite.

With one roster move during the MLS trade window and the protected list released ahead of Tuesday’s expansion draft, let’s take a look at the Loons’ TYP 2.0.

Signal One: Darwin Quintero

When MNUFC signed Darwin Quintero out of Liga MX’s Club America in 2018, big things were expected from him. The club’s first Designated Player was a creator, thus his nickname El Científico del Gol (Goal Scientist). And he took every opportunity he saw to make a goal. It served the Loons well in 2018 — Quintero notched 11 goals and 15 assists in 27 matches, including a hat-trick against Toronto which will live on in MNUFC lore for a long time:

But 2019 saw fewer fireworks from the high-paid Columbian DP (10 goals and 5 assists in 30 appearances) on the pitch and possibly more fireworks off the pitch — Heath benched DQ in the Open Cup final despite his role in getting the club there.

Last week, it was announced that MNUFC had completed a deal with Houston, sending Quintero and a third-round 2020 draft pick south in exchange for $600,000 in TAM and midfielder Marlon Hairston. While new coach Tab Ramos seeks to shore up his Dynamo attacking midfield, Adrian Heath seems to be focusing on youth (Hairston, 25, showed promise in Houston and Colorado but didn’t get much time to capitalize on it) and funds to build up his stagnant striking force.

And so…

Signal Two: A Locked-In Defense, An Attack Set for Adjustment

The list of players made available by Minnesota for the Expansion Draft came as no real surprise to anyone who had observed Heath’s unused sub lists. Miguel Ibarra and Brent Kallman have been on that list for quite some time already. Also not a surprise were those players whose options have already been declined: Carter Manley, Rasmus Schuller, Collin Martin, Wilfried, Moimbe-Tahrat, and Ally Hamis Ng’Anzi.

Wyatt Omsberg, Lawrence Olum, Bobby Shuttleworth, and Marlon Hairston, were not unexpected either — Between loans, bench roles and a lack of history, they are reasonable offseason transactions. The inclusion of Abu Danladi, Angelo Rodriguez and Ethan Finlay, however…

Finlay competed with Kevin Molino for the right wing role all season, but while Molino has a long playing history under Heath, Finlay appeared to be in better form. He would be worth more on the transfer market than the expansion draft, but it has been widely reported that he is set on a starting role (as his work rate deserves) and he has a shot at that with Nashville (more likely than Miami).

Danladi and Rodriguez are puzzling. These were two attackers who Heath was determined to fit into his lineup despite their accumulating injuries. Combined with the Quintero trade, it is obvious that the front office is ready for a change of tack. The attack is wide open.

Here is how the protected players line up in Heath’s favored 4-2-3-1:

Not all of these names are locked in. We can only assume that Robin Lod, Thomas Chacon, and Kevin Molino are set because of the energy and money invested in them. Mason Toye runs hot and cold in Heath’s lineups, but is more consistent than the unprotected strikers. Romario Ibarra is only on this list because Minnesota retained his rights in his loan to Pachuca. Aside from goalkeeper Vito Mannone (on loan for 2019 from Reading FC), any significant changes in the backfield would be somewhat surprising.

While each club can lose a maximum of one player in the expansion draft, knowing who Minnesota is willing to shop around for just $50,000 in TAM as compensation really sets the tone for expectations in the offseason.

Year One: Look for consistency and try to build an identity.

Year Two: Score more goals.

Year Three: Concede fewer goals.

Year Four…. Rinse and repeat?

Welcome to Three Year Plan, 2.0. Brace yourselves for a crazy offseason.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLS Cup Final: Staff Picks

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

We are less than a week away from the MLS Cup Final between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC. Both teams are going for their second league championship, with the Sounders having won in 2016 and Toronto in 2017. Following a new format of single elimination playoffs, the Cup final will be played Sunday, November 10th at CenturyLink Field.

Several members of the MLSFemale staff offered their thoughts on who will lift the trophy at the end of the night. The results are… slightly skewed.


