Category Archives: Western Conference

Western Conference

El Trafico: Tristan Blackmon, “It’s a great rivalry for the city.”

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

From spending three loan spells with Phoenix Rising FC to raising the Supporters’ Shield, there is no slowing down for LAFC’s right back Tristan Blackmon.

The Las Vegas native became interested in the game at an early age in part to his mother having played herself in high school and looking up to legends like Ronaldinho, “soccer came second nature” to him growing up.

“[It] was an interesting lifestyle in terms of soccer in Vegas growing up. Playing club there weren’t many teams out there so I found myself venturing to tournaments in California or other states nearby to get good competitive games in.”

Like most, the LA Galaxy was his first MLS experience. Now on the opposite side of the rivalry – Tristan is grateful to be a part of history.

“It’s a great rivalry for the city. I think there’s going to be a lot of historic moments between these two teams in the future. This is going to be a long live rivalry for soccer in America. It’s awesome to be a part of the birth of that.”

Drafted third overall in 2018 MLS SuperDraft on January 19, 2018; signing on February 22 – the 23-year-old is living the player’s dream. Crediting the club’s “family lifestyle” to helping him cope with the growing pressures and successfulness of another season.

“I think coming in – the club welcomed me with open arms which made it very easy for me to transition into this type of lifestyle. All of us are a huge family and every day we are reminded of that coming into the facility. Recognizing that I’m part of something special definitely makes being here a lot easier.”

During his rookie year, Blackmon made his professional debut in a 1-0 win over Seattle on March 4 and earned his first MLS start in a 1-1 draw vs. DC United on May 26. Including, appearing in ten regular season MLS matches, five starts, for 491 minutes played.

While on loan to USL’s side Phoenix Rising FC, he posted eight starts across all competitions including the 2018 USL Cup final. Tristan returned to Phoenix for his third loan spell this season – making his first appearance on April 6 in a 0-0 draw over Fresno FC before returning to LA for the remainder of the season.

“I think the experience of going on loan definitely gave me confidence and getting games in. Just kind of feeling myself out again because I wasn’t playing too much last year here,” Tristan continues. “I’ve been playing a decent amount of games this year. And I feel like the team has helped me pushed to be a become a better player – which excites me.”

Tristan kicked off his second year with the Black & Gold on May 24 in the team’s 4-2 victory over Montreal Impact – posting his first career goal and assist on a memorable night. Blackmon has logged in one goal, four assists, 1377 minutes going into the postseason.

The young defender is fortunate to have veteran teammates like Carlos Vela and Walker Zimmerman to help guide him.

“I think not only on the field but off the field, these guys have really shown a humble side. [It’s] more like a brotherhood. [..] The veterans have helped me along the way in my path and my journey. And hopefully, I can shed that light on some young players in the future the same way they have on me.”

With another thrilling edition of El Trafico looming – Tristan and co. are ready. LAFC has been unsuccessful at subduing its rival in the five-game series. However, Blackmon is optimistic they will finally get the win with the team’s mentality they’ve had all year.

“We want to smash records and make history this year. In doing that we’re going to need to take down [LA Galaxy] – I feel like it was going to end up this way regardless. There’s always going to be an opponent in your way when you’re pushing to get trophies and results. At the end of the day, we want to get a win and we want to set the tone for the rest of the playoffs. But first, we have to make sure we handle business on Thursday night and I think everybody is up for the challenge.”

With a bye week and home-field advantage in hand, LAFC will face the LA Galaxy for a chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals at home on Thursday, October 24. Kickoff is at 7:30p PST.

Featured Image:  @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Sounders Snag Dramatic OT Win Thanks to Jordan Morris X3

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

The 2019 MLS Comeback Player of the Year had himself a day on Saturday, October 19th at home in CenturyLink Field. Jordan Morris’ 3 goals lead the Seattle Sounders in their 4-3 overtime win over FC Dallas in Round One of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a long-distance screamer, which is not the textbook Rui goal Sounders fans are used to. The damp fans erupted all around CenturyLink as the golazo slid past FC Dallas goalkeeper, Jesse Gonzalez. Morris then doubled the lead less than 5 minutes later from a well-placed Joevin Jones assist.

