Tag Archives: hat trick

Heartbreak in Houston: LAFC eliminated from U.S. Open Cup

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Wednesday, August 8: 3(7) – 3(6) Loss

Los Angeles Football Club‘s U.S. Open Cup run came to a devastating end in Houston on Wednesday. Diego Rossi’s hat trick would give the push the club needed but despite all efforts – their luck would run out during the penalty shootout.

Diego Rossi kicked things off to an exciting start with the opening goal putting the black-and-gold ahead just six minutes into the match. Though, it wouldn’t take long for Houston’s Andrew Wenger to answer Rossi with the equalizer when he chests a ball home before the stream started working.

Even after having scored an early goal, the black-and-gold continued to play sloppy defense, including having a difficult time maintaining possession giving Houston multiple chances to turn over. The lack of urgency would become costly in the 26th minute when Mauro Manotas breaks through the black-and-gold’s defense to give Houston the 2-1 lead. LAFC would struggle to level it by going into the half down by one.

In the 76th minute, Memo Rodriguez would increase the Dynamo’s lead by 3-1. Coming hot off of the bench, Rodriguez gets around Steven Beitashour and slams it into the lower left corner. Fortunately, Rossi is quick to respond and pulls one back when he lightly taps one in past Joe Willis making the score 3-2.

Just when all hope seemed lost, something miraculous happened during stoppage time. Rossi sparked life back into the match by scoring his hat trick forcing Houston into extra time.

Aaron Kovar and Latif Blessing came close to scoring early shortly after the restart. Having already used all substitutes during regular play, the remaining of extra time saw both sides going back-and-forth – clearly struggling to keep up.

Going into their first-ever penalty shootout, a limping Tyler Miller fought through the pain to attempt to save the penalties. Miller was victorious in the fourth round when he denied Boniek Garica. LAFC’s chances looked good as Carlos Vela converted his pk, however, danger came again when Laurent Ciman‘s chance was saved. Again a steady stream of pks continued until it came down to Latif Blessing, unfortunately, his missed snapping LAFC’s historic run; LAFC (6) – Houston Dynamo (7).

Although it would have been great to watch the black-and-gold advance to the finals, I commend LAFC for getting this far during their inaugural season.

Featured image: @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Loons make some MLS history

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

July 4, 2018

The Loons returned home Wednesday night for an Independence Day cross-conference matchup against the reigning champs Toronto FC. Both sides came in looking to break a three-game losing streak and, for once, Minnesota United FC was not the cure-all drug for another team’s woes.

There were some changes in Minnesota’s lineup with defender Francisco Calvo returning from World Cup duty and midfielder Miguel Ibarra back from a red card suspension. Their roles were shifted somewhat in a 3-5-2 lineup, with Calvo sitting in a three-man backline alongside Brent Kallman and Michael Boxall, while Ibarra was shifted into a wingback position on the right side of a five-man midfield. A pyramid of Canadians awaited them.

But the base of that pyramid crumbled quickly. For the first time in a long while, Minnesota took ownership of an early lead, rather than give it away. Just eight minutes in, Darwin Quintero broke down Toronto’s five-man defense, setting up a shot that would split two frantic defenders and float into the upper-left corner. One-nil in under ten minutes, in favor of Minnesota. A Christmas miracle in July, courtesy of The Scientist.

Just five minutes later, Calvo saw Ibarra ready to make a run and sent him the ball. Batman sped down the center of the pitch, just one man in red on his flank, Irwin coming far off his line in hopes of intercepting him. He did not. Ibarra knocked the ball right past the keeper to put Minnesota up 2-0.

Toronto managed to take one back before halftime, after a mistake in what coach Adrian Heath would later call a “busy box.” Ibson failed to clear a ball from Kallman, instead passing right in front of Justin Morrow, who connected easily on a slide. 2-1 Minnesota.

From the start of the second half, it was obvious that Toronto’s halftime chat centered around containing Quintero. The five defenders certainly had his number, but they misdialed a few times…

52nd minute: Quintero finds a gap, steps into the box and shoots. Goal. 3-1.

58th minute: Quintero is triple-teamed, but the three defenders pay no attention to each other’s movements and lose him again. Quintero makes a run, shoots. Goal. 4-1.

That goal marked Quintero’s first hat trick as a Loon (the fourth in his career) and the first for MNUFC since joining the MLS. Quintero cited an observation of Irwin’s behavior as the key to those three goals: “I noticed from the beginning that he took two steps forward to anticipate plays. In some games it works, in others, it doesn’t. Today all of them went in.”

Study the evolution here:

He celebrated in the corner, with fans who tossed him their caps, and his teammates who piled on top of him. Christian Ramirez put a cap on the DP’s head which earned him a yellow.

“I thought it was the right thing to do at the time; didn’t know it was deserving of a yellow,” Ramirez said with a chuckle in the locker room. “I asked him to give me the yellow instead, but…”

Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, quiet all evening, a shadow of his former self, notched a goal in the 70th minute that seemed a message to all present, “Hey, I’m not retired yet.” Bobby Shuttleworth could do nothing other than watch it float by him and into the net.

