Category Archives: Western Conference

Western Conference

MLS Cup – Toronto FC vs Seattle Sounders

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Here we are, the eve of the MLS Cup for 2017.  This year has been full of ups and downs.  Through it all, the Seattle Sounders have become stronger than they were last year.  It hasn’t been without injury and issues, but the team has risen above and made it to the promised land.

Last year was so special because it was our first.  I think this year can be even more special because we have the chance to repeat as the MLS champions.  Through the playoffs, the Sounders have defeated both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Houston Dynamo, both in convincing fashion.

Again, the Sounders find themselves facing Toronto FC at BMO Field on what proves to be a very cold day.  Hundreds of supporters are making their way to Toronto.  There is a banner going that has the names of people who could not make this trip.  We are a family.  We will be in the stadium, in pubs, in bars, and in our homes, all over the world cheering our boys to victory.  This is our cup, and we will defend it.

This game will not be like last year.  Both teams have improved.  Both are stronger, faster but just as hungry as they were last year.  TFC still has the bitter taste of last year’s loss, during penalty kicks, in their mouths.  Seattle wants to cement our dynasty.  Seattle has added a number of players who have made a huge difference in the team’s play.

Both teams have injuries issues, with the Sounders being slightly worse.  At this time, Jozy Altidore is questionable with an ankle injury suffered late in the second leg of the Columbus Crew game.  Seattle will be missing Brad Evans and Ozzie Alonso.

Ozzie being out of the game hurts.  He is our captain and the heart.  Seattle will have Roman Torres back from suspension.  Jordan Morris is also at 100% and should feature.  No one is suspended for this game, and no one is on international duty.

Projected Lineups from mlssoccer.com

Seattle Sounders

(4-2-3-1, left to right)
GK: Stefan Frei – Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam – Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan – Joevin Jones, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro – Will Bruin

Toronto FC

(3-5-2, left to right)
GK: Alex Bono – Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta – Justin Morrow, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez, Steven Beitashour – Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore

Referees

Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Jeremy Hanson

4th Official: Kevin Stott

5th Official: Jason White

Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Dave Gantar

Game is December 9th at 1pm PT / 4pm ET on ESPN

#DEFENDOURCUP

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @darkwynds

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MVP is Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

It is official: Diego Valeri is the 2017 recipient of MLS’s Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player Award.

An amazing combination of ruthless accuracy on the pitch and self-effacing modesty pretty much everywhere else, Portland Timbers’ midfielder and playmaker Diego Valeri is this year’s runaway selection for most valuable player by every measure and constituent group that has an actual vote. Players, clubs, and media folk all overwhelmingly declared Valeri their favorite.

Want to know how not close it was? He received over 45% of all player votes among the top eight MVP candidates. The second place vote-getter from players was a not-too-shabby guy you may have heard of, New York City FC’s David “El Guaje” Villa, whose player vote totals had him a distant second at a little more than 9.5%.

Those two dozen or so of us Timbers Army members who were fortunate enough to be present at the press conference/announcement at Adidas headquarters today knew that we were witness to a rare moment honoring an even rarer player and person. As supporters, we often cite “Team/Town/Timbers Army” as the three cornerstones that drive our passion. And here, in front of us, was a player who shattered team records in the regular season; who chose to wear a Timbers Army pin on his lapel during the press conference; and who then chose to spend the evening following the ceremony volunteering in the community. Team/Town/Timbers Army, indeed.

It is so much to take in at once: a breakout season in 2013 and MLS Newcomer of the Year; a devastating ACL injury at the end of the 2014 season; an amazing comeback and improbable 2015 MLS Cup run, punctuated by scoring the fastest goal in MLS Cup history only 27 seconds into the match; an historic 2017 personal best season, with an MLS-record-setting streak of 9 consecutive games with goals scored;  a total of 21 goals and 11 assists in the regular season capped by the best regular season record in the Western Conference; and a club-record 58 goals across all eras (from NASL through USL and MLS).

Combine this unparalleled on-field success with the most humble, giving person off the pitch–it can be a bit overwhelming. It’s even more unbelievable when you realize that Valeri’s move to Portland wasn’t even the team’s original plan, and that it almost didn’t happen.

