Giovinco’s On Fire vs Chicago Fire at BMO Field

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Friday, April 21: 3-1 Win

Song: Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear

The city is in the throes of shaking off one playoff bid (RIP Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), we came, we fought, we built something great for next year) while simultaneously preparing for round two of another (Let’s go Toronto Raptors! (NBA) and in the midst of the tumult, Toronto FC comfortably plays out a 3-1 win at home to Chicago Fire.

To begin with, I much prefer this dynamic of losing followed by winning to the weird limbo that had been drawing 90% of our games. Now that we lost one it feels a lot more like we are on a trajectory to start winning and keep winning. Sebastian Giovinco was back! The team played well as a unit, and as annoyed as I am to have muddied a clean sheet in the final minutes, the back line is doing very well under the directives of Nick Hagglund. It’s been said he’s doing his best Drew Moor impression. Not sure that Drew agrees and regardless I hope we have Drew back to full health ASAP.

While I have the stage, I would like to clear the air about some behaviour we saw at BMO Field on Friday night and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. In the Toronto FC supporters’ sections we have a song we refer to as “The Bounce” and technically speaking, the Bounce is used only in the case of a win. It’s considered bad luck to Bounce before a game, after a game, basically any time and we should most certainly not Bounce during a game that we haven’t beyond reasonable doubt already won. Well. On Friday we were, to say the least, a little bit excited to be witnessing our first win at home. So much so that we may have, some of us, against the advice of others, started bouncing around the 85th minute…or maybe the 88th

 

What I’m trying to say is, I now feel personally responsible for conceding a goal in the 88th minute, superstitious as I am, and would like to take this opportunity to release a formal apology. We could have had a clean sheet but we were soaring above the clouds and we decided we were safe enough to Bounce. Lesson learned! Probably. So once again, to the team and to the fans who were wise enough to have avoided the Bounce, I am truly sorry.

As for some other behaviours in BMO Field that have taken centre stage in other articles, I think that addressing Giovinco’s outburst (for lack of a better word) and my reaction to it is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say his actions of hitting over a metal barricade pillar (seriously what are these things called, when subbed could easily be used to overshadow our entire performance and that sucks but, as someone with a platform to talk about Toronto FC, I’m not going to do that here. Not in this article, anyway.

What Seba did do that’s worth talking about is score a world class free kick in addition to a fine goal to open up the scoring in this match. It certainly looks like we are back to Seba at his best and if coach Greg Vanney has cleared up any ill feelings after that game then it’s cleared up for me as well (source).

In other news something really adorable also happened at the game! Last week I mentioned that Vanney’s mother had passed away, but I neglected to make the connection that as Greg Vanney’s nephew, this also means that Eriq Zavaleta’s grandmother passed away. I’d like to once again express my condolences to the family. It was very lovely to see Zav score his first goal of the season and run over to Vanney to celebrate in honour of someone who I’m sure meant a lot to them. It shows great strength of character on both their parts that they remained focused and present for the team during such a difficult time. For that, I’ll give Zav my Man of the Match vote! Always solid at the back, nice to see him getting on the end of goals as well. Keep up the good work as always.

Apparently I snap my finger and players get minutes so let me be more specific this time: Can Jay Chapman please get a start for us sometime. I think if he had a chance he’d make the most out of it and I’m ready to watch another Canadian rise (newsflash: I’m always ready). Apart from that, I’m extremely happy with the result. There’s something daunting about a World Cup winner, here, in the MLS, trying to win another World Cup, but we kept our heads (for the most part) and we played at what was very nearly our best. It helps also that we had a Canadian in the starting XI, and Raheem Edwards was as dependable as always. I’d also like to welcome Marky Delgado back into the fold. He’s one of our young players I’m always excited about and it was great to see him back at BMO Field and putting in a shift.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to say goodbye to Mo Babouli who TFC put on waivers earlier this week (source). I think my feelings can best be described as “disappointed but not surprised” as it was never going to be easy for him to break into the first team given our depth. I wish him all the best in his future and it was a pleasure to watch him play.

