Almost!

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, May 14: 1-1 Draw

Man, what to say about Sunday’s match….

After last weekend’s forgettable trouncing, I was really hoping for a rebound against Atlanta. We were at home against an expansion side, Diego Valeri was back in the lineup…it wasn’t an unreasonable expectation. Right?

We lined up in the familiar 4-2-3-1, with Jake Gleeson back in goal as he recovered from injury, but with a couple of changes from the usual setup. Sebastian Blanco took up the left wing spot for the still injured Darlington Nagbe, which put Dairon Asprilla out on the right wing; and Roy Miller took up the starting role next to Liam Ridgewell in the CB spot. I took that to mean that Caleb Porter is still figuring out how to put together a back line until we finally sign our mystery starting defender sometime this summer. I say “mystery starting defender” because, while we have supposedly signed an amazing center back from Turkey’s top flight, they still haven’t announced who it is. With the rumor mill in high gear, at least three different top quality CBs have been named in press reports as having definitely signed with us. At this rate, by midsummer we will have a starting XI made up entirely of Süper Lig center backs.

Match Recap

I’ll make the match recap brief, mostly because there isn’t a lot to say. Our right side was legit terrible, with Asprilla and Alvas Powell making less than stellar decisions. The “That’s So Powell” show was in full effect, with Alvas continuing to make reasonable defensive plays followed immediately by needless giveaways. Fanendo Adi wasn’t particularly sharp, either, reverting to his pre-2015 ways, floating offside too many times and not being particularly effective up top.

For my money, Valeri probably came back from his injury a week too early; he didn’t have his usual crisp play and wasn’t connecting with the ball or with other players as well as he usually does. That left Blanco to carry much of the offensive load, and while his work rate was impressive he didn’t have much to show for it. This lack of offensive firepower left Vytautas Andriuškevičius sitting far back, with little reason to push up/overlap.

Neither side had much to show for their efforts in the first half. Coming into the second half, in the 46th minute, Powell did what Powell does, making a defensive stop and then essentially passing it straight to the other team. After Powell’s misstep in the back, the ball was at the feet of Jeff Larentowicz, who quickly ensured that Julian Gressel was perfectly set up to take a touch at the top of the box and blast it past Gleeson for the score:

Our only answer came just a few minutes later, in the 50th minute. David Guzmán took a free kick from the right side, and Ridgewell headed it in unchallenged for the equalizer:

We ALMOST had the chance to pull ahead, thanks again to Guzmán in stoppage: 

The post giveth, and the post taketh away. We didn’t really deserve to win this one after our terrible possession and inability to close when it mattered, but dang, that would have been a SWEET stoppage time winner. We ended up with a 1-1 draw, a fair result given how we played.

Dangerous plays

There were a couple of dangerous plays in this match that bear discussion. At 11′, Asprilla took a big swing, connecting with a ball to send it up the right sideline, and unintentionally blasted it straight at the oncoming Yamil Asad’s  head. This happened pretty much right in front of me, and I can tell you that Asad went down like a tree:

Asad was examined by both Portland and Atlanta doctors and was allowed back into the game, but it was clear that Portland’s doctor was less than okay with the decision, as he continued animated discussion with the Atlanta staff and with the fourth official. Never mind competitive advantage; I just hope Asad is okay and that MLS is taking concussion protocols seriously.

The second concerning play was a full on scissor tackle by Carlos Carmona in the 35th minute:

I HATE seeing potentially leg-breaking plays like that. Blanco could easily have taken a season-ending injury there. I hope the discipline committee issues a retroactive red for the tackle. There is no room for those kinds of moves in the beautiful game.

Hot takes

I’m pretty sure that Valeri was playing hurt the entire match. No doubt Valeri felt some responsibility to get back on the pitch as the playmaker and spiritual leader of the team, especially after last week’s trouncing at the hands of San Jose, but I think his spirit was more willing than his body was able. Aside from looking to be a step slow and a bit off his game, he wasn’t taking many of the set play kicks that would normally be his, ceding that duty to the capable Guzmán.

Speaking of Guzmán, he continues to be my favorite signing this season. His defense is solid and his transition game is strong. Without his work, that match could have been REALLY ugly.