It is common knowledge locally, but for those who don’t follow Portland closely, you might not realize that Valeri was actually the club’s Plan B for a playmaker in the midfield. After an abysmal 2012 that included a mid-season coach firing and a “walk of shame” banner dutifully paraded by players after the last home game of a disappointing season, the Timbers were desperate to make big changes on the field in 2013.

They were looking for a creative midfielder, somebody who could produce scoring chances for himself and for his teammates, and they thought they had found one in USMNT midfielder Mix Diskerud. Early rumors in the offseason had us signing Mix. It was so close to a done deal that, by the 13th of December or thereabouts, some of us discovered that the front office had even gone so far as to set up his player page on the team website, if one knew where to look. But within a week, the deal seemed to have evaporated, and suddenly we found ourselves scouring Argentine fan blogs in hopes of learning something more about some rumored midfielder whose nickname was basically Argentine for “Peach Fuzz.”

We’ll still never know for certain exactly why the Diskerud deal fell through. Some speculated there were issues in working with his agent/father. There were other indications that perhaps the sticking point was the curious nature of MLS, where a player technically signs with the single-entity league and not actually with the club for whom he plays. Maybe there was some other factor involved that we on the outside never discovered. Regardless, the non-deal with Mix set the stage for signing Valeri; and the rest, as they say, is history.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the Portland metro area have been witness to his grace on the field, his ability to constantly think three passes ahead, his clear knowledge of where all of his teammates are and where they are likely to be next, his keen eye for that one corner of the net that will be hardest to guard in the next instant. We also know of his amazing heart, his gracious gifts of both time and memorabilia in the community.

Most of us could write 10,000 words about his generosity off the pitch and it would still fall short. The closest I can come to capturing his ethos on the field and in the world around him can be found on his wall at home, shown here with his daughter, Connie:

Work hard and be nice to people, indeed. Well done, Diego. You are our MVP. I don’t know what we did to deserve you, but we will always and forever be blessed that you came to Portland.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo Second Leg – Western Conference Finals

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo

Tonight is the night.  The Seattle Sounders are playing for a spot in the MLS Cup finals to face Toronto FC.  Currently, the Sounders are up 2 goals to 0.  This is huge for us.

Tonight’s game is not a cake walk though.  Due to yellow card acclamation, the Sounders will be missing Roman Torres.  Hopefully, this will not throw off the backline too much.  Most likely Tony Alfaro will replace him tonight, but it is very hard to replace Torres.

While we won’t have Torres, there is a good chance we will have Stefan Frei (hamstring), Osvaldo Alonso (quad strain) and Jordan Morris (hamstring) all back from injury.  Mostly likely Frei will start but Alonso and Morris will come off the bench.  Although after the practice yesterday, Brian Schmetzer said that Morris could start.

Houston Dynamo, on the other hand, has some problems.  Both Jalil Anibaba (red card) and striker Alberth Elis (yellow card accumulation) will be suspended for this game.  With Elis’s suspension, Houston will have to look for goals from Mauro Manotas and Erick Torres.

The Sounders have only lost once at home this regular season.  The projected crowd tonight could be close to or over 50k.  Tonight is going to be loud and amazing.  Even with a 2 goal lead, I think most, if not all, the Sounders fans are very nervous for tonight.

Here is the projected lineup per mlssoccer.com:

(4-2-3-1, left to right)
GK: Stefan Frei – Nouhou Tolo, Chad Marshall, Tony Alfaro, Kelvin Leerdam – Gustav Svensson, Cristian RoldanJoevin Jones, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro  – Will Bruin

Officials

Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Peter Balciunas, Corey Parker
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Edvin Jurisevic

The game is at 7:30pm Pacific Time on ESPN, ESPN Deportes in the US and TSN1 & TVAS 2 in Canada.

#DEFENDOURCUP

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @darkwynds

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Sounders Finally Won in Houston

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
Sounders Key Contributor

By Abigail Gerken // @abigailgerken22

Jingle bells, Jingle bells.
Jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it is to see,
Seattle win away!
Is it a little early for Christmas music? Maybe. Is this song totally appropriate? Yes.

