Maxi Moralez’s huge presence on NYCFC

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In the last few days more media attention has been brought to New York City Football Club’s Designated Player, midfielder Maxi Moralez.  

His stats speak for themselves, (he currently leads the league with 13 assists and additionally has made 6 goals), but to those who have been following his career in New York, the numbers barely scratch the surface of the artful and creative style which is Maxi’s signature.  Maxi seems to be everywhere you need him while maintaining an overall vision of his teammates’ positioning.  It is a treat to watch him week in and week out.  

Last year NYCFC fans staged a virtual internet sit-in surrounding the MLS All-Star game by organizing the voting in of almost the entire Atlanta United team and refusing to vote in any of their own.  The general sentiment was that NYCFC was doing well (ironically right after this, the season started tanking) and that our players should not be wasting their time playing in a useless game where they risked potential injury on the artificial turf. 

With Atlanta as the run away front runner, other teams’ (ahem, NYCFC) fans were attempting to find any way to slow them down.  ‘Let them play in a game that doesn’t count! They think they are so great!  Maybe they’ll get hurt!’  

This season, perhaps because there is much yet to be decided in the Eastern Conference, New York City fans were less salty and overall more supportive of Maxi Moralez’s representation of the team in the MLS All-Star game. Maxi was about to head off to Orlando when he tweaked his calf in the game versus Sporting Kansas City.  The injury is apparently minor, but in order to protect him Coach Dome Torrent will be resting Maxi on Saturday in the away match versus Real Salt Lake.  

Let’s be clear:  Maxi deserves both to be recognized as an MLS All-Star and get some rest.  In general, Maxi’s roles in relation to the rest of this team reminds me of the role many mothers play within their family units. 

Both Maxi and most mothers are constantly running in 17 different directions, while keeping long term goals in their sights.  Both Maxi and many moms are their team/family’s  “emergency phone calls”, are constantly aware of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and when there’s an opportunity for a family member to learn on their own.  They know how to motivate others and experience joy at their teammate’s successes.

They don’t ask for their own spotlight and play hurt.  Both never stop moving until they drop and set others up for glory.  They know when others need to be scolded and when to protect them.  They know when to stay calm and when it’s time to raise hell.  All of these qualities are regularly demonstrated by Maxi Moralez, and NYCFC would be a far less cohesive unit and a far less successful team without him.  

As reported by MLS.com, Moralez stated in a pre-All Star Game player Q&A, that he would like to possibly end his career where he began, in Argentina.  There is a very strong chance that Maxi, a married 32 year old father with young children of his own, in his final year of his DP contract, is playing his last few months with the club.  He deserves to end his career on his own terms, but as a fan of the team I wonder what this will mean for its future. 

We will get a small taste of how the club plays without its ‘mom’ on Saturday against Real Salt Lake.  Like a grown child moving out of the house to pursue a job or education, they’d better get used to it.  

All Images:  NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Player Spotlight: Walker Zimmerman from club and country to MLS All-Stars

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

It’s that time of the year when the best players of Major League Soccer join together to face a European foe in the MLS All-Star showdown. The Los Angeles Football Club had four players selected to represent the club and among them is first-timer, Walker Zimmerman.

The Georgia native, a seven-year MLS veteran, has played for both club and country – but receiving his first MLS All-Star call up is a goal he can proudly cross off the list.

“It’s something that entering the league would be a goal of mine – to make sure to put myself in that conversation. And to finally get selected for my first [MLS All-Star game]; I’m excited […] and appreciative of all my teammates along the way who have helped me develop the skills back in Dallas [and] LAFC.”

The 26-year-old defender first learned the news of his selection while on the road with the United States National Men’s Team during the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Zimmerman was a major building block for LAFC’s backline in 2018 as LAFC set a single-season MLS points record for an expansion club. And continues to be a threat in set-piece attacking situations this year – tallying a total of 5 goals and 43 appearances, thus far. Including, reaching a new milestone on May 19 – recording 10,000 minutes in MLS.

