Category Archives: Western Conference

Western Conference

A chat between friends – Presidents of Dallas Beer Guardians and Angel City Brigade briefly discuss the recent game

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Official FC Dallas Reporter

By Bailey Brown // @baileystaysposi

With guest, Karina Ceja

Karina and I met this past year at the annual Independent Supporters Council Conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada. We automatically became friends and have bonded over our love of soccer and Selena. She now serves as the President of Angel City Brigade, an independent supporters group for LA Galaxy.

After our game on Saturday, I reached out to her with some questions that I have had as an outsider looking in and trying to get her thoughts on the game.

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Karina Ceja

BB: Hey girl! Thanks so much for being down for this. I think any time we can show supporters having a friendly discussion is always a plus. Anyways, I’m excited about this.

Okay, so let’s jump right in!

I have to admit, when you guys signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, I was incredibly upset. Not because I was jealous, but because I felt like this was just another instance of 1. LA Galaxy flexing its money muscles and 2. The overall look of players from European Premier League not super in the prime coming to MLS for a new beginning. What were your thoughts when you guys finally made the deal?

KC: So, this was a rumor for a few seasons now. At first, I didn’t pay much attention because I didn’t know if/ when this would finally happen but a friend/ reliable source mentioned it to me a few days before the deal was finalized. Given the nature of his career and success, I was stoked, but I was also afraid because he hadn’t played in so long and I didn’t know how his personality would mesh with the rest of the team.

BB: Now that you’ve had him for a couple of games, do you think the investment was worth it/will continue to be worth it?

KC: I definitely think it was worth it. We had lots of games last season where our midfield and defense would play their role, we just didn’t have confident forwards to fulfill the goals we needed to capture the wins.  There are no words to describe how “worth it” he was/is during his debut, helping the team come back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the new team in town. I was crying in the stands, “I LOVE YOU, ZLATAN!”

BB: So, something I’ve come to on my own conclusion is that a lot of these big name players don’t affect the gameplay as much as other acquisitions. For example, in Chicago, I will always stand by the signing of Dax McCarty being a much bigger influence on their midfield than Bastian Schweinsteiger. I get that one brings in a lot more money than the other, but do you think there were any other signings for Galaxy this year that have made a bigger impact for you guys?

KC: Yes. Ola Kamara! Not a huge surprise, considering his stats with the Crew. He has shown heart and dedication since preseason and has continued to do so. He even got a goal on FC Dallas.

BB: Okay, I agree. Ola Kamara was a solid acquisition. I hope to see Zlatan deliver to him up more. I know they’re still working out the kinks and you could see that in the game this past weekend. Once both of them get a little more time together, I think they will both be able to work better at the connection piece.

Saturday, May 12: FC Dallas 3 – LA Galaxy 2

BB: Okay, so let’s start about the game. FC Dallas saw a glimpse of glory with Diaz coming back and making 3 assists for our team. For someone who has been starting on the bench and who has, for the most part, not been as consistent since THE injury (referring back to 2016), this was refreshing to see.

Not to mention Roland Lamah putting two balls in the back of the net for us. Were there any standout plays to you on your side? Reto Ziegler got his second caution in the 73rd minute ultimately sending him off the field and Dallas down a man. I really didn’t agree with it, but I’m not the ref. However, I do think this helped give you guys momentum for your second goal. What are your thoughts on all of it?

KC: To be honest, after the first Urruti goal, I was like, “Okay, here we go with 2017 all over again.” Dallas playing with 10 men seemed to have an influential drive for the Galaxy. They started attacking and eventually, Boateng landed that second goal- which helped the team feel like we were still in the game. Alessandrini and Zlatan both had shots that hit the post, so there was still hope that we’d get a shot in for the tie. Towards the end of the match, I thought we’d tie.

BB: Okay, and lastly… I know you joke about keeping the Wooden Spoon (Independent Supporters Council trophy for worst overall record in the league… the less spectacular sibling of the Supporters Shield), but I really don’t think you’ll have it again. If I’m being completely honest, I think that will be reserved for Seattle this year and I’m not sad about it.

However, I feel like you guys are definitely seeing a little more consistency this year overall. What are your thoughts after last year (I mean, I feel like Dallas ended well enough to share that trophy with you)?

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Picture of the Wooden Spoon on its way back to L.A.

KC: I haven’t completely lost hope in our season. I do joke about it but we still have a few months to get it together. Last year was a combination of bad coaching, poor defense, no performing strikers. We have a bit more consistency with scorers– we just have to get our team to defend the last 15 minutes of each game. We will come back– even if it’s just for a brief playoff appearance.

Featured image: Bailey Brown

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @baileystaysposi

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The Road to Russia: Vela, Gaber, Beitashour and Ureña from LAFC named to provisional rosters

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Monday was a busy day for LAFC as the club announced four players named to their national team’s provisional squads, respectively. In addition to, Los Angeles will serve as one of the host cities for the Gold Cup in 2019.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is starting to heat up as managers of all 32 countries competing in the 2018 tournament officially released the provisional squad rosters on Monday. Each country’s coach selected between 30-35 players for their provisional squads.

Teams have until June 4 to announce their official 23-man tournament roster. However, some coaches have already announced their final rosters before the deadline. Including, Costa Rica’s head coach Óscar Ramírez.

The month-long tournament will kick off on June 15 with the group stage running till the 28th before going on a two-day break for the knockout phase. The final will take place on July 15 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

LAFC is the only MLS club with the most potential participants in this year’s tournament and is expected to have multiple players called up by their respective national teams:

Steven Beitashour – Iran

For the first time since 2014, defender Steven Beitashour has been called up by the Iranian National Team and has the opportunity to make his second appearance for the squad in the 2018 World Cup.

The San Jose native first featured for the Iranian National Team in 2013 and appeared in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He notched an assist in Iran’s 3-0 win over Thailand in Asian Cup qualifications in 2013 and was on the bench for the national team’s three group matches in Brazil.

Iran is the first team from the Asian Football Confederation to stamp their ticket to Russia. Iran was drawn into group B with Morocco, Spain, and Portugal – arguably the toughest group in the tournament. If selected, Beitashour could face Ronaldo.

Despite, the controversial call-ups of Masoud Shojaei and Ehsah Haji Safi – both players who were initially banned for life last year after playing for their Greek club Panionios against an Israeli team – Beitashour remains on the 35-man provisional roster. There is a chance he will not make the trip as head coach still has less than a month to whittle down his squad to 23 players for the tournament.

Omar Gaber – Egypt

Omar Gaber was named to Egypt’s 29-man provisional squad as The Pharaohs prepares for their first World Cup appearance since 1990. The 26-year-old defender is a veteran of World Cups in youth tournaments for Egypt and now has a chance to make his first appearance for the senior competition led by head coach Hector Cuper.

Egypt was selected to play in Group A with Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and the host country, Russia. Although Egypt won’t play the host country until June 19, Gaber’s presence can be huge for the team. Gaber has played 18 times for Egypt, appearing in five games in 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.

Carlos Vela – Mexico

Vela has been vital to the black and gold’s current success having scored his sixth MLS career goal this past Sunday in a dramatic 2-2 draw against New York City FC. Named to the 28-man preliminary roster by the boss Juan Carlos Osorio, Vela has a chance to bring his talent back to the world stage.

A veteran of the 2010 World Cup, Vela has been a consistent starter during Mexico’s qualifying campaign and helped his team stamp their ticket to Russia. Vela skipped the 2014 World Cup in Brazil due to a long-standing dispute with the national team. However, he returned to the roster later that year. The forward has recorded 67 appearances and 18 goals for El Tri and is now on the verge of his second World Cup appearance.

Mexico was drawn into Group F consisting of Germany, Sweden, Korea Republic. Mexico is set to start their run on June 17 against the current World Cup champions and will need Vela’s help to hold off the German powerhouse.

Marco Ureña – Costa Rica

The 28-year-old LAFC forward Marco Ureña is part of the squad that will represent Costa Rica this summer and has been a key player for both club and country. Costa Rica’s head coach Óscar Ramírez announced his final roster the same day before the deadline, making it Ureña’s second World Cup selection.

