Tag Archives: Rivalry Week

Hudson River Derby Part Deux: NYCFC best the NY Red Bulls 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It was NYCFC’s turn to host their regional rival, the New York Red Bulls, during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.  NYCFC had been on a winning streak, beating both FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC in a congested schedule.  

Although City walked onto the pitch with confidence and spring in their step, everything positive was quickly deflated in the the first few minutes.  The predicted runaway train pace of Red Bulls instantly threw a wrench into NYCFC’s plan of tight possession.

Coach Doménec Torrent has been consistent in his post match talks about the type of game that he wants the team to play, and that plan leaves no room for long balls leading to counter attacks.  

In the first 25 minutes of the match, much of the New York City squad looked like deer caught in the headlights of the incoming Red Bulls high, hard, and fast press.  Every attempt to string together an attacking sequence met by Red Bulls pressure was cut short, sent long and then the counter-attacking hounds were released.

Alex Muyl, who seems to have taken over the ‘lead bad guy with the bad mustache’ role from Sacha Kljesten, put one past Sean Johnson in the 10th minute off a pass by “Kaku” Romero Gamarra.  It was increasingly frustrating to watch.

Then something happened, and I don’t know what “it” was exactly, but NYCFC seemed to remember that they were a good team and trained for this.  

The passing sequences were tight and met by RBNY pressure but City seemed to relax and make calm and smart decisions.  Players remembered to make runs and do crazy things like get open.  Once the offensive spigot opened, NYCFC continued for another good 30 minutes, resulting in a successful PK converted by Maxi Moralez just before half time, and later, a fiery finish off a back heel by Héber in the 53rd minute.  

Forward Alexandru Mitrita must be back to full fitness as he oozed speed, accuracy,  vision, and creativity in generating attacking chances. The score could have been much higher for City, had the goal posts and crossbar not gotten in the way at least three times.  Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles also made some unbelievable saves.

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The last twenty minutes probably caused many a nail biter, as a revert to old habits with the Red Bulls piercing the midfield and generating attacks were eventually destroyed by either Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot, or Anton Tinnerholm.  

Of course  an altercation was inevitable given the heightened emotions of the match. This time is was between Ronald Matarrita, who came into the game with a yellow card and Red Bulls Michael Murillo.  Although Murillo started the head butting sequence, it was solely Matarrita who was caught and booked, leaving NYCFC to play with 10 men in the last 4 minutes of the match.  Fortunately, RBNY were unable to level the game.

Next Saturday (August 31st) NYCFC will now have to face Vancouver Whitecaps, their farthest geographic opponent, without key player Matarrita on the squad. After that schlep, the team will be back home for three consecutive games facing New England, Toronto, and San Jose.

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Oh and by the way, New York is blue.

All images are by  Tisha Gale // Twitter: @TishaGale // Instagram: @tishagale15

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Sporting KC’s late winner over Minnesota United keeps playoff hopes alive

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After suffering through an injury-ridden beginning of the season, it seems Sporting Kansas City have finally found their drive again. Erik Hurtado’s late game-winner led the team to a 1-0 victory over Minnesota United on Thursday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

The 28-year-old’s strike helped Sporting KC preserve their perfect home record against the Loons (5-0-0 in all competitions) and denied Minnesota the opportunity to solidify their hold on second place in the West.

In a possession dominated match, the home side unleashed a total of 22 shot attempts that forced Minnesota’s goalkeeper Vito Mannone into five saves.

In response, Minnesota also forced a spry Tim Melia to make five saves that night. The Loons came close to the opening goal in the 33rd minute when Melia had to make a double save, first parrying aside Hassani Dotson’s shot from distance, then springing to his feet quickly to block Mason Toye’s rebound to keep the game scoreless.

Four minutes later, Graham Zusi challenged Mannone, who pushed his attempt over the crossbar for a corner kick.

KC favorite, Ike Opara made his highly anticipated return to Children’s Mercy Park after a six-year stint with Sporting KC. His presence did not go unnoticed, as he recorded two of the Loon’s 12 shot attempts.