Seattle Sounders

Ashley, Official Sounders Reporter: Because Seattle invented MLS Cup…The team overcame so many injuries this season and not to mention players leaving and retiring. They busted their butts to get to this final and this city deserves to host a championship.

Keira, Official NYCFC Reporter: Sounders because they are a huge reason we have a cool soccer culture in the US. Great teams find ways to win the big games and that’s what Seattle does. Dig deep and find ways to win.

Bridget, Official MNUFC Reporter: I have to go with the Sounders. They have multiple players who peak in high pressure matches and yet nothing about their game plan leans on just these players. It’s a slightly different edge than Toronto.

Eve, Official Montreal Impact Reporter:  If I put my Toronto bias aside, I would say I feel like Seattle have the edge because they have finally been a consistently strong unit over the whole of the season, unlike in their two previous Cup runs.

Aya, Atlanta United Video Correspondent: Seattle because Toronto beat us.

Dayna, Co-founder of MLSFemale: Totally unbiased opinion — I think Seattle will win it. Home field advantage is real in Seattle.

Abigail, Seattle Contributor and USWNT Correspondent: Seattle of course! This team knows how to show up in big moments. Lodiero, Ruidiaz, and Frei are all big game players. This team is built for playoffs especially at home

Sylvana, Official NY Red Bulls Reporter and MLSFemale Social Media Manager: Definitely Seattle. They are a cohesive unit and have been able to execute a game plan. And they were able to put aside the mighty LAFC! They definitely seem to have the advantage going in.

Sarah, Official D.C. United Reporter and MLSFemale Editor-in-Chief: Seattle capitalizes on home field advantage to win the Cup and wow the home crowd, but Nick DeLeon scores some absolute stunners that turn the match into a nail biter.

Toronto FC

Liz, Co-founder of MLSFemale: I’m Canadian and BMO Field was the first MLS match I ever attended which helped put me on the path to co-creating MLSFemale.

Jess, Official Rapids Reporter: This isn’t a final I’m looking forward to because it’s very much more of the same. I would have loved to have seen an LAFC/Atlanta matchup instead. Normally I go with the conference my team plays in, but this time I see Toronto as the lesser of two evils.

Araceli, Official LAFC and Sporting KC Reporter: Toronto FC. It’s a difficult choice since both teams have a long history with each other in the MLS Cup Final. I think Stefan Frei and Quentin Westberg are strong keepers and could keep both sides in the game well into extra time. But I’m rooting for The Reds mostly because Seattle knocked out LAFC.

Kickoff is set for 3pm EST on ABC. MLSFemale will live-tweet the final. Follow along @MLSFemale.

Featured image: MLS Soccer

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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LAFC Concludes 2019 Season At Home In 3-1 Loss

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club’s record-setting season came to an end Tuesday night in a 3-1 home loss to the Seattle Sounders marking the club’s first loss to Seattle. 

In a high-energy, physical match, Eduard Atuesta gave the Black & Gold the early lead in the 17th minute with a rocket shot off a free kick.

But Seattle’s physicality, energy, and persistence would soon overpower the Supporters’ Shield winners – as they struck back in the 22nd minute. Raul Ruidiaz rounded Eddie Segura and, beating Tyler, ripped a shot inside the near post for the equalizer.

Four minutes later, an unmarked Nicolas Lodeiro took the lead when he received the ball just outside the top of the box and took his time slotting home a grounded shot inside the right post.

Latif Blessing went down with a groin injury just before halftime, forcing LAFC to make a early substitution – Mark-Anthony Kaye made his return. 

In the 53rd minute, still down a goal, Adama Diomande who helped the club advance to the next round replaced Brian Rodriguez.

Much like Lodeiro’s goal in the first half, Ruidiaz found himself unmarked at the top of the box in the 64th minute. But this time, it was Lodeiro who fed him the ball across the middle and before Segura could close the distance, Ruidiaz ripped a shot inside the left post to double Seattle’s lead, 3-1.

