LA Galaxy Fall 2-0 on the road Against FC Dallas

Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Lineups:

Starting XI: David Bingham; Rolf Feltscher, Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta, Jorgen Skjelvik; Sebastian Lletget (Efrain Alvarez 59’), Jonathan dos Santos ©, Joe Corona; Ema Boateng (Ethan Zubak 75’), Chris Pontius, Uriel Antuna

FC Dallas took full advantage of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s mistakes Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Real chances weren’t created. The first half was a battle for possession. Emmanuel Boateng and Sebastian Lletget both had chances to score early on. Uriel Antuna almost made a goal on what was meant to be a cross in the 28′ but it hit the corner of the post.

Dallas could have scored on a wide open net in the 37′ but Jimmy Maurer missed it.

In stoppage time of the first half, Rolf Feltscher had a shot right off the crossbar and moments later Chris Pontius almost had a header.

It was the second half when the Galaxy got punished. The home team were awarded a penalty after Diego Polenta kicked a defender right in his side in the box.

The absences of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini were strongly felt.

Injuries are out of the control of the players and coach, so it’s how the team adjusts to these changes that is key.

They’re slow and it’s clear the team didn’t know what to do when they had the ball, which was dire in front of the net. Boateng bested an FCD defender and then missed a crucial shot on an open net.

The ones really let down are the fans. Traveling supporters kept their spirits up though and were the only ones heard in Toyota stadium.

The best and the only attack came from 16-year-old Efrain Alvarez, who hasn’t ceased to amaze in only his second game with the LA Galaxy. His shot came in stoppage time, right on goal. But FCD’s keeper made the save to deny the teen from scoring and maintained his clean sheet.

This match really showed the Galaxy need to develop structure and play as a team. The passion and attack were missing as well. There’s plenty of talent, but they’re utilizing their skills individually. Even Daniel Steres came through to defend until he didn’t. Feltscher did his own thing, earning himself a yellow card in the 21’ for his tackle on Michael Barrios. Joe Corona didn’t get much time on the ball. Pontius wasn’t coming through either.

Lletget had to be subbed in 59’ after taking an elbow to the face and getting a bloody nose that took him out of play. He just can’t stop getting injured. Prior to that though, he did have a fantastic curl that went just too wide.

Boateng was finally subbed in the 76’ giving homegrown LA Academy and LA Galaxy II rising player Ethan Zubak his debut.

Jonathan Dos Santos took on the role of captain, which was a good move as he’s also shown leadership skills and can step up when needed. He is integral to the midfield creating chances.

LAG problems with defense are not new. The backline hasn’t had any changes. However, General Manager te Kloese and Head Coach Schelotto have made moves to build offense and depth. Once again, this team is a work in progress. LA Galaxy II Open Tryout Diedie Traore has also just signed with LAG after acquiring an international spot from Columbus Crew SC.

Expectations need to be kept realistic, which doesn’t mean standards need to be lowered. At this point, fans are hoping just to qualify for the playoffs. Considering both teams had highs and lows this match, there’s still plenty of reasons to keep the faith as Galaxy fans.

The LA Galaxy’s next challenge is Saturday, March 16 against Minnesota United at Dignity Health Sports Park. Kickoff is set for 6pm PST.

Featured image: @LAGalaxy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @mchuitink

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Loons clean up on the road

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Saturday’s match in San Jose was a night of milestones for Minnesota United FC. Not only did the Loons beat the Earthquakes for the first time in five matches, but Darwin Quintero notched the club’s 100th goal since joining MLS and a whole new defensive line earned Minnesota’s first clean sheet on the road since 2016.

For those of you who weren’t aware of MN United FC before their 2017 MLS debut, let me catch you up. In that final NASL season, striker Christian Ramirez led the league with 18 goals, fullback Justin Davis was the club’s all-time minutes leader and Jeb Brovsky gained the full confidence of Loons’ fans with his grit in the midfield before an ACL tear ended his season.

Back to 2019: A club plagued by defeats on the road for two seasons has executed a complete about-face in its defensive line and midfield and the attack is showing promise. Ike Opara and Romain Metanire were solid in their box and even led some counter attacks. Ozzie Alonso and Jan Gregus were powerhouses at the back of the midfield while Miguel Ibarra and Darwin Quintero fought to gain space up front to create scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, forward Romario Ibarra stood out for a different reason: his ability to hit the ball square to San Jose’s Daniel Vega.

Speaking of which, if San Jose ever wants to conserve Vega’s energy for the second half in future matches against this Loons squad, Amazon sells a perfect stand-in:

Found on Amazon.com

Unlike Vega the Weeble, a Loon did manage to go down inside the box, drawing a penalty kick for MNUFC. It was no surprise that Quintero buried it (his second in as many games), finally earning the club its 100th league goal.

