The LA Galaxy took on the San Jose Earthquakes in front of 50,850 at Stanford Stadium in the first of this season’s California Clásico games on Saturday, June 29. The Clásico is notorious for last-minute action and this game was no different.
The Galaxy was missing five key players, leaving the team on the back foot before the game even began. Romain Alessandrini is still out recovering from his April meniscus root surgery. Uriel Antuna, Jonathan dos Santos, Rolf Feltscher and Giancarlo Gonzalez were all unavailable due to being called up to their national teams so the Galaxy with few options on the bench.
LA struggled to find their rhythm from the very beginning of the game. Eleven minutes in, San Jose dealt their first blow when Vako sent in a ball from outside of the box that was just too fast for David Bingham to react to. Vako has been hot recently, scoring 6 goals in the last 4 games.
In the 38th minute Zlatan Ibrahimovic passed the ball to Dave Romney for a failed shot on goal. Ibrahimovic appeared slow and uninterested on the field and was not effective on either end which contributed to the chaos and inability for the Galaxy to make anything happen.
Throughout the game the Galaxy’s midfield was overrun and outplayed, spotlighting just how much Jonathon Dos Santos was missed. Efrain Alvarez came in for an injured Sebastian Lletget at halftime, but the midfield chaos continued for the Galaxy.
It’s tradition to wait until the end of the game for all the excitement to surface in a California Clásico and this one did not disappoint. In the 82nd minute, Shea Salinas doubled San Jose’s lead with a shot from the right side of the box that made it into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Just three minutes later the Earthquakes struck again when Salinas set up Tommy Thompson for a shot that deflected off of Perry Kitchen resulting in a goal. Although David Bingham made five saves during the course of the game, it just wasn’t enough.
This win was not only important for the Quakes due to the satisfaction of beating an interstate rival; this win also helps them continue to advance up the Western Conference table after finding themselves in a playoff position earlier this week.
Next up for the L.A. Galaxy is an Independence Day home game against Toronto FC at 7:30 PST.
Featured image: Noel Danseco // IG @drive_x_strike
Twenty days after a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Union in league play –and following an even more disappointing loss to the New England Revolution in the Open Cup– the New York Red Bulls welcomed the Chicago Fire.
Thanks to the Gold Cup, the majority of MLS took some time off so group stage games could be played in our soccer-specific stadia around the country. The tournament isn’t over yet, but since it’s down to the semi-finals, league action is back. While Aaron Long (USA), Derrick Etienne, Jr. (Haiti), and Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica) are still away as part of this biennial event, Michael Amir Murillo and Panama have finished their run. Perhaps he’ll just meet the team when they get to Houston this week. I don’t expect him to go out against the Dynamo in their midweek clash.
Let the Music Set You Free
This was the official Pride Night for the club. They really did it up, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Rainbow-numbered jerseys will be auctioned off, ticket sales will benefit Pride Live. But what really made the night was how fun it all felt. People these days are tense. Like, really tense. But the atmosphere was markedly less so…unless you were on the field. That’s really how it should be.
Such a Revelation
I mean… it speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Alejandro “Kakú” Romero Gamarra picks off Kenneth Kronholm on a pass back and scores the first goal just eight minutes in. It wasn’t so long ago that people were grumbling that Kakú wanted out in the worst way. Seems to me that he was in a bit of a dark patch and is on the other side of it now. I remember having two little kids and trying to do my job… wasn’t easy. And I didn’t have to be several countries away from my family and traveling regularly. I can only speculate, but at least things are working well.
If the Rhythm’s Right
Maybe I don’t give goalkeeper Luis Robles enough credit. I wouldn’t be the only one, mind you. He has just three US National Team Caps, and has never been selected for the MLS All-Star Game. The RBNY Ironman made a whopping seven saves against Chicago. SEVEN! The single Fire goal, from Nemanja Nikolic, only came after he collected one of those Robles saves. I can’t even be mad about it. I’m sure Robles can be, but that’s his job. All Robles can do is his job, and he’s damn good at it. I just wanted to make sure I said as much.
