Category Archives: Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo Take Blood, Sweat, and Points At Home

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Top photo: MLSFemale photographer Leslie Chairez perfectly captures the moment before Alberth Elis (foreground) places the ball at Memo Rodriguez’s feet for a goal.

This weekend, the Houston Dynamo hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps, their second Canadian opponent in as many MLS pairings.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Coming off a 1-0 loss in Mexico that took them out of the CONCACAF Champions League, the men in orange were surprisingly emboldened. Their showing at Estadio Universitario against Tigres was an improved effort to their first leg at home, and they showed a crowd of over 41,000 Tigres fans an impressive level of play. But Saturday, ready to focus squarely on the MLS competition (until Lamar Hunt kicks off in May), the Dynamo set their sights on the Whitecaps.

One of the most notable moments of the match came late in the 76th minute as a no-fault collision in the Whitecaps’ box led to Houston’s Mauro Manotas and Vancouver’s Andy Rose being treated for head injuries. Manotas received gauze and a head wrap, while Rose seemed to get the worst of it. He bled profusely and left the match under concussion protocol, having to be assisted off of the pitch.

The Whitecaps had used their last substitution moments before the collision and were forced to finish the match down a man. At the end of the match, as the coaches met briefly, the concern in Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera’s face was clear, and I’m sure that he was expressing hope for a full recovery for Rose.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

While the mid-60s temperatures bordered on cool for Houstonians, the weather is always a factor in these early matches when snow-accustomed teams migrate south to begin the MLS season each spring. There is simply no way for teams from the north to be fully prepared for the Houston environment. In addition to the heat, Houston’s annual spring pollen has recently draped the city in a layer of yellow, and allergy-related ailments are tough to push through.

The match was chilly early on as the cloud cover kept the sun at bay. By the half, most fans had shed their extra layers as the sun came out and gave the day a warmer summer feel. The rising heat index led to increasingly chippy play, lots of late cards, and other uncalled fouls for both sides.

Pollen on the lake and pollen footprints on the deck illustrate the extent to which the Houston area is blanketed with allergens this time of year. – Photos by Darbi Lockridge, from her back porch.

Cabrera’s lineup replaced one of his traditional three forward attackers with midfielder Memo Rodriguez, which I believe to be the key to the Dynamo’s continued offensive magic. Forward Alberth Elis scored his first goal of the season off a penalty and was instrumental with assists in the other two goals scored by Rodriguez. Memo’s brace held the Dynamo up to a 3-2 victory against the Whitecaps.

Their seven-point start to the 2019 season is the best on record for this team and could hearken the coming of a new dominance in the Western Conference for the Dynamo, which have often held an underdog status. After playing seven matches in under a month, the Dynamo and the fans are eager to recuperate through the break before meeting the Colorado Rapids in our first away match on March 30.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

A Tale of Two Competitions

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Throughout 2018, the Houston Dynamo battled scheduling and defensive injuries through both MLS and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competitions, shining a light on the lack of depth in the squad. In the end, the team failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs, but brought home the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

General manager, Matt Jordan, spent most of the off-season recruiting players that would improve depth, and the start of 2019 is putting his work to early tests. Juggling two competitions again – the CONCACAF Champions League as well as the MLS regular season – the Dynamo have started their 2019 with a grueling schedule, playing five games so far.

By the middle of March, the team and their fans will have pushed through seven matches over twenty six days – one match every three to four days.

The Dynamo’s second MLS match – against the Montreal Impact – on Saturday afternoon brought some of the biggest lineup changes from head coach, Wilmer Cabrera, to date. His usual switches are in the midfield and defensive lineups, always preferring to flank center forward Mauro Manotas with Honduran forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto.

While he has occasionally removed one or the other, this week’s lineup surprised fans with Elis and Quioto starting on the bench, replaced by attacking midfielders Marlon Hairston and Memo Rodriguez. This is a big switch in strategy for Cabrera that shows the increased levels of confidence in the shooting of Manotas, who is quickly climbing the ladder of all-time Dynamo goal scorers.

Photo by Leslie Chairez, Official Houston Dynamo Photographer for MLSFemale

The recipe of two true midfielders further up the pitch may beat the backline shake ups as the answer to the Dynamo’s defensive lapses, as they triumphed over the Montreal Impact 2-1. The Impact scored in the 34th minute and were quickly answered by a Memo Rodriguez goal at 36’.

