Category Archives: Western Conference

Western Conference

MINNESOTA’S HOPES AT GETTING A POINT GET BLOCKED LIKE THE SUN

Kaitlyn O'Rourke - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Seattle Sounders Key Contributor

By Kaitlyn O’Rourke 

Sunday August 20: 4-3 Win

The Seattle Sounders faced off against Minnesota United just 15 days after their 4-0 rout in Minnesota. This time though; it was a very different story. The Sounders had to fight for this one, they had to come from behind and keep pushing for their well deserved 3 points.

Stefan Frei

Kelvin Leerdam–Roman Torres–Chad Marshall–Joevin Jones

Ozzie AlonsoGustav Svensson 

Nicolas LodeiroClint DempseyCristian Roldan

Jordan Morris 

Seattle’s shutout streak ended at 421 minutes on a Minnesota goal by Ethan Finley in the 21st minute. Chad Marshall responded 10 minutes later on a cross from Nicolas Lodeiro to even the score at 1-1. The Sounders couldn’t grab a game winner before the 80th minute (this is Seattle after all) which carried the game into what I like to call ice-chewing-nervous-pacing-run-to-the-bathroom-500-times zone.

But, like what always seems to happen (this is Seattle after all) the Sounders got their shot at a game winner in the 94th minute. After a handball in the box, Clint Dempsey scored a PK to keep the unbeaten streak alive (9 games!!)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I love the Seattle Sounders but they WILL give me a heart attack one day. Evidence: this season Seattle has scored 5 goals after the 88th minute – 4 of those have been to tie or win a game, they’ve scored 3 (3!?) goals in the 94th minute.

Fun Facts and Notes:

  • The Sounders are in first place with 40 points!!
  • It’s Cascadia Week!! The Sounders play Vancouver Wednesday and Portland Sunday
  • I tried to come up with some eclipse humor for this but I couldn’t
  • I slipped and busted my hip while I was celebrating last night (Sounders fuzzy socks+hardwood floors=not great)

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

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Latest Road Trip

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale
Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter

By Christy Casas // @nkstar9

Saturday, August 12: 1-0 Loss

The Vancouver Whitecaps fall to New England Revolution in the last game of their road trip. Bringing back 4 points over the 3 game trip, they head into Pride night, which is a breath of fresh air. 

Other than the game loss, the team suffers a player loss with Matias Laba being out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. 

The Whitecaps are a team on the cusp of making the playoffs. Though, I can tell you that their hot and cold mentality will not cut it when teams see the playoffs in sight. 

They played with the most heart against New York City FC. Over the summer they have had some encouraging wins, like the 4-0 victory over FC Dallas. The road trip was ended with a mediocre show in a loss to the Revolution. What we need now is consistency. 

We need Fredy Montero to make the best of the chances he is given. We need to play with the fire and heart we have seen shine through on rare occasions. We need the backs to make runs, we need to see the field and we need them to want it. 

Hopefully our hometown crowd can add a little fuel to the fire. Wouldn’t it be great to see #raincity in the playoffs. 

Welcome again to Aly Ghazal, Aaron Maund, and Stefan Marinovic. 

#riseupraincity Glad the smoke from wildfires is gone and glad that you are coming home. 

Featured image courtesy: @WhitecapsFC

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Back in the Game

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, August 6: 3-1 Win

Yes, friends, that’s right, after approximately a jillion years (okay, eight weeks, but still), club captain Liam Ridgewell finally returned to the pitch last Sunday for the first time since re-aggravating a nagging quad injury against FC Dallas on June 10th. Say what you will about the golf and TV tweets; I was MORE than glad to see him back on the pitch.

Ridgewell delivered a solid performance and contributed to a convincing win. Welcome back, Liam.

After their away draw, the Portland Timbers returned from the suffocating heat of Houston only to find some heat of their own at home as they faced the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday. Start time for the match was moved up to 11am (!) due to predicted temperatures earlier in the week in Portland. Yes, I know, people in actual, REAL hot places on the planet might snicker at moving a match because the temperature might top triple digits; but even state-of-the-art turf gets REALLY hot on such days, and if player safety is a concern, I would prefer to err on the side of caution. Tough on those of us who open up the Timbers Army fanladen/clubhouse 3 1/2 hours before a game, but it’s all about the players.

