Category Archives: Western Conference

Western Conference

Breaking Records, Making History: LAFC Continues Its Reign But How Long Will It Last?

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club starts off the second half of the season on the right foot but can they keep it up?

Prior to dominating in 3-1 victory in Houston over the weekend; the black-and-gold was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals this past Wednesday.

It would have been nice to see the club win the U.S. Open Cup championship that they were so close to claiming last season, but now LAFC will continue their run for the 2019 MLS Cup.

But first, let’s analyze the first part of the season and what I think LAFC could improve moving forward:

League Dominance

LAFC is currently sitting atop of the Western Conference standings with 46 points and has made the Banc a fortress with a 8-0-1 home record. They also have a solid road record of 6-2-3 and are leading the Supporters Shield race.

Below them is tight race in the standings with the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, and Minnesota United slowly climbing up all within a point of a each other.

After falling to the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road in April for their first loss of the season, the Los Angeles Football Club exacted revenge in a historic 6-1 blowout at the Banc of California stadium on July 6.

It was a statistics dominated match – LAFC has collectively scored 11 goals between both matches – making them the quickest team in MLS history to reach 100 points in the post-shootout era.

Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi continue to be a pain in everyone’s side having collectively scored 30 goals between them. While his teammate ranks first in both categories, Rossi comes in fifth for (66) shots and second for (32) shots on goal.

According to MLS’ playoffs tracker, if the playoffs started tomorrow, LAFC would earn a bye week as the top seed team. And would play the winner of the Minnesota United vs. the San Jose Earthquakes match in the western conference semifinals.

But considering Decision Day is October 6 with playoffs beginning on October 16 – the club still has some work to do to ensure that future is a possibility.

Roster Rotations

Another game. Another slightly heavy rotation.

Head Coach, Bob Bradley, has stressed multiple times that the current schedule is ‘ridiculous,’ and I agree.

True to his word. Bradley sat out Carlos Vela for the first time this season, giving Steven Beitashour the captain’s armband on Friday. Jordan Harvey, Latif Blessing, Diego Rossi, and Christian Ramirez joined Pablo Sisniega on the bench.

The match saw Tyler Miller back in goal and Peter-Lee Vassell earn the start in Houston, upon return from international duty.

This move isn’t unusual, as for the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the head coach opted to rest a few starters. And started Dejan Jakovic, Mohammed El-Munir, Adama Diomande (who appeared in the 18 for Kansas City), and Lee Nguyen – moving Tristian Blackmon back into the left wing.

In addition to losing Andre Horta earlier this season, LAFC announced on Monday that defender Niko Hämäläinen has returned to English side Queens Park Rangers following the conclusion of his six-month loan with LAFC.

The Battle of the Keepers

Pablo Sisniega has impressed us in the absence of Tyler Miller. The 24-year-old keeper stepped right in and created a 4-2-0 record in just one month.

Miller has racked up a 12-1-4 record with LAFC in 2019, thus far. As well, recording six clean sheets and allowing just 14 goals along the way. But with Miller going away to serve as the third-string keeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team for the duration of the Gold Cup – he returned to LAFC a bit shaky. However, I believe he can regain his rhythm in time.

Additionally, Philip Ejimadu has been doing well while on loan to USL side, FC Tucson – recording 31 saves, 15 clearances, and three clean sheets.

It seems we finally a strong keeper roster this season.

Carlos Vela leading the league

20 games. 19 goals.

Just give Carlos Vela the Golden Boot already!

The Mexican captain is leading the league in (19) goals, (12) assists, (99) shots, (41) shots on goal and is first in the Audi Player Index ratings with 874 points.

Last week, he was nominated as Player of the Week for the third time this season, along with Team of the Week honors.

Vela has played in every competitive match for LAFC this season, going the full 90 in all, except for two of the Black and Gold’s outings, being replaced with 11 minutes to play in April’s 4-0 victory over D.C. United – putting a target on the captain’s back.

During the Timbers match, the captain was seen limping multiple times – having left the pitch entirely at one point. And even though he sat out his first match in Houston, Vela was seen coaching his teammates from the sidelines during the second half.

Biggest concerns moving forward

Even though LAFC seems unstoppable at this point, I have still a few concerns for the team.

