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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A Letter to Columbus Crew SC Fans

Hilary - Columbus
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary @hils4crew

When I was younger, if you had told me that I’d be a season ticket holder for a sports team and even attempt to write for said team, I would have looked at you like you had three heads.  It isn’t because I don’t love sports.  I do.  In fact, I started playing soccer in first grade, and I immediately became a fan of the game.  I thrived on the competitive nature of the game and loved the camaraderie of being part of a team.  

I played in city leagues growing up and eventually played high school soccer.  I stopped playing after high school, but I returned to playing in my late 20s and haven’t looked back—playing 1-3 games a week.  However, watching soccer held no interest for me.  Little did I know that in 2008 that would all change. 

I had a friend who started going to games since the conception of the team and officially became a season ticket holder of Columbus Crew SC with his dad (an incredibly passionate Crew SC fan), in 1998.  In July of 2008, my friend’s dad suddenly passed away, so when the Crew made the playoffs that year with my friend’s dad surely cheering loudly from heaven, I found myself at the games. 

There was something about the team. They radiated everything I loved about soccer.  So, I read everything I could find on the team, listened to podcasts when I discovered them, and have been a season ticket holder ever since. 

I haven’t been there from the beginning, but I definitely have memories from this team that will stay with me forever.  The roller coaster of emotions this team causes has deepened my devotion to them. 

Painting my face and yelling so much at the 2008 playoff win over Chicago.  Yelling out to Danny O’Rourke that he played a great game as I passed by him downtown after we shellacked the LA Galaxy.  Jumping off the couch with glee as Will Hesmer ran up and scored a goal on Toronto FC.  Reeling in horror followed by tears of sadness when the core of the 2008 team was jettisoned away at the end of 2010. Watching a bunch of new guys play RSL in the CONCACAF game at Mapfre Stadium while sitting on ice. 

Standing in silence during the 15th minute to honor Kirk Urso who we lost way too soon. Laughing hysterically as the scoreboard pumped out smoke.  Crying when my favorite Crew SC player of all time—Eddie Gavin—announced he was retiring and now cringing every time we play in the Open Cup.  Screeching at the TV when we came back to win by scoring 3 goals against Philadelphia to keep the playoffs alive in 2014. 

Watching proudly as Kei Kamara made a run at the Golden Boot.  Shaking my head in disbelief as we watched Portland raise the MLS Cup in our stadium.  Asking the person next to me at the stadium if we were really seeing players fighting over a PK.  Grinning at the emergence of the rookies this year.  These are just a few of the drops in the bucket of Crew SC memories. 

This team has given me so much—joy, agony, hope, elation—that I decided it was time to give something back to this team.  So, when MLS Female asked for a writer for Columbus Crew SC, I thought I would give it a try.  Starting next week, I will be providing recaps with some of my thoughts on most of the games. I’m sure it won’t be perfect, but I’m sure you’ll have no doubt of my passion for this Massive soccer team. 

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @hils4crew

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba @mercpay

It was a sunny day in August when I went to my first Philadelphia Union game. I was completely new to MLS, and the only things I knew about the match and the team were:

  1. The precursor team of Philadelphia Union was Bethlehem Steel F.C. from the 1900s (the Union had a third kit in 2013 with homage to the team and has now gone on to sponsor a new reincarnation of BSteel in the USL)
  2. That same Bethlehem Steel team had won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup five times in their day and Philadelphia was gearing up to get their first title, having come close in 2014 as well. This would be their year to add a little more history to the area.

The friend who had invited me out to the game was a bit of a history buff and I was always enthusiastic about soccer wherever it was found so we met in the middle with football facts. I adjusted my expectations accordingly because, well, Philly teams have great fanbases but not-so-great records when it comes to winning.

Our group had seats right in front of the midfield, and we were surrounded by seasoned followers and a few season ticket holders of the boys in blue. We were in good company is what I mean to say, but I was taken by the stadium itself. There is something special about the people that wait, that watch as the teams warm up. They are a banked fire ready to come alive at the sound of the whistle starting the match. This is no different around the world whether it is a rec league or in Camp Nou.