Me, getting ready for an 11am kick

For the first time this season, the Timbers finally fielded the two players they have hoped to start at center back all year: Ridgewell and summer signing Larrys Mabiala, the Congolese player acquired from Turkish Super Lig club Kayserispor. I had almost forgotten what it looks like to have two veteran center backs working together in front of the goal: while Lawrence Olum and Roy Miller (and others!) have made valiant efforts to hold down the fort at various points during the season, they were clearly place holders for the guys the Timbers *wanted* to start at the center back position.

But with Mabiala’s team engaged in a fierce battle to avoid relegation in Turkey and with Ridgewell battling a quad injury for most of the season, this was the first opportunity we’ve had to see them actually play together in front of the goal.  And while I’m no expert, I could see the ease with which Ridgewell settled into the role of field general on the back line, constantly communicating with Mabiala and the rest of the defense. I’m eager to see how they work together going forward.

A fast start, and a fast equalizer

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. First, Ridgewell made his return to the field count, putting away a header off a set piece in his first match back to open the scoring:

That was promptly met with an equalizer from Emmanuel Boateng that showed just how outmatched Roy Miller was on the wing:

Ouch. I have to wonder if perhaps Vytautas Andriuškevičius wasn’t actually fully match fit. Otherwise, I have to question the Miller start at LB against Boateng, who obviously has a step or three on Miller. I thought perhaps it was because Miller and David Guzmán had plenty of experience playing together for Saprissa, but no amount of history and chemistry can overcome Boateng’s speed.

VAR

I am on record as being skeptical of VAR. I continue to worry about the possibility of long pauses in the flow of the game, because I am concerned about the pressure from broadcasters to introduce extra advertising spots that will ultimately disrupt the flow of the game. My good friend Zach summarized my fears:

At the same time, I have to eat a little crow here, because in this game, VAR helped officials make the right call, and it didn’t take an inordinate amount of time. After Gyasi Zardes put the ball into the net, it looked like LA might have taken the lead, but not for long. What might have been missed in real time was clearly visible on replay:

The Maestro

So much has been said about Diego Valeri that I cannot begin to imagine that I can add to it. Really, all I can say is: just watch.

Oops, you gave him a little bit of room outside the 30, too bad for you. Timbers lead: 2-1.

Best Prop Bet that Never Happened

Okay, so it wasn’t the keeper eating a pie on the sideline midmatch, but seriously, if you had been able to lay down money on a prop bet before the match that Fanendo Adi would backheel to Alvas Powell for a score, you would have Cleaned. Up.

This put the Timbers ahead 3-1, which wound up being the score line at the final whistle.

Yeah, we still have, shall we say, issues. Last I checked, we are in a five way tie for second place (sixth place?) in the West. Adi got injured, not sure how severely. We were BURNED on the left wing a few times. And LAG had more chances than the score line showed. But three points is three points, and I will gladly take it. Next up: Toronto. See you then!

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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The Freaking Printer Didn’t Work

Ambrosia Tonkovich - Real Salt Lake/mlsfemale
Official Real Salt Lake Reporter

By Ambrosia Tonkovich // @heyambrosia

Saturday, July 22: 1-1 Draw

What led to definitely the best post-game conference I’ve ever seen in my life was a pretty controversial, somewhat chaotic, but we could’ve all seen it coming game, that resulted in a 1v1 draw against Sporting Kansas City at home in Rio Tinto Stadium with Real Salt Lake.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. The beginning seems like the logical place, but oh man, the beginning seems so boring when we all know where the end takes us. Let’s start with this – SKC and RSL have a pretty healthy rivalry. After SKC defeated us in the 2013 championship we’ve been pretty sore.

The time up to that championship was a little sore as well, with RSL supporters buying their tickets to the game and then the tickets being pulled out from under them by the stadium saying that an ‘invalid’ code was used to purchase them (the code was tweeted out by the SKC twitter itself). However, I don’t want to dig too far into the past. I mention it because every time these two teams meet, drama is probably going to ensue. And boy, howdy did it ever.

I’ll be honest, the first half is a little uneventful. RSL had two shots on goal, with one of them making it in at the 42nd minute (Luis Silva’s first RSL MLS goal, assist by Joao Plata). We did have most of the possession for the first half, keeping SKC pretty defensive. They had no shots on goal the entire first half. We did have a hydration break (it was weirdly humid in Utah, also crazy hot… this heat wave, amirite guys?), but really, that’s about it. We ended the first half 1-0 RSL.

Just when you think things are just a normal soccer game though… the second half begins.

I guess I should let you guys know, we had one of the most inexperienced referees this game. A lot of calls were missed (for both teams). A lot of diving happened. A lot of frustration. So much so that our Coach, Mike Petke was asked to leave the field after yelling at the fourth official when a call was missed after Joao Plata was put into a headlock and pushed down during play. In addition, a player did go cleats up against Luke Mulholland and that was called, but only as a yellow, which in my honest opinion, wasn’t the right call.

