Tag Archives: Featured

Montréal Impact End Season with More Questions than Answers

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

For the third year in a row, a disappointing Montréal Impact season has come to an end on the last day of the regular MLS season. A shiny Canadian Championship is a band-aid over the bullet wound that is a third consecutive year with no playoffs, and with a totally mysterious roster status.

As it was finally confirmed on the last day, the Montréal Impact at least chose to go out in style, beating New York Red Bulls emphatically 3-0 in front of Stade Saputo. Most notably at the end of the match, 34-year-old talisman, Ignacio Piatti, was substituted off, and his teammates gathered to embrace him, as chants of his name rang round the field. Was this because Piatti is leaving, despite a club option for 2020 existing on his contract?

Nobody knows. Those who might have expected the post-mortem press conference held two days later to shed some light on Piatti’s situation, and those of many other players in the last year of their contracts, would be disappointed. In an event that rather summed up the season, expectations were swiftly dashed. Wilmer Cabrera, who had coached a whopping 9 matches with the team, and who does not know if he will return next year, was sent out alone to face the media. Team administration was nowhere to be found.

Players answered questions in groups of three, but they didn’t seem particularly prepared for the day either, several venting their frustrations against former coach Rémi Garde and wondering aloud whether they need to start packing their bags. To cap off the bizarre conference, moments before Piatti was expected to appear, Impact PR announced he had left the building after he was told the team will exercise their option on his contract.

Image credit: Montreal Impact

It was truly a microcosm of a season, and the season was a microcosm of an era within the organization. Poor planning, reactionary decision-making, and emotional investment have led the Impact to regularly mire in mediocrity, often being so close to achieving success and punching with the heavyweights, but left just short by bad signings, hasty firings, and a total lack of structure within the organization.

It finally seems that some of these issues are being handled. Owner Joey Saputo, who adores his club — for better or worse, stepped back this year to allow now-president Kevin Gilmore to make business decisions. Walter Sabbatini was hired in Italy to oversee both Bologna FC and the Impact’s sporting structures. Finally, Belgian Olivier Renard joined as technical director in late September. The task of releasing, re-signing, and searching for new players will fall to him. As he is new to the club and MLS, one can logically afford him a little more time to get acquainted with the roster and its rules.

That being said, it will be more than difficult for fans to swallow another “transition” year. Last season, Rémi Garde was slow to adapt to MLS, and some blamed this year’s shortcomings on a change in administrative structure, which led to Gilmore’s firing of Garde with only 7 MLS games left in the season and hasty hiring of coach Cabrera. The downward trend in performances and the accumulation of disappointment at certain sporting and business decisions have left relations between the Impact and even its most diehard fans at an all-time low, with last week’s shambolic press conference leaving many feeling insulted by their club. It goes without saying that as the Impact return to the CCL for the first time since 2015, the onus is on the organization to make a strong statement in the off-season.

Nobody knows if icons Piatti and Samuel Piette will be back, nor if the Impact will rely on a consistently out-of-form striker (Maxi Urruti in 2019, Matteo Mancosu for the two seasons prior) for a fourth year in a row. Will veteran goalkeeper Evan Bush retain his number one position, or will Clément Diop be re-signed to unseat him? The status of beloved defenders Bacary Sagna and Rod Fanni, both of whom are in their late 30’s, is a mystery. These are but a few of the many players whose situations are up in the air. However, one gets the feeling that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir who step on to the pitch for that first match in 2020 will be a far different team from what we saw this year.

Featured image: @ImpactMontreal

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Seattle Sounders claim no. 2 seed in West with 1-0 win over Minnesota

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

After an incredibly unpredictable run of games, the Seattle Sounders grabbed 3 points at home against Western Conference rival, Minnesota United, to lock up the 2nd spot in the West and a home road in playoffs.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In their fan appreciation match, the Sounders honored the return of their longtime captain, Osvaldo Alonso, prior to kickoff and the fans showed Ozzie nothing but love. General Manager Adrian Hanauer presented Ozzie with a framed copy of the recently elected Sounders Best XI, which featured Ozzie in the midfield. The Honey Badger gave the entire stadium a clap and wave before heading in to the opposing team’s locker room, a feeling that must have felt odd for the man who spent nearly a decade in Rave Green.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In front of nearly 48,000 home fans, the Sounders pushed the attack from the opening whistle. Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones provided plenty of pressure from the wings, while Nicolas Lodeiro was a welcome return to the middle of the pitch after missing the previous two games from injury. Due to another red card suspension, Xavier Arreaga missed the match and was replaced by Roman Torres, who had only returned to eligibility in the 18 man lineup the previous weekend after serving a 10 match ban for substance violation.

