MLS Coverage

The MLS All-Star Game: What Does It Mean?

The MLS All-Star Game: What Does It Mean?

Written by: Kyle R.

We are preparing for Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star Game between the MLS all-star lineup selected by the fans, coach, and commissioner and their opponents, Tottenham Hotspur. To do this, we need to understand what the ASG means, where it comes from, and where it could go.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids. All photos by Chandrima Chattarjee.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids and for now, the MLS All-Stars. All photos by Chandrima Chatterjee.

ASG History

Originally in 1996, the game began as an east-versus-west competition. It continued this way until 2001 (with a brief departure to MLS USA v MLS World in 1998), with the games ending in a high score for both sides. Games were low on competitiveness. In an attempt to bring competitive spirit to what was a laid-back friendly, the format was switched to an MLS All-Stars vs. “guest” format from 2002 on. Except for 2004, when Real Madrid pulled out at the last minute to play in Japan, that format has continued since then.

Since the change of format, scores have been lower, possibly an indication of the increased competition. The game has brought huge international clubs to the US, like Chelsea, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich. The US and England have historically shared more than just ASG competition; players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and DeAndre Yedlin have crossed country lines to play overseas, and sports ownership groups like Kroenke Sports Enterprises own stakes in both MLS and EPL teams. The All-Star Game format allows for the players to experience the different styles of play in a friendly environment while allowing fans of the visiting team to see their favorite players in their own home.

Drew Moor, appearing in his first ASG at his home park.
Drew Moor, appearing in his first ASG at his home park.

All-American All-Stars

The ASG is treated differently in different American sports. For example, the NFL’s Pro Bowl is significantly less competitive than regular season games. Players chosen to play regularly do not attend, and the game itself draws low viewership. The rules are changed so that the players don’t get hurt, but that results in fans not necessarily wanting to watch. In Major League Baseball’s version of the ASG, the outcome of the game decides which league — American or National — has home-field advantage in the World Series. This change was made in 2003 to increase the competition in the exhibition game. In the NBA, the game is fairly non-competitive and the scores run up even higher than an ordinary NBA game.

What can MLS take away from these other leagues? Rather than providing a change to the setup, like the MLS vs. guest setup, an incentive to play hard and win could come from an outcome like the MLB game. Pablo Mastroeni, Colorado Rapids coach and coach for the MLS side at Wednesday’s ASG, has suggested as much. In addition, the NFL’s Pro Bowl has suffered so much from things like special rules, players not playing in the game, and venue changes that it is perennially (or so it seems) in danger of being cancelled. This could serve as a warning that keeping players and fans engaged is key to the game’s success.

A mix of Spurs fans and MLS fans filled the stands at Tuesday's open practices.
A mix of Spurs fans and MLS fans filled the stands at Tuesday’s open practices.

Prepping for the Game

It’s hard to say what we’ll see tonight. Some of the players on the MLS side have been here many times and may not be as pumped to play in an exhibition game. Some, like Drew Moor, are here for the first time and are visibly excited. Pablo himself has said these are some of the “most talented” to represent MLS. What you can definitely expect is a great atmosphere, awesome fans, and a wonderful experience.

Yesterday we had a chance to catch up with some of the MLS All-Stars themselves. When asked who he was looking forward to joining on the field, Omar Gonzalez responded that he’s “looking forward to playing again with Matt Besler… David Villa, Kaka, you know, those guys, I’ve seen what they’ve done and all the highlights.”

Bradford Jamieson IV, a member of Tuesday night’s Chipotle Homegrown selected team, is looking forward to seeing players from outside his team on the pitch. “David Villa is someone I can look up to as a striker and overall good player. Gyasi and [Juninho] are role models on the field and off the pitch, daily.” The implication here is that although Jamieson himself is not an All-Star selection, he is looking up to the All-Star team as role models. This game serves as a venue for younger players to see legends on a big stage.

Kei Kamara gave some good life advice while discussing soccer, noting that “if you want to make a name for yourself, you have to be sharp every day.” He also said that “the 12th man does help you out” in the game, meaning that more fans is always better — hopefully we’ll have a strong crowd at the ASG to back him up Wednesday night. “It’s great for me to be selected, and I’m honored to be here, but again, it’s an All-Star Game and not a World Cup, so I’m here to enjoy it, to, you know, really enjoy my time here.”

The MLS All-Star team.
The MLS All-Star team.

MLS All-Stars (original, as announced)*:

Goalkeepers: David Ousted (Vancouver Whitecaps), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders), Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids), Chris Tierney (New England Revolution)

Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Kaká (Orlando City SC), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), David Villa (New York City FC)

*Since the roster was announced, Chris Tierney, Michael Bradley, Steven Gerrard, Sebastian Giovinco, and Robbie Keane have withdrawn due to injury. They have been replaced by Sam Cronin (Colorado Rapids), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew SC), Juninho (LA Galaxy), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Irwin (Colorado Rapids), and Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy).

Tottenham Hotspur:

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Michel Vorm, Luke McGee, Tom Glover

Defenders: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, DeAndre Yedlin, Danny Rose, Ben Davies, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Kevin Wimmer, Jan Vertonghen, Federico Fazio

Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb, Harry Winks, Mousa Dembele, Josh Onomah, Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli, Tom Carroll, Dele Alli, Erik Lamela

Forwards: Harry Kane, Shaq Coulthirst

Philadelphia Union Suffer Heartbreaking Loss in DC

Philadelphia Union Suffer Heartbreaking Loss in DC

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photo courtesy The Philadelphia Union

C.J. Sapong and Sebastian Le Toux scored two of the franchise’s fastest goals yesterday, but the Philadelphia Union took another step backwards in what was a devastating 3-2 loss to D.C. United last Sunday.

Twenty seconds into the game, forward CJ Sapong scored the fastest goal in Union history following an assist from Cristian Maidana. Less than three minutes later, Sebastien Le Toux netted the ball past D.C United’s goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra for the second fastest goal in franchise history. While Philadelphia had a 2-0 lead within the first five minutes of the match, a rally from D.C. United gave the Union their 12th loss of the season, the same number of losses the team had all last year.

D.C. United now improve to 11-7-5 (38 pts) and maintain their spot as the Kings of the eastern conference while the Philadelphia Union 6-12-4 (22 pts), take their place as the second worst team the eastern conference and the league as a whole.

Philadelphia’s woes began in the 32nd minute after defender Ray Gaddis was called for a foul against United’s Davy Arnaud in the box and D.C. was given a penalty kick. Argentine forward Fabian Espindola stepped up for the kick and launched the ball over the bar. While it seemed as if Philadelphia was in the clear, things went from bad to worse. Minutes before halftime, Alvaro Saborio put one in the back of the net for United and it quickly became anyone’s game going into the second half.

In the 66th minute, United equalized after Union goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre rebounded his initial save. Thirteen minutes later, Espindola redeemed his earlier penalty kick debacle and scored the go-ahead goal off a Chris Korb cross.

Union head coach Jim Curtin felt that the team did not perform well during critical moments of the match.

“It was difficult. We obviously had a great start to the game – guys came out with energy. You knew, though, with the two early goals, knew D.C. was going to wake up and they’re a team of quality and get some chances. We didn’t do a good job of holding on but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. But at the same time, we come up a little short at critical moments in the box.”

Philadelphia return home for a clash with I-95 rivals the New York Red Bulls on August 1st while D.C. United take on Real Salt Lake at home the same day.

Gerrard’s First MLS Cali Clasico. A 5-2 Win for LA!

Gerrard’s First MLS Cali Clasico. A 5-2 Win for LA!

IMG_9141A rollercoaster ride of emotions surged from the sell-out Stub Hub Center crowd tonight at the California Clasico as the LA Galaxy came from a 2-goal deficit to secure a dramatic 5-2 finish against their rivals San Jose. “We’re only going to get stronger.” – an apt prediction from Steven Gerrard post-match, conjecturing about the return of the LA players on international duty and new signing Giovani dos Santos.

Quincy Amarikwa’s early brace for San Jose had put Galaxy on alert and they responded in kind.