Minutes later, Quintero charged into the box and gained just enough space from his entourage of Quakes defenders to send the ball out to Miguel Ibarra who beat one defender when a neat cut-back before burying a left-footed shot inside the far post, just out of Vega’s reach.

With 40 minutes left to play… the Loons kept playing. The two-goal cushion didn’t make them sloppy, they continued to communicate especially when substitutions caused shifts in the formation, and they didn’t allow the heated Quakes to knock them off their game (Rasmus Schuller earned the lone yellow card for the Loons).

For the second consecutive match, United played the full 90. And for the second consecutive match, they were rewarded, even benefiting from an own-goal in the 75th minute to cushion the lead.

I don’t believe many Minnesota fans could have predicted a clean sheet in San Jose, but they probably all predicted what three-word phrase would come out of the mouth of manager Adrian Heath when he was interviewed on the sideline after the match: “Goals change games.” They probably also predicted who he would blame for the club’s previous shortcomings:

There is nothing wrong with the gaffer taking credit for his squad’s improvements in Year Three. However, his straight refusal to take any credit for the failures in Years One and Two does not sit right with the supporters. Yes, he is one of many who make the roster decisions, but the manager does hold certain responsibilities as the face of the front office, namely owning the club’s shortcomings.

All that aside, Minnesota closed out Week Two second in the West (with, as of this writing, two clubs yet to play) with three road matches yet to play before landing at home in Allianz Field.

Come on you Loons.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

A Completely Unbiased Review and Ranking of the New 2019 MLS Kits

Kirsten Hoogstraten - Sporting Kansas City/mlsfemale
Regular Contributor and Queen of Sass & Comedy

By Kirsten Hoogstraten // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Hey MLS Female fans, it’s been a hot minute but I’m back! (I have a habit of saying this every article…sorry) In all honesty, it has been really difficult to keep up with being a writer for a team that is halfway across the country. I don’t know how Araceli does it, but she’s great at it! So, I have stepped down from being the Sporting KC reporter. I still plan on writing, just different types of articles. This will also hopefully give you, our readers, some fun content that might not be team specific.

Now, down to business. It’s 2019 and we have new kits to critique! First thing though, I have a bone to pick with MLS and Adidas. Long-sleeved jerseys have been taken from us, and that means all of us. Ilie Sanchez now must bare his arms to the world and I’m not okay with that. Now how will you get you someone who loves you like Ilie loves his long-sleeved jersey? This is a travesty!

Please note the sleeves. Image credit: SKC

The Reviews

Atlanta United

Image credit: Atlanta United

Atlanta’s color combo is really solid. The red and black look sharp together, and the gold accents pop and add a touch of class. My favorite part of the jersey is the jock tag in the shape of Georgia. That is classy.

There is a slight problem though. Adidas has introduced this new back panel on some jerseys (the giant black thing) and it makes the Atlanta players look like they’re old-timey prisoners with striped shirts and a cape plastered to their backs.

Oh…and there’s a star now.

Chicago Fire

Image credit: Chicago Fire

My first reaction to these jerseys was not good. Every continued reaction was…not good. These are rough. They’re not that different than the old Valspar design, but something about the Motorola logo makes them look weird. The secondary kit is definitely not as good as the grey ones introduced in 2017. These are both far better than the Quaker jerseys of 2014…yikes.

Chicago, you have one of the coolest city flags. People love it so much! (If you think city flags are cool, check out this Ted Talk) I love it and I’m not from Chicago. You’re our rivals. We frequently chant to burn your city down. Again! (We don’t really mean it) Why can’t you do something cool with that? The Bulls did it, and it was amazing!

Image credit: @chicagobulls

FC Cincinnati

Welcome to the league, boys! Let’s see what you brought to the table.

Image credit: FC Cincinnati

Ummm…these are fine, I guess. Blue and orange is a super cool combo, there is so much potential! But there are a lot of these weird pixelly, stripey, not solid design elements in jerseys this year, and I’m not a big fan. Back in 2017 when Cincy surprised Chicago in the U.S. Open Cup, their jerseys were so good! Everyone loved the USA Bomb Pop jerseys and they were the same, just blue and orange! Bring those back!

Now these…

Image credit: FC Cincinnati

…are beautiful! Wear these all the time! I can’t say anything bad about these. The Mercy Health logo is sleek, the inaugural season patch is visually interesting, and the subtle striping is lovely. Well done!

