Comeback in Columbus

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Saturday, April 29: 2-3 Win

Much was made of New York City FC entering Mapfre Stadium, where Columbus Crew had been unbeaten this season. It doesn’t take much for a winning streak at home to get blown out of proportion, for a stadium to garner comparisons to a fortress, a hall of kings. To say that of the Mapfre when this season’s match days are still in the single digits was presumptuous at best — honestly, this isn’t the Sánchez Pizjuán, where Sevilla famously lost one home match during the whole of the 2014-15 season.

In other words: A “streak” like that doesn’t impress me much, and I’m delighted NYCFC were the ones to break it.

With Rónald Matarrita and Khiry Shelton still out with injuries, David Villa sidelined by the flu and Andrea Pirlo taking the bench for a spin, this was NYCFC’s most experimental lineup yet. Several players got their first starts for the team — Sean “Ugo” Okoli, Yangel Herrera and Ben Sweat all broke into the first eleven and all did remarkably well. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

I admit, I had my doubts looking at the lineup. It strikes me as funny that even with all of the notable absences, Tommy McNamara still didn’t make the cut. This time he wasn’t even used as a super sub — though, in fairness, Patrick Vieira‘s (extremely late, one of my biggest pet peeves in football) substitutions focused on bolstering our defense, not on going for more goals. Still, it’s strange. I worry a little for T-Mac.

Regardless, this side did remarkably well with what they had. They kept possession, created plenty of chances, and put pressure on Columbus at every opportunity. Even when they slipped up, they were better at regaining possession than they usually are. There was confidence in this NYCFC side where they could have just as easily been new, shaky legs.

#cm.png
Image courtesy: nycfc.com

Jack Harrison netted his first career brace. The first goal was inarguably the best: A gorgeous pass from Maxi Moralez landed perfectly at Jack’s feet, and he chipped it in at a difficult angle like it was as easy as breathing. His second and the match-winning goal was mostly due to an incredibly defensive screwup by Columbus and there was no way he could have missed it, but still. A brace is a brace, and Jack is incredible. I’m not entirely convinced he isn’t a footballing robot. The kid is just that good.

Sandwiched between the two, Yangel Herrera scored the equalizer (and drew a little blood) with an assist from Ben Sweat. Good job, debut boys! There could have been goals from Ugo and Rodney Wallace as well, but luck wasn’t quite on their side. Still, everyone looked strong in their attack, and that was the most heartening thing to see.

NYCFC isn’t a team I associate with comebacks, but this was a lovely bit of remontada magic from the boys in blue. I know better than to get used to it, of course. Even if it was a one-off fluke, you have to commend them for not giving up when they were down.

Unless you’re a Columbus fan. Then you probably hate them for it. But why are you reading this? Go check out our new Columbus Crew reporter instead!

As always, here are a few random thoughts:

  • As a Real Madrid and Juventus fan, I will literally never get used to hearing MLS fans chant for Higuaín. Wrong Pipa, guys! There truly was nothing Sean Johnson could do to stop his stunning volley of a goal, though, so I guess Lanky Pipa has his merits too. It’s still weird.
  • We do not speak of what an absolute mess Alexander Callens made that led to Columbus’ second goal of the night. If every defender has to have one epic blunder per season, please let that be his. (Yes, I know he’s had plenty of other blunders so far — but god, none quite so painful as that.)
  • Yangel Herrera completed my personal debut trifecta: First yellow card, first assist, first goal! I feel like a proud mama hen.
  • Huge shout out to the YES Network for having a microphone right by the Columbus Crew supporters section. I love it when my matches are set to the crystal clear soundtrack of drunk men screaming the usual uninspired chants. So enjoyable!
  • Maxime Chanot wears the captain’s arm band well. Just a little something to keep in mind for the future, maybe.
  • Dear Mikey Lopez, please rise from your grave and return to us. I miss watching him play so much. Every week I think this is the week he makes his glorious return, but it never is. Eventually, right?

Next week we host Atlanta United, and I fully expect it to be a mess. A fun mess, of course!

Featured image courtesy: nycfc.com

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A Homecoming Dance to Remember

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, April 29: 2-1 Win

The New York Red Bulls (5-3-1, 16 points) faced a revitalized Chicago Fire (3-3-2, 11 points) at a well-attended Autism Awareness Night, amid discussion about supporter’s group sanctions, continued injuries, a legendary Designated Player (Bastian Schweinsteiger, World Cup and Bundesliga champion), and the return of previous RBNY captain Dax McCarty.

I still remember the moment I learned McCarty had been traded to the Chicago Fire.

An English teacher by trade, I treasure that Dead Poets Society reference. So I cleared my schedule when I learned the date of McCarty’s return to Red Bull Arena. There were many posters and signs for “The Ginger Ninja,” and he was up to the task of bringing the excitement that made him a fan favorite in RBA. But it was the home team who struck first: Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips scored off a cross from Dani Royer (37’) and brought the crowd to their feet. BWP’s 73rd career goal, he just keeps building his resume as a future all-time club legend.

As expected, Schweinsteiger was a force to be reckoned with, even after a head-to-head collision with defender Damien Perrinelle left them both bleeding and momentarily out of the game. But it was the interaction with midfielder Felipe that made a lasting impact. Head referee Hilario Grajeda had to pull them both aside in the first half, ultimately issuing a yellow card to Felipe in the 81st minute.

While Goalkeeper Luis Robles made 4 huge saves, his most recent run of clean sheets ran out in the 59th minute with a strike from Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic, with the assist from—who else?—Dax McCarty. Though Robles argued a missed foul by David Accam, there was nothing to be done except applaud RBNY’s former hero and charge on.

RBNY Designated Player Gonzalo Veron, in his first appearance since he was sidelined by injury, came on for Alex Muyl in the 65th minute and tried to make his presence known, a welcome sight for many fans. But it was defenders Kemar Lawrence and Damien Perrinelle who had the breakthrough moment, with Lawrence scoring his first RBNY goal this season in the 71st minute. The home team was able to hold on for the remainder of the game, including 5 minutes of stoppage time to give them all 9 points in their run of home games this month.

And although it was a bitter pill to swallow, Dax McCarty returned the love he had been given by remaining on the field long after the final whistle, signing autographs and taking selfies as if he was home. And in a way, he still was.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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Luck of the Draw

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, April 29: 0-0 Draw

The horizon was bleak for Philadelphia Union after the comeback Montreal Impact mounted last weekend, but if the draw last week felt like a loss then this draw feels like we can hold our heads up higher. It wasn’t quite a stellar performance but the Union managed to buckle down defensively and most importantly, not concede a goal since their season opener in Vancouver.   

Andre Blake made three fantastic and crucial saves in the nil-nil draw on Saturday but the most spectacular save was made by the posts behind the goalkeeper. At the 21st minute mark, LA Galaxy’s Joao Pedro made an effort on goal from outside the box that bounced off both posts to roll out harmlessly into Blake’s arms. Bad luck had struck early for LA to the astonishment of both sides. Not to say that the Union was particularly lucky as our shots went mostly wide of the goalposts throughout the game.  

The match had some early excitement in the form of chances for both LA and Philadelphia. A bad clearance from the Union gave Romain Alessandrini a shot to put the Galaxy ahead if not for Blake’s block in the first few minutes. Roland Alberg had the best chance in the first half for Philadelphia from an excellent cross by Alejandro Bedoya, from the right, that was thwarted by goalkeeper Brian Rowe.

Bedoya celebrated his birthday by assisting every way he could, up to and including a nice little header to Richie Marquez in a decent set piece play. It was a markedly different performance in the midfield from last week, even though the lineup was the same, with the exception of Ilsinho, who was ill. Our captain was positioned up high in hopes of turning the tide to a more pressing forward mentality for Union without real success. Haris Medunjanin, on the other hand, attempted to find forgiveness with a goal for his unhelpful finger-pointing routine while getting outrun by the opposition’s attack.

The second half of the game was lackluster in attack with LA poaching most of the possession. Derrick Jones, the Union’s homegrown talent, was subbed in for Alberg in the 65th minute of the game to steady our backline and force a counter attack into the Galaxy’s side of the field.

All in all, Philadelphia must keep building on this foundation. Jack Elliott continues to impress on the back line, knocking heads with both Jelle Van Damme and Daniel Steres, just to keep going and make a huge clearance against Bradley Diallo in the dying minutes of the game. Alberg didn’t manage to find the net this time but it is only a matter of time and effort. Our offense still needs fine-tuning but in this test against LA, we managed to play it safe and smart. All the game needed was a goal.    

Maybe Lady Luck will stay by our side as we come back home.

Next Week: Union face the New York Red Bulls. My prediction: Optimism still standing, we manage to score a few goals but not enough to win.

Featured image courtesy: Philadelphia Union facebook

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Giovinco’s On Fire vs Chicago Fire at BMO Field

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Friday, April 21: 3-1 Win

Song: Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: @torontofc

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It All Started With A Shirt

Kristen - LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy Key Contributor

By Kristen Kincaid @KristenKincaid

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

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

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

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

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

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Well, That Was Embarrassing

Allison - LA Galaxy
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Allison Sorrell @AJSorrell_

Sunday, April 23: 0-3 Loss

I was a little too optimistic last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#allisongroup
Image courtesy: @LAGalaxy

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

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

Featured image courtesy of: @LAGalaxy

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With Thanks To A Great Rival

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale
Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter

By Christy Casas @nkstar9

Saturday, April 22: 2-1 Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always and again we have to #Riseupraincity.

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

Featured image courtesy: @timbersarmy

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Rookie Goals FTW

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

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 22: 1-3 Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes from this week:

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

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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3 GOALS 3 POINTS

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

By Kaitlyn O’Rourke

Sunday, April 23: 0-3 Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

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Are You Not Entertained?

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Cascadia Cup–Rivals and Brethren

Saturday, April 22: 2-1 Win

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

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

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

Now, about the match….

Darlington Nagbe

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

And then we have moments like this.

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

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

A Change of Pace

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

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

Get well soon, Maestro

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

Random Hot Takes

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: b.fssta.com

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