The match held even through a long stretch, though the Dynamo offense dominated most of the match. Cabrera replaced the midfielders up front around the one hour mark, bringing in his Honduran forward team. The switch paid off, as Quioto snuck a pass to Manotas inside the box in the 89th minute for the game-winner.

Despite the Impact scoring first, the feeling of the match and the statistics tell a story of an offensive victory for the men in orange. The Dynamo doubled the Impact’s offensive stats in shots and corners (14:7 and 6:3, respectively) and absolutely owned the on-target shots – Montreal’s goal being their only on-target shot to the Dynamo’s six.

The Houston Dynamo must take the confidence won in this MLS match to the CCL this week, as they face the huge task of beating the Tigres by three goals in Mexico to move on. They turn quickly from an undefeated MLS squad to an underdog away team in a matter of moments so both players and staff will need to carry Saturday’s lessons and confidence into Universitario Stadium on Tuesday night.

And just as fast, win or lose, they switch focus again to face the Vancouver Whitecaps at home the following Saturday.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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Houston DynamOpening Day!

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Since my family’s first MLS Opening Day, we have latched on to the termDynamOpening Day” for this annual holiday. For us, it’s bigger than Christmas and certainly comes with all of the stress, anticipation, spending and celebrating of that occasion.

It seems that 2019 is a year of true awakening for the Houston Dynamo community. The off-season change in management has sparked new and exciting action in many different areas of the club, the fan base and the overall experience. We have seen more updates to the stadium experience than in years past. One of the supporters groups, El Batallon, released an album of their chants in order to help fans learn the songs and sing along.

I joined MLSFemale due to my own interest in promoting the club to a wider audience, which brings you this article today! I feel like our family holiday is also finding a wider audience, and I can’t wait to watch it grow in popularity around my community.

While I cannot say that #DynamOpeningDay didn’t come with a share of disappointments, there is simply nothing like the feeling that I have when I get to BBVA Compass Stadium for the first match of the MLS season. Even the weather respected the importance of the day when an unseasonably long and heavy cloud cover opened, bringing more sunshine than I expected to see over our tailgate.

One of my favorite parts of the supporters section experience is lifting the large flag after each goal. You can see the view from the rest of the stadium in my Twitter header…but the best view is from beneath, in my opinion.

Our play against Real Salt Lake was definitely rough, with fouls flying from both ends. When an early barrage of yellow cards went to RSL, I thought that we might have an uncharacteristically friendly referee. Later calls, including a second yellow card to Matias Vera, left us with the familiar suspicion that the Dynamo fight a pair of opponents on the pitch. Fans were most upset by the Boniek Garcia goal called offside in minute 76—all ticket holders in the stadium could have gone home with a $40 gift card from 76 gas stations had the call gone the other way.

We did not go home empty-handed, however. The Dynamo came back from a deficit to finish the match tied at 1-1, so we take a point into the rest of the season.

#MLSIsBack, but our eyes turn again to the CONCACAF Champions League where we face competition favorite Tigres UANL on Tuesday, March 5. We will tackle MLS again when we face the Montreal Impact a few short days later on March 9.

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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For the Houston Dynamo, It’s Time

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

The off-season for the Houston Dynamo seemed short, especially for a team that didn’t make the MLS playoffs. In November, the Dynamo hired a new President of Business Operations, John Walker. He came in ready to listen to fans and made both bold and genuine gestures to prove that he truly wanted to hear from us.

However, his commitment to this process took time. The organizational changes seemed to push back a lot of the typical off-season fluff that carries us through the fallow time. Rumors of kit sponsors, signings and other potential moves sat pending for days and weeks. As off-season became pre-season, at least one fan assumed they missed the kit launch and hit up the team store for a new jersey—only to be informed that it hadn’t yet been unveiled.

For the team, our pre-season was wrought with inconsistencies—wins, losses, red cards, and Coach Wilmer Cabrera’s continuing habit of changing lineups and even player positions for every match. We have a great mix of veteran and young players with experience all over the globe, but fans are never sure who will turn up or where.

But our first test came this week when the Houston Dynamo met Guastatoya in Guatemala for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). Our starters were the token Cabrera expected surprise. Still, as a group of nearly 50 supporters met in a bar across the street from our stadium, we were primed for the match, ready for anything, and hungry for victory.