Next milestone has got be an MLS Cup for me. I think that’s the one that I really want. And it completes the Supporters Shield, the [Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup], and then MLS Cup is what I really need.”

Before joining the record-breaking club, Walker spent five seasons with FC Dallas before being traded to LAFC on December 10, 2017. The defender re-signed to a four-year deal using allocation money this January.

When he’s not saving balls off the line for LAFC or the USMNT, he’s hosting interviews with teammates, fans, and other guests on his podcast, “The Locker Room.” And is looking forward to doing a collaboration with the “Back-To-Back” podcast – hosted by his fellow teammates, Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey.

“Being interested in communications and wanting to get something out there, to get some experience – I decided to get my toes wet a little bit. And it’s been good, very enlightening, very challenging, [and] I’ve had some great guests on the show,” He continued. “It’s been good for me to […] understand what it’s like on the other side of the microphone to bring out conversations, stories, [and] bring out things that are going to inspire other people.”

Perhaps shortly, we will get an All-Star filled episode with Walker sharing stories from his week in Florida.

Until then, Zimmerman will join fellow teammates: Carlos Vela, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Diego Rossi in Orlando, Florida this Wednesday as the MLS-All Stars face Atlético Madrid.

Featured Image: @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Personal Reasons

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
Official USWNT Reporter

By Abigail Gerken @abigailgerken22

June 2017, The USWNT is preparing for games against Norway and Sweden. These matches are important, as they are set to play two prominent teams. They are also celebrating LGBTQ pride month by wearing jerseys with the pride flag inspired, rainbow numbers.

The USWNT has members of the team who are openly a part of the LGBTQ community like captain Megan Rapinoe and coach Jill Ellis. Additionally, multiple players also use their platform to speak about political issues (as was apparent this summer with Megan Rapinoe).

Jaelene Hinkle, who plays left-back for the North Carolina Courage, was invited to play in these games. However, she declined the invitation to participate. When asked by the media her reason behind declining to represent her country, Hinkle simply stated ‘personal reasons’.

Later on, Hinkle started opening up about her faith and her decision to decline the invite. “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” Hinkle, told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) “The 700 Club” in a June 2018 interview. “I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what [God] was asking me to do in this situation.”

This did not sit over well with many women’s soccer fans. The women’s soccer fanbase is infamously an accepting and inviting community, especially for the LGBTQ community. There are multiple open couples on NWSL teams, such as Kristie Mewis (Sam Mewis’s older sister) and Rachel Daly (England NT) for the Houston Dash, and two-time World Cup champions Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger for the Orlando Pride.

After Hinkle did not attend the World Cup with her former teammates, writer Obianuju Ekeocha tweeted a clip of Hinkle’s 2018 CBN interview, and implied that the USWNT is not a welcoming place for Christians.

Immediately, the women’s soccer community fired back, claiming that it was false and that there are multiple outspoken Christians on the team such as stars Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz. 

In a July 15th tweet, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, 33, wrote:

I asked women’s soccer fan @janecampbell for a statement about Hinkle’s comments and how it impacts the fan culture of the NWSL: 

“…Her blind intolerance of the LBGTQ community is just so outdated in a league that is relatively progressive that it’s almost kind of funny. A lot of fans I know are members of the LGBTQ community, some are Christian, and some are both, so her intolerance is just rooted in hate, not religion, as she claims. Which brings me to a concern of mine, is that she doesn’t realize the gravity of her words. She has a decent amount of fame, so her words reach people and as peacefully as she tries to act when she speaks intolerance of the LGBTQ community, her words are dangerous…” 

Many NWSL fans decided to rally together and show their support for the LGBTQ community and their distaste for Hinkle’s comments through the power of two-poles. The idea started with a fan who decided to make a two-pole containing the phrase “personal reasons” in the pride flag colors, with the background showing the color of their local club. On Twitter, this movement spread to other clubs. In this Chicago Red Stars supporter group tweet, you see that there are also two-poles based in Portland, Orlando, and Chicago. 