Within grasping distance of the halftime whistle, FC Dallas got on the score sheet when an unmarked Reggie Cannon slotted a ball past Stefan Frei. Matt Hedges thunderously headed in Dallas’ second goal in the 64th minute, eliminating the Sounders’ 2 goal lead.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

Jordan Morris came to the rescue thanks to a Gustav Svensson flick from a Nicolas Lodeiro corner, but the lead would again be dashed by Bryan Acosta just minutes from the final whistle. As the game entered extra-time, it was Morris again for the Rave Green in the 113th minute. Morris’ goal was his third on the day and the final of the game, giving the Sounders a 4-3 victory and helping the team one step further in the playoff chase.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck
Photo Credit: Jill Peck

The Sounders take on their longtime Western Conference (and playoff) rivals, Real Salt Lake, Wednesday October 23rd at 7 PM at CenturyLink Field. RSL come to Seattle after a dramatic win over the Portland Timbers, robbing Cascadia fans everywhere of a playoff rematch from 2018.

Other Highlights

FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez was fined by MLS DisCo following Saturday’s game for two separate incidents. The first was hands to the face on Nouhou Tolo, which occured a good 30 yards out of Gonzalez’ own goal.

Following this incident, when Gonzalez’ hand was swatted away by Nouhou, Gonzalez fell to the ground in a heap. MLS also fined him for this incident citing simulation/embellishment.

Besides Jordan Morris (and Stefan Frie, who had an amazing shot-stopping performance), the fan hero of the game was this gentleman who “assisted” in running the clock out in OT.

In typical Seattle playoff fashion, this game was dramatic, rainy and a full display of tough kids.

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

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Seattle Sounders claim no. 2 seed in West with 1-0 win over Minnesota

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

After an incredibly unpredictable run of games, the Seattle Sounders grabbed 3 points at home against Western Conference rival, Minnesota United, to lock up the 2nd spot in the West and a home road in playoffs.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In their fan appreciation match, the Sounders honored the return of their longtime captain, Osvaldo Alonso, prior to kickoff and the fans showed Ozzie nothing but love. General Manager Adrian Hanauer presented Ozzie with a framed copy of the recently elected Sounders Best XI, which featured Ozzie in the midfield. The Honey Badger gave the entire stadium a clap and wave before heading in to the opposing team’s locker room, a feeling that must have felt odd for the man who spent nearly a decade in Rave Green.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In front of nearly 48,000 home fans, the Sounders pushed the attack from the opening whistle. Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones provided plenty of pressure from the wings, while Nicolas Lodeiro was a welcome return to the middle of the pitch after missing the previous two games from injury. Due to another red card suspension, Xavier Arreaga missed the match and was replaced by Roman Torres, who had only returned to eligibility in the 18 man lineup the previous weekend after serving a 10 match ban for substance violation.

The Panamanian made a thunderous return to starting form in the 29th minute. After a corner kick played in fell outside the box, Joevin Jones sent in a vicious cross that found the head of Roman Torres perfectly. This goal was Torres first in Rave Green and couldn’t have come at a more dire time for the Sounders.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

The Sounders managed to generate a few more offensive chances and also held off the Minnesota United attack as the match ended 1-0 in favor of Seattle. While the result was probably not what Osvaldo Alonso would have hoped for his return to CenturyLink, the Sounders and their fans relished the 3 points, which secured them the second seed in the Western Conference.

Up next the Sounders will face FC Dallas, who had a disgustingly dominant 6-0 win on Decision Day vs Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink on Saturday October 19th with a kickoff of 12:30 PM.

Playoff Preview

The biggest concern to the Seattle Sounders over the back half of the season has been health and squad depth. The Sounders reached deep in to their reserves for many games this season and dropped more points at home than ever before. However, the Sounders were able to maintain the third longest playoff appearance streak in American professional sports (behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Antonio Spurs, respectively) by securing their 11th straight playoff appearance.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

While it appears Victor Rodriquez is sidelined by yet another injury, Seattle is entering playoffs with nearly their entire squad healthy and ready for battle. Both Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro are questionable to be at full health after recent injuries, but Gustav Svennson, Kelvin Leerdam and Brad Smith are all back to full health after missing long individual stretches. Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris are as hungry as ever, the former having been named to Opta’s MLS Best XI. In this final game, Joevin Jones seemed to show flashes of his former self as well.

While the road to MLS Cup is not a simple one for the Seattle Sounders, they just might be hitting their stride at the right time.

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Making History: LAFC and Carlos Vela Cap Off the Regular Season On A High Note

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club closed the regular season in a 3-1 historic win over the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon at Banc of California Stadium.