Nevertheless, and for the record, this is just a phrase and does count as a Bounce, the Reds go marching on…

Featured image courtesy: @torontofc

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It All Started With A Shirt

Kristen - LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy Key Contributor

By Kristen Kincaid @KristenKincaid

As my family and I were exiting the Stub Hub Center after witnessing an underwhelming performance by the LA Galaxy on Sunday, we paused to let a group of Seattle Sounders fans pass and one couple caught my eye – ironically, it  wasn’t the man with dyed green hair adorned head to toe in his fan gear, it was his wife in the simple t-shirt bearing the phrase “I married into this”.

I chuckled to myself and reflected upon my own journey into soccer fandom.

I am a So Cal gal who has recently been converted to a soccer fan after “tolerating” my husband’s love of soccer for years (his words not mineJ). My journey into fandom began with a trip to watch the USA women’s national team on their journey to eventually winning the World Cup in 2015 (#shebelieves).  I had never experienced a live sporting event that had the atmosphere and energy that radiated from the Stub Hub that day  – I was hooked!

I have been a baseball fan since the Eric Karros (swoon) and Mike Piazza (double swoon) days with the LA Dodgers in the late ’80s and then found a love of Steeler Nation while in high school.  I grew up in the Redlands, CA area and our hometown hero Landon Donovan led me to follow and become a fan of LA Galaxy.  This journey into soccer fandom is new to me and I hope to offer a unique perspective not only as a female fan, but a new fan.   

Many thanks everyone for reading and especially to MLSFemale.com for this amazing opportunity to be a Key Contributor for LA Galaxy and to share my journey with you all!

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Well, That Was Embarrassing

Allison - LA Galaxy
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Allison Sorrell @AJSorrell_

Sunday, April 23: 0-3 Loss

I was a little too optimistic last week.

Let’s be real, this Galaxy team (2-5-0) is… bad. Being at (almost) the bottom of the table, even this early in the season, doesn’t lie. It points to a change that needs to be made, and quickly.

Per Kevin Baxter, the LA Galaxy already have as many home losses in 2017 as they do in the past two seasons combined. We haven’t won a single game this season playing against 11 men— both wins we do have under our belt coming from sides of ten due to red card send offs.

Let’s start with the positives here. Admittedly, there aren’t very many. Brian Rowe is back, but I’m sure the only reason for this breath of fresh air is Diop’s nagging hip injury from last weekend against Orlando (2-1 loss). Despite the score line against Seattle, he gives the back line a little more of a sense of security and as a fan, I’m not quite as worried about him every single time the ball even enters the final third.

This Seattle Sounders side was relentless throughout most of the first half, but didn’t even put one (of their three) goals in the back of the net until the 29th minute. Until that point this Galaxy squad was confident enough, but you could see that confidence deplete with each second that passed afterwards.

From here on out you would think that Seattle was the home side, pulling in a second goal in the 35th minute, and a third in the 44th. The Galaxy’s defense just didn’t exist… but neither did the offense.

Let’s be honest here, this match was a complete wash for LA. The only good chance we had at even getting one back came in the 51st minute for Giovani Dos Santos, who missed a ball you never would’ve seen him miss even last season.

Last week, the little spark of positivity I cited was the Galaxy’s notorious “slow starts can still win MLS Cups” line. This isn’t a slow start anymore. Our offense isn’t scoring goals. Our defense can’t keep it together. Coaching decisions don’t make much sense.

Finally, no one in this organization is confident, and the tension can be cut with a knife. Curt Onalfo refused to comment on Dos Santos performance, even after being cited the previous week as saying he’s ready to go and is playing well. Emmanuel Boateng and Ashley Cole both came off of the field dodging Onalfo’s attempts at a handshake. And finally, large amounts of fans are calling for members of the coaching staff and members of the front office to lose their jobs. This all feels like an active volcano right before it blows.

For fans, the push on the new recycled jerseys we wore last week and the sassy quips on Galaxy social media we usually know and love seem more like distractions against the way the team is playing (which do I have to say one more time is terrible?) and it isn’t going unnoticed. I was willing to give it a break after last week at Orlando, where we only fell by one. But at this point? Something’s gotta give.

#allisongroup
Image courtesy: @LAGalaxy

I still don’t have any doubt that this team can pull through this. If there is one thing that this organization usually knows how to do its adapt to change and pull through. It just needs to happen a little quicker than it currently is. We need that usual unfaltering confidence back— players, coaches, front office, and fans alike.

