Tag Archives: Featured

LAFC Weekly Roundup: Carlos Vela’s Home Run, Loans, National Team Call-Ups, Gold Links

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Vela leads LAFC to 2-2 Draw in New York

Last weekend, the luck of the Irish was on LAFC’s side as they earned a hard-fought point on the road in a 2-2 draw against New York City FC on Sunday.

Carlos Vela continues to be the most influential player by keeping the ball moving, bagging a pair of goals to extend LAFC’s undefeated streak for a remarkable start of their 2019 campaign.

Missing Lee Nyguen and Steven Beitashour due to injuries, LAFC pushed through. An uneven playing surface proved to be problematic for the first half but LAFC adjusted to regain more control in the midfield; it was less effective. But the strategy wreaked havoc for NYCFC.

Click here for the full recap

But the main story is the supporters who traveled to the match. Around 200 to 300 supporters’ chants were loud and clear on FS1’s broadcast for the full 90 minutes. It felt like I was back at the Banc.

Loans. Loans. Loans.

Last week, LAFC announced they have loaned four players to USL side, Phoenix Rising FC – defenders Tristian Blackmon and Shaft Brewer Jr., midfielder Javier Perez, and forward Josh Perez.

According to the club statement: “Per the Right of Recall incorporated in the loan agreements, LAFC retains the right to call the players at any point during the MLS regular season, subject to MLS roster compliance guidelines.”

Blackmon, Brewer Jr., and Perez have spent time with Phoenix last season. This will be Javier Perez’s first loan in the USL Championship.

International Duty

It’s a player’s dream to receive a call-up for national duty. And for LAFC, several players’ dreams became a reality as Christian Ramirez, Peter-Lee Vassell, Mark Anthony Kaye, and Mohamed El-Munir have been called in to serve their national teams, respectively.

All five players will miss this weekend’s home match against Real Salt Lake.

Here’s the breakdown:

Christian Ramirez – United States of America

The Santa Ana native is no stranger to the United States Men’s National Team after spending time in the January camp with fellow teammates, Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman.

His past performances, which were highlighted by scoring a goal in the 3-0 win over Panama, earned him another call-up when USMNT’s head coach Gregg Berhalter released the roster for upcoming friendlies against Ecuador and Chile.

Ramirez did not appear in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador on Thursday night in Orlando, Florida. But he could have a chance to appear as the USMNT takes on Chile on Tuesday, March 26 in Houston, Texas.

Peter-Lee Vassell – Jamaica

The 21-year-old has made two substitute appearances for the black-and-gold this season. Jamaica faces El Salvador on March 23 in Concacaf Nations League play.

The Reggae Boyz currently have three wins in the competition.

Mark-Anthony Kaye – Canada

After missing the remainder of 2018 due to an ankle injury, Kaye started in the first two LAFC matches.

Kaye will join the likes of Alphonso Davies, Jonathan Osorio, and Cyle Larin the 23-man squad. Canada faces French Guiana on March 24, needing a win to secure its place in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Mohamad El-Munir – Libya

El-Munir has appeared on the roster for the first three matches but has yet to make his club debut. Libya is set to take on South Africa on March 24 in Group E of Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.

Josh Perez – US U-23 squad

The United States’ Under-23 Men’s National Team will play its first matches of the 2020 U-23 cycle with a pair of friendlies in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain; the first under newly named manager Jason Kreis.

Included on the twenty-three man roster is LAFC forward Josh Perez, who joined LAFC in August before going on loan to Phoenix Rising FC where he remains so far this season.

The Olympic hopefuls will face Egypt on Friday, March 22 and the Netherlands on Sunday, March 24. Both matches are set to kick off at 12 p.m. ET at the Pinatar Arena in San Pedro del Pinatar.

Gold Links

Photo credit: @LAFC

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Home Sweet Home for New York Red Bulls

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, March 16: 4-1 Win

Ah, Spring. When young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of MLS. At least, we hope so. It was still rather chilly, but a bright sunny afternoon welcomed fans old and new to Red Bull Arena. The home match against the San Jose Earthquakes happens every other year, and new Quakes coach Matias Almeyda is looking to bring his team into the playoff conversation.

