The Pitch: Sunday’s USA-Canada Match to Feature MLS-Heavy Rosters That Showcase North American Player Development 

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Sunday’s USA-Canada Match to Feature MLS-Heavy Rosters That Showcase North American Player Development

Concacaf Gold Cup squads for the U.S. and Canada feature a combined 70 percent of players (32 of 46), who currently hail from Major League Soccer clubs. As the two countries prepare to meet head-to-head in the Group Stage of the tournament on Sunday (5 p.m. ET, Univision / TUDN / FOX), the progress of MLS player development is contributing in a big way to the future of fielding North America’s national teams.

When the U.S. Men’s National Team’s opened Gold Cup action against Haiti last Sunday, the starting lineup included 10 active MLS players of the 11 on the field. As a handful of MLS academy products made their international debuts, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio earned his first cap at home at Children’s Mercy Park, and 23-year-old Portland Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson reminisced on attending the 2013 Gold Cup, with dreams of one day representing his country.

MLS personalities are shining in a major way for Canada as well, with five academy products named starters and three more coming off the bench in their 4-1 victory over Martinique on Sunday. Toronto FC academy products scored key goals when Jonathan Osorio finished the game-winner in the 26th minute, and Theo Corbeanu put away Canada’s fourth goal in the 89th.

Canada will take on Haiti on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1 / TUDN), followed by the USA vs.  Martinique (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1 / UniMás / TUDN) before the two sides square off on Sunday.

Gold Cup Grants Mexico A Highly Touted Homegrown

LA Galaxy forward Efraín Álvarez is the rising 19-year-old dual-national who last Saturday forever solidified his ties to the Mexican National Team when he appeared in the Gold Cup Group Stage match against Trinidad & Tobago.

As Álvarez is gradually earning minutes for country, making his second full international appearance for Mexico in the game, the now cap-tied teenager has the national team support and guidance from a pair of his current club teammates. LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, who was also called up to Mexico for Gold Cup, will be on his side throughout the tournament before both resume club competitions alongside Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer in the Galaxy’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who is tied for the Golden Boot lead in MLS.

With a bright future ahead, Álvarez has sided with Mexico as he joins an ever-growing crop of young players developed in MLS, who are fielding the next generation of North American national teams.

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Loons’ Ozzie Alonso Aims to Stay Unbeaten at Home Versus Fromer Seattle Club

The weight of the Western Conference falls on a full-strength Minnesota United FC this weekend, as the league’s table-topping, No. 1 Seattle Sounders FC travel to Allianz Field on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). While Seattle has dominated league play this season, Sounders FC have never won in Minnesota with midfielder Osvaldo Alonso - who spent 10 seasons with Seattle – on the field.

Minnesota United rebounded recently with strong momentum through a seven-game undefeated streak. And now, with key internationals Robin Lod (Finland) and Jan Gregus (Slovakia) returning from Euro 2020, the Loons will be ready to take on the best in the West as they look to recover from a July 7 loss to the Colorado Rapids.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s depth continues to turn heads with young players such as 18-year-old Homegrown Danny Leyva and 19-year-old Josh Atencio making an immediate midfield impact in recent weeks. Paired with Raúl Ruidíaz, whose 10 goals are tied for the MLS Golden Boot lead with LA Galaxy forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Seattle’s squad is streaking on an MLS-record 13-game unbeaten streak to start the season and showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

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Atlanta United Seeks Home Spark from Homegrowns and Newest Signing

Gabriel Heinze’s side is turning to Atlanta United academy products and newest midfield signing Amar Sejdic to reinvigorate the Five Stripes, as they look to snap a seven-game winless streak when they host the New England Revolution – the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference – at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in one of the league’s most raucous environments this Saturday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN/ ESPN Deportes).