Following a penalty goal from Robbie Keane, Gerrard, in his first league appearance for LA, tied the score up in the 37th minute at the end of a beautiful succession of passes from Gerrard, to Keane, to Husidic and then back to Gerrard who deftly turned the oncoming ball into the net.

The former Liverpool captain technically made his LA debut earlier this week as a substitute in the US Open Cup match at Real Salt Lake. Tonight was special for more than just his first league appearance and team goal – he also became the third MLS player this season to net a goal, an assist and a win a penalty in a single match (Kaka and Giovinco are the other two). Add to that the beautiful dive he took to clear a set piece immediately after his goal, and he’s golden.

Robbie Keane worked off an assist from Gerrard in the second half to easily get the Galaxy’s 3rd goal. Gerrard’s busy night continued with a disallowed goal do to a foul on Husidic by David Bingham. Robbie Keane took the penalty kick and finished his hat trick for the night, his 4th career MLS trick. Did we fail to mention Robbie was under the weather during the match? It’s because you couldn’t tell, he was having way too much fun out there.

Sebastian Lletget, having a tremendous night himself, scored a late fifth and final goal for LA, leaving the 2-0 lead for San Jose a distant memory. “He has a great combination of speed and power and balance.” – Bruce Arena, referring to Lletget’s performance.

The dynamic duo of Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard seem destined for greatness, meaning goals and a secure future for LA Galaxy’s forwards. Under the clear night sky, within a packed stadium, and with Donovan and Beckham watching with anticipation and hope, the Galaxy surged ahead to the top of the Western Conference tonight. There will be hurt feelings and crying foul by Earthquakes supporters, but no one can argue this is a new LA, more confident and alive that at any point in the season to date.

“The future is bright…” – Steven Gerrard.

Cali Clasico Coming Up in 30 Minutes! #LAvSJ

Cali Clasico Coming Up in 30 Minutes! #LAvSJ

Clasicos come and go, but LA Galaxy and San Jose’s rivalry is one of the best. These two teams give everything they have when they meet each other on the field. LA has had a few weeks off from league play, and they return to action tonight against their California Clasico rivals, San Jose. The Quakes have been unimpressive this season, and their past two games have been losses.

June 27th was the last time these two teams met during the MLS Season, and San Jose came away with a 3-1 victory. (Oddly enough, that was San Jose’s last win.) LA haven’t had the best luck during the Cali Clasico, they’ve won just one out of the past 11 games. With the game being played at the Stub Hub Center, LA has an obvious advantage. They have scored 14 goals in their last three MLS games on their home field. But, the last two Clasicos on LA’s home field have ended in a 2-2 draw.

After what feels like weeks and weeks of Gerrard hype, the man himself is finally making his ‘MLS’ game debut. Even though he’s already played with LA three times, he hasn’t played an actual MLS game. Things always heat up when LA and San Jose meet, and there’s no better way for Gerrard to make his league debut than during a Clasico. I expect him to make plenty of offensive plays and come firing on all cylinders. By now he’s starting to get the hang of the team’s pace, so I expect him to make plenty of positive plays.

Though Gerrard will be on the pitch, there are some notable absences for both sides. Jaime Penedo (LA), Omar Gonzalez (LA), Gyasi Zardes (LA), Alan Gordon (LA), Chris Wondolowski (SJ) and Cordell Cato (SJ) are all are away on International Duty for the Gold Cup. With Wondo being San Jose’s top scorer, they’ll have to rely on their other forwards to step up on a big night. With Zardes and Gordon gone, Lletget and Keane will have to step up… but let’s be real. They’ve been playing awesome together lately, and when you add in Gerrard? That’s taking the game to a whole other level.

With a win, LA would be just one point behind Supporters Shield leaders DC United and they’ll be in first place in the West (for at least a few hours)…

Tonight’s Clasico isn’t the last one of the season; both teams will meet up again on August 28th.

 

MLS Match Review: Vancouver Whitecaps 1, Colorado Rapids 2

MLS Match Review: Vancouver Whitecaps 1, Colorado Rapids 2

Kyle’s Weekly Colorado Corner: Three Thumbs Down, Three Thumbs Up!

A Fourth of July victory for the Colorado Rapids! Yet, Colorado remain at the bottom of the Western Conference and take on Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Vancouver are tied with Seattle at the top of the Western Conference and will host Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.

Photo by Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
Photo by Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

Three thumbs down:

First thumb down goes to the passing. Yes, we’ve had this conversation before. The passing accuracy this week was about 3% better than it was last MLS game against Spork, but 10% lower than against Houston in our U.S. Open Cup loss. Remember, we showed up really poorly in the first half of that USOC game, but much better in the second half, and I think we all could definitely agree that the team today in Commerce City more closely resembled the second half Rapids of Tuesday. Now if only we could have gotten those passing numbers up…

Second thumb down goes to all those yellow cards. Three yellow cards, all within fifteen minutes of each other, and sixteen fouls? Crazy town. I don’t mind yellow cards coming in the run of play when a player does something great/important/whatever and happens to get a card, but none of these came while anything important was happening. There was no reason to get those cards. However — it’s possible the ref saw the game getting out of hand (the Caps got two cards and ten fouls) and started handing out cards in an attempt to slow down the fouls. Did it work? I don’t know. I just don’t love it. Don’t give cards unless they’re necessary, and when all three of them come so close together it makes me nervous.

Third thumb down goes to Drew Moor being out to the side, again. He belongs in the center. Hard for me to say that when we clearly won, but he plays better in the center, as a general rule. He didn’t have a superb game — not a terrible one either for sure, but just not as great as we’re used to seeing him have, defensively. I just don’t like Drew out on the side.

Three thumbs up:

stats courtesy of MLS.com/Opta
stats courtesy of MLS.com/Opta

First thumb up goes to Kevin Doyle. Not only did this Irishman score his first Rapids goal on Happy America Day, which I’m sure is a great welcome to the country, he was generally great in this game. For example, looking at his passing chart on Opta, about two thirds of his passes were successful. I don’t really want to throw out names to compare but when I look at other Rapids players, he blows them out of the water. He also won five fouls and lost none. This guy just showed up to play and did a great job.

Second thumb up goes to all those shots. We took fourteen shots last night. Four were on target, five weren’t, and five were blocked. Against Sporting, we took five. What this tells me is that the team is trying. I feel like that has been the constant outcry of Rapids fans — “we aren’t even trying!” Well guess what? Last night it felt like we were certainly trying. I think my husband’s words were, “we’re throwing stuff at the wall to see if it sticks.” It stuck.

Third thumb up goes to winning, against a Canadian team, on Fourth of July. It was magical to sit and watch fireworks while this game drew to an end (we watched on MLS Live). After having been at the USOC match on Tuesday and having sat through a dreadful first half, but then watching it change in the second half, I feel like maybe we’re headed upward. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic. Everyone seems to be clicking. The lineup seems to be, more or less, working out. We’re shooting and actually scoring. And we’re winning.

Scoring Summary:

COL: Vicente Sánchez (Luis Solignac) 2′

DAL: Kekuta Manneh (Mauro Rosales, Steven Beitashour) 20′

COL: Kevin Doyle (Lucas Pittinari) 56′

So who gets your thumbs down and up this game, or where was I completely off target? Be sure to let me know and come back for the next Rapids game, a Rocky Mountain Cup showdown against RSL on Saturday!

MLS Match Recap: Houston Dynamo 1, Chicago Fire 1

MLS Match Recap: Houston Dynamo 1, Chicago Fire 1

The Houston Dynamo were unable to secure three points at home following a 72nd minute equalizer by Chicago.

In front of a sold-out crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium last night, the Houston Dynamo (5-7-6) hosted the Chicago Fire (4-9-3) in a clash between two teams looking to climb the ranks in their respective conferences. Chicago entered the game in last place in the eastern conference with only 14 points in 15 games. Coming off of a two-game losing streak, Houston has had no luck in the west sitting second to last in the standings. Meeting for the first and only time this season, Houston and Chicago were able to end their losing streaks while each grabbing a point.