First. Let’s talk schedule.

Last week we saw LAFC do a quick turnaround within 48 hours and SB Nation’s Angels on Parade addressed this issue head on. And quite frankly, I agree with their stance. Given the club was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, for the league to allow them to travel to Houston the very next day is ridiculous.

Fitness is still my biggest concern for the team.

Although LAFC has been pretty lucky from crowding up the injury list there are currently three players on the report: Alejandro Guido and Danilo Silva are questionable, while Javier Perez remains out with an ACL Tear.

Scheduling and roster rotation aside, I realize there is always room for error in a match but LAFC continues to make little mistakes from time-to-time.

From Sisniega’s communication error to Harvey’s mistake against Portland, LAFC has gotten lucky in both cases. But if not addressed properly, it can have a ripple effect. Fortunately, LAFC has been great in regaining form during the second half.

What’s next?

After enduring a packed month of international soccer action and a rigorous 48 turnaround, the MLS schedule gets slightly easier for the club until August.

This week, LAFC is back on the road to face the LA Galaxy who are just a striking hour away (two hours if you consider LA traffic) at the Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday, July 19.

Featured Image: LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Sporting KC turning things around following 3-0 shutout in Vancouver

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After suffering a tough first half of the season, Sporting Kansas City is finally turning things around in back-to-back shutouts.

It seems the only thing the club will have to claim at customs (as they return home) is three points they earned in a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road Saturday night at BC Place.

Gerso Fernandes helped lift Sporting KC to their second straight win by playing a part in all three goals, having scored two of them himself.

For the first time this season, Peter Vermes fielded the same starting XI he used in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire last weekend; giving the backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Botond Barath, and Seth Sinovic their fourth clean sheet in five regular-season matches as a defensive unit.

Tim Melia returned to peak performance after recording six saves to earn his 58th win this season – surpassing the record of Jimmy Nielsen and becoming the new all-time leader in wins since joining the club in 2015.

Controlling over 60% possession throughout the match, Sporting KC pressured Vancouver’s defense before finding the opening goal in the 24th minute.

With Sporting KC in search of a second goal and Vancouver looking to level the match, both sides created chances just before the half. The visitors came close to doubling the lead in the 39th minute as Yohan Croizet’s volley was re-directed by Salloi and went straight to MacMath at close range.

Melia came up huge to turn away Inbeom Hwang’s free kick in the 48th minute. Moments later, 19-year-old Homegrown forward Theo Bair‘s shot misses narrowly wide of the post.

Sporting KC kicked it into high gear after the restart. Felipe Gutierrez wasted no time and immediately doubled the lead with a strike from the top of the box; sneaking it in past MacMath in the 56th minute.

The boys continued the fight to close out the game on a good note, something they had struggled with all season-long. The Whitecaps came close to pulling one back in the 76th minute. But Yordy Reyna’s free-kick ricocheted off the post. Sporting KC went on to threaten for a third goal for the duration of the second half; forcing MacMath to make double saves.

Sporting KC subbed in Johnny Russell for the final moments of the match. And right away, the Scottish forward linked up with his Hungarian teammate, playing the ball to Krisztian Nemeth, who cut it back to Fernandes and he squeezes it through for the game-winner – securing all three points.

With two straight wins and only four players on a once injury-riddled roster, Sporting KC sets their sights on getting back above the line for playoffs.

During the post-match interviews, Melia explained:

“Baby steps, right? We’re just trying to build into our better performances. Getting guys back – being able to bring [Johnny Russell] off the bench, someone who is as explosive as him. I mean, right now things are moving in the right direction.”

Sitting in ninth place with 25 points in a tight race in the Western Conference standings, the club will host FC Dallas who sits just above the line with a four-point difference on Saturday, July 20.

Featured image: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Minnesota Rises Above After 95 Minute Battle For the Ages

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United FC v FC Dallas: 1-0 win

After a come-from-behind victory in Montreal and a thorough trouncing of USL’s New Mexico United in a US Open Cup quarterfinal, Minnesota United returned to conference play on Saturday on home grass against FC Dallas. Their third match in seven days was a big one: Minnesota sat 4th in the West, Dallas 5th entering the weekend. It was everything you’d expect from two evenly matched teams.