The Seattle Sounders took a 2-0 win in Houston in the first leg of the Western Conference Final. It was a very chippy game with many cards and fouls, but Seattle ended up on top.

The first goal came in the 11th minute when Gustav Svensson headed home a Nicolas Lodeiro corner kick. That was the 2nd goal of the season for the Swedish international.

In the 27th minute the game went downhill for Houston. Defender Jalil Anibaba took Joevin Jones down in the box resulting in a DOGSO (Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity) red card and penalty kick. Lodeiro went up to take the kick, but goalkeeper Joe Willis guessed correctly and saved it.

However, in the 43rd minute Will Bruin doubled the lead and scored a header goal (assisted by Joevin Jones).

Fun facts about this match:
Will Bruin scored against his former team of 6 years. His 2nd time this year.
Clint Dempsey grew up about 2 hours north of Houston, so a lot of his family and friends were at this game.
Roman Torres will miss the next match because of yellow card accumulation.
We saw two former Sounders on the field with Dylan Remick and Jalil Anibaba playing.

Prior to this match, the Sounders were 0-4-4 in Houston, making this their first win in Houston.

The Sounders are heading into the second leg of the Western Conference Final with a 2-0 lead. The next game will be in Seattle on November 30th, the winner on aggregate after the 2nd leg will advance to the MLS Cup Final on December 9th.

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @abigailgerken22

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Western Conference Finals Leg 1 for Seattle Sounders

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Houston Dynamo v Seattle Sounders

Tonight is the first leg of the Western Conference finals.  Of course, it has been what seems like a million years since the last playoff game against Vancouver Whitecaps.  This has been a welcome rest and a terrible one all at the same time.  It has given us time for our injured players to heal up.  Looks like Osvaldo Alonso and Jordan Morris might be able to make it back for part of the series.  Of course, this has given time for Houston’s players to heal up too.  The downside is that we have lost all the momentum we had coming off the Vancouver series.

During the regular season, Houston and Seattle split the series.  Sounders lost in Houston and won at home.  The game in Houston saw the return of Clint Dempsey. He scored in a 2-1 road loss that opened the Sounders title defense.  The Sounders still have not won a game in BBVA Compass Stadium.  The game in Seattle was a different story.  Will Bruin scored the only goal in a 1 – 0 win in June.

Houston is down a goalkeeper due to being suspended for off the field issues.  Also, three of their players were part of the Honduras National Team that made the trip to Australia for a World Cup playoff game.  Sounders just had Gustav Svensson go off for national team duty, traveling to Italy for a World Cup playoff game.

This promises to be a good game.  Houston and Seattle match up well in most positions on the field.  The Sounders will need to play up-tempo and keep the ball moving.  Sounders have players that are hungry to score.  Bruin wants very much to score on his old team.  Look for him and Dempsey to cause Houston a lot of trouble.

The game will kick off at 6:30 pacific time (most likely later due to national broadcast) at BBVA Compass Stadium.  The game will be broadcast on FS1 and Fox Deportes.  Ref for tonight is Chris Penso.

#defendourcup

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @darkwynds

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How I grew to embrace the ISC Wooden Spoon, but I am so happy to see it go. Congrats, LA!

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Have you heard of the ISC (Independent Supporters’ Council) Wooden Spoon? Unfortunately, I’m all too familiar.

After attending Chicago Fire games regularly since 2004, in 2015, I decided to take the plunge and run for the Director of Communications position for Section 8 Chicago (S8C); I ended up holding the position for two years. As luck may have it, those two years (2015-16) the Chicago Fire was the worst team in the league. Yep, both years. Bottom. Of. The. Table.

As a board member for S8C, my daily routine consisted of producing social media content that would encourage support of the team. A goal of ours was to stress the importance of getting into the stadium early to cheer on the Fire (#FirstInLastOut), and of course, we also wanted to expand our supporters’ community.

It was a challenge to get regular, long-time supporters to games, let alone new fans.  “Hey, come to a Fire game, statistically, it’s unlikely that they’ll win.” It was a melancholy time for me. Fans argued. Stands were empty. Supporters’ culture faded. Two years in a row, the Chicago Fire finished in last-place earning them the honors of the ISC Wooden Spoon.

As a supporter, it was frustrating and often heartbreaking to see the decline of the team, but the 2015-16 seasons took suffering to a different level. Somehow, even with love for the Men in Red in my heart, the team grew more agonizing to watch.

So what exactly is the Wooden Spoon that I speak of, and why did I (and other Fire fans) learn to embrace it?

When your team finishes last place in the league two years in a row, you can either sulk endlessly or embrace it. And don’t get me wrong, we did sulk. We cried. We complained. We were bitter. But in the end, we continued to love the Fire, and we even learned to love our wooden spoon too.

The History of the ISC Wooden Spoon

via Daniel Giroux (Vice-Chair of S8C) on October 17, 2017

Conception of the spoon

The spoon was kind of a long term process if you wanna talk about it’s conception. It was first decided at the ISC in Chicago, so January 2016, that there needed to be a league wide trophy to shame the worst team. Since the ISC is the overarching organization that administrates the Supporters Shield it made sense that they will also run the Wooden Spoon. It was decided Section 8 Chicago would make it as we won the wooden spoon that year. Sadly, it would be a long process as we would also win the spoon the following year as well. The reason it was decided this needed to happen is we felt that the league didn’t do enough to punish or shame the failures in the league. Pro/rel does that automatically for most leagues and in most leagues the losing team gets significantly less money. In MLS you are rewarded for failure, at least monetarily by the league. The spoon was our small way of putting pressure on a failing organization.

Trophy design

For some reason it was put on me to make the trophy, with the deadline of having it ready by the next ISC in Atlanta. I definitely stalled on it a bit and we tried many many different designs before we settled on the current iteration. I started work on the final design in November 2016, but I don’t think it was actually finished until the week before the 2017 ISC in late January. It is made of 90% plywood, wood glue, malort and hatred. Seriously, the woodworking is absolutely garbage, but that is kinda the point. I did my worst, in a very literal sense.

Who should win the Wooden Spoon?

Personally, I’m hoping for LA, as this year is already so backwards. That would just be the most backwards thing possible. Also, I want a fanbase that will properly shame their front office with it – that is the whole point. I think D.C. and Colorado will laugh it off and take it in stride. LA would HATE having this thing.

With that said, Congratulations, LA Galaxy and fans. You are now the privileged winners of the ISC Wooden Spoon. Even last-place deserves a trophy.

Featured image courtesy: @nikhak

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nikhak

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First Leg Whitecaps v Sounders

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale
Official Whitecaps Reporter 

By Christy Casas // @nkstar9

Sunday, October 29: 0-0 Draw

After a record breaking 5-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, the Vancouver Whitecaps faced the second seeded Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference semi-finals. First leg was played at home and resulted in a 0-0 draw. The game was frustrating and intense.

When the lineup was announced, you could tell we were playing defensively since away goals are weighted more than home goals in aggregate scoring. The Whitecaps had some really great chances. I sit near the away team’s support section and boy were they annoying =). Seattle also had their fair amount of chances including an almost own goal from our very own Kendall Waston.

The game was physical right away and the ref let them play. There was a lot of players “down”. Just to give you an idea, with a 0-0 draw the second half had at least 6 mins of extra time. 6 MINUTES. Most of this time came from a little kerfuffle in the 83rd minute, involving most, if not all, of both sides. It was a heated game with added frustration of playoffs. The ref wasn’t consistent, Seattle is defending the Cup, and these two teams have been rivals for a while now. Emotions were being felt.

Near the end of the game, we made some offensive changes bringing in Yordy Reyna and Nico Mezquida. Expect to see a more offensive lineup for Thursday, the 2nd game. Though, word on the street is that Reyna and Techera are still “touch and go’ according to the Whitecaps website. Seattle will also see the return of Clint Dempsey coming off a red card suspension.

