Misery in Sandy

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, May 17: 2-1 Loss

NARRATOR: Previously, on Hubris FC…

SEPIA FLASHBACK C.M.: Not to get ahead of myself, but I sense a road win for the boys in blue…

NARRATOR: She had gotten ahead of herself.

Let’s not sugarcoat it, gang. That was an unconscionably bad match!

For the second of New York City FC‘s three back-to-back away matches in one week, Patrick Vieira decided heavy rotation was the way to go. I’m all for rotation; it’s what keeps regular starters rested and fresh, and it lets the backup players shine. But for squad rotation to be an effective strategy — a strategy that produces wins — it helps to have a deep bench.

Instead, NYCFC’s lineup resembled a newborn deer trying to run on its wobbly legs. Andrea Pirlo, Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring and captain Tommy McNamara did their best to provide stability and structure, but it never quite came together. Even with Ugo Okoli‘s first MLS goal coming just three minutes in, the boys in blue couldn’t find their footing to keep up the pace.

C.M. Brandon - New York City FC/mlsfemale
First MLS goal!

Vieira did his best to mitigate the leaking ship after Real Salt Lake scored their second goal of the night and made a quick double substitution, letting David Villa and Jack Harrison off the bench and onto the pitch with their eyes on the goal. NYCFC looked markedly better in that final half hour with Villa and Harrison’s combined magic, but it was still too little, too late.

The result would be disappointing but unsurprising if it came from a team that soundly outplayed us, but ultimately Real Salt Lake weren’t even particularly strong. NYCFC just happened to be much worse. It made for a resolutely boring match that was frequently cringeworthy to watch. Between NYCFC’s defensive blunders (Maxime Chanot, you were sorely missed) and a solid performance from RSL’s veteran keeper, there was just no way we could come up from behind on this one.

To his credit, Vieira took responsibility for the thrashing NYCFC received almost immediately after the final whistle. He admitted flat out that his squad selection was off, and that he bears the blame for the loss. Disappointment in the result aside, I’ll take a manager who owns his mistakes and doesn’t throw his players under the bus any day of the week. Obviously the hope is that this was a learning opportunity for Vieira and the entire team — that player dynamics have become clearer, that it’s just as valuable to learn what doesn’t work as what does.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Here are a few good things to wash the bitter taste out of your mouth:

  • Ugo’s first career goal did well to show his strength and ability to hold off defenders. Of course, we all wish it had led to an avalanche of more goals — nobody likes their first tally on the score sheet to still end in a loss — but if it’s a sign of things to come from Ugo, I’m happy.
  • Alex Ring, Alex Ring, Alex Ring. Every day I grow more convinced that he’s the signing of the season for NYCFC. I can’t sing his praises enough. He’s such a solid, all-around midfielder and I’m thrilled we have him. (Also, I’m a huge fan of any footballer who encourages his daughter to play.)
  • Playing in the snowy, high elevation of Sandy isn’t ideal, but if absolutely nothing else, you have to admit that the training photos that come out of these away matches are gorgeous.
  • …I mean, nobody spent their entire match trying to stomp Maxi down into the ground this time, so that’s a plus.
  • Oh cool, we drew the NY Red Bulls for the Open Cup, of course we did, never mind, everything is fire and pain and suffering.

God only knows if we’ll see the fruits of such a painful labor this weekend against Orlando City. NYCFC has still never won there, so no pressure.

Since I clearly cursed this match last week, what if we try it the other way around this time? It’s worth a shot, right? In that case, I fully expect NYCFC to roll over and show their belly and lose 17-0. Wink.

Featured image courtesy: nycfc.com

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A Breath of Fresh Air

Allison - LA Galaxy
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Allison Sorrell // @AJSorrell_

Sunday, May 14: 1-3 Win

Sunday’s match was an unexpected breath of fresh air.

With this match being the first of four consecutive away matches coming directly after a brutal loss and a couple of uneventful draws, LA Galaxy fans didn’t have the most positive outlook heading into last Sunday at Red Bull Arena.

The week leading into Sunday’s match, Galaxy players and coaches alike cited last week’s draw against Chicago Fire as a turn in the right direction. I can speak for myself and probably many other avid followers of this LA team when I say I was a little more than skeptical that a draw at home could possibly be a turn in the right direction. Thankfully, those of us that thought that were wrong.

This LA team walked into this match at Red Bull Arena more confident than I’ve seen them at even any of our home matches this season. The Galaxy got their first solid chance in the 7th minute when the ball bounced between a few players in the box, but the play ended in Romain Alessandrini drawing a foul just outside of the box, and subsequently scoring a beautiful ‘goal of the week’ worthy goal directly off of the free kick in the 8th minute.

With the Galaxy having the game in their hands for the first time in longer than I can even remember, the added confidence led to Alessandrini earning a second goal in the 9th minute. Not only are the Galaxy only the second squad this year to earn a goal against the Red Bulls on their own turf, but this looks like a complete 180 for the Galaxy we’ve been seeing all season. I think we all would have liked to be flies on the wall during training last week.

While Alessandrini was the star of the show (as he has been all season, let’s be real), some other bright moments came from Giovani dos Santos, who has been extremely quiet for most of the season, but earned the assist in the 9th minute, and had a much more inspired game than I’ve seen from him all season. He went on to score the goal from the penalty kick drawn by Alessandrini.

If the score line wasn’t enough, it was easy to see that the Galaxy has turned over a better leaf by watching the celebration after the third goal. We’re not out of the woods yet, but for once this year the future isn’t looking quite as bleak. The real test will be in how we handle the rest of this trip away from home.

While Brian Rowe only missed the clean sheet by less than a minute after Daniel Royer’s goal for the Red Bulls in stoppage time, Rowe seemed to gain a little confidence back as well, and I think we’ll be seeing him as the starter for the long haul.

