David Bingham; Rolf Feltscher, Daniel Steres, Dave Romney, Ashley Cole (c); Romain Alessandrini, Sebastian Lletget, Jonathan dos Santos, Emmanuel Boateng; Ola Kamara, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Justin Vom Steeg, Sheanon Williams, Jorgen Skjelvik, Servando Carrasco, Perry Kitchen, Baggio Husidic, Ariel Lassiter.
The Los Angeles Galaxy only need to win their next match against the Houston Dynamo Sunday, October 28th to qualify for the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Galaxy won on the road against Minnesota United on October 21st.
The attention and focus have been on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of course. He’s made quite the impact and has really helped to get the Galaxy into a better position. Still, when looking at such a talented and highly paid team, the fact that it comes down to Decision Day reflects the uncertain state of the team.
Last season was very disappointing. Not only had they not qualified, but they were in last place. This season looked bleak and statistically wasn’t much better. Historically, the Galaxy are a team that set high standards for MLS.
Their winning reputation and the idea of StubHub as a fortress has been compromised. Currently, the Galaxy have a temporary coach, Dominic Kinnear. Now, as attributed to Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy’s playoff chances have significantly increased.
On Sunday’s game against the Loons, Ibrahimovic played on artificial turf, which was a feat in itself due to his previous knee condition. But, he played as promised because that’s how focused and important it is to qualify for the playoffs. He was responsible for getting the G’s up when he scored a header in the 30th minute. Then, he assisted Romain Alessandrini’s goal.
He also played a full 90 minutes! Not only was playing on turf a risk, but he was also one yellow card away from suspension. When he wasn’t the first sub and the minutes ticked by, it became clear he would stay on the pitch. It was concerning to see him take injury breaks.
Ola Kamara scored the second goal. But, they also gave up a goal to MNUFC Àngelo Rodriguez in the 53rd minute.
The Galaxy managed to pull off the win in front of 50,000 in attendance. The final score was 3-1.
By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx Sunday, October 21: Providence Park 3-0 Win
While the Portland Timbers beat Real Salt Lake 4-1 back on October 6th, thanks to a brace from Sebastián Blanco and scores from Jeremy Ebobisse and Lucas Melano (!), this game was far from a foregone conclusion. RSL had just come off a decisive 4-1 victory of their own against the New England Revolution, and that was while missing several of their key players.
And as Timbers fans know, we have had a history of big showdowns against RSL with some less than satisfactory results (see, for example, the US Open Cup Semifinal or the Western Conference Finals series in 2013). RSL has had ample opportunity to demonstrate their ability to come through in big moments against the Timbers in the past, and this past Sunday they had every motivation to do it again: a win for RSL would guarantee them a playoff spot.
Fortunately for Timbers supporters, though, Sunday was all Portland, as the Timbers kept a clean sheet through ninety minutes, scoring three of their own and securing their spot in the postseason. Match Recap
The Timbers started off strong, with captain Diego Valeri having a chance at a goal the first minute of the match. Larrys Mabiala opened the scoring, beating Marcelo Silva off a Valeri set play in the 15th minute:
Kyle Beckerman seemed to show his age (I’ll confess, my match recap notes say “JFC, Beckerman looks old, like almost Bob Dylan old but with a teeny, tiny rattail”), but he managed to get a foul called against Diego Chara early on as the two tangled. Chara had his revenge in the 68th minute, leaving Beckerman completely in the dust:
I just can’t stop watching this footrace between Chara and Beckerman. The angle doesn’t do Beckerman any favors, but still: Mercy me. #RCTIDpic.twitter.com/5xq9TWOgB2
3-0 was the score when the final whistle sounded, guaranteeing the Timbers a spot in the playoffs and ending Real Salt Lake’s season. Quick Takes
Who’s our starting striker? This is a question that gets a different answer depending on when you’re asking. At the beginning of the year, it was clearly the now-departed Fanendo Adi, who, since his loan to the club in May 2014, had scored 54 goals for the Timbers and was one of the best strikers in club history. Nevertheless, gradually his star power with the club seemed to have faded in favor of newcomer Samuel Armenteros, and by July Adi was traded to USL side FC Cincinnati for allocation money.