Let’s see what happens next week with Philadelphia Union who, thankfully, are also at the bottom of the table. Maybe we have a chance at gaining some level of momentum back, or at least some reprieve from what already feels like an extremely long season.

Featured image courtesy of: @LAGalaxy

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With Thanks To A Great Rival

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale
Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter

By Christy Casas @nkstar9

Saturday, April 22: 2-1 Loss

At 2-4-1 the Vancouver Whitecaps are sitting in 9th place in the Western Conference and what a wild ride it has been. The Whitecaps seem to have the ability to rise to the occasion, the thing is, ‘the occasion’ isn’t every game.  This is reflected in our losing record.

This brings us to the Portland Timbers game. A great rival and Cascadia counterpart. Timbers at home are a sight to be seen on and off the field, with the Timbers Army and literally a lumberjack on the sideline cutting trees down and the array of well coordinated passes in their offensive zone. Wait…aren’t I supposed to be writing for the Whitecaps, yup, I am. Here I go…

The Whitecaps played well. They really did. They came prepared and with a 4-1-4-1 they were able to get some open space until the Timbers readjusted their midfield to make sure the space was taken away and every player was covered. The Whitecaps hammered the goal, but nothing was falling. You could see the frustration in their eyes.

The midfield was solid and they got the ball to where they need to, but Fredy Montero couldn’t make it happen. I saw some of the best ball movement from the mids I think I have seen all season, the inability to capitalize while having your defense get beat is the difference this game made. The Darlington Nagbe goal was Ah-mazing, I mean, it’s one of the reasons soccer is called the beautiful game. Stepping right around Kendall Waston to deliver the blow, the Caps fell down 0-1.

In simple terms, the second goal was avoidable, but man, if I scored that goal, I would still be celebrating. Mattocks was there to bury a great ball delivered by Valeri. I mean, what a combination.

After falling behind by 2, the Whitecaps were awarded a penalty kick for a takedown in the box and that revitalized the team, just not enough. Not to mention that Fredy Montero’s penalty was initially blocked and a lack of defensive awareness allowed Montero to try again, this time finding the back of the net.

Well, I can say that Portland just out-skilled us, but it could have fallen any way if we could have sunk a couple of those near misses. But this is the reason we play the game, because you never know.

Always and again we have to #Riseupraincity.

A special thanks to the people in Portland who hung this sign in solidarity with the Southsiders and those who chose not to travel within the US. We are together in this fight against hatred and fear.

Featured image courtesy: @timbersarmy

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Rookie Goals FTW

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 22: 1-3 Win

In their fourth road game in as many weeks, Atlanta United finally got the win we’ve all been waiting for in Salt Lake this weekend. They managed to get through an entire game with no red cards for either side (but a few yellows), and one of the teenagers scored his first MLS goal.

First things first, though: earlier this week, ATLUTD successfully appealed the red card given to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in last week’s game with Montreal Impact (I did say it was questionable last week, and the independent panel agreed). We also got Yamil Asad back from his red card suspension and Tyrone Mears back from his ankle injury. Unfortunately, Josef Martinez is still out with his quad injury and there have been no comments on when he will be back yet.

ATLUTD trotted out yet another lineup this week at Rio Tinto. Kenwyne Jones was back for his second start, Asad was back in the left midfield, Miguel Almiron in center mid, with Carlos Carmona and Jeff Larentowicz behind him. Julian Gressel was on the bench, which was weird (he came in in the 78th minute for Tito Villalba). Also of note, rookies Brandon Vazquez and Miles Robinson were in the 18 for this game and brought in late, but more about Vazquez later.

The game got off to an awkward start for ATLUTD. Sloppy passing and bad giveaways were way too abundant in the first 20 minutes. Tito did manage to get a ball past Nick Rimando for ATL’s first goal in the 9th minute, though. Almiron tried first, but his shot was saved, then Tito followed up and Rimando saved it, but it bounced right back to Tito, who launched it into the back of the net.

Once the boys got their first goal, things started to fall into place a little easier. The first half ended with ATL up a goal on the hosts, and the second half saw Yamil Asad getting his second goal of the season in the 46th minute.

Real Salt Lake pulled to within one with a goal by Rusnak in the 69th minute.