Colorado Rapids

Image credit: Colorado Rapids

Colorado is only getting new secondary jerseys this year, and they also went with a mostly white design. I don’t like these near as much as the Cincinnati jerseys. The accent at the cuffs and neck along with the burgundy make it look more retro. If they lost the weird grey stripe it would probably be better.

Borussia Dortmund…I mean Columbus Crew

Image credit: Columbus Crew

Fun fact: I’m blonde. Another fun fact: I look terrible in yellow. Kate Hudson, I am not. Another fun fact: I love Borussia Dortmund’s jerseys and will stare at them longingly while I wear their black secondary that is far more complimentary to my skin tone.

This is a Borussia Dortmund jersey. They must be moving to MLS and we should all be scared for theirs will be a dynasty for the ages. But, since this looks exactly like a BVB jersey that means I like it.

FC Dallas

Image credit: FC Dallas

FC Dallas’ new secondary is way better than their weird half and half ones from last season. Like waaaaaaay better. The Lamar Hunt patch continues to be a nice touch while also looking exactly like the EPCOT ball. I am not a fan of the half collar and cuff. It makes it look like their moms ran out of trim and decided no one would notice the insides of their arms.

D.C. United

Image credit: D.C. United

The D.C. United jersey took its senior photos in its aunt’s backyard in the ‘burbs, obviously. Regardless of the location, these new secondary jerseys are really good. I love the white and silver. It reminds me of the Sporting KC argyle third alternates from 2015, and those are my favorite. The thing I don’t like is not the jersey’s fault, but the crest is big and obnoxious.

Houston Dynamo

Image credit: Houston Dynamo

How is DeMarcus Beasley still playing? Does he never age? Will he somehow make the next World Cup roster much to the chagrin of everyone?

It’s hard to make a completely orange jersey look good, and Houston did not succeed. The tiger stripe is weird and the three stripes on the side, paired with the wrong design, makes it look like a jersey for a kids team from the 90s. Just wear the cool black chevron secondary jersey a lot.

LAFC

Image credit: LAFC

This is a birch tree. Why are they cosplaying as birch trees?

LA Galaxy

Image credit: LA Galaxy

What is wrong with Los Angeles? Are they trying to see how bad they can make their jerseys before their ridiculously rich fan bases stop buying them?

The lighter blue vs darker blue works really well, but this pixelated look is not good. Why would you want to purposely make it look like the game feed isn’t buffering correctly? Oh, and the jock tag is so tacky.

Minnesota United

Image credit: Minnesota United

Minnesota United is heading into their third season, and they have yet to disappoint on a jersey. Though the Target logo is kind of obtrusive, it never looks bad. The light blue with the white is clean and sharp. This half collar here looks nicer than Colorado’s because it doesn’t have that awkward extra color in there. Nice job, Minnesota. Now give back Ike.

Montreal Impact

Image credit: Montreal Impact

Is this the season of not finishing designs? This looks like they were painting their siding and let the brushes get dry. Lucky for Montreal, this looks better than the Galaxy, Cincinnati, and the fighting Ents (LoTR joke, anyone?…anyone?) The blue with the black is a great color combo. I just wish the stripes went all the way down.

The BMO logo would be better if it was just the letters. The large white circle is rough. The jock tag in the shape of the North Star Bell is a really cute touch.

New England Revolution

Scott Caldwell, who hurt you? You look worried? Image credit: New England Revolution

I have, in the past, mentioned that The Revs aren’t real. They don’t actually exist, but that’s probably just because they’re living back in 1996 with their crest.

This jersey is so cluttered. The UHC logo is huge! It’s also not interesting in the slightest. It was designed by a robot who had access to two fonts, and it used one for the big letters and the other for the small. He also didn’t understand the spacebar. The weird color sandwich of pastel blue and white looks weird.

NYCFC

Image credit: NYCFC

So, I just talked about the Revs, but I guess they’re back because these are their primary uniforms in blue, navy, and orange. I do think the stained glass pigeon jock tag is a nice touch. I just don’t know what it has to do with New England…oh this is NYCFC…oops

New York Red Bulls

Image credit: : New York Red Bulls

If you look at the upper third of the front of the jersey and the upper two-thirds of the back then this is workable. Unfortunately, they let the designers from the Matrix put weird unreadable words on the front. They’re supposed to be glitchy, but the only time I want to see a glitch is during a speed run on Twitch.

Oh, and if you forget who they are, you can read their name on the back of their jerseys as they are walking into the off-season after losing in the quarter-finals of the playoffs. As is tradition.

Orlando City

Image credit: Orlando City SC

Orlando City is really hoping their fans dig the pattern on their jerseys because that is all they have. That’s not true. These aren’t polos, and that is the best thing about them. They also don’t have the ugly gold shoulder stripes that last year’s jersey had. So I guess I don’t mind these simply because they are not last year’s.