It was almost as if the Red Bulls were uninspired this whole match, which is the same thing I’ve expected from the Galaxy most of this season. They sat back at home, didn’t take necessary chances, and consequently left this match defeated at home for the first time all season. But hey, I’m not complaining.

Featured image of Romain Alessandrini courtesy: @LAGalaxy

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GRESSELMANIA!

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, May 14: 1-1 Draw

Full disclosure: I haven’t rewatched the game from Sunday against Portland Timbers, so I’m going to just gloss over the finer details of it and talk about a few observations I noted while watching on Sunday. For another perspective of the game, you can read my MLSFemale counterpart, Sheba’s article here.

I have to agree with Sheba about the ball Yamil Asad took to the head and the possibility of him having a concussion and yet continuing to play. I know Atlanta United takes these injuries seriously – Jeff Larentowicz just returned from being out for two games because of a hit he took a few weeks ago. Not sure if Yamil took it seriously, though.

And I don’t disagree that the tackle that Carlos Carmona got a yellow for was far more dangerous than it needed to be. I don’t want to see him get suspended, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if he is.

Things we learned this week:

  • Miguel Almiron has no right foot – he had a couple of chances for goals, but either passed to someone else who missed or had a shot saved or shot with his left foot and missed.
  • Asad can do more than throw ‘bows – scroll down to #1 in Matt Doyle’s weekly recap to see Asad’s backheel nutmeg pass to Almiron.
  • Rookies can score goals! Julian Gressel was picked 8th in the MLS SuperDraft this year and has been having such a great start to the season that he’s already gotten a catchy nickname (Gresselmania) and his own fan-made t-shirt. On Sunday in Portland, he scored his first goal – and it was lovely.

And, in case you haven’t seen the shirt yet, here’s the tweet I sent out after the game (that Gressel liked!):

And finally:

  • Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is probably the best CB in MLS right now – totally my opinion, but I’m not the only one who thinks so:

It was a much better game for us with Tito Villalba up top instead of Kenwyne Jones. Much love for Kenwyne, but he’s just not fast and this team was built for speed. The boys still need to work a bit on finishing their chances, but these numbers tell me we’ll be ok:

For the first time ever in ATLUTD’s short history, we have back to back home games!! This Saturday, we are hosting Houston Dynamo and May 28th we host NYCFC on a correctly sized field. 😉

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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A Brace? What a Blessing!

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

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Saturday, May 13: 2-2 Draw

Man, the wordplay is…well it’s something I guess.

Here we are with another short week for Sporting KC. A game against Orlando City FC on Saturday, and then one against the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night. So that leaves us with some quick fire articles.

On Saturday my husband and I were driving to the watch party for the game only to get stuck in a traffic jam where the main highway into downtown KC was closed for construction. Then we had to navigate the patrons for the Garth Brooks concert at the Sprint Center, and after that we got to walk through a country concert at KC Live in Power and Light. Quick note: We are not country people. We walked through this concert wearing Vans and Sambas so that we could get to No Other Pub. There were soooo many pairs of boots.

After the saga of getting to the watch party, we finally made it around the 11th minute. By that time, Latif Blessing had already scored his first goal! Ilie fed a ball up to Gerso who looked like he was going to shoot it, but he sent in a cross that tipped off a sliding Matt Besler and Latif tapped it in. The goal came off of a cleared setpiece hence Besler still being up front. Not going to lie, but I’m lucky that this game was the MLS Condensed Game of the Week or I would have just been confused… If the darn highlights started just a smidge earlier. Also, darn you Garth Brooks!

Orlando came back pretty quickly when Cyle Larin snuck onside and past our defense to score their first goal. There was a slight uproar in twitter land about Larin being unmarked, and that seems founded. The defenders did seem mighty occupied with the cross. Ten minutes later there was an Orlando City breakaway, and Kaka found the back of the net. It was a beautifully handled ball, so I’ll say I can’t be too mad. That’s a lie. I hate losing, but it was a pretty play.

Until Latif’s second goal, we’ll get to that in a second, all I could think was, “We have to get a goal. Our offense looks too solid and too organized to not get one.” But all we were getting were good runs into the attacking third and lots of possession time. It seemed that Sporting was utilizing their strong passing game almost to a fault. We’d pass the ball around and let Orlando City flood the box with defenders. There was finally a crack in the defense when Gerso got the ball to Benny Feilhaber who played an on target shot that was deflected by Joe Bendik straight to Latif who tapped another short goal. There was definitely an undercurrent of “Finally!” to the celebrations at No Other Pub!

Let’s talk about Bendik right quick. Here in KC we have one of the best keepers in the league. Maybe the best this season. His name is Tim Melia. He is a unicorn, a hero, and a class act. I have not seen Tim Melia lean over a player from the opposing team and scream in his face no matter the circumstance. Joe Bendik leaned over Latif Blessing twice and screamed in his face. I understand that Latif dove a few times, and one or two were blatant. Knowing Peter Vermes, I also doubt that Latif will be doing that anymore. Joe Bendik needs to back off. Did it hurt him, no. Maybe he should have stopped those goals.

Fun Facts

Tim Melia and Ike Opara have been named to the MLS First Quarter Best XI. Sporting’s two players tie them with Orlando City for having the most players on the team.

Mo Johnson will be added to the Sporting Legends on Wednesday which is also Retro Night! Get ready to see a bunch of Charlie Brown jerseys!

Three Sporting KC players completed over 96% of their passes in game against Orlando City…passing game on point.

See you all on Wednesday for SKC v SEA! No Joevin Jones for Seattle. Bring it on, Deuce!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

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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

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

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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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