The forward recently underwent surgery to repair a facial fracture injury he acquired in LAFC’s home opener against Seattle on April 29. As he continues to heal, it is expected Ureña will make the trip to Russia, and likely to play, too.

Although it is an honor to be called up for national duty, this means Ureña could possibly miss five games including the friendly against Borussia Dortmund, and potentially longer depending on how far Costa Rica advances.

Featured image courtesy: @FIFAWorldCup

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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The beat goes on as Los Angeles Galaxy lose again

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Saturday, May 12: 3-2 Loss

Starting XI: David Bingham; Daniel Steres, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik, Ashley Cole ©; Perry Kitchen, Jonathan dos Santos; Chris Pontius, Romain Alessandrini, Ola Kamara; Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Image: @LAGalaxy

Bench: Justin Vom Steeg, Emrah Klimenta, Dave Romney, Servando Carrasco, Baggio Husidic, Sebastian Lletget, Emmanuel Boateng.

It’s like having the same bad dream over and over:  The LA Galaxy concede early, chase the game, and fight to come back from behind two goals. It’s going to be reoccurring until they work out the problems, but they have to start tackling the issue of our defense first.

At this point, fans are calling for coach Sigi Schmid to be fired and for the front office to go as well, but the latter won’t happen as most have a five-year contract extension. The MLS salaries were also released revealing the Galaxy as having the highest paid defense with not much to show for it.

Saturday, Los Angeles Galaxy took on FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium and it turned out to be a wild one. The humidity and almost 90 degree weather added to the challenging elements of this particular match. Frequent water breaks were taken and FC Dallas knew how to run and tire LAG out in such conditions, messing with their momentum.

It started with Maximiliano Urruti who scored in the 28th minute. Then, in the 44th minute, FCD’s Roland Lamah scored. At that point, a change needed to be made and Sebastian Lletget came in for Perry Kitchen. Ashley Cole got a yellow card, which suspends him for the next match.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Celebration after Ola Kamara’s goal. Image: @LAGalaxy

Then, a breath of life for the Galaxy came from Ola Kamara with a header off a corner kick in the 47th minute, cutting the Texas team’s lead in half.  Lamah scored again, though, in the 52nd minute. The Galaxy made another change when Jonathan dos Santos got hurt and Servando Carrasco subbed in at the 56th minute. The Mexican national was not seriously injured.

Reto Ziegler earned two yellow cards, which gave the Galaxy an advantage as they were up a man. Still, despite a fighting effort, the LA Galaxy came up short.

Emmanuel Boateng came in for Chris Pontius in the 76th minute and he scored a goal in the 83rd minute of play. It seemed the Galaxy could catch up.

I clung to hope as the minutes ticked away. In the 88th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic took a free kick that hit the top post with such fervor that the entire net shook!

Watch below:

That was not the last thrill as the Galaxy created chances and took shots til the whistle blew.

It is disheartening to write that a team with a stellar squad, most notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ola Kamara, is in 9th place in the Western Conference at the close of Week 11.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action. Image: @LAGalaxy

But, The Whispers sang a similar tune: the beat goes on, I might as well get over the blues. Let’s move on strong. LAG’s next match is once again on the road as they are set to face Montreal Impact on Monday, May 21st.

Featured image: @LAGalaxy 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @mchuitink

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MNUFC faces ever-growing faultline

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, May 12: 1-3 Loss

Going into Week 11, San Jose Earthquakes had notched just one win. That was way back on opening night, when they hosted Minnesota United. That night, the Loons started a disturbing trend of going two goals in the hole before halftime. They would give up one more in the second half before Minnesota midfielder Kevin Molino got two back to make the stats recorded under the loss look slightly less depressing.

This time around, Superman himself returned to the lineup after two matches off. A good sign in itself. Then the Loons gave up a penalty kick in the second minute.

Minnesota conceded all possession to the Quakes for the first twenty minutes, allowing themselves to be dispossessed much too easily, failing to carry the ball out of their own half over and over and over again.