There are a lot of RSL fans upset that SKC was given a PK (ultimately tying up the game 1-1 in the 59’ with a kick from Benny Feilhaber) but I actually think it was the right call. I know that if we had the same circumstances against us we would have been yelling for a PK.

So, the second half continues. Yellow card after yellow card is given. Foul after foul. It seems like no play can last more than one minute without someone on the ground or some foul being called somewhere. A total of 25 total fouls were called this game. Both teams only used one sub, and to my surprise even though Dom Dwyer was on the bench he was never brought on (which is still really weird to me, especially with the ref we had for the night).

A total of 5 yellow cards were given during the second half (it should’ve been at least one red on each side as well). Also, holy cow, we had a goal that went in, hit the right post, bounced off, then hit the left post, then bounced out, to a player, then he kicked it right back over straight to another post. That ball DID NOT want to go in. Talk about holding my breath. Woooooo.

Obviously Mike Petke and his conference received way more press than really this entire game did, so I can’t just end this article without saying something. When he was brought in to coach the Monarchs we were excited because we *knew* he was going to eventually be coaching RSL. When Jeff Cassar was let go, we knew it was only a matter of time.

I’m so glad that his passion was such a big part of Saturday night. I know we didn’t see him first (I can hear NY fans gritting their teeth right now), but we have him now and don’t worry guys, we love him.

And let’s all hope he gets his printer working.

Featured image courtesy: Chris Nicoll/USA TODAY Sports

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A DAY FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS

Kaitlyn O'Rourke - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Seattle Sounders Key Contributor

By Kaitlyn O’Rourke 

Wednesday, July 21: 4-3 Win

The Seattle Sounders played a historic game Wednesday night. The game started out less than ideally for Seattle, but in the end, the Sounders became the first team in MLS League history to overcome a 3-0 deficit v DC United and win in regulation. *this was also the first Sounders game I’ve been able to go to in over a year. Coincidentally, the last game I went to was a Sounders 2-0 win over DC United in DC last year.

The Sounders were missing Stefan Frei and Ozzie Alonso to injuries and Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey, both on duty with the national team. They lined up as follows:

Tyler Miller

Brad Evans, Roman Torres, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones

Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan

Aaron Kovar, Nicolas Lodeiro, Harry Shipp

Will Bruin

DC United scored in the 8th minute on a goal by DeShorn Brown, then again in the 27th minute. The Sounders were playing good soccer, but weren’t getting attacks off, and their defense and midfield had some weak spots dropping back.

Five minutes into the second half, DC United sunk the Sounders ship a little more and made it a three goal deficit. But, Will Bruin and the mighty Sounders fought back, and in the 51st minute, Bruin made it a 2 goal deficit.

Now CenturyLink Field was excited. Everyone knew that the Sounders could come back. 11 minutes later Brad Evans closed the gap a little bit more. Seattle still had 28 minutes to play and had all the momentum going.

Gustav Svensson picked a great time for his first MLS goal and tied it at three in the 74th minute. Just 4 minutes later, Cristian Roldan showed Bruce Arena and the USMNT exactly what they were missing and scored the Sounders 4th goal on the night and sunk DC United’s ship into the Puget Sound.

*Nicolas Lodeiro picked Cristian Roldan up after he scored and it was adorable

Unfortunately, Seattle’s party was spoiled a little by Nicolas Lodeiro being sent off in the 89th minute with a red card for violent content. Lodeiro will miss the game against San Jose Earthquakes Sunday.

Fun Facts/Notes/Stats:

  • Seattle scored 4 goals in 27 minutes to complete their second half comeback
  • Seattle is above the red line(YAY!!) and tied for 4th in the west with PDX and Vancouver
  • The Sounders have a total of 27 points on the season with a record of 7-7-6
  • This was the largest comeback in club history
  • Will Bruin and Clint Dempsey now both have 7 goals on the season
  • Evans and Svensson both got their 1st of the season
  • Cristian Roldan got his 3rd
  • 5th time in club history that SFC has had 4 or more different goal scorers in same game
  • 3rd time in club history that Sounders have scored 4 goals in a half
  • Wednesday night marked the debut of new signing Kelvin Leerdam, a Dutch RB
  • Seattle’s first 3 goals were scored within 15 minutes of each other, the second fastest time between goals in club history
  • Stefan Frei was selected for the MLS All-Star game, no other Sounders players were selected

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

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Evening The Score

Ambrosia Tonkovich - Real Salt Lake/mlsfemale
Official Real Salt Lake Reporter

By Ambrosia Tonkovich // @heyambrosia

Wednesday, July 19: 1-4 Win

When you wish upon many red cards…

After four losses and four draws against the Portland Timbers the last 8 times we played against them, Real Salt Lake finally managed to defeat them, 4-1 in Providence Park.