With the win the Black & Gold tied the all-time single-season goals record (85) and broke the all-time single-season points record (72). Plus, they finished the season with the best goal differential in league history (+48) and a 21-4-9 record.

The club controlled most of the first half with their efforts paying off as Carlos Vela scored in the 28th minute past an outstretched Tim Howard to give LAFC the lead and made history as he surpassing Josef Martinez’s record for the most goals in one season with a record-best of 34 goals.

Three minutes later, Tristian Blackmon heads in the ball to the Golden Boot winner inside the box. Vela score a stunning bicycle kick, his quick-fire brace doubling the team’s lead.

In the 40th minute, Kei Kamara’s header bounced off the post and into the back of the net putting the Rapids on the scoresheet – sending the sides into the half 2-1.

Eleven minutes after the restart, Vela capped off a historic season by scoring the hat-trick after a tapping in a goal off another cross by Blackmon.

Walker Zimmerman and Kamara clashed heads in the 70th minute. The Rapids player continued on but Walker was helped off the field after hitting the pitch face first. Steven Beitashour subbed in for the defender with twenty minutes left.

As a result, Zimmerman will not report to the United States Men’s National Team camp later this month as reported by LA Time’s Kevin Baxter:

The Black & Gold pushed forward to secure their historic win entering the playoffs on a high note.

Last week, LAFC clinched the 2019 Supporters’ Shield, securing the top spot in the Western Conference and a first-round bye in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Black & Gold will play the winner of Minnesota United and the Galaxy for the Western Conference Semifinal. Date and time will be announced at a later date.

Featured Image:  Imad Bolotok

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Decision Day: Can the Timbers clinch a playoff spot at home?

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Following a chippy 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City this past Sunday night, the Portland Timbers are taking the point and the fight for a playoffs spot back home to Providence Park.

In a night full of trading cards and goals – Sebastian Blanco notched the opening goal in the 29th minute. However, Krisztián Nemeth cut the celebrations after finding the equalizer just moments later.

Then chaos ensued.

A brief altercation broke out in the 35th minute after Felipe Gutierrez and Brian Rodriguez collided on the sidelines that ultimately led to both Rodriguez and Roger Espinoza receiving red cards and were ejected from the match.

Head Coach Giovanni Savarese disagreed with the decision telling media during the postmatch conference:

“To be quite honest, I don’t think anybody should [have been] thrown out, from what I saw,” said Savarese. “From what I saw it got heated, but no, I think a lot of yellow card situations there. So I have to be honest that I haven’t seen it yet, I just heard that it wasn’t as much as they made it seem like.”

Steve Clark who rose to the occasion during the midseason after starter Jeff Attinella suffered a season-ending injury, made three saves to keep the match level.

Savarese said of Clark’s performance: “He’s done fairly well. We said from the beginning he is an important player. [And] that’s why we put him in. We felt very content to have two goalkeepers like Jeff [Attinella] and [Steve] Clark – that we knew what they’re going to give us. And we’re very content [he would] step up to help us out. I think he made some good saves.”

Sporting KC immediately regained the lead in the 46th minute after Daniel Salloi hit home the rebound scoring his first goal of the season.

In the 85th minute, a penalty was awarded to the Timbers after Ilie Sanchez tackles Jeremy Ebobisse in the penalty area. Darien Asprilla converts the goal leveling the match and giving the Timbers a hard-fought point on the road.

Although everything went their way score-wise across the league with a loss from both FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes, it all comes down to Decision Day.

But it comes with an added challenge.

After Savarese stated the club would be appealing Fernandez’s suspension; the club has since rescinded the appeal Wednesday based on new evidence – leaving them without their star forward for the big matchup. In addition to Diego Valeri still questionable due to tightness in his calf he acquired in Kansas City.

But maybe luck will be on Portland’s side as the Earthquakes are currently on a five-game losing streak and are a point below the line. As well, losing defender Tommy Thompson to a red card during their previous match against the Seattle Sounders.

The Timbers will look to clinch a playoffs spot at home when they face the Earthquakes on Sunday, October 6.

“It’s a must win. That’s all it is,” said Zarek Valentin.

Featured image: @TimbersFC

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Carlos Vela: Beware of the Left Foot

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Carlos Vela continues to stun teams on a historic week with his signature left-foot curler following this past Sunday’s draw in Minnesota.