LAFC continued to push back against their physical opponent to find the breakthrough. However, they had trouble with converting their chances.

The club would get another opportunity to pull one back in the 54th minute when Diego Rossi picked out Diomande inside the box with a cross but could not connect with the forward. Blackmon got on the rebound to see his shot miss wide of the target.

Ruidiaz’s second goal would become the game winner eliminating LAFC from seeing the MLS Cup Final.

It’s not how we envisioned the season to end. But this club has several accomplishments to be proud of:

  • 2019 Supporters’ Shield winners
  • Carlos Vela won the Golden Boot
  • Head Coach Bob Bradley named MLS Coach of the Year

See you next season!

Featured Image:  Daisy Jimenez

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Migration Questions Begin for MNUFC

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

After losing their first-round playoff match at Allianz Field on October 20, the Loons returned to the training ground in Blaine to regroup and refocus. The off season had officially arrived. And with it came roster news.

On Friday, United announced that it had declined to exercise contract options on five players: Rasmus Schuller, Collin Martin, Carter Manley, Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat and Ally Hamis Ng’anzi. To gain some insight into future plans, let’s run through the cuts, from the mild surprises to the inevitable.

Somewhat surprising

Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat: The left back was signed in July, shortly after Francisco Calvo was shipped to Chicago. The plan may well have been to slot the French national right into that vacant space but, in reality, Moimbe became the depth piece behind rookie Chase Gasper. After Moimbe’s acquisition, coach Adrian Heath talked him up as a skillful player the club could depend on to close out the latter half of the season. So why offload him as soon as the season ends? Well, he started just three matches and subbed on only once. So maybe it’s not that surprising after all.

Carter Manley: Minnesota’s 2018 SuperDraft pick played just nine games for the Loons over two seasons. However, Manley’s form was greatly improved with his loan to Forward Madison, United’s USL League One partner. When recalled for non-league matches, Manley showed well and appeared to be a serviceable depth piece for the Loons’ backline. It’s also obvious that he has a future elsewhere. “Carter played a major part in our quest for a championship this year,” said Daryl Shore, head coach of Forward Madison.

“{Manley] was a great addition to our team and we would welcome him back to Madison should he want to come back. I think the first step is to see if he gets picked up in the waiver draft by another MLS team. If he doesn’t, again he’d be welcomed back.”

Daryl Shore, head coach of Forward Madison FC

Inevitable

Rasmus Schuller: Schuller joined MNUFC in 2017, but didn’t see the pitch much until 2018 when he started 29 matches. His minutes waned as the season went on, a trend that continued into 2019. He hadn’t been shy about wanting to start fresh elsewhere – his resume is boosted by minutes with the Finnish National Team – and also has a year of conscripted military service looming ahead, so his exit was only a matter of time. The Finn had even cut his blond locks in preparation for duty before the playoff match:

Collin Martin: Another of the wing-heavy signings made by Minnesota in 2017, Martin has struggled for playing time with the Loons. His name came to the fore in 2018 when he came out ahead of the Pride match, becoming the only openly gay male athlete in the top five American pro leagues, but he didn’t even get an appearance in that match. Martin made only three appearances for the Loons this season, often going on loan to Madison and Hartford Athletic – at his own request. Martin may not have fit into the system Heath was working with, but the 24-year-old could make a long career in the lower divisions or with an MLS side looking for midfield mobility. If all else fails, he is a fantastic spokesperson:

Question mark?

Ally Hamis Ng’anzi: With a lower-division partner, MNUFC had the freedom to sign a player or two who could train and develop elsewhere, but be available for recall in a pinch. Enter Ally Hamis Ng’anzi, an 18-year-old Tanzanian international. Billed as a “box-to-box midfielder,” Ng’anzi was raw, but scouts leaned on his Africa Cup of Nations resume as a sign of potential. Unfortunately, Ng’anzi struggled to break into the 18 in Madison and questions are now – rightly so – being asked of that scouting process. According to coach Shore, “Ally had a tough time with the transition, being a young player. It’s sometimes difficult for players due to the culture change, the style of play, and the other adjustments that are needed.”