Houston started the match having majority of the possession and a few good chances to get the go-ahead goal in front of their home crowd. The best chance of the first half for the Dynamo came in the 13th minute after forward Will Bruin had the perfect chance to score from a cross by Giles Barnes, but he missed the open net and played the ball wide. For Chicago, the away team was merely inches away from scoring in the first half after Razvan Cociș hit a shot that just barely touched the goal line but was waved away by the assistant referee.

Photo by Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Dynamo midfielder Alex opened the scoring for the night in the 56th minute after putting away a Brad Davis cross past Fire goalkeeper, Sean Johnson. Following the goal, Chicago looked as if they were ready to equalize the scoring any moment. After a Patrick Nyarko header that hit the bar in the 65th minute, Nyarko was able to tie the match with an easy tap in past Joe Willis, in the 72nd minute.

While Houston was unable to gain three points at home against an eastern conference foe, both teams were able to advance to quarterfinals in the Lamar Hunt U.S Open cup after winning midweek games. Houston returns to play next Friday facing the San Jose Earthquakes while the Fire at back home against the Seattle Sounders on July 11th.

MLS Rivalry Week: The Sounders and Timbers Clash

MLS Rivalry Week: The Sounders and Timbers Clash

If you watch any MLS soccer at all*, you probably know to have your TV on for this game. Heck, you might even have your DVR set. Not only are Portland and Seattle rivals in hipster-ness, quality of beer, and good food, but they are some of the most storied rivals in American soccer history. It goes all the way back to the original NASL incarnations of these teams, when Seattle won against Portland in the Timbers’ inaugural match. Ever since then, these teams have had a serious bone to pick with each other.

What to watch for

Portland Timbers tifo, 2012 (Kelly McLain)
Portland Timbers tifo, 2012 (Kelly McLain)

Tifo. This rivalry has a history of being truly incredible, and this match should be no exception. From Portland’s “there’s no place like home” with Seattle burning in the background, to Seattle’s “decades of dominance” reminding Portland of the small, painful nuances of the rivalry, expect amazing tifo from both sides. Typically they are limited to one tifo per site for these larger games so the displays don’t get out of hand, but that one tifo should be memorable for years to come. Both groups are famous for their artistry.

Emerald City Supporters (Getty Images)
Emerald City Supporters (Getty Images)

Supporters. With incredible tifo comes energetic supporters. Emerald City Supporters on one side fight for the Sounders, and Timbers Army back the Portland side. Each group has their own chants, drums, and energy. They stand for the whole match to support their team, because every noise they make, every chant they shout, and everything they do has the power to energize the players on the field.

Sounders' first game in MLS (Melissa Brassard/ECS)
Sounders’ first game in MLS, 2009 (Melissa Brassard/ECS)

History. These teams have been going at it since 1974. This rivalry runs deep in the blood of the Pacific Northwest. It survived being shut down for years between different iterations of Timbers and Sounders teams. It has survived different team names (FC Seattle/Portland, Storm). It has survived the test of time and different people/generations in the stands. Players, stars, coaches, and owners have ebbed and flowed. Seattle’s home has changed, from the Kingdome to Qwest/CenturyLink Field, and Providence Park has seen centuries and renovations. However, one thing has remained constant — the love of the supporters and fans for their teams and their cities, regardless of the name on the jersey, the people on the field, or the venue.

Preparing for the game

Photo via Providence Park
Photo via Providence Park

This is their second MLS meeting this season – they met last week in a heated USOC match. You may remember it — Clint Dempsey ripped up the ref’s notebook and threw it away? He not only received a suspension for the USOC for six USOC matches or two years (whichever is greater), but he also received a three-match MLS suspension.

The third match of that suspension is this one, so unfortunately for the Sounders, Dempsey will not be on the pitch today, but he will be available for the US in Gold Cup competition. Liam Ridgewell will also be out of the competition for the Timbers, which is a huge blow because he is almost certainly their best defender, if not one of the best in the league. Not only was Clint Dempsey suspended in that USOC match, but Obafemi Martins was injured, and will be out 3-6 weeks. This leaves Seattle without two of their best strikers for an important match against their rivals.

All time, the series of 90 games has Seattle winning 46 times, Portland winning 32 times, and 12 draws. With everything on the line today, this could turn out an interesting battle.

*If you don’t watch MLS, this game would be a great place to start. Seriously.

Match Recap: Philadelphia Union 2, Montreal Impact 2

Match Recap: Philadelphia Union 2, Montreal Impact 2

Under rainy skies at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact played to a 2-2 draw.

In a wild match between the Philadelphia Union (5-10-4) and the Montreal Impact (5-6-3), goals and fouls were at an all time high. Eric Ayuk opened the scoring for Philadelphia in the eighth minute with an absolute screamer right inside the 18 yard box.

While Philadelphia looked to have control over the match, Ignacio Piatti responded with a well placed goal in the bottom corner of the net to equalize the game for Montreal. The first half was not only filled with two great goals, but three yellow cards: two for Montreal and one for Philadelphia.

The second half was just as wild as the first. Jack McInerney, a former Philadelphia Union player who was traded last season to Montreal in exchange for Andrew Wenger, silenced the home crowd with the go ahead goal in the 70th minute assisted by Andres Romero. While it looked like the Impact would be heading back home with three points from their American road-trip, Union captain Maurice Edu equalized the game in the 76th minute with an unassisted goal. The match was a chippy one and the game ended 10 vs. 10. after Montreal’s Patrice Bernier got his second booking of the night in the 67th minute and was sent off while Philadelphia’s Eric Ayuk got both a goal and a second yellow to end his night on a sour note. 

Photo via Philadelphia Union
Photo via Philadelphia Union

The biggest storyline coming into the game was the comparison between Andrew Wenger and Jack McInerney. Both players came off of the bench to face their former clubs. McInerney, who has had a rather tough time with Montreal, having scored only three goals in 13 games, definitely proved his worth snagging a goal and an assist while playing only 30 minutes. Wenger played as many minutes as McInerney but did not even record a shot during the match. While it is not fair to compare both players by judging only a small portion of the match, Jack McInerney was by far more pumped to play his former club. They’re going to take the game to us, being at home, so if they’re throwing guys forward, we can sit back and get two or three goals on the counter.”

Although the weather played a significant role in the match, Philadelphia will definitely feel as if they dropped two points at home. With many east coast teams playing rivalry matches this weekend, three points could have placed them securely over the playoff line. The Union will host D.C. United for an Open Cup match on Tuesday at 7:30pm for their third game in a week while the Impact will get some time off to rest and face New York City FC at home next Saturday.

Match Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact

Match Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact

Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact

Venue: PPL Park, Chester, PA – Saturday, June 27th – 7:00pm EST

Broadcast: 6ABC (Philadelphia) -TVA Sports (Montreal) – MLS Live

In what will be their first meeting of the season, the Montreal Impact (5-6-2) will head to Philadelphia to take on the Philadelphia Union (5-10-3) Saturday at PPL Park.

Montreal suffered a 3-1 defeat this past Wednesday against their Canadian rivals, Toronto FC, while Philadelphia is coming off a much needed three points from a midweek clash with Seattle Sounders FC. The last meeting between the two teams resulted in a 2-1 win for the Union at home. Philadelphia has never lost to Montreal at PPL Park, winning two of their four home meetings with two draws.

Currently, both Philadelphia and Montreal sit below the playoff line in the eastern conference. The eastern conference right now is extremely compact and a win for either team could place them securely in a playoff spot. For Montreal, winning on the road has been a tough feat. In their last five away games, the Impact have secured only one win. While Philadelphia has had their share of troubles in the beginning of the season, they have won four games in the past seven and are eager to improve their overall record.

Two players to watch during this match are Montreal’s Jack McInerney and Philadelphia’s Andrew Wenger. The two players switched teams as a result of a trade early last season. Head to head, McInerney has had more success this season with 10 goals in 39 MLS appearances while Wenger has seen the field 46 times scoring only six goals. However, it is important to note that with the addition of forward CJ Sapong and head coach Jim Curtin’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Wenger has had to adjust to playing the wing.

Having both played midweek games, the freshness of the players will be a big factor. With Philadelphia’s history of never losing to Montreal at home and CJ Sapong’s scoring hot streak, Philadelphia is in a good position to pick up their sixth win this weekend in front of what most likely will be a sellout crowd.