Alright, I’m gonna set you a scene.

I am the third week into my new job. The pressure is REAL, guys. This is not a ReAL pun, I promise. REAL vs ReAl etc… I dunno. Although if I were more clever I would probably make one right now. But it’s been a pretty busy few weeks (sorry for my absence) and I have to start the game off with the announcers asking our previously beloved Nat Borchers how he thinks both teams will do. Have you ever had stabby pains in your heart? That was a thing. Dang, announcers. Why do you have to do this to me before the game even starts? That was cold announcers, that was cold.

Alright. Let’s move on. We’re coming off of a friendly against Manchester United. We didn’t win, but I mean… we gave up 5 goals to Houston and RIGHT AFTER THAT gave up 6 goals to FC Dallas so… I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting us to do as well as we did. The fact that we scored on Manchester United first in the beginning was a shining light in my evening. But this isn’t about *that* game (although let’s just call me out on not writing about that game, eh?). So hey. We’re two days out of a friendly against a pretty big team. We go against a team that we’ve been very evenly matched against. Heartstrings already torn, we open the game.

10 minutes innnnnnnnnn. I hope the multiple “n”s will express to you that this, in fact, was a sing-song moment. Oh captain, my captain. Kyle Beckerman kicks a goal in from 30 yards away, weirdly out of nowhere. I honestly didn’t see it, and it seemed like no one really did until it was happening. But there it was. The first time I’ve ever said ‘Wow’ out loud for a Beckerman goal in a long time. Definitely his goal of the year. And it put us in the lead for the entire first half,  1-0. This is his 421st game, and way to go, Beckerman.

Honestly, even with that early goal Portland did keep up the pressure. They were down quite a few players, and even with that they were still able to create some chances for themselves, ultimately not able to follow through with the first half ending 1-0 Salt Lake, along with both teams collecting a yellow card or two.

The card-packed, controversial (I’ll get to that in a moment) second half opened up with a yellow card with the first minute, against Danilo Acosta who had just barely been put in the game at half time. With this second half off to a slow start it seemed unlikely that we would be seeing scores so soon, but a PK was rewarded to Real Salt Lake, with Joao Plata hitting into the net at the 50’ mark.

From there, it seemed chaos took over. At the 53’ mark Arboleda gets a red card for (imho) what looks like a pretty clear elbow to Plata’s neck. Not only was it out, but it was out, and up, and followed through. I will say that was a pretty solid red in my opinion. So now Portland is down a man in the 53rd minute while they’re also down by two points. Not a good place to be.

But oh. Things get so much worse. For both teams. Simultaneously, and very fast.

Insert unpopular opinion here: Kyle Beckerman definitely should have gotten a card here. A red…. Eh? If what he did deserves a red then there have been a LOT of missed red opportunities over the years of MLS being a sport. Games would end short-handed literally every single game. I will say this – Kyle did this on purpose. He agitates, and every other team knows this (I told you this is an unpopular opinion).

BUT. Here’s where things get hairy for me: Fanendo Adi comes up to Kyle and straight up chest bumps him down to the ground. While Toledo (ref) marked down Beckerman’s elbow as ‘Violent conduct’ he also gave both Kyle and Adi the SAME disciplinary time away from game play. That seems a little uncouth to me. Adi straight up knocked a dude to the ground while Kyle threw an elbow that ultimately left Adi running, even after he was hit, until he decided to let his anger get the best of him and make him turn around. One of those things is definitely not like the other.

As an update on that, RSL did try to appeal the red card and the appeal was denied, so Kyle will be out for the July 22nd game against Sporting KC.

I digress. After a double red with that play, both teams missing men (Portland down to 9, RSL down to 10) we quickly scored two more goals. The 3rd goal was awarded to Albert Rusnak but was first marked as an own goal on Gleeson.  Either way it was a fast one, and Albert’s 5th for the season so far. This kid is impressing me so much. Wow.

Our last and final goal of the night (from RSL) was another one from Plata, right at the 80th. He’s coming back strong after that surgery. We’ve now scored an equal number of goals in these last two MLS games combined than we had in the past 12. So it’s safe to say we’ve been needing this.

