Category Archives: Western Conference

Western Conference

LAFC Weekly Roundup: Roster Updates, CCL News, Important Dates, Gold Links

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Welcome, Danny Musovski

LAFC finally announced their first signing for the 2020 season as the Nevada native joins the Black and Gold from USL Championship side Reno 1868 FC.

Musovski played at UNLV before being drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes in 2018. He was loaned to Reno for the 2018 season and returned for 2019 after his contract was not renewed by the Quakes. The forward went on to log in 16 goals in 40 games in a two-year span, including 11 goals in 2019.

The 24-year-old is more likely to be a depth signing. But could be used as another position switch experiment like Latif Blessing and Mark-Anthony Kaye.

Bye, Nguyen

Lee Nguyen was selected as the third pick for Inter Miami CF during the 2019 Expansion Draft. In exchange, LAFC will receive $50,000 in General Allocation Money, and the remaining unprotected LAFC players were taken off the table for selection for the remainder of the Expansion Draft.

The 33-year-old attacking midfielder spent most of the 2018 season and all of 2019 with LAFC, making 48 regular-season appearances with the black and gold, scoring three goals and nine assists.

Miami’s selection does not come as a complete shock but is unfortunate due to Nguyen’s contributions to the squad. And he will be greatly missed.

Additional Roster Moves

Like most clubs, LAFC released their contract options on November 21 with a few surprises.

The club declined the options of defenders Lamar Batista and Dejan Jaković, and midfielders Javier Perez and Peter-Lee Vassell. They will all be greatly missed.

LAFC also extended a bona fide offer to goalkeeper Tyler Miller, retaining his rights which made him ineligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft. However, LAFC Central is reporting that Miller is on his way out and could join the Portland Timbers.

Defenders Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey are out of contract and are eligible for free agency.

The club is currently engaged in contract negotiations with several out-of-contract players so we could still see Beitashour and Harvey return for the upcoming 2020 MLS season.

CONCACAF Champions League

The 2019 Supporters’ Shield winner enters their first-ever international competition as LAFC faces Liga MX Club Leon in the round of 16 of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Image courtesy of LAFC

The Champions League features the top 16 clubs in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, facing off in home-and-away knockout rounds. In each round, the team with the most combined goals at the end of both games advances. LAFC is looking to become the first MLS team to win the tournament in its current format.

The winner of the CONCACAF Champions League will face the champions of the world’s other five confederations, such as the UEFA Champions League, in the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup.

Tickets are on sale now and dates will be released soon.

Mark your calendars!

January 9

The 2020 MLS Superdraft will be held at 9 am PT and streamed live on Twitter by MLS and ESPN.

January 25

It is being reported by multiple sources that the Black and Gold will host Uruguayan club Peñarol at the Banc on January 25, as the Manyas travel to the west coast for a 10-day preseason camp.

February 18 – 20 and February 25-57

LAFC will travel to León for the first match for CCL’s round of 16 series (Feb. 18 – 20), and will host the second leg at the Banc of California Stadium (Feb. 25 – 27).

March 1

Shortly after the second leg, LAFC is set to open the 2020 MLS season on Sunday, March 1, as they host inaugural side Inter Miami CF.

May 19-20

The Black and Gold will begin their quest for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on May 19-20 during the Round of 32.

July 30

The 2020 MLS All-Star Game is coming to the Banc to face the Liga MX All-Stars for this summer’s marquee match with LAFC’s head coach Bob Bradley at the helm.

Gold Links

  • The 3252 is hosting the holiday toy and sandwich drive and the annual charity art show. Follow the 3252 on twitter for more information.

Featured Image:  Daisy Jimenez

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC Signs Liga MX Striker Alan Pulido for Record Fee

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City has officially acquired 2019 Liga MX Apertura Golden Boot winner Alan Pulido from Chivas Guadalajara on a club record transfer fee.

The Mexican striker signed a four-year MLS contract through 2023 and will occupy an international spot on Sporting’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.

After years of searching, Manager Peter Vermes finally got his momentous No. 9 for a reported $9.5 million – making it the richest transfer fee ever paid by Sporting KC and Pulido the highest paid player in MLS history. However, it is important to note the club has not officially released any details beyond a “club record”.

