MLS Newsstand - June 18, 2018

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Roman Torres’ life changed with 1 shot and 1 memorable goal
FOX Sports – June 17, 2018
 
SOCHI, Russia (AP) In the euphoria of the moment and the kind of exhilaration he had never experienced before, Roman Torres completely lost sense of time.
 
He ran, and screamed, and ripped off his shirt amid the noise echoing through Estadio Rommel Fernandez creating a haze of joy and excitement. When the celebration finally dispersed and reality hit there was still work to do, Torres placed his hands over his mouth and made a request of the referee issuing him a yellow card for being too exuberant.
 
”I asked him how much time was left and that he end the match quickly,” Torres recalled.
 
It’s been eight months since that night in Panama City when Torres became a national hero. Tied 1-1 in the 88th minute against Costa Rica and in need of a goal to keep its World Cup hopes alive with the United States flopping at Trinidad and Tobago, Torres unleashed a right-foot bolt from 11 yards in front of goal, beating goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton. In an instant, Torres sent Panama to the World Cup for the first time with his winning goal – knocking out the U.S. – and cast himself as an unforgettable figure in his country’s history.
 
One moment. One shot. A long-awaited World Cup appearance that begins Monday night on the edge of the Black Sea with Panama facing Belgium.
 
”I really enjoy it. I enjoy it because it’s a moment that God has gifted me and I am going to enjoy it to the fullest,” Torres said through an interpreter. ”It’s something that I always dreamed about, going to a World Cup with the First Team. I had been to World Cups with the youth teams, and the truth is that my dream is achieved. I think that now instead of just enjoying it, it is time to work hard and have a good World Cup.”
 
It’s one thing to be a star in a soccer-crazed country. It’s another to be responsible for a moment of unbridled joy and euphoria.
 
Here’s the thing about Torres: he was already widely recognizable. Whether it’s his stature at 6-foot-2, his wide grin or his big hair, it was easy to pick out Torres in a crowd.
 
And then it became amplified in a way even Torres could not have expected. He went from being the captain of the Los Canaleros, to national hero. On the cusp of another devastating shortcoming on the soccer field, Torres and his right boot became etched in Panamanian history.
 
Now something mundane like going to the store can turn into a crush of fans wanting their moment with Torres. Trips to his old neighborhood are mob scenes.
 
He didn’t ask for this type of attention and notoriety. He accepts it as part of who he has become.
 
”For the most part I enjoy it, but when I’m with my family I’d prefer to have some privacy,” Torres said. ”It’s something that fills me with pride to know that all of Panama loves me not just for that goal but also before, when the people have believed in the national team, they have always supported and respected the players and that’s something that makes all the players proud.”
 
Just a few years ago, Torres being in that position was in question. Shortly after his arrival in the United States to join the Seattle Sounders in MLS, Torres sustained a torn ACL in his left knee and was sidelined for nearly a year.
 
”When I got injured I had times when I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to return to soccer,” Torres said. ”It was a moment of anger when I was told that I would be out for almost a year. It felt like the world was collapsing around me. After some time, I simply asked God to give me strength and the will to sacrifice myself every single day to get up early for my therapy, to give me mental fortitude. I think that was the case.”
 
When Torres returned, he played with the same aggressive, attacking style of defense that first attracted the attention of MLS and made him a stalwart for Panama. Yet he’ll be forever remembered in Seattle for his right foot, just like he is in Panama. Torres scored the deciding penalty to win the 2017 MLS Cup for Seattle, giving the club its first league championship.
 
That goal was a precursor for what he did for Panama. And Torres understands the task beginning Monday night – while a moment of immense pride and emotion for himself and his teammates – will be tougher than anything they’ve faced.
 
”Getting to the World Cup wasn’t easy,” Torres said. ”Now we are there and the truth is that to win a game or to advance to the next round, we’ll need to work twice or three times as hard as what we have been doing so far to achieve that objective. That’s the mentality that we have.”
 
 
Yohan Croizet lifts Sporting KC to Open Cup win with last-minute strike from distance
Kansas City Star – June 16, 2018
 
The introduction to MLS has been somewhat turbulent, Yohan Croizet searching for his place within Sporting Kansas City’s roster. He arrived here as a high-priced offseason acquisition, one designed to reinvigorate the offense, but the initial three months included just one goal.
 
On Saturday, Croizet produced his signature moment in a Sporting KC uniform.
 
A superbly-timed one.
 