Here are the game highlights:

10′  Goal Kyle Beckerman 0-1

28′  Yellow Card Lawrence Olum

41′  Yellow Card Zarek Valentin

42′  Yellow Card Albert Rusnak

45′ + 1′  Substitution: Out: Chance Myers In: V. Arboleda

45′ + 4′  Substitution: Out: Demar Phillips In: Danilo Acosta

45′ + 5′  Yellow Card Diego Valeri

46′  Yellow Card Danilo Acosta

50′  Penalty Goal Joao Plata 0-2

53′  Red Card V. Arboleda

55′  Red Card Fanendo Adi

56′  Red Card Kyle Beckerman

57′  Yellow Card David Horst

68′  Goal Albert Rusnak 0-3

72′  Substitution: Out: D. Asprilla In: Jack Barmby

75′  Substitution: Out: Luis Silva In: Chris Wingert

80′  Goal Joao Plata 0-4

81′  Yellow Card Jack Barmby

83′  Substitution: Out: Sunny In: Aaron Maund

90′ + 3′  Goal Jack Barmby 1-4

Featured image courtesy: @RealSaltLake

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This Is Fine

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Wednesday, July 19: 1-4 Loss

On Wednesday night, my beloved Portland Timbers had one of the worst showings I have witnessed in quite awhile, losing 4-1 to Real Salt Lake, losing two players to red cards in the process, and setting us up for what could charitably be characterized as a challenging match this Sunday v the Vancouver Whitecaps.

We were already short-handed going into the match. In addition to David Guzman, Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell out on international duty for Gold Cup, we also lost Darlington Nagbe as the big boys got called in for the knockout round for the USMNT. Yes, we are all very proud of their work, they are all showing well for their national teams. And yes, it is a mark of the quality of our first team that four of our starters are on international duty and that all of their respective squads have made it to Gold Cup semifinals; but it HURTS to have them gone when we have two games in a week’s time, one of them against a Cascadia Cup rival.

We also have starters Liam Ridgewell, Vytautas Andriuškevičius, and Diego Chara sidelined with injuries, as well as backup left back and sometime starter Marco Farfan. We only managed to field a team of 16 total on Wednesday, including players who typically only see time at T2 matches. Oh, and by the end of the match we had also lost both Fandendo Adi and Victor Arboleda to red cards.

This move by Adi in particular is inexcusable:

Look, we all have, um, opinions about Kyle Beckerman. And I am absolutely certain that he says and does subtle things on the field that could make a player angry. Heck, it took me about seven viewings to catch what got Adi so worked up: Beckerman’s raised forearm to Adi’s rib cage as he ran past at a full clip:

But doggone it, Adi, we need you to be better than this. If Adi were a fifth grader in my office after doing this at recess soccer, I would tell him the same thing: don’t let Kyle get to you, or he wins.

After Victor Arboleda’s ejection, the rest of the match was a 9v10 affair, with only Jack Barmby having anything to show for it with his late score keeping us from giving RSL a clean sheet on the night.

By my calculations, that leaves us with a grand total of 14 players (three of whom are GKs, by the way) who are even available for Sunday’s match. If even one of those players takes a knock at practice, we are in such dire straits that we would be eligible to sign USL players to short term contracts under MLS extreme hardship rules. I think our current situation can be summed up best as follows (hat tip to KC Green):

At this point there is naturally plenty of finger pointing, philosophizing, and navel gazing among Timbers Army faithful. Among the questions being raised:

  • Should we blame MLS scheduling, with two matches in a row in a week that would be expected to have players missing for international duty?
  • Is this situation the natural result of having done such a good job fielding a starting XI so that international call ups that hurt us so deeply are to be expected?
  • Is our shallow bench a result of MLS salary cap rules?
  • Is our shallow bench a result of wisely investing in youth at the T2 level, which unfortunately means they aren’t quite yet ready for prime time?
  • Is it instead because our academy programs and in particular our T2 squad aren’t being managed properly?
  • With so many injuries, is our training program in need of a serious overhaul?
  • When we are missing so many players who either have a particularly strong first touch (Nagbe) or a good return on 50/50 balls (Chara, Guzman), should we have had a different game plan?

I do not know the answers to these questions. I just know that at this point, with so many players out with injuries or away on international duty, we have very little in our control in order to make fundamental changes in preparation for Sunday. The best that we can hope for is that the fourteen or so players who are available can take this moment as a chance, both collectively and individually, to show us how they handle adversity.