Sporting KC produced several good scoring opportunities but had trouble converting them throughout the second half. IIie Sanchez and Gerso Fernandes entered the match just three minutes apart and made an immediate impact.

In the 88th minute, Johnny Russell’s through ball helped Hurtado finally breakthrough from a tight angle beating the keeper to score the game winner – leading Sporting KC to their second straight win.

With a new sense of energy, Sporting KC will host longtime Western Conference rivals, Houston Dynamo on Saturday, August 31st.

Featured image: Sporting KC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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LAFC kicks off Rivalry Week with 4-0 win over San Jose

Official LAFC Reporter

fBy Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club is closing in to win their first-ever Supporters’ Shield thanks to goals from Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, and Josh Perez. Together, they have kept the club atop of the standings and undefeated at home, most recently in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Despite having an excellent outcome, the match did not kick off to a strong start as poor passing from the home team led the Quakes to the door of LAFC’s goal. Fortunately, the shot went wide.

A breakthrough came just six minutes in with Rossi getting the early lead off the rebound. Eduard Atuesta sent a through ball from the midfield, landing to Perez. Perez one-timed a curled shot towards the far post that was saved, but Rossi was there to bury it.

The nightmare began for the visitors as LAFC was awarded the penalty after Anibal Godoy blocked Lee Nguyen’s shot with his hand and was called for a handball. Carlos Vela stepped up to convert, and score his 25th career goal, after VAR confirmed the penalty. 

In the 37th minute, Vako went to score at close range, but Jordan Harvey made a diving save in front of Miller to deny the Quakes’ player.

And then… insanity broke out.

If the match wasn’t already crazy enough, the Quakes’ head coach, Matias Almeyda, was visibly distraught as the referee rejected his request to review the play – alleging Harvey committed a hand ball. A similar call awarded LAFC a penalty moments earlier. Kevin Stott ultimately ejected both Almeyda and his translator. After four minutes of protesting, the coach agreed to leave, but not without stopping to yell back at a fan.

In the midst of the spectacle the sidelines, the captain put LAFC up 3-0 in the 41st minute, scoring his 26th career goal.

While LAFC was busy running up the score, San Jose did produce an equal amount of opportunities and Miller came up huge every time.

Early in the second half, Cristian Espinoza found space on the right side of the box and lasered a shot near the post that was firmly blocked out by Miller.

Wearing a protective mask, Mohamed El-Munir came on to replace Harvey in the 62nd minute to make his first appearance since suffering a facial fracture on July 19. The next minute, Adama Diomande subbed on for Rossi. 

The Quakes desperately continued to try to get on the scoreboard but the New Jersey native kept them at bay. Miller made a fingertip save on a Quakes’ shot that clanked off the post in the 78th minute. Guram Kashia pounced on the bouncing rebound but put it over the net for a goal kick.

Josh Perez had a total of five chances throughout the match, and his moment finally came in the 80th minute when the 21-year-old scored his first ever goal for the club off a pass from Mark-Anthony Kaye.

Diomande scored late into stoppage time but the ref called him for a foul and took back the goal. Despite the call, the Black-and-Gold secured another three points, putting them up to a total of 61 points.

The win, without a doubt, gave LAFC even more confidence before they host the LA Galaxy in the second edition of this year’s El Tráfico on Sunday.

Just like how fans were chanting, “We want Carson!” following the win, LAFC is presumably ready with a lineup at full strength. But, is it enough beat Zlatan’s mental antics?

Featured Image: LAFC

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Rivalry Week: Sporting KC hosts the friendliest rivalry in the Midwest

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Where: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS.

When: Thursday, August 22th, 8:30 p.m. CT.

How to watch: ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes, 810 WHB, ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM

Every point matters. And Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United are not taking the match tomorrow likely.

For the better part of the last decade, Sporting KC has been the team to watch in the Western Conference. Minnesota United has struggled to get out of the bottom places for the first two years of their existence.

This year, the tables have turned for these two Midwestern teams. Sitting in second place with 42 points in a tight race, the Loons will be looking to secure their first-ever playoff qualification, in addition to hosting a playoff game at Allianz Field.