I fell in love with the Union, not when Sebastien Le Toux netted the winner in the second half of the semifinal, not when the funny little DOOP tune played over the speakers or the crowd erupted into cheers and swept us up in the feeling, but in that quiet moment before the game even started. There is a lot I could say about Talen Energy (or as I knew it PPL Park.) It is a smaller venue, and the home crowd has some colorful and self-deprecating chants. You get a lungful of the riverfront mixed in with the general city air that stays in your sensory bank and possibly your throat after a visit. The skyline painted in orange and violet as the sun sets, is the most beautiful sight next to blue smoke rising from the River End signifying a goal for the Union.

I found myself in that strange little waterfront stadium, amongst the blue and gold that fateful August day. When I try to put into words how I became a fan of this team, the Dennis Bergkamp quote comes to mind:

“When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.”

As for the more mundane things, I’m a Jersey transplant living in Pennsylvania, went to school near Pittsburgh and came back home to the east end of the state. I watch the Bundesliga religiously and strive to infect all of my friends with the football bug when the World Cup comes around.

I grew up watching my father and brother play the beautiful game. Coming from a Peruvian family, one of the best soccer moments in recent history for me was the third place finish for Peru in Copa America Centenario last year. Philadelphia Union is the only blue team in my red, red heart.

I am a member of the Bayern Red Ladies, an all-women fanclub for Bayern Munich, and am always looking for more people to talk to about my teams in English or Spanish.

Featured image courtesy: Jeff Zelevansky

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Too Little Too Early

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Saturday, April 15: 2-1 Loss

Song of the Match – Down by Marian Hill

It’s little surprise to anyone that our first loss of the season comes in the absence of Drew Moor. I wish Drew and his family all of the best and I’ve heard that the initially terrifying prospect of him being diagnosed with a heart condition may be something that can be dealt with within a couple of weeks. (source) It sounds like no one, including Drew, expects him to be out for long but I’ll breathe easier once he’s back.

Despite the absence of the Toronto FC rock in the back line, my personal favourite Nick Hagglund did a great job in Drew’s role, and although we were caught sleeping a few times, particularly on the header goal, Nick and Eriq Zavaleta both put shifts in and helped to lead the team from the back. It just, unfortunately, wasn’t enough for us as we fell 2-1 to Columbus Crew. It definitely smarts a bit more than it should served up by the team in yellow we play for the Trillium Cup.

Besides a defense that wasn’t as airtight as usual (again!), we also should have been scoring goals. We looked strong early on and managed to open the scoring but our midfield looked lacklustre especially in the second half; we quite obviously lacked in pace. It seems one of the things we are still tinkering with is the right midfield dynamic.

Having said that, what on earth is it going to take to see Jay Chapman get a minute? Any minute? Several of them preferably? We’ve yet to see our Canadian-born midfielder on the pitch this season and its high time we give him a try. He’s been dependable in the past and I’d love to see him get the chance he deserves. In the coming weeks I hope Greg Vanney explores our options and gives these young guys such as Raheem Edwards and Jay Chapman more opportunities.

It was a big night in Toronto and the Toronto Maple Leafs win helped to ease the pain of the Columbus loss. It made it easier for fans to look forward to change instead of the performances of the past few weeks in which we were barely holding on. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of our hockey team’s book and field more young players. It seems to be working wonders for them.

My Man of the Match talisman will be gratefully handed over to Nicky, as it’s been a pleasure to watch him develop under the direction of Drew Moor. Between Nick and Eriq we have a promising centre back pairing that I think we can eventually feel safe with. Even after conceding two goals I will comfortably say that our 4 or 5 at the back, however you look at it, were our strongest assets on the field. It’s only a matter of time before we start scoring goals again and our defense plays a series of games without a hitch. I believe in them.