We have to give Heath credit for maintaining the formation, not simply parking the bus. His first two subs were offensive-minded: Mason Toye for Ramirez, Collin Martin for Schuller. Martin earned a standing ovation and the loudest (non-goal) cheers of the night as he made his first appearance since coming out last Friday.

It wasn’t until the 86th minute that United parked the bus, with Quintero pulled in favor of a defender, Eric Miller. But they left the windows open.

Toronto pulled off one more goal in stoppage time, in the final minute of play. 4-3.

But the whistle blew. A streak was snapped. Minnesota came out on top for the first time since May.

Cue Wonderwall.

Before the goosebumps subside, before the last notes of Wonderwall can fade from the supporters’ consciousness, the Loons will play a match with bigger consequences. On Saturday, United face Houston Dynamo, a club well ahead of them in the playoff race and they will have to do it without Calvo (yellow card accumulation) and with a depleted squad on tired legs.

At least we will always have Wednesday.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Praise to the Prince

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 6: 3-0 WIN!

Right, so what can I say that hasn’t been said about this game? As always, the Philadelphia Union managed to surprise me (and probably the rest of the league) with the result on Saturday’s throwback night. I prepared myself diligently to say we made an effort, but couldn’t manage to pull through. Once I heard Richie Marquez, our CB constant, was going to be out of the lineup due to illness, I thought that was it. The New York Red Bulls were comfortably in the top part of the table while we had a 15 game winless streak as our claim to fame this season.

But CJ Sapong, our Fresh Prince of Chest-air, managed to break that streak with a hat-trick of goals in the second half, the third hat-trick in Union history.

Whatever might be happening in the business end of the Union, and as much faith as Earnie Stewart has in our team, this result was a visible step in the right direction. It couldn’t have been possible without Andre Blake in goal and Sapong up top. It couldn’t have been possible without our subs and it couldn’t have been possible without the whole team putting in the effort. Dare I say that the Union was a cohesive unit for the first time in months?

That is what Philadelphia needs to win games and that is what we need to show our potential; the potential that Jim Curtin and the rest of management have been reassuring fans has been there from day one.

I can’t tell you what stars aligned for this to happen. To be frank, the first half was possession heavy for the Union but there wasn’t much action. Our wingers were well-marked by the Red Bulls backline and ineffective overall. Oguchi Onyewu and Fabinho managed to scrape up key clearances and Blake was on top of things as the chances for the Bulls kept coming. The set pieces plays managed to be over-hit every single time by Haris Medunjanin from corners to free-kicks. It wasn’t all bad as Alejandro Bedoya managed to show off some of his skill just outside the box to stop Daniel Royer in his tracks and get a shot saved by Luis Robles.

Union ended up with a clean sheet by half-time, but the second half started with the Red Bulls on the offensive. It was to be expected; they lost in their midweek game against Sporting Kansas City and they wanted some road points to take back home with them. Philadelphia had to sub out Raymon Gaddis and Roland Alberg in the 62nd minute as the game got chippy and both men suffered a knock they couldn’t shake off.

In came the substitutions that made quite a difference to the back and forth play between the Bulls and the Union: Keegan Rosenberry and Derrick Jones. I don’t know if it was just fresh legs or a can-do attitude, but the fans could see a visible regroup by Philadelphia once they got on the field. It was the ‘do or die’ moment or perhaps the ‘join or die’ moment as the club’s motto goes.

Rosenberry had been benched since the home game loss against NYCFC in favor of starting Gaddis. He had something to prove out on the field and he wasn’t going to be stopped by the Bulls. His partnership with Chris Pontius worked in our favor as Bedoya moved into a no. 10 position. Pontius who had seen little of the ball in the first half managed to get in some good crosses to Sapong and put a little more pep in his step around the 72nd minute mark.

Anticipation was building. The air was filled with chants and support. The goal had to be coming and Sapong didn’t disappoint with a rocket to the top left corner of the net.

Seven minutes later, he does it again with help from a knockdown by Pontius with his head. At that point, I had never been happier to hear the DOOP song play again. The last time Philadelphia had a two goal lead at home was back in August of last year against SKC. Incidentally, it was also part of a second half effort with goals late in the game.

After all the excitement of the second goal, the Red Bulls got a corner kick off Jack Elliott. Bradley Wright-Phillips missed his chance, the ball going high above the net. A counter run by the Union ended in a penalty given by Damien Perrinelle’s handball. The man who stepped up to take it was, of course, CJ Sapong.

A hat-trick in a game most had dismissed as clear-cut in favor of the visiting team. Home ground advantage hadn’t exactly panned out for the boys in blue lately and the winless streak had been gaining an edge of optimism but was it really enough for Philadelphia to succeed?

The resounding answer was yes.

By the end of the game, no one could say it was a fluke that Philadelphia won. It was a moment long-awaited for the team and it came in a spectacular fashion. It only took eleven minutes in total for Sapong to give us a win, but it took all eleven men on the field to give us a victory.

As an end note, there was some criticism for the amazing remake of the “Fresh Prince” opening made by the team during the week, but I’m inclined to agree with my friend who said after the win: “It’s that Fresh Prince jawn that did it.” Maybe I’m a tad too superstitious but how could we not come out as winners with this masterpiece throwback?               

Next week: Union goes on the road to the capital. My prediction: A win for the Union. Things are looking up.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @mercpay

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