Chippy. Cheeky. Scoreless for 90 minutes.

Through the first half, Minnesota struggled to get into the final third with the ball, continuing the trend of easy turnovers and poor passing. For their part, Dallas struggled there, as well, losing many an opportunity to a well-timed tackle or screen play inside of United’s 18. With 43% possession through the first half, Minnesota was level with Dallas on shots taken, 7, but Dallas was more efficient in that area and it felt as if they held the upper hand. That may simply have been due to the visitors’ decision making. By contrast, poor choices and touches abounded for the Loons.

After the 6-1 win over New Mexico, Adrian Heath praised his players for their selfless decisions. “My favorite saying, give it to people when they want it, not when you finish with it and that’s what we did,” he told the press. For the first half against Dallas, and much of the second, the Loons were not living that motto.

But each player held the other accountable in a very much one-v-one match. Most notably, captain Ozzie Alonso was furious with Chase Gasper when the rookie, in a scramble to avoid having to use his less-favored right foot, sent the ball over the touchline rather than allowing it to go out for a goal kick. Gasper wasted no time in making up for the gaff; he went right back to his mark at over 100% effort.

Gasper was one player singled out by Heath after Saturday’s win: “I’ve got to single out the two kids, the fullbacks. I’ve never seen anyone play [Michael Barrios] as well as Chase Gasper’s done today.”

That other fullback, Hassani Dotson, has made himself known in Romain Metanaire’s absence. He may be supplanted on Metanaire’s return, but he will, at the very least, be a known quantity off the bench.

It was a contentious 90 minutes, but the 5 minutes of added time were downright stressful. And euphoric. And then very stressful. And euphoric.

Sophomore forward Mason Toye has been on a tear recently, scoring 3 goals in his last 4 appearances (after going scoreless across 17 appearances in 2018). He added to that tally on Saturday, scoring on the rebound just as the 4th official raised his board announcing 5 minutes of added time.

As 19,906 fans celebrated the goal heard around the Midway, Dallas mounted a comeback. Fresh off the bench, Dallas’ Bryan Reynolds charged toward a loose ball in the Minnesota box and there was little Mannone could do:

“I’m calling for this ball to kill the game and Chase [Gasper] didn’t hear me. I was coming, I was screaming and obviously the crowd was loud. He had the touch, and once I’m there, I’m trying to stand still. And he’s going away from the goal, he’s going wide, he’s not even going through the ball and I thought, with his run he came into me, but. Anyway, he gave it.”

Video review rewarded a penalty to Dallas after Mannone’s collision with Reynolds. Defender Reto Ziegler lined up for the shot as Minnesota fans held their breath. Fortunately, for Mannone, two days of study paid off: “His run up was telling me something different from what I saw in the video[…] It was quite long and on an angle. When he approached the ball, I thought he couldn’t put it on this side anymore, and I thought, let me try and guess over there.”

He guessed correctly. If Toye’s shot was the goal heard around the Midway, Mannone’s stop was the save heard around St Paul.

The locker room celebration was a subdued affair. Joyous, certainly, but quiet. Most of the guys cleaned up, dressed and headed home. They’d moved up to third in the west, the job was done for the night. While the reserves take a swing at Aston Villa in a friendly on Wednesday, most of the starters will have a long rest ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Salt Lake.

Other notes:

  • Ozzie Alonso exited in the second half after taking a heavy shot to the shoulder and another to the gut. He’ll have an MRI on Sunday, but the medical staff is confident his clavicle is only bruised.
  • Romain Metanire landed in Minnesota on Friday after Madagascar’s exit from the African Cup of Nations. Heath said he will get an emotional and physical rest this week before being re-activated for league play.

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Team Goals And Cup Goals A Reality For The Loons

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United v New Mexico United: 6-1

The biggest US Open Cup match in Minnesota’s MLS history did not disappoint. Allianz Field hosting a quarterfinal against the last remaining USL side in the tournament, a club whose fanbase quickly bought out at least one charter plane and coach bus – a club that reminds Minnesota’s fans of the way things used to be.  But Minnnesota has a new story now and it might include the Cup.

After conceding yet another early goal, a 7’ corner that made the Loons’ set-piece defense look like pieces in a Football Manager match animation, it appeared it would be an ugly match of slip ups. Adrian Heath was critical of his squad in the post-match presser, saying it was exactly that kind of play he’d prepped his squad for, a known favorite of the USL side:

“We’ve watched probably their last four or five games and they’ve come up with sort of trick plays and that was another one of them, but we’ve been through that. It’s not like we hadn’t seen that corner. That’s the disappointing thing and that’s what happens when you turn off for a split second and that’s what happens at this level of football.”

But the post-goal rally by the home United did not disappoint. Just three minutes later, Angelo Rodriguez notched the first goal of what would be his first MLS hat trick. Rookie sensation Hassani Dotson, making another start at right back, picked out Rodriguez and Kevin Molino right in front of goal and sent in a high cross. Both players went up for it and celebrated immediately, with the PA announcer and the press announcing that Molino had notched the tying goal.

It was in fact Rodriguez who got the most vertical (thus, our confusion) putting his head on the ball to send it off the right hand of New Mexico keeper Cody Mizell and into the net.

That aged well. The Loons scored 4 more goals before the whistle sounded for halftime. You should probably just watch them all.

The second half was a more subdued affair, Minnesota allowing the visitors to complete passes and occasional venture outside of their own half of the field – a stark contrast to the first 45 minutes.

Chances abounded for the Loons and New Mexico made some clean counter attacks after poor turnovers. By the 60th minute, it was still 5-1. Fifteen minutes had gone by without a goal and even the cheers had begun to dry up as fans settled in to enjoy the beautiful summer evening. But then the home crowd witnessed the end to what may have been the most difficult drought to watch at Allianz Field.

Miguel Ibarra – the fan favorite winger who returned to Minnesota after a spell in LigaMX to be one of the handful of NASL Loons to make the jump to MLS – had scored but a single goal all season. Despite numerous possibilities, the final ball just hadn’t materialized for Batman at Allianz Field. In the 62’, he fixed that, right in front of the Wonderwall, the fans who’d dubbed him Batman half a decade ago.

As the Wonderwall celebrated the milestone – sadly without smoke, just the latest example of Minnesota fans under-budgeting goal-related expenses – Heath made his fitness management subs, beginning the preparations for Saturday’s pivotal conference matchup against FC Dallas. Rodriguez made way for Mason Toye, Chase Gasper for Eric Miller, like-for-like changes. Ethan Finlay replaced Quintero 10 minutes later.

The remainder of the match saw plenty of runs from both sides, but the Loons sealed the deal and paid their visitors the respect of playing out the remaining minutes with a competitive edge and clean play despite the lopsided scoreline.

New Mexico played to the whistle, looking for a final goal to reward a couple hundred travelling supporters who sang for the full 90 minutes. With just 1 goal to Minnesota’s 6, New Mexico United – players and fans alike – left the tournament with their heads held high.

While Heath and his staff prep the players to face Dallas, the Front Office and stadium staff have some work to do, as well. As delightful as the last few weeks of goals have been, Allianz Field has experienced a few hiccups that left fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. With only lower-bowl tickets available for Wednesday’s semifinal, fewer security gates were opened for fan entry and screening began just 60 minutes prior to kickoff, rather than 90.

Hundreds of fans, some of them still frustrated over staffing and streaming issues during the USWNT Brew Hall watch party on Sunday, were still lined up around the stadium after kickoff. Tweets abound showing fans spending extra time up close and personal with the ‘UNITED’ statue at the southwest corner and the granite bench-barriers on the north lawn.

CEO Chris Wright – who could be heard in the press box, not long before the opening goal, triaging the logistical issues on his cell phone before meeting up with stadium staff downstairs – issued a statement on Thursday addressing both incidents and urging patience and cooperation as the club, and fans alike, adjust to their new home.

After a few more pivotal weeks of league play, MN United and Allianz Field will face their next big test on Wednesday, August 7, when they host Portland Timbers for the US Open Cup semifinal. But first, league play.

The Loons face Western Conference foes FC Dallas on Saturday, July 13, at 7 PM CST.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

L.A. Galaxy’s ‘Mate Behind the Muscles’

LA Galaxy Contributor

By Debbie Haar // @GalaxySoccerMom

There’s a large number of people in the background working to help the L.A. Galaxy be the best team in the league. Those people have jobs ranging from dietitians to equipment managers to technical director. I had the opportunity to get a peek into the career of the Galaxy’s Australian Ace-up-the-sleeve, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Adam “Adds” Waterson.