What comes next?

Heath & Co have locked down a spine, with centerbacks Ike Opara and Michael Boxall, defensive mid Osvaldo Alsonso and attacking mid Robin Lod, forming the basis of the favored Starting XI. The club also seems invested in the development of rookies Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson. The backfield needs depth, but that does not have to come with a high price tag and can easily fall into place once the other pieces are arranged.

With Thomás Chacón being groomed for a future front three, the next attacking player decision will signal the path toward that future. Will Abu Danladi get another chance or does Mason Toye get the keys and a sidekick in Angelo Rodriguez? Or do they invest in a tested, fit goal-scorer? That position may (should) decide who stays in the attacking midfield. Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra are still question marks for 2020, but both have shouldered that role in some sense, at some point with the Loons.

One thing is certain: It’s going to be a loony off season.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

LAFC looks to silence Seattle in Tuesday’s showdown

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Where: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif.

When: Tuesday, October 29th, 7:00 p.m. PT.

How to watch: ESPN, ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980


After defeating the LA Galaxy for the first time last week to advance to the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Football Club will have the chance to secure a spot in the 2019 MLS Cup in Tuesday’s night showdown against the Seattle Sounders.

LAFC is three wins and one draw in the four-game series against the Pacific Northwest opponents. The draw is at Century Link field and three victories at home in the Banc.

Photo image courtesy of the MLS’ app

The odds seem to be in LAFC’s favor. However, Seattle still proves to be a dangerous threat entering their 11th consecutive MLS playoffs finishing second in the west. And are coming off of two-straight wins against Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas.

MLS Comeback player Jordan Morris scored a hat trick on October 19 against FC Dallas. Although he did not score any goals in last weekend’s showdown against Real Salt Lake – Morris could be a pain for the Black & Gold.

Seattle may have playoffs experience but so do we.

Is Tyler Miller a concern?

Miller will likely continue to be the starting keeper for the remainder of the playoffs. Last Thursday, the young keeper produced three saves with a solid first-half performance. However, slight mistakes gave the Galaxy a chance to level the match and cut the deficit.

“I had a good two and half years at Seattle with two MLS Cup runs. Overall, it was a really good experience for me and now being here in the Western Conference Finals – it’s an exciting time,” Miller discussed about his former club during a press conference over the weekend.

Head Coach Bob Bradley had similar sentiments in giving Seattle credit for being “more solid in every way” this season and their past two playoffs competitions. And is aware the Black & Gold will need to be more prepared.

Dio is back!

The forward returned to the roster after a brief stint in the MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program to bag a pair of goals late and the game-winner in the second half.

Starting XI predictions:

LAFC: Tyler Miller; Steven Beitashour, Tristan Blackmon, Eddie Segura, Jordan Harvey; Adama Diomande, Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing; Brian Rodriguez, Carlos Vela (C), Diego Rossi

Seattle Sounders: Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam, Román Torres, Kim Kee-hee, Brad Smith; Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan, Joevin Jones, Nicolás Lodeiro (C), Jordan Morris; Raúl Ruidíaz

Featured Image:  @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Sounders Roll Past RSL to Advance to 3rd Western Conference Final In 4 Years

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

The 2019 season hasn’t been pretty for the Seattle Sounders. The team has been ravaged by injuries, often lacking an identity on the pitch, and hasn’t had back to back victories since April. But if there’s one thing Seattle fans are learning, it’s that pretty doesn’t matter in the new single elimination playoff format. Win and you move on. And that’s exactly what the Seattle Sounders are doing right now.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

With a quick four day turn-around after playing 120 minutes last Saturday, the Sounders were fired up Wednesday night in front of a home crowd of nearly 38,000 fans. The first half played to a stalemate with Real Salt Lake maintaining the majority of the possession, but the Sounders managing several quality shots on goal.