Speaking of ugly, how about our possession game, eh? Listen, I don’t ever want to hear anybody complain about Darlington Nagbe’s shooting and scoring numbers ever again. We have gone two weeks without him on the field and our possession game is levels of magnitude worse.  Heal quickly, Darlington. We miss your magic touch and your ability to keep the ball and pass accurately under tremendous pressure.

Off the pitch

Once again, I am proud to be a member of the Timbers Army and its nonprofit engine, the 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST). Thanks to Valeri’s generous donation of two signed log slices for a raffle, we were able to raise enough money to sponsor Street Soccer USA to the tune of $5,000, supporting their efforts to bring a team of Portland homeless and at risk youth to the Street Soccer tournament in Philadelphia this June. We are grateful to Valeri for his support, and to everyone who chipped in to make this sponsorship possible:

Next up, the boys travel to Montreal to take on the Impact on Saturday. Here’s hoping we’re healthy. See you next weekend!

Featured image of Fanendo Adi courtesy: @TimbersFC

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Drawing 101 With Professor McNamara

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Sunday, May 14: 1-1 Draw

Sometimes a draw on the road is the best you can hope for. I’m not sure anyone had delusions about New York CIty FC being the ones to put an end to FC Dallas‘ impressive unbeaten streak at home. A win would be preferable, of course, but just not losing would be enough.

NYCFC made the trip out to Dallas and fielded a lineup that’s becoming familiar, with one major change: Tommy McNamara took the place of Yangel Herrera, who played admirably in his back-to-back starts before heading off to the U-20 World Cup. Despite a rocky first half, Patrick Vieira‘s men kept their wits about them and managed to gain enough confidence to keep the home team on the ropes for good stretches of time, even after conceding early on.

Maxi Moralez boasts an impressive record that I didn’t know about until this match: He’s the most fouled player in MLS this season. It makes sense, of course. Not only is he a whopping 5’3″, but he refuses to stay out of the action. Maxi is everywhere, constantly, orchestrating play from the midfield and throwing himself into the attack. It’s easy for players to gang up on him — and that’s exactly what FC Dallas did. No small amount of their game plan could be summed up by “get Maxi on the ground at all costs”. In the end, it meant that Maxi was ineffective at best and in the way at worst. It was far from his best showing in the NYCFC shirt.

Right as things were starting to get nervey, with David Villa lining up for his free kick and Miguel Camargo poised to come on for Tommy McNamara, the match took a turn.

I’ve extolled the virtues of T-Mac before. I think he’s emblematic of the club, and I know I’m not alone in that. The NYCFC fanbase has mad love for Tommy, arguably moreso than any other current player. There’s just something about that kind-hearted, mulleted man we all resonate with. And in the 68th minute, he did not disappoint us: When Villa’s free kick pinged off the crossbar, T-Mac was there.

I mean, he was there.

He didn’t just score a header off the rebound. He careened into goal, leaping to avoid a collision with Matt Hedges as he attempted to clear it off. He found himself in the back of the net along with the ball, like a glorious tuna being raised from the sea. T-Mac did what T-Mac does best: Whatever he wants. That goal was pure graceless guts and glory. It was the Tommy we all know and borderline worship. Thanks, T-Mac. As usual, we owe you one.

@cm2
Image courtesy: nycfc.com

Man of the Match accolades undoubtedly go to Sean Johnson, who put on a goalkeeping masterclass. Due to the combined efforts of FC Dallas’ united attacking front and NYCFC’s disorganized back line, the scoreline could have easily been 5-1 by the end of the night. Johnson was the main thing that stood in the way of such a heartbreaking result. (Also, all the shout outs to his mom by the Fox Sports commentators were cute as heck.)

Credit where credit is due: FC Dallas put up an impressive fight, and we were lucky to eke out one point in their home. It was one of those games that I would have been thrilled to watch as a neutral — without the suffering and stress, it was enjoyable fast-paced football on both ends.