Fast forward to fall, and the position now seems to beJeremy Ebobisse’s to lose. In his last two starts, Ebobisse has had a goal and a couple of key assists, both in Blanco’s goal in the 73rd minute in Rio Tinto and in Chara’s goal on Sunday. For my money, Ebobisse is a smart player who plays well with our South American players, in particular frequently connecting and combining well with Valeri, Blanco, and Chara.
We first had the opportunity to see this potential in action against the Vancouver Whitecaps last year, when our decimated squad had so many injuries and call-ups that we brought up players signed to three day MLS contracts just to fill out the squad and we couldn’t even field a full 18. In his first MLS start for that match in July 2017, he notched a goal and an assist and worked extremely well with Valeri up front and in the middle. For my money, he’s earned the right to the spot.
Who’s in the starting lineup in Vancouver? It will be interesting to see who coach Gio Savarese decides to put in the XI on Sunday. On one hand, it is clear that the center back pairing of Liam Ridgewell and Mabiala has been the most effective this season. At the same time, Ridgewell has not been to nearly as many away games as he has home games this season, and it is possible to envision a scenario where Ridgewell is home, rested and ready for the play-in game which will take place sometime midweek.
There are few scenarios this weekend that have the Timbers finishing above 5th place, meaning that the play-in game is almost certainly going to be an away one; and given that the play-in is a one-game-only scenario (win or you’re done for the year), it is conceivable that the Timbers might rest some players in preparation for playoffs.
Does Armenteros get a run out this Sunday, saving Ebobisse for the postseason?
On the other hand, there is the possibility that the Timbers climb to fourth place in the standings. Let’s be honest, it is pretty unlikely. In addition to a Timbers victory, either Seattle Sounders would have to lose at home to the hapless San Jose Earthquakes or FC Dallas would have to drop their final game against the 11th place Colorado Rapids; but it is at least possible.
This might argue in favor of bringing out all of the starters, in hopes of the improbable fourth-place finish happening and the Timbers getting the chance to host that midweek play-in game. (Yes, technically there is the possibility of a third-place finish for the Timbers in the standings, but since it involves making up a ten point goal difference, among other things, let’s not bother with that scenario.)
Hey, how about that Steve Clark guy, huh? I know, folks were mercilessly, if good-naturedly, ribbing the Timbers’ recent acquisition, keeper Steve Clark online, because he was the guy on the wrong end of this historic play from the 2015 MLS Cup:
When he first joined, there were tons of posts online about “See if Dairon Asprilla will give up his jersey number 27″ or “Maybe we can get him to sign the 27-second ball in the fanladen, ha ha.” Well, Clark has embraced the team and the town, is genuinely happy to be here, works hard, and sometimes has saves like this:
While Jeff Attinella recovers from that separated shoulder, we have a more than capable backup on our hands who bailed us out more than once this match. Hats off, Steve. That was a world class save, point blank and somehow directed OVER the net and safely away. Glad you’re with us. Off the pitch
Supporters Player of the Year (SPOTY) With ten goals and eleven assists on the season, it should not come as a surprise that the runaway winner of the Timbers’ 2018 Supporters Player of the Year was Sebastian Blanco. While the fortunes of the team waxed and waned over the year, Blanco remained a constant positive force, having a key role in nearly 40% of all goals scored by the club this season.
Congratulations, Chucky. We’re lucky we have you. Please stay away from pots of boiling water during the postseason.
Team, Town, Timbers Army Thanks to a very generous donation from a Timbers Army and 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST) member, we were able to invite a total of sixty local youth and family members to attend the regular season home closer, some of them for the first time ever. Most of the youth soccer players were past recipients of the generosity of 107IST members. Some, like Portland Public’s own Roosevelt High School soccer team, received uniforms, thanks to member dollars and revenue from merchandise designed and created by supporters to raise funds for 107IST work:
Others received scholarships to play in local soccer, for everything from rec league to regionally competitive teams and affiliates of the Timbers and Thorns, thanks to the generous work of the 107IST charitable organization, the Gisele Currier Scholarship Fund (GCSF):
Diego plays for the Saints Soccer Academy in Portland. He wears number 8, just like his hero, @DiegoDv8. Generous donors to @107ist and the Gisele Currier Scholarship Fund have supported Saints Soccer players, allowing them to play rec soccer in PDX. #RCTIDpic.twitter.com/uv5gmkzEvQ
It felt great to have a home game after such a long break, but I certainly hope it isn’t our last one for the year. Let’s see where we stand after next weekend. Next stop: Vancouver away. See you there!