When play resumed for the second half, the Sounders were forced to make an early substitution as Roman Torres, who has been a powerful presence since returning from suspension, injured his hamstring in the 49th minute. DP center-back Xavier Arreaga replaced the Panamanian. As the second half progressed, so did Seattle’s intensity, accuracy, and dominance.

After Victor Rodriguez replaced Joevin Jones in the 62nd minute, the substitute made an offensive impact immediately. Only 2 minutes later, Nicolas Lodiero swung in a near-post ball from a corner-kick and found Gustav Svensson’s glorious, Swedish head for a fantastic flick in to the back of Real Salt Lake’s net. The Sounders celebrated feverishly, as did the fans packed into CenturyLink Field.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

Fifteen minutes later, in the final ten minutes of regulation play, Gustav Svensson played a beautiful ball down the wing to Raul Ruidiaz, who found a streaking Nicolas Lodeiro. Lodeiro hammered in this golazo:

The captain celebrated jubilantly, as did every Sounders player and fan, knowing that with less than 10 minutes left and up 2-0, they were moving on to the Western Conference final for the 3rd time in four seasons.

Frustrations boiled over several minutes later as Everton Luiz picked up a red card for a nasty tackle on Svensson. Players from both teams came together and while Luiz took his time to leave the field, walking through Seattle’s bench and through the towering flags of the ECS, the final whistle blew to secure the Sounders another home playoff victory. Seattle will face the winner of El Traffico, which will be played Thursday, October 24th at 7:30 PM. The Sounders would host LA Galaxy next Tuesday at 7 PM or travel to LAFC on the same date and time, depending on the outcome of the LA derby.

Saying Farewell To A Legend

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

While the Sounders’ win advanced them to the next round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, there was another historic event that occurred as referee Alan Kelley blew the final whistle last night. Nick Rimando, an absolute legend of both MLS and the position of goalkeeper, concluded his final match. Rimando retires as the league leader in wins, shutouts, saves, games and minutes played. He won two MLS Cups with RSL and featured throughout the years with the US Men’s National Team. And from an outside perspective, he also seems to be an absolute class act human being.

Featured image: Seattle Sounders

All other images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

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A New Era Dawns for MN United FC

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

While its quality on the pitch was not all that Minnesota United’s fans hoped to see in its first MLS Cup playoff match, the Loons put on a show on Sunday that helped the fans celebrate a new era in Minnesota soccer. Of course, the fans put on quite a show themselves.

For thine is the Wonderwall

The Dark Clouds’ pre-match meetup at Black Hart of St Paul, just two blocks from Allianz Field, is always full of a mix of nervous energy and excitement. As old and new friends caught up and traded predictions, filled up on cheap beer and warmed their voices for 90 minutes of singing, they also paid their respects to some of the pillars of Minnesota soccer.

Behind the main bar at Black Hart is an eclectic collection of art. Portraits of Buzz Lagos (legendary Minnesota Thunder coach) and Brianna Scurry (the USWNT goalkeeper is a Minnesota native) are flanked by prayer candles with the faces of two former Loons players, Jérôme Thiesson and Ibson, pasted over the saints’. An altar of living saints.

Sunday evening’s pep talk from DC board members concluded with a prayer to these legends, these ‘saints’ of Minnesota soccer. David Zeller shared the prayer in its entirety* on Twitter:

Our Ibson who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Thiesson come, thy will be done on earth as Scurry saves it. Give us this day our daily Lagos and forgive us our back passes, as we forgive those who hand pass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Unkel**. For thine is the Wonderwall, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Go Loons.

*MLSFemale editors have omitted an add-on line to the prayer. You all have Twitter anyway.

**There would be no deliverance from Unkel this night.

Dawn of the Dethloon

Wonderwall’s tifo committee had to shelf a number of tifo ideas this season due to the loss of a temporary build space and unforeseen deployment issues in the new stadium. But with a new space secured toward the end of the season, the committee could actually plan ahead. In the short span between the regular season finale and Sunday’s playoff match, volunteers built six tifo panels, totaling 7,200 square feet.