Before I go, here are some stray observations:

  • Between the Columbus Crew and Atlanta United matches, David Villa signed a contract extension that will keep him at New York City FC through the 2018 season. This was a quiet decision that was met with very little fanfare– JUST KIDDING, WE ALL LOST OUR MINDS. Stay forever, capí.
  • With all the talk of Herrera and the U-20 World Cup, I found myself revisiting my biggest problem with MLS. Objectively, I understand the varied reasons for a schedule that does not follow the rest of the footballing world (seriously, I understand, please do not explain it to me ad nauseam) but I’ll never accept it. Having only actively followed the league since 2015, I’ve not yet experienced a summer where MLS and the World Cup are happening simultaneously. And I just can’t fathom how one is supposed to focus on club football when the World Cup is happening elsewhere. Guess we’ll find out next summer! Still, the overlap is weird and it will always be weird.
  • Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot were as solid as they ever are. It only bears repeating because I don’t want to take it for granted. Ring is a true joy to watch in the midfield, and somehow Mad Maxime has become the rock of our defense.
  • We had the triumphant return of Mikey Lopez, as heralded by the Twitter prophecies! He saw about fifteen minutes of the game and didn’t have any standout contributions, but honestly? I was just relieved to see him on the pitch again. Hopefully he’ll see a nice amount of minutes in the coming busy weeks.
  • I am a connoisseur of bleach blonde footballers. It’s my favorite hair mistake! So it’s worth noting that during his injury time, Rónald Matarrita has hit the peroxide hard. I actually think it’s a good look on him, but that could be my extreme Mata bias talking. Please return soon to bolster our defense and blind us with your tresses, Mata.
  • On a personal note, I apologize for the spotty every-other-week recaps lately. Mono is a heck of an illness that’s made keeping my eyes open even for my favorite thing in the world a Sisyphean task. I’m doing my best to keep on the mend!

Next week, except by next week I mean next match week, but actually Wednesday: We travel to Sandy to take on Real Salt Lake! Not to get ahead of myself, but I sense a road win for the boys in blue…

Featured image T-mac courtesy: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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No Joy in Harrison

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, May 14th: 1-3 Loss

So here I am again, having watched the New York Red Bulls (5-6-1, 16 points) lose to a non-conference team that has been suffering this season (LA Galaxy, 3-5-2, 11 points), and feeling the urge to explain what is going wrong for the Red Bulls. But I also insist that the answer is above my pay grade. So I can’t explain. I can only guess.

Watching the team in action, it’s almost as if no one is showing the necessary initiative. Sure, Sacha Kljestan was a natural successor in the role of team captain, and he takes the role seriously enough. The roster is full of players who have been a part of the system for a long time, from veterans Felipe and Bradley Wright-Phillips to Homegrown players Connor Lade and Alex Muyl. But it seems that everyone is more willing to let someone else take the lead in the moment.

The back line, with its near-constant rotation, isn’t taking charge of the space in the defensive third while opponents are on the attack; Bradley Wright-Phillips seems to be aiming for the assist rather than the goal; Sacha Kljestan spends several touches squaring up the ball for someone who just isn’t coming.

When Galaxy DP Roman Alessandrini scored a brace in the first 10 minutes of the game, it’s not because he was waiting for the injured Jermaine Jones to return, or depending on just the right pass from Gyasi Zardes. He just went for it. This evening, I sat closer to the field than I had ever been, and could hear Luis Robles screaming to his teammates to “wake up”. But they never did. There isn’t the explosiveness on the field that made them Supporter Shield winners in the past.

On a more positive note, Mike Grella made his return from injury in the 2nd half. He tried to help turn things around for the team, and the fans were happy to see him back on the pitch. The frustration levels were rising, leading to a penalty in the box in the 78th minute that was converted by Giovani Dos Santos, bringing the Galaxy to a 3-0 lead.

Galaxy defender Bradley Diallo was issued two yellow cards which resulted in a sending off in the 90th minute, and that opened the door for Daniel Royer to make the consolation goal in the 93rd. It was a welcome celebration, but too little too late. As the rain was falling in the waning minutes of the game, disappointed fans began to pour out of Red Bull Arena. Like the sad fans of Mudville, they had no choice but to admit that the mighty Red Bulls had, in their own way, struck out.

The team faces Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC this coming Friday, giving them only a few days to regroup. Who will be the team’s lightning rod? And how soon can they get the team charged up?

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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Farewell to RFK

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 13: 0-4 Win

The possible last voyage to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium ended in a nice win for the Philadelphia Union. If you weren’t already aware, DC United will be leaving RFK behind for a new stadium at the end of this season. The last time the Philadelphia Union met DC, the scoreline told a different story. Union fell 2-1 with a Jose Ortiz goal and a converted penalty by Luciano Acosta early in the first half.