Philadelphia Union

Image credit: Philadelphia Union

I am torn on these guys. The more I look at them, the more I think they’re alright. I wish there was one more color in either their crest or the sponsor logo. But the light blue rays radiating from the little snake look pretty cool.

This is also the first MLS jersey with a customizable back tag. The back tag is the little guy above the player’s name. The Union held a competition and the fans voted on the winners. Nifty.

Portland Timbers

Image credit: Portland Timbers

The Timbers are masters of camouflage. It is next to impossible to see them when you watch on tv. These do look more vibrant in the light. If you check them out in the promo pictures in front of the Alaskan Airlines plane you can see.

The hoops are a really classic silhouette, and it’s refreshing to see a team use a full accent and not a weird incomplete thing. The gold is rough. Atlanta does gold really well, but they manage to get a real gold color and not the weird off-yellow. This is probably the best jersey Portland has ever had.

Real Salt Lake

Image credit: Real Salt Lake

Guys, someone spilled spaghetti sauce on my clean white jersey. At least they kept the sleeves clean. They also managed to pull all the color out of the crest. That’s weird. Must be some fancy spaghetti sauce.

San Jose Earthquakes

Image credit: San Jose Earthquakes

I give San Jose some flack for naming themselves after a natural disaster that ruined their city (I’m also looking at you, Chicago), but this jersey is really good. I like the clean lines and the one separate stripe at the bottom. I can’t say anything bad about it. Except for the jock tag. It’s dumb.

Seattle Sounders

Image credit: Seattle Sounders

Seattle is a lesson that a change in sponsor can ruin a moderately okay jersey. Zulily is a great website. I look at it at least once a week, and I buy something from there about once every 50 times I look at the site. Their shipping is too expensive!

So, the primary basically just changed the logo, and now it’s bad. The new secondary is kind of cool if you know the backstory or care about a Cascadia Cup game from five years ago. The pink is an interesting change. I can’t tell if I dig it yet or not, but it is better than the primary.

Sporting KC

Graham Zusi looking like he needs a nitro cold brew and a Vonnegut novel Image credit: Sporting KC

And now for my boys in blue, Sporting KC. My favorite thing about this jersey is that it has a crew neck. Sporting hasn’t had a crew neck jersey since the hoops in 2014, and as a person who likes neither polo necks nor henleys I think this is a great move.

The light blue is always a good color. They’ve paired it with a color they call “raw grey”. This jersey has gotten a lot of criticism from the SKC faithful, mostly because all the players look like they’ve been run over. I can’t tell if I like it or not. Sometimes I do and other times I don’t, but I do wonder what it would look like with long-sleeves…

Toronto FC

Image credit: Toronto FC

The winner for least original jersey combo goes to Toronto FC. They come to the field in 2019 with a red mock turtleneck and a Real Salt Lake secondary that someone scrubbed the spaghetti sauce out of.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Image credit: Vancouver Whitecaps

Where is the person who designed the 2015 Vancouver jersey? Please find them, bring them back, and let them fix this, or just bring back the 2015 jerseys. So polo collars are bad. These weird jerseys where it looks like they’re wearing a v-neck over a polo are worse. This is literally the worst neckline possible. If you changed up the neckline, Vancouver could go hang out with Chicago in the giant chest hoop club.

I’m just upset with you, Vancouver. You can do so much better. You have done so much better.

The Rankings

The Top Five

5. Columbus Crew Primary
4. Minnesota United Secondary
3. D.C. United Secondary
2. San Jose Primary

And the obvious winner
1. FC Cincinnati’s Secondary

The lesson here: if you have a really clean white jersey with a smart accent color it will be a hit.

The Bottom Five

This one is way harder…
5. Tie: Real Salt Lake’s super fancy ‘sketti sauce
5. Tie: The bottom two-thirds of the new Red Bull’s jersey
4. Vancouver’s unfortunate new collar
3. Houston’s response to William Blake’s “The Tyger”
2. Seattle’s over-priced shipping primary

The obvious loser
1. LAFC ode to a birch tree

There you have it folks, an obnoxiously long article talking about every jersey and TL;DR-ing the ranking at the very end with no pictures. Sorry.

I hope you at least had a chuckle. See you next time!

Featured image: Soccer365

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Montréal Impact Start 2019 Campaign on the Right Foot (or the Left Foot)

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Montréal Impact had enjoyed a string of promising pre-season results, going undefeated in all matches with only one goal conceded. However, anyone who has ever watched MLS knows that pre-season performances are not totally indicative of how a team’s competitive campaign will go. Regardless, as the team spent 40 long days toiling under the hot Florida sun to get in game shape and strengthen the chemistry that saw them finish the 2018 season on a strong note, a quiet optimism began to buzz around the IMFC fanbase.