You know I’m a dreamer: This is already Matchday 3. The season is well on its way, with all its narratives being formed and tweaked. The Red Bulls have lived and learned with two home games in their latest attempt at the CONCACAF Champions League. But the league home opener is a special moment. A halftime ceremony celebrated the 2018 Supporter’s Shield, as well as the team’s previous two, which are all immortalized on the building itself. Recently retired former Red Bull Mike Grella was invited to hold up the 2015 Shield at the ceremony. Confetti-filled posters of the players from Decision Day 2018 were distributed to fans following the match.

RBNY supporters group, Vikings Army, display an “Unfinished Business” tifo at the home opener. Photo by Sylvana Budeshelm

Sometimes nothing keeps me together: The game itself didn’t look so good at the start. The Red Bulls were unsettled throughout the first half. The high press Red Bull thrives on was keeping them on the attack, but no one could find the back of the net. At the same time, the Earthquakes looked threatening after every turnover. Just five minutes into the match, Christian Espinoza sent a low shot past Luis Robles. Then, around the thirty-minute mark, a rough challenge sent midfielder Florian Valot to ground. With a scream. And anyone who saw and heard knew. The player who lost most of last season to a tear in his left ACL confirmed a few days after the game that he tore his right ACL. He bounced back once, and fans are confident he can do it again.

I’m on my way: In the 34th minute, homegrown Alex Muyl entered the pitch for Valot. While he had two off-target shots leading up to the halftime whistle, it was clear he was knocking on the door. But that happens a lot, and not just to Muyl. The entire first half was rife with missed opportunities. Kyle Duncan, who had done great work in the back line until the game against San Jose, scrambled for the first half but finally found his bearings in the second. It was time for RBNY to show what they were made of.

Just set me free: If you’re reading this, and you didn’t come to the game because some other commitment was going to have you missing the first half, let me tell you right now: the second half alone was worth the price of admission. Not one, but two goals from Alex Muyl, the first goal of the season for striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, and the final dagger from Daniel Royer.

Take me to your heart: Almost as soon as Wright-Phillips scored, he was substituted. In his place came Mathias Jorgensen, the eighteen-year-old Danish international who was the marquee signing of the Red Bulls’ off-season. And while he didn’t score a hat-trick right out of the gate, coach Chris Armas was happy with what he saw: “He almost scored. It’s right there for him.”

Whether he starts the next match, replaces Wright-Phillips earlier, or plays alongside him remains to be seen. But like many of the players on the roster, it’s about more than what fans see on gameday. “But if you got to know him a little bit the way we do, what a humble, hard-working team guy, and he fought hard, even in a few minutes,” Armas said. This is clearly the identity of the RBNY player, which belies the “villains of MLS” perception that other teams would like to foist upon them.

Enjoying back-to-back home games, the Red Bulls face former teammate Sacha Kljestan and Orlando City SC on Saturday.

Featured image: Sylvana Budeshelm

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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Seattle Sounders get First Road Win versus Chicago Fire


Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

The Seattle Sounders rolled in to Chicago just as hot as they’d started at home. From the opening whistle, the Sounders were firing on all cylinders down both wings and through the middle with Nicolas Lodiero.

The first goal came in only the 8th minute when Victor Rodriguez found the back of the net from an insanely accurate cross from Jordan Morris. The 1-0 lead was doubled in the 15th minute when Morris chipped Chicago goalkeeper David Ousted with the outside of his right foot. The finish was just as highlight-reel-worthy as the ball in from Nicolas Lodiero.



The Sounders returned to the field in the second half with a clear offensive push that showed they were not content with only 2 goals. Rodriguez drew a penalty after a hard take-down and el capitan, Lodiero, placed the ball on the spot. While the initial kick seemed to have hit the woodwork, the shot hit the crossbar and bounced down crossing the goal line, giving Nico his first goal of the season and increasing the Sounders’ lead to 3-0.


Image: Seattle Sounders FC

Minutes later, Raheem Edwards, a first half substitute, pulled one back in the 56th minute. The two teams battled for the next 30 minutes and Fabian Herbers made things interesting in the 84th when he scored a second goal for Chicago making it 3-2 Seattle. Raul Ruidiaz came to Seattle’s rescue, however, and tallied his third of the season in the 88th minute to make the final score 4-2 in favor of Seattle.



Takeaways

Morris Might Be (he definitely is) For Real

There was so much speculation and excitement surrounding Jordan Morris’ return to soccer. After more than a year out with injury, there was still a good deal of skepticism even after his dominating performance in the home opener. For whatever doubters might still be lingering, his goal and play this game showed that the hometown kid is back and better than ever. Morris left Chicago to join Gregg Berhalter and the US Men’s National Team in Orlando where he’s hoping to spark a comeback in the stars and stripes as well.

Dominant Offense, Dreary Defense

The front four of the Sounders were at it again from the opening whistle until each (excluding Ruidiaz) were subbed off. The dynamic tandem on the left side with Brad Smith and Victor Rodriguez was an issue early on for Chicago, as it was for Cincinnati and Colorado previously in the season. Kelvin Leerdam had another open look at goal, Morris and Lodiero put on a show of skill and Ruidiaz scored a goal in his 8th consecutive MLS game.

Stefan Frei was called upon a few too many times this game, although he rose to the occasion for many of them. The Fire put up 25 shots and 12 on target and maintained 52% possession during the game. While the Sounders still secured a solid 3 points on the road, it wasn’t their cleanest victory.

Featured image: @SoundersFC

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LA GALAXY Magically win 3-2 at home against Minnesota United

Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

Starting XI: David Bingham; Rolf Feltscher, Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta, Jorgen Skjelvik; Sebastian Lletget, Jonathan dos Santos ©, Joe Corona, Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget; Chris Pontius (Julian Araujo 85’), Uriel Antuna, Ema Boateng (Servando Carrasco 90’+4’)

Photo Credit Jamie Bacon. LA Galaxy Up 1 after a penalty kick


Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto used the same lineup in consecutive matches.  This team lost away to FC Dallas just the week before. But, the team that showed up on the field Saturday March 16 played in a stellar way that fans hadn’t seen in years.

The stars on the pitch were captain Jonathan dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget. It was a dream come true to watch spectacular passing at home.

Each week we’ll see the LA Galaxy grow more and more with the GBS system.

The midfield figured it out this game. Uriel Antuna was a stud. But, Minnesota actually scored their first goal on a shot that Bingham should’ve saved.

It should be noted that not only did the Galaxy play well, this Minnesota team is a team that has grown a lot and is a contender. That they had to travel could’ve been part of it, but the G’s really controlled the game. Some fun stats: Galaxy had 62% possession. Completed 497 passes with a 87% completion rate. Had 20 shots with 17 chances created.

And they pulled it off without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini, which was a big concern. Joe Corona got comfortable in the week that had past. Many other injuries have kept key players out and have given other players like Julian Araujo his debut.

The Galaxy were relentless and capitalized on the pressure.

Osvaldo Alonso, who recently joined Minnesota from a long stint with the Seattle Sounders, took down Antuna in the box, gifting the Galaxy a penalty, which was taken by JDS to put the Galaxy up in the 36′ after VAR review.

Ema Boateng found a streaking Rolf Feltscher who crossed to Chris Pontius and made it 2-0 at the half. By then the offense was clicking.

Lletget, who has a broken nose, risked playing without a mask (he tried to play with it and took it off promptly) scored on an assist from Antuna.

LAG showed that the skills are there, but aren’t up to par. The final score was 3-2. The Loons scored a late goal on a Skjelvik giveaway. The original header went off the post and Feltscher just watched the ball. So, the defense is still a weakness.

Alessandrini trained outside and Zlatan reportedly trained indoors as of March 19th. I would infer it means they’re on the mend.

We’ll see how the Galaxy do in their next match when they host a struggling Portland Timbers at 6 p.m. PT on Sunday, March 31 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

The Galaxy depend on your support, Galaxy Fam.

Featured image: @lagalaxy on instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @mchuitink

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A Mixed Bag: NYCFC draws LAFC 2-2

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club hosted Los Angeles Football Club for a St Patrick’s day party in the Bronx on Sunday.  This year with no resident “Saint Patrick” Vieira to sprinkle the team with luck, City ended up adding another game to its winless streak.  The match had some highs and lows, with most intensity, pace, accuracy and attacking precision shown in the first half, but frustratingly, it did end as another draw.  

NYCFC built some tight sequences in the midfield which created multiple opportunities. City maintained nearly 70% of the first half possession but the defensive mistakes cost them big.  

New Designated Player Alexandru Mitrita scored his first goal of the season at 39′, but four minutes later LAFC’s Latif Blessing easily jumped on an NYC mistake and fed a perfect pass to Vela, who buried the ball into the goal.  NY once again took the lead in the second half when Ben Sweat found Alex Ring in front of the goal at 62′ and set him up for a hammer of a volley.  Both of New York’s goals being scored from the left side of the goal.  

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NYCFC’s Alexandru Mitrita maneuvers around LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman and Latif Blessing.

Exciting for many fans was that Ronald Matarrita started the game at left back.  Matarrita’s energy, pace and attacking mindset was definitely a welcome addition to the team chemistry.  There was much more pep in the step of the team from the get-go of the game.  The energy in the stadium, particularly between the dueling supporter groups seemed to have been fueling City’s players.  

Fortunately for NYCFC, LAFC was not playing with their full squad as Lee Nguyen, Alejandro Guido, Steven Betashour, Phillip Ejimadu and Rodolfo Zelaya were on the injured list. 

Latif Blessing, who is known as the ultimate super sub who can play vitally any position and generally revitalizes the team when he comes off the bench, started and played the full game.  It was Blessing who found Vela to kick off LA’s first fruitful counterattack to tie up the game in the first half.  It was Blessing who was fouled by Sweat in the box to earn LA a game-tying PK.   So although Sweat did assist Ring in NY’s second goal, he was a mixed blessing.  

In honor of our respective cities and their awards show history,  I’m handing out awards:

For playing cool, calm and collected, and yet not cocky, I bestow my first official Triple C award to James Sands.  The teenager once again showed depth, maturity and grit. 

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NYCFC’s Anton Tinnerholm chases LAFC’s Carlos Vela

Because he’s just that good and gives off the vibe that he’s having a blast on the pitch, the honorary Marcelo award goes to Carlos Vela

Best visiting supporters group energy, enthusiasm and etiquette goes to LAFC’s 3252 who not only were the loudest we’ve ever had, particularly from across the continent but they also followed up with a thank you post on NYCFC’s reddit account for the great time.  See, there’s the silver lining to a draw.  Nobody’s angry.  

The Sleek Award goes to the LAFC’s silver and white kit. What a perfectly appropriate away kit that is flattering, simple and makes good use of metallics.

NYCFC’s next match is Friday 3/29 in Toronto.

To date, NYCFC is 0-0-3.

Featured and all images: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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And It Was All Yellow

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

That was the pregame song playing as the scoreboard showed a montage of Columbus Crew plays, and the yellow soccer team, ironically not wearing yellow, won the game 1-0 against FC Dallas this past Saturday.

Rolling out a line-up similar to the last home game with the exception of Robinho starting in place of Justin Meram, the team got the winning goal early in the game.  In the 10’, Pedro Santos took a near post corner kick aimed at the head of Gaston Sauro.  Sauro, who was being hugged by one FC Dallas defender and closely guarded by a second defender, jumped and headed the ball into the net. 

Two seasons ago, Crew fans and Gaston Sauro himself did not know if he would ever play soccer again.  Now, he’s put in goals in both of the Crew’s home games.  Currently, he’s tied with Gyasi Zardes, who had a brace last week against the New England Revolution, for goals. 

Robinho had a dangerous shot in the 21’ that rebounded off the keeper, but Zardes had trouble finishing the ball skying it over the net.  The Crew kept the pressure and shots coming throughout the first half but were unable to put any more into the back of the net.

In the second half, FC Dallas seemed to be more dangerous.  Michael Barrios had a nice shot in the 55’ that Zack Steffen was able to slow down and Sauro was able to clear.  In the last 15 minutes of the game, FC Dallas seemed to possess the ball more and shot the ball several times.  In past seasons, the Crew would have conceded a goal at these times of pressure, so it was nice to see them finish the game with a win.

Other Thoughts:

  • In Porter’s system, it appears that Artur and Wil Trapp will be doing more shifting back and forth between offense and defense instead of Wil being more defensively-minded. I feel like I’ve seen Trapp make more mistakes and not bring his A-game this season.  I don’t know if this is Wil adjusting to the new system, if Wil’s skills doesn’t fit this style as well, or if I’m just being nit-picky. I was a Gregg Berhalter fan but have yet to form an opinion about what I think of Caleb Porter yet.
  • I do feel that Pedro Santos is finally finding his form.  Maybe he needed a new coach, but now he has several assists on the season and had some great passes and shots in this match.  
  • I am nervous about when Zack Steffen leaves this team for Manchester City in June.  I just don’t see what goalkeeper can step in and do what he does for this team.  He was supposed to be out this upcoming week with the US Men’s National Team, but due to a knee injury sustained in training, he is missing this round of friendlies and this week’s upcoming Crew game too.  I guess we will see who might step up in Steffen’s absence.
  • In addition, the team will be missing Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, Justin Meram, and Waylon Francis for the next Crew match due to national team call ups.

It’ll be interesting to see how Caleb Porter deals with a slightly depleted roster for the call ups as they travel to take on the Philadelphia Union this weekend. 

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Montréal Impact Emerge from the Lions’ Den with 3 points

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

After a thoroughly disappointing defeat to Houston Dynamo, Montréal Impact fans were eager to move forward with the next road match, while still nervous that the team would be too fragile to recover from a loss. However, Orlando City had proven to be a comfortable adversary for the Impact since their entry into MLS, and captain Ignacio Piatti had enjoyed scoring 8 goals against them coming into the match, one of his highest tallies against an individual team.

Although de facto right wing starter Harry Novillo had recovered from a late pre-season injury, Orji Okwonkwo was given the start once again as Novillo was not ready to play a full match, and coach Rémi Garde wanted to allow a stable team to build chemistry and rebound from last week’s loss together.

If stability was what Garde sought, his team didn’t initially demonstrate that quality. The first ten minutes of the match in Orlando were reminiscent of last week’s abysmal showing for the Impact, as the Lions pounced while the visitors struggled to find their bearings in the match. Goalkeeper Evan Bush and Lady Luck worked in tandem to allow the Impact to survive an early wave of pressure unscathed. 

The tide turned in the 14th minute, when Samuel Piette launched a long pass toward Saphir Taïder. The Algerian international penetrated the Orlando defense and drifted to the right of Orlando’s 18-yard box as Okwonkwo used his pace to arrive near the penalty spot, where he latched on to Taïder’s cross and punished Orlando’s defensive lapse with a clinical finish the home team sorely lacked.

The Bleu-Blanc-Noir would go on to double their lead directly after OCSC restarted play. Orlando allowed striker Maxi Urruti’s incessant pressing to pay off as he intercepted a weak back pass from a central defender. Goalkeeper Brian Rowe was left with no choice but to sweep Urruti off his feet – however the forward had already passed to Piatti, who needed no further invitation to find the back of the net.

This one-two punch had clearly taken some wind out of Orlando’s sails, as the Impact would go on to enjoy comfortable periods of possession for large stretches of the game. After Okwonkwo had run himself ragged, Novillo made his Impact début, and quickly offered an assist to Piatti off yet another Orlando defensive error in the 80th minute. With his 10th goal against Orlando, Piatti is now the player who has scored the most goals against the men in purple.

Unfortunately for all involved, the match was poorly officiated by a referee new to the league, who allowed a series of increasingly physical challenges to go unsanctioned. It became clear as the clock wound down that tension levels were rising, and there had been several minor clashes between players over the course of the match. Dom Dwyer, who had scored a late consolation goal for Orlando, is a notorious instigator regardless of his opponent.

After a stoppage in play deep in injury time where Novillo received treatment following another robust tackle, Orlando City received the ball. Rather than respecting fair play and returning the ball to a goalkeeper, Orlando elected to go on the attack. This move was poorly received by the Impact, and led to a mass confrontation at the next stoppage in play. Central defender Zakaria Diallo allowed himself to be baited by Dwyer, and received a red card for shoving him in the head. 

OCSC coach James O’Connor would go on to apologize to the Impact in his post-game press conference, as even he felt his team had conducted themselves poorly when ignoring fair play. All in all though, the whole incident was just a blip on the radar in an otherwise satisfying away win.

This match marks the halfway point of the Impact’s six-game road trip, and it is an uphill battle from here until the home opener. The Impact will have next week off as many players depart to represent their countries, and will subsequently enter Blue Hell as they visit Sporting Kansas City on March 30th

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Loons drop three points to Galaxy

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Thankfully, supporting a MLS team in the Central Time Zone only rarely requires the addition of naps and coffee to the pregame regimen, but that was the case on Saturday, March 16, for Minnesota United’s faithful who hoped to see the Loons take their third straight win on the road against LA Galaxy. The 9:30 P.M. kickoff also meant there were more United fans on hand at the Black Hart of St. Paul (the MN Dark Clouds new home base in the shadow of Allianz Field) for the bar’s other entertainment:

That quip from Dina Delicious leaves no doubt that drag queens and soccer fans can coexist in what is simultaneously the city’s oldest gay bar and newest soccer bar. (Click here to learn more about the Black Hart of St. Paul and the people who make it great, Dina included.) And I think Dina was right about the Loons.

Though Minnesota fielded the same Starting XI for the third straight week against a Galaxy squad in a state of constant flux (with Joe Corona only recently added and offensive stalwarts being plucked one by one from the pitch by injury since opening night), there was one notable absence from the Loons’ bench that may have upset the balance. Head coach Adrian Heath missed training all week and did not travel with his squad due to needing dental surgery, leaving assistant Mark Watson at the helm of a system he knows well.

But something was off from the opening whistle. Even without Zlatan and Alessandrini, LA ran the game. Uriel Antuna, Sebastien Lletget and Rolf Feltscher picked apart a puzzled Minnesota backline, finding gaping spaces in the box that never should have been open and preventing Minnesota’s midfield from creating any danger off the counterattacks. If not for the sticky fingers of keeper Vito Mannone, Galaxy could have led 4-0 at the break. As it was, the 2-0 deficit was one goal too deep.

While the first half spurred plenty of flashbacks to the gloom and doom of road games past, the second half showed that the Loons know where they need to improve and that they’re willing to put up a united front. There was no in-fighting from the Loons.

Instead, Ike Opara and Romain Metanire kept up their composed leadership, Romario Ibarra and Darwin Quintero did what they could with what they were given and both Angelo Rodriguez and Ethan Finlay showed up big when subbed on for Romario and Rasmus Schuller, respectively. Oh, and Jan Gregus, seeing Lletget step off briefly to see to a bleed from his broken nose, did this:

It is doubtful that the 3-2 loss spells the end of Heath’s midfield experiment (heavy on wingers and light on true forwards), especially considering that, a) Abu Danladi made little impact after subbing on for Miguel Ibarra in the 74th minute and b) Rodriguez pulled up lame from his no-quit goal.

However, it does illustrate the importance of the midfield lane and how it can be used. Gregus found it and his effort earned him Man of the Match honors.

In my opinion, dropping three points takes the target off of United’s back. Ending the night fourth in the West gives the Loons plenty to play for while the two-win streak (regardless of the opponent) gives the squad confidence that it can in fact be done. And a perfectly timed international break gives them time to reflect on that.

Minnesota United goes back on the road Saturday, March 30, to face New England Revolution, coffee not required.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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The Houston Dynamo Take Blood, Sweat, and Points At Home

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Top photo: MLSFemale photographer Leslie Chairez perfectly captures the moment before Alberth Elis (foreground) places the ball at Memo Rodriguez’s feet for a goal.

This weekend, the Houston Dynamo hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps, their second Canadian opponent in as many MLS pairings.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Coming off a 1-0 loss in Mexico that took them out of the CONCACAF Champions League, the men in orange were surprisingly emboldened. Their showing at Estadio Universitario against Tigres was an improved effort to their first leg at home, and they showed a crowd of over 41,000 Tigres fans an impressive level of play. But Saturday, ready to focus squarely on the MLS competition (until Lamar Hunt kicks off in May), the Dynamo set their sights on the Whitecaps.