Croizet blasted a strike from distance in the 89th minute, lifting Sporting KC to a 3-2 victory Saturday against FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup. The club will move on to the quarterfinals, awaiting the winner of Monday’s match between Houston and Minnesota.
 
“The feeling was amazing. When you score a goal like that, it’s crazy,” Croizet said. “It’s the best goal for my career.”
 
For now, it prolongs Sporting KC’s defense of its 2017 U.S. Open Cup championship. For awhile longer, it will stand as a premier goal for a player with 30 of them in his professional career — and one in need of enhancement to his confidence.
 
Croizet, 26, was a designated-player signing in the winter, thought to be a regular starter atop the midfield. But he has spent the first three months of his first MLS season in and out of the lineup as the coaching staff insisted the goals would come.
 
One came emphatically Saturday. After a ball plopped into the air, Croizet camped under it, awaiting its descent. Without letting it hit the turf, he directed a screamer into the upper netting.
 
Coming of a hamstring injury, Croizet subbed into the match only four minutes before the goal — and not exactly as planned. Forward Daniel Salloi, who scored twice earlier in the match, asked to be removed after feeling tightness in his side. Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes turned to his bench and whistled for Croizet.
 
“We’ve done the homework on him. He has the ability to score goals and be very dangerous in the attack,” Vermes said. “Tonight, that goal, I hope gives him the confidence that he needs because we have the confidence in him.
 
“Coming back from the injury and stepping in like that and scoring hopefully is a really, really good thing for him moving forward.”
 
Salloi scored twice for Sporting KC, sandwiched between a pair of FC Dallas goals, including a late one from Roland Lamah to even the game in the 77th minute.
 
For the second straight year, Sporting KC eliminated FC Dallas from the Open Cup tournament, both inside Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting KC outlasted FC Dallas 3-0 in last year’s quarterfinals, all three of those tallies arriving in extra time.
 
A year later, the two teams have separated themselves in the Western Conference, occupying the top two spots. Albeit in a departure from the MLS regular-season schedule, they offered a preview Saturday of what could define the race for the last half of the year.
 
Back and forth. FC Dallas led 1-0; Sporting KC led 2-1; and Croizet supplied the late game-winner for the 3-2 final.
 
Salloi altered the scoreboard twice. The first followed a sequence that unfolded like this: Bar. Post. Goal. The two central defenders connected with the woodwork — Emiliano Amor off the crossbar, and then Ike Opara off the post. After retaking possession, Graham Zusi flicked a pass to Opara, who headed the ball across the goal mouth. The ball appeared headed for the corner of the net, but Salloi ensured it crossed the line with a tap-in. Salloi apologized to Opara at halftime for swiping his goal.
 
The second was a bit higher degree of difficulty, following a switch from the wing to central forward.
 
“I’m trying things I’ve never really tried before — that all comes with confidence,” Salloi said. “I trust in my teammates, and they trust in me. It’s just rolling. It feels good.”
 
 
Atlanta United dominating MLS All-Star voting
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – June 15, 2018
 
Atlanta United supporters are stuffing the digital ballot box for MLS All-Star voting.
 
In running totals released by the league on Friday, eight Atlanta United players are among the top vote-receivers at their respective positions. Polls will close 11:55 p.m. PST on June 20.
 
The All-Star game will be Aug. 1 at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team will be managed by Atlanta United’s Gerardo Martino and will play Juventus.
 
The votes:
 
Goalkeepers
 
GUZAN, Brad [Fan XI]
 
MELIA, Tim
 
STEFFEN, Zack
 
HOWARD, Tim
 
JOHNSON, Sean
 
Defenders
 
PARKHURST, Michael [Fan XI]
 
PIREZ, Leandro [Fan XI]
 
CIMAN, Laurent [Fan XI]
 
ZUSI, Graham
 
OPARA, Ike
 
Midfielders
 
ALMIRON, Miguel [Fan XI]
 
NAGBE, Darlington [Fan XI]
 
BARCO, Ezequiel [Fan XI]
 
GRESSEL, Julian [Fan XI]
 
VALERI, Diego
 
Forwards
 
MARTINEZ, Josef [Fan XI]
 
IBRAHIMOVIC, Zlatan [Fan XI]
 
VELA, Carlos
 
VILLA, David
 
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS, Bradley
 
EA SPORTS "More Than a Vote" challenge
 
The third forward in the Fan XI:
 
VELA, Carlos [Fan XI]
 
IBRAHIMOVIC, Zlatan
 
dos SANTOS, Giovani
 
ZARDES, Gyasi
 
GIOVINCO, Sebastian
 
 
The Breakdown: US Open Cup - FC Dallas at Sporting Kansas City
Dallas Morning News – June 15, 2018
 
FC Dallas took on Sporting Kansas City at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City on Saturday night in the Round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Unfortunately for FCD, things went as they always have against KC in the Open Cup and it was another loss.
 