We’ll be there, hundreds of us making the trek from Portland to Vancouver. We’ll be in full voice from before the kick til after the final whistle. Show us what you’re made of, gentlemen.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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The Short-lived KC Wiz

kirsten-sporting-or
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

If you’ve been to a Sporting KC game then you have surely heard the Cauldron sing:

“Oh when the Wiz go marching in. Oh when the Wiz go marching in. Oh how I long to be in that Cauldron when the Wiz go marching in.”

Or chant:

“Ooooh KC Wiz! KC Wiz! KC Wiz! KC Wiz! Vamos KC!”

These chants echo back to a single season from the beginnings of a humble little sporting association called Major League Soccer.

The MLS was officially founded as an LLC in 1995. The reason for founding the league was because the United States promised to start a Division 1 professional league as a stipulation of their successful bid for the 1994 World Cup. It would have been pretty silly to have the World Cup in a country without a highly competitive professional league.

Kansas City sportsman extraordinaire Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, was one of the founding investors of the MLS, and he owned two of the original ten chartered teams. Hunt wanted to bring more to the sports culture of Kansas City, so he started the Kansas City Wiz. The Wiz even played their home games at the home of the Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium. Mr. Hunt also owned the Columbus Crew and in 2003 purchased the Dallas Burn who are now FC Dallas. Mr. Hunt was such an influential figure in the US soccer community that in 1999 the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) renamed the US Open Cup to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

The Wiz were officially named a charter member of the MLS on June 6, 1995, and it took them four months to name former Crystal Palace player and Arizona Sandsharks manager Ron Newman as the first ever manager of the team. Newman was the first coach hired into MLS service, and he brought his son former San Diego Sockers (Major Indoor Soccer League) player Guy Newman with him as an assistant coach.

October of 1995 was an exciting month for the young MLS. The Wiz named Newman as a coach on the 11th, and MLS Unveiled, the first televised MLS programming, was simulcast to all ten MLS market cities on the 17th. At MLS Unveiled each team released their inaugural kits, colors, logos, and their first allocated player.

The event turned out to be pretty ridiculous. The league let the uniform manufacturers have too much say in the team names, colors, logos, and jerseys. That’s how the Tampa Bay Mutiny ended up with a mutant bat. Personally, I think The Wiz ended up as the winners of the name, color, and kit categories. There ended up being a problem with the name, but we’ll get to that later. The Wiz’s first ever allocated player was national team member and St. Louis native, midfielder Mike Sorber.

mlsunveiled

In December, January, and February, The Wiz were allocated one player per month. The player for December was former US national team forward Frank Klopas, January’s player was Zimbabwe national forward Digital Takawira, and the last allocated player was future Sporting Legend and future US national team member Preki. The rest of the players vying for a spot on a roster went to a combine and then to the draft where The Wiz drafted national team midfielder Mark Chung.

The Wiz’s first season was pretty exciting. In their April 13th home and season opener, The Wiz won their first ever game defeating the Colorado Rapids 3-0, with Digital Takiwara netting a brace. Three games later, on May 2nd, The Wiz and the Columbus Crew took part in one of the highest scoring games in MLS history. The two teams combined to score 10 goals with KC taking the win at 6-4.

Preki and Mo Johnston both scored twice with Sorber and Chung each getting a single goal. After losing their next four games, which took place over a 15 day streak, The Wiz traded wins with their opponents for the next eight games. That set of games was bookended by a game against future Sporting KC coach and player Peter Vermes and the NY/NJ Metrostars. The Wiz won the first game 2-1, but fell to the Metrostars 0-2 in the second game. The second game against the Metrostars also ended a five game scoring streak by Preki.

The Wiz had a successful inaugural regular season with 17 wins, 15 losses, and 0 draws as draws weren’t actually allowed in the first seasons of the MLS.

*Since the league was “experimental”, the founders decided to try a few rule changes from regular soccer. They thought that American fans would be bored by draws, so they implemented a shootout at the end of tied games. If a team won the game they would get 3 points, the losing team would get zero points, and the winning team in a shoot-out win would get 1 point. Another weird rule change was that the time clock counted down to zero as opposed to counting up to 90.

Their record qualified The Wiz for the playoffs. They defeated the Dallas Burn two games to one in the Western Conference Semi-finals before losing to the LA Galaxy two games to zero in the Western Conference Finals.