Until a pass finally found the right foot of Superman in the 26th minute. And wasn’t it pretty?

He nearly added a brace in the 41st. It would’ve counted in FIFA, but in real life, it dinged the crossbar and was cleared. Defender Jerome Thiesson nearly scored in the first half’s injury time (that one wouldn’t have counted in FIFA), but they went to the locker room deadlocked.

In keeping with debut trends, making his MLS debut this day was referee Victor Rives. And what a performance it was. No one in the black and gray was happy with him after the match, least of all Adrian Heath and Francisco Calvo, especially after this play:

It wasn’t all Rives’ fault though. Sure, some calls (or the lack thereof) were debatable, but Minnesota had plenty of opportunities to take control. Instead, they forgot to put the cap back on the Hoesensauce bottle and paid dearly for their mistake. A lurking Danny Hoesen was assisted by Chris Wondolowski in what may have been the most easily poached goal allowed this season. And open-air TCF Bank Stadium seemingly deflated.

Wondo notched another on a penalty. And so the Loons dropped another perfectly winnable game to the least-winningest team in the west.

You can point to as many mistakes as you want and Calvo knows you will:

“If you want to point at me, point at me. I’ve been playing as a pro eight years. So, I know what this pressure is. So, if you want to say Calvo is doing mistakes, Calvo is not playing well, you can say whatever you want. But we are 11 on the field. Alright? So, if you want to talk, talk about the team. Don’t talk about me or any of my teammates.”

But the bottom line is this: If United can’t find a way to link their play from one end of the pitch to the other – for all eleven to work the same game plan, to play with the same energy and focus during the same match – they will have much bigger problems than San Jose.

And so it goes in the North.

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Loons and the Law of Averages

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Wednesday, May 9: 2-0 Loss

With two forwards injured and one serving a red card suspension, there were a lot of questions surrounding Minnesota United FC‘s midweek clash at LAFC. While Chris Ramirez is the lone forward with a goal, accounting for just one of the club’s eleven, the concern over getting a result had more to do with how the midfield would piece together with no true forwards in front.

Mids ran the show Wednesday. While they account for the other ten goals, five were made by players no longer on the active roster (one by Nicholson who was traded to Colorado Rapids last week and two each for Molino and Finlay, both out for the season with ACL tears) and two were made by Ibson, who Adrian Heath chose to rest for Saturday’s match against San Jose Earthquakes.

Designated Player Darwin Quintero has accounted for two goals and Miguel Ibarra for one (plus three game-winning assists), but could they function as a ‘forward’ unit?

They certainly tried. Unfortunately, Quintero’s best chance was foiled by the goal post and Ibarra’s two shots on goal were blocked. LAFC had similar run-ins with a goal post, last-second flicks and a keeper with quick hands, but the new club had two key factors on their side Wednesday night: The Law of Averages and defensive placement.

Minnesota had three beautiful shots on goal, out of seven total shots, from five different players.

LA had seven shots on goal. Out of… 29 total shots?! 29 shots from ten different players. Yes, in oversimplified terms, everyone but the keeper sent at least one shot into the box on Wednesday night. So it is actually quite remarkable that they only managed to put two in the net.

The home side also had the advantage of a defensive line, led by Laurent Ciman, which was always in the right place, at the right time, whereas Minnesota’s back four… wasn’t. Captain Francisco Calvo, in fact, found himself out of position a few too many times. His partner, Michael Boxall, who is not typically a fan favorite actually drew praise from Calvo’s fan club defectors who enjoyed the effect of his wall-like frame:

So while dropping three points on the road is far from ideal, the 2-0 scoreline really isn’t so bad. The Loons, hopefully joined by a healthy Ramirez, a rested Ibson and a refocused backline, will be welcomed home on Saturday by fans who have come to not expect much from road games.

But they expect a bit more at home. Namely, for the keeper to not be Man of the Match.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Hey, guys, we might have some goal-scorers now

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

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

One of the biggest questions that Sporting KC fans have had for the past few seasons is, “When will Peter Vermes sign a proven goal-scorer?” Well, guys, I think we’re good.