The Impact’s schedule will undoubtedly test their mettle, as they begin with six consecutive road games while waiting for the Canadian winter to end. Last year, their road form was far from sparkling. A mere 11 points picked up in away games does not exactly inspire confidence when a team needs to start the season on a strong note. However, this is Rémi Garde’s second year in charge, there has been less upheaval in the squad than last year, and several interesting players have come in, notably Maxi UrrutiHarry Novillo, and Zakaria Diallo (who was signed for the 2018 season, but did not play due to an ACL injury).

2019’s first official lineup saw Diallo, Urruti, and Bologna loanee Orji Okwonkwo make their débuts for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. Fans’ confidence in the Impact’s improvements were short-lived, as a disjointed start saw San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Magnus Eriksson open the scoring in the 11th minute after Victor Cabrera mistimed a tackle and left an ocean of space at the top of the 18-yard box. Similar to their 2018 road record, the Impact were a dismal 1-13-2 after conceding the first goal last season, so having to face adversity this early in the season, after having enjoyed a comfortable pre-season was far from an ideal situation.

Thankfully, the goal proved a sufficient wakeup call for the Impact, as they snapped into life. In a feat that has been notoriously rare, team MVP Ignacio Piatti scored on a corner played short, allowing the Argentinian maestro to do what he does best—dribble around defenders to unleash a bullet into the back of the net with his magical left foot.

As halftime neared, the Impact were well in control of the match, often enjoying controlled spells of possession—a clear departure from the “sit deep and absorb pressure” tactic employed last season. Diallo had roamed forward from his central defender position to pick up the ball in San Jose’s half and was given an ocean of space to parade forward and launch a mouth-watering low cross to Saphir Taïder who dropped off the shoulder of his defender to give the Impact the lead. There remains some debate as to whether or not the Algerian was offside at the time of the cross. However, neither the linesman nor VAR signaled, and the goal was good.

The second half saw a return to old tactics, as the Impact bunkered and allowed the Earthquakes to essentially lay siege to their half. Evan Bush was called into action on a few instances, but the defensive line held tight. The match ended 2-1, with the Impact emerging victorious from San Jose, much to the delight of players and fans alike.

There are still 5 road games left before the home opener on April 13th. But, as the Impact opened their season on such a positive note, there is a lot more optimism around this long road trip. Next, the Impact again travel to hostile ground—Houston Dynamo—to play on Saturday, March 9th.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @ejp_nb

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Walkin’ in a Rapids’ Wonderland

Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

MLS is back. Finally. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been watching soccer since the MLS season ended. However, I am very happy to have my home team back on the pitch. Down to ten men in the first half while playing in what was the coldest game in MLS history, the Colorado Rapids put on an incredible show for us.

When we last left, our local heroes were two places out of being labeled the worst in 2018, but only by a three point margin. There was a good deal of shuffling in the off-season that saw some old favorites head elsewhere, but saw some potentially new favorites move in.

Fast forward to Saturday. It was cold. Weather reports were saying that anywhere from four to eight inches of snow would fall by the time the game was over. The wind was rough, and it didn’t seem to matter that I had layered. The cold cut straight through me.

The Rapids set up a 4-4-2 diamond formation with two of our off-season acquisitions, Kei Kamara, and Diego Rubio, at the top. The Rapids took the lead in the fifteenth minute after Kamara put a beautiful pass by Kellyn Acosta into the back of the net. The game moved quickly and the Rapids showed marked improvement over last year’s performances.

However, what became most evident was that while the Rapids had improved over the off-season, the refs had not. The best example of this was the red card in the first half that saw Axel Sjöberg off the pitch and the Rapids down to ten men. I am among those that think the ref got this one wrong.

There was definitely a hand ball, I have no argument there, but to decide it was an intentional handball and send him off was incorrect. Sjöberg slipped and his hands were out when he went down. Does he get a card? Yes. According to IFAB, the International Football Association Board, handballs get carded.

At most, he should’ve gotten a yellow. The ref awarded a penalty kick that Tim Howard saved, but Diego Valeri equalized off of the rebound.

Colorado was forced to make a change here in order to accommodate for the missing body on the back line and they exchanged Rubio for Danny Wilson. The Portland Timbers got the go-ahead goal off of a Diego Valeri corner kick in stoppage time during the first half. While Sebastian Blanco got credit for the goal, it almost looks like the ball took a weird bounce off of the pitch and went in.