Whitecaps lost 3-0 on their last visit to their rivals. Seattle is a hometown team who set a “franchise record this year for the fewest home losses in a season” according to the Sounder’s website.

One away goal from the Whitecaps could curtail the Sounders and pressure them to produce 2 goals. There are many scenarios that could play out in the second game, but one thing is certain, there will be only one team moving on. We need to, more now than ever, to #Riseupraincity

Christa Cassa - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale

Featured images courtesy: @WhitecapsFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nkstar9

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Portland Timbers, Know Your Enemy: Houston Dynamo

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

It’s playoff time, and we now know who our opponent is: Houston Dynamo.

Houston finally prevailed on Thursday night after a grueling knockout match, scoring in extra time to best Sporting KC 1-0 in what seems like the seventeenth match-up between the two teams in the past month. After a relatively short turnaround, Houston will host the Portland Timbers in the first leg of this Western Conference Semifinal match-up on Monday, 10/30 at 6:30pm PST at BBVA Compass Stadium.

In preparation for Monday’s game, let’s take a moment to get to know the Houston Dynamo. Here are a few quick takes on possible keys to Houston’s success, as well as things they will need to watch out for.

Keys to Dynamo victory:

There’s no place like home. During the regular season, Houston was a very strong team at home, dropping only one game during the regular season at BBVA Compass Stadium. If they’re going to get points on the board, this is the place for them to do it.

Get off to a fast start. In over one third of their regular season games, Houston found the back of the net early, scoring a goal within the first 15 minutes in 12 games. If they can score early, they have an excellent chance of coming away from the first leg with three points.

Can Cubo get his groove back: Erick “Cubo” Torres is the leading scorer for the Dynamo this year with 14 goals this season, but he’s gone cold of late, even coming off the bench toward the end of the regular season. If he can find his way back into the scoring column, that will go a long way toward increasing Houston’s chances of success.

Dynamo needs to look out for:

An overabundance of yellow. As of right now, there are no fewer than four of Thursday’s starters (and five players overall) who are in danger of getting dinged for yellow card accumulation. If Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis, Adolfo Machado, Romell Quioto, or Philippe Senderos gets cautioned in this game they will be suspended for the second leg in Portland.

Getting caught out on defense. Related to their yellow card issue, defensively Houston is a little thin right now, with right back AJ DeLaGarza out for the season after tearing his ACL in the regular season finale. Senderos and Machado are two of their back line starters and if they get injured or sent off there aren’t very many strong options behind them.

Parked buses. I was curious about why the only game they lost at home during the regular season was against hapless Colorado. It appears that the Rapids foiled Houston by keeping most of their players behind the ball and forcing the Dynamo to have very little space to work with up front, as opposed to giving them opportunities to create out of the counter attack.

If Portland decides to park the bus, keeping folks like Elis and Quioto out of the open field, Houston might wind up having a very hard time finding the back of the net. And given Portland’s home record and Houston’s away record during the regular season, this might be an effective, if boring, approach for Portland to take.

Well, that’s all I have for now. Can’t wait for this show to get on the road. See you on Monday, folks!

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Timbers are Kings of Cascadia

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, October 22: 2-1 Win

If you’ve ever been to a match when the Cascadia Cup is on the line, you never forget it.

Long-time Timbers Army members tell stories of the first Cascadia Cup matches early in the A-League/USL era, when supporters of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers all agreed to pitch in to buy a trophy to honor whichever Cascadia team had the best regular season record among the three. They can tell you why you should never pick the Cup up by the handles, and about how league and schedule changes have forced supporters from all three clubs to come to agreement on how to handle unbalanced schedules and other hiccups in the past.

In the MLS era, I remember when something like 1500 of us went to Seattle in October 2012 with the chance to win the Cup–and instead got spanked 3-0. I remember when hundreds of us then trekked to Vancouver two weeks later to christen the newly renovated BC Place, and Jack Jewsbury blasted a ball from distance to give us a 1-0 victory and our first Cascadia Cup in the MLS era.