We’re ten games in (oh man…look at those recap articles…insert sad-disappointed emoji here) and not only are we in first place in the west…say that again for the people in the back…FIRST PLACE IN THE WEST! but we are averaging just over two goals per game, and have a +9 goal differential. All of these things are quite awesome. So let’s discuss these guys, and see what might be in store for the rest of the season.

The Top Guys

Johnny “Russellmania” Russell

Johnny Russell came from Derby (Darby) County, and he hit the ground running. If you haven’t seen this guy score in person, then you are missing out. Though I live super far away from KC now, I was able to take a spur-of-the-moment trip up to Chicago to see SKC win against the Chicago Fire. His goal was not only his first for the boys in blue, but it was also gorgeous. Just watch him blast the ball between three Fire defenders, not that anyone would have been able to stop it…

That was his first goal, but Russell’s crowning glory so far this season was the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps where he became the 8th player in SKC history to score a hat-trick. The coolest part though is that he is the fastest player to ever get three in one game, clocking in at 48 minutes.

He could have probably scored more, but the Verms subbed him out in the 52nd minute for Cristian Lobato…who scored another goal. A 6-0 win was pretty sweet, guys. When you score three goals in one game you are almost guaranteed to be MLS Player of the Week, so naturally, that happened. Please enjoy this goal-a-palooza.

Felipe Gutiérrez

So, Felipe Gutiérrez was the leading goal-scorer in the league, then he got injured and he was still the leading goal-scorer for another two weeks. That’s what happens when you score five goals in the first five games. Quick side-note: Sporting didn’t score in their first game, so it’s basically five goals in four games.

I would like you to ignore the obnoxious music in this video and watch his field awareness. He knows exactly where the defenders and his teammates are at all times. The goal off of the backheel from Daniel Salloi should have been the goal of the week, but Atlanta United fans stuff the ballot box any time one of their guys is nominated…cough cough.

His reaction time is also crazy. The two goals off of rebounds are sheer perfection. Felipe has been injured basically since March ended. He subbed in against Vancouver but wasn’t on the field for that long, and he’s out now after sports hernia surgery. Depending on how quick he’s back, and how prolific other scorers are, he could possibly still end the season near the top of the leading scorers.

The Utility Players

Penalty Shooter Extraordinaire, Ilie Sanchez

Do you need a guy to take a penalty? (Which SKC are magically getting this season. Not bitter, but we didn’t get one until almost the All-Star break last year. Pepperidge Farm remembers.) Well, we have a guy that can take your penalties. Not only will he make said penalty shot, but he won’t even make a big deal out of it. I wish he could score more, because The Cauldron has a new cheer for Ilie this season, and it is my absolute favorite thing.

My name is…
Ilie Sanchez,
I’m from Barcelona
I play defensive-mid for the Wiz (THE WIZ)
When I walk down the street
Everyone that I meet
Says, “Hey, Muchacho, what’s your name?”
My name is…

Young Daniel Salloi

Young Daniel has worked his way back into the starting lineup since Felipe’s injury, and if Saturday’s game was any indication, he’ll fill in fine. Daniel has scored twice so far this season, and he didn’t play at all in one game since he was coming back from international duty in Hungary. I refuse to do a Hungary pun. Refuse!

This guy is still young, and even if he’s not scoring, he provides a spark on the offensive end. He has four assists on the season including a beautiful backheel on one of Felipe’s goals from above. Check out his goal from the game against Colorado Rapids. Not only is the finish great, but literally every single piece of this puzzle is bomb.

Fun Facts

Matt Besler got a haircut. I’m sad about it.

Graham Zusi cut his hair for charity. I’m not sad about it.

Sporting defeated the Fighting Zlatans…I mean the LA Galaxy. It was great, and I laughed with glee.

If you look at the featured image in the article you can see what the team photos have been like this season. It is the best thing, and I love it. Enjoy the shenanigans.

I’ve finished the first year of my Masters…again…! It’s been a stressful year, but I’m excited to be back with you guys and writing about my team.

Sporting is taking a trip to Atlanta for a mid-week game against Atlanta United, so get ready to check it out along with four other great games.

#ForGloryForCity

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

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Portland Timbers never say die

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 5: 0-1 Win

For the first time since the move out of Buck Shaw, the Portland Timbers defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 at Avaya Stadium on Saturday, putting Portland on the good foot heading into next weekend and hopefully reclaiming once and for all any reference to the Goonies by our neighbors to the south. It was an evenly contested match, but Diego “El Maestro” Valeri had the last word, bending a beautiful free kick into the top right corner of the net at the 88th minute, sending the Timbers Army away fans home happy, and bringing back three points for the boys in green (okay, technically, the kits were white, but you know what I mean).

Recap

The Timbers went into this game in a 4-3-2-1 formation, with a lineup much like the one that proved successful against Minnesota United. After a dominant performance against New York City FCJeff Attinella was back in the starting spot in goal and Liam Ridgewell was once again in the starting XI; but other than that the lineup looked pretty much like the one that we saw in our home opener against the Loons.

The first 15-20 minutes the Timbers looked to have the game well in hand, with most of the possession and with Alvas Powell tearing up and down the right sideline like he owned the place. At the outset, it was almost a three-man backfield as Alvas time and again charged forward with pace and control.

It wasn’t until about 25′ when the Earthquakes’ Nick Lima hit a cross that turned out to be more like a shot on goal, that the momentum seemed to shift. Fanendo Adi had a couple of decent chances, but between his 8′ shot off the post, his 11′ mishandling of a pass from Valeri in front of the goal, his miss at 22′, it just wasn’t his night.

In the second half, both teams had their share of chances. Danny Hoesen made Attinella work hard to keep a clean sheet, and Valerie Qazaishvili had a couple of beauties blocked as well. In the end, though, it was Diego Valeri’s free-kick a couple of minutes before stoppage time that made the difference, and the Portland Timbers continued their slow climb out of the cellar in the West:

Quick Takes

Spotlight on Paredes. Once again, midfielder Cristhian Paredes continues to impress me. Take a look at his distribution yesterday:

Screenshot 2018-05-06 at 6.42.49 PM

See all of those green arrows? Those are successful passes and crosses. See how many unsuccessful passes/crosses he had all game? ThreeDavid Guzman has some very healthy competition for that deep midfield pairing with Diego Chara. Frankly, if Paredes keeps it up, that other D-mid starting spot might just belong to him, regardless of when Guzman is healthy again.

Powell continues to demonstrate maturity and poise (what?!?). I already mentioned that Powell looked like he owned the right side of the field in the opening quarter of the game. I am also impressed that he is managing to keep his head. In a game where no fewer than five Timbers received yellow cards, it is noteworthy that none of the yellow card recipients was named Alvas. Keep up the good work, young man.

Armenteros is a savvy player. Take another look at that free kick by Valeri that ultimately proved to be the game-winner. Let’s note, first of all, that Samuel Armenteros was the one who got the foul at the hands of Anibal Godoy. While it is true that this wasn’t the worst offense I’ve ever seen called for a foul, Godoy MORE than had it coming to him, as he had already built up a reputation with the referee by repeatedly plowing into players from behind, finally earning a yellow card after about the fifth offense. Armenteros wisely made the contact evident to officials and earned a free kick in a dangerous spot.

Then there was the free kick itself. Both Shea Salinas and Magnus Eriksson are initially tight on Armenteros, presumably because of the threat he may pose on cleaning up any deflected shot. Take a look at what Armenteros does with them in the wall here:

Armenteros turns from striker threat to offensive lineman, using some impressive blocking to clear a wide space in the wall for Valeri, should he need to use it. As it turned out, of course, Valeri curled the ball high and tight in the corner; but Armenteros was ready to ease the path for him, just in case.

I would love to see Armenteros get significant minutes so that he can find on-field rhythm with Valeri and Sebastian Blanco; it has to be hard to do when you only have a few minutes at the end of a game to sort it out. Adi may be working hard, but I don’t see that much production from him yet this year. We have healthy competition for starting spots in a few roles; I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of that mentality at the striker spot.