SKC’s turbulent season has been frustrating for both the players and fans. Still stuck in alternating positions below the line and with nine games left, SKC is desperate to keep their streak of eight straight postseason appearances alive.

Both teams will meet for the first time in league play this Thursday for the “friendliest rivalry” in MLS after the Loons eliminated Sporting KC from Round 4 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup earlier this year.

The match will also serve as reunion when SKC favorite, Ike Opara returns to CMP. Despite wearing the wrong jersey – Opara continues to be a dominant defender and has been critical in guiding the Loons.

To help get a better insight on the Loons and their club history, I interviewed my colleague at MLSFemale and Minnesota United reporter, Bridget McDowell.

Araceli Villanueva: Minnesota United struggled for their first two years of existence. Now sitting in second place, how do you think they’ve been able to turn things around this season and can they keep up the momentum with playoffs just around the corner?

Bridget McDowell: Minnesota has finally started to build an identity and team chemistry. The new veterans (Ike Opara, Ozzie Alonso, Lawrence Olum) have added a new level of accountability (something which was building last season, but often dropped off with each poor result). Their guidance has led the squad away from the in-fighting seen often in ’17 and ’18 and towards a more positive approach.

Players may show frustration, but typically discuss what led to a mistake and help one another improve. I’ve seen quite a few post-match discussions in the locker room, with players huddled around phones watching a replay or getting a teammate’s perspective on an error. The rookies are also upping the standard and pushing the whole squad to work harder.

Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson bring fresh attitudes and their work ethic and adaptability seems to be pushing the others. These players have all been key pieces in the gutsy, gritty victories (and draws) that have landed Minnesota in 2nd.

AV: Thursday’s matchup has been dubbed the “Friendliest Rivalry” for this week. What is your take on the title?

BM: Minnesota Soccer Twitter got a kick out of [Sporting KC’s] tailgate video in which fans shared their views of United fans. “Oh yeah, those guys” and “they’ve got a nice place up there” is a taste of the neutral rivalry this has become. United has drawn Sporting as a USOC opponent since the NASL days so when that trend continued as Minnesota moved into the same league, the same conference, as Kansas City. It’s kind of a forced rivalry. I think it’s become a parody rivalry of sorts.

The first face-off I witnessed was the 2016 USOC match played in Blaine. I stood with the supporters who were screaming at the ref, banging on the boards and frustrated to tears with the result. Sporting’s first visit to TCF Stadium in 2017 served as the bitter rematch. Minnesota got revenge despite GK Bobby Shuttleworth having his nose broken by Dom Dwyer. By the time that USOC draw came around, United fans could only say, “Those guys again?” I’ve talked with many United fans considered SKC their MLS club before MNUFC made the jump. With similar histories, it’s a team and fan base we look up to and a match-up we circle on our calendars every year. If the league is going to call that a rivalry, we may as well have a little fun with it. But if MLS really wanted to invest in this ‘rivalry’, it would pitch in a little money to speed up the endless construction on I-35.

AV: Kevin Molino and Darwin Quintero are a few players that stood out from the last match against the Rapids. Do you think this duo could deliver similar results again on Thursday? Or which players should Sporting KC fans should be cautious of?

BM: They stood out against the Rapids, but not so much against Orlando when they played again at Allianz on Saturday. Molino and Quintero are definitely a strong attacking partnership.

New [young designated player] Thomas Chacon could shake that up on Thursday, though it is not clear how involved he will be. (MNUFC has said he will travel, but haven’t said in what capacity. He’s a likely sub though, with Angelo Rodriguez injured.)

SKC fans should know exactly who to be cautious of: Ike Opara. Many soccer writers and pundits have pointed out recently that SKC has yet to fill the gap left by Opara, leaving that defense uncharacteristically weak while Minnesota’s has been uncharacteristically strong. Opara is a clear leader in this squad so his return appearance will be motivation to win, maybe more so than the ‘rivalry’ atmosphere. Other players? Gasper, Jan Gregus and Ethan Finlay are all on every opponent’s radar each week; this one will be no different.