Featured Homegrown players earning meaningful minutes over the last two games are 18-year-old Tyler Wolff and 19-year-old Jackson Conway, with Wolff earning back-to-back starts and Conway scoring his first goal of the season against Nashville SC. Homegrown defender George Campbell also made his first appearance of the season against Nashville, coming on as a first-half substitute. In addition, Atlanta has gained Sejdic as another attacking option via trade from CF Montreal to step in as Ezequiel Barco joins Argentina for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

As this young Atlanta team attempts to silence the Eastern Conference leaders and an in-form Gustavo Bou, who has five goals in his last six games, can the Five Stripes regain their stride and preserve their so-far unbeatable 2-0-3 homefield advantage?

Southern Acquisitions Kick Off Secondary Transfer Window

With Major League Soccer’s Secondary Transfer Window opening last week, two southern rivals have already made moves to bolster their rosters in the first few days of activity. During this period from July 7 through Aug. 5, MLS teams can officially register any new player from clubs based outside of the league and conduct in-season trades with MLS clubs.

Atlanta United recently acquired 24-year-old midfielder Amar Sejdic via trade from CF Montréal, and Nashville SC reportedly closed on a club-record transfer fee with the signing of a 23-year-old Designated Player in Ivorian star Aké Loba from LIGA MX side CF Monterrey. With Los Rayados, Loba netted seven goals in 27 appearances, including a goal in Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League play against the Columbus Crew in April. Along with Nashville’s signing of Loba, several MLS clubs have found success in filling a Designated Player spot during the Secondary Transfer Window.

In 2020, FC Dallas welcomed in Argentine forward Franco Jara, who is tied for the most appearances and second-most goals for Dallas this season. A year prior, the New England Revolution signed Gustavo Bou – who currently tops the Eastern Conference-leading Revs with six goals. Since joining the Revolution in July 2019, Bou has recorded 20 goals and has led the Revs to a 13-1-7 mark across all competitions when scoring.

The Secondary Transfer Window strengthens midseason rosters in the push for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, with notable acquisitions from the past also including Minnesota United’s Robin Lod in 2019, Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan and LA Galaxy's Jonathan dos Santos in 2017, and Philadelphia Union’s Alejandro Bedoya in 2016.

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PRO’s Top Officials Assigned to Gold Cup Matches and Tokyo Olympic Games

The Professional Referee organization continues to produce some of the best on-field and video review officials in MLS, in the region, and in the world, with six presiding over Concacaf Gold Cup matches and six heading to the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.

When the Group Stage of Gold Cup kicked off last Saturday, a virtually all-PRO crew of Jair Maruffo (referee), 2016 MLS Assistant Referee of the Year Frank Anderson (assistant referee), 2020 MLS Assistant Referee of the Year Kathryn Nesbitt (assistant referee), Tom Ford (video assistant referee [VAR]), and Chris Penso (assistant VAR) officiated the El Salvador vs. Guatemala match, while Dave Gantar (VAR) followed that with his leading video review role for Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago.

The Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games are only a couple weeks away, and featured PRO officials named by U.S. Soccer and Canada Soccer for this prestigious world stage will be 2020 MLS Referee of the Year Ismail Elfath (referee), assistant referees Chantal Boudreau, Kyle Atkins and Corey Parker, and VARs Edvin Jurisevic and Chris Penso, as for the first time the Olympic Games incorporate video review with officials who helped MLS set the global standard for the VAR initiative. From Canada Soccer, PRO assistant referee Chantal Boudreau has also been selected for the Tokyo Games.

Upcoming assignments for PRO officials will be available at

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Game Notes

Saturday, July 17

Atlanta United vs. New England Revolution, 5 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes; TSN)

  • Atlanta United reached a second draw in the last three games, playing to a 2-2 result with Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on July 8. Jackson Conway scored his first goal in MLS and for ATLUTD for the late equalizer, after Anton Walkes netted his second goal in five games.
  • The Revolution had their five-game winning streak at Gillette Stadium put to an end, falling 3-2 to Toronto FC on July 7. Carles Gil scored his second goal of the year, directly from a free kick, and Adam Buksa hit for his fifth of the season.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Carles Gil converted a penalty kick early in the second half to snap a 1-1 tie and the Revolution took a 2-1 win May 1 at Gillette Stadium – their first victory ever vs. ATLUTD. Atlanta United had won four of the first six meetings, with two draws.
  • ATLUTD have won all three meetings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a 2-1 win in 2018, and 7-0 victory on Sept. 13, 2017, in a match that equaled the all-time MLS margin of victory, the most goals ever scored in a single game by an expansion team.