Fresh off an international break that saw both Andre Blake and Borek Dockal serving as captains for their respective national teams, the Philadelphia Union faced off against the New York Red Bulls for their home season finale.
The Union’s defense thwarted Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls’ offense, holding them scoreless until the 69th minute. A hand ball in the box by Alejandro Bedoya and a lengthy VAR review resulting in a penalty kick gave Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra all the opportunity he needed to get one goal up on the Union. Though the Union took more shots throughout the game, they weren’t able to turn any of their chances into a goal, and the match ended in a 1-0 win for the Red Bulls.
Homegrown hot shots Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty yet again proved themselves as valuable members of the Union’s defense. At only 19 and 20, Philly may not have much time left with these two, but it will be exciting to watch them grow in their careers.
The Union held up well against the No. 2 team in the league, leading both in shots and possession. Before the penalty kick, a 0-0 finish and 1 point felt like a real possibility.
Bedoya’s hand ball dashed the Union’s hopes for a draw, but an earlier tangle with Fafa Picault in the 40th minute cost them a chance at a goal when Bedoya inadvertently blocked Fafa’s shot.
It was a rough game all around, with both teams each netting 13 fouls. Three of the match’s five yellow cards went to the Union—CJ Sapong (37’), Auston Trusty (47’), and Picault (66’).
The tension on the pitch only increased when a scuffle broke out just as the first half ended. Luckily for all the players, the shoving didn’t result in any further penalties or cards, and the teams headed into the locker rooms to cool off.
After the match, Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin took some time out of their post-game remarks to take the Union front office to task for Sunday’s field conditions, with Medunjanin going so far as to say he’d prefer an away playoff berth unless the situation improves.
Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin slammed the Union business office's decision to host a series of high school soccer games at Talen Energy Stadium late in the MLS regular season, hurting the quality of the playing surface: pic.twitter.com/HUTo7HeKXp
Longtime Union fans know that this is a team that does better while playing consistently, and they tend to come back from a bye week or international break below peak form.
This Sunday, the Union face off with NYCFC in Yankee Stadium for their last chance to secure a home playoff game, and they’ll be doing it with DC United breathing down their necks. Let’s hope they can get back into their groove this week.
How did we get here? To the lowest of the low? The team that makes the worst look good?
From a club that won more than it lost, that entertained its fans no matter the scoreline; that was able to draw moral victories from nearly every loss; that brought the heart and soul of its lineup along to the big leagues. To a club that could only win at home; that saw its fans turn off their TVs and walk out of the stadium; that lost its temper in the ugliest way possible; that jettisoned its heart for some coupons and didn’t give its soul nearly as many opportunities as he deserved.
On September 29, I spent a chilly evening losing my voice in the Supporters Section of TCF Bank Stadium for the last time. Minnesota United FC still had two home games left to play after that night, but that match against NYCFC would be my last of the year to enjoy from the stands and was probably my last time seeing soccer at TCF. After a horrid road trip, United could have flopped that night. But the home turf magic took hold once again and the Loons soared to a 2-0 victory on goals from Angelo Rodriguez. And with stout defense fromBrent Kallman:
Singing Wonderwall with my friends was a great end to my year, but the season was far from over. United still had playoff hopes: a win on the road in Philadelphia could help them eek closer to that bold cutoff line.
They did not win. The Loons I watched on the 29th did not make an appearance in Philly on October 6. And I did something that I never imagined I would do during a MNUFC broadcast.
Twenty minutes into the match, I was still troubleshooting how to connect my tablet to the smart screen in our hotel room so my friend and I could enjoy it on the big screen. We were about to give up when Minnesota conceded a third(!) goal in the 23rd(!) minute. Rather than turn off the TV and watch on the tablet, we muted my livestream and watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares from 2007 and turned off the tablet altogether with ten minutes to play after Minnesota conceded a fifth goal.
We chose a 10-year-old reality show over a Loons game and any regrets about that decision evaporated upon opening the post-match press release:
The Loons’ playoff hopes evaporated along with my regrets. Surely, their return home would be better, especially given the opponent, a Colorado squad on a seven-game losing streak. Neither club with a chance at the postseason, both looking for a moral victory on which to coast through the final weeks of 2018.