“We started our call for volunteers the week before our final game of the regular season. At that point we were long odds to miss hosting a playoff game,” explained committee chair David Martin. “I had ordered fabric about a month prior, knowing this possibility was on the horizon and that it takes weeks to get my fabric from Germany. We also had been working on these design in the background since the beginning of the season, and so we were able to pull it out of the file and execute it much more quickly than if we’d started a new concept from scratch.”

In fact this design may never have seen the light of day if not for the home playoff game. A number of issues (funding, build space, deployment complications at the new stadium, etc) saw the committee complete just three of five planned tifos.

“I thought this idea was dead,” said its designer, Scott Demeranville. “It was David who suggested we go back to the idea, but we thought it was going to be for the last home game of the season against LAFC. Practical issues delayed it further.”

Martin estimated that committee members and volunteers put in roughly 500 work hours to compete the display in a record time of five days, despite limited access to the build space during the work week.

Demeranville sketched the original design, a skeletal loon based on the red-eyed bird of MNUFC’s crest. “The Dethloon is very much in the same spirit as the Dark Clouds name where on the surface it looks dark and intimidating, but it’s actually kind of tongue-in-cheek,” he explained. “It’s a little bit of a parody of soccer supporters who take themselves too seriously. Hence the spelling.”

“It means a lot to me see how much work everyone puts into building and deploying a tifo,” continued Demeranville. “It’s a huge honor to be able to design something that so many people put their time and effort into making a reality. Even though it was fairly boring practical issues that matched this design up with this game, it turned out to be a perfect match.”

We’re just happy to be here

The tifo displayed at Minnesota’s inaugural MLS match — that snowy day when the Loons were routed by fellow expansion club Atlanta United at TCF Bank Stadium — was not just a jab at the other United; it was a plea to never forget, or disregard, earlier chapters of this soccer story. “True unity has history.” From the Kicks to the Strikers, the Thunder to the Stars, the NASL Loons to the MLS Loons… Minnesota soccer fans have seen all the highs and lows.

After two horrific years, the Loons showed vast improvement. In Year Three, the Loons made it to the US Open Cup Final and hosted a first round playoff match. Some fans may scoff when reminded of a traveling fan’s sign, at the club’s first MLS match in Portland, which read “We’re just happy to be here.” No one wanted to hold up such a sign during the loss in Seattle which nearly ended Minnesota’s 2019 MLS Cup dreams. And certainly no one was going to say that to Ted Unkel on Sunday night.

But the evening was full of reminders that Minnesota had finally made it. A halftime light show set to Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination,” highlighting the Allianz Field building process and moments from the 2019 season. Video of Loons players visiting patients at Gillette Children’s Hospital. A pre-match concert by the Shredders as the club’s crest was carved from a block of ice. And, of course, the tifo.

Hosting this playoff match wasn’t the very beginning, but in a way it was the culmination of the beginning. The whole season was the culmination of a chapter, but it was still only an early chapter in a long book that is still being written. Things are always darkest before the dawn, but things aren’t so dark anymore. The sun has crept over the horizon, and it’s beautiful now.

Martin concluded, “Maybe the tifo fit the moment better than we planned.”

Featured image: Tim McLaughlin

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

El Trafico: Tristan Blackmon, “It’s a great rivalry for the city.”

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

From spending three loan spells with Phoenix Rising FC to raising the Supporters’ Shield, there is no slowing down for LAFC’s right back Tristan Blackmon.

The Las Vegas native became interested in the game at an early age in part to his mother having played herself in high school and looking up to legends like Ronaldinho, “soccer came second nature” to him growing up.

“[It] was an interesting lifestyle in terms of soccer in Vegas growing up. Playing club there weren’t many teams out there so I found myself venturing to tournaments in California or other states nearby to get good competitive games in.”

Like most, the LA Galaxy was his first MLS experience. Now on the opposite side of the rivalry – Tristan is grateful to be a part of history.