While we managed to get out of this game with no red cards (on either side, for a change), ATL still managed to bring home four yellow cards with those three points. Carmona was shown a yellow in the first half for a hard tackle on Kyle Beckerman. In the second half, Greg Garza was shown yellow for a hard challenge and a few minutes later, Almiron was awarded a free kick from a hard challenge, missed his shot and got a yellow for wasting time on the corner kick. The final yellow was shown to goalie Alec Kann for wasting time as well – something ATL’s commentator Kevin Egan mentioned would probably happen early on in the game.

The big story of the night was 19-year-old Brandon Vazquez scoring his very first MLS goal three minutes into his professional debut for ATLUTD. And he made it look so effortless, too:

All in all, not the best performance from ATL – I think they played better last week, but Almiron made the MLS Team of the Week for the third time already this season, so that’s pretty good, right? I was quite sad to see that Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was yet again left off the Team of the Week. He’s been so amazing on the field so far and it’s rather disappointing that he’s not been recognized for that yet. My friends at Dirty South Soccer feel the same way:

Other notes from this week:

  • We heard this week that the opening of Mercedes Benz Stadium has once again been delayed because of construction complications with the roof. This time, though, it means that an ATLUTD game will not be the first event in the new stadium. The first ATLUTD game scheduled to play at the Benz now is vs FC Dallas on 9/9.
  • This also means that a few games have been rescheduled. Our first home game vs Orlando City was shifted up a day to 7/29 and will be played at Bobby Dodd, which has been our temporary home since the beginning of the season. Two more games (vs MNUFC and LA Galaxy) that were scheduled to be played at the Benz in August are being moved, likely to October since our schedule in September is already pretty crowded.
  • Our next game is FINALLY at home vs DC United this Sunday, 4/30. It was announced earlier today that the game is the third consecutive sell out. Not bad, Atlanta, not bad at all.
  • Another interesting tidbit that my pals at Dirty South Soccer calculated this weekend was that ATLUTD have only trailed for 19 minutes this season. Details here.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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3 GOALS 3 POINTS

Kaitlyn O'Rourke - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Seattle Sounders Key Contributor

By Kaitlyn O’Rourke

Sunday, April 23: 0-3 Win

Despite not being able to see who was who and which team was which due to the jersey colors, I got to watch the Seattle Sounders play for the first time in what feels like forever – actually just 23 days (being an east coast Sounders fan is not easy). I watched the first 30 minutes on the computer, then turned El Clasico off (Vamos Barca!!*sorry*) and put the Sounders on the TV. Around the 40th minute, it became easier to determine who was who due to the sweat on the Sounders jerseys.

In the past, LA Galaxy has not been a pleasant place for the Sounders to visit. Sunday, this was a different story. Like the last time they visited LA, when they won 2-4 on a Jordan Morris brace, they turned around history and pulled out not just a result, a win. The Sounders left LA with 3 goals and more important, 3 points. 

The Sounders started the game with a different starting Xl than normal, their back line didn’t feature Roman Torres and Chad Marshall, rather it featured Tony Alfaro and Jordy Delem. Instead of Jordan Morris playing up top, Will Bruin got the start and Morris played on the left wing along with Nicolas Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey. This lineup seemed to work pretty well.

Clint Dempsey scored the first goal in the 29th minute on a header. This was his 3rd goal of the season for Deuce. His goal came after a cross by Lodeiro. The Sounders 2nd goal came on an own goal by Ashley Cole in the 35th minute, also off a cross by Joevin Jones. The ball deflected off Cole’s foot and past Brian Rowe, goalie for LA Galaxy. 9 minutes later, Jordan Morris added the 3rd goal.

The Sounders and the Galaxy played a physical game, forward Will Bruin even noting after the game that if he took off his shirt you’d be able to see scratches. This was the Sounders first win on the road and put them above the red line and at a record of 2-2-3.

Overall, the Sounders had an 86% passing accuracy and the back line of Jones, Alfaro, Gustav Svensson, and Jordy Delem with Stefan Frei in goal have gone 180 minutes without conceding. Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro were both named to MLS Team of the Week with Joevin Jones and Jordan Morris being named to the bench.

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

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Are You Not Entertained?

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Cascadia Cup–Rivals and Brethren

Saturday, April 22: 2-1 Win

Any game against Vancouver Whitecaps takes on special significance. We have been rivals since long before our MLS days. Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have songs and chants specifically designed to taunt each other that we sing only during Cascadia Cup matches. We have a supporter-created trophy (that predates our arrivals in MLS) that is awarded to the Cascadia team who wins the most points among us in the regular season. We even have a traditional song sung at the end of every match that has its origins in USL Portland-Vancouver days. The rivalry is real.