When they came back from half-time, the field was a mess. Leaf blowers and snow shovels were brought out to clear the lines. The snow was driving into our faces and it stung. The ball took weird hops and the players had to work to adjust to the different ball movement than what they were expecting. There were a couple times in the first half where I was reminded of when the NHL added colored streaks to the puck in their telecasts because of how the snow kicked up behind the ball and gave it a bit of a tail.

The Rapids had a hard time keeping the Timbers out of their end throughout the second half. The stats show that by all intents and purposes, Portland should have won this. Their pass accuracy was higher, they had more possession, and a greater amount of shots on goal. However, Colorado fought harder. There were more than a few times where I forgot that we were down to ten men because of how hard they were working.

Benny Feilhaber scored quickly in the second half to bring the score even, but just twenty minutes later – Deklan Wynne put in an own goal to put Portland back ahead. Colorado made their last substitution in the 76th minute and brought in 5th pick overall, Andre Shinyashiki for Acosta. This turned out to be a great decision because he scored the late equalizer that gave Rapids a point and continued their streak of not losing the home opener.

His positioning was perfect on that last goal and he was ready to take the rebound from Dillon Serna’s shot. Shinyashiki showed some great promise, but also showed his rookie side. (I found myself hollering “GET ONSIDE!” more than once at him.)

In all, the game left me excited for the upcoming season. Yes, it was only one game, but the Rapids did not give up and they showed a physicality that we did not see last season. Like I mentioned earlier, the stats available show that the Rapids should have lost this game. This is when a tie feels like a win though. 

The Rapids will face off against the Seattle Saunders on Saturday, March 9 at CenturyLink in Washington.

Image: John A. Babiak (@photog_johnb)

16’ – GOAL: Kei Kamara (Rapids 1 – 0 Timbers)

18’ – CARD: Diego Chara (Portland, Yellow)

27’ – CARD: Axel Sjöberg (Colorado, Red)

29’ – GOAL: Diego Valeri (Rapids 1 – 1 Timbers)

30’ – SUBSTITUTION: Danny Wilson in for Diego Rubio (1/3 for Colorado)

32’ – CARD: Julio Cascante (Portland, Yellow)

40’ – SUBSTITUTION: Jack Price in for Cole Bassett (2/3 for Colorado)

45’+1 – GOAL: Sebastian Blanco (Rapids 1 – 2 Timbers)

46’ – GOAL: Benny Feilhaber (Rapids 2 – 2 Timbers)

66’ – GOAL: Deklan Wynne, own goal (Rapids 2 – 3 Timbers)

77’ – SUBSTITUTION: Andre Shinyashiki in for Kellyn Acosta (3/3 for Colorado)

86’ – SUBSTITUTION: Andres Flores in for David Guzmán (1/3 for Portland)

87’ – SUBSTITUTION: Lucas Melano in for Jeremy Ebobisse (2/3 for Portland)

90’+4 – GOAL: Andre Shinyashiki (Rapids 3 – 3 Timbers)

Featured image: @official433

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Opening Stunner Can’t Stop Sounders

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

The newest team in MLS, FC Cincinnati, struck first with an opening cracker of a goal, but it was the Seattle Sounders who ended the night on top sailing to a 4-1 victory.

Prior to kickoff, the Sounders presented Sigi Schmid’s wife and family with the Golden Scarf, a Sounders honor given to a select few members of the soccer or Seattle community. The crowd raised their scarves to honor Schmid, a loss that the Sounders community felt deeply.

As kickoff opened on the Sounders 10th season and FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season, the Sounders pressured early. Raul Ruidiaz sent in a firing header in the 3rd minute, forcing an early save from goalkeeper, Tyton, that hit off the post. 

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

In the 13th minute, FC Cincinnati opened their MLS goal scoring account with an absolute stunner from Leonardo Bertone. However, their lead was short lived when Kelvin Leerdam found the equalizer in the 27th minute after connecting on a deflected cross from Nicolas Lodeiro.

The rest of the game was simply a showcase return for Jordan Morris. After waiting 500 days to start in an MLS match after recovering from ACL surgery, Morris slotted home two goals in 10 minutes. His first goal curled past the keeper in the 33rd minute, ending in a full-team pile up of celebration.

The stadium cheered to one of the loudest volumes in years, rejoicing for the joy of their hometown boy’s return to the score sheet and the field.

In the 43rd minute, Morris powered home a left-footed rocket assisted by Victor Rodriguez to give the Sounders a 3-1 lead. Raul Ruidiaz tallied his own goal in the 87th minute to close the game 4-1.

Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale
Image: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

Take Aways 

Sigi Started It All

Celebrating their 10th season in the league, players from the inaugural season returned to CenturyLink to be honored in the opening ceremony. They were also joined by Sigi Schmid’s widow, sons, daughter, father and grandchildren. It was a somber moment for Sounders fans to celebrate the team and man that started it all a decade ago. 

The Hometown Boy Is Back

Emotions were high from the start Saturday night, but peaked when Morris first put the ball in the back of the net. When every member of the team joined him in celebrating, their joy was echoed by every fan in the stadium.

While walking back to midfield, Nico grabbed Morris by the shoulders, pointed to him, looked up towards the crowd and cheered. In return, Morris broke away from the rest of his teammates and gave a fist raise and clap to the crowd.

Having an in-from Morris will greatly benefit the Sounders this season, who struggled to get started last season. But if his first game is any indication, Morris and the Sounders are storming into their 10th season.

Featured & all images: Jill Peck/mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

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A little magic keeps NYCFC to a 2-2 tie in Orlando

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, New York City Football Club kicked off its 2019 season facing off in Orlando against Orlando City Soccer Club.   Since NYCFC has no true striker on its roster, fans were wondering what kind of lineup and strategy would be employed.

The back line was as expected with Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens with Ben Sweat filling out the four-man back line on the left side instead of an injured Ronald Matarrita.  In midfield were Ring, Sands, Ofori. Fan favorite Lewis with Maxi Moralez, and new Designated Player Alexandru Mitrita (“Mitri”) served as forwards.

It didn’t look like a true 4-4-2 however.  In expected Coach Dome Torrent fashion, the formation seemed less than standard and more like a 4-1-3-1-1 much of the time.

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Orlando City jumped into the game with speed and aggression taking charge of most of the possession and offense for a good portion of the first half.  NYCFC seemed much more defensive and less eager than in past seasons, to maintain possession.

The most dangerous player on the field for most of the game was OCSC’s Christopher Mueller, who along with Johnson dominated both offensively and defensively.  GK Sean Johnson made one impressive save but strangely it appeared that Sacha Klejsten, who historically gave NYCFC trouble, seemed a bit rusty and wasn’t taking shots.  It could also be that the back line was adequately prepared for his predicted style of play and took away his chances.

In a moment of “Wait, what just happened?” Midfielder Ebenezer Ofori, at the 13th minute, took NYCFC’s first shot on goal in the 2019 season and put it into the back of the net.  At the 45th minute, the lead was solidified by a banger by Alex Ring assisted by Mitri.  Despite the relative lack of possession in the first half, New York City closed out the 45 with a 2-0 lead.

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Sadly, the lead was blown in the second half by Orlando City goals scored by Mueller and Tesho Akindele.  The first Orlando goal appeared that to be savable and Johnson may have judged the ball’s path incorrectly.   The second goal was executed pretty quickly after Orlando substitutes Nani and Dom Dwyer came onto the field.

The controversial piece of the game was a handball by Chanot on a shot that was ruled by VAR not to have been a handball. To all viewers who saw the replay in slow motion, it was clearly a handball but VAR is viewed by one camera angle and in real time.  NYCFC dodged a bullet on that call and were able to finish the game level at 2-2.

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Of note, were inclusions of James Sands and Jonathan Lewis in the starting XI.  Sands played well in his first start but Lewis’ work was below expectations, considering his recent success with the US Men’s National Team. He seems to be doing a better job of getting back to provide pressure in our defensive third of the field but was generally unsuccessful in adding his usual offensive spark.

I did like what I saw in Mitri’s style of play after the first twenty minutes when he was settling in.  He’s quick, sees space very well and dishes out precise passes.  He also placed his corner kicks almost perfectly.  Dome said that he is not yet fully fit so I am looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to opponents when 100% in game form.  My takeaway is that Orlando City was the better team and deserved the win so we were lucky to get away with a point.

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Next match is the home opener against D.C. United on Sunday, March 10th. D.C. just picked up a home win off reigning MLS Champion Atlanta United. D.C. looks strong and will be a formidable opponent for NYCFC.

Will NYCFC return to its strategic standard of maintaining possession and play a more attacking lineup with players like Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Ronald Matarrita, or will we see an overall change in team tactics to defense and counter-attacking?

All images:  NYCFC

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LAFC Opens 2019 With a Stunning 2-1 Comeback

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club kicked off their 2019 campaign in a thrilling 2-1 comeback over Sporting Kansas City at the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday.

After falling to SKC twice last year, LAFC found redemption Sunday night thanks to a pair of goals by Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande. Jordan Harvey who made the game-winning assist – celebrated his 300th MLS appearance. And Peter-Lee Vassell made his official club debut.