The intent of this movement to show their solidarity with the LGBTQ community and to make it so Hinkle has to play in a stadium with the two-poles every game, reminding her of the impact she has on the culture of the NWSL. 

Hinkle stays true to her word and rooted in her faith. The pinned tweet on her Twitter account includes the quote “ If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection”. 

Featured image: @ChicagoLocal134

Follow and chat with me here: @abigailgerken22

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New York Red Bulls: Walk Me Home

MLSFemale Social Media Manager
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, July 21: 0-1 Win

Saturday, July 27th: 2-3 Loss

The great thing about writing articles like this is that I don’t have to be “alone with all that’s on my mind.” While there are a few things to unpack, at least I know that there are some folks out there who want to see what I have to say. Pardon the personal update: I just got back from my family vacation, and am about to embark on a new role with MLSFemale– Social Media Manager. My life is kind of in flux, but apparently that is my comfort zone.

Back to a better time

I didn’t really watch the game against Orlando with a reporter’s eye. Brian White had the lone goal of the game. But I do remember being nervous for much the game. While I’m not entirely down with all the lingo that pertains to soccer, I do know what it means to ‘park the bus.’ That’s what I saw in the second half of the game. I can’t really blame the Red Bulls– they were up by a goal, it was hot and humid, and the attack wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Get the three points and return to Harrison.

So what do you say we leave this place?

Easier said that done, apparently. It took the team an entire day to get home. The thunderstorms here in Jersey were messing with flights. Takeoff was delayed multiple times, and food vouchers were provided as a consolation. I know all this because RBNY defender Tim Parker documented the team’s travel issues in a series of tweets that are nothing short of Homerian.

Followers of international soccer know that some of the biggest clubs have a team plane the way a band has a bus or RV. But Major League Soccer insists teams travel commercial, and indeed only allow a certain number of chartered private flights per team per year.

This rule prevents some teams from spending way more money on travel than another. I get that. And since the team didn’t have a game for nearly a whole week, it wasn’t too bad. But speaking as someone who was away from home for two weeks, I absolutely understand the desire to be home.

There’s something in the way I wanna cry

I’ve said it before: the “Defend Our Fortress” thing doesn’t do it for me. Sure, Brian White struck first, and it was lovely. But before the South Ward could get out their first “WOO!” to celebrate, Luis Argudo netted a goal for Columbus.

The remainder of the first half was sloppy from RBNY. That’s not usually a concern; I could use a dollar for every time I discussed a “tale of two halves” when talking about the Red Bulls this season. So, they could regroup in the locker room at the half and come out swinging.

So much wrong going on

Midfielder Pedro Santos scored almost immediately at the start of the second half. The sloppiness continued from the Red Bulls. It took VAR for referee Fotis Bazakos to award a penalty to Daniel Royer for getting pulled as he tried to redirect a free kick. Royer tied the game again with his converted penalty kick. Salvaging a point by then seemed to be the best fans could expect.

Pedro Santos had other plans. He settled a ball goalkeeper Luis Robles had punched away and nailed it into the far side of the net in the 84th minute. The team by then was too frustrated and too far stretched to bring anything back. The Red Bulls saw their fourth home loss this season. So much for the fortress.

That makes me think we’ll make it out alive

Despite this ridiculousness, the Red Bulls are still fifth in the Eastern Conference. With the playoff line under the seventh team in each conference, it’s not so dire of straits.

But it doesn’t feel great. Not at the final whistle, or at the press conference, or in the locker room.

Toronto FC travel to Harrison Saturday, August 3rd. The last result between them was also not great, a 3-1 loss for the Red Bulls. Revenge would be ideal. So come on and show me how we’re good.