At the same time, off the pitch, we know that we have kindred spirits in our Cascadian brethren to the north. We recognize the turmoil and hardship created by changes in our country’s travel policies, changes which have some Canadian supporters unable and/or unwilling to cross the border to attend a match. Some worried about their ability to cross; others, in solidarity with supporters who may not travel, also elected to stay home, some for the first time ever for an MLS Cascadia Cup match.

We know how difficult this decision was, and the Timbers Army wanted to show their support for our rival supporters to the north, painting a front banner with a message of optimism from the Peace Arch at the US-Canada border crossing we both often pass through for matches against each other:

Now, about the match….

Darlington Nagbe

I have typed and deleted five different paragraphs on Nagbe, each with a different take. Unbelievably beautiful touches on the ball. Absolutely one of the nicest humans off the pitch, a role model. Inspirational coming-of-age story,  from leaving war-torn Liberia as an infant to finding citizenship and success on the pitch in the U.S. Frustratingly unselfish on the pitch, leading to far fewer goals than you’d expect of a player of his caliber and to questions about whether he will ever reach his true potential.

And then we have moments like this.

All of the frustration I feel when he takes the extra pass wide instead of going into the box himself, or when he sends it safely back to the fullback instead of through to his midfield–all of it evaporates in a moment like this.  In the 18th minute, David Guzmán gave Nagbe the ball in the middle of the pitch. Nagbe coolly evaded first Matías Laba and then Kendall Waston, working away from them wide to the right, then somehow kept his balance while firing a rocket from beyond the 18 that tagged the underside of the crossbar and found its way home for the first score of the match. The goal uplifted the spirits of the team and the crowd. We all felt the shift in momentum.

And, even more special, Nagbe clearly felt it too. He is so often an unassuming, selfless, NICE guy, that his goal celebration marked something different for Nagbe. More of THIS, please.

A Change of Pace

We had a lot of changes in the lineup for this one. Fanendo Adi was serving a one game suspension for a tangle up in the match the week before, so he was out. Sebastian Blanco was recovering from a tweak earlier in the week so he was on the bench. Vytautas Andriuškevičius was healthy and back in the lineup, as was returning captain and center back Liam Ridgewell. And Jake Gleeson, suffering from a hip flexor injury, was replaced by able backup Jeff Attinella, acquired in the offseason from Real Salt Lake via Minnesota United. (Thanks, by the way, RSL; from Ian Joy to Will Johnson to Nat Borchers, you always send us excellent players.)

But the biggest changes to our look this game were probably Adi’s and Blanco’s replacements, Darren Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla. Mattocks and Asprilla are both speed burners, and provided some blistering pace up front. It’s not necessarily a lineup I would want week after week, but I do appreciate that our depth allows for such strong replacements in the starting XI. And it was particularly sweet to see Mattocks score what would eventually be the game winner against his old squad, in a beautiful team goal involving Guzmán, Nagbe, and Diego Valeri:

Get well soon, Maestro

Ridgewell may be the captain, but the heart and soul of the team is midfielder Diego Valeri. And when Valeri was stretchered off late in the match we all held our breath. It was a tremendous relief to see him standing in the locker room after the match taking questions from interviewers. Get well soon, Maestro; the world is a brighter place when you’re on the field.

Random Hot Takes

Alvas Powell: I am tired of the “That’s So Powell” show. He is clearly fast and talented. He loves to overlap on the wing and he is usually quite capable of locking down the defense in the right corner. But I am done with his poor decision making. Classic Powell: win a difficult possession battle in the corner, save the day, then pass it directly to the other team. And Christian Bolaños, a veteran midfielder with over 70 appearances for the Costa Rican national team, most definitely had Powell’s number. He caught Powell out of position several times, most notably in the 52nd minute and again in the 60th, and both times Powell fouled him as a result. Costly mistakes, the second of which resulted in the penalty kick that got Vancouver on the board.

Fredy Montero is still very good at soccer. As a Timbers fan I am already predisposed to dislike him, but I can admit that Fredy is very good at what he does. He is a poacher, floating up top, biding his time, almost turning invisible, then seizing his moment. I do not look forward to playing him again…and again, this year.