Waterson2

Debbie Haar: Tell me about your career with the NSW (New South Wales) Police Force.

Adam Waterson: I started as a strength and conditioning coach with Sydney Football Club in the A-League in 2005. I then worked with various football teams in Australia before opting for a break from football and took up a great role as lead S&C coach for the NSW Police Force. I was there for approximately 2 years before I returned to football and a role with LA Galaxy.

DH: What’s your favorite part of your job?

AW: I really enjoy coaching the players and helping them develop their physical capabilities to perform at the highest level they possibly can. Seeing all their hard work on the training pitch and gym pay off with good performances in the games is really rewarding.

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DH: How long have you been in LA? What’s the best part of living in LA?

AW: Coming on 2 years in LA. The weather is great, South Bay is great, the amount of sports on TV is brilliant.

DH: Does everyone comment on your accent?

AW: Yes, some enjoy it and request me to repeat myself where others take the piss out of it (translation: To mock or make fun of). I like the banter.

DH: Which player can mimic your accent the best?

AW: They are all terrible. Dave Romney tries hard though. Matt Lampson has a terrific South African impersonation.

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DH: There are players from many different countries who speak many different languages. How do you work through language barriers?

AW: The great thing is most speak very good English, those that don’t I try some very basic Spanglish or get one of the boys to translate. Generally, football has its own language through movements, so it’s not too bad.

DH: Do you do all the drills with the players?

AW: I coach a lot of the drills at the start of the training session, then in rehab/gym sessions I tend to observe and correct form and communicate with the players during the drills rather than join myself.

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Photos courtesy of Adam Waterson

DH: Do you give the players pep talks?

AW: Ha ha, sometimes the players do require a little pep talk which I’m happy to do, but most of them are pretty self-motivated to train hard when we do.

DH: Tell me something interesting that happens during daily training sessions that might surprise people.

AW: Every session every player is monitored through GPS and heart rate so we can track their physical output each day.

DH: Do you travel with the team?

AW: Yes, I travel to every away game.

DH: When you are traveling what’s one thing you don’t leave home without?

AW: My pillow, hotel pillows are always too soft!

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DH: Is there a specific drill the players hate to do more than others?

AW: Any isolated running drill in season is frowned upon but they know it’s required.

DH: What the hardest part of your job?

AW: The hardest part is the time away from home due to the regular travel and congested schedule. We work most weekends and public holidays so you tend to miss out on a lot of parties, weddings, etc.

DH: What’s a phrase you say a lot at work?

AW: Grab some water, have a stretch, weight of pass, timing of run, more intensity boys lets go. They take the piss out of my accent on most.

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DH: What’s one of your stand out memories with the team?

AW: The 4-3 come from behind win against LAFC the first time we played them. It was Zlatan’s first game and he scored a golazo.

DH: Do you have a pet?

AW: No, I can’t wait for the day I live in a house with a yard so I can buy a German Shepherd.

DH: What is your guilty pleasure?

AW: Probably too many slices of pizza after games is my biggest one right now.

DH: What’s your favorite thing to eat and drink?

AW: Butter chicken and when I’m out I enjoy a bourbon and soda water.

DH: Last and most important question? Does pineapple belong on pizza?

AW: Yes, it has a place I believe.

Waterson played an integral part of helping the Western Sydney Wanderers win the 2014 AFC Champions League. With his knowledge and expertise on board, the L.A. Galaxy has the foundation needed to go after their next MLS Cup. Next time you are watching a game keep in mind the people behind the scenes like Adam Waterson who spend their days making the Galaxy players the best they can be.

Featured and other images: @LAGalaxy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @GalaxySoccerMom

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

LAFC dominates in 5-1 win over Sporting Kansas City

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After a stunning road loss in Colorado, the Los Angeles Football Club bounced back in a big fashion with a 5-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park in a midweek matchup on Wednesday night.

After falling to Sporting KC twice last season and reclaiming revenge in a 2-1 season opener win in March – the match saw the return of Mark-Anthony Kaye following Canada’s elimination from the 2019 Gold Cup. And Bob Bradley wasted no time in putting him back in his usual midfield position.