Wizards V Clash
21 Apr 1996: Team photo of the Kansas City Wizards before a game against the San Jose Clash at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California. The Wizards won the game 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport

At the end of their first season The Wiz were in a bit of a bind. There was a company in a different industry that already had been named The Wiz, and they sued The KC Wiz for use of the trademark. After a little digging I found that the trademark was most likely held by a small electronics chain from the northeast called Nobody Beats the Wiz. Since they weren’t allowed to continue with The Wiz, Kansas City officially changed their name to the Kansas City Wizards at the end of their first season. Thus ending the short life of the KC Wiz, but laying the foundation for the Sporting KC we know today!

#WeTogether

While doing research for this article I found this set of interviews done by Sports Illustrated. You should check it out >> https://www.si.com/longform/2015/mls/index.html

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

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Who Are We Penalizing?: The players, the fans, or both?

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

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

US Open Cup match

Tuesday, July 11: 3-0 Win

Would you call this a penalty?

I’m not one for complaining about refs. It makes us (the royal us) sound like a bunch of whiny homers, but today I will represent whiny homers everywhere!

This season we have all been PROed! I don’t think this is a controversial statement. The MLS even has a whole youtube video series about missed/questionable calls!

This season has been fraught with PKs both warranted and unwarranted. There have been 68 PKs attempted so far, and of those 68, 53 have been made (Tim Melia has blocked 1/5 of the missed PKs btw. That’s pretty cool.)

A few PK stats: Teams with the most PKs attempted are Toronto FC and Portland Timbers (see the dive above) with 7. Teams with the fewest PKs attempted are Sporting KC and San Jose Earthquakes with 0, because you can’t attempt less than zero. Though if the refs found a way to give Sporting a negative PK then they would have. Sorry. That may have been a bit too on the whiny homer side.

Though there have been 68 PK attempts I bet we can all think of multiple times this season where our teams have deserved a PK that they weren’t awarded. One that really stands out to me was from Sporting’s game against the Timbers when Gerso was pulled down from behind when a Timber’s defender grabbed him by the shoulder.

Watching the play from the (extremely biased) Cauldron one could see that Gerso immediately puts his uninjured arm up to call for help. The referee though looked straight at him and waggled his finger no and ran off. The non-foul was so harsh that it dislocated Gerso’s shoulder. My sister, a certified athletic trainer, said that the hardest way to dislocate a shoulder is for it to be pulled out backwards. That is the direction Gerso’s shoulder went. He left the game, and didn’t start the next one.

Later that game though, Tim Melia was called for a penalty when he used his wizard powers to make Fanendo Adi trip. He must have used magic, because he sure didn’t touch him. Luckily, Timmy blocked the PK for his third PK save this season. It was a nice karma moment. If you believe in that sort of thing.

Now, I’m not saying that all the PKs given against Sporting are wrong. The call against Benny for his foul on Philly’s CJ Sapong was completely warranted. The call against Bes when he “pushed” Vancouver Whitecap‘s Fredy Montero was not. Tim Melia going studs up against DC United‘s Julian Buescher was also warranted. Tim saved those last two penalties as well, btw. Please feel free to share your opinions, thoughts, and commentary below.

Hot Takes:

Sporting defender, Ike Opara, was kicked in the side of the head by FC Dallas forward Max Urruti. We thought Ike was finally going to have a full healthy season after being plagued with injuries throughout his career, but that is obviously not the case. When you watch the play you can see Ike immediately go limp in the air, and fall to the ground.

We received some information that the kick was so severe that Ike may have been seizing on the pitch before he was stabilized. After being strapped to a stretcher, he was able to give a quick thumbs up while he was taken off the pitch. Urruti went to the SKC locker room post game to check up on Ike’s condition which was a pretty classy move.

Ike was released from the hospital on Wednesday morning, and he had his sense of humor back per his tweets. He was diagnosed with a grade 3 concussion, and the team trainers don’t expect him back for at least a month.

Sporting KC has a starter in the All Star Game! Defender Graham Zusi was selected by the fans to the All Star Starting XI. His defensive compatriots, aka one of the best centerback duos in the league, Ike and Matt Besler, were not selected, but could still be named to the full roster along with Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer, Gerso, and Tim Melia. Can we all agree that Tim Howard being in the Starting XI over Tim Melia is absurd? If you check out this article right here, you can see that everyone loves the good Tim. The right Tim. The Tim you could take home to your mother.

American Citizen Dominic Dwyer has scored two goals for the USMNT in two games. He is basically killing it. Dom, Zus, and Bes all started the first two games of the friendly + Gold Cup schedule, and were effective. There were some defensive blunders in the Panama game, but it was insanely hot in Nashville. Hopefully, the guys get back in for the game against Nicaragua. But since none of them played on Wednesday no one can blame them for the mediocre showing the US had against “international soccer powerhouse” Martinique.

Adorable Hot Take:

Watch this Instagram slideshow of Latif Blessing hugging people! It’s adorable!

Does someone need a hug?

A post shared by Sporting Kansas City (@sportingkc) on

Literal Hot Take:

I have officially moved to Orlando, Florida. It is so hot and humid here! If it wasn’t for the rain (every damn day) the temperature would be unbearable. Luckily, the rain cools it down…at least until the sun comes back out and makes it all steamy again.

Sporting KC doesn’t play again until July 22nd when they take on Real Salt Lake in Utah, so the guys have been getting a much needed rest.

Enjoy the international break! Go USMNT!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

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Green and Gold Cup

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Well, folks, it’s Gold Cup time, and you know what that means:

That’s right, the Portland Timbers, along with most MLS teams, are on an international break. While we wait for, oh, I don’t know, half the team to recover from various injuries, what say we peek in at how current and former Timbers players are faring with their respective national squads?

Jamaica

Let’s start with the Reggae Boyz, whose roster includes two current players and one former alumnus. From the current Timbers squad: forward Darren Mattocks and right back Alvas Powell, the player who is the best at simultaneously dazzling and disappointing on defense, sometimes within a five second span. From the ranks of former Timbers: Jermaine Taylor, currently with Minnesota United. Taylor had a decent outing in Jamaica’s first Group C game on July 9th, playing a full 90 with 94% passing accuracy and eight steals. (Hmm, solid defending, good distribution. I wonder who could use that right now….)

Both current Timbers also saw plenty of action during this match, a revenge affair against upstart Curacao, who recently surprised Jamaica by handing them a defeat in the Caribbean Cup just a couple of weeks prior. Alvas Powell got the start, played for 83 minutes, and in classic “That’s So Powell” fashion he had a defensive stop and clearance at 68′, followed immediately by his giving away a corner kick. Alvas, Alvas, Alvas.

Mattocks came off the bench at 59′ but he made it count with this beautiful left-footed volley to score the second goal of the match:

Yes, I know the clip is in Spanish. The key word you’re listening for there is zurdazo. Nice work, Darren. Save some of that hot, sinister scoring for when you get back home, please.

Next up for the Reggae Boyz: Mexico on July 13th. Yikes.

Costa Rica

#RCTID faithful arguably had two players to pull for on the Ticos: aside from the bulldog central defender David Guzmán (yes, he is still my favorite signing this year), many Timbers supporters still have a soft spot for current NYCFC player Rodney Wallace, who signed with the Timbers in their inaugural season and played with us for five years before moving on. Both players have had excellent Gold Cup outings so far. Guzmán demonstrated the tenacity and precision that he has shown with the Timbers, getting ample opportunity to practice his corner kicks in the July 7th match v Honduras at Red Bull Arena. He did get a yellow at 85′, which is classic bulldog Guzmán.

Rodney Wallace also had an excellent game, starting for Costa Rica and going 71 minutes before being subbed. He also had the assist on the only score of the match:

Both Guzmán and Wallace had excellent outings as well when Costa Rica took on Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 11th. Wallace played a full 90 in the 1-1 draw, and Guzmán had, guess what, another corner kick, this time one that led to Costa Rica’s only score in the match:

Guzmán subbed off at 61′, which is probably just as well because he already had a yellow from the previous game; and with the play he is giving Costa Rica they will want him on the field for as many matches as they can get him. But he wasn’t subbed off before this tremendous effort, a beautiful line drive just before the half that ALMOST put Costa Rica up 2-1 and that required Canada’s keeper to make a diving save:

United States

Finally, a word must be said about a beloved former player, “El Sueño” aka Jorge Villafaña, currently with Liga MX’s Santos Laguna as well as with the USMNT. I know I am not alone in rooting for Jorge; we miss his deadly crosses as well as his passion. In the July 8th game v Panama he played a full 90 and created a couple of good chances as a left back. As of this writing I have only seen highlights from the match against Martinique on the 12th, in which Villafaña didn’t play this time (which is probably just as well, given some of the defensive stats I see from the match. Oh, dear.)

Well, that’s all the Timbers Gold Cup news that’s fit to print so far. Keep those cards and letters coming! Reminder that the Timbers have their next MLS match at home on July 19th v Real Salt Lake. Want more Timbers-related Gold Cup news and notes, or something else Timbers-esque off the pitch? Hit me up in the comments below, or on Twitter.

Featured image courtesy: timbers.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

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