As in years past, if there is ever a Cascadia Cup match where the trophy is on the line, representatives from supporters of the potential winner of the Cup must be in attendance, even if their team isn’t playing. And representatives of those in possession of the Cup must also be in attendance when the Cup is on the line, even if their team isn’t playing. When we had to surrender the Cup in 2011, representatives of the Timbers Army had to drive to Canada to hand it over to either Seattle or Vancouver, depending on the outcome of their match. In 2012, turnabout was fair play, and Seattle had to drive to Canada to hand the trophy over to us.

This year, Portland has had several chances to seal the deal. Vancouver brought the trophy down to a Portland-Seattle game in case we won the game and the Cup (we didn’t); Portland supporters had to go to a Vancouver-Seattle game in case they drew and we won the Cup (we didn’t); and Seattle had to come to Portland for our final match against Vancouver in case we drew or lost, which would have meant Seattle winning the Cup (they didn’t). In the end, all three supporter groups traveled to matches played by two teams they didn’t support, all for naught and all because of the Cascadia Cup. It was standard Cascadia Cup drama.

And it was glorious.

Match Day

Of course, since it was a Cascadia Cup match, I was already a wreck well before the game. And not only was the Cup on the line: a win would put us into first place in the West and give us a first round bye. With the Sounders playing hapless Colorado, a tie or a loss would almost certainly put us into third or fourth place, with the insult-to-injury of losing the Cup to hated rivals in Seattle, followed by a midweek play-in game on little rest.

Superstitious to the last, I baked the same fanladen treats I’ve been baking since our home game winning streak began in August. I wore the same USL Timbers earrings I wear to every home game. And I was still sure how this script would go. I figured that, as a former Whitecaps player, Darren Mattocks would score the early goal to punish Vancouver and get our hopes up; and that Fredy Montero, recently acquired by the Whitecaps, a long-time former Sounders player and hated rival, would crush our spirits with a late equalizer. I hoped for the best and prepared myself for the worst.

Match Recap

As I expected, we went with the same lineup we’d used against DC United. Both teams looked to be pretty stingy early on, so it wasn’t surprising that the first score came off a set piece. Kendall Waston punished Larrys Mabiala in the 29′ with a beautiful header off a free kick. I groaned, expecting Vancouver to be sensible and pack in the defense.

But then a funny thing happened. The Timbers started flying into the box, and the Whitecaps were unable to respond. Just three minutes after the Waston header, David Guzman took a deep free kick from just past the center circle and Aly Ghazal headed it out the back unnecessarily. This set up a corner kick for Guzman, who sent it to the top left corner of the box to Darlington Nagbe. Whitecaps keeper Stefan Marinovic was barely able to bat away Nagbe’s curling shot; unfortunately for Marinovic, he batted it to the waiting feet of Liam Ridgewell, who stretched out just enough to tap it across the goal and into the net to tie the game:

The rest of the half, the Timbers were on the front foot, as they say, continuing to press. I kept waiting for the boys to falter and suffer from a counterattack but it never really materialized. And then three minutes into the half a beautiful team goal involving Nagbe, Sebastian Blanco, Vytautas Andriuškevičiusand Mattocks put us ahead 2-1 to stay:

Vancouver battled hard in the last few minutes but to no avail, and when the final whistle sounded the unbelievable had become reality: we had won the West and the Cup.

Short takes

Sebastian Blanco had an excellent game. I know some people grumbled that he took shots that were off the mark, but the truth is that his work rate is incredible, he is starting to team well with others, and those shots he took wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t worked so hard to get the opportunities in the first place.

Darren Mattocks is playing well(!). At the start of the season, I would not have guessed that I’d consider preferring to start Mattocks up top over Fanendo Adi going into the playoffs; but here we are.

Alvas Powell didn’t make any fatal errors. ‘Nuf said.

Off the Pitch

Surprising absolutely nobody, Diego Valeri was the hands down winner of the Supporters Player of the Year award. We are ready to build the statue any time, folks.

Also, this.

It’s back home where it belongs.

Looks like we are probably playing our next game either October 29th or October 31st (I’m betting Halloween). We’ll know who our opponent is later this week. See you all in the playoffs!

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

2017 MLS Playoff Preview

A collaboration by official reporters of MLSFemale @MLSFemale

With Major League Soccer, there is no greater prize than the MLS Cup. Twelve teams, 6 from each conference, are vying for the chance to lift the ultimate prize of the league’s 22nd season. Here’s a quick rundown from our MLSFemale squad:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale 

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

Toronto FC: AND NOW YOU’RE GUNNA BELIEVE US, we’ve gone and won the league! Suffice it to say the city of Toronto is over the moon with our accomplishments this season and we are looking forward to what we hope is a great playoff run. Michael Bradley succinctly put our season in summation by saying “…we went after every game from 1 to 34 like it was the only thing that mattered.” (source)

I think they can be proud that they never really wavered on that goal and it paid off. As a member of the Kings in the North, one of the official protectors of the Supporters’ Shield during it’s stay in Toronto, I look forward to spending some time up close and personal with it.

Our playoff future looks bright; one is left hoping that we take that same winning mentality into the playoffs and consider every opponent and every game with care. Finishing off the regular season at Atlanta was also a good test for us to end on. Fresh to the league, they were the one team I felt we hadn’t had a proper chance to sound out back in April. Having seen their house and how they feel about our players (your hate makes them strong, our love makes them unstoppable), I now feel confident that Toronto FC has the arsenal to make a successful playoff run. And as Giovinco has shown, this team is ready for whatever is thrown at them. So bring on our second (okay fine, third) go at it, we’re here to win it all!

*NYCFC: Not gonna lie: this team gets measurably better every year. With head coach Patrick Vieira, the Pigeons have made it to their 1st MLS post season in style, with a bye for the knockout round. Legend David Villa and newcomer Jack Harrison, as well as the rest of the squad, are going to face their first opponents well rested and ready for a run. Just how far can the boys in blue go their first time out?

Nicole - Chicago head

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Chicago Fire: Nine months ago Fire fans were excited for the club’s new signings  – with Dax McCarty, Juninho, Niko, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, certainly the Men in Red wouldn’t finish last place again – would they?

By early June, fans knew that not only were the Chicago Fire going to dig themselves out from the bottom of the table, but the likelihood that they would be playoff contenders looked promising.

David Accam, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, amongst others have been battling injuries, just returned from injury, or will return from injury for the playoffs. Is the squad recovering at the appropriate time? With key players on the bench over the last couple of months, other players gained experience – this will certainly help strengthen roster options when Veljko Paunovic looks to his bench for substitution options.

Who will get the nod for the goalkeeper position? Matt Lampson, who has been with the team since February of 2016 and a total of 34 games played for the Fire? Or will Richard Sanchez start in net after only recently signing with the Fire?

We supporters are excited for the playoffs, for the opportunities that lie ahead, and for a home game, but we’re also realistic, especially after the last two unfortunate seasons.

¡Vamos, Chicago!

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Atlanta United: Well, here we are…The new kids in the league are in the playoffs. A 4th place finish to the regular season is better than where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season. This gives us home field advantage for Thursday’s knockout round game – and home field advantage in Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be significant. We’ve also won both games against Columbus (#SaveTheCrew!) earlier this season – although we did lose to them in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in February.

This team is much stronger now. They’ve now had an entire season to get to know each other. We have a solid starting lineup – even with a few subs because of injuries. And with over 70,000 people expected at the game on Thursday to cheer them on, I think Atlanta United has a really good chance at hoisting that cup in December.

The boys are ready for this. Atlanta is ready for this.

Atlanta wants the Cup.

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Columbus Crew:  In the middle of the season, the Crew was struggling and looked unlikely to make the playoffs, but Berhalter seems to have the magic touch with his team at the end of the season.  The tie against NYCFC took the Crew’s unbeaten streak to 10.  It kept the team in the 5th spot while a win could’ve put them in 2nd place. 

The team is dealing with a lot of distractions with a fan base who passionately loves them and is distraught that an owner would take them away.  (#savethecrew)  However, if the team can keep their form and absorb the passion the fans are showing them, they actually have a chance against Atlanta.  Although, it will be a tough away game.  The fans really need them to win, so we have a home playoff game to show how much we love the players. 