With an unchanged lineup following two Concacaf Champions League matches to advance to the quarterfinals – a vibrant atmosphere at the Banc did little to deter Kansas City from focusing on the task at hand. However, LAFC displayed a determination they lacked last season and held down the pressure on Sporting KC.

In the 16th minute, Krisztian Nemeth took the early lead for the visitors. Nemeth got the ball from outside the box and passed it to Johnny Russell, who returned it to his Hungarian teammate near the penalty spot. Nemeth then sent a low shot past Tyler Miller – scoring his third-straight goal in three consecutive matches.

Sporting would go on to press LAFC’s defense for a chance to double their lead involving a sequence of intricate exchanges between Gerso Fernandes and Johnny Russell; resulted in strikes from Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez that were all saved by Miller.

LAFC countered with a few passes from Rossi and Carlos Vela. A dramatic first half saw five Sporting KC players receive yellow cards.

Shortly after the restart, Rossi leveled the match. The Uruguayan slid past Graham Zusi and Fernandes to cut inside and curl a shot just inside the far post past Tim Melia.

Sporting again would receive two additional cards with one resulting in a straight red for Roger Espinoza – before sharing a few with LAFC.

Even when down to 10 men, Sporting KC would continue to exchange blows with LAFC. Neither team was willing to compromise and were resilient in the defense. However, a persistent LAFC took back control.

Just when it seemed both teams would settle on a 1-1 draw – Diomande strikes a goal deep into stoppage time giving LAFC their first win of the new season and defeating SKC for the first time.

Photo credit: Daisy Jimenez/mlsfemale

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A New Beginning: Columbus Crew

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew tied the New York Red Bulls in their home opener.  While the final score line was a 1-1 tie, to many in the crowd, it felt like a victory.  Because at this time last year, there was doubt as to if the Crew would have another home opener in Columbus.  

The former Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, had been trying to move the team to Austin.  But due to a strong Save the Crew grassroots movement, government officials, other city and state leaders, and a new ownership group, the Crew will remain in Columbus, and in two years, the team will be playing in a brand-new downtown stadium.  

As the team warmed up and Jonathan Mensah waved at my section, I teared up.  As the new ownership group, the Haslam and Edwards families, were introduced, I teared up.  When I heard them announce the Crew’s starting line-up, I teared up.  As the team took the field, I teared up.  When I looked around the stadium filled with around 17,900 excited fans, I teared up.  When the game ended, I teared up, but not because it was a tie.  But because my team was still here.  For this reason, it was an emotional game, and for this one moment, the results on the field didn’t really matter.

However, now that I can just worry about how my team is playing soccer and not if they are going to be torn away from Columbus, I can happily talk about the results of this game.  

Columbus’s head coach, Gregg Berhalter, left at the end of last season to coach the United States Men’s National Team.  The new ownership hired former Portland Timbers’ head coach Caleb Porter to lead the Crew in this new era.  Porter has a very solid set of players to build upon as the majority of the players from last year have remained with the Crew. 

There are currently only two changes in the Crew’s starting roster.  Stellar left back Milton Valenzuela is out with a knee injury for the season.  He will be replaced by Waylon Francis who returned to the Crew after a year with Seattle.  Also, Gaston Sauro looks to have locked down the starting center back job next to Jonathan Mensah. 

With a familiar starting line-up, the Crew were the first to concede a goal to a slightly different Red Bulls starting line-up as they are also currently playing in the CONCACAF Champions League. In the 6’, Andreas Ivan finished a ball that went over Harrison Afful’s head putting the Red Bulls up by 1. 

Then, near the end of the first half, the Crew equalized with a Gaston Sauro header set up by a Federico Higuain corner kick.  New York looked to grab the lead in the 76’, but it was flagged offsides resulting in a draw at the final whistle.  

Thoughts about the Game:

I didn’t focus much on the difference between Porter’s style of play versus Berhalter’s.  I did notice that both outside backs did not seem to push up into the offensive third as frequently as they seemed to last season.  Wil Trapp didn’t seem to drop back between the center backs as much as he has in seasons past.  The guys didn’t always seem to know where their teammates would be on the field, which is something I felt was apparent in Gregg’s system. 

However, it is early, and I’m sure some of this is preseason rust and some of this is adjusting to new coach’s strategy. 

I did feel that the Crew had a lot of dangerous moments.  Several players had shots that were close to going in. I am really going to keep an eye on Pedro Santos this season.  While not a Crew favorite, outside of the last play of the game, I felt he played a solid game.  Maybe under a new coach, he can find the confidence that seems to be alluding him.  

Now that everything is the way it should be, I look forward to games where the results matter to me because my team is where it is supposed to be.  Looking forward to 3 points when the Crew take on New England this upcoming Saturday. 

Featured image: Hilary

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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