Featured image:  @BillTNJ

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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LA Galaxy Rivalry Round-Up and Aftermath

Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Friday, July 19: 3-2 win

Saturday, July 27: 4-0 loss

Rivalry week started rough and made LA Galaxy fans nervous to face Los Angeles Football Club after losing to San Jose Earthquakes at home on June 29th. But, that game was soon to be forgotten.

On July 19, LA Galaxy were down early after LAFC’s Carlos Vela scored a penalty. Then Blue, White, and Gold roared to life with a Zlatan hat trick. The team played with the passion and urgency that fans had called for. The energy at the stadium was loud and intense.  LA Galaxy ended up winning 3-2.

Critics say LA Galaxy shouldn’t rely on a single player, namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but that day all of the Galaxy players worked well together to feed the ball to Zlatan and create chances. Even the defense held it together despite Vela scoring a late goal (that should have been called offside and gone to VAR).

The game against LAFC proves that Zlatan works well when the team plays well together.

The same line-up from El Tráfico was used against Portland Timbers, but this time Perry Kitchen and Sebastian Lletget were back from injuries. Efrain Alvarez was also available on the bench. 

Lineups:

LA Galaxy: David Bingham; Diego Polenta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Daniel Steres, Rolf Feltscher; Uriel Antuna (Emmanuel Boateng 80’), Julian Araujo (Sebastian Lletget 56’), Jonathan dos Santos, Joe Corona, Favio Alvarez (Efrain Alvarez 69’); Zlatan Ibrahimovic ©.

Substitutions not used: Matt Lampson, Dave Romney, Perry Kitchen, Jorgen Skjelvik.

The Timbers punished the Galaxy for problems that have plagued them for most of this season (and the past two seasons if we’re being completely honest).

After defeating LAFC, fans hoped the Galaxy had made a turning point, but the match at Providence Park, this late in the season, brought to reality fans’ concerns. If Galaxy’s inconsistent play and dropping points continues this team won’t make the playoffs again this year. 

Fans are looking to head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto for answers and are holding him accountable. But, not much responsibility has really been taken and there aren’t any solid solutions in sight. 

Rumors that Cristian Pavón would join during transfer week and save the Galaxy have been dispelled. One man cannot and should not carry the team. We see that when they rely too much on Zlatan. The tactic of feeding the lion only worked against LAFC because the entire team came out with a fighting heart and spirit. 

But, again, they’re inconsistent. There are times when it looks like the defense doesn’t want to play. An attacking midfield would be highly essential to Galaxy living up to their potential and success. Jonathan Dos Santos did not play well on Saturday, but he is the strongest in the midfield. Though understandably frustrated, it’s no excuse and not a good look when the captain and co-captain don’t stay to talk to the media.  It begs the question: Who is leading this team?

David Bingham came up with major saves once again and kept the Galaxy in the game most of the time. But, he’s one man and has his limits, often getting scored on by rebounds. That night in Rose City, it was the defense and midfield that could be blamed for the loss.

This game against Portland saw the Galaxy losing possession and being taken advantage of on counter attacks. 

Turf is no excuse. The next matches are in Atlanta and Seattle, both of which are turf stadiums. The Galaxy will have to adjust. 

Lack of bench depth and players not being on their A-game also contributed to the Gs’ struggle.  Lletget hasn’t had a good game in a while, so why wasn’t Perry Kitchen the sub of choice? 

The Galaxy were outplayed, which wasn’t the case against San Jose, per se. It was a physical match that seemed to become a competition for which side could get more yellow cards. 

Ibrahimovic, Diego Polenta, and Efrain Alvarez will all be suspended for the next match – Polenta and E. Alvarez due to being issued red cards, Ibrahimovic due to yellow card accumulation.

LA Galaxy sit in third place in the western conference.  They have their moments when they play as well on the pitch as they look on paper. It doesn’t matter how capable the team is if they don’t deliver though. 

They’re on the road to face Atlanta United on August 3 and then D.C. United on August 11th. Their next home match is August 14 against FC Dallas. 