“We are very excited to add Alan Pulido to our roster ahead of the new season,” Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes said. “He is a winner, has a terrific work rate and embodies all of the attributes we value at our club. We also want to thank Chivas for being an incredibly professional partner and appreciate the relationship we have created with them. Alan is ready for this new challenge and looks forward to getting started with us on the field in January.”

The highly decorated 28-year-old striker joins Sporting KC having scored over 100 combined goals for club and country. His appearances include five domestic championships, the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League title and 13 caps for the Mexico Men’s National Team. Pulido finished atop the Liga MX scoring charts with 12 goals for Chivas Guadalajara in the 2019 Apertura season (the July to December half) this fall.

Image courtesy of Sporting Kansas City

Alan has earned seven club titles among other individual honors:

  • 40 goals for Tigres in all competitions (2009-2014)
  • 41 goals for Guadalajara in all competitions (2016-2019)
  • Five goals in 13 appearances for Mexico Men’s National Team
  • 2012 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament top scorer (Mexico U-23s)
  • 2014 Copa MX Clausura top scorer (Tigres)
  • 2017 Liga MX Clausura Best XI (Guadalajara)
  • 2018 Concacaf Champions League Goal of the Tournament (Guadalajara)
  • 2019 Liga MX Clausura top scorer (Guadalajara)

Click here to view a full list of honors

El Tri fans will recognize the Ciudad Victoria native from his time with Mexico’s men’s national team after making his senior international debut on January 29, 2014, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 friendly win against South Korea in San Antonio, Texas. He went on to score two additional goals for El Tri and made his last appearance for the senior team in September 2018, featuring in a friendly losses to Uruguay and the U.S.

Pulido is expected to arrive in Kansas City in January.

Featured image: Courtesy of Major League Soccer

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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MNUFC Sends Some Signals Ahead of Expansion Draft

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

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

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

Signal One: Darwin Quintero

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

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

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

And so…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year Two: Score more goals.

Year Three: Concede fewer goals.

Year Four…. Rinse and repeat?

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

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Seattle Sounders Win Second MLS Cup‬, This Time At Home

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

It was dark. Pitch black, even. As I rubbed my eyes to check the time, my clock showed 5:58 AM. I turned my head to see if my husband was awake, but his side of the bed was empty. As I slowly sat up and peered out the window into the darkness, I saw him in the driveway loading up our SUV with tailgate provisions. Clearly, he was even more anxious than I was.

The enormity of the day was not lost on us, as I know it weighed heavily on the minds of many Sounders fans and the people of Seattle. In the week leading up to the city hosting MLS Cup, there was a buzz around Seattle unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

Even before the giant replica MLS Cup Trophy began popping up around downtown landmarks, the Sounders were all anyone was talking about. Between the insane ticket sales, the pre-game Macklemore concert and the fact that this was shaping up to be the biggest championship game in Seattle history, the buildup was massive.

Seattle Sounders co-owner, Macklemore. Photo Credit: Jill Peck

I drove in to the city around 9 AM, with my almost-3-year-old son in the backseat. We met up with my husband, who arrived hours earlier to tailgate with family, friends, and several hundred fellow Sounders fans. After some cold brew coffee, doughnut holes, and sporadic Sounders chants, we made our way to the ‘March to the Match.’ It was my son’s first time.

Scenes at Occidental Park before the match. Photo credit: Q13 Fox

The scenes were insane. People packed every inch of Occidental Park and it’s surrounding blocks. My husband was at the first ‘March to the Match’ over a decade ago and expressed to me his utter disbelief and joy that this many people would be walking through blue smoke, singing in unison and cheering together.

As we funneled in to the stadium, it was amazing to see it so full, even before kickoff. A typical Sounders game hosts anywhere between 35-42,000 fans. On this day, the stadium would fill to 69,274 people, a stadium record for any sporting event (take that, Seahawks). The Emerald City Supporters put on a show with their tifo as well, pulling off a full stadium tifo to perfection.

Full Stadium tifo. Photo Credit: Seattle Sounders FC.

As the teams approached midfield and the scarves were raised around the stadium, I looked over to my husband, who was holding our son tightly. While clapping along with those around him, my son yelled, “let’s go boys!” As he had heard his dad yell at kickoff before every game his entire life. I smiled to my husband, so thankful for the moment.