The only injury of note the team seems to have suffered was at Zarek Valentin‘s expense, apparently from overexuberant goal celebration with teammates (no, really). Fortunately, he was able to get back into the game in the final minutes while sporting a hefty bandage. He seems to be on the mend:

Next week, the Timbers are back home to face our hated rivals, the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, May 13th.

I. Can’t. Wait.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Don’t hit the panic switch on the LA Galaxy just yet

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Saturday, May 5: 3-2 Loss

I watched highlights and listened via the radio stream for this match as the LA Galaxy traveled to BBVA Compass Stadium for the match Saturday, May 5, 2018, where the crowd was sold out.

Image @LAGalaxy

Starting XI: David Bingham; Dave Romney, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik, Ashley Cole ©; Sebastian Lletget, Perry Kitchen; Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos, Ola Kamara; Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Bench: Justin Vom Steeg, Emrah Klimenta, Daniel Steres, Servando Carrasco, Jonathan dos Santos, Emmanuel Boateng, Chris Pontius

My heart broke as The LA Galaxy lost at the last minute to the Houston Dynamo, a game that should’ve been in the bag for LA. But, it doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning is winning as Vin Diesel once said in The Fast and the Furious.

It is frustrating to watch a talented team struggle, fight back and then lose. But, the Galaxy aren’t just fighting, they’re chasing the ball and clawing their way from two-goal deficits. I commend them for being able to come back. But, conceding goals early and fighting tooth and nail are not the way anyone wants this to go. The problem lies in our defense as well. At this point, all eyes are on coach Sigi Schmid.

LAG was able to have the same starting XI for two games now. I think consistency is key, but there are many keys to unlocking their success. Giovani Dos Santos scored his second goal on a good run that he was able to keep to the far post. Ola Kamara scored also on an assist from Gio Dos Santos who had gotten the ball off a spinning pass that resembled more of a martial arts move from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This trio combined to make that first and second goal happen. It seemed the team was finally given a break.

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Giovani Dos Santos and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Image: @LAGalaxy

I have to hand it to the Los Angeles Galaxy for showing heart. In the first half, possession was in their favor just barely, but the other side says LA was dominated. David Romney and even Kamara play out of their comfortable positions to do what is asked of them. Let’s give them kudos to come back after being down two goals for the third time this season. David Bingham keeps making numerous saves.

They are two points up from this time last year, the infamous season that everyone keeps referring to; I have to admit, things are not looking good right now. But, I am an optimist. This doesn’t mean I am not realistic. I want my team to win. I want them to be more in control of the game. I want this team to rebuild the fortress that was StubHub Center.

The same problems keep surfacing for the LA Galaxy, which tells me this is fixable. We cannot expect Kamara and Ibrahimovic to carry or lift the team. I hope this wakes up the team because the first two Houston goals were soft ones. We are about to face FC Dallas and Montreal Impact, both teams that are formidable opponents as we are the away team.

Featured image of Ola Kamara courtesy: @LAGalaxy 

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MNUFC’s Ten-Man Wonderwall

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, May 5: 1-0 Win

The Loons have had their share of ups and downs in 2018, just two months into the season, and Saturday’s match was no different. The early afternoon matchup against the Vancouver Whitecaps saw three players make their first starts for the club, a superhero get his first goal, a rookie get his first career red card and a 2017 stalwart get his (and the club’s) first clean sheet of the year.

It was a thriller of a game between a blue sky and baking turf. Minnesota United FC led in first-half possession but had little to show for it, managing just a couple shots to the Whitecaps’ eight. That said, the new-look front four led by rookie forward Mason Toye (first start, seventh appearance) and anchored by Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero and Alexi Gomez (first start, second appearance) gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

There were some changes on the other side of the ball, too. Eric Miller, a Minnesota native acquired from Colorado earlier this week, got his first start in the back four. He left the match late with cramps (“I forgot how hot it gets here in the summer,” he said in the locker room), but made a solid impression when the Loons transitioned from the 4-2-3-1 to a 5-3-1 bunker.