One of the most notable moments of the match came late in the 76th minute as a no-fault collision in the Whitecaps’ box led to Houston’s Mauro Manotas and Vancouver’s Andy Rose being treated for head injuries. Manotas received gauze and a head wrap, while Rose seemed to get the worst of it. He bled profusely and left the match under concussion protocol, having to be assisted off of the pitch.

The Whitecaps had used their last substitution moments before the collision and were forced to finish the match down a man. At the end of the match, as the coaches met briefly, the concern in Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera’s face was clear, and I’m sure that he was expressing hope for a full recovery for Rose.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

While the mid-60s temperatures bordered on cool for Houstonians, the weather is always a factor in these early matches when snow-accustomed teams migrate south to begin the MLS season each spring. There is simply no way for teams from the north to be fully prepared for the Houston environment. In addition to the heat, Houston’s annual spring pollen has recently draped the city in a layer of yellow, and allergy-related ailments are tough to push through.

The match was chilly early on as the cloud cover kept the sun at bay. By the half, most fans had shed their extra layers as the sun came out and gave the day a warmer summer feel. The rising heat index led to increasingly chippy play, lots of late cards, and other uncalled fouls for both sides.

Pollen on the lake and pollen footprints on the deck illustrate the extent to which the Houston area is blanketed with allergens this time of year. – Photos by Darbi Lockridge, from her back porch.

Cabrera’s lineup replaced one of his traditional three forward attackers with midfielder Memo Rodriguez, which I believe to be the key to the Dynamo’s continued offensive magic. Forward Alberth Elis scored his first goal of the season off a penalty and was instrumental with assists in the other two goals scored by Rodriguez. Memo’s brace held the Dynamo up to a 3-2 victory against the Whitecaps.

Their seven-point start to the 2019 season is the best on record for this team and could hearken the coming of a new dominance in the Western Conference for the Dynamo, which have often held an underdog status. After playing seven matches in under a month, the Dynamo and the fans are eager to recuperate through the break before meeting the Colorado Rapids in our first away match on March 30.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Montreal Impact Suffocated Yet Again In Houston

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

In all of their visits to BBVA Compass Stadium to take on the Houston Dynamo, Montréal Impact have only ever taken one point. If there are matches on the calendar that fans circle with great anticipation, a trip to Houston is not one of them. However, with the positive atmosphere surrounding the team this year, surely the tide was going to change?

Not to be the case.

Time and again, outside factors such as the stifling humidity, artificial turf, and a lack of ambiance in the stadium have been blamed for the Impact’s consistently poor performances in Texas. And perhaps the display the team demonstrated on the field was a result of any combination of those factors.

Ignacio Piatti, the man who makes the sun rise and set for the Impact, was smothered by defenders any time he got a whiff of the ball, remaining well-shackled and unable to contribute to the game. Passes were errant, attacking creativity lacked, and the Impact conceded a late goal – and all the points – after switching off as Houston ramped the intensity up a notch. Over the course of 90 minutes, there was only one team in the match, the team who had played a mid-week game nonetheless.

 As Rémi Garde put forth an unchanged starting eleven from San Jose, fans were pleased to see that the players would get a chance to build off the chemistry that had been building since pre-season. But as many passes went to the opposition and communication seemed non-existent, that chemistry seemed to evaporate before our eyes. Perhaps the Impact need to remain sequestered in a hotel all season in order to maintain continuity?

The highlight of the match for Impact fans was undoubtedly Saphir Taïder’s second goal in as many matches, nearly a carbon copy of his goal in San Jose – the Algerian snuck behind the defense to finish a deep pass, this time off a brilliant cross from Micheal Azira. 

Houston would go on to score immediately after play restarted, before laying a second-half siege to the Impact’s half, much as San Jose did in the previous match.

As the long road trip continues, fans will hope that fatigue does not get the better of the Bleu-Blanc-Noir, as it seemed to do in Houston. Additionally, it looks as though we are in for another year of “Nacho-dependence,”  this writer is off to light a candle for our maestro.

The Impact will take to the road once again, this time visiting Orlando City SC, on Saturday, March 16.

Featured image: @lesliecphotos on Instagram

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