The game lasts 90 minutes, guys. Once again, we had the game firmly in hand in the first half, but instead of putting it away we limped to the finish. While that may work against a weak Vancouver squad at Providence Park, it most definitely will not be enough for the likes of FC Dallas. I sincerely hope we figure out how to finish out as strong as we start before Saturday.

Next week, we’re on the road in Dallas. See you there!

Featured image courtesy: b.fssta.com

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Father Knows Best

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim @WhiteZinWench

When I was a kid, my dad put me in rec soccer. It was something to do, and didn’t take a lot of effort. I was cool with it. When I was old enough to play on a travel team, it went without saying that I would join, becoming part of the first all-girl travel team the club had seen. I played until I was in 6th grade. And frankly, I kinda stunk at it. I had decent pace, I understood the game. My coach loved how far and accurately I could throw in the ball.

But I didn’t have the passion. That, and puberty hit me quite hard (chest traps are no fun when your sports bra can’t handle its contents). And it was the early 90s—there was no way a girl could make a living playing soccer. I went on to be moderately successful in music and studied things that I thought would bring me more job security.

Then, when my kids were old enough, I put them in soccer. It seemed the natural thing to do. In 2014, my two oldest sons were selected to be on-field escorts at a New York Red Bulls game. They looked so cute, in little replica uniforms, holding hands with members of Chivas USA. It was cold, it was rainy, it was windy. I don’t remember the score (I think it was a tie), but I was HOOKED. The arena, the competition, the familiarity: it all made sense.

Suddenly soccer was everywhere. That summer we all watched the World Cup on TV, the English Premier League and MLS were increasingly easier to find, followed by the Champions League and Bundesliga. The next year, I was watching daily Periscope broadcasts by former USMNT defender and Fox Soccer analyst Alexi Lalas, who was covering the Women’s World Cup in Canada. I’d ask him questions… and he would answer them! I’d make snarky comments… and he would laugh!

Then I started looking up other soccer broadcasting personalities. Twitter made them approachable, which gave me a chance to learn (or, perhaps more accurately, remember what I already knew) about the Beautiful Game. I found podcasts, and websites, and other fans who shared their excitement. My cousin got a job with NBC Sports and most of her work involves English Premier League: I think I’m more excited about her job than she is some days. I met front office types and sports writers. And I found what I should have known all along: there just might be a way to make a living with soccer. Young me was very short-sighted.

When the Copa America Centenario was announced, I realized this was my chance to thank my dad for introducing me to soccer, a game he had played against seminarians at his Catholic School in his native Ecuador. Two tickets, Ecuador vs Haiti, at MetLife Stadium. Lower mezzanine, front row, behind the goal. His first live professional soccer game in an arena.

If you have a good relationship with your parents (and I recognize not everyone does), you want to do what will make them proud, regardless of how old you get. For me, this is it.

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East or West, Home is Best

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, April 22: 2-0 Win

I live by the notion that it costs me nothing to be nice, and indeed it makes my life infinitely better. Thanks to a particularly generous season ticket holder, I was able to take my 9-year-old son to the New York Red Bulls (4-3-1, 13 points) game against the Columbus Crew (4-3-1, 13 points) and sit in a none-too-shabby location (lower level, above the corner flag to the right of the goal). I’ve been to Red Bull Arena a few times before, enough that I didn’t need my GPS to get there or to find the arena from my rather distant parking spot.

With the increasing popularity of soccer broadcasting, it’s easy to watch a game at home or in a bar. But nothing beats being in Red Bull Arena. We sat near the Supporter’s Section, full of shirtless screamers and flags and smoke. We yelled out “RED!” during the bridge of the National Anthem, the only color mentioned in the song. We sat with our fuzzy throw blankets and cheered the team on. And my son looked at that field and said, “Someday, I’ll play out there.”

Unfortunately, there was a false start of sorts when midfielder Artur went down in the first minute. (It was later confirmed that he suffered a broken wrist.) But the Red Bulls were riding the wave that comes with a very comfortable 18-game undefeated streak at home.