I Hope This Feeling Never Ends
Three goals, three goalscorers. This is a regular thing for RBNY. Brian White tallied his fifth goal for the season, sliding between two defenders to peg the ball in at the 59th minute. White was then subbed out to allow for the return of Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has been out with a soft tissue injury. In his 23 minutes on the field, he made the second assist pass to Kyle Duncan, who crossed the ball to Daniel Royer in the 93rd minute for a final goal.
The Red Bulls hit the road against the Houston Dynamo and Atlanta United before returning for (only) the first Hudson River Derby of the season back in Harrison. If the Red Bulls can continue to feel this free, we’ll all be dancing this season.
(PS: I was the Kindergartner singing Madonna songs in the 80s. Sometimes I have to look up the lyrics to make sure I have them right– not so with this one. Enjoy!)
The Houston Dynamo are deep into a tough summer schedule. After losing in San Jose Wednesday night, they traveled over 3,000 miles to meet the New England Revolution less than sixty hours later. This is their third road match in eight days and they have yet to find the back of the net in the series.
Head coach Wilmer Cabrera played serious jazz with the starting lineup. As a coach known for regularly shaking up lines and combinations of players, he was still able to surprise fans with many of his Starting XI decisions against the Revs.
The fan response on Twitter was a typical barrage of negativity (seriously, don’t read the comments), but Cabrera’s big shake ups have worked before. Chris Duvall got his first MLS start and Michael Salazar, a recent USL transfer, was rewarded for some quality sub-in minutes with a center forward start.
The first 45 minutes of the match were magical for the Houston Dynamo and showed that the lineup changes weren’t the terrible choice that many expected. The Dynamo’s defense was effective, and the Dynamo had good chances in the first half hour.
Romell Quioto launched crosses trying to find Salazar at the far post and while the pairing didn’t pay off directly, a resulting corner kick found defender Darwin Ceren. The defender landed a ball in the back of the net for the game’s first goal in the 25th minute. Houston’s offense dominated the first half, and confidence was high going into the break.
In an interview at the start of the break, Rev’s coach Bruce Arena recognized their shortcomings and the changes needed in the second half. He must have given New England just the right updated game plan. The Rev’s offense came back with the answer to Houston’s defensive tactics, and the Dynamo were simply not prepared to shift their play.
With the second half direction switch, New England dominated the same half of the pitch that the Dynamo owned in the first. Corners made the difference for both teams as the Revolution scored off their own corner in the 51st minute.
Milnar was able to get his head up over Kevin Garcia and deflected a stunner of a ball into the net. With the match tied, the Dynamo created some offensive chances between then and the hour mark before conceding control of the match back to the home team.
Just when it seemed that the Dynamo might find their road point in New England, the exhausted defense got too sloppy in the 91st minute. Adam Lundqvist gave Bunbury too much space in the box, and the Dynamo fell to New England 2-1.
While the match was a Houston loss, I don’t think it was a total loss for the team. They showed so much promise in the first half, and scoring the first goal of their road series and of the match provided some confidence. Cabrera’s lineup changes have potential and simply need to improve on flexibility and endurance through tactical changes.
The Dynamo have another short break before their next matchup, but they are finally coming home to their newly re-branded BBVA Stadium to host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday.
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Chris McCann (Marquinhos Pedroso, HT’), Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Leonardo Jara; Russell Canouse, Lucas Rodriguez, Ulises Segura (Quincy Amarikwa, 80′), Zoltan Stieber (Chris Durkin, 66′); Wayne Rooney, Luciano Acosta
If you felt a sense of deja-vu after D.C. United’s matchup with Toronto FC this Saturday, you’re not alone. In their second meeting in as many months, the two teams yet again split points as they drew, 1-1.
Black-and-Red supporters and pundits alike were banking on Toronto arriving in the District with a squad depleted by international duty. No one doubted that D.C.’s heat and humidity would put the visitors at a further disadvantage. It almost came as a surprise when Toronto scored early in the first half.