Bonus question: What is your score prediction?

2-1 Loons. Luck has played a distinct role in Minnesota’s recent successes. That, combined with a struggling SKC defense and an eager Opara, will drive United’s attack, but – true to the “Nicest Rivalry” moniker – it won’t be a complete blowout.

Featured image: Andy Witchger

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Rivalry Week: Red Bulls Hit With Their Best Shot

MLSFemale Social Media Manager
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, August 21: 1-2 Win

Ah. Rivalry Week. We meet again.

With a Long History

For those of you playing at home, you are probably aware that I am relatively new to RBNY (and MLS) fandom. But one of the first things I learned was that when Red Bull fans hear ‘rival,’ they think of D.C. United… the Pigeons are an afterthought. So even though this was the second match of the night, the Red Bulls at Audi Field was the first real rivalry match of the special presentation.

You’re a Real Tough Cookie

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this was going to be chippy. And that doesn’t even factor in Felipe Martins’ return to the East coast. But both teams had to deal with ejections before halftime! Wayne Rooney gave Cristian Casseres, Jr. an elbow to the face, and didn’t even look like he noticed doing it.  Then Amro Tarek took down Paul Arriola and got himself a second yellow card.

Did I see the first yellow card? No. It was a blur. But am I okay with the ejection? Also no.

Let’s Get Down To It

The goal that almost wasn’t. Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra caught onto a ball that Marc Rzatkowski crossed towards Daniel Royer. I know that because when Royer didn’t get the ball, he did his signature ‘facepalm’ thing. But Kaku never gives up– Kaku finds a way!

Sorry… that was too easy.

Fire Away

It wasn’t smooth sailing for New York in the remainder of the match. There was a lot of pressure and missed opportunities.  Then Ola Kamara, a newcomer to D.C. United, hit a shot that was nothing short of amazing. The curve on that ball’s path defied physics and completely avoided goalkeeper Luis Robles.

Knock me Down

I’m a teensy bit biased. So when the referee called a penalty for RBNY, I was cool with it. But the first time I saw the replay, I was taken aback. Did Murillo get tripped, or did he just trip on himself? Then I saw it again… he was tripped by the D.C. defender. He just got an extra step before he went down. Royer converted the kick from the spot, and the Red Bulls were on top again.

Defender Aaron Long took a couple of hits to the head, and Robles was definitely dealing with an issue with his left foot by the end of the game. There is a really short turnaround before the next game, so that is unsettling.

See If I Care

There were five minutes of stoppage in the first half. There were EIGHT minutes added on to the second half. Injuries and wild shots just added to the clock. But finally the whistle blew, and the Red Bulls could leave Audi Field with all three points, not a moment too soon.

The latest Hudson River Derby awaits RBNY at Yankee Stadium. NYCFC also had a midweek win, so it will be a battle of momentum. Let’s see how you do it.

Featured image:  @BillTNJ

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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The ‘Circus’ Comes to Town: Rivalry Week in D.C.

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 (Luciano Acosta, 72′), Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Jalen Robinson (Leonardo Jara, 38′); Lucas Rodríguez, Júnior Moreno, Felipe Martins, Paul Arriola; Ola Kamara (Quincy Amarikwa, 69′), Wayne Rooney

Two of the oldest teams in Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls have been at each other’s throats almost as long as the League has been in existence. Times have changed (and so has the Red Bulls’ name, they used to be the MetroStars) and while some believe this rivalry is dead, tonight’s match certainly made the case that the mutual animosity between D.C. and New York (or New Jersey, if you will) is alive and kicking. 

Tonight’s match had everything, except for a D.C. win. However, this wasn’t from a lack of trying on the part of the Black-and-Red. 

The New York Red Bull’s took an early goal, with Kaku taking advantage of a blind spot at D.C.’s end of the pitch in the 6’. Then things really began to get ugly between the two teams. Escalating physicality did not bode well for either D.C. or New York. 