If someone had predicted the next game going Philadelphia’s way by four goals, it probably would’ve been a good April fool’s joke considering the Union’s record at that time.  The strange thing is, beyond some lineup changes, the Union had around the same amount of shots in both games. They had less possession than in the April matchup yet managed to capitalize in the final third much better. That combined with the defense being aware of the spaces created on their end before Lloyd Sam and Patrick Mullins could strike inside the box gave Union the advantage.

Even with early yellow cards issued to Fabinho and Alejandro Bedoya, the Union had a good first half with three set pieces and a sharp midfield that wasn’t afraid of helping the defense clear some balls. A midfield role that is usually minded by Derrick Jones who was called up for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s’ National Team camp this week. Haris Medunjanin got his chance to wow the crowd with his first MLS goal in the 39th minute with a stunner.  

The second half started with a saved header by Fafa Picault courtesy of Chris Pontius who was largely invisible against his former team. DC could have been awarded a penalty from a Fabinho foul on Sam that was in the box, but curiously the ref let it slide. Five minutes after that challenge, Luciano Acosta was shown a straight red card for a heated lunge against Ilsinho after getting knocked out of the way by Oguchi Onyewu.

Speaking of Onyewu, he headed in Union’s second goal of the night from a corner kick taken by Medunjanin. Oguchi, more fondly known as “Gooch”, celebrated his 35th birthday in front of his hometown with his first goal in MLS. He ended a goal drought that stretched back to January 2014.

Haris Medunjanin kept the assists coming as Fafa Picault finally got the goal he sought after the entire game in the 78th minute. Picault was shortly after subbed out for Jay Simpson. The only shot on goal for DC United came late in the 82nd minute from a direct hit into the center by Lamar Neagle which was easily saved by Andre Blake. Then, the game was sealed by a Fabian Herbers goal into the upper corner of Bill Hamid’s net, giving him his first of the season and Bedoya his first MLS assist. Herbers came on as a sub for Ilsinho who was filling in the Roland Alberg’s usual no. 10 spot at the 63rd minute marker.

With plenty of career-firsts put on the map for Union players, the spirits are high for the mid-week battle against Houston. Some niggling doubts on my mind: when will we see Chris Pontius’ comeback to his form from last year, or rather be more of an impact than he is right now? Don’t get me wrong, he’s had some crucial passes and looks in these last three games.

CJ Sapong is two away from his career-high goal tally for the season and Picault is well on his way to applying his speed into good spaces, but I’ve been waiting for some real Pontius magic to happen. Ilsinho in the no. 10 didn’t feel like it worked all that well in creativity. There is yet to be a definitive playmaker for the Union and that will rear its head sooner rather than later as we fight for the playoffs.

This game was great. It was the best shut out I’ve seen out of the Union, but there will always be caution in the wind if the team doesn’t take these opportunities to build. Our set pieces haven’t been much to talk about, often missing a target, and three out of the four goals the Union scored against DC were long-ranged strikes. There’s no guarantee that will work against other opponents, especially ones who aren’t in a slump. I’ll definitely be looking forward to these next two home games as an indication of what’s to come out of the Union.

Next week: We face the top team in the west, Houston Dynamo. My prediction: a conservative tie, the challenge we’ve been waiting to see against this refreshed Union team.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @mercpay

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Déjà-Crew

Hilary - Columbus
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Wednesday, May 10: 1-2 Loss

Does this sound familiar–Columbus Crew SC losing another game where they were leading? Are the demons of Columbus Crew SC 2016 resurfacing?  Are we trying to play another match like we did against NYCFC a week and half ago?    Are you experiencing déjà-crew?  Because during this game, I definitely felt that I was.

Columbus Crew SC played a strong 65 minutes before the wheels came off.    Due to some hard work, Ola Kamara drew a foul that led to a PK, which Federico Higuain put away in the 28’.  Toronto FC’s keeper Alexander Bono dove before the ball even left Pipa’s feet. 

Not long after Columbus received their PK, Zack Steffen committed a foul in the 37’ resulting in a Jozy Altidore PK.  Zack Steffen guessed correctly stopping Altidore’s attempt to even the score.  Toronto started making offensive subs before the half putting in Tosaint Ricketts in the 40’ who became a difference maker for Toronto.

For the bulk of the first half, Columbus Crew SC maintained the majority of the possession, and a victory seemed within grasp.  During the second half, Crew SC seemed to struggle with possession and tired legs beginning around the 65’.  Then, acting coach Josh Wolff made his first sub, which I didn’t necessarily agree with, but he must have felt necessary putting on Jimenez for Williams in the 66’. 

Toronto found their footing in the game, and in the 81’ and 90’, the stadium watched as Ricketts finished both goals–the winning goal going through a slew of both Columbus Crew SC and Toronto players before Ricketts finished it. 

It’s another heartbreaking loss for Columbus Crew SC and the fans who saw another lead lost.  Déjà-Crew.

Some observations:

  • Higuain had another masterful game, but you could tell he was tired at the end.  It’s nice to see him have a consistent set of stellar games.
  • Abu looked much more comfortable in this game.  Previously, I thought he looked clunky and slow, but in this game, he seemed to have found his rhythm with his teammates.
  • It was nice to see the whole team celebrating our goal together.  Last year, I noticed there were a lot of times when that didn’t happen.  This seems like a pretty cohesive bunch, which I think will help the team get through these losses and find their form again.
  • I wore the same outfit to both games where Crew SC lost after having the lead.  I promise no more wearing that outfit to games.
  • Starting a long stretch of away games, hopefully, the Crew SC will fare better than they did during this home stand.

Up next, a Saturday match against Montreal Impact.  Let’s hope we don’t have another experience of déjà-crew. 

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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8 Days, 3 Games, 5 Goals, 6 Points

Kirsten Arpin - Sporting Kansas City/mlsfemale
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Oh hey everyone! I’m back! I apologize for my hiatus. School was kicking my butt, but I’m done with the grading and the tests and the papers!

Sporting KC played three games in eight days! RSL, NYRB, and MNU. It was crazy! Luckily the first two games in the stretch were at home, because SKC has been straight fire at home since the home opener (and we do not speak of those: See a few articles ago).

Sporting started off the run on Saturday, April 29th at Children’s Mercy Park to take on one of our big rivals, Real Salt Lake. I’m not going to lie…I don’t like RSL, and it’s all Kyle Beckerman‘s fault. When I mentioned players I didn’t like I completely forgot Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman is the worst, but he didn’t play…so I’ll move on.

So I don’t know how many of you have been to Kansas City in April, but it tends to be rainy. It does not tend to be this freaking cold! This is not Toronto, it should not be freezing! We were all worried that the game would be delayed due to weather because it had been storming off and on all day, but luck was on our side and the game went off without a hitch. Also, the Cauldron‘s tifo went…up with just a tiny hitch, but it was fine.

RSL was coming in with new head coach Mike Petke (whom Ambrosia is very excited about), but unfortunately for Petke RSL has been plagued with injuries. This includes his two USMNT mainstays goalkeeper Nick Rimando, and the aforementioned Kyle Beckerman. Petke had spent some time during the week saying that RSL didn’t need any “bulletin board fodder” to pump his team up for SKC. A slight dig at Sporting perhaps?

Some of our guys (Dom…Benny) do like to get a little chippy. I like it to call it friendly banter… With how the scoreline ended up though maybe RSL could have used something  more to pump them up. Benny Feilhaber got the scoring started in the 17th minute off a pass from Graham Zusi that led to a strike from just outside the penalty area. *Sidenote: I love when Benny scores. Not just because we get a goal, but our head broadcaster, Nate Bukaty, always yells FEILHABER really loudly and I think it’s the best thing.

There were some scares for SKC in between 20-30 minutes. Mulholland hit a shot wide, and then Plata had a ball bounce off his back and into the net. He was blatantly offside so it didn’t matter, but it was scary nonetheless. We also got to see some great shots from Gerso in the first half. Neither of them connected, but they showed the power he can get from about 20 yards out. In the 50th minute, Matt Besler fed a long ball up to Dom Dwyer who juked a defender and put the ball in the back of the net. After his goal Dom ran over to celebrate his first right-footed goal of the season with head trainer Kenny Ishii who helped him rehab after his ankle surgery in the offseason. The game ended on a garbage time goal by Gerso, and Blue Hell was sufficiently given.

Sporting’s next game was on the Wednesday immediately following the RSL game. SKC took on the Fighting Energy Drinks from New York. This game was a good bit warmer, and way drier than the last game. skcvnyrb

Please note the lack of raincoats and the regular attire.

The first half of this game was a little worrisome, but mostly almost exciting. There were shots that were so close! But the proverbial cigar…no dice. Supposedly over the half time break Dom was telling his teammates that he was going to score a goal, and boy did he deliver. He didn’t waste any time with a follow up on a shot by Benny from point-blank range in the 46th minute.

Benny had another great run about 15 minutes later that was deflected by Robles at the last second. It was pretty fun to watch actually. If you’ve ever played FIFA or watched someone play FIFA then you’d know about how when your player is making a solo run the camera blurs and all you can focus on is that one player. Maybe…or not. But it was totally like that. Take my word for it. Dom scored again in the 68th minute with a ball that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net. T’was lit, my dudes!

I have to do a quick shout out to the defense by the way. Zusi, Bes, Ike, Seth, and I’m throwing in Ilie are really killing it. In the game against New York Red Bulls they were on complete lockdown! It was like a clinic watching them out there. Note to any and everyone…don’t change the backline. Things happen that we don’t want to happen (See below…or just ignore because hopefully it will never happen again.) Oh, and Tim Melia is the best goalkeeper in the land. The Cauldron chanted it, so it must be true! @DaynaOG also agreed with my sentiment of how Tim is the hero this country needs. ‘Nuff said.

With the win on May 3rd Sporting was on the top of the table with 18 points! Then…

Sporting played a game last Sunday…and some stuff happened…and that’s about it.

Now we’re tied…not really…but we have the same amount of points as FC Dallas. Dang goal differential.

Fun Facts!

Mo Johnston is this year’s honoree for the Sporting Legends Hall of Honor! Johnston played for the Wizards from 1996-2001, scored 32 goals, and had 31 assists in his 170 caps.

The next game for SKC is Retro Night! There will be “Charlie Brown” jerseys everywhere! They are awesome btw.

Sporting’s next game is coming up this Saturday at 6:00 pm when they take on Orlando City FC in Orlando. Here’s hoping for another 3 points, and to getting back to the top of the table!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

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Tales From A Tiny Field

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, May 7: 3-1 Loss

I don’t even know where to start with this one. It was not our best game. In fact, it was probably the worst. And the first time we’ve had back to back losses – although I’m sure it won’t be the last. Something is not clicking with the team lately. I have an idea what it could be, but really, I’d just like to blame it on the teeny tiny field in Yankee Stadium.

The one good thing that happened during this game was that Carlos Carmona got his first MLS goal. And it was a stunner.

So many not so good things, though. I wonder if they’re just struggling because of the lineup changes every week. Between injuries and suspensions, I don’t think we’ve had the same lineup two weeks in a row yet. It’s mostly the same, but with Yamil Asad out suspended (again!) this week, Miguel Almiron was pushed out to the left to cover for him. Almiron is pretty much amazing wherever he plays, but I think the general consensus in ATL is that he’s more natural in the middle.

We did manage to make it out of another game without a single red card – or questionable play that ended in a suspension – but the boys came back from NYC with four yellow cards (Gressel, Parkhurst, Larentowicz, and Mears).

Other than the lineup and fouls, the only other factor was that field. It’s so small. The players just look like they’re tripping over each other. All the games I’ve watched at NYC have seemed that way. They really do have a heck of a home field advantage.

Next Sunday, ATL is away again at Portland. With Portland coming off a terrible loss and having home field advantage, I’m not sure I’m feeling so confident going into this game. I can only hope that with Asad back on the left and Almiron in the middle, the boys will be back on their game. And maybe we’ll have Martinez back from injury????? *Fingers and toes and arms and legs and eyes crossed* Is it sad that I’m really hoping the Timbers Army has a kick-ass tifo for us this weekend, too?

In other news, our Academy boys are killing it for the US teams! Andrew Carleton (aka “Frosted Orange” by his fans) and Zyen Jones tallied a few goals to help the U-17 team qualify for the U-17 World Cup in India. Here’s one of Carleton’s goals:

A few other tidbits:

  • Academy player Lagos Kunga was called up to the US U-20 World Cup roster.
  • The next home game (vs Houston) on 5/20 is the fourth consecutive sell out game for ATLUTD.
  • If you live in the South and/or have Fox Sports South, make sure to watch the ATLUTD Match Week this week; Brittany Arnold did a great interview with Tito Villalba (heart eyes emoji).