With this season already runs a tight schedule, the Galaxy lost in their second round of Open Cup to Portland, but managed to move on to semi finals in the Leagues Cup and are the only MLS team still in. They’re set to face Cruz Azul on August 20th at Dignity Health Sports Park.  Then 5 days later, they have to be ready to face LAFC again.

Featured image: LA Galaxy Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @mchuitink

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Stats Don’t Earn Points – Dynamo Fall to Seattle At Home

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

HOUvSEA: 0-1

The Houston Dynamo returned home last week hot off a road win in Toronto. There was no time to rest, however, as they went up against LigaMX powerhouse Club America on Wednesday.

While the Dynamo had an amazing showing, they narrowly lost after tying in regular time and going to penalty kicks. In MLS standings, they were sitting just below the playoff line and needed three points to keep from falling any farther out of playoff contention. With a solid record at home, Houston being in their fortress on Saturday should have been a recipe to a win. 

The pot began to spoil before the match even started, with the MLS Disciplinary Committee dealing out some late decisions on Friday night. Playmaker Alberth Elis had already served a single match suspension in the last league match after being carded for contact with the referee on July 17. DisCo decided to extend his suspension to include Saturday’s game about 24 hours ahead of the match. 

No one can be sure what Wilmer Cabrera had planned for Elis’s role in the match against the Sounders, especially since Elis started in Wednesday night’s Leagues Cup Quarterfinal. But if Elis was a part of a starting plan or even a contingency plan for Saturday night, the shakeup of removing him from the roster may have been a blow to Cabrera’s plan. 

Regardless of the effect of last minute changes, the Dynamo came out on Saturday night ready to play. Houston ran the match in the first half and had stellar stats at the end of the first forty-five. 

Despite the impressive offensive statistics, the Dynamo finished the second half missing the key one – goals scored.

The Sounders came back in the second half with a renewed sense of purpose and a much better showing. Unfortunately, the second half also brought a lot more chippy play and the referee seemed to be flipping coins to determine what to call and for whom. 

For Houston, when calls don’t go their way and opposing teams start getting physical, they start getting frustrated. The frustration gets into the player’s heads and silly mistakes start. Our midfield, which had been solid in the first half started to falter. The increased pressure on the defense led to a Sounders goal in the 59th minute. The dust up in the box ahead of the goal was sloppy on all ends, and there was at least one foul, but the ref kept quiet and Seattle was up 1-0 at the hour mark. 

The Dynamo continued to try to rally through the last half hour but their inability to get a quality shot past the Sounders revitalized defense held, and Houston lost at home for the second time in MLS play this season. 

Houston does have a bright spot ahead of them this week. Between the US Open Cup, Leagues Cup, and a stacked MLS schedule, the Dynamo have not had a full week off without travel yet this season. They have six full days in Houston to figure out how to make the necessary changes as they try again for three points at home next Saturday against the Chicago Fire.    

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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Papa Piatti Comes Home And Lets the Kids Out to Play

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, July 27: 4-0 win

After a truly pitiful July, a month marred by poor performances, disgraceful departures and off-pitch antics, the Montréal Impact marked the summer transfer window with a whopping one signing — a twenty-year old loanee from Bologna, Finnish international Lassi Lappalainen. Many said, “Who?”, with reason. But almost as good as a signature, the Impact’s heart and soul, captain Ignacio Piatti returned from a long absence, having participated in only two matches since the month of March.

After starting and scoring the winning penalty in a less-than-inspiring 1-0 victory over CPL side York 9 in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday, the longtime left winger found himself starting his first MLS match since May. However, Piatti did so in the position of second striker while Lappalainen made his début two days after signing with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir.

The young Finn didn’t need very long to make fans remember his name. In the 4th minute, Zachary Brault-Guillard served a delicious pass as Lappalainen cut behind the defense, erasing goalkeeper Andre Blake with a touch before coolly rolling the ball into the back of the net.