Kaye almost earned the black-and-gold the early lead off a header from a Carlos Vela free kick in the ninth minute, but his attempt went straight to Tim Melia and eventually cleared out.

Stricken with an injured roster once again, Sporting KC dominated possession and kept Pablo Sisniega alert early in the match. However, most strikes from Gerso were deflected from Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour before reaching thenblack-and-gold’s net.

In the 28th minute, Christian Ramirez set the tone for the match after he drew blood first with a cheeky move off a set piece. The 28-year-old opted to send the ball underneath the wall, flying under the feet of Ilie Sanchez and Nicolas Hasler straight into the back of the net.

The trio (Gerso Fernandes, Felipe Gutierrez, and Krisztián Németh) were close to finding the response by developing a sequence of passes to get in the penalty box but had trouble connecting – ultimately sending the game into halftime trailing by one.

Moments after the restart, Diego Rossi doubles the score by sending a rocket past Melia into the right post.

Beware of the left foot. In the 63rd minute, Vela scored his 17th-MLS career goal so seamlessly with his signature left-footed curler.

Pablo Sisniega continues to be a standout with an incredible performance recording five saves. In true Miller-esque form, the 23-year-old keeper commanded the goal to thwart SKC’s efforts, including making a double-save within seconds of each other in the 71st minute.

With LAFC leading 3-0 – Sporting KC caught a break as Beitashour was called for a controversial handball in the 78th minute; after the ball ricocheted off his leg up to his hand on a sliding tackle – awarding the host a penalty kick. Daniel Salloi stepped up to convert. But Sisniega saved it from the Hungarian keeping a clean sheet.

In the 85th minute, Yohan Croizet pulls one back for Sporting KC in an attempt to spark hope back into the team. But it wouldn’t last long.

Just four minutes later, the Mexican captain gave Fito Zelaya the best birthday gift as he sends him a pass inside the penalty area to slide home, earning his first goal of the season.

Mohammad El-Munir finished a perfect night as he scored his first MLS-career goal during stoppage time – securing all three points for the black-and-gold.

Now sitting atop of the Western Conference standings with a nice cushion of 40 points – LAFC continues a congested schedule with a quick turnaround to host the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend.

Featured Image: Peaty Romano

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Full Strength Houston Dynamo Come Home With A Vengeance

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

With their full squad back from international duties and back home after a cross-country tour plagued with losses, the Houston Dynamo came to BBVA Stadium on Saturday, June 29, needing a win. The men in orange did not disappoint and stunned the New York Red Bulls with a 4-0 victory. This win maintains the Dynamo’s unbeaten home streak and breaks the winless streak that has plagued them since mid-May.  

Houston’s Starting XI featured the return of Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas up front and Maynor Figueroa in the back, all of whom were expected to shore up the struggles of a June that showed little success on either end of the ball. 

The New York Red Bulls are a great team with a comfortable spot in the Eastern Conference standings, and I really expected a close match. The Dynamo came out with a fire in their bellies, however, and dominated the match from the start. The Red Bulls seemed to really enjoy the efforts of the BBVA grounds crew, as they took many opportunities to get a close look at the grass.

There were plenty of fouls for both sides, but the New York players seemed particularly keen to go to ground. While I was concerned that the constant restarts would affect the flow of the match or that the frustration of the calls would get in the heads of the Dynamo players, the laser focus of Houston was unshakable. 

Whether it was the confidence gained in being back home or having key players back on the pitch, the team that stepped out at BBVA was almost unrecognizable as the team that I watched in June. The players were tough and decisive. The passes were quick and well-placed. The chemistry of the team was amazing for how little time they had to work as a squad ahead of this match. And while I was thrilled with the results and wowed by the level of play, I can’t help but wonder how the team can maintain this level of confidence through the season without shouldering it on just a few individuals. 

The Houston Dynamo must figure out a way to have confidence as a squad and not be crippled by the loss of a key player. GM Matt Jordan is a brilliant scout who has worked hard this year on improving depth, but no amount of bench depth is going to save a team that sees that depth as a supporting cast for a single star. The reality is that introducing stars like Elis and Manotas to MLS may pay off in transfer fees before it pays off in trophies.