New York Red Bulls vs. Inter Miami CF, 7 p.m.

  • The Red Bulls extended their undefeated streak to three games, reaching a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena on July 7. Patryk Klimala scored his second goal since coming to MLS; he has a goal and two assists in the last two games.
  • Inter Miami fell to a 1-0 loss to CF Montréal in their last match, July 3 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale in a CFMTL home game.
  • The teams met twice in Inter Miami’s inaugural season, each winning at the other’s ground. The Red Bulls claimed a 4-1 win at Inter Miami CF Stadium on Sept. 23, then Inter Miami took a 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena on Oct. 7.

Columbus Crew SC vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

  • The Crew came back for a third consecutive draw, playing to a 2-2 result with FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium on July 9. Down two goals after 24 minutes and down a man to a red card, Lucas Zelarayán scored just before halftime before Miguel Berry netted the equalizer for his first career goal in MLS.
  • NYCFC had their two-game winning streak put to an end, falling 2-1 to CF Montréal at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on July 7. Keaton Parks netted his second goal of the season, a second consecutive game with a goal.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Lucas Zelarayán scored both goals directly from free kicks, over the final 13 minutes of the game, leading the Crew to a 2-1 win May 22 at Red Bull Arena. Zelarayán became the sixth player in MLS history to score two goals directly from free kicks in the same game.
  • The win in the first meeting ended a four-game NYCFC home winning streak in the series; the first Zelarayán free kick goal ended a 404-minute shutout streak for the Crew at NYCFC, dating back to Oct. 22, 2017 in a game played at CitiField in Queens. NYCFC have won once all-time in Columbus, a 3-2 win there in 2017.

CF Montreal vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. (TVA Sports)

  • CF Montréal won their second consecutive game and extended their undefeated streak to five matches, defeating New York City FC 2-1 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on July 7. Mason Toye converted a penalty kick for his fourth goal of the season, while Romell Quioto netted his second.
  • FC Cincinnati extended their undefeated streak to four matches, reaching a 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew at TQL Stadium on July 9. Edgar Castillo opened the scoring after just 24 seconds – the 12th-fastest goal from the start of a game in league history – and Luciano Acosta scored his third of the season, his second in the last three games.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Jürgen Locadia scored in the 70th minute then Gustavo Vallecilla netted the winner in the 86th minute as FCC took a 2-1 win May 22 at DRV PNK Stadium.
  • The teams had last met in 2019 during FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season – and FCC won both matchups. Allan Cruz and Fatai Alashe scored goals on either side of halftime as FC Cincinnati took a 2-1 win on May 11 at Nippert Stadium, then Cruz scored the game’s only goal after 28 seconds for the win Sept. 14 at Stade Saputo. It equaled the earliest the only goal of a game was scored for a 1-0 win in MLS history.

Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

  • The Union came back for a ninth result in the last 10 games, playing to a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on July 8. Sergio Santos scored his second goal of the season for the 85th-minute leveler.
  • D.C. United set a club record in their 26-year history, scoring seven goals in a 7-1 win against Toronto FC at Audi Field on July 3. It was the 10th time in MLS history seven or more goals were scored by a team in a single team – with seven different goalscorers, it marked the first time there were that many for a team in a single game, in 6,308 regular season games all-time.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Kacper Przybylko netted the game’s only goal in first half stoppage time as the Union took the victory May 23 at Audi Field.
  • The Union are undefeated in the last nine meetings between the teams, over the past five seasons, winning seven in a row before a draw in the second meeting in 2020, with a 25-7 edge in goals. The Union have won the past seven meetings in Chester, Pa., over the last five seasons, including a 4-1 victory in the last meeting there last Aug. 29; they are undefeated in four visits all-time to Audi Field, with three wins and a draw.