Toronto’s goal scorer was none other than former D.C. United player Nick DeLeon. In the 19’, DeLeon slotted a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid to put Toronto on the board and leave the Black-and-Red seeking an equalizer.
A nasty foul brought D.C. defender Fred Brillant down in the box and led to a penalty kick that would put the Black-and-Red on the board. In a deviation from his usual technique, Captain Wayne Rooney drove the shot dead center to equalize the match.
D.C.’s Captain was far from elated though. Toronto gave the Black-and-Red a difficult time from the start. Head Coach Ben Olsen said, “they are a tough team to prepare for, because they throw you for a loop with a false 9 in Pozuelo, and we didn’t think they would go that way and it took us a little while to adjust.”
As a result of Toronto’s clever tactics, D.C. United were left chasing a single goal for the entire match. Were it not for Rooney’s successful penalty kick, Nick DeLeon would have likely headed back to Toronto with three points.
Even with a draw at home, Olsen, said, “I was proud of the second half and the effort to get something out of it… it wasn’t the end of the world.”
D.C. United hits the road this week for what Olsen says will be “a very tough game July 4thin Dallas”, where temperatures are predicted to soar into the 90s with a high percentage of humidity.
Head Coach Ben Olsen has been lamenting the challenges brought by ‘summer soccer’, but D.C.’s Captain remains nonplussed. Wayne Rooney said, “yeah, its hot in Dallas, I was there a few weeks ago and experienced the heat there. We’ll be fine I think.”
With the impending return of Moreno and Arriola from international duty, we can only hope that Rooney’s confidence is contagious, and D.C. is able to nab three points on the road.
Starting XI: Vito Mannone, Chase Gasper, Michael Boxall, Ike Opara, Hassani Dotson, Osvaldo Alonso (Lawrence Olum 70′), Jan Gregus, Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero (Kevin Molino 61′), Ethan Finlay, Angelo Rodriguez (Mason Toye 62′)
Minnesota United FC have struggled to find the back of the net this season, winning low-scoring games and losing on the back of a stale attack. Any Minnesota sports fan will tell you not to count on a shaky expansion side like FC Cincinnati to pad your goal average, but just 30 minutes into the match everyone in blue and orange was sweating and not just because of the 95 degree heat index.
Sure, scoring 4 goals in 45 minutes is less impressive when it comes against a squad depleted of internationals, players the club relies on to stave off overwhelming defeat. Scoring 7 in 90 minutes against said club… Well, that’s not expected from a club that used to be that club.
Despite a low 38% share of overall possession, Minnesota United pulled out a 7-1 win over the newest expansion club, with 6 different Loons making the score sheet and 2 forwards sharing in the spoils.
For the first time in a long time (or ever) Adrian Heath’s go-to slogan, “Goals change games,” was a positive reflection of his squad’s performance. With a trio of first half goals sinking Cincy’s possession-based momentum. True to recent form, backfield players were credited with those goals, continuing the Loons’ offensive drought.
All 4 were beautiful goals, but the most impressive perhaps came from rookie Hassani Dotson. Cal Williams, calling the nationally televised game for a local radio audience on SKOR North, called it “a pure Minnesota Black-and-Blue belter.”
Cincinnati came out of the locker room after halftime primed to slow Minnesota’s momentum. They made one substitute at the break, taking advantage of a lopsided 3-0 scoreline to give midfielder Tommy McCabe his MLS debut before the regulars return from international duty. It wasn’t long before their quick movements bore fruit. Midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma was able to slot a quick shot past Vito Mannone to put the visitors on the board in the 56th minute.
Typically, conceding an early goal is enough to damper any offensive moves from the Loons. Cue another Heath standby: “I said to the players at half the first 15 minutes will dictate the other 30. Which it does. Because we conceded a sloppy goal. You know, there’s no way we can dress that up because it was a poor goal to concede.” Indeed. But Saturday was far from typical, as Heath added, “The response from that was terrific.”
Unbelievable and beautiful were just some of the words heard around in the press box and on the broadcasts to describe the Loons’ second half offensive renewal. Following a 70th minute brace from Opara, Mason Toye finally scored his first goal for the club in MLS competition in the 75th minute.
I’ve been trying to score goals since I got here. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for me, a bit of a mental game. I’ve just been trying to work hard and I’ve heard the goals will come. So, it feels really good that my hard work is paying off.
Twelve minutes later, he added an assist as Kevin Molino, fresh off of a Gold Cup stunner for Trinidad & Tobago, poked his way into the box to put the final nail in the coffin.
It was a true team effort. Defensive mid Jan Gregus, back from Slovakia national duty, tallied a gentleman’s hat trick, assisting Dotson, Opara and Toye. Darwin Quintero marked 2 assists and very nearly made a couple goals of his own. Rookie Chase Gasper made his first career start and stood tall for a full 90 minutes on the left flank.
Midfielder Miguel Ibarra still had energy to burn in the waning minutes of the game, sprinting the full length of the pitch as if the Loons were down a goal rather than up by 6. Opara stunned his Cincinnati counterparts with his first career brace.
“Sporting Kansas City didn’t want to win,” people said after the Loons’ Fourth Round Open Cup victory. “Houston wasn’t at their best,” they said after the Round of 16. “It’s only Cincinnati” was a justifiable reaction after the first half. Seven goals. Six, beautiful, perfect strikes – and one off of Opara’s… thigh? This match wasn’t ‘just’ anything in any way, shape or form.
Goals change games. Goals also change mentality, spirit, drive, confidence. Goals change hearts and minds. Goals from those who were brought in to score them and score them often earns trust. Goals from players not thought of as ‘strikers’ in any sense earns respect. Goals are what fans at Allianz Field and dozens of travelling supporters should have been witness to from Day 1 of the 2019 season.
On Saturday, 19,778 fans witnessed goals galore. “Downright bizarre,” said Williams. Downright glorious. And the Loons go marching on – to two matches that will set the tone for the rest of their season.
MN United FC hosts fellow Western Conference playoff contenders San Jose Earthquakes before a cross-conference trip to Montreal Impact on Saturday.
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Leonardo Jara; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse, Lucas Rodriguez, Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta (Quincy Amarikwa, 88′); Wayne Rooney
A Match, A Celebration, A Remembrance
Wednesday night saw Audi Field packed for both the matchup between D.C. United and Orlando City SC and for United Night OUT. The win against Orlando made the evening even more special, as D.C. United Captain Wayne Rooney scored from his own half in a feat he has pulled off for each club he’s played for now, including Manchester United and Everton.
Falling just before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a historic moment that sparked the gay rights movement in the United States, this year’s United Night OUT was particularly poignant.
While this year isn’t the first that D.C. United has celebrated Pride, it is the first year that the club has changed its logo on social media in support, and the second-year players have worn rainbow numbers and the rainbow captain’s armband. D.C. United also held a minute’s applause in the 49′ for those who lost their lives in the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando.
I was lucky enough to spend part of the match with Jim Ensor, a D.C. United season ticket holder since 1996 and a member of Federal Triangles Soccer Club (FTSC), the organization that hosts United Night OUT.
United Night OUT is presented by Team DC as part of their Night OUT series. Ensor and FTSC worked closely with D.C. United to coordinate the entire evening, from the coin toss and flag bearers, to the performance of the National Anthem by DC Different Drummers. Through the FTSC website, over 500 tickets were sold, a portion of their proceeds donated to D.C. Scores.
An interview with Jim Ensor
While we all tried to recover Rooney’s first half stunner, and had our fingers crossed that Orlando wouldn’t score, Ensor kindly discussed his thoughts on United Night OUT with me:
Sarah Kallassy: What would you like to see the community to gain from United Night OUT?
Jim Ensor: I want people to feel that they are part of this club, I want them to feel comfortable in the stands. I want them to be excited about the team on the field and feel connected to the organization behind the team on the field. More importantly, I want the team to reach out to the community as a whole…however you identify, we all are the community.
SK: How can someone be an ally or a better ally?
JE: Allies can listen, participate, and really be a part of it.
Listen. Be a part of our peoples’ lives, encourage them to be themselves. Allow them the opportunity to express themselves and create without judgement. We don’t need pandering; we don’t need sympathy. It’s very normal. That’s probably the biggest lesson, is to understand that its normal.
Participate, learn more about what it is we’re going through. Learn more about our history. When we get to a point that parents and family and friends are not worried about someone coming out, or not feeling like they have to be an ally, that’s when we’re in a better place.
SK: What would you like someone to take away from tonight?
JE: The sense of community and being united is the most important part of it. We’ve got a long way to go. We have a very long way to go. I’ll continue to advocate for participation and inclusion, and for us to be united on and off the field.
“I don’t take it lightly that I’m sitting here feeling comfortable in the stands at a professional event, where they feel comfortable acknowledging our existence, acknowledging that we are part of the community. There are a lot of people that have paved the way to this and sacrificed and given up a lot for us to be here and enjoy this moment.”
Jim Ensor, Federal Triangles Soccer Club
Author’s note: A special thank you to Jim Ensor, who was one of the first people in the D.C. United community to welcome me as a reporter to this club. It was an honor to speak with you, and I will always remember what you said about the responsibility of this platform and honoring those who have come before me.
Soccer fans and pundits alike were quick to dismiss the Houston Dynamo’s early season success the result of an easy schedule. While their MLS schedule was light, they were testing their depth through Open Cup matches and some lingering injuries.
They came out of the first two months of the season with two games in hand, having had an opportunity test and trust the depth that they have attempted to build. As spring turned to summer, the team faltered and the momentum that was built in the first part of the season is struggling to sustain us through a month where our only win has come against a USL team.
If the early part of the Dynamo season was exceptionally light, the summer months are more than making up for it with a brutal schedule of six away matches out of ten in June and July. Grabbing even one early away point would have been a great way to maintain some momentum and keep the faith of the fans. Sadly, no points were earned in San Jose as the Quakes sealed a solid 2-0 victory on Thursday night.
The defeat was no one’s fault but the players on the pitch. They had chances to score and made mistakes that cost them goals – no more and no less. Every stakeholder – players, coaching staff, management, and fans – is now left to sit with another loss and wonder what comes next.
Readers may have noticed by now – my MLSFemale articles aren’t the typical play-by-play reviews that are found on many media outlets. In fact, I often struggle to remember to include the scores in some of my articles! Because I was a supporter long before I was writing about the team, I refuse to leave that part of me behind when it’s writing time.
Many people on social media are quick to call out the familiar scapegoats; #BrenerOut is all over as are complaints about Kevin Garcia, but I don’t buy it. Owners are owners, and Garcia is a player that has had more good plays this season than bad as I see it.
If we want to talk about mistakes in San Jose, I’m more likely to call out favorites like Boniek Garcia and Adam Lundqvist for bad passes and touches in the midfield. And I believe that if I had the opportunity to ask my guys in orange, they would say the same.
Individuals have bad games and good games, but we win or lose AS. A. TEAM. I know that I reference him often in my articles, but my Dynamo Twitter King puts it perfectly.
We are all in this together, and I believe that this is where we draw the line between fans and supporters for the Houston Dynamo. Are you there to watch, revel in victory, and complain in defeat? Or are you there to bleed Orange despite the results?
I’m in it, no matter what, until the end of the season every season. And I’m happy to share my views on the match and my team after every match with MLSFemale readers. You’ll hear from me again after the Dynamo travel to battle New England this Saturday.
In front of 17,307 energetic fans, the U.S. Men’s National Team won the group stage in a grueling 1-0 win over Panama; claiming all nine points ahead of the quarterfinals. And among the skillful roster areLAFC’s Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman.
Before the team heads to the east coast to face Curaçao in this Sunday’s matchup in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to catch up with LAFC’s favorite duo in Kansas City to discuss their experiences with the senior team this tournament thus far and reflect on the club’s strong start to the season.
Prior to the start of the USMNT’s Gold Cup run, Zimmerman – a longtime veteran of the senior squad – appeared as a halftime substitution during the friendly against Venezuela and has made back-to-back appearances for Gold Cup play.
Zimmerman:“It’s been great. I mean anytime you get called into the national team, it’s an honor. But even more so, I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be content. Get some games, get some starts, get some good performances – to try to build that momentum. [..] So it’s been great to be a part of these first two games. And get two wins.”
Tyler Miller earned his first call-up to the senior team earlier this year for January’s senior camp. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut to the game day roster and returned to LAFC for preseason.
Six months later, the 26-year-old keeper would get another opportunity as he was called up for the USMNT’s friendlies. Even though he appeared on the bench for both matches, Miller ultimately made the final Gold Cup roster, “[It’s] a dream come true to be a part of this team.”
Following Wednesday’s win, Miller is the only player on the roster yet to have made an appearance.
Miller and Zimmerman are excited about their club team: “I’ve had some late nights, where I watch some games of theirs. [I’m] looking forward to rooting them on from afar,” Zimmerman expressed.
Zimmerman went on to explain LAFC’s overall group mentality is greatly improved compared to last season:
“It’s a groundwork that we’ve put in place since the beginning of last year with how we want to be, our mentality. That’s one of the biggest differences from last year to this year, is the mentality of the whole group. To realize we’re a special group of players. We have a great locker room. And a very talented team.”
Miller added, “It’s always a challenge when you’re called into international duty for the guys to step up that haven’t really been getting a lot of minutes. I think the team has done well in the first two open cup games and that’s going to help propel them into the next three MLS games where we might have some guys still missing. I think this is a huge opportunity for guys to really get some valuable minutes because you never know. I mean the MLS season is very long and injuries happen. And everyone has to be ready.”
One of those players who has been earning some “valuable minutes” is Pablo Sisneiga, who has stepped up in Miller’s absence. And Tyler was thrilled for the young Mexican keeper:
“Pablo has done great. I’ve always got confidence in Pablo. I think he’s really performed well and has made some key saves for our team, especially with the RSL game. This last game we had too. I’m really happy for him because I know how hard he works. He’s a good kid and I’m glad to see him doing well.”
As the pair gear up to head to the east coast with the USMNT – the black-and-gold will kick off a packed schedule in Colorado on Friday.
Tuesday, June 11th: 2-3 loss (US Open Cup 4th Round)
Hello, folks. It’s been a while. And while there has been no shortage of soccer on my TV and in my life (U13 Flight Champs!) I’ve had a hard time committing words to screen about the New York Red Bulls.
We used to be Together
First the good stuff: I watched Aaron Long join the US Men’s National Team once again, but this time with feeling. The CONCACAF Gold Cup is taking place around the country, and expectations for the Yanks are guarded but high. The USMNT won it all the last time out, but that was before the overall collapse that kept them out of the World Cup (don’t drink every time someone mentions it– your liver can’t handle it). But the team is scraping their way up again.
Winning their group in decisive fashion, RBNY defender Aaron Long scored two of the team’s eleven group stage goals. They head to Lincoln Financial in Philadelphia (home of the NFL Eagles) to face Curaçao in the Quarterfinals. The hope is continued health and success (but mostly health) for Aaron Long and the rest of the USMNT.
I really feel that I’m losing my best friend
So, as does happen from time to time, my personal life got in the way of me watching the Red Bulls match against the Philadelphia Union. And until someone pays me to not miss this stuff, that’s gonna be how it goes. But I digress.