Barring any updates from the MLS Disciplinary Committee, the Dynamo will test their confidence again without defensive playmaker Maynor Figueroa in Cincinnati on Saturday. After only one match back from Honduran national duty, he and New York’s Kaku were each sent off after an off-ball conflict in the 94th minute. I expect to be pleasantly surprised by the Dynamo again, and look forward to telling you all about it next week.   

Featured images: @HoustonDynamo

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

A 16 Year Old Scored the Game Winning Goal and You Can’t Tell Me Otherwise

Sounders top Whitecaps 1-0 in Seattle.


Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

Image: Jill Peck

The Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps met for the second time this season after a scoreless draw up in Vancouver in March. The Cascadia rivals met on Saturday with both sides somewhat depleted by international call-ups. For Seattle, 16-year-old Danny Leyva made his debut start, the third youngest player to start in MLS behind Freddy Adu and Alphonso Davies.

Along with the debut start of Leyva, USL veteran Justin Dhillon made his Rave Green debut. The Sounders signed Dhillon to a first-team contract after Will Bruin sadly tore his ACL in training and while Raul Ruidiaz is still away on international duty with Peru. Seattle’s only other forward on roster is 17-year-old Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, who made his substitute debut in the 90th minute.

While both teams were goalless through the first half, the Sounders showed significant pressure in the second half and tested Vancouver goalkeeper, Zac MacMath. In the 60th minute, MacMath came off his line to shut down a breakaway from Dhillon. The ball deflected off of MacMath (after what can barely be defined as contact with Dhillon) and fell to the feet of teenager, Danny Leyva. From 30 yards out, Leyva picked his head up and lobbed a ball in past not 1, not 2, but 3 Whitecaps defenders.

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

After the Sounders thoroughly celebrated Leyva’s debut goal, the stadium fell to a murmur, then a roar of boos as referee Alan Kelly motioned for a VAR check of the goal.

For this. This “contact” from Dhillon, who had full possession of the ball and took a shot on MacMath, who made no intentional contact with the ball except for it deflecting off his body.

When the ball fell to the 16-year-old only a split-second later, he had the composure to do this:

But the goal was called off for what the referee referred to as “sportsmanship”, claiming Leyva should have played the ball out upon seeing MacMath on the ground injured. However, the referee himself did not blow the whistle to stop play and MacMath’s injury was not a head injury. Nevertheless, the youngster was robbed of his debut goal by Alan Kelley and Zac MacMath, who both heard it from the Sounders faithful the remainder of the match.

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

With 8 minutes of stoppage time added on for the MacMath/VAR antics, in the 96th minute Kelvin Leerdam and Brad Smith combined with a stellar passing sequence capped off by Leerdam slotting home his 5th goal of the season to give the Sounders a 1-0 victory.

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

Celebrating A Legend

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

Before the match, Chad Marshall was honored with a brief retirement ceremony and given the Golden Scarf. As a fan, it was daunting to watch him stand out on the field for the very last time while he spoke briefly, teared up slightly and walked away to the blaring tune of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. It was perfect but still felt too soon. You can read my extended take on Marshall’s retirement here:

Featured image: @jillmpeck on Instagram

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Clasico Calamity For LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy Contributor

By Debbie Haar // @GalaxySoccerMom

The LA Galaxy took on the San Jose Earthquakes in front of 50,850 at Stanford Stadium in the first of this season’s California Clásico  games on Saturday, June 29. The Clásico is notorious for last-minute action and this game was no different.

The Galaxy was missing five key players, leaving the team on the back foot before the game even began. Romain Alessandrini is still out recovering from his April meniscus root surgery. Uriel Antuna, Jonathan dos Santos, Rolf Feltscher and Giancarlo Gonzalez were all unavailable due to being called up to their national teams so the Galaxy with few options on the bench.

LA struggled to find their rhythm from the very beginning of the game. Eleven minutes in, San Jose dealt their first blow when Vako sent in a ball from outside of the box that was just too fast for David Bingham to react to. Vako has been hot recently, scoring 6 goals in the last 4 games.