In fact, it only took 11 minutes for Alex Muyl (pronounced “M-wheel” — reporters and analysts are pronouncing his name incorrectly; that should be changing very soon) to find the back of the net following a cross by Kemar Lawrence. This was Muyl’s 2nd goal in as many games.  Goalkeeper Luis Robles was able to keep a clean sheet once again, most notably against Crew striker Justin Meram—any Red Bulls fan can tell you it’s not fun to see that Audi Player Index commercial where Meram gets past Robles, no matter how long ago it was.

Then in the 38th minute, RBNY striker Bradley Wright-Phillips was brought down in the box by Crew defender Alex Crognale, who was injured in the incident. Another Crew injury, another forced substitution. Austrian winger Daniel Royer converted the Penalty Kick and doubled the lead. Both teams were held scoreless in the second half, even though some great chances came to subs Frederik Gulbrandsen and Derrick Etienne Jr.

Gulbrandsen, on loan from Red Bull Salzburg, actually did find the back of the net but was ruled offside. When the final whistle blew, the home team was victorious and the sizeable crowd made their way back to their cars or the train station. My son promptly fell asleep in the backseat on the ride home, happy to have been in the arena for another Red Bulls win.

Same time next week, guys? I’ll be sure to let you know.

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A Lead Lost, A Rough Draw

Mercy - Philadelphia

By Mercy Payba @mercpay

Saturday, April 22: 3-3 Draw

“A tale of two halves,” is an apt summary by manager Jim Curtin of the disappointing draw in Chester today. Philadelphia Union started on the right foot with an early goal by Roland Alberg and kept up the pace through the first 45 until Montreal Impact struck right before the halftime whistle. It was disheartening to regress back to the same failing tactics in the second half of the match instead of pushing forward on a 3-1 advantage.

Even gaining the fast and fresh legs of Picault in the 66th minute for Ilsinho didn’t help as much as it should have in opposition. He had some good runs into the box and a shot or two that was blocked by Bush but in the end Jackson-Hamel proved too able and our defense too clumsy to stop Montreal’s comeback. It didn’t help that the ref missed some chances to pull out his cards from his pocket.

The first Montreal goal by Piatti was a disaster. He outran half our men, including Bedoya, Medunjanin, Pontius and Marquez to get it past Blake. We all knew Piatti would be a dangerous player, the one to watch out for coming back from injury and hungry for goals. Montreal wasn’t going to take a deficit lying down. Both teams had to prove themselves out on the field, but Philadelphia came out on the losing end as they rescued a point in their three-game homestand.

I don’t think we can point fingers at a single player to blame. The flaw doesn’t lie in management either. We cannot say Curtin hasn’t tried to adapt and change over the past two games as the pressure of a winless streak has been on the Union to produce results.

In last week’s game we saw Alberg and Elliott start and this week we saw why they got to start yet again. Elliott didn’t play a perfect game but he certainly showed up to play. His long ball started the play that would lead to the Sapong header 23 minutes in. He also got the penalty for Alberg after Dominic Oduro fouled him.

The Bedoya-Alberg-Medunjanin midfield is reaping results slowly and hopefully will continue to build as more games pass. Bedoya is more promising in his role as a number 8 and had a relatively good game today. He stepped in where he was needed and even dropped back further to help put bodies in defense at times. There is no doubt that Bedoya is fully committed to his leadership role and feels the weight of performing better into his second year with the Union. His post-game words belied the frustration he felt after losing the 3-0 lead, saying “this team deserves a lot better, the fans deserve a lot better.”

We have been hearing the same lines over and over again in the last couple of weeks. Jim Curtin insists the players are working hard, Earnie Stewart says the board fully supports Curtin in his decisions and tactics, but the fans are still waiting for results. The message was clear as the stadium had plenty of empty seats this rainy afternoon.

If we deserve better, where can we find a better Union?

Our aggressive attack in the first half was a step above last week because we converted enough of those chances with Sapong and Alberg. The switch on the wings with Chris Pontius and Ilsinho worked to set up stronger flanks with Fabinho and Elliott. Our possession wasn’t very high but when we did have the ball, we utilized it smartly (in the first half.) We lost our cool once we conceded, but if we want to find a better Union, it’s already there, just stubbornly buried. Perhaps we will see it emerge in the next couple of weeks. It’s still early enough in the season to bring it back and leave the sting of this draw behind.

Next week: Union goes on the road to face LA Galaxy. My prediction: Not great, but at least they won’t have to hear the disappointment of the home fans.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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