The Panamanian made a thunderous return to starting form in the 29th minute. After a corner kick played in fell outside the box, Joevin Jones sent in a vicious cross that found the head of Roman Torres perfectly. This goal was Torres first in Rave Green and couldn’t have come at a more dire time for the Sounders.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

The Sounders managed to generate a few more offensive chances and also held off the Minnesota United attack as the match ended 1-0 in favor of Seattle. While the result was probably not what Osvaldo Alonso would have hoped for his return to CenturyLink, the Sounders and their fans relished the 3 points, which secured them the second seed in the Western Conference.

Up next the Sounders will face FC Dallas, who had a disgustingly dominant 6-0 win on Decision Day vs Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink on Saturday October 19th with a kickoff of 12:30 PM.

Playoff Preview

The biggest concern to the Seattle Sounders over the back half of the season has been health and squad depth. The Sounders reached deep in to their reserves for many games this season and dropped more points at home than ever before. However, the Sounders were able to maintain the third longest playoff appearance streak in American professional sports (behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Antonio Spurs, respectively) by securing their 11th straight playoff appearance.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

While it appears Victor Rodriquez is sidelined by yet another injury, Seattle is entering playoffs with nearly their entire squad healthy and ready for battle. Both Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro are questionable to be at full health after recent injuries, but Gustav Svennson, Kelvin Leerdam and Brad Smith are all back to full health after missing long individual stretches. Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris are as hungry as ever, the former having been named to Opta’s MLS Best XI. In this final game, Joevin Jones seemed to show flashes of his former self as well.

While the road to MLS Cup is not a simple one for the Seattle Sounders, they just might be hitting their stride at the right time.

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

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Making History: LAFC and Carlos Vela Cap Off the Regular Season On A High Note

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club closed the regular season in a 3-1 historic win over the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon at Banc of California Stadium.

With the win the Black & Gold tied the all-time single-season goals record (85) and broke the all-time single-season points record (72). Plus, they finished the season with the best goal differential in league history (+48) and a 21-4-9 record.

The club controlled most of the first half with their efforts paying off as Carlos Vela scored in the 28th minute past an outstretched Tim Howard to give LAFC the lead and made history as he surpassing Josef Martinez’s record for the most goals in one season with a record-best of 34 goals.

Three minutes later, Tristian Blackmon heads in the ball to the Golden Boot winner inside the box. Vela score a stunning bicycle kick, his quick-fire brace doubling the team’s lead.

In the 40th minute, Kei Kamara’s header bounced off the post and into the back of the net putting the Rapids on the scoresheet – sending the sides into the half 2-1.

Eleven minutes after the restart, Vela capped off a historic season by scoring the hat-trick after a tapping in a goal off another cross by Blackmon.

Walker Zimmerman and Kamara clashed heads in the 70th minute. The Rapids player continued on but Walker was helped off the field after hitting the pitch face first. Steven Beitashour subbed in for the defender with twenty minutes left.

As a result, Zimmerman will not report to the United States Men’s National Team camp later this month as reported by LA Time’s Kevin Baxter:

The Black & Gold pushed forward to secure their historic win entering the playoffs on a high note.

Last week, LAFC clinched the 2019 Supporters’ Shield, securing the top spot in the Western Conference and a first-round bye in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Black & Gold will play the winner of Minnesota United and the Galaxy for the Western Conference Semifinal. Date and time will be announced at a later date.

Featured Image:  Imad Bolotok

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want: D.C. United Draw with FC Cincinnati

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Editor-In-Chief 
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Russell Canouse; Júnior Moreno, Felipe Martins (Leonardo Jara, 67′); Lucas Rodríguez, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura (Luciano Acosta, 58′); Quincy Amarikwa (Ola Kamara, 69′)

Unused Substitutes: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Marquinhos Pedroso, Emmanuel Boateng

In the last match of the regular season, D.C. United faltered, unable to break a scoreless deadlock with FC Cincinnati. What should have been an easy win at home turned into a physical and frustrating game that eventually cost D.C. United a home playoff match.

Decision Day has a way of bringing surprises to the League, and today was no exception. Although their season record has been nothing short of dismal, FC Cincinnati brought everything to the pitch at Audi Field for their last match of the 2019 season.

The Stage Was Set

Black-and-Red supporters so desperately wanted a win, and optimism hung thick in the air at Buzzard Point. D.C. United broke with broadcasting partner FloSports earlier in the week, in a move lauded by fans. Today’s match was streamed for free on D.C. United’s website, with play by play announcers Dave Johnson and Devon McTavish at the helm, joined by special guest Joanna Lohman (Washington Spirit and USWNT), and D.C. United’s Claudia Pagan reporting from the sideline.

D.C. United had prepared special tifo to honor the club’s four MLS Cup Championships, which were displayed before kickoff. The club has been widely criticized for ignoring its history and culture since moving to Audi Field, and today’s gesture was welcomed by many.

What Happens on the Pitch…

D.C. United began the match on a high note, creating chances and looking dangerous from the first whistle. Head coach Ben Olsen fielded a strong XI and stacked the bench with super subs, to create an 18 more than capable of taking on Cincinnati.

While D.C. began the first half with good pace, they seemed to let off the gas too soon. Cincinnati played with the type of desperation and heart of a team with nothing left to lose, becoming physical quickly with D.C. United. The visitors from Ohio created chances of their own, and while D.C.’s keeper Bill Hamid handily saved each shot, Cincinnati should have never been allowed that close.

The last ten minutes of the first half turned chaotic, and the wheels came off of Cincinnati’s bus. A series of nasty fouls against D.C.’s players, including a dangerous high kick to Ulises Segura and the throwing of Felipe Martins to the ground… by his neck, resulted in not one, but two red cards issued to Cincinnati. In the 41’ and 43’, Joseph-Claude Gyau and Roland Lamah were sent off respectively, leaving D.C. United up two men.

Ulises Segura quickly capitalized on the restart advantage, rocketing the ball into the back of the net for the Black-and-Red. Unfortunately, the elation coursing through Audi Field was short-lived, as referee David Gantar went to VAR for review and subsequently struck the goal as he determined Segura had been offside.

Regardless of the goal being called back, the second half began with optimism; after all, Cincinnati was down to nine men. What the Black-and-Red didn’t bank on was their opponent’s ability to park the proverbial bus, even with the wheels off. Cincinnati moved into a 5-3 formation, creating an almost impenetrable backline.

Throughout the second half, D.C. United struggled to get through Cincinnati’s defense. Assaults by Lucho Acosta, Paul Arriola, Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez, and Ola Kamara were still not enough to earn D.C. another goal. The chances were thwarted by Cincinnati’s defense, and otherwise lacked accuracy. Clinical finishes have been D.C.’s Achilles heel this season, and today was no different.

Yes, FC Cincinnati wasted incredible amounts of time in the second half and were unchecked by the officials. (They used this tactic intelligently, and honestly, any team in Cincinnati’s position would have done the same.) However, D.C. didn’t capitalize on being up two men, or their abundant chances, even with six minutes of stoppage time added to the match.

Where We Go from Here

With the opportunity for a home playoff match off the table, D.C. United will be forced to hit the road and head to Toronto. This is not the scenario desired by the team or supporters; however, the Black-and-Red have been in excellent road form this season. Bill Hamid just logged a record 14th shutout, and D.C.’s defense is one of the best in the League. All that remains is tightening up D.C. United’s attack.

Speaking to media after the match, Hamid said, “When the final whistle blew, the frustration was there, it was a very chippy night. Their players were… wasting time, but we’ve got to forget about it now. We’ve got to forget about it and move on. We’ve got to focus on going there and beating them and putting in a solid performance. So, that’s the focus now. We’ve got to let this one hurt a little bit so we can build up some fire from within and beat Toronto.”

Olsen said, “it’s been one of my toughest seasons, with adjustments and injuries…” Although D.C. United may not have their home playoff match, and supporters likely won’t get to send off Wayne Rooney in style, you can’t always get what you want. The Black-and-Red have a playoff berth, and still have a shot at the MLS Cup. So maybe, we’ll get what we need.

Author’s note: On a bit of a sad note, captain Wayne Rooney made one of his final appearances at Audi Field today. Suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Rooney was on the pitch hours before today’s match, getting in his daily practice. Hopefully we will see Rooney before he departs for England at the end of the season to start as a player-coach for Derby County.

Featured image: Sarah Kallassy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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Decision Day: Can the Timbers clinch a playoff spot at home?

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Following a chippy 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City this past Sunday night, the Portland Timbers are taking the point and the fight for a playoffs spot back home to Providence Park.

In a night full of trading cards and goals – Sebastian Blanco notched the opening goal in the 29th minute. However, Krisztián Nemeth cut the celebrations after finding the equalizer just moments later.

Then chaos ensued.

A brief altercation broke out in the 35th minute after Felipe Gutierrez and Brian Rodriguez collided on the sidelines that ultimately led to both Rodriguez and Roger Espinoza receiving red cards and were ejected from the match.

Head Coach Giovanni Savarese disagreed with the decision telling media during the postmatch conference:

“To be quite honest, I don’t think anybody should [have been] thrown out, from what I saw,” said Savarese. “From what I saw it got heated, but no, I think a lot of yellow card situations there. So I have to be honest that I haven’t seen it yet, I just heard that it wasn’t as much as they made it seem like.”

Steve Clark who rose to the occasion during the midseason after starter Jeff Attinella suffered a season-ending injury, made three saves to keep the match level.

Savarese said of Clark’s performance: “He’s done fairly well. We said from the beginning he is an important player. [And] that’s why we put him in. We felt very content to have two goalkeepers like Jeff [Attinella] and [Steve] Clark – that we knew what they’re going to give us. And we’re very content [he would] step up to help us out. I think he made some good saves.”

Sporting KC immediately regained the lead in the 46th minute after Daniel Salloi hit home the rebound scoring his first goal of the season.

In the 85th minute, a penalty was awarded to the Timbers after Ilie Sanchez tackles Jeremy Ebobisse in the penalty area. Darien Asprilla converts the goal leveling the match and giving the Timbers a hard-fought point on the road.

Although everything went their way score-wise across the league with a loss from both FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes, it all comes down to Decision Day.

But it comes with an added challenge.

After Savarese stated the club would be appealing Fernandez’s suspension; the club has since rescinded the appeal Wednesday based on new evidence – leaving them without their star forward for the big matchup. In addition to Diego Valeri still questionable due to tightness in his calf he acquired in Kansas City.

But maybe luck will be on Portland’s side as the Earthquakes are currently on a five-game losing streak and are a point below the line. As well, losing defender Tommy Thompson to a red card during their previous match against the Seattle Sounders.

The Timbers will look to clinch a playoffs spot at home when they face the Earthquakes on Sunday, October 6.

“It’s a must win. That’s all it is,” said Zarek Valentin.

Featured image: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Carlos Vela: Beware of the Left Foot

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Carlos Vela continues to stun teams on a historic week with his signature left-foot curler following this past Sunday’s draw in Minnesota.

Last weekend, Vela gave the Black & Gold another opening goal for the second straight match. The goal was Vela’s 31st of the season, tying him with Josef Martinez for most in a season in MLS history.

Although the captain came dangerously close to breaking the record on the same night – he left the big moment for Decision Day.

The star striker has only missed three games this entire season. And his dedication to the team is upstanding. For example, he was seen on the sideline coaching his teammates after being taken out due to an injury. In the postmatch interview after their clash with Minnesota United – Vela continued to credit his team in aiding his success:

For the fifth time in 2019, Vela appeared on Team of the Week, and is currently leading the league in three categories: (31) goals, (154) shots, and, (67) shots on goal and ranks second in the Audi Player Index Ratings. In addition to being voted the MLS Player of the Month for March of the 2019 MLS season.

Aside from breaking league and personal records, the former Real Sociedad player is having a great year. He was named to the 2019 MLS All-Star roster and given the captain’s armband for the second year in a row this summer.

LAFC has been on yet another historic run this season – winning the 2019 Supporters’ Shield to secure the Western Conference; giving the Black & Gold home-field advantage throughout playoffs and are a win away from setting the new record for most points in a single season.

The 30-year-old has been part of the “DP Trio” with Diego Valeri and Brian Rodriguez. Sunday marked their third-straight match together. And the results looked promising – even though Rodriguez seemed to have trouble falling into place with the dynamic duo.

Earlier this season, I asked: Is he the next rising King of MLS?

Of course, it is still early to declare Vela the new MVP. But he and his left-foot have been consistently dominating the league for the past eight months.

LAFC will wrap up the regular season at home as they host the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, October 6.

Featured Image:  LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Match Preview: NYCFC at Philadelphia Union

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

For the last regular season game of the season, New York City Football Club will  face Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday.  The Union has been a constant threat in the Eastern Conference all season and are currently locked in a tight battle with Atlanta United for second place in the conference.  Both teams have 55 points, with 33 games played but Atlanta currently hold one more win than Philly.  Both Atlanta and Philadelphia also have 1.67 points per game.  Needless to say, Philadelphia will be throwing all their efforts behind an all out 3 point victory to climb over Atlanta.

Not surprisingly, the Union has a very similar record to NYCFC with a large number of draws this season, particularly when away, and have only lost two matches at home, compared to NYCFC’s one home 2019 defeat. NYCFC’s sole home loss was to Portland Timbers while Philadelphia lost to Toronto FC and (shocker!) Portland Timbers.  Historically head-to-head at Philadelphia, the Union have three wins while NYC have two.  Earlier in the  season when these two teams met in the Bronx, City defeated Philly 4-2.

Philadelphia is expected to rely on striker Kacper Przybylko, who carries the bulk of the team’s goals scored with a tally of 15. And it’s a deep bench:  Marco Fabian and Ilsinho, who commonly come on as subs, are the next top scorers with 6 and 5 goals respectively.

Again with the similarities on paper, NYCFC’s leading goal scorer Héber, also has 15 goals scored.  Héber is expected to return to his role both setting up his partner-in-attacking-crime, Taty Castellanos, and finishing balls anywhere near the net.  I anticipate that the team will be playing to win but will need to be cautious to prevent any further injuries going into the playoffs.  In the last match, a loss at New England (0-2), Héber was just returning from an injury and played more than was optimal, likely due to the lack of Castellanos in that game.  

Castellanos was ineligible to play due to yellow card accumulation.  For the New England match the team also played without Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot – both due to card accumulation – and also without Anton Tinnerholm, out with a concussion.  Chanot and Ring will be back in the lineup for this match.

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NYCFC’s starting formation will depend a lot on the status of Tinnerholm.  His abilities and attacking mindset at right back allow the team to successfully utilize a 3-4-3 with him in a forward-moving wingback role. The team has found a rhythm and balance when Ronald Matarrita fills this role on the left and Tinnerholm is on the right.  Without Tinnerholm, there is a lot less momentum on the right side and the team needs to rely heavily on the center and left side, making the attacks more predictable and easier to defend by the opposition.  

Erik Miller was brought in to be a back up for Tinnerholm in this role and time will tell whether he can slot in fluidly but, for now, Sebastien Ibeagha has done an excellent job defending and destroying plays in the position of right back, particularly in the match against Atlanta United.  He’s indicated that he is working on his transitions to attacking with overlapping runs down the right flank.  City is going to defend hard and rely heavily on its midfield, especially Maxi Moralez, to get balls to the two headed attacking dragon of Castellanos and Héber.

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The season will certainly end on an exciting note with NYCFC still in first place in the eastern conference.

All images: Tisha Gale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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MNUFC Shares the Points and the Fun with LAFC

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Plenty of results that have gone in favor of Minnesota United FC would have asterisks next to them if OptaJack tracked all the caveats. United’s win against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium on September 1 was such a result — Mason Toye scored two early goals while a Vela-less L.A. could not finish a single opportunity. Sunday’s rematch at Allianz Field held no such caveats.

While Adrian Heath chose to rest midfielders Kevin Molino and Ozzie Alonso ahead of the season finale in Seattle and was forced to make do without rookie defender Chase Gasper (red card), the rest of his favored Starting XI returned to the pitch for the home finale. And they did so against Carlos Vela and two other DPs: Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez. (You can read Araceli Villanueva’s story about Rodriguez’s club debut in the Supporters Shield match here.) In that light, a draw was just what the doctor ordered.

One Goal Apiece

“[In the] second half, [we] played to the game plan, stuck to the plan that we spoke about all week and it actually looked like we might get something out of the game,” Heath said. “[We] kept playing into their own hands in the first half, trying to play short, play intricate passes out and that’s what they want. Anything that goes square, goes back, they press it and they’re very good at it.”

Heath pulled Toye at the half and replaced him with Angelo Rodriguez, his first appearance in weeks: “In the second half, Angelo was in really good spots. We got it into him and we had what? Three of the best chances of the night? That was the plan in the first half.”

Rodriguez did not score, though he had chances. Instead, an unsurprising Vela goal in minute 70 was followed by a beautiful set piece (!) header from Michael Boxall. “It’s something that we work on in training,” said the defender. “And, just, we know the timing off Jan [Gregus] with his run up, and when he puts his hand up and down. I mean, I’m not sure if they [the LA defenders] even moved. So I think that’s the most open I’ve ever been and might ever be in the box.”

Welcome to our home

Around 100 LAFC supporters made the trip to Minnesota. A weekend of sightseeing, brewery-hopping and meet-ups with Minnesota’s SGs (the Dark Clouds and True North Elite) preceded Sunday night’s match.

Expos capo Valeria Tapia said, “We met up with some True North people and they joined us in the chants and shared some drinks with us. Sunday morning we met up at Surly [Brewing] to eat and drink before our march to the stadium. It was a blast singing on the way to the stadium on the rail.”

The party continued after the final whistle, with a couple dozen LA fans joining the Dark Clouds at Black Hart of St Paul, just two blocks from Allianz. Post-match karaoke is better with new friends and the pastime gets a special post-Loons slot at Black Hart, but went later than usual thanks to the visitors’ energy. They led the bar in singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” and the ubiquitous “Sweet Caroline,” to name just a few.

“Everybody that I knew that was there enjoyed their time there,” Tapia said. “Overall the experience was amazing and I can’t wait to go back. Everybody was so nice and welcoming.”

From welcoming to #SayShh

With a playoff berth clinched on Wednesday night, Sunday evening’s home finale acted as a pep rally of sorts. MN United CEO Chris Wright took to the pitch during halftime to thank fans for their support before messages from the players appeared on the video board — standard Fan Appreciate Night fare. But a video that played pregame somewhat overshadowed that message:

If you’re wondering, “Who is this guy telling me to shush?”: That’s Sean “Slug” Daley, half of the Minneapolis-based rap duo called Atmosphere. The rapper, and co-founder of Rhymesayers Entertainment, is a soccer fan and has been spotted at a number of United games this season. His song ‘Say Shh’ is a celebration of Minnesota/Midwest pride so Daley, and this song in particular, are logical choices to front the campaign. Yet Minnesota Soccer Twitter blew up when it launched. Why?

A poll of MNUFC supporters, garnering 125 votes, found a mix of people who were either enjoyed the song and were indifferent to the message or were indifferent to the song and unsure of the message.

The poll ended fairly level — compared to initial votes. ‘Petty, grudge match’ held a 50% share of the first 50 responses. The grudge goes back to Heath’s repeated references to the pundits at what he likes to call “MLS dot com” — That would be the folks at MLS Soccer dot com, whose weekly power rankings and early season predictions often criticize Heath’s tactics and squad selection. The club’s insistence on continuing to call out the critics (for — criticizing?) is what irks some supporters:

It’s fine. Slug is great. But, we are not the team that nobody wanted. We haven’t been that team for 7 years. It seems manufactured. The team, supporters, press and league are all in love with each other. The only ones who feel unwanted are the front office and coach. Thin skin?

@bill_mcguire (the fan, not the owner)

It leans to heavily on Slug, and not the absolute accomplishment of the players battling to get into The Playoffs. Love the song, but the campaign falls on its face.

@ecdcmnufc

Now, tossing the criticism back to the pundits is nothing new. When Grant Wahl predicted that MNUFC wouldn’t surpass five wins in its first MLS season, he was proven wrong. And the fans let him know it:

While a scarf held up by fans is a level or two below an organized marketing campaign by a franchise, one can’t expect that a seemingly negative statement won’t be used in the same way positive statements are. United made a hype video for the first match at Allianz Field that followed a similar format (albeit without a local celebrity lending voice to the cause):

But the issue cited most by fans is that #SayShh puts too much focus on the pundits and Slug, rather than on the players who did the work and the supporters who were cheering for them all along.

Oddly enough, CEO Chris Wright’s former employer produced such a video, spotlighting the fans, community and players. For a different league, in a different sport — one which is not known for such a close connection to its community.

MN United FC did not take that track. The supporters are taking on that role, to keep that dialogue open with the pundits and commentators, to stand up for their club without standing off. They were there all along while the players proved themselves.***

The Loons close the season in Seattle on Sunday. Decision Day results will determine if Allianz Field gets to host a first round playoff match.

COYL

*** Always with the asterisks.

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Wrapping Up the Home Games With A Win

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

With a sold-out crowd for what should have been a pleasant fall game, the rain began to fall, causing a delay at halftime.  However, the weather didn’t dampen the play, nor did the fact that Caleb Porter started three central midfielders (Guzman, Trapp, and Artur) that tend to be more defensively minded. Despite the weather and roster shakeup, the Columbus Crew beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0 for the 200th home club win.  

While there weren’t a ton of opportunities in the first half with Philadelphia having more possession than the Crew, Luis Diaz made nice attempts at goals in the 15’ and 24’.

After a delayed second half, both teams came out a little more dangerous.  The Union almost started the half with goal in the 51’ by Kacper Przybylko who was stopped by Eloy Room.  

Then, Youness Mokhtar, who was subbed in on the 57’ for David Guzman, tried to get his first Crew goal by taking a shot in the 60’ after some solid passing from Artur and Diaz.

In the 64’, Philadelphia’s Jamiro Monteiro escaped his defender, making a run towards a cross by Ilsinho, and hitting it over the top of the net.

In the 68’, Gyasi Zardes recovered the ball the at the Crew’s own 18, sent a beautiful pass to Diaz who then laid it off to Pedro Santos.  Pedro sent a cheeky little pass out to Mohktar who almost dribbled too much to get off a shot. But he did get the ball off his foot, and in the 69’, Youness scored his first Crew goal.  

A lot of credit for this moment goes to Gyasi, who after making the pass to Diaz, sped down the field drawing two Philadelphia defenders towards him. This left his Crew teammates with more space to pass and move the ball.

Artur tried to continue the goals with a nice shot from distance in the 72’.  This shot resulted in a deflection from the Philadelphia keeper, Andre Blake, and a corner kick for the Crew. 

During the corner kick, Blake punched the ball out to an open Pedro Santos who took a one touch shot into the goal.

While this lead felt good, we have seen the Crew lose too many leads in the waning minutes of a game. However, with a few great saves, the Crew was able to hold on to their 2-0 lead and give Eloy Room his first shut-out as a Crew keeper.

Thoughts About the Game:

It was nice to see the Crew play a solid game from start to finish against a team near the top of the Eastern Conference table.  While Philadelphia had its opportunities, the Crew limited them and held on to their lead. If this Crew team had showed up during the long middle of the season losing streak, we might be in the playoffs right now. 

I am excited about the future of this team in so many ways. There is a new stadium coming in 2021; the front office is committed to this team, the supporters, and the city; and Caleb Porter has brought on some great players this year.  The end of the season is always sad for me though, as it is inevitable that we have witnessed several players who have worn their Crew jerseys for the final time. 

I know for teams to evolve the players on the field need to change too.  But I hope this isn’t the last season I see Pipa, Trapp, Josh Williams, and several others in the black and gold.  The reason I hate the end of the season is because I never feel we get to say a proper good-bye and thank you to those guys—because I believe a lot of these guys after dealing with what they had to the past few seasons—do in fact–bleed black and gold.

So, I will enjoy watching the Crew take on Toronto FC in the final game of the season and hold on to the memories of 2019.

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @hils4crew

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Loons Highlights With All The Feels

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

While the month is ending on a good note for the Loons, with an exhilarating mid-week win clinching the club’s first MLS postseason appearance, September has truly been a mixed bag for Minnesota United. As the Loons prepare for their final regular season appearance at Allianz Field, let’s review the emotions and results of the past month.