In the 38th minute Zlatan Ibrahimovic passed the ball to Dave Romney for a failed shot on goal. Ibrahimovic appeared slow and uninterested on the field and was not effective on either end which contributed to the chaos and inability for the Galaxy to make anything happen.

Throughout the game the Galaxy’s midfield was overrun and outplayed, spotlighting just how much Jonathon Dos Santos was missed. Efrain Alvarez came in for an injured Sebastian Lletget at halftime, but the midfield chaos continued for the Galaxy.

It’s tradition to wait until the end of the game for all the excitement to surface in a California Clásico and this one did not disappoint. In the 82nd minute, Shea Salinas doubled San Jose’s lead with a shot from the right side of the box that made it into the bottom left corner of the goal.

Just three minutes later the Earthquakes struck again when Salinas set up Tommy Thompson for a shot that deflected off of Perry Kitchen resulting in a goal. Although David Bingham made five saves during the course of the game, it just wasn’t enough.

This win was not only important for the Quakes due to the satisfaction of beating an interstate rival; this win also helps them continue to advance up the Western Conference table after finding themselves in a playoff position earlier this week.

Next up for the L.A. Galaxy is an Independence Day home game against Toronto FC at 7:30 PST.

Featured image: Noel Danseco // IG @drive_x_strike

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Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman talk Gold Cup journey, LAFC

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

In front of 17,307 energetic fans, the U.S. Men’s National Team won the group stage in a grueling 1-0 win over Panama; claiming all nine points ahead of the quarterfinals. And among the skillful roster are LAFC’s Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman.

Before the team heads to the east coast to face Curaçao in this Sunday’s matchup in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to catch up with LAFC’s favorite duo in Kansas City to discuss their experiences with the senior team this tournament thus far and reflect on the club’s strong start to the season.

Prior to the start of the USMNT’s Gold Cup run, Zimmerman – a longtime veteran of the senior squad – appeared as a halftime substitution during the friendly against Venezuela and has made back-to-back appearances for Gold Cup play.

Zimmerman: “It’s been great. I mean anytime you get called into the national team, it’s an honor. But even more so, I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be content. Get some games, get some starts, get some good performances – to try to build that momentum. [..] So it’s been great to be a part of these first two games. And get two wins.”

Tyler Miller earned his first call-up to the senior team earlier this year for January’s senior camp. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut to the game day roster and returned to LAFC for preseason.

Six months later, the 26-year-old keeper would get another opportunity as he was called up for the USMNT’s friendlies. Even though he appeared on the bench for both matches, Miller ultimately made the final Gold Cup roster, “[It’s] a dream come true to be a part of this team.”

Following Wednesday’s win, Miller is the only player on the roster yet to have made an appearance.

While the duo has been on the road, back in Los Angeles – LAFC has continued to defend the Banc for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, advancing to the quarterfinals last week in a thrilling 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Miller and Zimmerman are excited about their club team: “I’ve had some late nights, where I watch some games of theirs. [I’m] looking forward to rooting them on from afar,” Zimmerman expressed.

Zimmerman went on to explain LAFC’s overall group mentality is greatly improved compared to last season:

“It’s a groundwork that we’ve put in place since the beginning of last year with how we want to be, our mentality. That’s one of the biggest differences from last year to this year, is the mentality of the whole group. To realize we’re a special group of players. We have a great locker room. And a very talented team.”

Miller added, “It’s always a challenge when you’re called into international duty for the guys to step up that haven’t really been getting a lot of minutes. I think the team has done well in the first two open cup games and that’s going to help propel them into the next three MLS games where we might have some guys still missing. I think this is a huge opportunity for guys to really get some valuable minutes because you never know. I mean the MLS season is very long and injuries happen. And everyone has to be ready.”

One of those players who has been earning some “valuable minutes” is Pablo Sisneiga, who has stepped up in Miller’s absence. And Tyler was thrilled for the young Mexican keeper:

“Pablo has done great. I’ve always got confidence in Pablo. I think he’s really performed well and has made some key saves for our team, especially with the RSL game. This last game we had too. I’m really happy for him because I know how hard he works. He’s a good kid and I’m glad to see him doing well.”

As the pair gear up to head to the east coast with the USMNT – the black-and-gold will kick off a packed schedule in Colorado on Friday.

Featured Image: Peaty Romano

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