Narrator: Nope. No moral victories were had on October 13. But the Loons continued their streak of making bad teams look good.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview MN Kicks defender Alan Merrick about the growth of soccer culture in Minnesota. We talked about the winning tradition of his NASL Kicks and all the signs of growth around Minnesota’s soccer communities:
“We have a great soccer culture. We perhaps need to make it so it’s a little bit more, uh, into a winning mode [laughs], but that takes some time to develop…”
There were plenty of lows in his playing days (the Kicks folded along with many other NASL clubs and attempts at revival were short-lived), but the highs are legendary. Many of the positives we’ve seen from MNUFC are reminiscent of those from the Kicks.
I would like to think that in forty years I will stand outside the offices of a growing Twin Cities-based soccer club with a recorder in hand as I question Miguel Ibarra about his legendary days of playing for MN United FC in the MLS. With any luck, this past Saturday’s bench-clearing melee in the waning minutes against the Rapids will be a distant memory, a fleck of embarrassment overshadowed by the success of the club’s much-touted ‘Three Year Plan,’ a well-developed winning tradition and a backbone of players who came up with the club and shared in its successes before moving on.
Until then, all we have is a bitter loss in which two goals were given up much too easily, so easily that the Dark Clouds became lethargic in their support, a handful even leaving the stadium long before the whistle. Those were the lucky few who didn’t have to witness their favorite player shove an opponent who made the poor decision to taunt the home fans with his goal celebration and the coach’s son to spring up from the bench to grab the throat of another celebrant.
Until this match, our club had had its share of embarrassing moments, but we could make light of most of them, such as this lovely moment that garnered international laughs.
Until we made the joke our own:
But even the NASL Loons’ production department would not be able to salvage the club’s dignity from this moment:
There was no honor in that fight. No moral victories can possibly come from that night.
This weekend, MNUFC will honor the legends with #50ktoMidway, livening up the final match in their adoptive home with an attempt to break an attendance record set forty years ago by the MN Kicks.
I can only hope that forty years from now, when I interview Ibarra, we will not be talking about a club that folded decades ago after failing to maintain a foothold in a league that talked bigger than it acted; a club that was being celebrated for one or two moral victories, but also held as an example of how not to run an expansion club.
Instead, I hope that we will talk about how the Loons honored those legends and 50,000 fans with an epic rendition of Wonderwall; the fight all but forgotten; the club’s clear strides to get better with each match, with each passing season; and the community honoring the key players who saw that struggle through to a title.
I would like to leave you with a response to that fight in the tradition of #BlameItOntheJelly, but I’ve already said that such a thing will never exist.
All I have to offer you is this cover of ‘Wonderwall.’
I have to admit that many of my past experiences watching and cheering for the United States Men’s National Team have left me feeling unfulfilled. Let down. Even sad. For me, the big draw to checking out this week’s friendly between the United States and Peru was the unique opportunity to see two New York City Football Club defendersface off. It was Ben Sweat for the US and Alexander Callens representing Peru in similar roles for their respective teams.
After watching the match multiple times, my biggest takeaway is that I am actually optimistic about the future of our men’s team. The game ended in a 1-1 draw and Peru had more possession, however, there were many moments of beautiful soccer involving some of our youngest players on the team.
The US did a great job of forcing turnovers in the middle third and immediately starting speedy counterattacks involving some combination of teenagers Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, and Jonathan Amon working tightly with Kellyn Acosta. Weah, Sargent, and Amon all have day jobs with European clubs alongside injured US teammate Christian Pulisic.
I may be overenthusiastic about this, perhaps because my expectations were pretty low, but there were true flashes of beauty from these players. Obviously, the more experience they get playing as a unit, the better the national team will become. Another player who stood out was Marky Delgado, who is still relatively young at 23.
Both Peru and the US seemed to do the majority of their attacking down the right flank, which meant that Ben Sweat and Alexander Callens were involved with most of the game. Sweat did a fine a job in left back while most likely battling some nerves. Notable to me was his speed in getting back to destroy plays but he seemed to choose the back pass a bit too often for my liking and made a few poor tackles which did little to decelerate some of Peru’s attacks.
Ben Sweat should get another look in that role to see if he can be more decisive in his tackles and capitalize more on his offensive capabilities as well. He did have one respectable shot on goal in this match. Callens played in a center-left back role and as expected, used his physical strength to outmuscle US attacks down the right side. It’s interesting to watch his play “from the other side” as it looks a bit less smooth with his national team and he can be a bit late with his tackles which lead to at least one foul.
One other takeaway for me that I am proud of: Peru was constantly playing to draw fouls, falling over with the slightest contact, banging the ground and writhing in pain. For most of the game, the US team players would immediately jump up if they hit the ground to keep an attack going or would fight to stay vertical in a duel. To me, it was a sharp contrast of styles and it’s the style that keeps the game moving and makes it more fun to watch.
I was not expecting to walk away from this game excited for the future of the US Men’s National Team and yet with all these talented young yet experienced players, I have hope.
The Los Angeles Football Club continued their historic run on Saturday when they booked their ticket for their first-ever Audi MLS Cup playoffs in a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City – becoming the fifth MLS expansion team to reach the playoffs in their inaugural season.
LAFC has grown substantially in the past eight months. Even going back to the start of the season, the black-and-gold never found itself below the playoff line. And now sitting on 53 points, they’re poised to surpassAtlanta United’s record of 56 points from last season. Including, being in the position to overtake 1998 Chicago Fire for the best regular season by an expansion team in MLS history – by breaking their current MLS record of 57 points.
Additionally, LAFC is the first team to have three double-digit goalscorers in its inaugural season – marking them as the 12th team in MLS history to have three scorers in any season.
Adama Diomande‘s back-to-back goals in Colorado brought the Norwegian striker’s goal count for the season to 11, making him the third member of LAFC’s squad to reach that milestone and add to the club’s ongoing history – Carlos Vela (11), Dio (11), and Diego Rossi (10).
LAFC has scored 61 goals, thus far, and are tied for second-most in MLS with the LA Galaxy, so it’s not surprising the black-and-gold has been producing outstanding results for their 2018 campaign. And that’s not even acknowledging the fact Dio joined the club this May; meanwhile, Vela missed around five matches while playing in the World Cup during the summer.
The black-and-gold will have the chance to move closer to break, yet, another record with three matches to spare. They could potentially break Atlanta’s record of 70 goals by an expansion team in its first year.
Tied with Sporting Kansas City for third place in a now tighter race for the Western Conference, LAFC will host the Houston Dynamo and the Vancouver Whitecaps, concluding the regular season on the road in Kansas City searching for an opportunity to host their first playoff match.
The black-and-gold will be put up to the test when they face the Houston Dynamothis Friday, October 12. The last time these two clubs met was in the Lamar Hunt’s U.S. Open Cup semifinals – when LAFC fell in a controversial upset.
Fortunately, the black-and-gold currently has an 8-1-6 record at home and will have their dedicated fanbase to cheer them on for the full 90 minutes.
Saturday’s match at StubHub Center kicked off at 7:00pm. The Los Angeles Galaxy played with confidence against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Within a few minutes, the score was 1-0. Zlatan Ibrahimovic took the penalty kick after Romain Alessandrini was taken down in the box on an unnecessary challenge. VAN keeperStefan Marinovic guessed the right direction, but Ibrahimovic still got the ball past him.
Zlatan definitely had his night with a brace and celebrating to the audience. The South side of the stadium was filled with Swedish supporters.
Interim coachDominic Kinnear should be given credit where and when it is due. His decisions to put Michael Ciani and Jorgen Skjelvik on the bench help. The formations of the players have been pretty basic. The Galaxy made fewer mistakes this match in particular and the players really seem to be connecting well. They’re able to hold the lead even after subs come on.
Still, it’s too soon to say if he’s the sole reason the G’s have been playing better. The away games will give a clearer outlook as the team guns for the playoffs.
Saturday, October 6: 1-1 Draw
I stopped by the viewing party and was able to catch the game before the LA Galaxy II faced Sacramento Republic FC. I had the pleasure of being the guide to Los Angeles for fellow MLSFemale reporter and photographer, Tisha Gale. She actually was friends with one of the visiting players, Shannon Gomez, whose team ended up defeating mine 2-1.
It was really wonderful to spend the day with a fellow soccer fan. She supported me through the roller coaster that was the LA Galaxy vs Sporting Kansas City. I really feel I’ve made a life-long friend in this sisterhood of soccer.
The Galaxy’s lineup had to be altered per Rolf Feltscher’s yellow card accumulation suspension. Sheanon Williams took that spot.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a penalty kick in the 25th minute.
The game got heated and players on both sides got physical. The Galaxy held on despite the tough environment of pouring rain and being the away team. But, in the 83rd minute, SKC’s Johnny Russell leveled it.