Toronto FC vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. (TSN)

  • TFC put an end to their six-game losing skid, defeating the New England Revolution 3-2 at Gillette Stadium on July 7. Yeferson Soteldo netted his first career MLS goal, Kemar Lawrence netted his first of the year and Tsubasa Endoh also added his first, as TFC opened up a 3-goal lead in the opening 24 minutes.
  • Orlando City SC are coming off a 3-1 defeat by Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field on July 7. Andrés Perea scored his first career goal in MLS for the OCSC tally.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and Orlando City has won both. Tesho Akindele scored the game’s only goal in the 12th minute as Orlando City SC took the win in their home game at Exploria Stadium on May 22, then Akindele opened the scoring after 49 seconds and Junior Urso netted the 84th-minute winner as OCSC took a 3-2 win June 19 in Orlando in a TFC home game.
  • Toronto FC had won eight of the first 12 meetings all-time, with two draws. All four OCSC wins have now come in Orlando. TFC has won four of the six meetings all-time at BMO Field, without defeat; Orlando City’s lone result in Toronto came in a goalless draw on Sept. 28, 2016.

Nashville SC vs. Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.

  • Nashville SC extended their undefeated streak to four games with a second draw in that time, playing to a 2-2 result with Atlanta United at Nissan Stadium on July 8. Jalil Anibaba scored his first goal of the season, set by Hany Mukhtar, then Mukhtar converted a penalty kick for his fourth of the season.
  • Fire FC won their second game on the trot and extended their undefeated run to three games, defeating Orlando City SC 3-1 at Soldier Field on July 7. Boris Sekulic and Robert Beric each netted their second goal of the season, then Chinonso Offor scored his first career goal in MLS for the late capper.
  • The teams met once in Nashville SC’s inaugural season. Nashville’s Daniel Rios and the Fire’s Boris Sekulic traded goals in the first half, leaving the teams in a 1-1 draw Oct. 31 at Nissan Stadium.

Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 9 p.m.

  • The Rapids stretched their home undefeated streak to five games, defeating Minnesota United FC 2-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on July 7. Braian Galván scored his first goal of the season and his second in MLS, then Andre Shinyashiki hit for his second of the year.
  • The Quakes return to action after coming back for a 2-2 draw with Minnesota United FC in their last match, July 3 at Allianz Field. Cade Cowell scored for a second consecutive game, his fourth of the season, while Benji Kikanovic scored his first MLS goal for the late equalizer.
  • The teams met twice a season ago. In the first meeting, Chris Wondolowski (163 career MLS league goals) and Kei Kamara (129 career MLS league goals) each tallied, as the teams ended in a 1-1 draw in San Jose on Sept. 5. In the return match, the Rapids took a 5-0 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Sept. 23.
  • The Quakes are undefeated in the six meetings all-time at PayPal Park, winning four of those, and are undefeated in their last 10 home meetings with the Rapids, since a defeat Aug. 25, 2012. The Colorado goal in the 2019 meeting was their first at San Jose since May 18, 2013, snapping a span of 692 scoreless minutes for the Rapids in the Bay Area.
  • The Rapids are undefeated in the past nine meetings with the Quakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the last San Jose win in Commerce City coming in 2013. The Rapids have won five times, with four draws. The Rapids’ win at home on Oct. 13, 2016, ended a 14-game overall winless streak in the series.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. LA Galaxy, 10 p.m. (TSN)

  • Whitecaps FC had a two-game undefeated run come to an end in a 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 7 in a VWFC home game.
  • The Galaxy won for the third time in four games, defeating FC Dallas 3-1 at Dignity Health Sports Park on July 7. New signings Rayan Raveloson and Kévin Cabral each scored their first goals in MLS, and Ethan Zubak netted his first of the season.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Efraín Álvarez scored the game-winner in second-half stoppage time, giving the Galaxy the 2-1 victory June 23 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • Whitecaps FC have won three of the last five meetings in Carson. The Galaxy’s lone win at BC Place over the last seven seasons came April 5, 2019, a 2-0 win. The ‘Caps have won twice with three draws over that span.
  • There has been a shutout in 15 of the past 19 meetings between the teams, dating back to 2013, including three scoreless draws.

Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas, 10:30 p.m.

  • The Timbers fell to a second defeat in a row, dropping a 4-1 decision to Austin FC at Q2 Stadium on July 7. Jeremy Ebobisse scored his second goal of the season for the Timbers goal, both coming in the last three games.
  • FC Dallas had their two-game undefeated run snapped, falling 3-1 to the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park on July 7. Franco Jara scored the FCD goal, his second of the season.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. FC Dallas got goals from four different players as they took a 4-1 win May 1 at Toyota Stadium, their first meeting in league play since 2019.
  • The teams met last year in an epic match in the MLS Cup Playoffs in Round One at Providence Park. Ricardo Pepi the equalizer for FC Dallas in second half stoppage time to leave the teams at 1-1, then FC Dallas won the penalty shootout 8-7, the 15 penalties converted (all in the first 15 attempts) the most in a penalty shootout in MLS history.
  • The Timbers have won once in 13 league visits all-time to Toyota Stadium, in 2014. When FC Dallas won 3-1 at Portland on April 13, 2016, it was their first victory ever at Providence Park; the Timbers had won four of the first six league meetings there with two draws. The Timbers won the last meeting in Portland, by the game’s only goal June 20, 2019.

Los Angeles Football Club vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m.

  • LAFC won their second game on the trot, defeating Austin FC 2-0 at Q2 Stadium on July 7. José Cifuentes scored for a second consecutive game, his fourth goal of the season, and Diego Rossi also added his fourth of the year.
  • Real won for the first time in four games, rolling to a 4-0 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in a Vancouver home game. Damir Kreilach hit for a brace for the second time this season vs. Whitecaps FC, now with seven goals for the season, tied for third in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. José Cifuentes scored the game’s only goal as LAFC took the win July 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • The teams met twice a season ago, splitting the two encounters, both played at Rio Tinto Stadium. Damir Kreilach, Justin Meram and Albert Rusnák all scored as Real took a 3-0 win on Sept. 9, their first win in five meetings in the series in league play. LAFC then took a 3-1 win on Oct. 4.
  • The teams also met in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2018, with Real pulling off an upset with a 3-2 win at Banc of California Stadium. The teams met in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup in 2019, LAFC taking a 3-2 win in Sandy.

Sunday, July 18

Minnesota United FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 2 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes; TSN)

  • Minnesota United FC had their seven-game undefeated streak – tied for the second-longest in the club’s MLS history – put to an end in a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on July 7.
  • Sounders FC extended their season-opening undefeated streak to 13 games – the longest to open a season in MLS history – with a 2-0 win against Houston Dynamo FC at Lumen Field on July 7. Raúl Ruidíaz scored his 10th goal of the season – tied for the league lead with Javier Hernández of the LA Galaxy – and Kelyn Rowe scored his first goal since joining the club.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Raúl Ruidíaz scored a pair of goals and Fredy Montero scored a goal and added his assist in his return to the club, as Sounders FC took a 4-0 win in the season opener for both clubs, April 16 at Lumen Field.
  • Sounders FC are undefeated in seven league meetings all-time with MNUFC. Sounders FC won the first four meetings between the teams all-time, with an 11-3 advantage in goals. Seattle has won all four matchups in Seattle.
  • The teams also faced off last year in a dramatic Western Conference Final at Lumen Field. MNUFC held a 2-goal lead with a quarter-hour remaining, but Sounders FC stormed back with three goals, capped by a Gustav Svensson goal in stoppage time, for a 3-2 win and a place in 2020 MLS Cup.