Last weekend, Vela gave the Black & Gold another opening goal for the second straight match. The goal was Vela’s 31st of the season, tying him with Josef Martinez for most in a season in MLS history.

Although the captain came dangerously close to breaking the record on the same night – he left the big moment for Decision Day.

The star striker has only missed three games this entire season. And his dedication to the team is upstanding. For example, he was seen on the sideline coaching his teammates after being taken out due to an injury. In the postmatch interview after their clash with Minnesota United – Vela continued to credit his team in aiding his success:

For the fifth time in 2019, Vela appeared on Team of the Week, and is currently leading the league in three categories: (31) goals, (154) shots, and, (67) shots on goal and ranks second in the Audi Player Index Ratings. In addition to being voted the MLS Player of the Month for March of the 2019 MLS season.

Aside from breaking league and personal records, the former Real Sociedad player is having a great year. He was named to the 2019 MLS All-Star roster and given the captain’s armband for the second year in a row this summer.

LAFC has been on yet another historic run this season – winning the 2019 Supporters’ Shield to secure the Western Conference; giving the Black & Gold home-field advantage throughout playoffs and are a win away from setting the new record for most points in a single season.

The 30-year-old has been part of the “DP Trio” with Diego Valeri and Brian Rodriguez. Sunday marked their third-straight match together. And the results looked promising – even though Rodriguez seemed to have trouble falling into place with the dynamic duo.

Earlier this season, I asked: Is he the next rising King of MLS?

Of course, it is still early to declare Vela the new MVP. But he and his left-foot have been consistently dominating the league for the past eight months.

LAFC will wrap up the regular season at home as they host the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, October 6.

Featured Image:  LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MNUFC Shares the Points and the Fun with LAFC

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Plenty of results that have gone in favor of Minnesota United FC would have asterisks next to them if OptaJack tracked all the caveats. United’s win against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium on September 1 was such a result — Mason Toye scored two early goals while a Vela-less L.A. could not finish a single opportunity. Sunday’s rematch at Allianz Field held no such caveats.

While Adrian Heath chose to rest midfielders Kevin Molino and Ozzie Alonso ahead of the season finale in Seattle and was forced to make do without rookie defender Chase Gasper (red card), the rest of his favored Starting XI returned to the pitch for the home finale. And they did so against Carlos Vela and two other DPs: Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez. (You can read Araceli Villanueva’s story about Rodriguez’s club debut in the Supporters Shield match here.) In that light, a draw was just what the doctor ordered.

One Goal Apiece

“[In the] second half, [we] played to the game plan, stuck to the plan that we spoke about all week and it actually looked like we might get something out of the game,” Heath said. “[We] kept playing into their own hands in the first half, trying to play short, play intricate passes out and that’s what they want. Anything that goes square, goes back, they press it and they’re very good at it.”

Heath pulled Toye at the half and replaced him with Angelo Rodriguez, his first appearance in weeks: “In the second half, Angelo was in really good spots. We got it into him and we had what? Three of the best chances of the night? That was the plan in the first half.”

Rodriguez did not score, though he had chances. Instead, an unsurprising Vela goal in minute 70 was followed by a beautiful set piece (!) header from Michael Boxall. “It’s something that we work on in training,” said the defender. “And, just, we know the timing off Jan [Gregus] with his run up, and when he puts his hand up and down. I mean, I’m not sure if they [the LA defenders] even moved. So I think that’s the most open I’ve ever been and might ever be in the box.”

Welcome to our home

Around 100 LAFC supporters made the trip to Minnesota. A weekend of sightseeing, brewery-hopping and meet-ups with Minnesota’s SGs (the Dark Clouds and True North Elite) preceded Sunday night’s match.

Expos capo Valeria Tapia said, “We met up with some True North people and they joined us in the chants and shared some drinks with us. Sunday morning we met up at Surly [Brewing] to eat and drink before our march to the stadium. It was a blast singing on the way to the stadium on the rail.”

The party continued after the final whistle, with a couple dozen LA fans joining the Dark Clouds at Black Hart of St Paul, just two blocks from Allianz. Post-match karaoke is better with new friends and the pastime gets a special post-Loons slot at Black Hart, but went later than usual thanks to the visitors’ energy. They led the bar in singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” and the ubiquitous “Sweet Caroline,” to name just a few.

“Everybody that I knew that was there enjoyed their time there,” Tapia said. “Overall the experience was amazing and I can’t wait to go back. Everybody was so nice and welcoming.”

From welcoming to #SayShh

With a playoff berth clinched on Wednesday night, Sunday evening’s home finale acted as a pep rally of sorts. MN United CEO Chris Wright took to the pitch during halftime to thank fans for their support before messages from the players appeared on the video board — standard Fan Appreciate Night fare. But a video that played pregame somewhat overshadowed that message:

If you’re wondering, “Who is this guy telling me to shush?”: That’s Sean “Slug” Daley, half of the Minneapolis-based rap duo called Atmosphere. The rapper, and co-founder of Rhymesayers Entertainment, is a soccer fan and has been spotted at a number of United games this season. His song ‘Say Shh’ is a celebration of Minnesota/Midwest pride so Daley, and this song in particular, are logical choices to front the campaign. Yet Minnesota Soccer Twitter blew up when it launched. Why?

A poll of MNUFC supporters, garnering 125 votes, found a mix of people who were either enjoyed the song and were indifferent to the message or were indifferent to the song and unsure of the message.

The poll ended fairly level — compared to initial votes. ‘Petty, grudge match’ held a 50% share of the first 50 responses. The grudge goes back to Heath’s repeated references to the pundits at what he likes to call “MLS dot com” — That would be the folks at MLS Soccer dot com, whose weekly power rankings and early season predictions often criticize Heath’s tactics and squad selection. The club’s insistence on continuing to call out the critics (for — criticizing?) is what irks some supporters:

It’s fine. Slug is great. But, we are not the team that nobody wanted. We haven’t been that team for 7 years. It seems manufactured. The team, supporters, press and league are all in love with each other. The only ones who feel unwanted are the front office and coach. Thin skin?

@bill_mcguire (the fan, not the owner)

It leans to heavily on Slug, and not the absolute accomplishment of the players battling to get into The Playoffs. Love the song, but the campaign falls on its face.

@ecdcmnufc

Now, tossing the criticism back to the pundits is nothing new. When Grant Wahl predicted that MNUFC wouldn’t surpass five wins in its first MLS season, he was proven wrong. And the fans let him know it:

While a scarf held up by fans is a level or two below an organized marketing campaign by a franchise, one can’t expect that a seemingly negative statement won’t be used in the same way positive statements are. United made a hype video for the first match at Allianz Field that followed a similar format (albeit without a local celebrity lending voice to the cause):

But the issue cited most by fans is that #SayShh puts too much focus on the pundits and Slug, rather than on the players who did the work and the supporters who were cheering for them all along.

Oddly enough, CEO Chris Wright’s former employer produced such a video, spotlighting the fans, community and players. For a different league, in a different sport — one which is not known for such a close connection to its community.

MN United FC did not take that track. The supporters are taking on that role, to keep that dialogue open with the pundits and commentators, to stand up for their club without standing off. They were there all along while the players proved themselves.***

The Loons close the season in Seattle on Sunday. Decision Day results will determine if Allianz Field gets to host a first round playoff match.

COYL

*** Always with the asterisks.

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Loons Highlights With All The Feels

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

While the month is ending on a good note for the Loons, with an exhilarating mid-week win clinching the club’s first MLS postseason appearance, September has truly been a mixed bag for Minnesota United. As the Loons prepare for their final regular season appearance at Allianz Field, let’s review the emotions and results of the past month.

Confusion in Houston: 2-0 loss

United commemorated 9/11 in Houston, with what should have been the first episode of Batman vs. Superman. Fresh off of the international break, Loons fans expected to see Miguel ‘Batman’ Ibarra suit up against best friend, and former teammate, Christian ‘Superman’ Ramirez for the first time since the latter’s midseason departure in 2018. Instead, Ibarra viewed the match from the stands with Ramirez’s wife and daughter while Adrian Heath’s favored international stars took on the Dynamo with tired legs.