What came next was every soccer fan’s dream. My family has an often-repeated line that we found on Twitter last year. In response to a tweet by Andrew Wiebe about fouls against MLS teams in last year’s CCL, @andrewsorg responded, “Do you even #CONCACAF, bro?” This has become our shorthand in rough matches to remind us that the beautiful game comes along with grit and guts, that fouls happen, and that the real match comes when the teams want a victory and fight hard for it.

And, yes, we CONCACAFed. We fought hard, and our defense was relentless, never backing down from Guastatoya’s advances. Our offense found a fluidity that challenged past the Guatemalans’ defense. The teams were scoreless through the 80th minute, and Dynamo fans held their collective breath.

In the 2018 MLS season, we repeatedly lost matches in the final 10 minutes when our defense failed to hold. The 2019 season hints at an end to that curse, however, as we earned a corner just past the 80 minute mark. Romell Quioto sent a high ball to the top of the box that our veteran captain, DaMarcus Beasley, read perfectly. With his weaker right foot, Beasley loosed an absolute rocket through a field of players, sinking a goal.

The Dynamo held on to their 1-0 lead through those last moments, so we meet Guastatoya at home next week with one away goal and a win secured.

And that new orange kit will be unveiled just in time.

Featured image: Sean Ringrose, with permission.

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Houston’s heating up

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

As someone who loves hot weather as only a happy-to-be-here Houston transplant can, February begins the best part of my year. Houston is almost done with our blessedly short winter season, and my family and I have just shivered through our first spring youth soccer tournament.

The Houston Dynamo’s season is coming at us faster and bigger than those in the recent past, as our Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Championship means that our MLS season is preceded by two CONCACAF Champions league matches before DynamOpening Day even comes along.  

For me, this means lots of excitement and even more work. I’m the team manager for my stepson’s U13/U14 soccer team and am on the leadership team of Houston’s Independent Supporters Council-recognized supporters group, the Texian Army. In the last month, I’ve collected spring team fees and used youth equipment. I’ve had pre-season meetings about tailgate trailers, sponsorships, and tifo. Throughout the pre-season, I’ve spent hours stalking through the new signings’ social media accounts to get a feel for the soul of the new season’s team. 

Despite all of the soccer already on my calendar, my sage husband ran across the MLSFemale call for a Houston Dynamo writer and knew that he should share that information with me. I have always loved to write and never shy away from sharing my opinions on soccer or any other subject. I sent an email, took the next steps, and that’s the short story on how my words have gotten on this screen in front of you today.

The longer story of my soccer fandom includes a misspent youth, a Portuguese roommate, and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It also involves my family’s efforts to share that passion and continue to find new ways to love and support the beautiful game. 

Very soon the MLS season and the Houston weather will rocket from mild days to muggy nights. My family and friends will gather in that heat to stand, sing, and support our team through every match. We will set up our sections, put out our flags, clean it all up, and do it again. We’ll match the beat of the supporters’ drums with our supporters’ hearts and give it all we have for each 90 minutes that our team gives for us.

And then I’ll be back here in front of my PC to share my insights and opinions soon after. I’m truly looking forward to sharing my thoughts here. The season is starting soon and the weather is turning warm. Grab your sunglasses and the SPF50, friends – Houston’s heating up!  

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo Second Leg – Western Conference Finals

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the projected lineup per mlssoccer.com:

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

Officials

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

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

#DEFENDOURCUP

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @darkwynds

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

 

Sounders Finally Won in Houston

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
Sounders Key Contributor

By Abigail Gerken // @abigailgerken22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @abigailgerken22

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Western Conference Finals Leg 1 for Seattle Sounders

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Houston Dynamo v Seattle Sounders

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

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

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

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

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

#defendourcup

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @darkwynds

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Portland Timbers, Know Your Enemy: Houston Dynamo

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

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

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

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

Keys to Dynamo victory:

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

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

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

Dynamo needs to look out for:

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

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

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

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

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

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

2017 MLS Playoff Preview

A collaboration by official reporters of MLSFemale @MLSFemale

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

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale 

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

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

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

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

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

Nicole - Chicago head

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

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

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

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

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

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

¡Vamos, Chicago!

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

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

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

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

Atlanta wants the Cup.

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale

By Hilary // @hils4crew

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

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

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

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

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

#knockoutround
Image courtesy: @MLS

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

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

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

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

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

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

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

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale

By Christy Casas // @nkstar9

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

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

kirsten-sporting-or

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: @MLS

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