FC Dallas is now 0-4 against Sporting in the USOC, all four games taking place in the Kansas City area. The home side is 10-0-4 in the last 14 games of this series in league and cup, so the home draw for Sporting was everything. Prior to the FCD / Sporting game, 67% of home teams had advanced in this year's Cup.
 
"It was a battle and we lost," said FCD center back Reto Ziegler. "We are really disappointed. I think it was a good game because I think to come here and play like we played is not easy. But on the other hand, they scored three goals, so we have to be disappointed. Even if it had to be a little bit of the luck, the third goal was fantastic, but it's what happened."
 
Overall this was a fairly good performance by FC Dallas, they were in it right up to the 89th-minute goal. Sporting is a really quality team. So we'll try not to be too harsh, but there are things to talk about.
 
Let's break it down.
 
Formation and Tactics
 
Without Mauro Diaz (didn't travel), Santiago Mosquera (hamstring), and Cristian Colman (ankle) FC Dallas Head Coach Oscar Pareja somewhat surprisingly started the team in a 4-4-2.
 
When Dallas subbed on Jacori Hayes for Kellyn Acosta, the Huntsmen shifted to a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 type shape with Barrios right wing and Lamah left wing. Then Tesho Akindele came on for Carlos Gruezo in the 71st minute made it more of a 4-2-3-1. Finally Ryan Hollingshead for Michael Barrios in the 84th minute to get some fresh legs on.
 
Sporting KC started in a 4-3-3.
 
They didn't vary their formation a lot that I saw but did move around some pieces when they subbed. Johnny Russel for Diego Rubio in the 65th minute. Khiry Shelton for Gero Fernandez in the 75th minute. Yohan Croizet for Dániel Sallói in the 85th minute.
 
Goals
 
1-0 FC Dallas Goal. 18th minute. Michael Barrios does most of the hard work but lets Carlos Gruezo a ton of credit for getting the effort expended to get into the goalmouth for the finish.
 
1-1 Sporting KC Goal. 43rd minute. After an endless scramble off a corner kick, Ike Opara eventually heads across the goal and Dániel Sallói taps in the goal.
 
1-2 Sporting KC Goal. 66h minute. Sporting works the ball around the top of the box and FCD fails to clear. Eventually, the ball gets to Dániel Sallói who again scores.
 
2-2 FC Dallas Goal. 77th minute. Sporting keeper Adrián Zendejas muffs a cross and the ball falls to Roland Lamah. Lamah makes a couple of cuts and then shots through a forest of legs to the back post.
 
2-3 Sporting KC Goa. 89th minute. A poorly cleared ball falls to substitute Yohan Croizet who proceeds to hit one of the sickest volleys you will see.
 
El Guapo
 
I loved the energy and focus Reggie Cannon seemed to have, playing end to end. Even the crunching, but completely legal, tackle late I loved. 14 for 20 passing, 2 tackles, 2 recoveries, and 1 clearance. Only one foul committed, although it wasn't in a great spot.
 
Michael Barrios and Maxi Urruti were both pretty good. Both put in lots of work, put Sporting's backline under pressure, and created some chaos. Urruti 13 for 16 passing, Barrios 14 of 15 passing. Urruti was offside three times, but at least he was pushing the line.
 
The FC Dallas shooting efficiency was actually quite good. 2 goals on 13 shots, 7 shots on target. Only two shots off target (both by Carlos Gruezo, who scored). That's something FCD can build on. A little more volume would be nice, but KCs defense is pretty good.
 
Victor Ulloa just quietly goes about his business. 36 or 41 passes completed (88%). 4 tackles (3 successful), 5 recoveries, 1 clear, and 1 foul committed. I wish he was just more impactful on the game. So much of his distribution is lateral.  He plays in the game instead of playing the game... if that makes sense.
 
Of Two Minds
 
We didn't find out Mauro Diaz didn't travel till Friday. I'll try and find out why this week.
 
Kellyn Acosta struggled to find the game. He played fairly well, but only attempted 15 passes (11 connections, 1 key pass) in 60 minutes of play. 5 defensive actions, 1 dribble, 1 shot... he just wasn't involved playing out wide right.
 