Confusion in Houston: 2-0 loss

United commemorated 9/11 in Houston, with what should have been the first episode of Batman vs. Superman. Fresh off of the international break, Loons fans expected to see Miguel ‘Batman’ Ibarra suit up against best friend, and former teammate, Christian ‘Superman’ Ramirez for the first time since the latter’s midseason departure in 2018. Instead, Ibarra viewed the match from the stands with Ramirez’s wife and daughter while Adrian Heath’s favored international stars took on the Dynamo with tired legs.

It didn’t go well. Fielding a 4-3-3 to compensate for the absence of an injured Darwin Quintero, the Loons struggled to find anything resembling a rhythm. Mason Toye and Thomas Chacón were not able to connect with anything resembling chemistry up top and the midfield struggled to string together any threatening passes. Ethan Finlay, playing on Toye’s right, was the only noticeable attacking mid, both for his box-to-box runs and a couple spectacular misses toward goal. And so, it was only fair that Ramirez be the one to put the last nail in that road trip coffin:

Salt Lake Rejuvenation: 3-1 win

Darwin Quintero made a strong and healthy return to the Starting XI when Minnesota hosted Real Salt Lake on September 15. The Loons were down early on a Albert Rusnak goal in the 17th minute, but just minutes later, Quintero humiliated the RSL defense, leveling the score and giving us a perfect illustration of Nick Rimando’s legacy against Minnesota attackers:

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando watches helplessly as Quintero scores the first of three goals against him during his final MLS appearance in Minnesota. Courtesy of MNUFC

The Loons pulled ahead early in the second half, with an equally beautiful brace from Quintero. A final goal from Ethan Finlay in the 81st minute sealed the result and allowed MNUFC to bounce back up to second in the west. Amazingly, they pulled it off with just 38% of the possession and fewer than 400 passes — a testament to the system and chemistry in that night’s lineup.

Frustration in the Portland Forest: 0-0 draw

Did anyone really want to win last Sunday? Did either team, other than the goalkeepers, know a playoff berth was at stake? Despite a flurry of shots, a bevy of saves and much cursing (and worshiping) of the crossbar gods, United’s trip to Portland was a non-starter. Vito Mannone had words with a handful of teammates who he felt had left him an unfair amount of work, but he managed to keep the clean sheet.

“I’m trying to think of a really, really classic save. I think he save the ones he should’ve saved but we needed him,” said Heath. “When you go on the road at places like this, you know your goalkeeper is always going to have to play well and I thought he did.”

Meanwhile, this writer stepped away from the screen mid-match to do something unprecedented — unpack from a weekend trip within hours of getting home. And she missed nothing, other than a Mason Toye embellishment foul (which prompted his second disciplinary fine within a week) and a few expected saves from Mannone.

Friendly Rivalry Exalted: 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City

On a night when a win would seal a playoff berth, Minnesota faced perhaps their most comfortable opponent — the ever-present Sporting Kansas City. Minnesota even cranked up the Nice Factor by serving tater tot hot dish in the press box. Obviously, the officials were not given a helping of this northern comfort food:

There was no VAR call for this questionable seventh minute goal and the remaining 38 minutes of the half could only be described as flustered. The Loons weren’t able to cancel out Barath’s questionable goal until late in the second half. Captain Ozzie Alonso found himself on the end of a set piece rebound and fired off a shot nearly identical to his goal on opening night:

For the remaining 20 minutes, it appeared both teams may be dropping two points that night. The frustration came roaring back for fans and players alike. But then, just as stoppage time was announced, United’s Rookie of the Year contender sealed the deal. It just took a little help from Barath (of all people).

Hassani Dotson’s shot took a deflection of the Kansas City defender and found its way past Tim Melia. And chaos ensued.

Three points. Playoffs. Euphoria and validation. Was that the biggest goal in Dotson’s career?

“Yeah, I would say so. It was the game winner but the credit goes to the team and all the effort that everyone in the organization has put in for us to get here.”

But it is not over yet.

“Let’s go on and see if we can win this game against LAFC,” said Heath. “I know nobody gives us a chance, but it’d be nice to beat them on Sunday and that’ll be three times we’ve beaten them out of four.”

And so, we go again.

COYL

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale