MLS Coverage

The Grass is Always Greener: Turfkeeping in the Beautiful Game

The Grass is Always Greener: Turfkeeping in the Beautiful Game

Leicester City's beautiful surface (BPI/Kieran McManus)
Leicester City’s beautiful surface (BPI/Kieran McManus)

Imagine walking into your favorite soccer stadium and taking a deep breath. What do you smell?

You might smell hot dogs, popcorn, or pizza, depending on what city you’re in. If you’re anything like me, you smell the beer in your hand. And it’s almost certain you smell the grass upon which your favorite team will soon be playing. But what does it take to get the turf to look and smell beautiful?

The shovel brigade working overtime on that fateful Snow Clasico between USMNT and Costa Rica. March 23, 2013. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
The shovel brigade working overtime on that fateful Snow Clasico between USMNT and Costa Rica. March 23, 2013. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Of course, taking care of all that grass is a huge daily job. At MAPFRE Stadium, anywhere from 30-35 hours each week are dedicated to preparing the field for the upcoming home game, and the field has only been replaced once — consider that each Super Bowl field is grown for a full year before the game! StubHub Center’s grounds crew arrives seven hours before each home game to make sure the field is perfect before anyone comes in the gate to see it, and that doesn’t even include the daily mow. The time and equipment required to maintain the natural grass fields depends on the stadium itself and the part of the country as well. Red Bull Arena, for example, has a partial roof to shade spectators, but that shade impacts the growing of the grass, so the groundskeeping team has a total of 285 light bulbs on rigs used to create an even, lush playing surface.

A concert at BBVA Compass Stadium. From the stadium's website.
A concert at BBVA Compass Stadium. Photo courtesy: BBVA Compass Stadium

MLS stadiums often serve as great venues for all kinds of events, so the groundskeeping teams have other customers to cater to as well. At Toyota Stadium in Dallas, the team is lucky enough to have a permanent stage so only flooring needs to be laid down on the pitch, sparing it from stage damage. MAPFRE Stadium hosts a three-day rock-and-roll festival in May — that must be quite a clean-up job (and yet, as I mentioned above, the pitch has only been replaced once!). StubHub Center hosts many events in the middle of the MLS season, and has had to adapt to the schedule. Rest assured, when you go to a concert at your favorite stadium, you will experience the same beautiful turf that your favorite players have come to expect when they step foot on the pitch every gameday.

Of course, like a keeper blocking a penalty kick, the groundskeeping teams are ready for anything. “I remember one scenario where we had a torrential downpour of rain and the field flooded to a point where you could not see any grass,” John Torres, the head groundskeeper at PPL Park, home of the Philadelphia Union, remembers. “Two hours later, the rain had completely drained, leaving a playable pitch.” The Toyota Stadium team reserves the Thursday and Friday before an event for setup, regardless if it’s a match or a high school graduation. Several groundskeepers mentioned the importance of watching the weather, so they know what to prepare for that day and the following days.

So where is your favorite pitch, and why? Is it the pitch from your favorite professional team, or one you spent time on growing up? Maybe next time you’re at the park, take a minute to look at the grass a little bit differently.

Thank you to the Sports Turf Managers’ Association and the following for their participation:

  • Weston Appelfeller, CSFM, Director of Grounds at Columbus Crew SC and Elected-at-Large Director of STMA
  • Shaun Ilten, Director, Turf and Grounds at LA Galaxy
  • Allen Reed, CSFM, Director of Stadium Grounds at FC Dallas
  • Dan Shemesh, Director of Grounds at New York Red Bulls
  • John Torres, Head Groundskeeper at Philadelphia Union
Midweek Clashes of MLS Week 9

Midweek Clashes of MLS Week 9

Week 9 of MLS’ season brought with it three 1-1 draws in a series of midweek games highlighting first goals for a lot of newcomers.

The Vancouver Whitecaps hosted Sporting Kansas City. Cristian Techera’s corner kick was finished by Costa Rica’s Christian Bolańos who netted in his first MLS career goal for Vancouver in the 14th minute. Just 13 minutes later another first goal came, this time for Diego Rubio who tied things up after receiving a ball from Lawrence Olum. A challenge on Rubio meant a second yellow for Kendall Watson right after the second half began which meant the Whitecaps were left with 10 men fighting to keep things at 1-1.

Next Up:

Vancouver face NYCFC at Yankee Stadium Saturday April 30th 4pm ET 

RSL host Houston Dynamo at the RioT Saturday April 30th 9:30pm ET

The New England Revs hosted the MLS Cup defending champs, the Portland Timbers, and their duel ended in another 1-1 draw, the sixth for the Revs this season. The return of Darlington Nagbe to the starting lineup and goals from Jack Barmby plus an own-goal from Jermaine Taylor meant that Portland dominated most of the night at Gillette Stadium.

Next Up:

New England host Orlando City Saturday April 30th 7:30pm ET

Portland host Toronto FC on Sunday May 1st 3:30pm ET

One of the more exciting midweek clashes was NYC’s match against Montreal Impact at Yankee Stadium, but a late-goal by Oduro meant the spoils were split evenly, 1-1. In his first start, RJ Allen scored his first professional goal in the second half but Oduro tied it up in the 91st minute dashing NYCFC’s hopes of ending their winless streak.

Next Up:

NYC will challenge the Vancouver Whitecaps at Yankee Stadium Saturday April 30th 4pm ET

Montreal host Colorado Saturday April 30th 4pm ET

Seven Games — Columbus Crew SC Bounce Back

Seven Games — Columbus Crew SC Bounce Back

Photo courtesy : Columbus Crew SC
Photo courtesy : Columbus Crew SC

After a disappointing start to the 2016 MLS Season, the Columbus Crew head into their week 8 match in Seattle with a 2-3-2 record. While not a winning record, the Crew have gotten a crucial 6 points from the last two games. A quick rundown of their season thus far:

Loss against Portland Timbers

Loss against Philadelphia Union

Tie against Chicago Fire

Tie against FC Dallas

Loss against Montreal Impact

Win against NYCFC

Win against Houston Dynamo

And because I like to think of the happier times, I’ll just concentrate on the wins, with a little rundown of what Columbus Crew SC has been struggling with. The Crew took on the big city men of NYCFC a few weeks ago in a high-scoring 3-2 win. Featuring goals from Ethan Finlay in the 7th minute, Kei Kamara in the 49th minute and Justin Meram in the 80th minute, the Crew looked more like themselves than they had all year. Those three goals and an amazing save from Michael Parkhurst gave the Crew their first win of the year.

In another wild game, the Crew topped Houston Dynamo 1-0. Highlights included a red card for Dynamo keeper Tyler Deric in the 18th minute, Kei Kamara sinking the PK and the Crew finishing the game with a 73.4 percent possession rate, even though they didn’t score another goal.

So, what does it all mean? Their offense is starting to click, except for an absurd amount of offsides calls against the Crew. Wil Trapp is slowly getting back into form, and I’d like to see him be more and more demanding as the weeks progress. It’s all about peaking at the right time in such a long season.  To bring three points back to Columbus from Emerald City will not be an easy task but strong passing and smart defending will get it done! Bring on the heart-shaped hands celebrations!

LA Galaxy Topple Real Salt Lake at StubHub Center 5-2

LA Galaxy Topple Real Salt Lake at StubHub Center 5-2

The two teams with the most undefeated games of the 2016 season to date faced off under a cool spring evening at the StubHub Center for what turned out to be a goal-fest for the home team, as Real Salt Lake fell 5-2 in front of a crowd of 25,867 with goals from Zardes, Magee, Boateng, Dos Santos and Gerrard to answer Martinez’s and Morales’. Let’s just say it was not the day for Nick Rimando who was playing his 4000th MLS game had been hoping for. In the second half alone, he made 6 recoveries.

Although the injury list for LA Galaxy continues to grow – earlier this week Sebastian Lletget and Alan Gordon were both added to the list of absences for LA today after minor injuries sustained during training – the depth of LA’s roster was on display with the emergence of a working partnership between Boateng, Zardes and Magee as their key attacking players. LA’s defensive line held fast after an error by A.J. DeLaGarza that led to RSL’s first goal. Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme and A.J. DeLaGarza’s performances in the first half were exemplary.

Real Salt Lake were missing their 2016 golden son, so there were no chimes of Platita ringing across the airwaves as he couldn’t add to his 4 goal, 4 assist season tally. “Burrito” Martinez also was subbed off at halftime, leaving RSL lacking in finishers. Beyond that RSL’s head coach intimated that they hadn’t prepared for LA’s secret weapon, Emmanuel Boateng.

“I think we just didn’t get enough pressure to Van Damme, mainly. His direct play, whether it was a diagonal or directly over the top, it was causing us a lot of problems. We had been preparing all week to Lletget up there as well, but Boateng throws a different look to their play and we found out obviously today that he wasn’t playing and he was a difference in the way they played. LA was good tonight. Very good. They were firing on all cylinders,” head coach Jeff Cassar admitted.

Baggio Husidic and Steven Gerrard once again paired up in the midfield while Giovani dos Santos played a withdrawn center forward. Real Salt Lake opened up the scoring in the 16th minute with a Martinez header that bested A.J. DeLaGarza in the air. Within minutes, LA responded with a stunning golazo by Gyasi Zardes in the 19th minute that Nick Rimando didn’t have time to respond to as it curled into the back of the net. Seven minutes later, almost from the same spot as Zardes’ earlier shot, Boateng crossed the ball over to Mike Magee who tapped it in for the go-ahead goal.

From then on it was a thrilling first half for LA’s fans, watching newcomer Emmanuel Boateng get his own goal in the 41st minute and Giovani dos Santos chip one in in the final minute of the first half, bringing the score to 4-1 at the half.

“I think we had a great first half; the team showed character in the first 45 minutes. We were able to come back in the first half and I think the second half was just part of the process.”  – Giovani dos Santos.

Much of the steam from the first half was lost in the second, with the play getting uglier, and the penalties stacking up. A series of two PKs taken by Morales gave some hope to the visitors in the 70th minute when one finally made it past Rowe. Steven Gerrard outplayed Rimando after trying all evening, grabbing his own goal in stoppage time, sealing the deal for LA, 5-2. Real Salt Lake, hindered by a breakdown in their attacking lineup, escaped a bit scarred.

“I needed it to make up for the penalty. But credit to their keeper it was a good save. I’d done everything right, but the keeper gambled and went the right way. The performance was good. The last two performances I was really pleased with and it was nice to get the goal at the end to make up for the penalty miss. But the team was sensational today and there’s a lot of positives to take from this one.” – Steven Gerrard.

Garber Addresses AP Sports Editors in Annual Commissioner’s Meeting

Garber Addresses AP Sports Editors in Annual Commissioner’s Meeting

Yesterday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber addressed several issues in his annual Associated Press Sports Editors meeting. Foremost among the topics was, as in years past, the state of MLS expansion.

Expansion!

“Sacramento is MLS ready. They’ve got 9,500 season tickets, good in any pro sports league,” Garber said on Thursday. “There’s not a lot of competition there, and we seem to do better in those markets with less competition. There’s an ownership group that’s solid.”

In the face of growing public criticism over a unwise rate of expansion prior to developing the quality of play behind it, there were signals that his plan has been tempered by realism. He said the current plan is for Atlanta and Minnesota to join in 2017 and LAFC and Miami to join in 2018. The next round of expansions will bring the tally up to 28 MLS teams which would be set by the mid-2020s. The league’s plan is to add 2 teams starting in 2020, and having two more join a couple years afterwards. The commissioner confirmed Sacramento and St. Louis lead a group of potential 2020 expansion cities.

Recently, Cincinnati has made a loud entrance into the USL pulling in more than 35,000 total fans in its first two home games, setting a league record of  20,497 last Sunday. Apparently Cincinnati’s ownership group called Don asking when the club could join MLS. “I said, ‘Well, you’ll have to wait a while,'” Garber mused.

If nothing else, MLS has done a remarkable job at positioning itself in the marketplace as the end all be all of top tier professional men’s soccer, but the reality is 28 teams may not satisfy a hungry public outcry for a team in every metropolitan area. In some ways that is a beautiful thing. Yet, in other ways, there’s reason to worry about teams outpacing each other, balancing a system of parity and single entity with natural market forces. It’s also evident that the magic number of 28, is at least in part, comparable to NFL’s 32 and MLB’s 30 (who just announced their intention to reach 32), albeit both ‘expanded’ at a much more conservative pace than what MLS is striving to stably achieve. It’s a bold plan. Cooperation with and promotion of lower level leagues, grassroots development would be a good option.

U.S. Soccer and MLS – Growing the Game, Together?

Discussion about the growth of the quality of the game and the different objectives of the MLS and USNT brings up murkier waters more difficult to navigate. Rhetoric has been hurled in both directions so keeping track of what their current stance is requires a bit of forgiveness of the past. In Garber’s opinion, the safest approach here is to admit, everyone around the world is getting better (which is true of course). But, then he goes further to drive home the possibility that part of that is because of MLS creating stable playing conditions that help less historically solid nations built stronger programs.

“I think it hurts the overall perception of the men’s game when we’re not able to grow as fast as the sports is growing around the rest of our country. When you strip it all down, I do think our men’s national team is getting better. I think the rest of the world is getting better also, and in many parts of the world getting better faster in places that we didn’t expect. Nobody expected Costa Rica to have the national team that they have. A lot of that has to do with Major League Soccer. There are a lot of Costa Rican players in MLS.” Costa Rica might not have been an obvious choice, but intriguingly, the internationalism of MLS is undeniable. Whether it’s causation or correlation however, is yet to be determined. Currently the league has a total of 246 players born outside the USA and Canada, from 57 different countries. Eight are from Costa Rica.

To Play or Not to Play (in MLS), that’s Still the Question.

Asked what he thought of Klinsmann’s recommendation to USMNT players to join foreign clubs, Don Garber replies, “I have a very different view than our national team coach does.” Don’s belief is that MLS gives “players an opportunity to play day in and day out, lead a team and get lots and lots of reps, as opposed to going overseas to test their courage and test their mettle and maybe not playing.” That brings up some points worth mentioning: 1) Most coaches feel quality, competitive playing time and opportunity create better technical, fast-thinking players. 2) Most coaches also know the best way to bring out a player’s independent creativity is by throwing them into the unknown (at least a little). But, most importantly, 3) Is it worth the risk? The worry is most won’t see playing time overseas. And why not? Time and time again, we hear from MLS coaches that MLS players are more than good enough to build a competitive and world-class U.S. Men’s National Team for the World Cup. Time and time again we hear that MLS is meant to become (or some say already is) a top-tier world league. If that’s all true, then it shouldn’t matter where they play. You’d at least hope that we’d be good enough. Challenges build strength of character, whether they happen in your own backyard or in a country where you don’t speak the language. Personally, I’ve felt that international competition and experience builds leadership and inner strength like very little else can.

The reality is, in this international game, players are imported and exported according to market conditions and we can’t isolate ourselves. If and when MLS is a top league in the global sense, balance will come, or we’ll adjust to be more competitive in other facets, attracting world-class players of all ages from everywhere, not just in the U.S..

Garder readily admits MLS is still in its investment and growth phase, urging caution before overspending. “It doesn’t make economic sense for us because the revenues would not be able to cover the increased costs of being able to have a $100 million roster.”