It didn’t go well. Fielding a 4-3-3 to compensate for the absence of an injured Darwin Quintero, the Loons struggled to find anything resembling a rhythm. Mason Toye and Thomas Chacón were not able to connect with anything resembling chemistry up top and the midfield struggled to string together any threatening passes. Ethan Finlay, playing on Toye’s right, was the only noticeable attacking mid, both for his box-to-box runs and a couple spectacular misses toward goal. And so, it was only fair that Ramirez be the one to put the last nail in that road trip coffin:

Salt Lake Rejuvenation: 3-1 win

Darwin Quintero made a strong and healthy return to the Starting XI when Minnesota hosted Real Salt Lake on September 15. The Loons were down early on a Albert Rusnak goal in the 17th minute, but just minutes later, Quintero humiliated the RSL defense, leveling the score and giving us a perfect illustration of Nick Rimando’s legacy against Minnesota attackers:

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando watches helplessly as Quintero scores the first of three goals against him during his final MLS appearance in Minnesota. Courtesy of MNUFC

The Loons pulled ahead early in the second half, with an equally beautiful brace from Quintero. A final goal from Ethan Finlay in the 81st minute sealed the result and allowed MNUFC to bounce back up to second in the west. Amazingly, they pulled it off with just 38% of the possession and fewer than 400 passes — a testament to the system and chemistry in that night’s lineup.

Frustration in the Portland Forest: 0-0 draw

Did anyone really want to win last Sunday? Did either team, other than the goalkeepers, know a playoff berth was at stake? Despite a flurry of shots, a bevy of saves and much cursing (and worshiping) of the crossbar gods, United’s trip to Portland was a non-starter. Vito Mannone had words with a handful of teammates who he felt had left him an unfair amount of work, but he managed to keep the clean sheet.

“I’m trying to think of a really, really classic save. I think he save the ones he should’ve saved but we needed him,” said Heath. “When you go on the road at places like this, you know your goalkeeper is always going to have to play well and I thought he did.”

Meanwhile, this writer stepped away from the screen mid-match to do something unprecedented — unpack from a weekend trip within hours of getting home. And she missed nothing, other than a Mason Toye embellishment foul (which prompted his second disciplinary fine within a week) and a few expected saves from Mannone.

Friendly Rivalry Exalted: 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City

On a night when a win would seal a playoff berth, Minnesota faced perhaps their most comfortable opponent — the ever-present Sporting Kansas City. Minnesota even cranked up the Nice Factor by serving tater tot hot dish in the press box. Obviously, the officials were not given a helping of this northern comfort food:

There was no VAR call for this questionable seventh minute goal and the remaining 38 minutes of the half could only be described as flustered. The Loons weren’t able to cancel out Barath’s questionable goal until late in the second half. Captain Ozzie Alonso found himself on the end of a set piece rebound and fired off a shot nearly identical to his goal on opening night:

For the remaining 20 minutes, it appeared both teams may be dropping two points that night. The frustration came roaring back for fans and players alike. But then, just as stoppage time was announced, United’s Rookie of the Year contender sealed the deal. It just took a little help from Barath (of all people).

Hassani Dotson’s shot took a deflection of the Kansas City defender and found its way past Tim Melia. And chaos ensued.

Three points. Playoffs. Euphoria and validation. Was that the biggest goal in Dotson’s career?

“Yeah, I would say so. It was the game winner but the credit goes to the team and all the effort that everyone in the organization has put in for us to get here.”

But it is not over yet.

“Let’s go on and see if we can win this game against LAFC,” said Heath. “I know nobody gives us a chance, but it’d be nice to beat them on Sunday and that’ll be three times we’ve beaten them out of four.”

And so, we go again.

COYL

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

“Having a Professional Soccer Team is a Privilege Not a Right.”

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Well, friends, it’s been a whole MONTH since I’ve been able to sit down and put any words on a screen for MLSFemale, and I apologize for my absence. Between the start of the school year and youth soccer season, and some waves in the unscripted reality show of real life, I simply haven’t had the headspace to devote to covering the Houston Dynamo’s functional slip from playoff contention over their last four matches.

With the same count left in the season, one match of which will play out before this article goes online, the Dynamo have only their pride and the city to play for, the latter having become an increasingly tough crowd to stand for. The players will have to dig deep – both in the depths of their own hearts and through mountains of negative social media posts – to find the inspiration to compete.

I’ve mentioned repeatedly since signing on to cover the team that I am Forever Orange – a fan through wins, losses, trades, and turnover. I love the sport of soccer, and nothing is more of a privilege to me than to have a home team within driving distance to support. As my friend Sean Ringrose has often said, having a professional soccer team is a privilege and not a right. I make it a habit not to take the organization for granted and to express heartfelt gratitude to all of the staff that keep the wheels greased and turning every chance that I get. 

Despite my love for the game, the team, and the staff that support my soccer habit, I remain aware of my own shortcomings. I have never coached a team – not even kids rec team. I’ve definitely never managed a professional sports organization or any portion of its staff. And, most tragically, I have never accumulated any kind of wealth that would earn me even the tiniest level of ownership of a professional team.

With those things in mind, when I take to the keyboard to review or critique the team’s performance in an article or online, I am doing so from a layman’s perspective. I am absolutely opinionated and appreciate every platform that I am provided to express my thoughts. However, I have never once expected that my opinions bear any weight or hold any purchase in the upper echelons of the actual Dynamo training space or front office. 

That is not to say that the organization isn’t listening. When John Walker came into the Dynamo/Dash organization as President of Business Operations almost a year ago, he worked to make sure that fans started having more access to communicate with and provide feedback to the front office. I’ve been in several rooms with him myself and have happened upon him out in the world on more than one occasion. But given an inch, a number of fans have taken this newfound access to another level. 

In addition to improving communication, John Walker has started making changes to the operations of the club and the stadium, which is absolutely what he was brought to Houston to do. Some fans were unhappy about changes and have taken to social media to lodge complaints. This became less of an opportunity for people to be heard and more of a showcase where fans with differing opinions began going after one another.

I have been right in the middle of it and own my place in the mudslinging. Fans that love the team are pitted against fans that love their seats. Fans that dislike ownership are frustrated at fans that continue to show up and spend money. The Dynamo have stopped being a uniting force for their Houston fans and have become a team that has fans split into factions, each with their own ideas and demands for the office and ownership.  

And besides all of the real life stuff, that is where my head has been for the last month. I looked around at my social media, my team, and its fan base and decided it was time to step away for a minute and take stock.

My simple reality is that I am here to support. Period. I’ll be standing, singing, and supporting my team for the rest of this season and into the next. I’ll have my 2020 season tickets in the supporters section – regardless of where the front office decides it will land next year. I refuse to be one more opinionated amateur screaming on social media, demanding to be heard, and I’m done engaging with them to increase the visibility and reach of their complaints.    

And to quote Bubba Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

And with that, it’s time to get ready and head to Houston – the Dynamo take on Orlando City tonight at BBVA Stadium.

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

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Player Spotlight: Steve Clark turns Providence Park into House of Horrors

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sitting above the playoffs line in seventh place with 43 points, the Portland Timbers continue the battle of the west. Despite falling to D.C. United this past weekend; Steve Clark is turning Providence Park into the House of Horrors.

Timbers’ veteran goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was sidelined due to a season-ending injury this July. And Clark has stepped up in a big by posting 1710 minutes, five shutouts, 66 saves, and currently holds a 79.5% save percentage, thus far.

Prior to assuming starting goalkeeper duties, Clark was included in the starting lineup for five of fifteen league matches and appeared in the 2019 campaign of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The Mason, Michigan native is no stranger to the shuffle. On August 17, 2018, the five-year MLS veteran was waived by D.C. United while in the midst of his second season with the club. Following the Timbers’ announcement that they had picked up the veteran keeper on waivers – he went on to start eight games for the 2018 campaign.

His quick reflexes have kept the Timbers out of dangerous situations. And Clark is having a little fun with it – occasionally wearing a Michael Myers mask from the classic slasher franchise Halloween; during the Timbers’ traditional slab celebration ceremony to celebrate shutout.

“Providence Park is going to be a house of horrors this summer,” Clark said during the July 28 postgame conference. “It’s going to be a tough place to come. That’s kind of what I’m saying. This is a bunch of monsters out here.”

Fellow teammate Sebastian Blanco is joining in the fun donning a Chucky mask from cult classic Child’s Play. The Argentinian midfielder began the tradition in May of 2018 to celebrate his game-winning goal against the Seattle Sounders.

Outside of the MLS, Clark has played for Hønefoss BK and AC Horsens, respectively – crediting these experiences for his development as a player, even encouraging players to “move abroad and challenge themselves.”

With playoffs starting in a few weeks, its hard to ignore that Clark was once a three-year starter for Columbus Crew SC from 2014-16, where the 33-year-old keeper ironically played against his current club during the 2015 MLS Cup; losing 2-1. Fast forward to now, Steve said of his time in Columbus:

“My time in Columbus was a long time ago now. But it was a good time for me as player. Now being with the Timbers – life has really come full circle and I’m really enjoying myself now. Portland is a beautiful place to live and a great club to play for.”

The Timbers will continue their search for the final playoff push in a midweek fixture when they host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, September 18.

Featured Image:  Portland Timbers

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