The first half proved to be one of great defensive efforts for the Sounders, which was not what the historical crowd had anticipated or hoped for. The Sounders often looked flat and could not create any offensive threats through anyone other than Raul Ruidiaz. Roman Torres, Kim Kee-Hee, and Stefan Frei were called upon to make several defensive saves. The teams went to halftime tied 0-0.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

As the teams came back on to the field, the crowd energy in the stadium became an overwhelming 12th man of support. The Sounders were attacking, creating chances, and bringing the game to Toronto… and the crowd was louder than ever before. In the 57th minute, Kelvin Leerdam’s shot on goal deflected off Toronto defender Justin Morrow and slid in to the back of the net. The stadium erupted to the point of seismic activity. Fire shot from the goalposts and my sweet son said to me, “mama, the Sounders won MLS Cup!” I smiled and said “not yet, bud.”

Victor Rodiguez, the Sounders super sub of playoffs thus far, subbed in at the 61st minute and completely opened up the game. The Sounders turned on the jets and showed no signs of slowing down. Even when Jozy Altidore was brought on in the 68th minute, it was Seattle who dominated possession, shots on goal, corner kicks, and duels.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

As an incredibly nervous and superstitious fan, a 1-0 lead was not incredibly comforting to me. Even with the increase in quality play, I was anxiously watching the clock tick down. But in the 76th minute, the game’s eventual MVP, Victor Rodriguez, slotted home a long range effort to give Seattle a 2-0 lead with less than 15 minutes to go. It was in that moment, even with the most dangerous lead in soccer, that I knew we were going to win.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

And in the 90th minute, Raul Ruidiaz made sure of that victory with a chip over Toronto goalkeeper, Quintin Westburg. While Jozy Altidore would pull one back in the 93rd minute, the whistle blew moments later and sealed Seattle’s victory 3-1.

The Sounders were officially two-time MLS Cup Champions, but this time winning on their own turf. I couldn’t help but cry as the fireworks exploded around the stadium. I hugged my husband and son so tightly in that moment, knowing it was possibly a once in a lifetime experience for us to have together.

Hometown boys Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris. Photo Credit: Jill Peck

While the Sounders haven’t been the flashiest name in MLS, with the likes of Atlanta and LAFC taking up many of the headlines this season, they proved with this win that they are a team that should be respected. The accomplishments they’ve been able to make in just 10 seasons are simply unmatched across the league.

This MLS Cup championship trophy will go into Seattle’s already stacked cabinet of four US Open Cups, a Supporter’s Shield, and their first MLS Cup trophy from only 3 seasons ago. They also are the only team across the last 10 seasons to make the playoffs EVERY year. And with clutch tactician Brian Schmetzer at the helm and General Manager Garth Lagerway pulling strings, they show no signs of slowing down.

When my family finally got home after staying in the stadium for nearly 45 minutes and celebrating all around Seattle for hours after the game ended, all three of us were emotionally and physically drained. As we put my son to bed and went to close the door, he stopped us and said, “hey mama, hey dada, the Sounders won MLS Cup.” I gave my husband’s hand a squeeze as I responded, “they sure did bud.”

The emotional comedown from this day was intense for me. It took me several days just to put in words what happened and what that win meant to me. And I don’t think I’ll ever have words for what this win meant to this city. Instead, I’ll let Brian Schmetzer attempt to say it for me:

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLS Cup Final: Staff Picks

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

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

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


Seattle Sounders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toronto FC

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

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

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

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

Featured image: MLS Soccer

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @WhiteZinWench

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

LAFC Concludes 2019 Season At Home In 3-1 Loss

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you next season!

Featured Image:  Daisy Jimenez

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Migration Questions Begin for MNUFC

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

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

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

Somewhat surprising

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

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

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

Daryl Shore, head coach of Forward Madison FC

Inevitable

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

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

Question mark?

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

What comes next?

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

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

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

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

LAFC looks to silence Seattle in Tuesday’s showdown

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

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

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

How to watch: ESPN, ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980


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

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

Photo image courtesy of the MLS’ app

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

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

Seattle may have playoffs experience but so do we.

Is Tyler Miller a concern?

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

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

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

Dio is back!

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

Starting XI predictions:

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

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

Featured Image:  @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

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

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

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

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

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

Saying Farewell To A Legend

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

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

Featured image: Seattle Sounders

All other images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

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A New Era Dawns for MN United FC

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

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

For thine is the Wonderwall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dawn of the Dethloon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re just happy to be here

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image: Tim McLaughlin

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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