“It’s a great rivalry for the city. I think there’s going to be a lot of historic moments between these two teams in the future. This is going to be a long live rivalry for soccer in America. It’s awesome to be a part of the birth of that.”

Drafted third overall in 2018 MLS SuperDraft on January 19, 2018; signing on February 22 – the 23-year-old is living the player’s dream. Crediting the club’s “family lifestyle” to helping him cope with the growing pressures and successfulness of another season.

“I think coming in – the club welcomed me with open arms which made it very easy for me to transition into this type of lifestyle. All of us are a huge family and every day we are reminded of that coming into the facility. Recognizing that I’m part of something special definitely makes being here a lot easier.”

During his rookie year, Blackmon made his professional debut in a 1-0 win over Seattle on March 4 and earned his first MLS start in a 1-1 draw vs. DC United on May 26. Including, appearing in ten regular season MLS matches, five starts, for 491 minutes played.

While on loan to USL’s side Phoenix Rising FC, he posted eight starts across all competitions including the 2018 USL Cup final. Tristan returned to Phoenix for his third loan spell this season – making his first appearance on April 6 in a 0-0 draw over Fresno FC before returning to LA for the remainder of the season.

“I think the experience of going on loan definitely gave me confidence and getting games in. Just kind of feeling myself out again because I wasn’t playing too much last year here,” Tristan continues. “I’ve been playing a decent amount of games this year. And I feel like the team has helped me pushed to be a become a better player – which excites me.”

Tristan kicked off his second year with the Black & Gold on May 24 in the team’s 4-2 victory over Montreal Impact – posting his first career goal and assist on a memorable night. Blackmon has logged in one goal, four assists, 1377 minutes going into the postseason.

The young defender is fortunate to have veteran teammates like Carlos Vela and Walker Zimmerman to help guide him.

“I think not only on the field but off the field, these guys have really shown a humble side. [It’s] more like a brotherhood. [..] The veterans have helped me along the way in my path and my journey. And hopefully, I can shed that light on some young players in the future the same way they have on me.”

With another thrilling edition of El Trafico looming – Tristan and co. are ready. LAFC has been unsuccessful at subduing its rival in the five-game series. However, Blackmon is optimistic they will finally get the win with the team’s mentality they’ve had all year.

“We want to smash records and make history this year. In doing that we’re going to need to take down [LA Galaxy] – I feel like it was going to end up this way regardless. There’s always going to be an opponent in your way when you’re pushing to get trophies and results. At the end of the day, we want to get a win and we want to set the tone for the rest of the playoffs. But first, we have to make sure we handle business on Thursday night and I think everybody is up for the challenge.”

With a bye week and home-field advantage in hand, LAFC will face the LA Galaxy for a chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals at home on Thursday, October 24. Kickoff is at 7:30p PST.

Featured Image:  @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sounders Snag Dramatic OT Win Thanks to Jordan Morris X3

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

The 2019 MLS Comeback Player of the Year had himself a day on Saturday, October 19th at home in CenturyLink Field. Jordan Morris’ 3 goals lead the Seattle Sounders in their 4-3 overtime win over FC Dallas in Round One of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a long-distance screamer, which is not the textbook Rui goal Sounders fans are used to. The damp fans erupted all around CenturyLink as the golazo slid past FC Dallas goalkeeper, Jesse Gonzalez. Morris then doubled the lead less than 5 minutes later from a well-placed Joevin Jones assist.

Within grasping distance of the halftime whistle, FC Dallas got on the score sheet when an unmarked Reggie Cannon slotted a ball past Stefan Frei. Matt Hedges thunderously headed in Dallas’ second goal in the 64th minute, eliminating the Sounders’ 2 goal lead.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

Jordan Morris came to the rescue thanks to a Gustav Svensson flick from a Nicolas Lodeiro corner, but the lead would again be dashed by Bryan Acosta just minutes from the final whistle. As the game entered extra-time, it was Morris again for the Rave Green in the 113th minute. Morris’ goal was his third on the day and the final of the game, giving the Sounders a 4-3 victory and helping the team one step further in the playoff chase.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck
Photo Credit: Jill Peck

The Sounders take on their longtime Western Conference (and playoff) rivals, Real Salt Lake, Wednesday October 23rd at 7 PM at CenturyLink Field. RSL come to Seattle after a dramatic win over the Portland Timbers, robbing Cascadia fans everywhere of a playoff rematch from 2018.