That ten-man bunker was forced by the ejection of Mason Toye, who drew a red card when he elbowed his defender in the gut, forcing him to the ground in the box. After a pre-interview pep talk from Francisco Calvo, Toye called his first career red a “rookie mistake” and thanked his teammates for taking and maintaining a lead after his departure.

The Loons were left without a forward in Toye’s absence (Ramirez and Danladi still on the DL), but just minutes after the ejection, a cross in from Gomez found Ibarra, who has emulated the “next man up” mantra all season, lurking near the far post. After ‘Caps keeper Marinovic tipped the high-angle shot away, ‘Batman’ followed the ball and knocked in his own rebound for his first (onside) goal of the season.

Batman’s game-winner was heavily insured by United keeper Bobby Shuttleworth. The “Clean Sheet Shuttleworth” chant of late 2017 was revived for a stellar performance which saw Shuttleworth go, full-on acrobat, multiple times.

One of those blocks led to a rare display of MLS ingenuity when officials delayed the start of the second half so that a hole in the side netting of the west goal could be mended by a crew armed with white tape. Having punched a hole in the net in the first half, Shuttleworth kept up the trend in the second, punching his ticket to the Save of the Week highlight reel with a leaping save that drew roars from the crowd.

There were still eight minutes to play, plus stoppage time, but after that save, fans were already hearing ‘Wonderwall.’ For the second week in a row, the roller coaster came to a stop pointed uphill.

Here’s hoping a forward-free lineup stays the course against LAFC on Wednesday.

Featured image of the team walk out courtesy: Bridget McDowell

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LAFC weekly update: LAFC signs Lee Nguyen and Adama Diomandé

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

This week has been a busy week for the black and gold. Following their historical first home win with a late goal from Laurent Ciman, the club adds Lee Nguyen and Adama Diomande to the roster. Including, returning to late night TV for some soccer practice with James Corden.

Historical Night

It was a night for the books filled with moments like Will Ferrell holding a falcon and the crowd singing the national anthem in perfect harmony. The best moment of all came when Ciman scored the lone goal during stoppage time delivering LAFC their first home victory.

Banc of California Stadium is ready to do it all again this Saturday as the club hosts FC Dallas. Kickoff is at 12:55 pm PT.

LAFC is currently in 2nd place in the Western Conference just behind Sporting Kansas City by two points.

Roster Movements

Nguyen, a 6-year MLS Veteran and US international, joins LAFC after a long career with the New England Revolution. Last season, Nguyen put up 11 goals and 15 assists, his third straight campaign with double-digit assists. Overall, he’s logged 51 goals and 49 assists in six MLS seasons. The 31-year-old requested a trade during the offseason and reported to camp in the latter part of the preseason after a rumored standoff with the club.

It seems he finally got the trade he’s always wanted as he enters Bradley’s team – who gave Nguyen his debut on the US national team in 2007 – this week. Nguyen joined the team for his first practice Thursday evening and could debut Saturday.

LAFC then completed their deal with the Norwegian striker before the primary transfer window closed. The 28-year-old moves to Los Angeles after Hull City canceled his contract allowing him to join the MLS expansion side.

Diomandé spent most of his career in his native country and most notably played for Stabaek when Bob Bradley was the coach there. His scoring rate hasn’t been favorable as he only scored 82 goals in 222 club appearances during his career.

However, under the supervision of Bradley, he scored 25 goals in 26 games for Stabaek. So there is hope. Of course, his signing does raise some eyebrows since this addition now puts LAFC over the international slot allotment.

Late Late Soccer Practice

Owner Will Ferrell and LAFC players Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour, Jordan Harvey, and Mark-Anthony Kaye appeared on the Late Late Night Show with James Corden for the second time in a row Thursday night. Sadly, the team did not have a rematch – with Corden and LLS FC – but instead opted to play games as the host spun on a wheel donning a soccer ball on his chest. One by one the players took turns at trying to kick the ball through the hole on the wheel.

Featured image courtesy: @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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