Finally, my condolences to Greg Vanney and his family, it seems it’s been something of a difficult week at Toronto FC. It can’t have been easy juggling preparations for the game and even coaching it while dealing with a loss in the family. (source) It really feels like overall our team suffered a number of losses this week, not just on the field, and my only hope is we can move forward from here. To those who are going through some big changes in life at the moment, I will keep you in my thoughts, and to the rest of us: onwards and upwards.

Featured image courtesy: thescore.com

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A Greeting to All

Matt LiVolsi - SC
Special Contributor

By Matt LiVolsi @MJLiVolsi

Hello ladies and gentlemen, my name is Matthew LiVolsi and I am the newest Special Contributor here on MLSFemale.com. It is an honor to be amongst those who not only love the sport of soccer, but also appreciate America’s top rendition of the sport.

I am a Jersey boy that has followed soccer for nearly 7 years now, starting with the World Cup in 2010 and all the pomp and circumstance around that tournament (thank you based Landon). Since then I have fallen in love with the beautiful game here in my home state and have followed the New York Red Bulls since the beginning of the Thierry Henry years. Along with RBNY, I’ve been a fan of Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga for 4 years and of course have followed both the men’s and women’s national teams religiously.

I look to bring a unique and descriptive view on certain topics as they pertain to MLS and the American game as a whole. I will also be throwing in some coverage for the U.S. Open Cup as it unfolds. You can follow me on twitter @MJLiVolsi, if you wish to do so and be entertained by my mindless rambles on whatever irks me soccer-wise.

Thank you for reading and I hope you continue to do so.

P.S. I also speak French so…parle moi, mon Montréalaise.

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For SKC Everything Is Coming Up Roses!

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

By Kirsten Arpin @Kirsten_Hoogs

Saturday, April 15: 0-1 Win

Courtesy chuckle at the terrible joke…thank you.

This past weekend, Sporting Kansas City traveled to the great, colder than here, north-ish. Portland! It was weird watching the broadcast and seeing people wrapped up in blankets and wearing parkas because it has been between 65 and 80 degrees here for the past two games. I forgot that cold is still happening in other parts of this country.

I don’t know a ton about Portland as a place. I know about Portlandia, but I don’t know if that is an accurate representation of Portlandians…Portlandites…Portlanders…? I also know that Nat Borchers used to play there, and he is my least favorite MLS player ever. Don’t ask why. I just can’t stand him. I also don’t like post 2010 Landon Donovan, but that is another story for another article.

Now that I’m finished with my weekly tangent I’ll get on with the game.

Sporting entered the game as the number one defense in the league, and Portland Timbers boasted the number one offense, so it was bound to be a good game. The first test of the game for Sporting was a shot by Fanendo Adi in the 33rd minute. Unfortunately for Adi, and luckily for us, it was a terrible touch. He was right outside the six yard box, just him and Tim Melia, and he skied the heck out of that ball. Sorry man, but it was not good. We had the same sort of situation in the second half when Dom Dwyer played a beautiful ball back to Benny Feilhaber who couldn’t get a solid connection, and it rolled way wide.

There were strong chances for both teams though. One for Sporting in the first half off of a corner where Benny got the ball into Ilie who headed it just over the bar. It was great to see Ilie with a big move off of a set piece, and hopefully we can see some goals from him this year. One for Portland came late in the second half when Darlington Nagbe received a short pass in the attacking third, and Sporting’s outside defense decided to take a break. Nagbe had time to control the ball, basically unchallenged, and launch it toward the upper part of the net. It was a glorious shot. Too bad for Nagbe that Tim Melia is the hero this country needs. Tim got his fingertips on the ball, and managed to get it to bounce off the crossbar. *Side note: My husband loves Nagbe. He has Nagbe’s USA jersey, and calls him “My Darlington”. It’s weird when he does it in public.

The shining moment of the game happened in the 53rd minute when Sporting strung together a beautiful pass sequence that led to a Dom Dwyer header. Benny started off dribbling around three defenders, passed the ball wide to Jimmy Medranda, and Jimmy crossed a laser to Dom who put Sporting a-head (sorry) by one.