Other Highlights

FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez was fined by MLS DisCo following Saturday’s game for two separate incidents. The first was hands to the face on Nouhou Tolo, which occured a good 30 yards out of Gonzalez’ own goal.

Following this incident, when Gonzalez’ hand was swatted away by Nouhou, Gonzalez fell to the ground in a heap. MLS also fined him for this incident citing simulation/embellishment.

Besides Jordan Morris (and Stefan Frie, who had an amazing shot-stopping performance), the fan hero of the game was this gentleman who “assisted” in running the clock out in OT.

In typical Seattle playoff fashion, this game was dramatic, rainy and a full display of tough kids.

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Seattle Sounders claim no. 2 seed in West with 1-0 win over Minnesota

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

After an incredibly unpredictable run of games, the Seattle Sounders grabbed 3 points at home against Western Conference rival, Minnesota United, to lock up the 2nd spot in the West and a home road in playoffs.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In their fan appreciation match, the Sounders honored the return of their longtime captain, Osvaldo Alonso, prior to kickoff and the fans showed Ozzie nothing but love. General Manager Adrian Hanauer presented Ozzie with a framed copy of the recently elected Sounders Best XI, which featured Ozzie in the midfield. The Honey Badger gave the entire stadium a clap and wave before heading in to the opposing team’s locker room, a feeling that must have felt odd for the man who spent nearly a decade in Rave Green.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In front of nearly 48,000 home fans, the Sounders pushed the attack from the opening whistle. Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones provided plenty of pressure from the wings, while Nicolas Lodeiro was a welcome return to the middle of the pitch after missing the previous two games from injury. Due to another red card suspension, Xavier Arreaga missed the match and was replaced by Roman Torres, who had only returned to eligibility in the 18 man lineup the previous weekend after serving a 10 match ban for substance violation.

The Panamanian made a thunderous return to starting form in the 29th minute. After a corner kick played in fell outside the box, Joevin Jones sent in a vicious cross that found the head of Roman Torres perfectly. This goal was Torres first in Rave Green and couldn’t have come at a more dire time for the Sounders.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

The Sounders managed to generate a few more offensive chances and also held off the Minnesota United attack as the match ended 1-0 in favor of Seattle. While the result was probably not what Osvaldo Alonso would have hoped for his return to CenturyLink, the Sounders and their fans relished the 3 points, which secured them the second seed in the Western Conference.

Up next the Sounders will face FC Dallas, who had a disgustingly dominant 6-0 win on Decision Day vs Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink on Saturday October 19th with a kickoff of 12:30 PM.

Playoff Preview

The biggest concern to the Seattle Sounders over the back half of the season has been health and squad depth. The Sounders reached deep in to their reserves for many games this season and dropped more points at home than ever before. However, the Sounders were able to maintain the third longest playoff appearance streak in American professional sports (behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Antonio Spurs, respectively) by securing their 11th straight playoff appearance.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

While it appears Victor Rodriquez is sidelined by yet another injury, Seattle is entering playoffs with nearly their entire squad healthy and ready for battle. Both Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro are questionable to be at full health after recent injuries, but Gustav Svennson, Kelvin Leerdam and Brad Smith are all back to full health after missing long individual stretches. Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris are as hungry as ever, the former having been named to Opta’s MLS Best XI. In this final game, Joevin Jones seemed to show flashes of his former self as well.

While the road to MLS Cup is not a simple one for the Seattle Sounders, they just might be hitting their stride at the right time.

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale