The Kings of the West: LAFC bounces back in 3-0 win over Columbus Crew

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club returned to its winning ways in a 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE stadium on Saturday. Mark-Anthony Kaye, Adama Diomande and Carlos Vela scored all three winning goals of the night.

With a full roster available, there were no changes in the lineup. Tristian Blackmon was among the players who returned to the bench. In what was arguably a must-win situation for the Crew, I’m not sure if the pressure from LAFC but the home side made a lot of mistakes. And the Black-and-Gold was able to capitalize on those easy opportunities.

LAFC had two solid chances to open the scoring with Kaye and Diego Rossi after the whistle blew. Kaye tried to sneak one in past Joe Bendik, unfortunately, his low shot whizzed past the post. In the 31st minute, Rossi hit a curler off of a cross from the Mexican international. But it glided just slightly over the crossbar.

However, the club earned another chance to score in the 37th minute, as Latif Blessing served the 24-year-old midfielder the ball from the top of the box and Kaye flawlessly kicked the ball home.

The Crew was in pursuit of the equalizer and nearly got their opportunity as Robinho sent a pass to Pedro Santos, who fired a rocket down the center. Fortunately, Tyler Miller was in the right place at the right time and came up huge to deny Santos in the 59th minute – earning his fifth clean sheet.

In the 74th minute, the Crew almost pull level but former LA Galaxy forward, Gyasi Zardes saw his goal called back after being called offsides.

The latter part of the half saw all the action with back-to-back goals by Diomande and Vela. First up, a crucial error and a substitution hot off the bench secured the lead for the Black-and-Gold. Josh Perez ran the ball outside the net deflecting off the post, and miscommunication between Bendik and Jonathan Mensah – gave Diomande the opening he needed to hit the rebound to double the score.

Moments later, it was the captain’s turn. It came off of Vela’s dangerous left foot into the back of the net – scoring his 12th goal of the season.

The boys rallied in the final minutes of stoppage time to secure the 3-0 victory and remain atop of the Western Conference standings.

The club will return to LA with all three points and gear up for another two-game series with FC Dallas. LAFC will host them on Thursday, May 16 and then travel to Dallas for the second leg just three days later.

Photo credit: Columbus Crew

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D.C. United Weekly Roundup: Match preview, Injuries, Call Ups, and Marquinhos Pedroso

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Match Preview: D.C. United v Sporting KC 

D.C. United is set to host Sporting KC for a Mother’s Day matchup at 7pm EST May 12that Audi Field. The match will be nationally broadcast on FS1 and FOXDEPORTES.

While D.C. is fresh off a 3-1 home victory against the Columbus Crew, Sporting KC just fell to Atlanta United 0-3 in a shutout match. Sporting KC currently is sitting in 10th place of the Western Conference. In addition to the spate of injuries that have plagued Sporting, this is the first time the team will hit the road in a six-match stretch. 

For D.C. United, a position at the top of the Eastern Conference hinges on winning this home match against SKC. Currently, D.C. is tied with the Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact for first place in terms of points, however, the Black-and-Red occupy second place due to goal differential.

Although SKC is depleted and having a tough run lately, D.C. should not take them lightly. Sporting’s offense is dangerous, having scored 19 goals this season, and has only been without a goal in one match, their most recent faceoff with Atlanta United. SKC has also recently reacquired midfielder Benny Feilhaber from the Colorado Rapids. Whether he will take the pitch against D.C. is up for debate.

Injuries

D.C. saw the recovery and return to play of Russell Canouse and Leonardo Jara, two integral players who have regularly appeared in Head Coach Ben Olsen’s starting XI. However, homegrown player Donovan Pines is sidelined due to a sprain in his medial collateral ligament sustained during D.C.’s most recent match with the Columbus Crew. Pines has started in the last two matches for D.C. United and has shown valuable speed and accuracy, able to bail out the Black-and-Red defensively.

Call Ups

D.C. United homegrown player Chris Durkin has received a call up to compete in the U-20 FIFA World Cup in Poland. The U-20 FIFA World Cup kicks off May 23rd. Striker Griffin Yow, D.C.’s newest homegrown signing, just helped the U-17 USMNT to a 8-0 victory over Guadeloupe. The team will advance to the Concacaf U-17 Championship Quarterfinals where they will face Panama.

New Player Marquinhos Pedroso

D.C. recently acquired left back Marquinhos Pedroso from FC Dallas for $100,000 in GAM. The 25-year-old Brazilian began his professional career at Figueirense, and has since played in the Brazilian top flight, and in Turkey and Hungary. Pedroso was a regular starter for FC Dallas throughout 2018 and fills in a critical defensive gap for D.C. United, as Joseph Mora is still unavailable due to injury. The acquisition of Pedroso also allows Olsen to keep Paul Arriola forward, where he is able to create scoring opportunities for the Black-and-Red.

As always, VAMOS UNITED!

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The Texas Derby Results and How FC Dallas Can move forward

Official FC Dallas Reporter

By Abigail Kistner// @abruhcadabruhh

Although I couldn’t travel to Houston to support FC Dallas, I still made it a priority to watch and review the game, and let me be the first to say that I’m glad I did. This was a turning point for FC Dallas for sure.

We begin the game with a lot of defensive play, not only from the defense itself but from the entire team. In fact, not even fifteen minutes in, you can see Barrios (wing) performing defensive tactics against Houston. However, around the same time during the first half, you also see the trio: Zeigler, Hedges, and Cerillo doing all they can to keep the ball within Dallas’ realm.

Seeing both the front and the back work to keep the ball was very entertaining, but also disappointing, as the midfield was lacking this game. However, this wasn’t a bad game for FC Dallas. Despite being the youngest team in the MLS, Dallas shows a very mature style of play, and you see that after competing with Houston, the 4th oldest team in MLS.

Despite the lacking efforts in the first half, FC Dallas comes back, in the 86th minute to win their first goal of the game by Dominique Badji. Not only that, but FC Dallas scored again 10 minutes later with a goal by Santiago Mosquera. However, with a VERY controversial referee call regarding Dallas’ goal via VAR, it eventually led to the 2-1 loss of the Texas Derby.

Although Dallas took a seemingly unfair loss, the drive to win in the second half was something I have yet to see in another team so far this season. With some of our essential players gone (Paxton Pomykal) I believe FC Dallas is doing just fine for now.

With a home game coming up facing the New York Red Bulls, Dallas has a clear advantage to win this upcoming game. With a current 5-3-2 record with 17 points, Dallas has a very good rate at taking another win at home facing the NY Red Bulls (record of 3-4-2 with 11 points). Despite New York’s past two wins, Dallas had yet to be defeated at home, and it’s fair to say Dallas has the chance to remain undefeated at home and gain another 3 points.

Featured image: @fcdallas on Instagram

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LAFC Weekly Roundup: Carlos Vela, Match Preview, Gold Links

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Columbus, here we come!

Coming off back-to-back draws, LAFC will look to return to its winning form as they travel to MAPFRE stadium to face the Columbus Crew this Saturday, May 11.

LAFC is currently leading the all-time series with one win on June 23 in a 2-0 victory at the Banc of California stadium. However, the Black-and-Gold fell to the Crew during the preseason. Saturday marks the third meeting between the clubs

*Image provided by the MLS’ app

Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta, and Latif Blessing remain a dangerous trio in the midfield. Eddie Segura and Walker Zimmerman are becoming a stronger pair every match. The two center backs may not be able to speak the same language. But they allow the universal language of football to speak for them. And the with a roster back to full health, the club will hopefully utilize every opportunity.

Especially after the Crew defeated the New England Revolution on Wednesday in a 5-0 win – following a five-game losing streak and will likely enter this weekend’s match as a must-win situation.

What are your match predictions?

Back at full health

The roster seems to be back at full health with only defender Danilo Silva and midfielders Alejandro Guido and Javi Pérez listed as questionable.

Head Coach Bob Bradley has nearly a full team to choose from as there are no players out for tomorrow’s competition.

Adama Diomande and Andre Horta appeared in the eighteen last week coming off of long injuries. Dio entered the match in the 75th minute for Steven Beitashour – whom also returned to the starting XI due to injury.

With another two-game series within days of each other on the horizon – I am expecting a little rotation in the roster, if not on the bench for Columbus.

Projected LAFC Starting XI

(4-3-3): Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Eddie Segura, Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour; Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing; Diego Rossi, Christian Ramirez, Carlos Vela.

Carlos Vela earns back-to-back MLS Player of the Month honors

There is really no stopping the Mexican International captain at this point.

On Tuesday, Carlos Vela was voted the MLS Player of the Month for the month of April of the 2019 MLS season. Along with back-to-back MLS honors – Vela is dominating the league in three categories: goals (11), shots (60), and shots on goal (24).

According to LAFC’s Digital Manager, Vince La Rosa: Vela becomes just the seventh-ever player to earn the honors in consecutive months after earning Player of the Month accolades in the first month of the 2019 campaign.

The club’s captain finished April with five goals and two assists over five contests, helping the Black-and-Gold earn a 3-1-1 record. His 16 combined goals and assists are also the most by any player in the opening 10 games of a season in MLS history.

Gold Links

Photo credit: Imad Bolotok IG // @imadshoots

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New York Red Bulls Fall Apart

 

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, May 8: 1-2 loss

Having missed a heck of a show last Saturday (a 3-2 win over the mighty Galaxy), I was looking forward to the team going three in a row at home. They’ve had a rough go of things so far this season, with only three wins. But their fortune was turning around, and another win against a Piatti-less Montreal Impact would set them up for a positive road trip to Dallas.

Don’t look now; things just got worse.

I got my wings: The RBNY pipeline has multiple channels. Tom Barlow, selected in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, cut his teeth in the USL squad and made a big impression. He has already put up six goals this season for RBII, so Sporting Director Denis Hamlett gave him the big call-up: he signed a first team contract. Just hours after the official announcement, Barlow found himself in the Starting XI.

It was a bit of a surprise to the Missouri native. “I was supposed to go to Canada with the USL team and I tried handing in my passport and they said I’m not going.” (Red Bulls II played to a 1-1 draw against the Ottawa Fury the same day as the MLS match).

With striker Bradley Wright-Phillips still out with an injury, it was time to ‘shop the closet’ and bring in someone the organization hopes is ready for the next level. Keeping his USL number 74 jersey, he also played 74 minutes.

While he didn’t score the hat trick I was of course expecting, he made a good showing. The only way for a player like Barlow to get used to being in MLS is for him to actually be in MLS. This is admittedly easier said than done, especially when the team overall isn’t doing well. But that’s not on Barlow. I’m excited for the kid… and I know how ‘Soccer Mom’ that makes me sound. I’m not ashamed.

When things start to feel right: For the third straight game, a defender tallied a goal for RBNY. This time, it was Aaron Long, 2018 MLS Defender of the Year. Our own Captain America. His header off Marc Rzatkowski’s free kick was perfection. It was the kind of set piece goal that had been New York’s signature threat in seasons past. All they had to do was continue in that vein for the second half.

You can count on me to start to doubt it: When Maxi Urruti put an inswinger to Zakaria Diallo and Diallo leveled the match, it was a small disappointment. The game was just past the hour mark– plenty of time to renew the attack, or at least hold the tie and get a point.

But Aaron Long’s over-emphatic defense on Anthony Jackson-Hamel resulted in a penalty kick for the Impact. Urruti took the kick from the spot, opening his account for the season with the conversion. Another defensive move from Long moments later sparked a hamstring injury that forced him off the field.

Manager Chris Armas had already spent his three substitutions on attacking options, so the team was forced to play with only ten men for the last ten minutes of the match. Thankfully the Red Bulls were able to keep Montreal from capitalizing on the advantage. Granted the damage had already been done. So now the Red Bulls head to Dallas trying to put it back together.

P.S. When the Red Bulls were winning, I was all set to use one song. Then I chose another when they were tied. I was at a loss when the team… well– lost. But thanks to my satellite radio for coming in clutch.

Featured image: Bill Twomey

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Sporting KC falls to Atlanta United 3-0

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City fell to Atlanta United 3-0; snapping their home unbeaten run on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park. It was the first time the home team lost to the reigning MLS Cup Champions.

With multiple injuries plaguing the roster – and missing key starters like Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza – Vermes fielded an almost unrecognizable lineup with only five subs available on the bench. Two of which earned their first MLS starts – Graham Smith and Gedion Zelalem (made his club debut). Kelyn Rowe and Botond Barath returned to the starting XI.

Sporting KC kicked off the match with a good opportunity when Graham Zusi unleashed a long-range curler that carried marginally beyond the right-hand post. Shortly thereafter, Atlanta’s Pity Martinez cut centrally onto his left foot and dragged a low shot wide of the near post.

The home side would earn another chance after Krisztian Nemeth could have recorded his 11th off a corner kick by Johnny Russell in the 13th minute, but his glancing header on the edge of the six-yard box missed the mark.

And then it stopped?

With both sides holding close to equal possession and overall passing accuracy, it seemed they locked in a game of keep away, as they passed the ball back-and-forth without creating any solid chances for a full 15 minutes.

*Writer’s note: I’m not suggesting no one was trying to create an opportunity, I just found the situation odd.

Just as it appeared the match would go scoreless into halftime, Josef Martinez opened the scoring for Atlanta in the 39th minute after retrieving the rebound off of Tim Melia at short range. Martinez went down briefly after a collision with the keeper. But he returned to the pitch uninjured to score the game winner in the 76th minute.

Two minutes after the restart, Atlanta doubled the lead. Sporting failed to clear a loose ball at the top of the penalty area and a shot fell invitingly to Ezequiel Barco, who made right-footed strike down the middle into the left side of the post.

Melia did well to deny the 20-year-old nine minutes later, then produced another reflex stop on a strike from Miles Robinson.

Down by two, Sporting KC ran the ball down to try to close the gap and earned two solid opportunities in the process. But as the script goes, Kelyn Rowe’s thunderous effort from the top of the box was blocked and Nemeth’s 22-yard curler skimmed over the woodwork.

In the 65th minute, the energy changed as Ilie entered the match in a double substitution.

Ilie did not appear once in training this past week and he was listed as questionable. So it’s understandable the predicament Vermes was forced into. And one he will probably see himself again:

“The problem is I don’t have the whole team available. It’s not just one guy. When you have a team – and every team has their starters – to then have to supplant all those guys with new players, it’s very hard.”

Regardless, the Spaniard still had a solid attempt shortly after Russell cuts into the middle and forces Guzan into a leaping save with a left-footed curler that bounced off the top corner in the 73rd minute. But the striker couldn’t put his strike within the frame.

Ultimately, it was Martinez’s second goal that gave Sporting KC their first loss of the season at home in a 3-0 deficit.

Even though frustration filled the locker room, the team remains optimistic about the future. Especially with the newcomers earning more playing opportunities:

“I thought the two center backs did a really good job. It’s a quality team with a lot of attacking minded players that are really good at combining and for the most part, till maybe the 70th minute we did a really good job shutting [Atlanta] down.” Melia told the press.

Seth Sinovic added: “I think everyone had their moments. I think everybody got the opportunity to improve, not just the new guys but the experienced guys. And it’s on the experience guys that have not only played a lot of games in the league but a lot of games in a sporting uniform – we have to be better leaders. We got to do a better job and we’re not filling that job right now.”

Next up, Sporting KC will travel to Audi Field to face Wayne Rooney and D.C. United for the first time.

“We have to concentrate on our first day back at training. Making sure we’re doing everything there [..] we build them correctly for the game against [D.C. United],” said Melia. “We just got to get back to being us. And look at one game at a time.”

Featured image: Peaty Romano

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You gotta have depth: NYCFC tops Montréal Impact 2-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

After an inconsistent start to the 2019 season, New York City Football Club appears to have found their groove with a 2-0 win over Montreal Impact.  The victory was, in part, due to solid play by the misunderstood Ben Sweat and smart strategy by the often-maligned Head Coach Dome Torrent.

Prior to this match, it looked like City had found a solid starting lineup:

 

However, injuries to Alexandru Mitrita, James Sands, and Ronald Matarrita suddenly made the team’s chances versus Montréal less certain.

Team depth, particularly in the midfield, paid off big time as Ben Sweat stepped up his game and executed his wingback role beyond expectations and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi returned to his starting position of right wing.

Tajouri-Shradi, one of 2018’s top team scorers, has not been consistently in the lineup, which was sparking questions from many fans.  The biggest cause for concern prior to this match was the injury of defensive powerhouse James Sands and how the team would fill in for his strength and consistency.

And in the end Torrent chose to go with a 3-4-3 just as certain adept fans so accurately predicted.

The depth of the team and the adherence to a strategy of ironically “widening the field” (you know, since we have such a narrow home pitch?) and playing the majority of attacking sequences down the flanks ultimately were the doom of the Impact.

With this ball and player pattern, Montreal had no idea who to cover and how to predict the play, particularly in the second half.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if this winning strategy was more effective on the road and the team ended up more successful on the road than at home? Is this likely? Probably not, but it would make things very interesting.

With goals scored by Moralez (6′) and Tajouri-Shradi (49′), the team demonstrated depth in offensive prowess and the ability to generate goals without Designated Player Mitrita and despite striker Héber having a rare non-productive outing.

Also worth noting is that the Impact generated a few first half goal scoring chances but NYCFC’s back line of Sebastien Ibeagha, Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot ultimately were consistent in their defense.

Tajouri-Shradi photo credit to NYCFC
Tajouri-Shradi dropping the hammer

Next up, NYCFC has three challenging games on the road: LA Galaxy on 5/11, Chicago Fire on 5/25 and Columbus Crew on 6/1 before returning home to host FC Cincinnati on 6/6.

I would anticipate that Coach Torrent will continue to utilize a formation with wingbacks, either with or without Sands.  Will this formation be as useful on the narrow home pitch? As of now, City is unbeaten over the past 6 games, but the matchup against the LA Galaxy will be a true test of this apparent upward momentum.

Featured Image:  NYCFC.com

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Houston Gets 3 Points from Dallas in First Leg of Texas Derby

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo beat FC Dallas 2-1.

Rivalry matches are their own kind of animal, and the Texas Derby is no exception. The first leg between the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas on Saturday had controversy and conflict that paled in comparison to the drama ahead of the match. I played into the narrative with the final lines of my last article, but the situation heated up over the week – sparking into a blaze on Thursday.

Ahead of this season, the front office announced the addition of a cannon in the stadium, perched above the supporters’ section. While it does allude to El Capitán, the oft-traded derby  trophy, this one is orange and will be a permanent fixture in Dynamo stadium.

The original article released about the cannon indicated that the FO would work with supporters to name the new cannon. At the home opener, it was announced that the cannon would be called “Ponce” after an amazing man and fan that the Dynamo family lost in 2016.

Thursday evening, Dallas’s Twitter account released an animation poking fun at Houston’s new cannon, implying that we had purchased our own replacement since El Capitán is currently being held outside of Dallas.

Houston fans were livid and responded quickly. Some reminded Dallas of their own habit of purchasing items that they hadn’t managed to earn, re-sharing a rivalry tweet that I have mentioned. Others called for Dallas to delete the tweet and scolded them for desecrating the tribute to our late friend.

After some initial pushback, Dallas did, in fact, delete the tweet and posted this apology.