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

New York Red Bulls: Whew! Just made it in under the wire. But RBNY is in the playoffs for the 8th season in a row. Always the bridesmaid, RBNY is the only MLS 1.0 team (originally the NY/NJ Metrostars) never to lift the MLS Cup. Coach Jesse Marsch has said that the team has been the favorite during the playoffs to no avail and that it’s time to be underdog.

I’m expecting a solid performance from Tyler Adams and the rest of the back line as well as more attacking from Daniel Royer. Defender Aurelien Collin has been working his way back to full health, and Jesse hopes to be able to bring him back into the 18. Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire are the first obstacle in the knockout round, and another edition of the Hudson River Derby is practically guaranteed after that. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Fight Together.

#knockoutround
Image courtesy: @MLS

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Portland Timbers: It is not an overstatement to say that for the Timbers this Sunday’s game was the most important game of the year up to this point. The Cascadia Cup was on the line, as was the chance to win the conference and a first round bye.

With a Portland win, they have won the West and a first round bye. They also take back the Cascadia Cup, the coveted supporter-owned trophy awarded to whichever northwest team has the best finish among the three Cascadia-area squads. If Portland had tied or lost, Seattle would have taken the Cup, and Portland would almost certainly have dropped to third or fourth place, hosting a midweek knockout round game.

As I expected, Attinella remained in goal, with Vytas and Powell on the wings, and Mattocks up top as we wait for Fanendo Adi to be match fit. And with PTFC’s Mattocks being a former Whitecaps player there was plenty of opportunity for a knife-twisting match finish as he gave us the go-ahead goal to seal the deal. Now we wait to see who makes it out of the knockout round.

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Seattle Sounders: It is finally time to defend our cup.  This year has been such an up and down year.  There are days where we look like the team from last year’s run.  And then there are games where we look like a team that hasn’t even played together before. 

The game against FC Dallas gives me hope that maybe we are turning a corner.  With a win on Sunday gives us a much needed bye.  This will give the team time to heal up.  I can’t wait for this run at the MLS cup.  I really hope the top team in the East loses so we can host the cup this year!!

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale

By Christy Casas // @nkstar9

Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps were able to pull themselves above the red line in a very decisive way, landing themselves in 3rd place in the Western conference after flirting with the top spot for a hot minute. They will meet the San Jose Earthquakes in the knockout round at home in Vancouver. This is a decided advantage for the Whitecaps, as BC Place has been a fortress for the team this season.

*Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo played VERY well at home this year, giving up only one game at home at BBVA during the regular season. And they have to be looking forward to the opportunity to take on Sporting KC again, having just beaten them at home less than two weeks ago and drawing them in Kansas City shortly thereafter. If they manage to pull it off, their next opponent will be one of the top two finishers in the West, Portland or Seattle.

kirsten-sporting-or

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Sporting KC: I am not pleased with how this season ended, and I am not pleased that Sporting fell from 1st to 5th in the West over the last third of the season. If we’re going to make it anywhere in the playoffs we have to do one thing…score goals. It seems like that should be pretty easy, but obviously it’s not since SKC scored just 3 goals in their last 5 games.

If the Sporting team from the beginning of the season comes back then we could be in good shape, but the run will be hard since we have no home field advantage. Hopefully, with this being the third game against Houston in a two week span we’ll have them figured out. Sporting, don’t make this city regret all the energy you put into the US Open Cup. We need some of that magic for the playoffs.

*San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes had a wild finish to the regular season, with the winning goal coming three minutes into stoppage time against expansion side Minnesota United. Now they travel to Canada on only three days rest for a single game elimination round. They may still manage the upset against a Whitecaps squad that is struggling to put games away at precisely the wrong time in the season.

If San Jose can pull it off, they will face Portland in a conference semifinal, a team they’ve beaten at home twice during the regular season.

(Teams marked with a * do not have an official reporter from MLSFemale. If you support any of these teams, find your inner reporter and contact us!)

Featured image courtesy: @MLS

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