The Galaxy had plenty of chances, especially with 6 minutes of stoppage time. It seemed the subs caused the defense to weaken, which can happen. But, this has been the narrative for the Galaxy.
The Man of the Match performance came from David Bingham, who made at least 8 saves to keep the Galaxy from losing.
LAG haven’t won since 2007 in Missouri, so a draw doesn’t seem so bad. Except, tying this game means the Galaxy now rely on other teams in the west to help them make the playoffs. They’re only one point behind Real Salt Lake for the last seed to qualify.
The Galaxy had a clean sheet and won their two previous matches. They definitely look like a better, more confident team at home. This match was an indicator to see how well this team is really jelling. It’s just too bad it seems to be too little too late. There were two points from this match left on the table for sure.
The Galaxy’s last road match of the regular season is Sunday, October 21 as they face Minnesota United FC. Kickoff is set for 2pm.
The Loons should be a beatable team for Los Angeles, but they drew in their last meeting. Minnesota were able to defeat strong teams, NYCFC and Portland Timbers at home. The Galaxy have their work cut out for them. Their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.
But, there’s still hope.
Featured image: Romain Alessandrini Official Instagram
The city of Montréal was rather bereft of hope following the Impact’s humiliating road defeat to hotly pursuing DC United. As the week leading up to the match versus Columbus Crew wore on, and Ignacio Piatti remained absent from training, fans grew increasingly morose at the thought of facing another powerful conference rival without their most crucial player.
As the previous match had been a “must win” for the Impact, and they had quite spectacularly bottled it, it became all the more important to take 3 points from the Crew.
Lo and behold, despite serious injury concerns, Piatti donned the captain’s armband and started the match. However, a sharp increase in his passing rate indicated that he was not at 100% fitness.
Given the massacre the Bleu-Blanc-Noir suffered in their previous match, it was impossible to say if they were going to use that result as fuel to perform, or if the players were still licking their wounds. As Columbus called Evan Bush into action a few times early in the match, optimism was hard to come by.
However, as the Impact began to find their bearings in the game, Alejandro Silva’s cross was deflected off a Crew defender’s arm. Referee Alan Kelly elected to consult VAR and awarded a penalty to the Impact. De facto penalty striker Piatti handed the ball off to Saphir Taïder and the Algerian scored his seventh goal of the season.
Momentum then swung in favour of the Impact, as in the last moments of the first half, Silva channeled his inner Piatti and made light of the 5 defenders surrounding him to finish a brilliant individual effort with his fifth goal of the season.
Columbus undoubtedly saw more of the ball in the second half of the game, and they penetrated Montréal’s defense more than coach Rémi Garde probably liked. However, Bush came up massive every time and equalled a personal record to claim his 9th clean sheet with 9 saves, several of which required great reflexes from the keeper.
To put a cherry on the sundae, Piatti’s dedication to the team despite his injury was rewarded when he scored off a classic counter-attack in the 59th minute to seal the scoreline at 3-0.
For the Impact, a convincing win at home against a very well-coached team of great quality was the perfect response to their humiliation in DC. However, DC United remain a mere 2 points behind the Impact with 2 games in hand, meaning the Impact have to hope that DC drop points in their remaining matches while performing flawlessly themselves.
Their next test will undoubtedly be a difficult one – recently eliminated rivals Toronto FC will be in town on October 21st, and they’ll certainly be keen to spoil Montréal’s playoff hopes.
How much of a bummer would it have been for me to have to report on a loss on my first article back from my hiatus? Thanks to the boys in white, I don’t have to worry about such things.
LONG TIME COMING: I don’t usually know factoids like this… The New York Red Bulls have not won an away game against the San Jose Earthquakes during the regular season since it was the Metrostars playing the Clash (2003). That’s a mighty long time. They did defeat the Earthquakes in a playoff match in 2010. That and two dollars gets them a ride on the subway. The Colorado Rapids won the Cup that year. But I digress.
It could have been a loss. Despite the strongest roster in recent history. Regardless of the resounding win against Atlanta the week before. MLS does… well… MLS things. A cross-country trek. An international break looming. Two usual starters not even along for the trip (Tyler Adams and Daniel Royer). So there was no foregone conclusion for the evening.
‘SICK’ IS A COMPLIMENT: RBNY used their signature High Press tactic to keep the possession and the threat close to the San Jose goal. Quakes goalkeeper James Marcinkowski, a 21-year-old Academy product, held up for the most part. But then Red Bull workhorse midfielder Alex Muyl recovered Marcinkowski’s deflection of Michael Amir Murillo’s shot and quite literally rode it into the net.
I want you to note that striker Bradley Wright-Phillips was quite close to the action. He could have gotten a foot on there as well. But he didn’t have to, and he knew it. Besides, his time was coming. About 200 seconds later.
Marc Rzatkowski took a free kick that Wright-Phillips got his head on. But it bounced off the far post. But it went right back to Wright-Phillips.
SO. HE. ASSISTED. HIMSELF.
If that isn’t the stuff of legend, I don’t know what to tell you.
THIRD TIME WAS A CHARM: It just kept getting better. Starting with a corner kick (courtesy of RZA), dynamic defender duo Tim Parker and Aaron Long joined forces to land the ball in the net a third time.
(If you didn’t see the play… you have to see the play. Seriously. On a loop.)
ON TO THE NEXT: I could talk about Chris Wondolowski’s goal (83′), but quite frankly I’d rather mention how he missed an open net a few minutes before and made me giggle uncontrollably. But that’s neither here nor there… let the Quakes get their own reporter.
It’s time for an international break. Six players are headed to national team call ups: Derrick Etienne Jr, Haiti; Kemar Lawrence, Jamaica; Amir Murillo and Fidel Escobar, Panama; Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra, Paraguay; and Aaron Long, United States.
Then comes one more away match against the Philadelphia Union and the final home match of the regular season against Orlando City. The Red Bulls have already secured a spot and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
After a disappointing US Open Cup loss followed by a scoreless road draw, the Philadelphia soccer community was tense, wondering if the Philadelphia Union had what it took to win a game with stakes on the line. In his post-game remarks, Union head coach Jim Curtin admitted that he too was nervous going into the match against Minnesota United FC.
If the players were nervous as they returned to their home turf on Saturday night, they never showed it. The team that ran onto the pitch was a team ready to prove that the pair of surprising wins leading into the US Open Cup was not a fluke but the status quo for a team that has visibly clicked in the latter half of this season.
The Union dominated the first half of the match, scoring early and often. Center forward Cory Burke shot from outside the box to score the first point in the 8th minute with an assist from the Union’s #10, Borek Dockal.
In the 17th minute, a strong cross from defender Keegan Rosenberry followed by a left-footed shot from Union captain Alejandro Bedoya took the Union up 2-0 over Minnesota. The fans barely had a chance to settle back into their seats when Fafa Picault slipped through two MNUFC defenders with a through ball from Rosenberry and scored the third goal of the evening in the 23rd minute.
The Union kept shooting as they sought a fourth goal, trading possession with MNUFC and making six more attempts—four missed and two saved. Union goalkeeper Andre Blake felt pressure from Minnesota as he made two big saves in as many minutes before sending the ball down the field.
In the 44th minute, Fafa, looking cool and collected, lobbed a shot from the left side of the box. The ball went over Minnesota’s back line to score the fourth goal—his second—and leave MNUFC goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth looking utterly demoralized at the end of the half.
MNUFC used the break to regroup and came out for the second half looking dangerous as they caught the Union off guard in the 54th minute when MNUFC’s Darwin Quintero put one past Blake to end the shutout.
Just when it felt like the Union’s earlier cohesion might be slipping, midfielder Ilsinho came on for Dockal as the Union’s first substitution. This well-timed change lead to multiple close chances in a row and reinvigorated the players and the supporters in the River End after the conceded goal, several fouls and a yellow card for Bedoya.
The Union demonstrated a level of confidence, comfort and footwork that remained steady for the rest of the game, even as Fafa and MNUFC’s Alexi Gomez both picked up yellow cards in the 72nd minute. Blake held MNUFC to one point with several great saves.
Ilsinho scored the Union’s fifth goal with an absolute rocket from 30 yards out in the 79th minute, and it was all over. At full time, the score sat at 5-1 Union, and the boys in blue clinched a playoff spot in commanding fashion.
As Fafa said after the game, the team proved that “we don’t suck.” Sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with two games remaining in their most successful regular season in franchise history, the Union are better positioned than ever for this third run at the postseason. Enjoy the international break, Union—you’ve earned it.