It’s probably now too late for a truce between Garber/MLS owners and Klinsmann/US Coaches, but a lot of the tension could have been dealt with early on had they merely discussed how to work together towards common short-term (4-8 year) objectives. Klinsmann, for his part, seems to have attempted to explain his side of the global picture lately, and is regularly seen supporting his USMNT players (MLS and non-MLS) on social media as they compete in their respective leagues. Of course, he’ll also come out and criticize them as he feels is needed.

“For example, there is the feeling out there that MLS owners are not really on board, but it’s because I was never given the opportunity to speak in front of them and explain the technical side of what we’re doing with the national teams. So there’s maybe a misconception with some people because I was never given the opportunity to explain, this, this, and this. There are very few people that can explain to you different levels of leagues, different levels of environments, different levels of continents.” – Jurgen Klinsmann.

Instant replay.

“We’ve raised our hand and waved it really really loudly that we want to be one of the test leagues.” Don Garber and Abbott both said that the USL could begin experimenting with video replay as early as this season.

Equal Pay? NWSL and MLS?

Don Garber indicated that he does have an opinion on this issue, yet quickly sidestepped a clear yes or no. “I’m confident we will do the right thing. We need to be on the right side of history here.”

How exactly will NWSL and MLS work together in the future and will it look like Orlando, Portland and Houston with MLS investing in NWSL teams? As NWSL continues it’s rise and passes into a sustainable phase, many have wondered where MLS will participate if at all. NWSL alone may not be able to maintain or raise the level of pay, attendance and merchandising, but this is where MLS/SUM are at their best.

“Our goal is to raise the overall perception of professional soccer in this country–both men’s and women’s, our leagues and others. I think as the women’s game gets more and more popular, it just makes sense for teams that have the infrastructure to add NWSL teams.”

Garber was vague in his timeline and specifics, but echoed recent comments with “I think you’ll see, very soon, half of our clubs launching and managing women’s teams. When and how and what the specifics are, I don’t know.”

Everyone wants a piece of the soccer pie. Let’s see if we can split it up a little more fairly.

 

feature photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

MLS Week 5 Culminates with Portland Crippled by an Injured LA.

MLS Week 5 Culminates with Portland Crippled by an Injured LA.

LA Galaxy – 1 (own-goal, Nat Borchers – 84′)

Portland Timbers – 1 (Fanendo Adi, assist to Valeri – 52′)

Yellow cards – Nat Borchers (17′), Nigel de Jong (73′), Ned Grabavoy (88′), Diego Chara (90′ + 2′)

Match Recap:

As Nagbe was wheeled off the pitch at the close of the final game of MLS’ week six the melancholy reverberated across the stadium. This was no small battle that had occurred. Implications will be felt by referees, MLS’ disciplinary committee, fans, players and the USMNT. The match between two MLS champions brought out a lot of rivalry on the pitch and in the stands, and while it began with some intense but balanced physical plays, it devolved into a showdown of challenges that culminated with Darlington Nagbe being stretchered off the pitch after a Nigel de Jong challenge followed by an own-goal from Borchers to level the scoreline at 1-1, and a devolving sense of desperation for a winning goal towards the end. LA Galaxy, played as expected — strong throughout the midfield and back line minus an unexpected injury of Robbie Rogers, who was replaced in the early minutes by Rafael Garcia, and a less-than-stellar performance up in the front attacking third, where Gyasi Zardes only managed to eek out two efforts on goal. DP Giovani dos Santos returned to LA’s lineup in his first starting appearance since their opening game against DC United.

The first half was dominated by mostly timid LA Galaxy goal efforts but the Timbers back line cemented itself slowly as the minutes went by and Adam Kwarasey was able to shake LA’s offense with relative ease. While the Galaxy had the majority of the possession in the first half and numerous attempts at a goal, only 3 out of 7 were on target and those three were softly hit directly to Adam Kwarasey. The Timbers still had difficulty breaking down LA’s defense, in spite of a 7th minute substitution of Robbie Rogers. Brian Rowe had an easy first half.

No one predicted how quickly the tables would turn in the second half. Portland’s deft passing throughout the midfield in the 52nd minute, led to a sequence between Nagbe, Valeri and Adi who didn’t feel threatened by Rafael Garcia’s inability to close him down. Adi hit a beautiful curled ball past Rowe into the back of the net for the game’s first goal. What followed next was a series of back and forth between the two teams, with again all LA’s efforts shut down or off target. The finishing was simply not there for the hosts. But it didn’t end up mattering much, after the controversial yellow card on Nigel de Jong for a studs up tackle debilitating Nagbe in the 73rd minute which he immediately apologized for, the match took a turn for the worse. A minute later, Nat Borchers dove to head a ball away from goal to watch it go around Kwarasey to bring the Galaxy level. Each team takes a point but no one was the winner tonight. They both face Texas titans next.

LA Galaxy heads to Houston for a match Friday at BBVA Compass.

The Timbers play on Wednesday, hosting FC Dallas at Providence Park.

Busy night for Portland's defense. They handled it.
Busy night for Portland’s defense. They handled it.

How They Lined Up:

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 12.34.03 PM

Portland played a defensively strong match in response to their earlier defeats this season and the tactic worked. “At the end of the year, we were playing 4-3-3 and to make a 4-3-3 work, you have to have every piece working together and the pattern in the last three game prior to this game was that it just wasn’t working. We were giving up too many goals. It’s the old insanity, right? You can keep doing the same thing and expect a different result or you can evaluate your system. With [Liam] Ridgewell out and Jorge not in – even Rodney, who is a guy that brings defending and fighting power – those are three pieces. So you can say it’s only three and we return the majority of the group, but those are three pieces, three pieces that bring a lot of defending.” – Coach Caleb Porter.

LA Galaxy’s starting lineup is all about continuing to cope with injuries now. This is the time to test the depth of their bench and the youngsters of Los Dos. It’s fairly likely de Jong will receive a retroactive red card and fair to say that Robbie Rogers’ injury takes him out for the coming week(s). “It’s all part of the game. It happens every year. Sometimes they come quickly, sometimes they’re spread out,” Bruce Arena reflects. “It’s all part of it; you’re never going to go without injuries. It’s all part of the game unfortunately. It’s a part of the game we don’t like, but it’s a part of the game.”

The thought was that perhaps returning Giovani dos Santos would be a true number 10 in this match, but the reality was different. LA will need him to step up to cover as much playing ground as Zardes if he’s truly more comfortable in a forward role until Robbie Keane’s return.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 2.10.38 PM


Key Moments:

no surprise here…everything changed in an instant.

but it was also this…

or this?

Soccer Twitter banter - at its worst.
Soccer Twitter banter – at its worst.

Tweet of the Match


Photo of the Match:


Quote of the Match:

 


Man of the Moment:

Magic Mike Magee has to do a bit of PR to Rescue his Team from being Shredded by the Court of Media and Public Opinion.

Via MLS.com: http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/04/11/stuart-holden-comments-nigel-de-jong-s-foul-darlington-nagbe-fs1
Via MLS.com: http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/04/11/stuart-holden-comments-nigel-de-jong-s-foul-darlington-nagbe-fs1

 

U.S. Women Make Their Point on the Pitch with a 7-0 Win Over Colombia

U.S. Women Make Their Point on the Pitch with a 7-0 Win Over Colombia

MATCH RECAP

Last night, in the frozen tundra of East Hartford, Connecticut, in front of 21,792 loyal fans, the U.S. Women’s Soccer team dominated 2015 Women’s World Cup opponents, Seleccion Colombia, in a blistering 7-0 goal-fest. The friendly marked the first of a 2-game series with Colombia, the next being this Sunday at Talon Energy Stadium, the home of the Philadelphia Union. Precautionary measures took Alex Morgan and Morgan Brian out of the lineup, allowing for a slight adjustment to the starting lineup and the inclusion of Portland Thorns’ Allie Long for her first appearance for USWNT since August 2014 and giving Washington Spirit’s U-23 star Crystal Dunn a spot up top. In the ensuing action, Long tallied two goals and Dunn recorded 2 assists and her own goal. For the first 15 minutes though, things appeared to be going as well as they could for a shaky Colombian team, crippled by a lack in wages – they are paid a daily stipend for some expenses, but no salary, and have been in training together for the past four months for free. Let that sink in. Thus it was no surprise to see the world’s foremost team defeat their counterparts netting four goals within 12 minutes in the first half, and another 3 in the second. It could have been worse if Colombia’s Catalina Perez hadn’t made 5 saves during the course of the match. Diana Ospina and Leicy Santos provided Las Cafeteras’ two best efforts on goal but both were easily saved by Hope Solo. This year, the USWNT are 10-0-0 with a 39-1 goal differential. In spite of the record, in spite of the championships, in spite of the consistency with which they perform, the shadow of their legal battles over wage discrimination follows not far behind.

“I’m really good friends with Yorely Rincón. I wasn’t sure if they were going to come over here and play. It’s just really a shame to know they haven’t been paid in four months, especially coming off a great World Cup, and they get paid $70 a day and they’re not even getting that. It’s hard for me to understand, having them come off a great World Cup run and then to be told that all the money is going to the men. We want to help other countries out. I know Australia is fighting as well. All these teams just need the support of their federations and we have been very lucky over the years to have the support of our federation. But I think that in order for us to continue to grow, we have to keep fighting as well. So we’re trying to set the standard and get what we deserve and I hope that all these other countries get what they deserve as well.” – Carli Lloyd. 

Every time the USWNT win, it shines a light on them, casting a greater shadow on the future. Now, with the world watching, with women’s teams across the globe carefully following the legal play-by-play, with other soccer federations undergoing increasing scrutiny for their own discriminatory practices, although the salary that the U.S. Soccer Women’s team is fighting for is their own, the reality is that this battle is just the first fight of a much greater impending war.

We want equality in everything – not only in salaries, but in support.” – Yoreli Rincón. 


QUOTE OF THE MATCH

“I don’t think anything impacts them in terms of what they’re willing to bring to training or to the pitch. I don’t think that’s in the front of their minds. These women, it’s their profession, they’ve embraced it. They don’t think in terms of dollars as they’re competing or playing. I think certainly as a female, and in terms of the broader scope, any time you are advancing the female capacity to earn in evey walk of life, that it is a positive because there are inequalities in life. That’s something our women have chosen to pursue and I think for them it’s what they need to do. It’s allowing other players and other federations to see what they’re willing to do.” – Jill Ellis, on how wage discrimination issues affects the quality of the game.


HOW THE USWNT LINED UP

“We showed we can play a 4-3-3” – Captain Carli Lloyd.  Although that’s what it was technically, once things got started, the fluidity of attack meant interchanging parts effortlessly while maintaining shape in defense blocking all Colombia’s efforts to launch a successful attack of their own.

After a few hiccups in the first minutes, balancing the midfield with the attack became smooth sailing once they settled down. Once Crystal Dunn and Carli Lloyd were able to find their synchronicity, “it was staying connected with each other… Mallory and Tobin didn’t leave me on an island,” Crystal Dunn explained in post-game.


SCORING SUMMARY

USA: Dunn (Lloyd), 27th.

USA: Long (Horan), 32nd.

USA: Pugh (Lloyd), 33rd.

USA: Lloyd (Pugh), 39th.

USA: Heath (Dunn), 62nd.

USA: Long (Johnston), 65th.

USA: Press (Dunn), 74th.


KEY MOMENT OF THE MATCH

The moment Crystal Dunn finally broke through off an assist from Lloyd in the 27th minute, Colombia began revealing the pitfalls of lack of adequate support from their federation in infrastructure


TWEET OF THE MATCH

This is what it’s all about. 

Week 2 MLS Highs and Lows in Review

Week 2 MLS Highs and Lows in Review

The start of the season always brings with it some wildly unexpected moments and this past weekend was not one to disappoint. Here are our top picks:

Philadelphia Union Shock Columbus Crew in a Historic Home Opener at MAPFRE.

Chris Pontius #13 of the Philadelphia Union celebrates after scoring a goal in the first half against against the Columbus Crew SC on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. March 12, 2016| Credit: Jamie Sabau
Chris Pontius #13 of the Philadelphia Union celebrates after scoring a goal in the first half against against the Columbus Crew SC on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
March 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau

Andre Blake’s breakout performance saved Philadelphia six times and is likely the main reason for the Union’s first road win in the history of the series. Columbus Crew had won the previous seven meetings at MAPFRE Stadium. It was the second week he was forced to perform, albeit the Union lost at home 2-0 last week, he still he parried away eight shots by FC Dallas. The star performance came from the former DC United fixture Chris Pontius who scored his first brace since June 24, 2012. Chris Pontius had suffered recurring setbacks from a nagging hamstring injury since 2012 interspersed with flashes of brilliance in recovery. His best performance was in 2012, when he scored 12 goals and grabbed seven assists, helping lead D.C. United to the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship. Could Philly be the new opportunity he’s been looking for? His eye for lynchpin plays will contribute a great deal to to key passes and offensive creativity. His first goal came as a result of eyeing ball-watching off a throw-in allowing him to easily tap the ball past Columbus’ goalkeeper Steve Clark in first half stoppage time. His second came off a play from Le Toux to Ilsinho who Crew’s Parkhurt closed down, but the clearance fell upon Pontius who quickly netted the second and winning goal for Philadelphia. Kei Kamara’s response goal wasn’t enough to give Columbus Crew their home opener victory, a win that seemed all but impossible to lose to an underdog like the Union. Perhaps this is the year when Philadelphia Union will shed that defeatist title that’s been haunting them for years.

It’s Not All About Amarikwa’s Stunning Goal of the Week in San Jose!

San Jose Earthquakes forward Quincy Amarikwa (25) celebrates a first half goal as the Portland Timbers take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Photo by Scot Tucker/SFBay
San Jose Earthquakes forward Quincy Amarikwa (25) celebrates a first half goal as the Portland Timbers take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif. Sunday, March 13, 2016. Photo credit: Scot Tucker/SFBay

In what was a complete team effort, two fantastic goals and a solid defense, the San Jose Earthquakes were victorious at home securing a crucial 2-1 win over the 2015 MLS Cup champions on Sunday afternoon. In first-half stoppage time, Amarikwa, in his first goal at Avaya Stadium since being re-signed, not only slammed a 35-yard golazo over Timber’s Kwarasey, he set the new team record for longest strike.

The first goal of the night came from Mr. MLS Consistency himself, Chris Wondolowski, who gave the Earthquakes a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute yesterday, and also scored the only goal during last week’s match against the Colorado Rapids. Yesterday marked his 111th goal in career play and he’s well on the way to retaining the 10+ goals per season performance for a seventh consecutive year.

The Earthquakes back four also handily managed an onslaught from Portland’s offense which wasn’t going quietly outshooting them 16 to 8.

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Kip Colvey, Marvell Wynne dealt with the Timbers wingers while Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson handled the middle. The late goal from Portland’s Jack McInerney was a momentary lapse in San Jose’s otherwise spot-on back line. The afternoon match ended quite differently than what Portland would have predicted.

New York is Blue? NYCFC Feeling a Bit Blue Maybe.