Some will see it as lucky that the Impact did not concede an equalizer in the 20 minutes that followed their opening goal. However, that magical feeling that comes with Piatti on the pitch was in the air. Not only had the attack found a spark, everyone stepped their game up, including Evan Bush, who made a series of crucial saves that had been lacking from his form of late. Brault-Guillard was making the most of his match filling in for suspended Bacary Sagna, and Zakaria Diallo returned to the lineup with the flashy interceptions fans had been treated to early in the season.

Not to be outdone, the Impact’s other Bologna loanee, Orji Okwonkwo, made his way to the scoring sheet as he bombed up the right side of the field and was fed a pass by Piatti, which he emphatically struck into the roof of the net. The Impact hadn’t held a two-goal lead at half-time since the third match of the season (one of the few matches Piatti had started).

Most fans hadn’t made it back from half-time when the North Star Bell rung for a third time 12 seconds after the start of the second half. Piatti forced a turnover from the Union’s kickoff, Lappalainen seized the ball and the player who had compared himself to a Fiat revved his engine Ferrari-style to notch his brace.

As I said though, Orji was able to match his teammate, scoring his own brace thanks to an overhead clearance/assist from Maxi Urruti, allowing the Nigerian to turn on his afterburners for half the length of the pitch and finish behind Blake’s far post.

This win felt more like a cleansing than anything. The elements that had been cruelly lacking in recent matches were all present in this match — a spectacle, a whole-team effort, and a clean sheet. This win felt like vintage Impact with spectacular counterattacking goals. Is it risky to bet that Piatti’s return will be enough to return the Impact to playoff contender status? Absolutely. Am I more than excited to find out? Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Next up: A road trip to the mountains! The Impact will take on Colorado Rapids next Saturday, August 3rd.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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MN United Draw: A Team With Nothing To Lose

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

After a full week’s hiatus from match play, Minnesota United FC returned to Allianz Field to face the wind-whipped Vancouver Whitecaps. Fourth in the West hosting last in the West midway through the season… Who expected six months ago that the host of such a match would be Minnesota?

Coming off a stale performance in Salt Lake and at least one training session that had Adrian Heath threatening bench time for players not giving their all, the Loons put in an inspired first half shift.

Dominating in both possession and shots (a rarer combo that one would think), Minnesota gave the home crowd (coming off an eternal 10 days’ rest themselves) plenty to cheer about, even if none of the shots tallied were on goal. Shockingly, the Wonderwall did not launch into ‘Score, d**nit!’ as it normally does in such matches. On this night, it would have been understandable given another statistic, that of Heath’s favorite method of attack: the cross.

Copy/paste: The Law of Averages

In the first half alone, Minnesota tallied 16 crosses in the run-of-play. Had that tactic resulted in even 1 shot on goal, it would be reasonable to stick with it for 5, 6, maybe 8 plays. But 16 crosses resulting in 0 shots on goal? Absurd. Some of them were beautiful. Metanire, Finlay and Ibarra were all in on that action and Ibarra was on the receiving end of a few, as well. Unfortunately, Vancouver’s backline saw every single one of them coming, shutting down every ball and rebound, often before it could enter the six-yard box.

The second half shared a similar theme with one difference: The number of balls skimming over Vancouver’s crossbar late in the second half. With Vancouver quadrupling their first-half shot total halfway through the second, Minnesota’s dwindling attack saw a small spark from the addition of Mason Toye and Abu Danladi in place of Rodriguez and Finlay. That is not to say, however, that the bolstered shot total included any on frame.

Shots into traffic, shots into the crossbar, shots over the crossbar, shots past the post… those all added up. Shots on goal: one. 

At the final whistle, Minnesota had 16 total shots to Vancouver’s 8; 1 shot on target to their 5 and 32 crosses to their 7. A clean sheet against a struggling side, a scoreless draw against a squad that’s shipped 16 in their previous 4 matches. A match that saw half of the Wonderwall depart before most of the Loons had left the pitch. How does Adrian Heath feel?

“I’m really pleased with the effort, the desire, energy,” he told the media. “The energy from the players was terrific. The only thing lacking was the final ball in the final third […] I can’t remember the last time I was involved in any team that got 37 crosses on and probably didn’t get on the end of one or two or three. That’s an issue.”

Rookie left back Chase Gasper, Heath’s Man of the Match, when asked if he felt the result adequately reflected their performance, responded, “No, I don’t. I thought we deserved the three points, but – That’s soccer. We have to tip our hats to Vancouver. They came in, fought to the very last minute and played the game very close.” 

Gasper and ‘keeper Vito Mannone both repeated the sentiment that they could take positives and negatives from this match when looking ahead to their next MLS match against Portland – a game with huge playoff implications – and their next US Open Cup match, also against Portland, the club’s first semifinal appearance as an MLS franchise.

Don’t #Panic

While some fans may be frustrated with this lackluster performance against a bottom-of-the-table side, they should take a note from Gasper:

“What we’ve really been working on these past few weeks is not conceding goals. So, I thought the team, defensively, we did our job at not conceding so we’ve got to just take the positives out of the game and that was the biggest positive.”

Indeed. Minnesota United has been in Vancouver’s place. They’ve played the spoiler plenty of times, holding off an attack on the road and splitting points with playoff contenders. This time Minnesota was the home team, fending off Yordy Reyna and Fredy Montero while occasionally challenging Maxime Crepeau in goal. The Loons kept their composure against a side with nothing to lose, walking away with just 2 yellows (though Quintero’s will prevent him from dressing on Sunday).

This is still a better team than in years past, despite repeating familiar patterns. The Loons swim on.

Bonus highlight footage:

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

All Fired Up… For a Draw

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Editor-In-Chief
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Lucas Rodríguez, Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Donovan Pines, Leonardo Jara; Júnior Moreno, Russell Canouse (Chris Durkin 65′); Luciano Acosta, Wayne Rooney (Ulises Segura 90′), Paul Arriola (Joseph Mora 88′)

For D.C. United, a win tonight was critical. Losing their early season momentum, the Black-and-Red had started to slide down the Eastern Conference standings.  Sitting precariously in 4th place before tonight’s match, D.C. needed to pull out all the stops.  Unfortunately, the Black-and-Red were unable to secure three points, drawing 0-0 with the Chicago Fire.

As the playoffs loom ever closer on the horizon, D.C. has come under pressure as other teams, such as Atlanta United and NYCFC, have settled into a mid-season rhythm. The Black-and-Red have to watch their backs if they intend to compete for a playoff berth. In MLS anything can happen, as D.C. United handily proved last season.

While tonight’s match was by no means a showstopper the likes of Friday’s LAFC v Atlanta matchup, the early moments had D.C. fans holding their breath. Just a few minutes in, a heart-stopping set piece by the Chicago Fire almost caught D.C. United napping. Defender Frédéric Brillant, in a feat of immense skill (and perhaps a touch of luck), managed to clear the shot and preserve D.C.’s clean sheet. 

Time and again, the Black-and-Red attempted to breach the Fire’s defenses, but not even a bevy of attempts by Lucho Acosta and Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez were able to send one home. With both sides unable to find the back of the net, the match went to halftime at a predictable 0-0.

Another dangerous corner from Chicago. Photo credit: Joe Cromwell

No substitutions were made during halftime to shakeup D.C.’s play, and the second half plodded along much like the first. While both sides played a physical game, neither emerged as lethal. The match remained scoreless.

D.C. found themselves pressed by Chicago, and midfielder Russell Canouse took two successive hard knocks courtesy of the Fire’s C.J. Sapong. The second foul included what announcer Dave Johnson said looked like ‘a cleat to the ribs.’ Canouse was quickly pulled from the match, homegrown midfielder Chris Durkin taking his place on the pitch.

After continued missed attempts by D.C United, it seemed that captain Wayne Rooney would be able to convert a free-kick into a point on the board. As the ball sailed over the wall and rocketed toward the goal, it seemed inevitable that it would find the net. Chicago Fire goalkeeper, Kenneth Kronholm, dove, pulling off a massive save to deny D.C.’s captain.

In the waning minutes of the match, Ben Olsen made his final substitutions. Pulling Paul Arriola for Joseph Mora, and Wayne Rooney for Ulises Segura, it was clear that Olsen intended to bunker and finish out the match with a draw, much to the disappointment of Black-and-Red supporters.

“We need points,” said Brillant, “it’s not enough tonight.” Indeed, tonight was not enough to put D.C. back on top of the Eastern Conference. However, a sound thrashing of the Philadelphia Union by the Montreal Impact and yesterday’s defeat of Atlanta United at the hands of LAFC have allowed D.C. United to sneak into 3rd place. 

D.C. United goes head-to-head with the Philadelphia Union on August 4th, as they return home to Audi Field.

Featured image: @ChicagoFire

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LAFC Wins At Home 4-3 In A Peachy Way

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club returns to its old winning ways in a close 4-3 victory; defeating the reigning MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United for the first time in franchise history at the Banc of California stadium.

The win is great. But it was a close call.

A slight change in the starting XI saw Pablo Sisniega in goal. And with Tristian Blackmon on the injury list, Steven Beitashour returned to the full back position on the right. Head Coach Bob Bradley was vague in the reasoning of why Tyler Miller was on the bench – we can only assume he’s testing both keepers at this point.

The match kicked off with LAFC watching hopelessly as Atlanta scored the opening goal within minutes of the whistle. Mo Adams struck in the rebound – marking his first goal in his first MLS appearance for the visitors.

The black-and-gold answered in a big way by scoring three goals in a 12-minute action-packed period.

Mark-Antony Kaye sent the through ball to Adama Diomande who tapped it home past Brad Guzan for the equalizer in the 33rd minute. And then things got fun.

In the 38th minute, Diego Rossi passed the ball through traffic from the middle to Carlos Vela, who then sent it back to him at the top of the box – Rossi sent it home with one touch to double the lead.

Four minutes later, Carlos Vela drew the penalty. The captain stepped up to convert – scoring his 22nd MLS-career goal.

The captain found Diomande in the penalty area. He sent it to a waiting Atuesta near the goal – who in true Eduard Atuesta style, smoothly turned and shot it home for the club’s fourth goal of the night.

Then here comes Atlanta’s Josef Martinez to kill the party doubling the visitor’s total just before the half. How rude.

Shortly after the restart, Atlanta was quick to put the pressure on a possession-dominating home side – forcing an unfortunate own goal by Eddie Segura that gave Atlanta the push they needed in the 51st minute increasing the score 4-3.

Ten minutes later, it seemed Atlanta would level the match when Martinez attempted to recreate the “Atuesta” and spin around Beitashour. But as the script says, the ball went wide of the net.

Lee Nguyen entered the pitch as a substitute for Beitashour in the 63rd minute and got straight to work with moves like these:

In the 84th minute, the MLS All-Star Walker Zimmerman was close to adding one of his own goals to the total with the header but Guzan was there to save it.

Defenders are expected to sacrifice their bodies for the club and Jordan Harvey did just that in the 89th minute. The 30-year-old made a diving block to deny Julian Gressel who had a clear shot on target.

Atlanta had five chances to equalize and escape with a point during the latter part of the half. But thankfully an energetic team and Sisniega saved the day – leading the black-and-gold to another victory and staying undefeated at home with a 9-0-1 record.

Still sitting atop of the table of the Western Conference, the black-and-gold cushioned their lead even more with 49 points. But it is clear the team still needs to work on defending as the road gets harder.

Next up. LAFC will travel to the east coast to visit the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium next Saturday, August 3.

Featured Image: @LAFC

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