By the 24’, captain Wayne Rooney was booked with a red, taking D.C. down to 10 men. The cards kept coming for D.C. with Felipe Martins being booked shortly after with a yellow in the 34’. New York was shortly left with 10 men as well, when Amro Tarek received his second yellow of the match and left the game just before halftime.

With both sides down a player, D.C. found the equalizer in the 55’. Newly signed Ola Kamara opened his account for D.C. United, finding the back of the net off an assist by Joseph Mora.

It was a bittersweet moment for Kamara. He said, “It would of course been more satisfying if it gave us a point or three. But of course, it feels good to get out in front of the home crowd and score a goal… It was a great feeling to start again.”

D.C.’s elation wouldn’t last long. After a controversial call by referee Ismail Elfath against Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez, New York’s Daniel Royer cashed in on a penalty kick, bypassing D.C.’s goalkeeper Bill Hamid to claim another point on the scoreboard for the Red Bulls in the 59’. Black-and-Red supporters made their disapproval of Elfath’s call known throughout Audi Field, as they chanted and booed the official. Post-match, coach Ben Olsen would say, “It’s the wrong call. It’s a dive.”

Even with two relatively early (for Olsen) second half substitutions made, D.C. United couldn’t seem to regain the ground lost, despite the chances they continued to create. It seemed that every time D.C. built momentum, the whistle would sound again.

Quincy Amarikwa, who entered the match for Ola Kamara in the 69’, is well known for his ability to get into his opponents’ heads and exploit any sign of mental weakness. An ability he put into action against the Red Bulls tonight. “I would’ve liked to get in earlier,” the forward said, “I feel I could have created more opportunities. You know, we were really breaking them down at the end there. They were really struggling to hold on to the lead. You could tell with how often they were going down.”

Although there were 8 minutes of stoppage time added to the match (which turned into more), it wasn’t enough for D.C. to secure a comeback. The final score line of 1-2 didn’t seem to reflect the tremendous effort put in by D.C. United on the pitch.

As for Kamara, he is happy to have made a return to Major League Soccer. He said, “I really enjoy my time here. I have a lot of fun and I know so many people here too, so I see a lot of familiar faces. Coming to D.C. too, there are a lot of great guys, so it’s been very positive, I’m very happy.”

As the weekend approaches, the Black and Red will make a road trip north to face the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. With Wayne Rooney serving a suspension, it is highly likely we will see Ola Kamara in the XI again. Let’s hope his incredible positivity is contagious.

As always, Vamos United!

Featured image: D.C. United

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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Rivalry Week: LAFC returns home after clinching 2019 playoff spot on the road

Official LAFC Reporter

fBy Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club is becoming every club’s nightmare.

Carlos Vela and Adama Diomande’s goals helped the club to become the first MLS team to secure a spot in the 2019 playoffs this past weekend as they won on the road, 2-0, over Real Salt Lake.

Now leading the league with 52 points and a 42 goal differential, the Black-and-Gold return home to host the San Jose Earthquakes as part of MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.

LAFC has dominated the series against the Quakes; causing an earthquake in San Jose during their first meeting this year in March by winning 5-0.

Walker Zimmerman will miss the action after being ejected from the last match against Real Salt Lake. Tristian Blackmon will likely fill the role again. Additionally, Mark-Anthony Kaye will face suspension due to yellow card accumulation if carded in tomorrow’s match.

Bob Bradley has done very little to change the starting lineup this season, given the club has made some major roster moves in the recent weeks – with recently loaning three players to two USL teams, respectively: Dejan Jakovic and Rodolfo Zelaya to Las Vegas Lights FC, and Peter-Lee Vassell to Phoenix Rising FC.

Vela continues his historic season by setting a new single-season record of 39 combined goals and assists. The captain has made MLS history with 24 goals and 15 assists, with nine games remaining.

The Quakes will visit the Banc after suffering back-to-back losses, and will have a full roster to choose from as no players are on the injury report. LAFC remains the only team in the league to go undefeated at home and will look to retain that record tomorrow.

The Black-and-Gold will conclude their mini Californian tournament as they host the LA Galaxy on Sunday, August 25 – for the fifth installment of El Tráfico.

Featured Image: @LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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