It was such a good feeling to get out of Portland with 3 points! The Timbers have only lost 12 regular season matches at Providence Park, so it was a pretty big accomplishment. It was also the first shutout against the Timbers this season.

A few notes: At the watch party we were having a small discussion about the fairness of some teams having turf fields and some having grass. It didn’t seem wet from the TV broadcast, but quite a few Sporting players were slipping on the turf. Turf is an okay choice for teams that play in wetter locations, but it’s crummy to play soccer on period.

There was a little contention about the refs. I read quite a few Timber fan tweets about how the refs may have contributed to them losing. Sporting got two yellows, and Portland didn’t get any. I’m not complaining, but I’m a smidgen perturbed on one. Seth Sinovic basically assaulted a guy, so that one was deserved. The yellow on Ike Opara could have just been a warning instead of a yellow, but Ike is also a hothead sometimes. It may have just been his time.

The game was chippy, but there were fouls missed and called on both sides. There was also a Timbers’ handball inside their box that should have been a PK for Sporting, but that’s neither here nor there. We have to remember that though we don’t like it, refs are people too. It’s probably not easy to watch 20 guys running around a field (22 depending on what the goalkeepers are doing, but I doubt they’re running about), and they have to make judgement calls on what warrants stopping the flow of the game. We can’t complain about the flow of the game, but then turn around and complain about a bunch of perceived missed fouls.

I have to give major props to Sporting’s defensive line. Those four guys are playing some of the best defensive soccer I have seen in the MLS in a long time. Matt Besler seems like he is back to All-Star form (please pay attention Bruce Arena), and Ike Opara is becoming a weekly feature on MLS Teams of the Week. In the midfield we saw the return of a healthy Benny for 80 minutes, and he looked pretty good. Oh, and Ilie Sanchez is a wizard. He has to be! His ball handling is magical!

This week’s fun facts!

This game was Peter Vermes‘ 300th game in any competition as Sporting KC’s head coach! It was also Matt Besler’s 200th start, and Graham Zusi‘s 200th appearance!

Sporting KC, the Swope Park Rangers, FCKC, and the Royals all played this weekend, and all of them won. This wasn’t just one baseball game either. The Royals swept the Angels at home. KC Total Domination! Oh, and Sydney Leroux Dwyer scored in her first game back to competitive soccer since the birth of Cassius. That’s pretty dang awesome.

Last thing. Just click on this and laugh…

Sporting KC travels to FC Dallas this week for a clash of the two final unbeaten teams in the MLS! Safe travels to the team and the Roaddron!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

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It’s the Little Things

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Saturday, April 15: 0-1 Loss

Hard to watch, harder still to re-watch, and pretty much no fun to write about. Yay sports! All right, let’s do this, shall we?

Sporting Kansas City has a reputation for solid back line, and they defended well. They clogged up the middle effectively and stymied our offense. They won the possession battle. And when Jimmy Medranda was wide open on the transition at the 53rd minute (which reminds me: hey, Sebastian Blanco, why was Medranda so wide open there?), he tapped it back to a centrally located Dom Dwyer for the only score of the game.

Here’s the thing: I watched it live in the stadium, and while I was frustrated, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what we could/should have done differently to win the game. I walked away knowing that we got outplayed but I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would have made a difference. I still haven’t got it all figured out, but having rewatched the match a couple of times, I have at least identified a few small moments/keys that stood out:

Missed opportunities

Everybody knows that, except for an acrobatic save by Kansas City’s Tim Melia, we very nearly leveled the match with a BEAUTIFUL strike by Darlington Nagbe:

While it was a spectacular might-have-been, it wasn’t the only one. At the 32nd minute, the Timbers were in transition on the move, Diego Valeri was wide open and received a pass from Nagbe, and Blanco was headed down the left side, where he and Valeri…failed to connect. It was a missed opportunity in a game where the Timbers didn’t have many, and was emblematic of our side’s failure to string together passes when it counted.

Dom Dwyer is a pro

The Timbers Army loves to hate him (he has enjoyed his share of taunting the home support in the past), but he is good at what he does. This includes playing professionally for the call. Sometimes he drew actual fouls, as he did when he successfully blocked out Roy Miller with his, er, posterior in the 16th minute, leaving Miller having to come through him and foul him. Other times he drew phantom “fouls,” as in the 36th minute against Marco Farfan.  I know I’m partisan and I know Farfan struggled in this match, but I rewatched that play a dozen times and for the life of me I didn’t see anything resembling a Farfan foul. But Dwyer sold it, and sold it well.

Where was Adi?

Fanendo Adi has been a formidable presence up top, but he seemed to disappear for much of this game. Again, credit to Kansas City’s defense, in particular Ike Opara, for effectively shutting down Adi for much of the game. I’m sure the fact that the middle was defended so well made his job more difficult; but we will need Adi to be a threat at the top of the box if we’re going to get back to our winning ways.

Killing Astronauts

Speaking of Adi, he may have had trouble finding the back of the net, but he wasn’t the only one. At one time or another, players from both teams sent the ball sailing yards above the crossbar (I know that, besides Adi, Graham Zusi  and Roger Espinoza took turns sending the ball into the stratosphere. There may have been others; I lost track after awhile.)

We are rumored to be signing a center back from Turkey sometime midseason; in anticipation, I have been researching Turkish football. They have a few colorful soccer phrases worth keeping. One of my favorites is Astronotu öldürmek, which I’m told means to kill an astronaut. As Adi, Zusi, and Espinoza sent the ball over the goal and high up into the crowd, several metaphorical astronauts gave their lives in service to poorly placed shots that day.

Off the Pitch

Once again, the Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters (the supporters group for the Portland Thorns) gave something extra off the pitch. Saturday’s match day drive was for socks for Janus Youth, serving homeless, runaway and at risk youth in the area (they are pretty much right next door to the fanladen). At both the Thorns and Timbers matches, we collected new socks for Janus Youth, with outstanding results:

In the post game comments, Porter noted that we need to take better advantage of set piece opportunities, and I can’t argue with that. But I hope we find a better solution to a physical, defensive lineup. If we don’t, we will have a long season ahead. Next up: Vancouver Whitecaps at home, and Cascadia Cup points on the line! See you on Saturday.

Featured image courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

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RSL v COL – Rocky Mountain (winning) High

Ambrosia Tonkovich - Real Salt Lake/mlsfemale
Official Real Salt Lake Reporter

By Ambrosia Tonkovich @heyambrosia

Saturday, April 15: 1-2 Win

Holy cow.

I can’t believe it. We won. The last ten minutes of the game, and not only did we score a point, we scored two to win the game for the first time in 19 home games at Colorado Rapids.

Let’s discuss what happened, because although we won, this was not a pretty game.

First of all, a big shoutout to Jared Watts. Honestly, without you this probably wasn’t possible. In the 85th minute of play, when pretty much all hope was lost, you got a handball right on the line and a red card sent you off the field. This awarded Real Salt Lake with not only a PK, but the game equalizer right there in the 85th minute. Jared, I salute you. I saw your frustration, and I understand, but you have probably made some friends of RSL fans!

Also, if you happened to hear of the news, Tim Howard is suspended for three games due to foul language/actions against some Sporting KC supporters after his game against them. In addition to that, he apparently had some pretty strong words with Dom Dwyer, so I mean, we’ll take what we can get. You helped us with a big W, Tim.

Alright, so, our first half was… dismal. We were uncoordinated, we couldn’t move the ball fast enough, and our passes failed repeatedly. We weren’t expecting Colorado to play well, and that isn’t an excuse. We should be going into every game expecting to play against a good team, and make sure that we are always better. Our defensive positioning was lackluster, and when Kevin Doyle landed a goal in the 29th minute, I deflated completely. Mike Petke said before the game that we were going to need to focus on winning versus keeping the Rocky Mountain Cup in Utah, and that goal (albeit early) made that goal of his seem like a faraway wish.

We jumped up the standings from the very bottom of the Western Conference this week (and sorry to be negative but man, I really hope we’re on the upswing now), and we are now just above the line, and hopefully on the road to glory.

#ambrosiapic

Our two saving graces were Jared Watts for being sent off, handing us a PK that Yura Movsisyan was able to sink in the 85th minute, and then that glorious long shot from Brooks Lennon that had the bar that I was sitting in yelling and clapping loudly. I couldn’t believe it, I almost spit out my chicken wing (almost).

So what now? Well… we can’t rely on Brooks Lennon to be our game changer every time. Last game, he and Danny Acosta worked incredibly well together, but I want to be able to rely on our whole team. Any substitutions that we have shouldn’t make me afraid of what’s going to happen.

Mike Petke? Well, he’s 2 for 2 for RSL after making his way back to head coach. Although he’s as critical (probably more) as I am about the team right now, man he is gaining fans’ trust more and more. The original outrage over Jeff Cassar being let go hardly graces my facebook feed anymore as he keeps playing more academy players (we had 5 see the match tonight), and keeps playing to our strengths. He even mentioned almost pulling Brooks Lennon off the field and Brooks saying “I got this, guy.” Sure enough, Petke made it known how much he appreciated Lennon’s game-winning goal.

 

Good job to our boys for playing up until the end. I’ll admit, I gave up. A 1-0 is hard to come back from in the second half, but they did it, and they were so close to the final whistle.

Cards given:

  • Chris Wingert – Yellow card (52’ – RSL)
  • Mekeil Williams – Yellow card (84’ – COL)
  • Jared Watts – Red card (85’ – COL)

Substitutions:

  • Mohammed Saeid in for Bismark Boateng (32’ – COL)
  • Luis Silva in for Luke Mulholland (64’ – RSL)
  • Ricardo Velazco in for Sebastian Saucedo (71’ – RSL)
  • Joshua Gatt in for Marlon Hairston (80’ – COL)
  • Bobby Burling in for Dominique Badji (86’ – COL)
  • Omar Holness in for Albert Rusnak (90’ + 3’ – RSL)

Featured image courtesy: @MLS

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Red Cards, Fouls and No-Calls, Oh My!

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

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 15: 2-1 Loss

For our third road game in as many weeks, Atlanta United traveled back up to Canada to meet up with Montreal Impact. Everyone and their brother expected ATL to come out of this one with three points, but due to a couple of questionable calls – and maybe some fouls that weren’t called – ATL ended up with their second loss of the season. It was also the first loss that actually felt like a loss.

The first loss happened in week one, another 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls, but because it was the first game and the atmosphere was amazing, everyone was still smiling and laughing leaving the stadium. We may not have gotten any points out of that game, but we had a team and that trumped whatever the final result was.

This loss, though…this one hurt. All the indicators before the game said that ATL would come out of this one with a win. Montreal hadn’t won a game yet this season and early on in the week, their player Nacho Piatti was still questionable for Saturday’s game, but when the lineups came out around noon on Saturday, there he was.

The lineups also showed some changes for Atlanta. With Yamil Asad out on a red card, coach Tata Martino moved Miguel Almiron out to the left and brought in Kenwyne Jones up top for his first start. Ty Mears was a late scratch due to an ankle injury, so Mark Bloom got his first start at right back.

For Atlanta, the two top stories out of this game were Kenwyne’s first MLS goal and the (rather questionable) red card for Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, both of which happened late in the first half.

Carlos Carmona intercepted a Montreal goal kick at mid-field and passed to Tito Villalba, who got in a cross to Kenwyne for his first goal in MLS. It was a great shot that was perfectly executed and the celebration afterwards deserved five stars.

The bigger story, though, was the red card to Pirez. The Argentinean defender has been nothing short of amazing in the first five games. In about the 45th minute, both Pirez and Montreal’s Matteo Mancosu were in the box, trying to recover a pass. Arms and legs were tangled and it ended with Mancosu on the ground, a penalty called, and a red card for Pirez. Below are a couple of different angles of the play. You judge for yourself.

And then there was this play where a foul was called, but only a yellow card was given to Montreal:

And for a full report on the fouls called (or not) during the game, skip to 7:12 in Simon Borg’s Instant Replay. At least Simon didn’t think it should be a red card. In a nutshell, ATLUTD got MLS’d this weekend. PROReferees have been inconsistent at best and that’s disturbing. But that’s a story for another day.

ATLUTD’s front office says it is their policy to not comment on whether they will appeal the red card, so we’ll just have to wait and see if Pirez is exonerated or not. *Fingers crossed*

The second goal for Montreal came in stoppage time of the second half and was maybe one of the weirdest “how the heck did that happen” goals I’ve seen yet.

HOW?!

Next week is the final away game in this stretch and it’s out to Salt Lake City to take on the new and improved Real Salt Lake under new coach Mike Petke and his famous sweater collection. (If you want some laughs, follow @PetkesSweater on Twitter) Here’s to hoping we can hand my former favorite coach his first loss next Saturday.

In other (happier) ATLUTD news, lots of other things have happened this week:

  • ATLUTD held the grand opening of their $60 million training facility and I was there! Check out that story here.
  • Homegrown players Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin and Academy player Zyen Jones have been called up to the U-17 Men’s National team to compete in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama. While this means we’ll lose Carleton and Goslin as options for the next month, we are SUPER proud of them!
  • Sunday, April 16th marked the third anniversary of the MLS Atlanta announcement. Happy 3rd birthday, ATLUTD!
  • Charleston Battery player and ATLUTD loanee Romario Williams had a pretty good game on Saturday:

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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Red Bulls Get the Job Done Against DC United

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, April 15:  2- 0 Win

It’s a holiday weekend.

I have 4 kids, not to mention a family that traditionally goes big for this holiday.
So I couldn’t go to iconic Red Bull Arena for the latest installment of the Atlantic Cup.
And I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

But thanks to the miracle of modern soccer broadcasting, the game was available in the comfort of my (parents’) home.

The New York Red Bulls (3-3-1) began a welcome run of home games with their first meeting against DC United (2-3-1) for this season. RBNY stumbled at the beginning of the season, albeit an improvement from the slow start in 2016, and injuries plague the team (Mike Grella and Gonzalo Veron are still on the Injured list), but they have been determined to turn things around.

And try they did. The Red Bulls dominated the first 45 minutes of play, keeping the ball in the attacking third. They had plenty of set pieces (plays that re-start action, such as corner and free kicks), which have become their signature goal-scoring plays. But they just couldn’t finish. DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid made some great saves during the first half, but RBNY just kept knocking at the door…

It took until the 1st minute of the second half to finally make a breakthrough. Sacha Kljestan, wearing the captain’s armband emblazoned with the logos of the three official supporter’s groups for the club, found the head of Alex Muyl on a corner kick and suddenly it was 1-0 for the home team. The team was able to relax a bit with the lead, and even though it resulted in more time in the defensive end of the field, the confidence was noticeably higher. Then in the 80th minute, thanks to a perfectly-placed pass from Felipe Martins, lead goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips nutmegged Hamid, sending a shot between his legs and doubling the lead. Red Bull GK Luis Robles, known as the Ironman, made some great saves to maintain the clean sheet at home.

A rivalry is always a great place to find even more than the usual physicality on the field, and this match was no exception. The head referee’s book was opened plenty, with a total of 5 yellow cards issued between the two teams. There were plenty of tackles and 1v1 plays, and players could be found on the ground nursing a sore shin or knee following these plays. Unfortunately, DC’s Steve Birnbaum had to be stretchered off the field in stoppage time following a head-to-head clash with RB defender Damien Perrinelle, and hopefully he is well. Also, it was nice to see Lloyd Sam again, who was traded to DC United last season. I always hope he does well… unless he’s playing against the Red Bulls.

This coming weekend is not a holiday weekend.
I hope I can make it to the game.
And I hope plenty of others can make it as well.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @WhiteZinWench

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