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Not A Fan Of Day Matches

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Saturday, May 6: 0-1 Loss

This is the rematch most, if not all, Seattle Sounders fans have been waiting for.  So much was made of the MLS Cup ending in PKs versus Toronto FC, and no shots on goal for the Sounders. 

True to the hype, this was indeed a “revenge match.” Jair Marrufo was in the center circle. I try not to blame bad matches on the refs because it isn’t only one reason a match goes badly.  Sounders’ match started out well enough but went downhill fast.  

Let’s go to the video tape: In the sixth minute Sounders got a free kick in a great spot.  Roldan took the free kick and it’s a goal! Or is it? Nope, called for offside, no goal. While, I was on the far end of the stadium from the goal, it didn’t look offside at all, but having the luxury of a replay, the assistant ref got the call right. *insert grumble about not liking offside*

So the match moves on and something just seems off with the Sounders.  After the amazing comeback against the New England Revolution the week before, the team seems tired. Another observation is that Toronto FC, while not playing dirty soccer, it’s certainly thuggish. To compound the frustration, they are getting calls from Marrufo for their behavior. The offside call was just a heart crushing moment. It was like the air was sucked out of the fans, which leads us to the 22nd minute. 

In the 22nd minute, a penalty is called against the Sounders.  Roman Torres fell onto Jozy Altidore.  When it happened live, it looked soft.  Now that I have had a chance to see the replay a few times, it was a soft call.  It looks like Torres tripped and fell into Altidore.  That is my opinion of course, the ref must make a quick call at the time and I can see where you would think it was a penalty.  I will be happy when the Video Ref system comes online (if it does). 

Well, from that point on it just got worse and worse for the Sounders.  If I hadn’t known better I would have said the Sounders were the team that played a midweek match.  The penalty just took the wind out of their match and they were just going through the motions.  If you looked at the stats from the match, you would think the Sounders won the match.  We were better than TFC in almost every category, except the one that really matters, the final score. 

There were some bright spots, though.  Stefan Frei was amazing again; he had a save that was almost exactly like “The Save”.  There were moments where you could almost feel like they were going to come back, but then they give up the ball and the moment was lost.  This loss will be put behind us and we move onto an away match at Chicago, Saturday evening.  Chicago has had a remarkable turnaround so this could be a good match.  I am looking forward to it.

See you in the terraces.

Featured image Week 10 MLS Save of the Week courtesy: @SoundersFC

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Columbus Crew SC Recap

Hilary - Columbus
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, May 6: 2-0 Win

Gregg Berhalter started a slightly different line-up when Columbus Crew SC faced the New England Revolution on Saturday night–Waylon Francis and Hector Jiménez as the wing backs and Josh Williams at center back as Nicolai Naess was pushed up into the defensive midfield spot. 

Wil Trapp played the more offensive minded of the two in the center of the field this week as Abu was on the bench and Artur is making his way back from a broken wrist.  These changes could be a result of starters Raitala, Harrison, and Abu not having spectacular games last week (and Harrison welcoming a son into his family this week) or the fact that Columbus has three games in eight days. 

Either way, the changes seemed to work as Columbus Crew SC defeated the New England Revolution 2-0 with goals from Ola Kamara and Federico Higuaín who continues to be a man on fire on the field.

Let’s review the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful of this game:

The Good:  Zack Steffen.  He made some spectacular saves and kept Crew SC securely in the lead.  This young keeper continues to impress me in every game.  Wil Trapp.  I didn’t watch him every minute of the game, but I never saw him make a bad move the entire game. 

Also, I was pleased with the offensive movement of the ball.  A lot of players seemed involved throughout the game, which caused some problems for New England when we were on the attack.  For example, Kamara’s goal started with a nice ball from Mensah to Higuaín who made a deft turn and passed the ball to Meram who passed to Kamara who took a beautiful shot for a goal in the 13’. 

Our second goal was a result of a nice ball from Jiménez to Pipa to Kamara who held it and sent it back to Pipa for a goal in the 53’.   Finlay, Naess, and Trapp were also involved in some offensive passing that resulted in strong shots taken by Kamara and Meram.  If our players continue to involve everyone in the attack, Wil Trapp, and Higuaín continue to perform as they have, and Artur gets healthy, I really believe we will be a force to be reckoned with. 