Photo credit: Pablo A. Ortiz / Grupo NM
Photo credit: Pablo A. Ortiz / Grupo NM

We don’t think NYCFC just learned how to soccer, as was the prevailing wind on Twitter yesterday, but there is a marked change from the confusion of cluttered stars of last season as it appears the pieces are falling into place. Many who came to the sold-out match at Yankee Stadium assumed Toronto FC’s Giovinco would blow NYC out of the water, and not for lack of trying, he was only able to help secure a comeback tie. Captain David Villa dealt New York City FC’s brace but they began losing the 2 goal lead in the final moments of the first half. Villa’s first goal was a penalty kick in the 23rd minute after Marky Delgado fouled Tommy McNamara in the box. A booming cheer came from the 30,315 fans for their first home goal. Five minutes later Villa again scored off a free kick from Andrea Pirlo. It felt like a win was nearly certain.

But Giovinco’s free kick to Damien Perquis at the end of the first half put Toronto FC on the board and, in the 77th min scored one of his own to tie the match 2-2. After a frenzied final 7 minutes with both teams pressing for a game winner, the final whistle brought Opening Day at Yankee Stadium to a conclusion with a draw.

Patrick Vieira began his era with a dramatic 4-3 win away to the Chicago Fire. Yesterday’s match was further proof that he intends to shake things up. While the New York Red Bulls drop points two weeks in a row, although New York isn’t blue or red yet, it’s at least a relevant question worth asking.

Derby in Texas Was a Blast… Unless You’re From Dallas…

Photo Credit: Michael Minasi
Photo Credit: Michael Minasi

Definitely next time Houston and Dallas face-off in this classic, it’ll be a quick sellout. After a blistering 5-0 emphatic win over FC Dallas, we could hardly recognize the former leaders of the West and their 20-year-old wonder goalkeeper. Until last weekend, the Dynamo were 0-7 in the series over the past three seasons, conceding 23 goals. After a complete restructuring of the Houston side, and perhaps a little overconfidence on Dallas’ part, the Dynamo are proving that you can put the fun back in the game. While Philadelphia Union is probably kicking themselves a bit for it, Andrew Wenger played a hand (or foot rather) in three of the five Dynamo goals, with two assists and one goal. Last week, Wenger had a lot to say about the special dynamic the team. “Even before we scored the goal, it was fun the movement we had on the field and the way we hunted the ball,” Wenger reflected. “When you have a team working together like that, it’s special.”

We wouldn’t worry too much about FC Dallas or Jesse Gonzales just yet. Away matches are a completely different beast than home matches in the under the Frisco sun.

  • 6′ — HOU — David Horst (Andrew Wenger)
  • 13′ — HOU — Matt Hedges (OG)
  • 23′ — HOU — Ricardo Clark (Andrew Wenger)
  • 27′ — HOU — Andrew Wenger
  • 85′ — HOU — Will Bruin (Leonel Miranda)
It’s early. But that’s why we love it. Anything, literally anything, can and will happen.
THE LATE SHOW WITH TORONTO FC

THE LATE SHOW WITH TORONTO FC

The first game of MLS’ twenty-first season was not much of a spectacle for 80 minutes.  MLS fans would have better spent their time watching the goal fest that was NYCFC’s 4-3 win at Chicago, or the red card fueled but comeback of Orlando and RSL’s 2-2 draw.  The TorontoFC-NYRB match wasn’t boring, with both teams vying in a strong contest for three points, but it lacked something to make the scoreboard change till late in the game with Toronto finishing 2-0.

That happened when Kemar Lawrence took down rookie Tsubasa Endoh in the eighty-second minute, and once last year’s MVP Sebastian Giovinco stepped at the spot and shot it past the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year in Luis Robles, the game was in Toronto’s control.

“We got to see today why Giovinco was last year’s MVP,” Robles told reporters at a press conference after the match.  Clearly, the Atomic Ant had picked up from where he left off five months earlier.  Even before the Canadians took control, the match leaned towards the home side’s direction, as they dominated possession, 62% to Toronto’s 38%.  As the Red Bulls got close to Clint Irwin’s goal on multiple occasions, their opponents from the north kept their defensive hold and waited patiently.  Finally, their chance came with the penalty call, followed by Marco Delgado’s 90th minute goal to lock up three points for Toronto.

“It went to plan,” Irwin told his team’s media outlets.  “We wanted to frustrate them and take our chances when we got them,” he added.  These were a very important three points for Toronto as they begin an eight match stretch of away games while their home of BMO Field gets some updates.

Toronto captain Michael Bradley noted that it was a tough victory, telling Toronto’s media team that the three points were coming against “one of the best teams in the league.”  If anything, this result shows that this year’s Toronto FC is one to take seriously.  Fresh off their first-ever playoff match, the team added league veterans in Irwin, Steven Beitashour, and Drew Moor, all reliable defensive players for a team who leaked goals in past years. They also bolstered their attack through the SuperDraft with Endoh, who clearly made a difference in clinching the win for the Reds.

Is it still early?  Sure. After all, the season Toronto made their “big bloody deal” by signing Jermain Defoe, they got an away win in Seattle to open the season, and then missed out on the playoffs by the time October rolled around. But with only one game under their belts and three points to their name, we can’t write them off just yet.

To the Red Bulls’ credit, they were strong, but lacked in the final third.  But head coach Jesse Marsch doesn’t see the need for a total restructuring before their trip to Montreal next week.  “Today’s result doesn’t change my opinion of anything.  We have a good group,” Marsch shared at the post match press conference.  The Red Bulls snapped their run of 23 straight regular season matches without being shut out, but it is early for one of the highest scoring teams in MLS’ recent history.  Designated Player Gonzalo Veron has had a bright preseason after signing for the team last summer, and though he couldn’t participate in today’s match due to injury, he’ll be back in a matter of weeks.

There are still 2970 minutes left to play in the 2016 MLS regular season, and so there’s only so much to make of these first 90 minutes.  But there are positives to take for both teams and a lot still to happen.

Columbus Crew is ready for liftoff!

Columbus Crew is ready for liftoff!

Excitement for the 2016 Columbus Crew SC Season Builds

The Columbus Crew SC start off their 2016 campaign today at 4:30 p.m. (Eastern) on ESPN against the heartbreakers of the Portland Timbers. After a devastating loss in the 2015 MLS Cup, this rematch should be a good one. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this season!

“New” Designated Player Kei Kamara

I’m excited to have not only a healthy but happy Kamara on the squad. After holding out for the money he deserves for being last year’s co-lead goal scorer in the league with 22 goals. Can lightning strike twice? I sure hope Kamara can have a repeat performing year, the more heart-shaped hands, the better.

A Strong Core

Wil Trapp and Ethan Finlay along with Federico Higuain, Tony Tchani and Justin Meram will make for a strong midfield and front line. New names like Ola Kamara (yep, we now have two, unrelated Kamaras) and Emil Larsen will help round out the already solid returning roster.

The defense is the biggest question mark to me, with Michael Parkhurst leading the way. I think if we can get a solid and consistent backline, it will make for a fun season!

So, what happened in pre-season? A lot of ties and one loss. What does it all mean? There are a million things you could gather from the pre-season, but I always think it’s best to see how the actual season goes.

Jersey Drama

Another announcement that had everyone up in arms was the new away kit announcement. What do you think? 

The Atmosphere

I’m excited to get back to MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus! This is my fourth season as a season ticket holder and I’m ready to find my place among the multiple supporters groups! The diversity makes for an interesting Nordecke experience. A new supporters section, Capital Side Columbus, has also popped up this year.

Columbus Crew SC at Portland Timbers

I’m hoping for a good game. Portland will definitely have the atmosphere on its side for this match. I’m looking for a solid game from the midfield and especially Kamara with his new motivation.

As excited as I am for the kick-off of the season, I’m ready for the home opener next Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES SEASON PREVIEW

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES SEASON PREVIEW

The 2016 season is here and the San Jose Earthquakes open up their 2016 campaign at home against the Colorado Rapids. The Quakes narrowly missed the playoffs last season ending the season with a 13-8-13 record and 34 points on the season. With a long off-season, the Quakes had plenty of time to regroup and prepare for 2016.
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While some teams have been wheeling and dealing to sign new players, the Quakes front office has not been very active with signings. The Quakes were able to sign journeyman, Chad Barrett in late December as a free agent. Shortly after the new year, it was announced that Simon Dawkins would be returning to the club for the first time since 2012. Dawkins will be a welcome addition to the roster, as he was a key player in the Quakes wildly successful 2012 season when they won the Supporters Shield. The Quakes also managed to sign Andrés Imperiale, an Argentinian defender coming from Deportivo Suprissa. Goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell is the Quakes only signing from this year’s MLS Superdraft. Many questioned why the team went after a goalkeeper when depth is needed in many other areas. It’s speculated that Coach Dominic Kinnear is preparing to have a solid backup in case David Bingham is called up to the U.S. National Team again. The most recent signing has been attacking midfielder, Alberto Quintero, on loan from Club de Fútbol Lobos de la Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. During the off-season the Quakes said goodbye to Mike Fucito, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Khari Stephenson, Paulo Renato, Tomas Gonzalez, Leonardo Barerra, and JJ Koval.

The Quakes have played a number of preseason games in front of their fans this year. In late January, they played their U-18 academy team in front of their season ticket holders. The first half saw the regular starters premiering their new away kits and sponsor for the 2016 season. The starters were only able to notch one goal during the half. During the second half, the players fighting to earn a position this season turned up the goals notching 7 goals!

On February 13th, the Quakes traveled to Las Vegas to face rival LA Galaxy in a 1-0 loss at Cashman Field. February 20th, the team traveled to Sacramento to play their USL affiliates, Sacramento Republic FC. After letting in an early goal, the Quakes were able to come back and win the game 2-1 with a brace from Quincy Amerikwa. Their final match was against NASL’s New York Cosmos back at Avaya Stadium with the Quakes taking a 1-0 second-half goal victory.

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While some Earthquakes fans are struggling to get excited about the upcoming season, the Quakes have some exciting things ahead for 2016. Shortly after the home opener on March 6th, the Quakes face D.C. United on April 2nd for the 20th anniversary of MLS’s inaugural game on April 6, 1996. Another big event is the annual Stanford Cali Clasico on June 25 against the LA Galaxy. This will continue the tradition of hosting over 50,000 soccer fans, military appreciation night and post-game fireworks. While not only related to the San Jose Earthquakes but the entire MLS, Avaya Stadium is hosting this year’s MLS All Star Game along with the Chipotle Homegrown Game. This year’s opponent will be ELP powerhouse Arsenal.

The San Jose Earthquakes open their 2016 campaign 12 pm PT at Avaya Stadium on March 6th

*all photos and article are by Heather Hendricks

2015 MLS Pre-Season Begins!

2015 MLS Pre-Season Begins!

Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day. I got a beautiful feeling everything’s going MLS’ way. The MLS pre-season kicked off today with a flurry of activity both snow-related and soccer-packed!

Some were just ready to get working right away…

Some were ready to show off their new threads. That’s a hot red RSL!

Million dollar smiles trying to distract us from that Ashley Cole announcement the entire league has been anticipating…

Some teams were all about their medicals and fitness tests…

What’s a pre-season opening day without an AFCChampionship wager?

Because everything’s better with the Minions.

Houston Dynamo and its supporters announced that they will be moving the new “Zona Naranja” in sections 215-17 on the north end of the stadium.

Some were wearing hard hats? But hey, whatever it takes to get this reconstruction process moving along.

Some are actually planning a move! Construction on Vancouver’s state-of-the-art National Soccer Development Centre (NSDC) fieldhouse is underway (a year ahead of schedule!).

We’re still confused about this one… but hey, watch out for the man in black.

Brek… Did anyone ever figure it out?

Also, you will be graded. Soccer Smart quiz scores will most likely replace SAT scores at least in our world.

DC has the right idea… get out of dodge.

NYCFC too. Get out of Jonas’ path right away.

Dom, being Dom. Doing Dom things like being more popular than his team’s social media account and extending National Hug Day because he can.

Breaking… NYC is still RED. Unless the blue team can prove otherwise.

And FC Dallas being just awesome – opening their first official training day, to the public. That’s class.

MLS Superdraft 2016 – Live blog archived

MLS Superdraft 2016 – Live blog archived

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Long considered the ‘start’ of the MLS season, SuperDraft day is finally here.

Quick points to keep in mind:

  1. There’s a consensus top pick although his showing at the MLS Combine wasn’t stellar. Defender Joshua Yaro, a junior at Georgetown University, stands above the rest in most mock drafts. Yaro was named the Big East’s 2015 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s a Generation adidas* player, which means he won’t count against the salary cap (bonus!).
  2. Other top prospects include Stanford left fullback Brandon Vincent and Toronto native Richie Laryea, a midfielder with the University of Akron who led his school in scoring (11 goals) and was second in assists with seven.
  3. *NCAA underclassmen are especially attractive draft options since they’ve already signed Generation adidas contracts with MLS and therefore don’t count against the league’s salary cap.Generation adidas players usually earn a much higher salary than the league minimum.Generation adidas players in this draft class include: goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell (Clemson), midfielders Omar Holness (North Carolina), Jack Harrison (Wake Forrest), Richie Laryea (University of Akron) and Julian Buescher (Syracuse) and forward Fabian Herbers (Creighton), and defender Joshua Yaro (Georgetown).
  4. Chicago FC has number 1 pick… but let’s face it, are they really going to be happy to use that spot for a defender? Considering how 2015 went for them, they’re in need of some heavy hitting scorers so our prediction is they trade that coveted player for some goodies. There are a few teams out there who would take Yaro with their arms wide open.
  5. The full list of eligible players tomorrow.
  6. You all know how I feel about a well-educated man (ahem, a certain former Stanford player…) so top of my list is Harrison. He’s ranked #2 pick by most MLS mock drafts…. Harrison said he wants to continue his education at Wake Forest. A clause in his Generation adidas contract with the MLS calls for his education to be paid for once he resumes classes. Smart and a well-played move. He’s mentioned NYCFC as a team he’d like to play for, and they could use this 19-year-old winger. So we’ll see.

The order for round 1:

Round 1

  1. Chicago
  2. Philadelphia (traded from Colorado in exchange for general allocation money)
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Chicago (traded from NYCFC — they received Harrison!)
  5. Real Salt Lake
  6. Philadelphia (Philadelphia acquired the pick from Houston via a trade on 12/07/15)
  7. Orlando
  8. San Jose
  9. Toronto FC
  10. New England
  11. DC United (SKC traded their spot for TAM)
  12. Colorado Rapids (LA Galaxy traded it in exchange for TAM on 1/14/2015) 
  13. Orlando (D.C. United traded it in exchange for 12th pick in the second round (32nd overall) and TAM)
  14. Montreal
  15. Colorado Rapids (Chicago traded this spot but before that, Seattle traded for general allocation money and a player to be named later)
  16. Vancouver
  17. FC Dallas
  18. NY Red Bulls
  19. Columbus
  20. Portland

We updated this in real-time on January 14th live from Baltimore, MD at the MLS SuperDraft! 

12:55pm: Mumble, mumble. Bruce Arena has left the building after the announcement that Mike Magee is heading back to LA… #dropthemicBruce

Right on time, every year, Don Garber gets heckled, and a mixture of boos and claps as he starts. I’ll never understand it. If you’re here at the SuperDraft, you’re a fan of MLS. Just clap.

1:10pm: First pick is, midfielder Jack Harrison!!! My first pick too. Jack is heading to Chicago Fire. They need that too, much more than they needed Yaro.*

1:15pm: Union select Generation Adidas defender Joshua Yaro… most saw him as the top pick for Chicago. This could be a great pairing with their back line.

1:20pm: Somewhere taking a photo of him I bet… Jonathan Tannenwald is happy and confused. Philadelphia take another defender from Georgetown: Keegan Rosenberry.

1:26pm: Announcement: NYCFC trade their pick to Chicago Fire: Stanford left fullback Brandon Vincent, who is now at the USMNT camp in Carson, California.

1:32pm: 5th overall pick. RSL select midfielder Omar Holness (North Carolina)

1:35pm: 6th pick: Philadelphia Union select forward Fabian Herbers (Creighton University)

1:39pm: Orlando City pick midfielder Richie Laryea (University of Akron) – another Generation Adidas player. Solid choice.

1:43pm:  Sounders trade 15th overall pick and general allocation to Chicago for a player to be named later.

8th overall pick today: San Jose Earthquakes select goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell (Clemson)

*Congratulations Jack Harrison on officially heading to NYCFC!

9th pick: Toronto FC select University of Maryland’s Tsubasa Endoh. I love his story. If you have a moment, please read his story.

10th pick: New England Revolution selects defender Jordan McCrary (University North Carolina, Chapel Hill). Jordan was NSCAA Third Team All-South Region.

SKC take extra time… first extra time today. Hey that’s a good thing. Things were going so smoothly thus far. Too smooth.

2pm: Trade announcement: SKC trade the 11th pick to DC United in exchange for TAM, and DC United select Syracuse midfielder Julian Buescher. Julian is a Generation Adidas player.

Colorado trade #2 allocation ranking and 12th overall pick for today and #2 second round to Chicago Fire.

Chicago Fire get 12th pick and 22nd pick. Chicago go on to select UNC’s Jonathan Campbell. Jonathan is a Tar Heel with a lot of foresight. He’s an honor student and has always kept his head level with his reality. “I think that’s the key thing in MLS — it’s that those first years are crucial, and you want to go somewhere that they can use you and play you. So in that regard, I don’t have a preference of where I go. I just want to get experience.”

Forgive me for a little slowdown. I was busy speaking with the Galaxy’s Coach Sarachan 😉

13th pick: Orlando City S.C. select University of Central Florida, forward Hadji Barry. He was merely 13 years old when he came to the United States from Guinea in West Africa, and hasn’t seen his family since 2006, but today he dedicated his success to them.

14th pick: Montreal Impact pick Clemson’s Kyle Fisher. Kyle ended his college career with NSCAA First Team All-American and First Team All-South awards and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

15th pick: Colorado Rapids select Georgetown midfielder Emmanuel Appiah (University of Cincinnati).

16th pick: Vancouver Whitecaps select Cole Seiler, a staple of Georgetown’s defense. It’s a good day for the Hoyas.

17th pick: FC Dallas select Goalkeeper Ryan Herman from University of Washington.

18th pick: New York Red Bulls select Southern Illinois defender Justin Bilyeu.

19th pick: Columbus Crew select midfielder Rodrigo Saravia from Florida Gulf Coast University.

20th pick: Portland Timbers select Syracuse’s Korab Syla.

Summary coming from Adriana and me a bit later today! Stay tuned.

MLS 21st Season Schedule Announced!

MLS 21st Season Schedule Announced!

Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com
Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com

The 21st season of Major League Soccer kicks off on March 6th with all 10 matches, including four nationally broadcast marquee matches.  We’ll get a rematch of the 2015 MLS Cup Final, pitting the Timbers against Columbus Crew. The Seattle Sounders FC face rivals Sporting Kansas City. Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s open at home opener against Montreal Impact in a Canadian duel. LA Galaxy and historic rivals DC United close out the opening night.

The rest of the season plays out methodically. Each team plays inter-conference opponents 2-3 times, and intra-conference 1 time. All in all, the teams with the poorest road results in 2015 are predicted to have the toughest schedule, with Colorado and LA topping the list, and NYCFC having the ‘easiest’ of times.

The two 2016 editions of Rivalry Week will take place on the weekends of May 20-22 and August 26-28.

Heineken Rivalry Week: May 20-22
May 20: Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United (7 pm ET, UniMás)
May 21: NYCFC vs. NY Red Bulls (3 pm ET, FOX) — part of FOX’s double-header along with the FA Cup Final.
May 22: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (4:30 pm ET, ESPN)
May 22: LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes (7 pm ET, FS1)

Heineken Rivalry Week: Aug. 26-28

Aug. 26: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids (8 pm ET, UniMás)
Aug. 27: Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas (TBD)
Aug. 27: Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact (TBD)
Aug. 28: NY Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution (2:30 pm ET, ESPN)
Aug. 28: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders (5 pm ET, ESPN)
Aug. 28: Orlando City vs. NYCFC (7 pm ET, FS1)

The AT&T MLS All-Star game in Avaya Stadium during the final week in July, will be back on ESPN, as well as UniMas, TSN and RDS.

MLS action will air nationally on FOX with four matches on FOX and another 30 games on FS1, most of which are on Sundays. ESPN’s MLS coverage on Sunday afternoons with 28 games on ESPN and five on ESPN2 as well as on ESPN Deportes and streamed live on WatchESPN and in Spanish on ESPN Deportes+.

How’d the teams fare in terms of coverage for tv audiences? Seattle, LA, DC, NY, KC, Portland, Orlando and San Jose all get their fare share but many are once again left out in the cold – including RSL, Columbus, Colorado, Chicago, Philly, New England, Dallas and the Canadian MLS teams who should be covered by TSN.

Vancouver: 1 Unimas, 1 ESPN, 1 FS1, 3 total
Seattle: 0 Unimas, 7 ESPN, 7 FS (Incl. 1 FOX), 14 total
Portland: 0 Unimas, 8 ESPN, 7 FS (Incl. 2 Fox), 15 total
San Jose: 7 Unimas, 1 ESPN, 2 FS, 10 total
LA: 4 Unimas, 7 ESPN, 6 FS, 17 total
RSL: 3 Unimas, 0 ESPN, 1 FS, 4 total
Colorado: 1 Unimas, 1 ESPN, 0 FS, 2 total
Houston: 6 Unimas, 2 ESPN, 0 FS, 8 total
Dallas: 2 Unimas, 1 ESPN, 1 FS, 4 total
Kansas City: 2 Unimas, 6 ESPN, 6 FS(incl. 1 FOX), 14 total
Chicago: 4 Unimas, 1 ESPN, 1 FS, 6 total
Columbus: 0 Unimas, 1 ESPN, 2 FS, 3 total
Toronto: 0 Unimas, 2 ESPN, 2 FS, 4 total
Montreal: 0 Unimas, 2 ESPN, 1 FS, 3 total
New England: 1 Unimas, 3 ESPN, 1 FS, 5 total
NYRB: 4 Unimas, 5 ESPN, 7 FS(incl. 2 FOX) 16 total
NYCFC: 4 Unimas, 6 ESPN, 6 FS(incl. 2 FOX) 16 total
Philly: 2 Unimas, 0 ESPN, 1 FS, 3 total
DC: 6 Unimas, 3 ESPN, 1 FS, 10 total
Orlando: 5 Unimas, 5 ESPN, 5 FS, 15 total

Non-national TV games will be played on Saturdays, with intermittent mid-week matches, and will be broadcast locally and/or via a subscription to a digital out-of-market package. Select games will also be broadcast internationally to more than 140 nations.

Download the entire schedule here: 

Let’s get this show on the road!

LAFC’s Crest Coming Out Party Recalls LA’s Art Deco History.

LAFC’s Crest Coming Out Party Recalls LA’s Art Deco History.

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Major League Soccer’s newest expansion club, the Los Angeles Football Club unveiled their badge and colors on Thursday afternoon in LA, hours before the MLS schedule reveal.

The club, which plans to begin MLS play in 2018, will sport the colors black and gold with a hint of red. The crest, designed by Matthew Wolff, features a black and gold shield derived from the city seal of Los Angeles and has a wing stemming from the “A” in LA which Wolff describes as “the universal symbol of speed, power and mobility” while “paying homage to the City of Angels.” What makes the logo special is the monogram on the logo which has plans to be removed and used as a secondary logo in the future.

“The wordmark is set in Neutraface — an elegant and versatile Art Deco-inspired typeface based on the signage of architect Richard Neutra. This typeface is a nod to Downtown Los Angeles’ rich collection of Art Deco buildings, dating back to city expansion in the 1920s”, Wolff wrote on his website.

LAFC also announced that actor Will Ferrell joined the club’s ownership as the 26th member. The club’s ownership features the likes of United State’s women’s soccer legend Mia Hamm, basketball superstar Magic Johnson, and MLB star Nomar Garciaparra.
Check out the explanation of new logo and gear below. Those interested can shop LAFC gear here.

 

LAFC-Crest-ExplanationSketch-MatthewWolff

Photo Credit: http://www.matthewwolffdesign.com/portfolio/lafc/

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Photo Credit: http://www.matthewwolffdesign.com/portfolio/lafc/

The 2015 MLS CUP FINAL!

The 2015 MLS CUP FINAL!

The 20th Edition of the MLS Cup Final showcased Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew, two dark-horse teams, unlikely finalists, in an epic midfield battle at MAPFRE Stadium today at 4pm ET. The Timbers FC defeated the hometown heroes Columbus Crew SC 2-1 in their first ever 2015 MLS Cup Final.

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Let’s be honest, no one predicted these two teams would be the final two standing at the end of the MLS Playoffs. Yet, against the odds, two relatively dark horse teams battled, and quite physically, for dominance today. It was Portland’s first MLS Cup Final and Columbus Crew’s chance for a second Cup, the first for their top scorer, Kei Kamara.

Things started off on the wrong foot for the home team however, with Portland Timbrs’ Diego Valeri capitalizing on a prime vantage point to a back pass from Wil Trapp, beating Steve Clark to the net, and scoring the fastest goal in MLS Cup Final history well under a minute (27 seconds to be exact!).

Within another 8 minutes, Columbus Crew sank further into a hole as Lucas Melano crossed a ball straight at a dangerously open Rodney Wallace, slipping it in past the Crew’s goalkeeper for their second of the day. In spite of a little controversy over whether there ought to have been stoppage for a throw-in, Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter knew there were no excuses for his team’s slip up. “In professional sports you play to either the ball is out of bounds or to the whistle,” he said later when asked.

It seemed the Timbers Army Tifo’s message was coming true. “We’re Gonna Do What They Say Can’t be Done!”

However, Columbus wouldn’t go quietly, countering at every available opportunity, and finally tossing their hat into the ring when Kei Kamara bested Adam Kwarasey in the box after the goalkeeper failed to smother a loose ball. Finally Columbus was on the scoreboard at the 18th minute. Unfortunately, that was also the only shot on target in the nine Columbus took the entire match.

After another dicey and physically challenging 30 minutes with more efforts on goal from both sides, the first half ended 1-2 in favor of the MLS Cup newbies, Timbers FC.
And though the second half began with a strong showing from Columbus Crew SC looking for an equalizer, Portland settled into the pace quickly, effectively shutting them down. No extra boost came from adding in the youthful and eager Jack McInerney in to the mix up top. Portland was simply too focused on securing their first ever MLS Cup win. And win they did!
“It doesn’t just happen. I think you saw true belief in this team every single game in the playoffs, that we weren’t just happy to be in it we actually believe that we would win it.” – Portland Timbers head coach, Caleb Porter. 
Sporting KC Win third US Open Cup after PK shootout with Philadelphia Union

Sporting KC Win third US Open Cup after PK shootout with Philadelphia Union

Photo credit: Chandrima Chatterjee
Photo credit: Chandrima Chatterjee

In front of 14,463 loyal and soaking wet fans at Philadelphia Union’s PPL Park, in a penalty kick shootout, Sporting Kansas City won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second time in the past 4 years, after a dramatic regulation and overtime led to a 1-1 tie and a blitz of yellow cards, slippery and sloppy tackles, questionable calls and an awkward premature pyrotechnic goal celebration.

“Hearing them cheer right now makes me want to throw up. We had the opportunity to win a final in front of our home crowd and we came up a little short. I won’t hide from that. If anyone wants to pass blame, I’m right here. That falls on me because my players had a great night.” – Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin

Philadelphia’s legend Sébastien Le Toux and Sporting KC’s Krisztián Németh scored during the 1–1 draw during regulation time. Le Toux’s goal, off a Vincent Nogueira diagnonal cross, was his 16th in Open Cup play, a record in Open Cup modern history.

Both Kansas City and Philadelphia had chances to score game winners in the second half. Curtin switched goalkeepers at the last minute of extra time, bringing in John McCarthy for Blake capitalizing on McCarthy’s expertise with the penalty kick shootout wins in matches against Rochester and the New York Red Bulls in earlier rounds of the Open Cup.

After two rounds SKC’s Tim Melia made a save on Maurice Edu but John McCarthy heroically responded with a save on Nemeth. Finally, after four more kicks, Andrew Wenger had his weak penalty saved and SKC’s reserve midfielder Jordi Quintillà, followed with a confident tiebreaker, giving SKC the 7–6 win.

SKC, dubbed the PK Kings, have also won the 2012 Open Cup and 2013 MLS Cup on penalty kicks, and are heading back home with the prized hardware and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League next summer.

Meanwhile the hosts are left to mend broken hearts and pick up the pieces of the ‘unifinished business’ dream of salvaging their fourth consecutive disappointing season of missing MLS Playoffs.

“Again, all I can say is sorry for not delivering something that we’ve talked about achieving…It’s elusive for us right now. No fault of my players, they put everything into the game. [They] emptied their tanks for me, it set up alright in terms of the 120 minute mark getting Johnny in there to maybe finish the thing. It just didn’t go our way. Again, credit to KC. A very good team, a team that has a bunch of winners.” – Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin

So much was at stake for the Union in this Final but it is hard to put any blame on them for their second consecutive US Open Cup silver medal. Last year, Philadelphia lost the Open Cup final to Seattle in overtime. Although a trophy last night would have brought some relief to the lingering questions, after an unstable past, Jim Curtin has brought some resiliency and continuity to the Philadelphia Union, and most fans are against any drastic changes in the coaching staff or roster.

“I can’t stress the importance of sticking together in the midst of something like this. I don’t have the right words for it. It doesn’t feel good now and I know it’s going to hurt more in the coming days. For me, I want us to finish the season with our head’s held high. I say this professionally, we kicked their butts. On a different day, we embarrass Kansas City. Today was there day. There isn’t a man in that locker room who would say something different. Though it hurts now, if we keep the group together, it builds character…I hope this experience defines us in a good way moving forward.” – Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Lahoud

It’s time to move forward Philadelphia.

MLS Match Recap: Houston Dynamo 3, Colorado Rapids 2

MLS Match Recap: Houston Dynamo 3, Colorado Rapids 2

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

The Rapids have lost two in a row, first to Toronto FC and now to Houston Dynamo. With this win, the Dynamo have won two in a row after winning against Sporting Kansas City at home on Wednesday. The Rapids remain at the bottom of the Western Conference, while the Dynamo are just below the playoff line at seventh.

Come on you Burgundy Boys! #OneClub #Rapids96

A photo posted by kyle the girl (@starrphishe) on

Three thumbs down:

First thumb down goes to all defensive hands on deck. While a 4-3-3 isn’t typically thought of as a heavy-handed defensive lineup, when Pablo plays it that’s generally how it goes. Dillon Powers isn’t a forward, he’s a midfielder, and there he was in the center of that top 3. Gaps truly showed in bringing the ball forward. It was seemingly impossible for the defense to get the ball up anywhere close to the Dynamo half of the field, and Clint Irwin had to come out of the box several times to clear it over the midfield. The flow through the field wasn’t great for the Rapids.

Second thumb down goes to just general confusion on the field. Go to the store and buy a puzzle. If you open the puzzle box and dump all the pieces on the floor, does that count as completing the puzzle? In the same way, does simply throwing a bunch of good soccer players on the field count as playing good soccer? It’s clear we have good players. Our team is not lacking in quality. Our team is lacking in cohesion and familiarity. Players kick the ball into the open field, they can’t read each other’s movements, it almost looks like they’ve never played together every time they step out onto the pitch. They are all great players. They just haven’t been put together.

Third thumb down goes to all that defense on the field and still, three goals against. Yes, I’m harping on the defensiveness again. At one point there were like, twelve defenders in the box and the Dynamo were still pushing and pushing and pushing in. I turned to my husband and screamed (over the sounds of the supporters, as we were sitting behind them), “HOW CAN THEY GET THAT CLOSE TO SCORING WHEN OUR WHOLE TEAM IS IN THE BOX?” I was befuddled at how almost the entire Rapids squad was squeezed between the posts but the Dynamo still had the ball and were still driving forward.

Photo credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Photo credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Three thumbs up:

First thumb up goes to Pablo’s first substitution. Pablo actually took out a defender (Sean St. Ledger) and put in a forward (Gaby Torres), converting to a 4-2-3-1 with Gaby at the top. This put Powers back in his natural midfield position and actually made everything significantly smoother. The second half in general was better than the first, but the change in the formation had a clear impact on play allowing for that flow in the center to start.

Second thumb up goes to Clint Irwin. A Rapids fan once said that if your man of the match is your goalkeeper, then your team is pretty bad. But here we are! In addition to some incredible saves, Irwin also did his best to move the ball around the field and did some Neuer-esque sweeper keeper-ing. Irwin is a great leader and one of my biggest fears is that he decides he wants out, to a team with a chance of winning.

Third thumb up goes to my last in-person game. I’m honestly shocked at the number of games we’ve been able to attend in person since leaving Colorado. This year we’ve been to two league games in Houston, one Open Cup game (I’d like to forget that one, thanks), one in Denver when we visited in April, and one legendary weekend in Chicago that just happened to have a Rapids game in it. While the game could have ended better, and they did rush the players off the field (probably because near the end of the game there was a small skirmish, and fans nearby threw things at the players), we got to see the Burgundy Boys in person, wave at them, cheer them on, and hold our scarves up. The thought of having to wait until next year to see them again makes me sad but I hope that between now and then we can rearrange ourselves and hold our heads up high. Win, loss, draw… whatever comes, I’m Rapids till I die.

Scoring Summary:

HOU: Leonel Miranda (Giles Barnes, Will Bruin), 3′

COL: Vicente Sánchez, 8′

HOU: Giles Barnes (Will Bruin), 24′

COL: Vicente Sánchez (Dillon Powers), 44′

HOU: Brad Davis, 47′

So who gets your thumbs down and up this game, or where was I completely off target? Let me know and come back for next week’s game against Real Salt Lake (the Rocky Mountain Cup)!

#KSEOut: An Interview with the Creator(s?)

#KSEOut: An Interview with the Creator(s?)

Stan Kroenke, head of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (Getty Images)
Stan Kroenke, head of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (Getty Images)

When I wrote this article two weeks ago, I did not expect to be writing such a quick follow-up, much less one which hits so close to home, but here we are. If you aren’t a Colorado Rapids fan, you probably haven’t heard of #KSEOut, a new movement in line with #RedBullOut or #HauptmanOut, with the goal to get the ownership group of the Colorado Rapids to sell the team. The group was kind enough to answer my request for an interview.

WUFC: How was this movement born?

KSEOut: It’s hard to say exactly as everyone’s frustration with the way the Rapids are run has built at different times and at different rates. The core group behind this goes to games so you could say the discussions started at DSG Park, at the tailgates and in the bars at viewing parties. That said, if you look online, there is a huge amount of dissatisfaction with the team right now that has allowed us to rally people to the cause. There are now large numbers of Rapids fans who have arrived at the conclusion that the only way this club will progress is if there is real change. This means that the chances of a movement like this organizing and getting large numbers of fans involved is significantly higher than even a year ago.

WUFC: How long have you been Rapids fan(s)? Did you ever imagine it would come to this?

KSEOut: The core group of fans behind this are all season ticket holders, holding their seats for durations varying from 2 to 15 years. While things were not perfect in 2010 when the Rapids won the MLS Cup, forming a protest group to push for the owner to sell the team would have had people looking at you as if you were crazy. So no, we didn’t imagine it would ever come to this.

WUFC: How long have you been kicking around this idea?

KSEOut: It’s been a firm idea ever since an anonymous person flew a plane over DSG Park at the end of the 2014 season with the message calling for KSE and Rapids president Tim Hinchey to go. Quite frankly, we’re amazed nobody else beat us to it.

WUFC: What was the tipping point?

KSEOut: The tipping point was the ‘Fan Forum’ [audio link here -K] held on Tuesday August 11th. Even the way this was organized (a tuesday lunchtime conference call, lasting exactly one hour) shows how out of touch the current management is with dealing with the team’s supporters. Apparently we now can’t have a face to face meeting somewhere that, within reason, lasts for as long as the fans have questions. It appears that everything has to super controlled by the Rapids Front Office, particularly if there is the possibility of dissent.

However it was the responses from Tim Hinchey, Paul Bravo and Pablo Mastroeni that really angered people as it revealed that on field success (i.e. making the play-offs) was to quote Bravo ‘only a small piece of [the end of season] evaluation’. It is clear that no matter how bad the Rapids team performs, the current ownership and management cannot be relied upon to make the necessary changes that will turn things around.

It is also apparent that the Rapids Front Office doesn’t think anything is substantially wrong, despite clear evidence both on the field (bottom of the MLS West standings) and off the field (empty seats) to the contrary.

WUFC: How far are you willing to go with this if no changes are made?

KSEOut: The initial aim will be to raise awareness of the Rapids plight on a local, national and hopefully international level. If no changes are forthcoming from KSE, a natural avenue is the MLS league office in New York who must be concerned about the bottom teams such as the Rapids by now. Remember that the league will take action in extreme cases. They stepped in and bought the only team that was consistently worse than us (Chivas USA) last year, disbanded them and awarded a new franchise for the LA area to different owners.

The other option if no changes are made is to target the team’s sponsors and partners to let them know they are associating their brands with a deeply flawed organization. The idea of formally recommending Rapids fans boycott the goods & services of these companies is also being considered.

The legacy Rapids logo with "Rapids" replaced with "Done." Created by @Craig_de_Aragon on Twitter.
The legacy Rapids logo, with “Rapids” replaced with “Done.” Created by @Craig_de_Aragon on Twitter.

WUFC: What are the flaws in the front office?

KSEOut: The Rapids Front Office has a history of trying to crush legitimate protest and dissent.  Reports from 2008, when fans last protested to get coach Fernando Clavijo fired, speak of even mild banners such as ‘Time’s up for Clavijo‘ being confiscated by security at DSG Park and all banners being subject to inspection prior to entry.  More recently, Rapids SG who made Colorado flags on poles for the south stands in accordance with the DSG Park Fan Guide and has reported repeated issues in getting an item that is ‘allowed’ into the stadium.  While some of this can be attributed to general disorganization and lack of communication, it does appear that flags and banners are under special scrutiny and will continue to be closely monitored by security.  We naturally expect this situation to remain unchanged.

In October last year the Rapids beat writer, Chris Bianchi, was fired after he posted a tweet on his personal Twitter account that simply read ‘Say it once, say it again: Front office deserves much more blame than coaching staff.’  The result was an email exchange between Bianchi andTim Hinchey, which ended in Hinchey stating ‘we’re done here.’ Shortly afterwards, Bianchi was informed by mlssoccer.com that his services were no longer required.  This was the most high profile of a number of incidents where Tim Hinchey has threatened media & fans with a revoking of access to players or club personnel should they dare to say anything critical about the team or the Front Office.  In February 2013, one of the supporters behind this movement wrote to Tim Hinchey asking why the Rapids don’t hold their events at the Denver soccer bars which still continue to support the club by promoting its games & buying multiple season tickets for their staff.  Hinchey replied, refuting the suggestion & signing off by saying he would no longer talk to that particular supporter about that or any other subjects again.  For good measure (and presumably as an attempt to discredit the supporter in question) Hinchey also included the entire Front Office senior management level plus other supporter group leaders in his reply.  The supporter made a few subsequent approaches to Hinchey to try and reconcile the situation but was either rebuffed or ignored completely.

We naturally don’t expect anyone who works for Rapids Front Office or the wider KSE organization to be thrilled about this movement.  We are also expecting some sort of pushback, most likely a public attempt to discredit us backed up by private communications with people the Front Office identifies as supportive of KSE Out.  Unfortunately, we cannot rule out being the target of more malicious actions either.

WUFC: Are you aware of Newcastle United fans’ movement AshleyOut.com and is KSE Out inspired by it? What about #RedBullOut? What do you think these groups can learn from each other?

KSEOut: We are aware of those two protest movements also the #HauptmanOut movement which started a few weeks ago in response to the similar problems at Chicago Fire. Our website, www.kseout.com, is inspired by AshleyOut.com as we liked the thoughtful, measured tone and the way that they set out the reasons why Mike Ashley should give up control of Newcastle Utd. For a protest movement to get mainstream support, it’s got to come across as being run by regular, well adjusted fans, rather than people who can’t control themselves.

#RedBullOut is also another movement we’ve looked at. Their issues now mainly stem from the way the team is being run off the field by a hugely corporate owner. One thing they’ve done is a great job with funding and producing billboards for display in New York / New Jersey, that can’t have been an easy thing to do for a small organization.

In addition we also took inspiration from the ‘Green & Gold’ movement at Man Utd a few years ago where fans took to wearing the original colors of Newton Heath, Utd’s forerunner club. We liked this as it allowed fans to express their dissatisfaction 24/7 rather than only at organized demonstrations in the stadium.

In short there’s plenty of things these movements can learn from each other and we do plan to talk to as many of them as possible to share ideas, advice and information.

WUFC: What is your one request from Rapids fans?

KSEOut: We’d like all Rapids fans to start wearing green to games, tailgates, viewing bars, soccer practices and any other occasion you would normally wear Rapids gear. We’d like the color green, which is the Rapids original color from 1996 and therefore pre-KSE, to signify that a fan supports the team on the field, supports the players, but feels that the current ownership & management needs to change if the club is ever to reach its full potential.

After that, we encourage all fans to get involved in any organized protests that may happen in the next few months, provide they are carried out in a safe & legal manner.

Thank you so much to the wonderful people of KSEOut for their quick responses to me. For more information on their movement, you can visit their website or Twitter. For more information on other fan protest movements, check out our article last week on the contract of fanhood.

Gridlock: Union Draw Fire at Three

Gridlock: Union Draw Fire at Three

Credit: Philadelphia Union

After beating the Chicago Fire Wednesday at PPL Park and advancing to the finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the two teams met again on Sunday at the same venue and settled for a 3-3 draw.

First Half

Ten minutes into the match, the Chicago Fire (6-12-5) were first on the scoreboard after a Patrick Nyarko cross that was headed home by Kenny Igboananike. Philadelphia’s defense once again was shaky after the ball slipped by Richie Marquez and two other Union defenders before going into the back of the net.

The Union (6-13-6) bounced back in the 21st minute with a corner kick from Cristian Maidana that was finished by Fernando Aristeguieta to level the game at one apiece.

Ten minutes later, Philadelphia led a great counter-attack and got the go-ahead goal when Fabinho scored off of a Chicago Fire defender deflection into the net. Thus the ultimate playmaker, Cristian Maidana, added another assist to the night and Philadelphia headed into the locker room with a one goal lead.

Second Half

Unfortunately for the Union, Chicago was not done with their scoring for the night. In the 54th minute, Igboananike dribbled past Ray Gaddis and squared the ball right to Nyarko to level the game once again.

Following Chicago’s goal, head coach Jim Curtin made two substitutions in the 60th minute, bringing on C.J. Sapong and Michael Lahoud for Warren Creavalle and Tranquillo Barnetta.

The next 30 minutes were full of chances but Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was brilliant in the net, making several world-class saves.

While Sean Johnson finished the night with eight fantastic saves, his defense became his demise. In the 90th minute Maidana logged his 3rd assist of the night as Sebastian Le Toux scored in what was believed to be the winning goal of the night. Le Toux slipped the ball through the legs of Lovel Palmer and past the goalkeeper.

As seen in past games, the Union consistently struggled to finish out the game. What started out as a bad call by the assistant referee (Jason Johnson appeared to have handled the ball but the play continued on), Fire players Harry Shipp and Mike Magee somehow kept the ball in play and Kennedy Igboananike once again was there to finish it off for his second goal of the night. There’s nothing quite as painful or elating as a stoppage-time goal.

Bottom of the Table

Both Philadelphia and Chicago are among the last place teams in the conference. With this draw, both teams are quickly disappearing in playoff conversation, and head coach Jim Curtin has his share of frustration:

“We invent different ways to blow leads,” Curtin said. “It’s unacceptable, you score three goals at home, you should win no matter what. And, again, I’m upset because neither team really benefits from a tie.  You have two teams at the bottom of the table; a tie really does nothing for us.”

Philadelphia returns to MLS action on Saturday in Montreal against the Impact while Chicago head home and face the Colorado Rapids the same day.

Match Recap: Columbus Crew 2, Colorado Rapids 1

Match Recap: Columbus Crew 2, Colorado Rapids 1

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

The Rapids have dropped two in a row, first to the LA Galaxy directly following the All-Star Game in Colorado, and now to Columbus Crew SC. Columbus needed this win after a rough loss to Orlando City SC.

Kei Kamara brought the fire (photo courtesy MLS)
Kei Kamara brought the fire (photo courtesy MLS)

Three thumbs down:

First thumb down goes to the lineup. Goodness. In need of a desperate win, the lineup came out in a 4-3-3 (okay, that’s fine) far too heavy on the defense. Worse, our three best attacking players (Serna, Powers, Torres) sat on the bench until the mid-seventies, when Serna came on to replace Sanchez. I’m not a fan of taking an attacking player out when trying to win games.

Second thumb down goes to the cards.  Two defenders, a midfielder, and a forward on our side received yellow cards, and Watts put himself one card away from suspension. Not only that, but Sjoberg got himself a double-yellow red, which to my untrained eye looked completely merited. All the players who received cards for the Rapids were on the same side of the field — maybe it had to do with the referee? Watts’ tackle definitely merited a card for sure, which pain me because I have repeatedly said I’m not 100% certain he belongs out there anyway, and definitely not if he’s going to make himself a disciplinary hazard.

Third thumb down goes to Pablo’s legacy. This has been weighing on my heart for a while. Pablo Mastroeni was an incredible player, and nobody can or will deny that. He is in the Gallery of Honor for the club, and he has always been regarded as a club legend. Unfortunately, after this fracas of a season is over, Pablo will not be remembered for being an amazing player. He will be remembered as a horrible coach who drove the Rapids into the ground, benched the #RapKids, and destroyed fan morale. I hate that. I want to go back to two years ago where I still loved Pablo and believed in him.

"Jared Watts (33) of Colorado Rapids tackles Tony Tchani (6) of Columbus Crew during the first half of action. The Colorado Rapids hosted the Columbus Crew on Saturday, August 8, 2015. (Photo credit AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)"
“Jared Watts (33) of Colorado Rapids tackles Tony Tchani (6) of Columbus Crew during the first half of action. The Colorado Rapids hosted the Columbus Crew on Saturday, August 8, 2015. (Photo credit AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)”

Three thumbs up:

First thumb up goes to the subs. Finally when it came time to put some more oomph in the offense, when Serna and Torres came on, the change was palpable. Torres had a great shot which was called offside, but nevertheless the energy level kicked up substantially.

Second thumb up goes to lies, damn lies, and statistics. If nothing else, at least we had shots. Only 22% of them were on goal, but they happened. We owned the possession for 12 of the 18 five-minute intervals of the game, and for probably 66% of those we owned it substantially. We were halfway decent in the final third, but our cross completion was horrifying. While shots don’t necessarily translate into goals and neither does possession, it’s certainly more heartening to larger numbers here.

Third thumb up goes to the Twitterverse. To be completely honest, after the last few days I wholeheartedly expected everyone (myself included) to be a bundle of depression online. Au contraire, mon frere. Most of the people dominating the #Rapids96 hashtag were at least partially upbeat, and some were downright jovial. Lots of fans posted pictures from the game, there was much banter to be had back and forth, and all in all there were worse places to be and people to chat with if your team is at the bottom of the table.

Scoring Summary:

COL: Bobby Burling (Vicente Sánchez), 42′

CLB: Kei Kamara (Tony Tchani), 52′

CLB: Kei Kamara (Héctor Jiménez), 64′

So who gets your thumbs down and up this game, or where was I completely off target? Let me know and come back for next week’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes!

Match Recap: Union, Orlando Scoreless after 90 Minutes

Match Recap: Union, Orlando Scoreless after 90 Minutes

os-pictures-orlando-city-vs-philadelphia-union-021
Philadelphia Union’s Steven Vitoria shields Orlando City captain Kaka. Photo Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda -Orlando Sentential

In their inaugural meeting, the Philadelphia Union (6-13-5) faced Orlando City SC (7-10-7) to a scoreless draw Saturday evening. Despite a few good chances in the second half, Philadelphia failed to find the back of the net and were handed their first shutout since May 9th of this year.

The first half of the game saw a back and forth play with no real chances except a 21st minute shot by Sebastian Le Toux. Newly signed midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta split two defenders for a pass to Le Toux that beat Orlando goalkeeper Tally Hall, but was denied by the post.

Eight minutes later, Orlando got their biggest look of the half, with forward Cyle Larin blasting a shot that went straight into the hands of the Union’s John McCarthy following an outside pass from Kaká.

The second half saw more energy with the Union making key substitutions and switching to a more attacking formation. Le Toux’s presence was seen continually through the second half with the first chance being a great pass to CJ Sapong who failed to get the ball past Tally Hall. In the 69th minute, Le Toux was active again, finding Cristian Maidana in the box but once again, Hall was there to sweep up the mess and leave the match scoreless.

Orlando responded with a ball by Carlos Rivas that bounced around in the Union’s box but Rivas’ effort was in vain as the ball went out for a Union goal kick.

os-pictures-orlando-city-vs-philadelphia-union-012
Philadelphia’s CJ Sapong and Orlando’s Tommy Reading. Photo Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda – Orlando Sentinel

The remainder of the match was controlled by the Union with a few peak chances but the greatest travesty of all occurred in the 90th minute. Fernando Aristeguieta had the ball at his feet in the middle of the box and pulled off a shot that was blocked, not by Tally Hall, but by his own player! Aristeguieta’s ball bounced off of Steven Vitoria‘s knee and out of harms way for Orlando, leaving both teams to split a point. The draw leaves the Union five points out of a playoff spot having played more games than many of the eastern conference sides.

Philadelphia returns home for two games against the Chicago Fire in one week. The Fire and Union will clash on Wednesday in the semifinal of the US Open Cup then resume regular MLS play against them next Saturday. Orlando City SC will prepare to travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on Seattle Sounders FC next Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Contract of Fanhood

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Contract of Fanhood

“What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”

– Sir Bobby Robson

What do you give your team?

You might have season tickets, which almost serve as an investment vehicle for the franchise. They get a large sum of money upfront, you get dividends, presumably enjoyment of the games and generally some other perks like a scarf or experiences with players. You probably spend money at these games too, giving them more revenue. You may have given them time, to volunteer at a community event, paint a tifo, or drive to an away game. You’ve definitely sweated for your team, in the heat of the summer standing in the supporters’ section wishing for some shade. Maybe you’ve bled for your team, in a bar brawl or just running into something at the stadium.

But how much is enough?

At what point can fans throw up their hands and say, we’re done here? When can, and when have, fans decided that a team has crossed the line and that their fanhood must simply cease to exist? Is fanhood a contract which can be violated by either party?

#RedBullOut billboard design (from IndieGoGo campaign)
#RedBullOut billboard design (from IndieGoGo campaign)

Red Bulls fire Mike Petke

The early days of 2015 were not a bad time to be a Red Bulls fan. The team took the Supporters Shield in 2013 and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in 2014. Mike Petke, the coach, had been a MetroStars player in the late nineties and with the Red Bulls six years later before being hired as head coach in 2013. 2015 began as a bright year for NYRB fans.

That is, until Petke was fired on January 7th. The fan backlash was enormous. A group called Red Bull Out united with the goal of getting a new ownership group for their club. In a marketing campaign to launch a billboard in support of Petke and against the Red Bulls organization, the group said:

His unceremonious firing by a first-time sporting director with a two-week tenure, Ali Curtis, was disgraceful. The move typified the bumbling and tone-deaf mismanagement of the franchise by the Red Bull organization. The firing has led many fans to conclude that Red Bull simply cannot properly represent the fans and NY/NJ metropolitan area while their primary aim is selling energy drinks from Austria.

When two of the gentlemen in charge of the billboard campaign were interviewed by SBNation blog Once a Metro, they were asked if they would ever consider switching to NYCFC, or leaving the Red Bulls family altogether. The consensus was, “I’ll never stop supporting this team… I’m way too committed to being a supporter of this team to just turn my back on it.” Not too much later, the team held a town hall meeting and those who showed up were, shall we say, less than pleased with the situation. The supporters group, Empire Supporters Club, planned and executed a protest at the home opener against DC United on March 22nd, with, it appeared, Petke’s support.

As of right now, NYRB is still owned by Red Bull GmbH. The New York Red Bulls are second in the Eastern Conference with a 9-6-6 record, an average attendance this season of about 19,000 (more than actually fit in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for a standard Colorado Rapids game). The team still stands strong, and the fans still stand with them, or at least many of them do.

“KSE and Hinchey Out”

The end of 2014 was rough for Colorado Rapids fans. The team hadn’t won since July 25th. Morale was low, both in the stadium and, it seemed, on the field. On October 18th, the Rapids took on FC Dallas, a rivalry born of the 2010 MLS Cup and strengthened when the Rapids’ coach departed suddenly for greener pastures in Frisco.

At one point during the game, anyone who looked up at the beautiful Colorado sky would have seen a plane towing a banner with blocky letters. Not elegant, but the words certainly made their point — YOU HAVE WRECKED OUR CLUB. KSE & HINCHEY OUT. KSE is is Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group for not only the Rapids (since 2004, when they were purchased from Anschutz) but the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth, St. Louis Rams, and majority owners of Arsenal. Tim Hinchey is the president of the Colorado Rapids and has been in that position since 2011. Not mentioned on the banner but working closely with Hinchey and often mentioned in the same breath is Paul Bravo, VP of Soccer Operations.

It didn’t really ever come to light who sent that banner up, but it sparked discussion among fans. Were the Rapids really an amazing club before 2014? They made it to the playoffs in 2013. KSE have owned the club since 2004 and while they made it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs more times than not before then (and the MLS Cup final in 1997), there’s a lot more conversation to be had about quality of play vs. quality of league in those seasons. So if the Rapids weren’t amazing before KSE, how exactly have KSE been the ones to do the wrecking, and is the blame being put on the right people? How much of the negative change was brought on by Kroenke’s management and Hinchey, versus the coach and players?

Have the fans stopped going to the games? Since the Rapids fall behind the Rockies and Broncos in popularity on the Denver sports scale and the stadium is already small (about 19,000 seats), that’s hard to count when MLS doesn’t provide numbers of season ticket holders. The supporters still show up in force, and the All-Star Game sold out last week. Will they keep going if the team continues going downhill? That remains to be seen.

The general feeling of discontent has not changed in the Rocky Mountains. With the Rapids sitting on a record of 5-7-9 at the bottom of the Western Conference, the grumblings are getting louder. There will be a fan forum (from NYRB’s experience this may be a bad decision) on Tuesday, August 11, and since one of the Rapids’ most popular young homegrown players was sold Friday after receiving hardly any playing time, it will be an interesting meeting. The Rapids’ Twitterverse has been in uproar the past few days and there’s no reason for it to get quieter.

Newcastle fans want AshleyOut.com

Banner displayed by Newcastle fans in protest (Getty Images)
Banner displayed by Newcastle fans in protest (Getty Images)

In 2007, Mike Ashley began the process of taking over Newcastle United. While he was initially fairly popular with fans, his popularity soon waned due to little fan interface, repeated strange moves in the front office and coaching staff, and a general feeling that Newcastle is a vehicle for him to promote his business interests. The past year has been a banner year for fans who do not support the ownership of the club or its decisions.

The number of protests this year has been staggering, from the sign pictured above (as well as the AshleyOut.com “red card” signs the fans are holding) to possibly the most impressive — the April 19th boycott of the Newcastle/Tottenham Hotspur game. Judging from the photos from that match, the stadium appears fairly empty for what should typically be a well-attended match. Those who did not enter the stadium were not absent from the limelight; they formed protest groups outside the stadium with signs and posters to remind the club exactly why they were there.

In addition to that game other games were boycotted, fans held up the AshleyOut.com “red cards” above at several matches, and upheld a general embargo against any of Ashley’s financial interests. Possibly the most extreme option provided by the AshleyOut.com team is the season ticket cancellation guide, showing season ticket holders exactly how to cancel their tickets to ensure that the club can receive no more money.

Currently, Ashley still owns Newcastle. The AshleyOut.com crew’s other campaign, Sack Pardew, succeeded somewhat when Alan Pardew departed Newcastle for Crystal Palace FC, leaving assistant manager John Carver in charge. Carver quickly lost eight games in a row thereafter and left Newcastle in June with a paltry winning percentage of only 15%. As of June, Steve McClaren is the new manager, and nobody knows what that means for Newcastle’s future, though fans will find out now that the English Premier League has begun. Surely those who want Ashley gone will not rest until they achieve their goal.

What does a league actually owe fans?

MLS club jerseys at the All-Star game (Kyle Rowland)
MLS club jerseys at the All-Star game (photo credit Kyle Rowland)

According to Major League Soccer’s “Pledge to Fans,” you have the right to:

  • Watch the game in a safe, clean and healthy environment.
  • Be treated in a courteous, consistent and professional manner.
  • Be treated with dignity and respect by other spectators attending the game and those organizing the event.
  • “Support” his or her team, provided that the support is in good taste and neither adversely impacts the event experience of fellow spectators nor negatively impacts the game.
  • Expect displays of good sportsmanship.
  • Expect timely and accurate information related to the game.

None of that has anything to do with winning, being good, having an owner who desires winning, or any of the above discussed topics. But should it?

When fans pay to go into a stadium, what should they expect? MLS thinks fans expect and deserve displays of good sportsmanship and timely and accurate information related to the game. That’s great, but that doesn’t get the heart pumping or lift trophies.

Fans also have a part of this contract to uphold with MLS:

  • Fans are encouraged to cheer, sing, and otherwise support their team while remaining respectful and courteous to their fellow patrons, referees, opposing team fans and players.
  • Fans enjoy the soccer experience free from fighting, *thrown objects, attempts to enter the playing field, political or inciting messages, and disorderly behavior, including foul, sexist, racial, obscene or abusive language or gestures.
  • Fans comply with requests from stadium staff regarding stadium policies and emergency response procedures.
  • Fans promptly and carefully return the ball to a stadium staff member or the ball kid on the sidelines in the event that a soccer ball enters the stands. Alcoholic beverages are consumed in a responsible manner and only by those of legal age.
  • Fans conduct themselves in a lawful manner to avoid incidents in the stadium and in the parking lots.

This is fortunate. Nowhere in here does it say “fans are expected to show up happy when their team is losing.” Or “fans better only post blog posts radiating rainbows even when bad things happen.” Or, what would truly be tragic, “fans may not post negative comments on social media during the transfer window.” Breathe a sigh of relief.

If fanhood is truly a contract, the way it is set up now is, “you don’t act like a jerk and we’ll do our best to give you soccer that follows the rules.” No more, no less. There are no promises of winning, not even promises of trying. No delusions of grandeur. On the other hand, the fans do not swear a promise to keep showing up when the club loses every game for a year, or purchase season tickets if their team is owned by an abhorrent person.

Maybe the allure of fanhood is in the freedom to come and go as we please. To be able to take a week or two off and say, I’m done for now, I need to go watch baseball for a bit, and to come back to it and know our favorite players will likely still be wearing our colors, kits, and crests, out there on the field and playing our game.

What’s the Deal with MLS Homegrown? Some Perspectives.

What’s the Deal with MLS Homegrown? Some Perspectives.

Two days. That’s how long Landon Donovan had to ‘coach’ his Homegrown MLS players in preparation for their meeting last week in Colorado against a fairly competitive U-20 Club América team.

Photo Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Two days is better than one. Or, in the case of some of the MLS All-Star team playing the following day, 1/2 a day of team bonding. What can a team really achieve during a match with little to no preparation? There’s a cacophony of anti-All-Star voices. But there’s a silver-lining to the media-driven chaos that is at the heart of MLS All-Star week. Through all its many forms and iterations, MLS All-Star serves a purpose that is a higher cause. As the clear MLS MVP of the 2015 All-Stars put it, “But I remember the All-Star NBA players. I had a lot of cards from all the all-stars… so to be a part of this today was a great experience for me.” – Kaká. There’s an allure, though a bit tarnished and over-analyzed at this point. I too recall growing up in the era when the phrase all-stars reflected magic. The kids who showed up for player appearances and waited for three hours or more the day before to watch their All-Stars and Tottenham stars practice, came for reasons we can all relate to. There’s a purity of love for the game itself and a blitz of star shimmer that an All-Star setting can bring. Year after year, in different ways, the MLS All-Star match brings a touch of soccer magic. It may not get the ratings or ticket sales that an MLS Final or an epic rivalry match will, but perhaps we can accept that it isn’t meant to, at least not yet. There are redeeming qualities though. Beyond the fan appeal, there’s another layer.

“It’s obviously an honor to be recognized in this fashion. It’s a good time to come and see all the other youth talent that’s coming up in the league.” – LA Galaxy’s homegrown Bradford Jamieson IV recounts after his first Homegrown match.

Who does Jamieson look up to? “David Villa is someone I can look up to as a striker and overall good player. Gyasi and Juni are role models on the field and off the pitch, daily.” For Bradford, it’s a chance to get out of a bubble and see what others are bringing to the table, and what others have been learning, be it from the competition, or from friends; plus it’s his chance to play with some of the best in the league. For a player at Jamieson’s stage of development, where the thirst for new knowledge is almost unquenchable, this opportunity is a potential goldmine.

Bradford Jamieson didn’t get to score a goal this time. Nor did he during the recent LA Galaxy (II) vs  FC Barcelona International Champions Cup match. But, similar to the Homegrown and All-Star matches, he was content and realistic afterwards:

“Those experiences are some of the most important ones. When you don’t have really pressure on you and are playing some of the best in the world. Those are times when you can really let go and you see the real character of diff players come out. You learn along the way. You figure out where you are in the world. And you can gauge your level.”

It’s all fairly new. In 2008, MLS developed the Homegrown Player rule as part of an effort to incentivize clubs to invest in youth development. The rule allows clubs to sign local players from their own developmental academies directly to their first team rosters. It’s not a perfected system.

This year’s only MLS Homegrown player on the MLS All-Star starting lineup playing Tottenham Hotspur in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,671 fans was Jamieson’s teammate and hairstyle doppleganger, Gyasi Zardes. And, he’s someone Bradford looks up to. Sincere as always, Bardes chimes in, “to participate and play with these phenomenal guys across the league, it’s an amazing experience and I’m just taking it day by day.”

Gyasi Zardes grew up in 10 miles from where he now plays regularly, in humble and hard-working Hawthorne, California. “I’m from Hawthorne, and people from Hawthorne work hard.” Now, Zardes is an LA Galaxy success story, an up-and-coming USMNT regular, and he credits his opportunities to the advancements in Major League Soccer player development.

“It’s amazing to come through the MLS system, from the academy to being a professional soccer player,” Zardes said.

Perhaps the best assessment of the Homegrown initiative and game so far is from an athlete who’s been around and seen the value of a hit and run type situation for these teams. “It’s hard to come into an environment where you don’t know people and you come together in two days. The more experiences you have like that, the more you benefit from it. With the national team you play Sunday, you come in Monday, you’re playing Wednesday, it’s valuable to have experiences like this.” – Coach Landon Donovan. And, that’s the goal, to feel comfortable enough with yourself and with variables like different players, conditions and changing rosters, that it no longer matters. That you play your best game every time.

Not all Homegrown players will become the next Yedlin or Zardes, but they are still crucial to the league, a sort of talented middle space and a self-propagating supply of skilled young players. It’s the sign of a healthy and lasting league.

 Photo: David Zalubowski/AP

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP

“We just played a very, very good Club América team. Those kids have been together for six or seven years, and we have players that are at least at their level,” Donovan said. “That didn’t happen 10 years ago. When I came into the league there wasn’t players like that, so that’s a good sign.”

 

The Evolution of the U.S. Open Cup. An American Soccer Story.

The Evolution of the U.S. Open Cup. An American Soccer Story.

Seattle Sounders celebrate their fourth US Open Cup (2014) after a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union. Credit: Seattle Sounders FC 

The Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup is the oldest soccer tournament in the United States as well as one of the longest running tournaments in the world. However, when faced with inconvenient scheduling and limited exposure, many wonder, what is the point?

Tradition: Noun. The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, or information from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice. Traditions manifest themselves in many ways, and the story of the Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup is the definition of tradition. It provides somewhat of a unity between all levels of North American soccer. Quite frankly, the Open Cup invites players of all levels to dream of winning it all.

In 2015, the U.S. Open Cup (USOC) entered its 102nd year of tournament play. Going back to 1914 (formerly known as the National Challenge Cup), the USOC is open to all associated ameatur and professional teams in the United States. While cup competitions are distinguished tournaments in leagues such as the Premier League, Serie A, and the Bundesliga, the idea of a cup competition is foreign to American sports. This tournament runs alongside the regular season and the winner not only takes home the prize money, but is placed into yet another tournament, against the cup winners of other bordering countries*.

*(the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League)

Industrial Advantage

In the opening years of the US Open Cup, teams that were bankrolled by urban centers had a strong presence in the tournament. Bethlehem Steel FC, a Pennsylvania club made up of steel workers from Bethlehem Steel, dominated the tournament. Winning four Open Cup trophies between 1915-1919, Bethlehem Steel FC etched their names into Open Cup history. Other urban industrial teams such as Massachusetts’ Fall River F.C and Maccabees S.C. of Los Angeles have also had successful runs, being the only three teams, along with Bethlehem Steel, to lift the title five times.

While Urban teams in the East saw great success in the early years of the cup, Californian teams have also been dominant in the competition, winning 10 titles since 1973. Some Midwestern sides have also lifted trophies throughout the years.

Bethlehem Steel FC, one of the US Open Cup’s most decorated champions. Credit: Philly Soccer Page

Major League Soccer Presence

With professional soccer clubs entering the US Open Cup scene, amateur clubs have had little success in the tournament. No amateur club has won or been to the Open Cup final since the arrival of Major League Soccer. Starting in 1995, MLS teams have also won the tournament every year since they began playing in it, save for 1999, when the Rochester Rhinos defeated the Colorado Rapids with a scoreline of 2-0. Currently, the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders are all-time MLS winners of the Open Cup with both teams accumulating four titles.

In spite of Major League Soccer’s dominance in the US Open Cup for the last 20 years, the tournament has not been of importance to many participating MLS clubs and consequently, their fans. Often placed on weekdays with inconvenient times and lack of advertising, Open Cup games typically record low attendance and general lack of interest. However this lack of enthusiasm and awareness has been evolving over recent years.

While previous years have forced MLS teams to play their Open Cup games at smaller stadiums to create a more intimate crowd due to lack of attendance, the Open Cup is gaining popularity around the league. Teams are beginning to start their best players for these games and the fans are starting to notice. Over 42,000 fans came out to take in Open Cup quarterfinal action this year over four games with the semifinal matches predicted to have big turnouts also. As soccer continues to grow in the country, respect and admiration for such a historical tournament like the US Open Cup will increase in popularity also.

Soccer culture, the American Way

Credit: Major League Soccer

The United States and Major League Soccer are continuing to make their case as one of the top nations and premier leagues for soccer in the world. Whether it’s tuning in to watch the World Cup or playing FIFA with friends, many Americans are beginning to appreciate and cherish the beautiful game in ways never imagined.

But what makes soccer in America unique is that it is developing in a way that is very different than the rest of the world. Unlike many soccer traditions that have been shared throughout countries in South America, Africa, and Europe, the U.S. is creating a soccer culture of their own. While the new age of American soccer fans may not be familiar with cup tournaments such as the FA Cup and Copa del Rey, they have a chance to share in the excitement that is the US Open Cup. Soon, the Open Cup will be considered just as prestigious as those to the US soccer fan. All we need is time.

The 2015 MLS All-Stars Top Tottenham Hotspur in the Mile-High City

The 2015 MLS All-Stars Top Tottenham Hotspur in the Mile-High City

“Every day, the sun comes out and the sky’s always blue. That’s what I miss about Denver.” Dikembe Mutombo was right. We’ll miss Denver. Because, in front of a sold-out crowd often trickling over with emotion, the MLS All-Stars of 2015 just topped the Tottenham Hotspur, 2-1.

A warm and polite post-match greeting from Captain Kaká: “Hello good evening, not bad for my first All-Star game. Goal, assist, and MVP. I didn’t expect that for tonight, as I said yesterday I thought we could win, as we won, but I did not expect to score, assist, and MVP so I am so happy for that and I think everybody’s happy, because tomorrow in the soccer world everybody will talk about the MLS All Star team [that] beat a very good team.”

Just 90-minutes before, under the gorgeous sunny clear skies of the Mile-High city a bright-eyed, somewhat rag-tag group (the roster was finalized this afternoon) of MLS All-Stars took on the Tottenham Hotspurs in the 20th edition of the MLS All-Star ceremonial match, showcasing some of the best MLS has to offer, including two of the newest internationals to cross the great pond. And showcase they did! Kaká and David Villa scored three minutes apart in the first half. Kaká scored in the 20th minute with a flawless penalty kick. Moments later, a quick series of passes from Gyasi Zardes, to Clint Dempsey, to the MLS All-Stars captain, to David Villa created a beautifully-timed second goal for the All-Stars.

Meanwhile, Nick Rimando, in spite of a knee injury, gallantly chose to play on the starting lineup, saved the All-Stars from three previous Harry Kane goal attempts, till he finally let an unrelenting bullet from Kane through for Tottenham in the 35th minute. Happy belated birthday to the Spurs superstar. However, as Kaká put it: “…in the end he saved the game.”

Heading into the second half, the complete change in the lineup for the All-Stars took its toll on the buildup in pace from the first. A close call from Nacer Chadli and then Josh Onomah nearly leveled the playing field for the Spurs in the 54th minute and 73rd minutes, were it not for Ousted’s hustle. In spite of flashes of brilliance from Kei Kamara and Fabian Castillo, there were no more goals to be had. The All-Stars held onto their lead till the final whistle blew, giving MLS their second in a row win in the MLS-ASG.

“Mentality is everything so I felt that it was important that we keep a high line and really make it difficult for them to play out and I think the guys applied themselves really well in the first half and were really able to make that thing about where they wanted to play in the areas and for the most part they did a good job.” — Coach Pablo Mastroeni.

 

In front of a sold-out crowd of 18,671, Kaká and his teammates took the relatively easy victory and proved their star status. Kaká easily won MVP honors and was beaming with happiness afterwards.

“His desire to be here was tremendous. For a guy that has done everything he can do in a football career and still have a desire to come here to Colorado in altitude midweek, and be excited and hungry about it speaks more about the human than the player.” – Pablo Mastroeni, regarding Kaká’s leadership tonight.

The win is good for MLS. Does it serve to help legitimize or solidify their status as a powerhouse on an international competitive stage? Does it merely serve a purpose for bringing enjoyment and star power under one glamorous stage for a single night of beautiful soccer? Does it matter that this group of men only had the chance to practice once together as a team? Will the format change again (yes, surely it will) and will it boost crossover fan support?

Coach Mastroeni has had his own viewpoints, which shifted from before tonight’s match to afterwards:

“If you ask me which one showcases our talent better [East-West or Current Format], I think it might be beating a team like Tottenham. We’ve always been perceived as a team that is up and coming. I believe as years go by we will soon be that league that everyone thinks we can be. Having experienced it first-hand, it feels great to get validation from winning against a team like Tottenham as far as where we are going in the future of this league.”

But, no matter what direction the All-Star setup takes in the near future, the game is young and transforming. Twenty years went by in a flash and if tonight is any indication of the future, it’s looking bright for MLS and its coming of age.


MLS All-Stars (1st Half) : Nick Rimando – DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Tony Beltran — Gyasi Zardes, Dax McCarty, Kaka, Graham Zusi — David Villa, Clint Dempsey

MLS All-Stars (2nd Half): David Ousted – Waylon Francis, Laurent Ciman, Chad Marshall, Drew Moor – Benny Feilhaber, Sam Cronin (77’ Jozy Altidore), Juninho, Ethan Finlay – Kei Kamara, Fabian Castillo

Tottenham Hotspur (1st Half): Michel Vorm – Ben Davies, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Kyle Walker – Nabil Bentaleb, Eric Dier – Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele – Harry Kane

Tottenham Hotspur (2nd Half): Michel Vorm – Ben Davies, Kevin Wimmer, Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier – Dele Alli, Eric Dier – Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele, Thomas Carroll – Harry Kane

Tottenham Hotspur (2nd half, 63’): Luke McGee – Danny Rose, Kevin Wimmer, Federico Fazio, Kieran Trippier – Dele Alli, Harry Winks – Josh Onomah, Thomas Carroll, DeAndre Yedlin – Harry Kane (77’ Shaq Coulthirst)

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

#IWD2016 – REFORM AND EQUALITY IN FIFA

Women United FC (Women United Football Community) was honored to be among the women’s media covering the 2nd annual FIFA Women’s Football and Leadership Conference in Zurich Switzerland on March 7, 2016.

New FIFA President Gianni Infantino opened the conference with a delicate balance of seriousness and humor, noting that they are hosting it “the day before International Women’s Day because in FIFA as of now we want always be to be ahead of the times.” He quipped that he’s feeling a certain level of pressure having four daughters at home who need opportunities for their future. It also marked Infantino’s first official conference as President and he approached it with dignity, joy and deep significance.

While treating the issue of women’s football with respect, factoring in the work that remains to make it more popular in commercial terms, in terms of opportunity and at the grassroots level so “all over the world girls can play” Infantino stressed the importance of women within the football leadership domain.

“Women in football is not just women’s football… We have to work for women in football. This is the key. We are of course doing something with the reform process in FIFA. The reforms in FIFA have been done not to treat gender equality. The crisis of FIFA had to do with governance, with compliance, with transparency… [Within that framework] it was important to also speak about women. We brought in some principles. We have to now bring them to life. The fact that we organized this conference today [signifies that] it’s crucial because it marks the first step into the implementation of what we put as the principles of [those] statues, of the philosophy of [that reform].” – Gianni Infantino.

Photo credit - FIFA
Photo credit – FIFA

The call for parity and gender equality in football leadership was the common thread and theme. This conference marked what FIFA pledges as their commitment to promote, develop and invest in women’s football. The day-long meeting brought together women who play football, women who coach football, women who promote football, women in football media, media coverage of the women’s game and women in other leadership positions within football. Speakers and panelists included Billie Jean King, Kristin Hetle, Lydia Nsekera, Sonia Bien-Aime, Moya Dodd, Abby Wambach, Samar Nassar, Barbara Slater, Sunil Gulati and Amanda Davies.

Infantino opened and closed the day’s proceedings stressing a message of unity. “We have to embrace equality. Alone we cannot do anything. I will need all of you. It will not be easy. But if you fight for it as I will do, I’m sure we can achieve some important success.”

During the lengthy administration of Sepp Blatter, not a single top management or commercial position was held by a woman. The executive committee inducted its first female to office in 2012. In a passionate and carefully crafted speech tennis legend and founder of Women’s Sports Foundation Billie Jean King pleaded for taking steps to change the situation: making women one-third of management, developing a commercial strategy for women’s football, and hiring a secretary general with a gender equality background.

The reforms that Infantino referred to in his opening speech include focusing on the women’s game and mandating that the executive committee include at least six women, or one from each regional confederation.

“Not only are these reforms the right moral path but they make smart business sense. The business of women’s football has a tremendous upside, and it’s FIFA’s obligation to invest in the assets needed.” – Billie Jean King.

The executive committee reform allocates to women a 16.7 percent representation. Vice President of the FIFA Executive Committee and U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati reflecting on the unintended consequence of the reform proceedings honestly admitted, “did it go far enough to get 6 people on? No. But this was a huge step forward. It’s going to take a lot of effort.”

Photo credit - FIFA
Photo credit – FIFA

Moya Dodd, chairwoman of FIFA’s Women’s Football Task Force and vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation offers that FIFA (and football in general) accept women as part of the solution not as one of the many problems needing to be addressed. Women can help on multiple levels with the current FIFA situation: 1) Commercially, by diversifying revenue streams, the World Cup need not be the only revenue generator, nor should the women’s game have simply one tournament, it could include club world cups. 2) Women’s football can assist with the brand problem that FIFA current suffers. 3) Rallying the troops is easy. “There’s an army of foot soldiers who will be your advocates, your assistants and your champions to make the game better.”

Not only are those shifts in perspective needed, but also the perception that participation in the women’s game is somehow limited to just a few nations, or that the U.S. is somehow light years ahead of the rest of the world needs to be addressed. For Sunil Gulati investing in the U.S. Women’s National Team and program was common sense. “The rate of return on women’s football on women’s sports for 175 members out of 209 members that so far exceeds that of men’s football.” He adds, “for a couple hundred thousand dollars you can play in the Women’s World Cup. If there’s fertile ground, [plant the seeds.]” It does not take a lot of money to create a program for women and girls to play the game. It does however take intelligent planning and only then will it generate the product you are looking to achieve. Basically it’s simply easier, at this point, to invest money in the women’s game and see it multiply than into the men’s game, where it may not make a dent. Simple economics. Moreover, Title IX did catapult the process in the United States, not by putting money or parity into sports though, as many assert. As Gulati emphasizes, the real difference was the promise of an equal education which then results in a higher probability of economic parity (at least in theory).

Photo credit - FIFA
Photo credit – FIFA

U.S. Women’s National Team legend Abby Wambach, who has taken up the mantle for speaking on behalf of the women’s game from a player perspective, shed light on the role that media and coverage of the sport plays in supporting the growth and reform within the game while also realistically calling for more football. “Getting these women to become household names comes down to more media coverage. Create more opportunities for them to be seen.” – Abby Wambach.

Reform brings about equality and equality will bring about reform. But those both only happen if everyone works together, if men and women champion the same causes and not work towards individualistic goals. Reform will only result if we are all willing to see that the best for all in the long-run might mean a short-term loss in money or power, otherwise known as investing in the future.
“You can find another voice to join yours. Your voice can change the conversation. If you can change a room, you can change a club. If you can change a club, you can change a federation. If you can change a federation, you can change FIFA. If you can change FIFA, you can change the world.” – Moya Dodd.

WUFC’s Inside Soccer

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Christian Lavers (US Club Soccer and ECNL)

Christian Lavers
Christian Lavers

We’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with U.S. Club Soccer’s Executive Vice President Christian Lavers, who also oversees Elite Clubs National League (ECNL). He is also an assistant coach with the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars and is a plethora of information about the beautiful game across all levels and the power of grassroots collaboration to build an efficient system of development. 

The ECNL is the best female youth soccer competition and development platform in the USA , consisting of 7 conferences across the United States and 79 member clubs. The ECNL has been around since 2009. ECNL players comprise 80-90% of almost every U.S. Soccer Youth National Team pool. As of 2015, 90% of their graduating class went on to play collegiate soccer. Looking for big names? Of course. USWNT’s Julie Johnston and Morgan Brian, Mallory Pugh (headline grabber for her recent Portland Thorns signing straight from high school) – to name just a few (there will be more throughout this interview). Keep in mind the era of ECNL-developed professional players is just beginning.

SKOTY 2012 Portrait of Mallory Pugh Portrait of Mallory Pugh SKOTY Finalist Home/highlands way, co, us 10/16/2012 X155619 TK1 Credit: Garrett Ellwood
SKOTY 2012 Portrait of Mallory Pugh
Credit: Garrett Ellwood

Q1: Given the excitement over the Women’s World Cup and the U.S. Women winning big last year, how has that carried over into women’s soccer as a whole from youth soccer to NWSL?  

CDL: Almost everyone in the country seemed to watch at least part of the World Cup last summer, and the NWSL saw a nice bump in ticket sales in the weeks after the event.  The challenge for anyone involved in the game, as it seems to be every four years, is to translate that short-term excitement into long-term, regular soccer fans.

Q2: Do you think that upward trajectory will last? What are some of the challenges women’s and girl’s soccer will face in the next 5-10 years?  

CDL:  Growing the audience for the game in the past has been about short-term spikes and then a return to normal – with generally a slight upward trend over time.  But in terms of really making an impact in overall audience and attention, the biggest challenge over the next 5-10 years is sustaining and growing the NWSL.  The game cannot be driven only by the Women’s National Team and World Cup or Olympic events – it needs to be driven on a weekly basis by teams playing week in and week out, and fans watching their favorite teams and players every week.  If that happens, not only do we have more leaders in the game to share opinions, ideas, and experience, but we also have more resources to invest in the game.

Q3: Almost 90% of your class of 2015 went on to play collegiate soccer. That’s incredible! Tell us more about ECNL and its mission. How does it work to develop girls soccer players into competitive college athletes and beyond?

CDL:   Without exaggeration, the ECNL is the best female youth development league in the world, formed with a very simple mission – to raise the game.  This mission means improving everything about the female youth soccer environment – the competition structure, the player identification process, the level of coaching, the quality of club organization, refereeing standards, etc.  The most important factor in moving from this great idea in 2007 to operating the best league in the world in 2016 has been the leadership and governance structure.  The ECNL has united the grassroots leaders across the country, taken their ideas and suggestions on what works best and what needs to change, and put them into practice.  The ECNL is founded on collaboration and respect for those in the trenches, and is in constant dialogue with these leaders and coaches on how to constantly get better.  Ideas and desire to improve have always been there – the ECNL simply helped empower the people that want to make the game better, and then helped develop more of them.  There is huge power in transparent, collaborative leadership.

Q4: Can you speak about the relationship that ECNL has with U.S. Soccer right now? Given the recent announcement of a U.S. Soccer Federation girls’ development academy, how do you see your organization working in concert with them? Or are they completely different markets?

CDL:   Today, ECNL players make up 80-90% of almost every US Soccer Youth National Team pool.  That is reflective of the fantastic job of development done in ECNL clubs, and a competition structure that puts the best of the best on the field against each other every week.  ECNL alums are just now coming into the professional ranks and the WNT, and the results are fantastic: Julie Johnston starred in last summer’s World Cup and played in the ECNL, Mallory Pugh just signed a professional contract at age 17 and played in the ECNL almost her entire youth career, Danny Colaprico and Sam Mewis are both currently in camp with the WNT and are former ECNL players, Lindsay Horan was an ECNL star.  We are confident that the development structure in the ECNL is fantastic – these players are just the beginning of the next generation of stars that will come from the ECNL.  The Federation Women’s Task Force determined in late 2014, after objectively analyzing the landscape with members from a wide variety of backgrounds, that there was no need for a girls Development Academy, largely because of all the things the ECNL was doing.  It would be interesting to know when, how and why this decision changed.  When the Federation is ready to discuss girls development and what their plans may be, we will be at the table. 

Q5: How can girls interested in pursuing a career in soccer get involved? At what age do you recommend they start playing more seriously? With so many choices before them, how can parents help guide their daughters?

CDL:   At the youngest ages, 6-10 especially, the most important thing is for players to have a great coach – someone that instills love of the game, and who can teach them the foundations of skill, athletic movement, and insight into core decisions and situations.  The ages of 11-13 are the “sorting out” ages, as I call them.  These are when players start to decide how serious they are, and how good they want to be.  That is when it is important to start to be surrounded by other players with similar goals – but the quality of the coach is still so important.  At age 14 and above, it becomes important to be in a really competitive environment where you can be challenged every day and games are meaningful – and the quality of the coach continues to be a key factor.  There is so much opportunity for women that want to remain in the game – and a great need for more former players to stay involved in the game in coaching.  It is a tremendously rewarding experience to help the next generation of players, and we hope that more and more former players from the ECNL will become coaches to give back.

LOGO - US Club Soccer - Oval - HighRes

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 Chatterjee

 

“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

 

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Stephanie Duffy
“Soccer made me who I am. I love soccer because it brings together people from all parts of the world for one reason, whether they are rooting for the same team or not. Game day atmosphere is unlike any experience in the world!” Twitter: @stephaniemduffy 
 
 
 
 
 

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Pardeep Cattry
“A lover of sarcasm and soccer, I was bitten by the soccer bug in the summer of 2010.  Since then, I’ve watched just about anything you watch on TV in the US, which is far too long a list to include here. I love everything soccer has to offer, but what I love most is that soccer is a real educational tool because you can find it in every nook and cranny of the world.  It’s a great way to understand and enjoy the world we live in.  It is also a great reason to tell very bad inside jokes.” Twitter: @pcatrry

 
 
 

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Heather Hendricks
“I love soccer because it’s fun and fast pace to watch.
Nothing beats the atmosphere of being at a live match and feeling the passion of the fans and spirit of the players on the pitch.”

 
 
 
 

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Alyssa Irizarry

“I started playing soccer when I was 9 years old and I instantly fell in love. At first it was just a way for my friends and I to hang out together, but when I found out that soccer is this whole incredible world of professional teams and national teams and international tournaments, I knew there was no going back. On any given day you can find me watching a soccer match, reading about a soccer team, or playing intramural soccer at my college.” Twitter: @alyizzyy

 

The NWSL Draft 2016

Raquel Rodriguez, second overall selection at the 2016 NWSL Draft
Raquel Rodriguez, second overall selection at the 2016 NWSL Draft

We live blogged Rounds 1 and 2 of the NWSL Draft from the 2016 NSCAA in Baltimore! The entire draft was live streamed at  http://nwsl.us/1Q6RzOw.

 

Round Pick Team
1 1 Portland Thorns FC (via ORL)
1 2 Portland Thorns FC ( via BOS) Sky Blue FC has acquired No. 2 overall pick in today’s Draft in trade with Portland. Portland will receive rights to Nadia Nadim. (updated 8:30am ET)
1 3 Sky Blue FC  Portland Thorns FC
1 4 Seattle Reign FC (via WNYF)
1 5 Houston Dash ( via SRFC/PTFC)
1 6 Houston Dash
1 7 Washington Spirit
1 8 Houston Dash (via FCKC)
1 9 Western New York Flash (via CRS)
1 10 Orlando Pride (via PTFC/SRFC)*
2 11 Western New York Flash (ORL)
2 12 Washington Spirit (via BOS)
2 13 Sky Blue FC
2 14 Western New York Flash
2 15 Orlando Pride (via FCKC/WAS/PTFC)
2 16 FC Kansas City (via WAS/PTFC/HOU)
2 17 Boston Breakers (via CRS/WAS)
2 18 FC Kansas City
2 19 Chicago Red Stars
2 20 Washington Spirit (via BOS/PTFC/BOS/SRFC)
3 21 Portland Thorns FC (ORL)
3 22 Chicago Red Stars (via BOS)
3 23 Sky Blue FC
3 24 Western New York Flash
3 25 Seattle Reign FC (via PTFC)
3 26 Western New York Flash (via HOU)
3 27 Chicago Red Stars (via WAS)
3 28 FC Kansas City
3 29 Chicago Red Stars
3 30 Seattle Reign FC
4 31 Orlando Pride
4 32 Boston Breakers
4 33 Sky Blue FC
4 34 Washington Spirit (via WNYF)
4 35 Boston Breakers (via PTFC)
4 36 Sky Blue FC (HOU)
4 37 Washington Spirit
4 38 FC Kansas City
4 39 Chicago Red Stars
4 40 Seattle Reign FC

* = Due to future considerations these picks are not eligible to be traded. 

Live Updates:

Portland Thorns are on the clock after a brief intro from NWSL’s Patrick Donnelly, NSCAA President Amanda Vandervort and Commissioner Jeff Plush. They pick Emily Sonnett,a versatile player from University of Virginia. She couldn’t be here today since she’s training with the USWNT in camp. Sonnett was a first-team All-American in 2015 and a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist. She was the ACC defender of the Year. She ended her four-year career at Virginia with 11 goals and nine assists.

Raquel Rodriguez is chosen by Sky Blue FC. Raquel was the 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy winner.

The Boston Breakers pick Christen Westphal of Gators Soccer as the third overall pick.

Seattle Reign FC select Carson Pickett, midfielder from Florida State University Soccer.

Houston Dash, with their two-in-a-row selections choose, defender Cari Roccaro from Notre Dame and Rachel Daly from Saint John’s University.

Washington Spirit select Cheyna Williams, from Florida State University – after a long entertaining cheer from Washington Spirit fans.

Houston Dash select Texas Tech all-time leading goal scorer, Canadian Janine Beckie.

Western New York Flash select midfielder Michaela Hahn from Florida State University as the 9th overall pick of round 1.

Orlando Pride select NSCAA All- Americans from University of California, Berkley, Samantha Wittemen as the final pick of round 1 of the NWSL Draft.


11th pick: Western NY Flash – Makenzy Doniak, University of Virginia, forward. 2014 MAC Hermann semifinalist

12th pick: Washington Spirit – Cali Farquharson, Arizona State, forward. First-Team NSCAA All-Region and First-Team All-Pac-12

13th pick: Sky Blue FC – Leah Galton, Hofstra University, forward. 2014: NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team selection…Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year…CAA Preseason Player of the Year… All-CAA First Team selection…Eastern College Athletic Conference Second Team pick…Top Drawer Soccer-ranked 61st-best player in Division I

14th pick: Western NY Flash – Mallory Weber, Penn State, forward. Co-Captain … Academic All-Big Ten … Women’s College Cup All-Tournament Team … NSCAA All-Great Lakes Second Team … Named to the All-Big Ten First Team (Forward) … Named a finalist for the 2015 Soccer News Net College Boot award

15th pick: Orlando Pride – Christina Burkenroad, Cal State Fullerton, forward.

16th pick: Kansas City – Katie Bowen, University of North Carolina, midfielder. New Zealand National Team.

17th pick: Boston Breakers – Brittany Ratcliffe, University of Virgina. 2014: Third-Team All-ACC…ACC Player of the Week… First-Team VaSID All-State

18th pick: Kansas City – Brianne Reed, Rutgers University, defender. Winner of the 2015 Senior CLASS Award … named National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) First Team All-Great Lakes Region

19th pick: Chicago Red Stars – Katie Naughton, Notre Dame, defender. 2014: All-ACC Second Team

20th pick: Washington Spirit – Alli Murphy, Texas Tech University, midfielder. Round 2 of the 2016 NWSL Draft concludes.

#WomenLoveSoccer