The fire had started, however, and Houston fans came into Saturday’s match looking for vengeance.

It appeared that Houston spent much of its passion on the rivalry hype and had little left to bring onto the pitch. While they did dominate gameplay in the first half, the cohesion and finishing finesse that marked the team’s early success was missing.

Turnovers were plentiful, and even our penalty goal in the first half was the result of a lazy dive from Alberth Elis (that’s right, I said it!). The team’s second-half goal from Mauro Manotas was the only hint of the level of play that has been seen this year.

Dynamo fans’ fear of the last 10 minutes, where so many games were lost last season, returned as the final moments brought Dallas’s best efforts, the referee’s strangest moments, and near-tragedy for Houston.

Dallas’s Badji wiped out Houston’s clean sheet with a goal at 87’. Houston’s McNamara received a yellow card at 88’ which the ref reviewed randomly for 4 minutes. Houston defender Cabezas committed a silly foul at 96’ which Mosquera almost converted to a goal, had he not lined up for the free kick in an offside position.

The Dynamo were tied at 2-2 for a full minute before the goal was called back unceremoniously and we were able to walk away with the win. Regardless of how they were earned, we will take those three points and see Dallas again on their home turf in August.  

Featured image: @lesliecphotos

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Happy Birthday Ben Olsen: D.C. United Takes 3 Points at Home

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United win over the Columbus Crew 3-1 at Audi Field.

Starting XI:

D.C. United seem to have gotten their swagger back this weekend, beating the Columbus Crew for the second time this season. D.C. also ended their winless streak at Audi Field, giving Black-and-Red supporters an exciting Saturday night. While thunderstorms threatened and a light rain fell, the weather held, seeming like a good omen for D.C. United. 

Russell Canouse and Leonardo Jara were both back on the pitch, having recovered from recent injuries. As the match progressed it was clear just how much their presence was missed. Also starting was 23-year-old homegrown player, Donovan Pines. In his second start of the season, Pines who stands 6’5” has proved to be a real asset with his speed and accuracy, augmenting D.C.’s defense nicely.

The Black-and-Red were strong in possession from kickoff, doing a solid job keeping the ball away from Federico Higuain and company. However, Pedro Santos of the Crew made an early goal. 

Referee Ted Unkel and Video Assistant Referee Kevin Terry Jr. spent several long minutes deliberating the goal’s validity, as D.C. United insisted Will Trapp of the Crew had fouled Luciano Acosta. The goal was struck, bringing the score back to 0-0. However, many are insisting that it was Unkel himself who got in the way and committed the foul, not Trapp. 

Immediately after, Trapp did actually commit a foul, and D.C. United captain Wayne Rooney was awarded a free kick that Acosta, assisted by Jara, put in the back of the net. VAR was called upon again, to determine if Acosta had been offsides when he made the goal. D.C.’s goal was allowed to stand, putting the Black-and-Red up a point. 

After all of the minutes spent with the VAR, the first half naturally went into stoppage time. Four minutes in and Unkel returned to the video screen. The determination was made that Trapp was guilty of a handball (clearly Saturday was not Will Trapp’s night). Wayne Rooney squared up for a penalty kick, and, in what felt like sweet retribution for his miss during the playoffs, earned D.C. another goal, sending the team into halftime 2-0.

Columbus came out of the locker room ready to turn the match in their favor. However, D.C. United’s Brillant, Canouse, Pines, Jara, and Rodriguez joined goalkeeper Bill Hamid in creating a brick wall against the Crew’s attacks. 

In the 61’, tenacious Paul Arriola broke through the Crew’s defense to sink the first uncontested goal of the match. The third D.C. United goal of the night was Jara’s second assist for the evening. Columbus used up their substitutions as the second half waned.

D.C. scored again in the 75’, unfortunately, the goal was to the benefit of the Crew. After putting in a rock-solid performance all evening, goalkeeper Bill Hamid saw the ball slip through his grasp for an own goal. The drizzle falling on Audi Field surely played a role in ruining Hamid’s clean sheet for the night.

D.C. Head Coach Ben Olsen made only one substitution, Ulises Segura for Arriola in the 85’. Another three minutes of stoppage time were added to the second half; however, the Crew would not see the chance to equalize; the Black-and-Red were too far ahead. At the final whistle, D.C. United won, 3-1, and stayed tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference Standings with the Philadelphia Union.

Olsen was beaming post-match, while Columbus Head Coach Caleb Porter was certainly less than thrilled. Porter said, “it was a fair goal. The referee fouls Acosta and then goes and looks at the television to bail himself out.” Speaking to the press in the locker room, Acosta stated he had indeed been fouled by Trapp.

D.C. United took a much-needed morale boost with the home win. When MLSFemale asked Donovan Pines how he will prepare mentally for next week’s match, the soft spoken 23-year-old smiled and said, “I just take it one day at a time. I think we have two days off now and I’ll just rest, make sure I’m doing the right stretching and preparing my body for practice and then watch film, progressively get better, and get ready for the game coming up.”

Keeping a positive mental attitude will be critical as D.C. United heads toward a faceoff with Sporting Kansas City Sunday, May 12.

Vamos United!

Featured image: D.C. United

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What’s A Point Between Friends: MNUFC Welcomes Seattle

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United’s freshly minted full-time captain, Osvaldo “Ozzie” Alonso, faced off against his former club on a beautiful Saturday evening in St. Paul. It was a great night for soccer, a great night for friends, a great night for a game which no one would lose.

There were plenty of story lines surrounding Seattle’s first trip to Allianz Field – the Sounders’ shallow bench, Roldan’s rescinded red card, Calvo’s move to Chicago, the Loon’s new-look defense – but none were quite as prevalent as Ozzie’s new role in the Black & Blue. The Honey Badger made his presence known for the full ninety minutes, playing a safe game but not doing any favors for his former teammates.

The former Sounder took a few long shots toward goal which, despite finding the hands of Stefan Frei every time, lit a fire under his new squad to open the scoring and give their captain the win. It was fairly obvious early on that a cross into the box would not be the answer (It never is, guys. It never is.) so what were the chances that a set-piece would solve the Sounders? Unfortunately for poor Ike Opara‘s head, pretty darn good:

Unfortunately, Seattle pulled level before halftime when Cristian Roldan unleashed a rocket that somehow wound its way through five Loons and just out of reach of Vito Mannone.

No arguments from anyone on that ball. Beautiful.

Both teams emerged from the locker room with all pistons firing. Midfielders Miguel Ibarra, Ethan Finlay and Rasmus Schuller, and lone striker Angelo Rodriguez, all made memorable runs and give-and-go plays. Miguel and Ethan, especially, were out to prove their worth on the wings, from box to box. Heath’s substitutions threw more bodies forward (Romario Ibarra for Finlay and Darwin Quintero for Schuller) and the go-ahead goal looked imminent throughout the final twenty minutes.

But the same can be said for the Sounders. The second half was just as level as the first and when the final whistle blew two exhausted squads met at midfield to shake hands.

Sealing the shared point with handshakes and hugs. Image: Bridget McDowell

For the club that has struggled to fill the gap left by el corazon, it was a satisfactory road trip. For a club that has struggled the last couple years to maintain an even keel, let alone a competitive edge, for a full ninety minutes, it was a point well-earned by a club finally building an identity.

“I don’t think it’s a story between two players in this game specifically,” said Roldan. “I think it was two teams higher up in the western conference side competing out there, but anytime you play against Ozzie you need a little bit of grit because you know he’s going to bring it.”

That is what Minnesota United has brought in this season: Grit and determination to tease that extra edge out of the club’s existing core. It’s been exciting, but there’s still work to do: “I think we played really good, a little disappointed for the result because I wanted the three points but it is what it is,” Alonso said. “You have to keep going now.”

On the Loons go, to Calvo’s Chicago on Saturday, May 11.

Featured image: @MNUFC

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