I think Maynor Figueroa and Reto Ziegler tried to do a little too much on the left, bypassing midfield with long passes to get directly to Urruti and Barrios... oh that's right Roland Lamah was in front of them. Look at the combined left of defense compared to the combined right.
 
I wonder if Maynor Figueroa started at left back over Ryan Hollingshead because Roland Lamah was at left mid in front of him? More to investigate.
 
Jesse Gonzalez had a pretty solid night with five saves. And he made some more short passes to help Dallas keep the ball, I liked that.
 
But passing in general, particularly his desire to just blast balls long, is hurting this team in my opinion. I'll let this image speak for itself, compare Gonzalez distribution with Sporting's keeper Adrián Zendejas, just as an example
 
Sure, Dallas is trying to counterattack... but still.
 
Muy Feo
 
The broadcast I watched, found via FC Dallas' facebook live, was supposed to be the 'neutral' US Open Cup feed.  What is was, in reality, was the Sporting KC feed with some USOC graphics slapped on.  It didn't make for entertaining watching for FCD fans.  I do want to point out one specific thing that has come up a couple times with opposition broadcasters of late when I have been stuck listening to them... this idea that while FCD signs a lot of Homegrowns they don't play them.
 
Just because FCD's Homegrowns are 18 anymore doesn't ream they aren't still Homegrowns. FCD plays a lot of Homegrowns.  There were two more on the bench that didn't get in, Jordan Cano and Paxton Pomykal.  The KC broadcasters are correct that FCD desperately misses the intermediate step of a USL team like Sporting has with Swope Park Rangers.
 
In general terms, there were just too many holding mids on the field for FC Dallas and not enough skill on the ball for my taste. I suppose it's a road mentality, grind it out kind of thing... But possession was really suffering with only 40%. When combined with 73% passing accuracy... that's too many missed passes and turnovers. That's way too much giving the ball back to a really good team.
 
I think we can say the Sporting midfield dominated the game. All three SKC goals were by midfielders and the three men spent a lot of time in the FCD half. They had 11 of Sporting's 19 shots and 6 of the 8 shots on target.
 
"We had some options early in the game," Coach Pareja said after the game. "After that, they have people in the middle who are heavy and very good and experienced players. You can't put things together with that and then they made us drop more than we wanted. But the game was in control and still, we wanted to have those transitions and we had it. We stayed in the middle with Espinoza and Sanchez, but they found ways to just get in behind."
 
Roland Lamah, I thought, was a complete disaster in midfield, particularly on defense where he made Roger Espinoza looked like Pele. When FCD swapped sides with Lamah for a bit, KC just switched their attack and went at the other side instead. Lamah's only defensive contribution was picking up six balls (yellow triangles in the chart). He also committed two fouls in the defensive end and was called offside twice. The only silver lining was he drew 5 fouls. I have rarely thought an FC Dallas player was as utter and complete junk in a game as this...
 
Then, of course, Lamah scored. Scoring is, of course, the object of the game.
 
I don't even know what to say about him anymore... except... no more Lamah in midfield, please? Leave him up high?  K, thanks.
 
Up Next
 
FC Dallas travels to New York to take on the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.  Kickoff at 5 pm CT on Saturday, June 23rd.
 
 
Haris Medunjanin, Cory Burke lead Union's 2-1 win over Red Bulls in U.S. Open Cup
Philadelphia Inquirer – June 16, 2018
 
The Union have long cherished the U.S. Open Cup. It’s a tournament with decades of history in the Philadelphia area, and manager Jim Curtin won it in his playing days. And of course, it’s a chance to play for a trophy while on the outskirts on the Major League Soccer playoff race.
 
Curtin’s team delivered another memorable win Saturday, ousting the New York Red Bulls, 2-1, in the round of 16 at Talen Energy Stadium. All three goals came in the second half, with Haris Medunjanin and Cory Burke scoring for the home team.
 
The winner of Wednesday’s D.C. United-Orlando City game will come to Chester on July 18 for the quarterfinals.
 
“We have a special group when it comes to this competition,” Curtin said. “A survive-and-advance mentality now. We have a home game in our stadium [to come], and we’re three wins away from a trophy.”
 
The first half was scoreless, but wide open — so much so that Union goalkeeper Andre Blake had some choice words for his back line. At the other end of the field, the Union played some good soccer, recording 11 shots to New York’s six.
 
The opening goal came in the 53rd minute. Medunjanin took a pass from Alejandro Bedoya, danced around Tyler Adams and curled an inch-perfect shot into the top corner from nearly 30 yards.
 
Red Bulls star striker Wright-Phillips entered in the 60th, having not started because he played in a league game last Wednesday. He seemed primed to turn the game, and the Union knew it. But before he could get near the ball, Burke put it in New York’s net in the 62nd.
 
The sequence started with a lovely back-and-forth passing sequence between Bedoya and Medunjanin. Bedoya sprung Burke with a through ball that split two Red Bulls defenders, and the Jamaican striker hit a cool, low shot.
 
Medujanin was in great form throughout the night. He acknowledged afterward that this game had some extra meaning, as it was his first since his red card in Atlanta two weeks ago. And it could be his last for a while, as he awaits a potential extra suspension from MLS headquarters.
 
“When you sit outside [of games], it’s very difficult for every player, because you are one of the leaders of this team,” he said. “It was important for me that we win this game and go with a good feeling.”
 
Wright-Phillips got his goal in the 78th, sprung by big-money Red Bulls playmaker Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra. Two minutes later, Kaku forced a brilliant diving save from Blake with a grass-cutting shot from the top of the box.
 
Curtin didn’t hide his frustration about that after the game, chiding young centerbacks Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie.
 
“I don’t think it was their sharpest game, but maybe I’m critical and too hard on them, because I see so much talent in them,” Curtin said. “We want them to be playing in Europe, and tonight wasn’t a European-type performance from either of them.”
 
Beyond that, there weren’t many blemishes on an entertaining win.
 
 
Portland Timbers beat LA Galaxy 1-0 to advance to U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals
The Oregonian – June 16, 2018
 
The Portland Timbers consistently created chances, but failed to score from the run of play when they last faced the LA Galaxy two weeks ago. But the Timbers found the decisive go-ahead goal when they needed it in a rematch between the two clubs Friday night.
 
Sebastian Blanco scored the game-winner in the first half to lead the Timbers to a dominant 1-0 victory over the Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 at Providence Park Friday. Portland is now unbeaten in 10 games across all competitions.
 
"I thought the team played very well today," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "They fought very hard. They worked well. We felt we were in control of the match."
 
With the win, Portland moves on to the quarterfinal round of the tournament where it will face the winner of next week's LAFC-Sacramento Republic game. The quarterfinal match will be played on July 18. The Timbers will be making their first appearances in the quarterfinals since 2014.
 
With MLS taking a break to accommodate the 2018 FIFA World Cup, both the Timbers and the Galaxy were able to play on full rest Friday and both clubs made the decision to start close to their top available lineups for the game.
 
The Timbers had only one major change to their lineup as they tweaked their formation to give star midfielder Diego Valeri the day off. The Galaxy made the decision not to play either Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Romain Alessandrini. The Timbers and Galaxy were each missing two players to the World Cup as well. 
 
"We tried something a little bit different today due to the fact we needed to get rest for Diego," Savarese said. "We decided to go with a diamond with the two strikers. I thought it worked well."
 
The game came just two weeks after the Timbers took 10 shots on goals, but only managed to score from the penalty spot in a 1-1 draw with the Galaxy in MLS play at Providence Park.
 
At first, it seemed like Friday's game would play out in a similar way. Samuel Armenteros had a shot saved off the line by Dave Romney in the 11th minute, David Bingham made a diving stop to deny Diego Chara in the 13th minute and Fanendo Adi whiffed on an open look in the 17th minute.
 
But the Timbers finally broke through in the 30th minute of the game.  
 
Zarek Valentin passed the ball off to Adi, who sent a nifty back heel pass across the box to Blanco. Blanco took a touch before firing a left-footed shot into the back of the net to give Portland the 1-0 lead.
 
"I'm very proud of the guys because they gave everything tonight," Savarese said.
 
Portland had chances to put the game away with another goal, but the club failed to make the most of a significant numbers of opportunities in the attack.
 
While Portland found ways to create chances throughout the match, the Galaxy didn't start to really challenge the Timbers until the end of the game. Ariel Lassiter fired a shot on goal from the top of the box in the 89th minute, but Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella tipped it over the net to preserve the clean sheet and help lead the Timbers to the 1-0 win.
 
"Today, it was a tough one, but a very good victory," Savarese said.
 