The Bad:  We still lose possession for long stretches of time, and our defense, while significantly improved from last season, won’t be able to absorb that kind of pressure from every team–as witnessed last week in the loss against NYCFC.  After our first goal, New England kept possession for a good chunk of time and kept trying to force us to make a mistake that would give them a goal.  We were lucky that the crossbar stopped Lee Nguyen’s shot in the 21’ and no New England player got on the corner kick that went right across the mouth of our goal in the 31’.  Realistically, I know we can’t hold possession 100% of the game.  However, we need to find a way to prevent these long stretches of possession by our opponents. 

The Ugly:  Jonathan Mensah’s fouls in the 14’ and 16’ minutes.  I’m truly surprised that Mensah didn’t get a red card after that 16’ foul.  If he had gotten the red, this game could have had a much different result.  These fouls seemed like rookie mistakes from a player who is definitely not a rookie.  Despite these fouls, the rumblings on Twitter and fans’ comments in the stands, I feel like outside these two fouls Mensah had a solid game.  I still think he’s finding his way with the team having come late to preseason and then dealing with injuries.  I think he’s been given less leeway to adjust due to the outstanding play by rookie Alex Crognale, but I’m not ready to disregard what Mensah can bring to this team defensively.

Also ugly, Je-Vaughn Watson’s foul against Niko Hansen who came in for Ethan Finlay in the 73’.  In the 77’ as Niko was making a run and had touched the ball away from himself, Watson essentially clotheslined Niko down.  This resulted in a yellow card which most of the stadium thought should have been a red.  The lack of a red card had Gregg seeing red and after arguing with the ref about the call got himself ejected from the game.  I’m not going to lie; I laughed and a surge of pride flowed through me.  It’s nice to see the usually reserved Berhalter heated about a call.  Now, I don’t think he deserved to get ejected, but I’m not sure that really mattered to head referee Mark Geiger

The Beautiful:  The rainbow bending toward Nordecke in the first half—a sure sign that it was a night for a Crew SC victory.

Coming up:  A mid-week match against Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC.  Looking forward to seeing what these two teams will do on Wednesday night especially Crew SC without their coach on the sidelines.

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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So Much for the “A Game”

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, May 6: 3-0 Loss

MLS is unpredictable. People who want to be more assured of a game ending a particular way will look to English, German, or Mexican soccer. They can be much more confident where their Liverpools, Bayern Munichs, or Pumas will rise and fall, and where they will end up at the end of the season.

It’s just not so with MLS teams. A team like the New York Red Bulls (5-5-1, 16 points) should have sailed into Talen Energy Stadium and taken down Bottom-of-the-table Philadelphia Union (1-4-4, 7 points). Sure, they just came off a loss against Sporting Kansas City. But that was with all sorts of tweaks to their system. Maybe they just underestimated Union’s hunger to win.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. The familiar faces were back in the starting XI, and the bench included a recuperated Mike Grella. The first half was largely uneventful, with solid saves from goalkeepers Luis Robles and Andre Blake. Defender Damien Perrinelle was in the action all over the defending third, and winger Alex Muyl was on the attack. However, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips seemed to give up the ball in an effort to create chances for other Red Bulls. The Union defensive line figured out BWP quickly and shut him down at every turn.

The second half became the CJ Sapong show. He scored 2 goals in the run of play (74′ & 81′) followed by a Penalty Kick (85′) for a handball in the box by Perrinelle. Despite using all three available substitutions, including Mike Grella, manager Jesse Marsch could not right the ship and the game ended in a shut out of the Red Bulls on the road.

Remember when I said MLS is unpredictable? Well, the one thing the MLS fan can count on is how difficult it is to win away from home. No team has won more than 2 away games so far this season. So perhaps it was inevitable that Philly would win. They have a town hall meeting for season ticket holders this week, and had to have been feeling the heat.

The Red Bulls have another 3-game home stand coming up, beginning with Western conference underdog LA Galaxy. They might not be hungry for their first win, but they could pull out all the stops for a solid road win. The Red Bulls have to snap their slump before it gets out of hand. This promises to be a more important game than originally expected, for both sides.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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