You had work in the morning. Or school. Or a social engagement. Or you watched the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Second Round on ESPN+ instead. Or maybe the NBA Playoffs.
Point is, it’s plausible that you might have missed the four-match slate on Wednesday night that kicked off Week 12. I’m here to catch you up, fresh off four-boxing between all of the above.
Because you’re a skimmer — we all are in this attention-deficit digital age — we’ll start with what you absolutely need to know, in brief and in order of importance (my opinion only). More depth after the bullets. Scores above in the matchcenter, and the recap, highlights and stats are just a couple clicks away.
- Portland Timbers striker Brian Fernandez scores on debut as second-half substitute
- Atlanta United win fifth straight game, post an MLS-record fifth straight clean sheet
- Toronto FC pepper D.C. United with 35 shots … and fail to score (an MLS record)
- Jozy Altidore not in Greg Vanney’s 18-man roster due to heel injury
- Jordan Morris left the Seattle Sounders' win early with a hamstring strain
- Portland midfielder Cristhian Paredes exited with what appeared to be a knee injury
- Raul Ruidiaz is healthy, and he didn’t waste any time grabbing a goal
- Florida Soccer Soldiers and Forward Madison FC ‘til I die in the US Open Cup
Brian Fernandez makes a splash
First game, first goal for the Timbers’ record signing, 24-year-old Brian Fernandez, who only a few weeks ago was on Necaxa and fighting for the Liga MX scoring title. He finished second.
“He was a threat as soon as he jumped onto the field,” said head coach Gio Savarese, who threw his new toy on in the 65th minute of a game Portland was losing 1-0. “He told me, ‘I’m going to score,’ [and] he did.”
It took Fernandez just 12 minutes to make his mark, a Timbers record, bringing the visitors even to earn a big road point in one of the league’s toughest venues this year. The scouting report on Fernandez is that he wants to get to goal. The Dynamo probably ought to have seen the run in behind coming.
How’s this for direct? The Argentine drifted into the right channel, caught Sebastian Blanco’s eye and timed his run to coincide with Aljaz Struna’s positioning. From there, it took a ball over the top, a good touch and some composure to beat Dynamo ‘keeper Joe Willis. Fernandez might get into shooting position quickly, but he’s in no rush around the 18.
It wasn’t just the goal, either. Fernandez set up Tomas Conechny for what could've been the game-winner only to see the finish disappoint. He stretched the field. He showed vision both on the ball and off. He appears to prefer the right wing and scores like a center forward from that position, a perfect fit for the club’s current personnel.
In a word, Fernandez was dangerous, as he should be given his price tag and current form. Most encouragingly, he did it via a different approach than the likes of Blanco, Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse. Portland’s multi-million dollar investment compliments what they already have, and early returns are good.
Atlanta United continue steady ascent
Guess who is now four points back of D.C. United with two games in hand? I don’t think I need to answer that. The Five Stripes weren’t down for long.
Five straight wins. Five straight shutouts. Wednesday night’s 1-0 win, not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, was the best birthday present Frank de Boer could have gotten, especially given the long flight to Vancouver and the starters he left back in Atlanta ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Red Bulls.
Guess Michael Parkhurst was right. Trust the process.
For Vancouver, a MLS-worst seventh penalty kick conceded was the difference, though it might not have been needed for Atlanta to pick up all three points had Maxime Crepeau not stood on his head in the ‘Caps goal. Incredible performance. That triple save was something to behold.
The highlight for this neutral viewer? The TSN broadcast crew’s growing indignation about Atlanta’s diving, time wasting and general antics. Alexi Lalas nails it.
Toronto FC make the wrong kind of history
First, another injury for Jozy Altidore, no telling how serious. TSN reported it was a heel issue that saw the US men's national team forward leave Tuesday’s training early. This after Altidore had just returned from a hamstring injury. The Gold Cup is coming! Time to heal up!
His absence explains a lot (but not all) of what we saw in the Reds’ scoreless draw against D.C. United, who bunkered their way to a point with Wayne Rooney and Lucho Acosta mostly watching from the subs’ bench while Toronto tested out the “If you don’t shoot, you can’t score” cliché in real time.
Oof. That’s the wrong side of history. Toronto now have just three wins in seven home games. They need another center back, a TAM winger to stretch the field and Jozy happy and healthy.
“I think we need more [attacking firepower], I think that’s been evident for a while now,” Greg Vanney said after the match. “That’s something we have to consider and talk about, we have to work on that.”
Finally, we didn’t get a goal, but we did get this from Michael Bradley. Say what you will, but the man can spray.
Sounders pad points total before road trip
Jordan Morris + Hamstring Injury = Hopefully not a repeat of 2017
Hey, at least Raul Ruidiaz is back! Memo to Orlando City: You might want to mark him, look at him, bump him, generally pretend he’s hanging around in the six-yard box. Just a hint. Easiest goal the Peruvian will ever score.
Those three points were big for Seattle. They’re just two back of LAFC on 25 and ahead of the pace set by the Red Bulls during last season’s record-setting campaign. They needed the padding in the Western Conference because odds are they’re going to fall off that pace a bit.
Why is that? Because six of their next seven games are away from home. From now until July 6 is going to be a slog.