 

 

MLS Match Review: Philadelphia Union 1, Seattle Sounders FC 0

MLS Match Review: Philadelphia Union 1, Seattle Sounders FC 0

CJ Sapong scored his sixth goal of the year and fourth in consecutive matches as the Philadelphia Union (5-10-3) grabbed three points at home from a depleted Seattle Sounders (9-6-2) team.

Coming off a demoralizing loss in Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Union were back home at PPL Park Wednesday night looking to grab a crucial 3 points from a deflated Seattle side.

Photo courtesy The Philadelphia Union
Photo courtesy The Philadelphia Union

The Sounders were without Clint Dempsey (Suspension) and Obafemi Martins (injury), two of their most valuable attackers. On the Philadelphia side, the Union were without Fernando Aristeguieta, Sebastien Le Toux, and Conor Casey due to injury which left forward CJ Sapong to generate the team’s offense.

In the 27th minute of the match, it looked as if the Union would get on the board early with a goal by Maurice Edu, but it was called back after Andrew Wenger was caught fouling goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the box. Three minutes later, Wenger earned a penalty for the Union but Maurice Edu’s kick was saved by Frei to keep the game scoreless going into halftime.

Photo courtesy The Philadelphia Union
Goal Celebration – Lift Off! Photo courtesy The Philadelphia Union

While the Union were without many of their instrumental offensive players, these injuries did not stop Sapong from heading in a great cross from Sheanon Williams in the 69th minute to score the sole goal of the night. Union goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre also earned his fourth shutout of the season. Seattle, who has lost three of their last four league games in scoreless losses produced only nine shots the whole game with two on goal.

Both teams have a few days to recover as they are back in action this weekend with the Philadelphia Union taking on the Montreal Impact at home on Saturday (7:00pm EST, 6 ABC) and the Sounders are headed to Soccer City USA to take on the Portland Timbers on Sunday (4:00pm PDT, Fox Sports 1).

 

MLS Rivalry Week: The Great Canadian 401 Derby.

MLS Rivalry Week: The Great Canadian 401 Derby.

Montreal Impact will face off against Toronto FC tonight in what you could call the biggest soccer derby in Canada. While the two cities are connected by the Ontario Highway 401, there is nothing but division between the fans of these two passionate cities.

Roughly 336 miles apart, these two cities are full of historic sporting rivalries, most notably hockey. While the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have been battling it out for decades on the ice, Montreal and Toronto have also been longtime foes on the soccer pitch.

Dating back to the 1970s, these two cities have had their taste of professional soccer. The Toronto Metros and Montreal Olympique dominated the Canadian soccer scene in the old North American Soccer League (NASL). Since then, clubs from both cities have played in numerous soccer leagues such as the Canadian soccer League, the American Professional Soccer League, and the Premier Development League. With both teams now in Major League Soccer and having played each other eight times in conference play, the rivalry has intensified and could even be called a Canadian soccer classic. Since 2012, Montreal has taken two wins from their meetings and Toronto has grabbed three while the teams have had three draws.

But a rivalry is nothing without fans.

Photo by Stephen Gardiner.
TFC Fans in the South Stands. Photo by Stephen Gardiner.

While passions are flaring on the pitch, the emotion extends to the supporters. In Toronto, the U-Sector and Red Patch Boys are the biggest supporter groups for Toronto FC while the Ultras Montréal defend the Impact. Both teams have the luxury of playing in soccer-specific stadiums which intensifies the rivalry even more.

While any meeting between the two teams is sure to be entertaining, these three matches really set the stage for the historic rivalry:

1) April 7th, 2012 – Montreal Impact 2 – Toronto FC 1. The inaugural meeting between the two sides.

Photo via: Major League Soccer
Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer

 

Playing on their home field in front of 24,000 fans, Montreal got their names etched in the history books by being the first 401 Derby winner while also grabbing their first ever win in Major League Soccer.

 

 

 

2) May 1st, 2013 – Montreal Impact 6 – Toronto FC 0. (yes, 6!)

Photo
Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer

While this game was not a regular MLS season game but a Canadian Championship game, it left a chip on Toronto’s shoulder. To this day, this scoreline is still stands as the widest margin of goals scored during this Canadian derby. While Toronto grabbed a 1-0 win later on in the season, this was an unlucky year for the Reds, finishing second to last in the eastern conference. (Toronto had a 6-1 victory in a 2009 Canadian Championship match so this was payback with a clean-sheet, a double-payback of sorts…)

 

3) August 2, 2014 Toronto FC 2 – Montreal Impact 0. 

From the kickoff, Toronto was in control of this match and gained a road win against their rivals. TFC opened the scoring in the 11th minute and never looked back. With their newest designated player Michael Bradley staring in his first 401 derby and gaining the opening assist, it was a great night out for the Reds.

Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer
Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer

With their ninth regular season meeting tonight, this rivalry match has serious playoff implications. Toronto is currently one spot above Montreal with one game in hand and two more points than Montreal. Both teams have similar points per game and identical goals against at 18 each. A win from either team could lift them high in the eastern conference standings with plenty of games ahead compared to their eastern conference foes. With Montreal having never gained an away win at BMO field in Toronto, this clash could be one of the best between the two. Kick-off is Wednesday 6/24, 8 pm ET, watch on TSN, RDS (CAN); MLS Live (USA)

 

MLS Match Review: FC Dallas 1, Colorado Rapids 1

MLS Match Review: FC Dallas 1, Colorado Rapids 1

Kyle’s Weekly Colorado Corner: Three Thumbs Down, Three Thumbs Up!

Photo by: Abelimages/Getty Images
Photo by: Abelimages/Getty Images

Colorado remain at the bottom of the Western Conference and head to the Citrus Bowl for a Wednesday match against Orlando City. Dallas, in 4th place in the West, return home Friday to host the Houston Dynamo.

Three thumbs down:

First thumb down goes to Drew Moor’s circumstances. First of all, why was he not wearing the captain’s armband? I know when he was out due to his knee issues it got passed around a lot, but I can’t reason why Sam Cronin was wearing it, especially when Cronin did little of value in the game. Besides the captain’s band, Moor also started on left, not his strong suit. He belongs in the middle and it showed, as he also brought little to progress against FCD.

Second thumb down goes to the commentary on UniMas. I don’t mind not having my home announcers, which is good since we have MLS Live and sometimes get stuck with the opposing team’s people, but jeez. Between constantly confusing position players (Solignac and Torres? Are there two more different players on the entire team?), using the completely wrong words in sentences, and making awkward comments in general, I probably should have left it on Spanish and enjoyed my own poor translation in my head. Plus then I would have at least had Celo to listen to!

Third thumb down goes to the midfield, or something. I’m not sure what to call the giant gap between the front and the defense because it was a big ol’ bucket of nothing. When one person pushed forward with the ball, nobody else came with. Long passes were constantly going up the field with nobody to catch them. The team was playing totally reactive soccer instead of proactive soccer. It was so frustrating for me to watch player A get the ball, run forward, and players B-Z stand around doing next to nothing. I guess I’ve been spoiled watching the BPL where everyone is constantly running, looking to see what they can do next. Nobody did that tonight.

Photo by Andy Cross/Denver Post via Getty Images
Photo by Andy Cross/Denver Post via Getty Images

Three thumbs up:

stats courtesy of MLS.com/Opta
stats courtesy of MLS.com/Opta

First thumb up goes to Dillon Serna — again. Yeah. He scored our only goal and it was a beaut. He played a great game in general with four shots and two shots on target. I have nothing else to say except I’m so glad he’s back and I hope he stays in the starting lineup — you never know with Pablo.

Second thumb up goes to the Pablostache being gone. It started as a gimmick of sorts, when Pablo’s dad told him he acted too much like a player and needed to start thinking like a coach and, I guess, that turned into grow some manly facial hair? We won’t go into my own feelings about it, but I strongly dislike how much focus has been put on it. I hope now that it’s gone the media will stop pointing at him and saying, “Look at this coach’s suave, hipster facial hair!” and instead say, “Excuse me sir, your team maybe could use some better coaching.” Maybe now we can regard him as a proper coach instead of a caricature of a coach–and maybe that’s what he’ll be.

Third thumb up goes to the possession. While this game was not impressive, I might even call it boring, we did possess the ball most of the time. We didn’t do much with it, but that’s better than not having it. Not only did we have more possession by percentage, but we had a higher percentage of possession most of the time, meaning that we had the ball in our “hands” so to speak for most of the game. Passing wasn’t great, finishing wasn’t great, shooting was okay, but we had the ball and that’s better than the other team having the ball.

Scoring Summary:

DAL: Fabian Castillo (Kyle Bekker) 71′

COL: Dillon Serna (Drew Moor, Vicente Sánchez) 88′

So who gets your thumbs down and up this game, or where was I completely off target? Be sure to let me know and come back for the next Rapids game, against Orlando City SC on Wednesday!

Philadelphia Union Stunned by LA Galaxy Onslaught.

Philadelphia Union Stunned by LA Galaxy Onslaught.

In what was their only meeting of the season, the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Philadelphia Union 5 – 1 to earn their sixth win of the season.

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Photo Credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz

The Philadelphia Union (4-10-3) made their first and only trip of the season out west to Carson, California to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy (6-5-7) last night. Los Angeles has proved to be dominant against Philadelphia with LA winning five of the previous seven meetings between the teams. Last night proved to be no different. With a thin roster for the Union due to injuries, Philadelphia Union were certainly shorthanded offensively. The Union started in typical fashion, save for Zach Pfeffer in for an injured Sebastian Le Toux and Sheanon Williams in for Fabinho.

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The Starting Line-Up… before they fell apart…

The opening minutes of the game saw Philadelphia holding their own against the five-time championship side. Although Philly was gifted with four corner kicks in the first fifteen minutes of the game, they failed to convert any of them while the Philadelphia defense did a solid job disrupting the attack from the Galaxy. In the 23rd minute, Baggio Husidic scored the rebound goal off of a post hit by Gyasi Zardes which completely changed the dynamics of the game. Los Angeles began to settle in and Juninho added a second to the tally in the 35th minute, and the Union went into the locker room at halftime down two goals.

Juninho Goal Celebration for the Ages. Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz
Juninho Goal Celebration for the Ages. Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz

Los Angeles continued their dominance going into the second half with a textbook counterattack featuring a world-class cross from Robbie Keane leading to a brilliant finish by Zardes. Down 3-0, Philadelphia delivered a great turn-and-shoot goal by C.J. Sapong, but the championship side LA responded in similar fashion (within seconds) with a goal by Stefan Ishizaki in the 59th minute.

Unfortunately for the Union, when it rains, it pours. Recently signed attacking midfielder Sebastian Lletget buried the fifth goal of the night for the Galaxy, leaving the Union defense nowhere in sight. This game left an all too similar taste in Philadelphia’s mouth as their last trip to the Stub Hub had an almost identical result (LA 4 – 1 PHI, May 25th 2014).

Last night, the Philadelphia Union were simply outplayed by a better opponent. From almost every angle of the game, Los Angeles dominated against a poor Union squad. Even after such a statement win, Galaxy head Coach Bruce Arena was still was not satisfied: We can play better than we did tonight.


Interesting take from Bruce Arena on last night’s performance from LA Galaxy: tempering reality with potential, and dampening everyone’s glow over the return of flashes of the Championship Winning title holders.

I think the score does not indicate the game correctly. I don’t think we were as dominant as the score would indicate. We were pretty sloppy in the game, but having said that, we finished some great goals. At times we played well, at other times we didn’t play so well. So it was far from a complete victory tonight, and we have a way to go.” – Bruce Arena, Head Coach LA Galaxy

Bruce’s assessment is what makes him such an incredible coach. Swallowing wins and losses in stride and putting them in larger context of the season and the team history forces them to become better and better. The Galaxy came on the pitch in much better health and with a more idealistic lineup than the lower-ranked Union, so a lopsided win wasn’t unexpected. I won’t go as far as to say they have a deep bench now, but they almost do, especially when compared to the Union, who had a single bonafide striker last night. It was an easy victory, a much-needed one at that, and a signal to fans and media that they’re serious about keeping in line with a historical upswing in the latter half of the season. There’s nothing revolutionary, creative or remarkable about it. The Keane and Zardes connection shows a maturation of their on-field relationship and with practice (with both the Galaxy and the USMNT), Gyasi’s confidence and accuracy grows. He had Philadelphia’s defense running in circles.

But overall, LA Galaxy of last night is what we’ve come to expect and therein lies the reason for Arena’s “But we can play better than we did today” comments. Point taken but I, for one, am thrilled to see what he does with his ever-increasing quality in the midfield (Gerrard!) and the final third which is now stacked with a youthful presence.

With possession being about equal between the two teams last night, Sebastian Lleget put it best: “Even though we finished in front of goal, I think we can keep possession a little better. But we’re working on it and we’re aware of it.” The new LA Galaxy is emerging and we’ve only caught a glimpse of the potential.

We're back! Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz
We’re back! Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz

On the other hand, the Union’s collapse was a definite warning bell however and rightly signal alarm bells across the board. It was an unlucky day to be a Philadelphian. It was an unlucky day to be a Union supporter. It was a far worse day to be a player for the Union. After a 15-minute promising start with 4 corner kicks that yielded nothing fruitful but a close Edu header, Philadelphia were caught ball-chasing, leaving Galaxy players unmarked and sometimes (i.e. – LLetget) obviously dangerously open, outsmarted and outplayed by magnitudes. Marquez, Sheanon Williams, Ray Gaddis, Edu (sigh) were out-of-position and underperforming at every turn for much of the evening – we’ve seen much better from most of them, in past years, even against a dominant LA. There are no excuses to be made. Perhaps they held way back in anticipation of Wednesday’s match against Seattle Sounders? The mentality of “And then we’re just crawling in quicksand” is something that has to be overcome because comebacks are a regular enough occurrence in the game that it’s not insurmountable physically.

“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves, we have to pick our heads up and get back to work and try and get a result against Seattle on Wednesday.” – Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin.

Philadelphia will head back to the east coast with a long home stretch coming up beginning with a short-handed Seattle Sounders this Wednesday and Canadian neighbors Montreal Impact on Saturday. Hopefully the Union will do some soul searching on their long flight back to Philadelphia and come ready to compete against Seattle.

The Galaxy are home Wednesday against a menacing Portland and play next Saturday at San Jose in a California Clasico rivalry match, followed closely by U.S. Open Cup action against their rivals to the north on Wednesday, July 1st.

** this article was written by Adriana Lacy and Chandrima Chatterjee

Match Preview: Philadelphia Union at LA Galaxy

Match Preview: Philadelphia Union at LA Galaxy

The two middle-of-the-pack teams face each other tonight in their only meeting this season. The Philadelphia Union are currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 15 points from 16 matches, while the LA Galaxy are tied for fourth in the Western Conference with a 5-5-7 record and 22 points from 17 matches. It wasn’t too long ago when a series of unfortunate injuries (some of which are still in effect) plagued LA, and now, after a difficult US Open Cup match against the Rochester Rhinos this past Tuesday, Philly finds itself in a similar situation.

Numerous players are working to return from injury, and thus Curtin is out in LA now with a limited squad. Missing from Philadelphia’s lineup are Sebastian Le Toux (MCL sprain), Fernando Aristeguieta (a left fibula contusion), Conor Casey (left quad strain). Which basically means that C.J. Sapong is left as the Union’s only true forward. Add to the list of missing from action: Steven Vitoria (family wedding this weekend), and Michael Lahoud (undisclosed setback), and Philadelphia will end up relying on a rotation of Sheanon Williams (a true reliable veteran fullback), Ray Gaddis (a regular starter) and Fabinho over the next stretch of matches. Midfielder Brian Carroll is also a likely starter for tonight’s match.

“Obviously it’s a tough stretch and it’s a stretch that I thought we’d be getting a lot of bodies back healthy,” Curtin said Thursday, shortly before the team departed for Los Angeles. “But it turns out that’s not the case.”

With such a dwindling lineup, and being at a precarious position in the standings, Philadelphia will have to outsmart a recovering LA Galaxy roster who are also eager to redeem their stature as defending MLS Champs.

History favors LA. A home field advantage favors LA. And the return of Robbie Keane, A.J. DeLaGarza and Robbie Rogers favors LA. Moreover, the end of international duty season (and recovery period afterwards) and the end of the season’s injury spell favors the hosts tonight. Meanwhile, Coach Bruce Arena used that time to grow a younger roster into more mature, experienced and confident players.

A.J. DeLaGarza helped Guam win two crucial World Cup Qualifiers and importantly, returned injury-free and is ready to contribute to the Galaxy’s squad.

LA Galaxy earned a decided 6-1 victory against PSA Elite Wednesday night at StubHub Center in the U.S. Open Cup’s Fourth round with a hat trick from Robbie Keane and goals from Gyasi Zardes and Baggio Husidic and Sebastian Lletget. Expect big things from these four again tonight.

Photo by Robert Mora @Moraphotography
Photo by Robert Mora, @Moraphotography

 

The Galaxy have four of their next five league matches at home. It’s the perfect time for a storybook new beginning as they look to skyrocket to the top again. And, with the added bonus of a Steven Gerrard entrance within the month, this story arc is likely already written in the stars.

Tonight, things are looking bright for LA but if the Union play conservatively and intelligently, they could stifle LA’s attack. My prediction: Because I’ve seen C.J. thrive under pressure, (and because technically, they are my home team), I give him a goal tonight. LA: 2, Philly: 1. 

The only unfortunate news I have is that it’s Saturday and we get no National TV coverage…

LA Galaxy vs Philadelphia

10:30 PM ET

Direct Kick

Blackout: LA

LA: TWCSN-LA

PHI: CSN-Philadelphia

MLS LIVE*

Blackout: LA

* Look forward to a fun co-authored game recap from me and Adriana later tonight! (well, if you’re on the West Coast).

USWNT in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

USWNT in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Friday night brought a frustrating and limp 0-0 draw for the US against evenly-matched Sweden, after an optimistic opening match for the Women of the US Soccer Senior National Team who rallied for a 3-1 win against Australia in their first match of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Our woman of the match from Friday — Julie Johnston! The next USWNT game is against Nigeria on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET! 

photo : Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

The Oldest Continental Tournament, the Copa América, Continues!

The Oldest Continental Tournament, the Copa América, Continues!

 

The Copa America Groups

 

Copa América 2015 continued Friday night with Mexico vs Bolivia ending in a scoreless draw.

Copa Friday

The 44th edition of the Copa América 2015 kicked off yesterday in Santiago, Chile, as the host nation took on Ecuador and won 2-0. Next year is the US’ year to host the oldest continental tournament in the world (dating back to 1916)! It’s pretty open – no qualifying matches. And who’s going to pass up an opportunity to watch some of the world’s greatest – Lionel Messi, Neymar and Alexis Sanchez! The 10 South American nations are joined by two CONCACAF teams, this year Mexico and Jamaica. #Chile2015

Find the full 3-week schedule here.

Don’t forget to Tweet about it! The official logo of the tournament will appear when using #Chile2015, while each country has their own three-letter hashtag that will embed a picture of their flag in the tweet.

 

 

MLS Match Review: Real Salt Lake 0, Colorado Rapids 0

MLS Match Review: Real Salt Lake 0, Colorado Rapids 0

Kyle’s Weekly Colorado Corner: Three Thumbs Down, Three Thumbs Up!

I don’t have six thumbs, but have chosen to cover three positives and three negatives from matches to liven up the standard game recap. Feel free to share your own thumbs in the comments, no matter who you were cheering for! I love to hear from the other side, and for that matter, my own brethren and sistren, which our lovely editor has confirmed was a Middle English word so I am totally using it.

Colorado Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers (8) reacts after missing the goal on a penalty kick during MLS action in Sandy Sunday, June 7, 2015. The game ended in a tie. (Photo Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
Colorado Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers (8) reacts after missing the goal on a penalty kick during MLS action in Sandy Sunday, June 7, 2015. Photo Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sunday’s draw left the Rapids at the bottom of the Western Conference in tenth place with 14 points and a record of 2-4-8. Real Salt Lake stayed in ninth place in the West, with a record of 4-5-6 and 18 points.

Three thumbs down:

First thumb down goes to Pablo’s subbing in of Nick LaBrocca. Of all the people to sub in, you picked LaBrocca. And to take Ramírez out… I just do not understand. Ramírez had two shots, neither on target, and two fouls, so he hadn’t had the best of first halves, but guys who stayed in the game longer than he had no more shots than he did and no fewer average fouls. I also am just not the world’s biggest Nicky L. fan, considering his penchant for getting yellows (fortunately not this time), so I rarely have a good word for him. Sorry Nick!

Second thumb down goes to Dillon Powers’ whiff of a PK late in the game. It was not pretty. I understand that you can’t get every PK every time, but this one induced physical pain. To watch Powers, such a talented young player, miss by so much, I just… I can’t. There’s a difference between “missed it by that much!” and “wow that was really off.” Hopefully that was his one really bad penalty kick for the season and we’re past it.

Third thumb down goes to Pablo’s post-game attitude. I’m really tired of reading quotes like “It goes without saying — we’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of decisions… That being said, you want to score those.” Pablo, what does that mean?! Whichever team wins is on the right side of a decision – that’s kind of the point of the game. I hate when people say “such and such team deserved to win” – no they didn’t, or they would have won. Ask my husband, I loved the idea of Pablo being coach. Yay, a former Colorado player! A legend, at that! But if I have to hear Pablo recite more platitudes like, “At the end of the day we fell short, but it wasn’t for lack of creating a couple of good opportunities,” I’ll be reconsidering my position. I’m ready for some accountability. (editor’s note: Sadly Kyle, that is such a commonly stated quote from coaches, there’s gotta be a handbook. i.e. “It’s the nature of the game.” My feeling, sometimes there are no good reasons/excuses, without throwing someone under the bus.) 

Three thumbs up:

First thumb up goes to the progress down the field. While RSL didn’t look fabulous, we still looked a little bit better. We just edged them out in possession, at 50.3% vs. 49.7% (a totally statistically insignificant percentage difference!), didn’t have the worst shot accuracy ever, and even had ten shots on target. I like graphs. Here, have one.

from MLS Match Center
from MLS Match Center:

Those shots are not half bad!

Second thumb up goes to the passing. If you recall, I gave a thumb down to the passing in Seattle… so this is a good thing. It may have something to do with the real grass at RioT, or maybe we just got our stuff together. Comparing the numbers from that game to this one, overall passing accuracy increased 12% to 77%, with passing accuracy in the final third increasing 22% to 67%. That’s really important – if you can’t pass in the final third, you can’t finish. The end.

Third thumb up goes to Axel Sjöberg. I seriously love watching this guy play. He’s twice as tall as anyone out there, hasn’t quite figured out what is and isn’t an appropriate tackle (hence the yellow card), and even got two shots from center back. You won’t see Jared Watts doing that. I also think we need to have a pow-wow on how to pronounce his name. At the beginning of the season we heard Fleming and Balboa saying “hoober,” now I hear them saying “shoober,” then the ESPN guys were saying “hoobrey,” so I think I need to maybe ask someone who actually speaks Swedish. Can anyone help me out? (editor’s note: why yes, “whoy-bury” and this video is simply adorable too… fast forward to 2:20 if you don’t have time.)

So who gets your thumbs down and up this game, or where was I completely off target? Be sure to let me know and come back for the next Rapids game, a US Open Cup game against our neighbors, Switchbacks FC! 

LA Galaxy Home Streak Ends at the Hands of Vancouver.

LA Galaxy Home Streak Ends at the Hands of Vancouver.

As LA Galaxy’s 29-game winning at home streak spanning over a year (the Galaxy’s last lost at StubHub was their 2014 MLS opener), came to a close yesterday, and Montreal and NYCFC ended their losing streaks, the epicenter of MLS Saturday stories was naturally “streaks.”

2015 Season: LA Galaxy v Vancouver WhiteCaps at StubHub Center on June 6, 2015 in Carson, CA. Photos by Jon Lorentz and Robert Mora/LA Galaxy.---www.LAGalaxy.com---@LAGALAXY
2015 Season: LA Galaxy v Vancouver WhiteCaps at StubHub Center on June 6, 2015 in Carson, CA. Photos by Jon Lorentz and Robert Mora/LA Galaxy.—www.LAGalaxy.com—@LAGALAXY

Robbie Keane made his first start since early April and played a full 90 minutes, Edson Buddle (with his first start of the season) put in a noticeable effort early on, Ignacio Maganto had his fare share of possession and unlucky fouls, Alan Gordon entered the foray as a substitute, but no one got a legitimate chance at a goal, save one second half cross from Ishizaki in the second half to Gordon who was just barely unable to tap it. The substitutions of Lleget and Walker, resulted in a better second half for LA, but the Whitecaps were still able to keep the Galaxy out of the box for the most part. And, here’s one for a shocking headline, LA had zero attempts on goal. Which made it easy for Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted, to net his seventh shutout of the season.

Kekuta Manneh, a thorn in LA’s side for much of the first half and a likely shoe-in for the USMNT, scored the lone goal in the 32nd minute after receiving a failed pass from the Galaxy’s midfield and outmaneuvering Omar Gonzalez. Vancouver’s well-organized defense proved too much for LA’s lineup. The score could’ve easily been worse for LA, were it not for a post getting in Pedro Morales‘s way and an unlucky pass from Octavio Rivero to Darren Mattocks.

“We should have shot a few more times, particularly in that second half. They did a good job. Had a lot of players of players behind the ball who made it tough around the penalty area.”

So is a streak a real psychological or scientific phenomenon? In 1985, an influential study by psychologists at Cornell and Stanford Universities argued that the ‘hot hand’ was simply a human response of searching for patterns in what is otherwise just randomness and probability. And then came decades of more research, culminating in a vindication for all believers in hot streaks. Using 3-point shots as the indicator for NBA players’ hot and cold streaks, a statistically significant finding revealed that the hot hand is likely quite real, whereas the cold hand is not. Either way, streaks create a context to explain the often inexplicable. It’s our way of making sense of sports and life. In the end, does it matter much? From a psychological standpoint, to an athlete, it depends who you’re talking to. Some are more superstitious than others. Some have the experience to know that streaks come and go all the time. The real mental game in the game happens outside of the streak.

This is how Kekuta Manneh responded to the prospect of a streak specter that he and his teammates fought against at the StubHub Center: “It was a great result, we have never won here I heard, so it was a good win for us going into the break and we can put our feet up and relax. It was a really good win for us.”

2015 Season: LA Galaxy v Vancouver WhiteCaps at StubHub Center on June 6, 2015 in Carson, CA. Photos by Jon Lorentz and Robert Mora/LA Galaxy.---www.LAGalaxy.com---@LAGALAXY
2015 Season: LA Galaxy v Vancouver WhiteCaps at StubHub Center on June 6, 2015 in Carson, CA. Photos by Jon Lorentz and Robert Mora/LA Galaxy.—www.LAGalaxy.com—@LAGALAXY

In the end, results aren’t about just streaks or fitness or possession (LA had over 65% possession last night). It’s what you do with them to create form and a plan. And head coach, Bruce Arena knows it.

“Conceding that goal in the first half, it was tailor made for their team. The way they play, and with their speed on the counter, and we gave away a ball in our middle third of the field and they got a goal. They certainly did a very good job having good numbers behind the ball, and countering us in the second half. We had some chances to have a little bit better quality, perhaps create a few dangerous chances, but we fell short.”


The Galaxy head east to play Columbus Crew next Saturday. Let’s see what happens with a clean slate.

MLS Match Review: Philadelphia Union 1 – 2 New York City FC

MLS Match Review: Philadelphia Union 1 – 2 New York City FC

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union
Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

In their third clash of the 2015, season, NYCFC defeated Philadelphia 2-1 at PPL Park yesterday.

“Things in this league can turn around like the switch of a light.” – Jason Kreis, NYCFC head coach.

CJ Sapong’s fourth goal of year wasn’t enough for the Philadelphia Union as New York City FC’s 11-match winless streak came to an end.

“Luck has been on my side as well and my teammates have been putting the ball in the right position for me to capitalize. I will say though, for me, it’s about the impact I’m providing, and if I’m holding the possession up for my team and you know pressuring the right way, in that sense – I’ve been happy with my performance the last couple of games.” – CJ Sapong

Although New York City was shorthanded with Mix Diskerud away for international duty, a late goal in the second half by Patrick Mullins left the Union (4-9-3) speechless in front of a sold-out home crowd.

With the exception of injured Fernando Aristeguieta, head coach Jim Curtin decided to go with the same lineup that defeated Columbus Crew on Wednesday. CJ Sapong got the start in place of Aristeguieta and his athleticism was evident throughout the match.

The first half of play was back and forth by both sides. Philadelphia had a few good looks but New York’s Josh Saunders was solid in the net. New York City (2-7-5) had a good chance near the end of the first half, but Brian Sylvestre did a great job coming off of his line and keeping it scoreless going into the locker room.

Going into the second half, the Union looked energized. In the 46th minute, CJ Sapong buried a goal assisted by Sebastian Le Toux, carving his name as the team’s leading scorer. However, seven minutes later, New York City FC equalized with a top right corner blast by Thomas McNamara. While the Union controlled the ball for the better part of the second half, a late goal by New York City’s substitute Patrick Mullins made the difference.

Photo courtesy MLS.
Snagging their first away Win. NYCFC on the mend. Photo courtesy MLS.

Philadelphia host the Rochester Rhinos next on June 16th in their first Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match of the year. Following the US Open Cup match, the Union head out West on June 20th to take on LA Galaxy (10:30 pm ET, Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia).

 

 

 

 

MLS Match Preview: LA Galaxy v. Vancouver Whitecaps

MLS Match Preview: LA Galaxy v. Vancouver Whitecaps

LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps face off for the second time this season Saturday night. For LA, it’s a chance for redemption and revenge. Vancouver dominated their last meeting, 2-0, with second half goals from Kekuta Manneh and Octavio River, at BC Place on April 4, 2015.

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Although Vancouver have a two point lead on Galaxy in the standings, they’ve lost three of their last four MLS matches. With the FIFA Women’s World Cup stage set in their home stadium, this is the second match of a five-game road trip. But they aren’t letting that bring their confidence down.

“We’ve shown that our squad is deep. There’s a good rotation in our squad. Guys can come in and play positions. I don’t think there’s going to be a factor of being tired or anything like that.” – midfielder Russell Teibert.

The last time LA Galaxy and Vancouver met, there was a ‘casualty of epic proportions.’ I exaggerate, but that Robbie Keane groin injury and the following slide for the beloved 5-time MLS Cup winners, was disheartening to witness. This time around, Keane’s back, unsure for how many minutes, or how great his impact will be, however, his leadership is undeniable. As LA’s head coach Bruce Arena puts it,

“For our team, whenever Robbie Keane’s on the field, it makes our team better.”  — Bruce Arena.

With a slew of ongoing international duties for LA’s Gyasi Zardes, Bradford Jameison IV and Jaime Penedo, and with Robbie Rogers playing for LA Galaxy II tomorrow, we’re left with a less-than-optimal lineup for LA Galaxy. Tomorrow also marks a test for Brian Perk who takes up the reigns as goalkeeper in his fourth league start this season and likely many more to come, with Jaime Penedo playing for Panama’s National Team and Brian Rowe out for the remainder of the season. But head coach Bruce Arena is confident in Rowe’s ability to step in: “There’s no reason to believe that he can’t step in and do a good job.”

Alan Gordon is also always at the ready for the challenge, whether it’s as a reserve player or for a full 90-minute game.

Everyone's watch Nacho!  LA Galaxy practice photos - June 5, 2015. Photo by Chandrima Chatterjee

Everyone’s watching Nacho! LA Galaxy practice photos – June 5, 2015. Photo by Chandrima Chatterjee

Moreover, as Ignacio Maganto’s prowess and experience builds, he is more and more looked upon as a steadily rising figure on the pitch to be counted on for results. His first MLS goal and first goal assist in the match against New England leave him and LA’s fans hungry for more.

With Robbie Rogers absent from the Galaxy midfield tomorrow, Juninho will likely feel the pressure of holding LA’s midfield together, and eyes are on the possibility of LA Galaxy II’s rising star and assist leader in the USL, Raul Mendiola, to make a debut.

History’s on the Galaxy’s side – they’ve won all six past encounters at home against the Whitecaps. But we’ll see. This is a new team and as Bruce Arena likes to point out, every game is a new game, history has little to do with the present.

Game time: June 6, 7:30pm Pacific Time. StubHub Center.

Inside Sports Science with LA Galaxy’s Alex Savva

Inside Sports Science with LA Galaxy’s Alex Savva

Last year, LA Galaxy announced the formation of the MLS’ first Sports Science Department, and we had the pleasure of speaking with Alex Savva, manager of the new venture, to learn more about the initiative. It’s a big step incorporating nutrition and exercise science into an overall fitness program for athletes and even bigger when you consider it from a developmental point-of-view. Starting with youth academies and following that player all the way through to a professional league would be a huge boon to healthier and more competitive players, less injuries and overall more fit teams. It could even, over time, increase the caliber of play across the league. An investment in exercise and health science multiplies over time making it an incredibly important first step for any team.

Alex Savva previously worked at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in their sports nutrition program. Savva studied Sports and Exercise Science and obtained his Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology at Loughborough University.

Take a closer look at his role in our YouTube #WUFCInsideSoccer series.

 

 

MLS Match Review: Seattle Sounders 1, Colorado Rapids 0

MLS Match Review: Seattle Sounders 1, Colorado Rapids 0

Welcome to Kyle’s Colorado Corner: Three Thumbs Down, Three Thumbs Up!

I don’t have six thumbs, but have chosen to cover three positives and three negatives from matches to liven up the standard game recap. Feel free to share your own thumbs in the comments, no matter who you were cheering for! I love to hear from the other side, and for that matter, my own brethren (and sis-ren? Is that a word?) Editor’s note: lucky for you, your editor knows Old English and Middle English – brethren and sistren were used in Middle English but the latter was not popularized).

Seattle Sounders' Marco Pappa, second from left, is mobbed by teammates after Pappa scored a goal against the Colorado Rapids in the first half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Seattle. The Sounders beat the Rapids 1-0. TED S. WARREN — The Associated Press
Seattle Sounders’ Marco Pappa, second from left, is mobbed by teammates after Pappa scored a goal against the Colorado Rapids, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Seattle.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP

Last night’s loss pushed the Rapids to 2-3-7, leaving them in 10th place in the Western Conference with 13 points. The Sounders ran their record 7-3-2 and take the top spot.

Three thumbs down:

First thumb down goes to Jared Watts. Please can someone explain to me why he is still playing for the Rapids? I have been watching him since last year and I don’t get it. He didn’t mark Marco Pappa thus Pappa scored. He spent a lot of time on the field chasing the ball not without in any thoughts to keeping formation. To top it off,  he got a yellow card and didn’t contribute a lick of good to the game. Why, Jared Watts, why?

Second thumb down goes to the Rapids’ first half offense, or it would, if there had been any. 25% possession is not enough. Nobody pushed forward for the first forty-five minutes, save for Solignac breaking away a couple of times with no back-up. This kind of play is how we end up with historical numbers of draw games, and it works if the other team doesn’t score, but not so much if they do (see Jared Watts, above).

My third thumb down goes to Colorado’s passing. If you were listening to the Altitude feed, Marcelo Balboa kept talking about the impact of turf on the path of the ball, slowing it down thus magnifying the accuracy of passes. This game, therefore, can serve almost as a magnifying glass for the fact that we honest to goodness aren’t that accurate at passing. Pittinari was passing into open space, passes were flying just a few feet too wide of where they ought to, and players were constantly having to chase the ball.

Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, right, kicks the ball away from Colorado Rapids' Luis Solignac during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Seattle. Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP
Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, right, battles Colorado Rapids’ Luis Solignac, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Seattle. Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP

Three thumbs up:

First thumb up goes to the Rapids’ defense. This game could have gone a lot worse if the defense hadn’t been on point—just as it has for most of the season so far (reference — lots of draws to start the season). In all honesty, however, a 1-0 loss is not a terrible result in Seattle, where the Rapids have never won. Assisted by some seriously off-target Seattle shots and an as-usual great Clint Irwin, the defense was firing on all cylinders despite the captain being out to rest his knee.

Second thumb up goes to the second half change of pace. Whether it was due to subbing Ramirez on, a great pep talk in the locker room—who knows? The possession increased and Ramirez personally had seven shots, one of which was on goal. In the second half the whole team pushed way harder into the other half of the field and the change was palpable.

My last thumb up goes to Luis Solignac. I basically was just really pleased with him playing by himself while he was up top in the starting formation. He was not hesitant to drive forward and actually try to get things going. Even though he didn’t score any goals, I personally liked that he was up there just pushing, especially when the offense was struggling so much in the first half in general.

So who gets your thumbs down and up this game, or where was I completely off target? Be sure to let me know and come back later this weekend for a recap of the Portland game on Saturday!

Thanks! –Kyle

What’s WUFC 2.0?

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Hi! We’re Women. We’re United. We’re…

not technically an FC, because we don’t play soccer together often – it’s hard to get us all together in one physical place. But we are a team across the world that rallies behind the growth and promotion of all things soccer-related, in the US and all over the world. And many of us play soccer or have played at one time in our lives. We began as a supporters club and platform for women to openly discuss soccer, and we’ve grown into a media voice. Our strength lies within a community that has been simmering for years, a national community of women and men who believe in the power of soccer to enhance people’s lives. You know that special sound you hear in a soccer stadium? Close your eyes and imagine yourself being surrounded by that roar, a roar that grows with every minute, as another voice joins in, until years later, that roar of women openly enjoying the most beautiful game in the world along with men bellows across the country and world. Music to our ears. That’s how we see it.

We are a group of women in media who will not only bring you game recaps and player interviews, we will share with you stories of courageous women, athletes, mothers, daughters, coaches and students. We love the men of the game too and with reason – they’ve been some of the biggest supporters of us since the beginning! So, you’ll see lots of MLS and US Soccer news here. At WUFC, we’re about breaking barriers, open dialogue, honest insights and a positive spin on the game that joins us together.

WUFC 2.0 is Media and Community. Join us!

The Media Crew

Kristian Russell
Kristian Russell

“I played soccer for 19 years and fell in love with the beautiful game and the way that it brings people together. I’m a huge LA Galaxy and Liverpool FC fan. During the season I can be found in front of my TV watching a game while explaining to my friends/parents the concept of the sport. I’m mainly yelling at the TV, but they still understand what I’m trying to teach them.” Twitter: @Kristian_16

 

Kyle Rowland
Kyle Rowland

“What do I love most about soccer? The fans. Forget the team on the field — sorry y’all! The game is nothing in a silent stadium with no supporters, tifo, or beer (I prefer cider, #RapidsCiderLife). The fans breathe life into the players, into each other, and into the world. Without fans, the sport is empty.” Twitter: @starrphishe

 

Chandrima
Chandrima

“Soccer brings my soul to life like nothing else — the sights, the sounds, the action, the inspiring athletes all around. You can learn a lot about life and the human spirit from soccer — the good, the bad, the painful and the uplifting. Three people I hold dear brought soccer into my life at different points in my life – my dad, my college next-door neighbor, and my best friend. I definitely associate soccer with love. Which is why I will never let it go.” Twitter: @chandrimatweets

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Adriana Lacy
“When I say that soccer is the beautiful game, I truly mean it. From the players leaving everything on the field, to the fans giving their unwavering support, and the lifelong friends that I’ve made, I am grateful for the game of soccer. It connects people from all corners of the world and unites communities in the best way possible.” Twitter: @Adriana_Lacy
Amy Eustace
Amy Eustace
“I’ve been watching soccer all my life; as a Liverpool fan and then later as a freelance sports writer. Those are two truly different viewpoints for the game, but either way, soccer has taken me around the world and connected me with amazing people. I don’t know who I’d be without it.” Twitter: @AmyEustace

#WomenLoveSoccer