Relying on Twitter for updates, I was thrilled to see RBNY up by two goals at the half. Union have been at the top of the Eastern Conference for a while, and should never be underestimated. They have often been the team to ‘figure out’ the Red Bulls. But maybe this time would be different.
A come-from-behind win for the Union, including a brace and an assist from Ilsinho, cemented Philly’s position atop the East. But hey- at least there was the Open Cup for RBNY to sink their cleats into.
I can’t believe this could be the end
The Red Bulls usually make a deep run in the Open Cup, even making it to the Final in 2017. They’ve only lost the 4th round match once before, in 2014. They met the New England Revolution at their USL stomping grounds, MSU Soccer Park at Montclair State University. Weird flex, but okay.
The atmosphere actually worked out for the most part. But a Revs goal from Juan Agudelo in the first minute did not make for an enjoyable evening. Goals from Tom Barlow and Cristian Casseres Jr. gave fans hope. Until Teal Bunbury bagged a brace, including one in added extra time, to advance the Revs in the Open Cup over RBNY.
The next game is June 28th. Seventeen days since their last match. Thanks to Instagram, fans could catch a glimpse of players traveling to see family and friends before making their way back to training. Most notably, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is fully training following a groin injury that sidelined him several weeks. They will welcome former captain, and new dad, Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire for their first Pride Night event taking place in June. It is not a time for words, but a time for action.
New York sports fans can be particularly salty, but one can do several tequila shooters with fan tweets of late. So as much as fans and press colleagues have missed nights at Red Bull Arena, they are wary of this second half of the season. There are still three trophies up for grabs, but it’s up to the team to do what it takes to earn them.
(P.S. No real commentary other than, “Wow I love this song.”)
After 3 long weeks off for some much-needed rest and recovery during the Gold Cup, the Montréal Impact were back in action Wednesday night at Stade Saputo. Although the break had allowed several players to recover from injury and return to the lineup, the Impact were still short 2 players on the bench. Visiting Portland Timbers were in a similar situation, as they’d done a full squad rotation and had not even brought a full team.
As Orji Okwonkwo and Bacary Sagna returned following injury absences, there remained several question marks around the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. How rusty would the team be? How would they adjust to a 3-4-3 formation, a departure from the usual 4-3-3? Would the players returning from injury be fit enough to contribute meaningfully?
The Impact wasted no time in affirming their desire to create scoring chances. Having referred to the offensive quality as “sterile” or “non-existent” at several points throughout the season, it was truly a breath of fresh air to watch the team set up camp in the attacking third. Okwonkwo and Sagna were notably effective, combining with a chemistry that made it look as though they had played together for months.
After a littany of near misses, Sagna reacted quickly to intercept a pass, deftly sending Okwonkwo behind the defense in the 28th minute. The Nigerian striker put on the afterburners to find himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, and made no mistake, thumping the ball into the roof of the net.
The Impact started the second half a little lethargically, and were made to pay when the Timbers floated in a free kick that Tomas Cocechny headed home to tie the match at 1-1 in the 53rd minute. Montréal promptly woke up and began to play with the intensity they showed in the first half. They were rewarded with the team’s best goal of the season so far, when Victor Cabrera sought out captain Saphir Taïder. Taïder hooked the pass back to Okwonkwo who, from the top of the box, struck the ball on the volley mid-turn, rocketing it into the top corner to score a screamer of a match-winner.
Although the match was very pleasing to watch from a Montréal perspective, especially given how light the squad remains, this 2-1 result should also be taken with a grain of salt. Portland’s approach with a fully rotated squad signified that they were willing to let this match go. Winning a home match is essential, but there will be far stiffer competition to come, and certainly before many Impact players have returned to the lineup.
In the spirit of the condensed schedule, Montréal are off to Mercedes Benz Stadium, where they’ll take on reigning champions Atlanta United who are missing a few of their own key players, but still a tremendously strong team. Yet if the Impact show up with the same hunger that they demonstrated versus the Timbers, anything is possible!