 
Houston Dynamo’s Adolfo Machado ready for challenge in Panama’s first World Cup appearance
Pro Soccer USA – June 18, 2018
 
HOUSTON – Panamanian defender Adolfo Machado dropped to his knees and thanked God when the referee blew his whistle inside Panama City’s Estadio Rommel Fernandez — and with good reason.
 
Panama had just defeated Costa Rica — thanks to an 87th-minute golazo from centerback Roman Torres — to send Los Canaleros to their first ever World Cup.
 
“It’s wonderful. It’s a blessing from God. To be one of the 23 to represent our country in the first World Cup for Panama,” Machado said on making Panama’s World Cup roster. “We’re going to give it our all. Hopefully, we can make Panama be felt in the World Cup.”
 
It won’t be easy for Panama in its first go at a World Cup. Los Canaleros are in Group G with Belgium, who are ranked third in the world, England and Tunisia.
 
“It’s going to be tough, we can’t pretend it won’t be. We will face very tough European teams and Tunisia as well. We have to have a strong mentality. We need to focus on giving it our all and let it be known that this is our World Cup,” Machado said. “This is Panama’s first World Cup and we want to fulfill our goals. Why can’t it be us making it out of the first round? It will be hard, but is not impossible to take points from Belgium, England and Tunisia.”
 
The 33-year-old centerback, who is in his second season with the Houston Dynamo, may not know what it’s like to play in a World Cup, but lucky for him, his MLS coach, Wilmer Cabrera, and fellow teammates, DaMarcus Beasley and Boniek Garcia, do.
 
Machado made sure to talk to them before heading for Russia.
 
The defender noted that Beasley, who played in four World Cups with the United States, and Garcia, who represented Honduras in two World Cups, talked to him about the experience of being at the game’s biggest tournament and also gave him some tips.
 
“I told him this was a type of graduation for a soccer player, especially one who has much experienced at all levels of soccer,” Garcia said. “But beyond that, to enjoy it. A World Cup needs to be enjoyed, and for him to give it his all.”
 
Garcia added the World Cup will make Machado a better player since he will test himself against some of the best players in the World. In the case of Machado, that means going up against the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard from Belgium and Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane of England.
 
Cabrera, who was an unused sub in the 1990 World Cup for Colombia but played in all three of his country’s matches in 1998, said he didn’t have any words of wisdom for Machado. However, he did say the World Cup is sure to leave an impact on him.
 
“It will be a change in his mentality and his experience and how he will feel because he will be in the most important and most difficult soccer tournament. One which all soccer players dream [of playing in],” Cabrera said. “And it’s going to be a beautiful experience especially because it’s the first time that his country reaches the World Cup.”
 
Machado and his teammates will undoubtedly get overwhelmed with emotions when they face off against Belgium in their first World Cup game, and it could start well before kickoff.
 
“I think we’ll have goosebumps and some will shed tears when we hear our national anthem being sung in Russia,” Machado said proudly.
 
But once the anthem is over, Machado and his teammates will wipe their tears off their faces, their goosebumps will retract and Los Canaleros will make history playing in their first World Cup tournament — a feat Panama has been trying to accomplish since 1978.
 
 
Sweden and Seattle Sounders’ Gustav Svensson ready to embrace uncertain future at World Cup
Pro Soccer USA – June 18, 2018
 
When Gustav Svensson finalized his transfer to the Seattle Sounders, it seemed all but certain that his days with the Swedish national team had reached an end. The midfielder had not been called up since two days after his previous transfer to the Chinese Super League’s Guangzhou R&F.
 
When the Swede turned 30 a week after joining the Sounders, he figured his days in the Blue and Gold were done.
 
“When I moved here to Seattle, I almost left the thought about the national team,” Svensson told SoundersFC.com before leaving for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Sweden began its campaign Monday morning against South Korea.
 
It’s not hard to understand Svensson’s mindset. He’d made only six previous appearances for Sweden, stretching back to 2009. Even in Seattle, Svensson was initially considered a depth signing to fill out the Sounders’ bench.
 
After an early injury to Sounders teammate Osvaldo Alonso, however, Svensson wound up making 30 regular-season appearances for Seattle in 2017 and his versatility at both holding midfield and centerback earned the attention of Sweden boss Janne Andersson.
 
By August 2017, Svensson found himself back on the national team for World Cup qualifiers, seeing time as a substitute in matches against Belarus and the Netherlands.
 
Still, his greatest moment in the qualifying run came in the second leg of the UEFA knockout round. Leading Italy 1-0 on aggregate after the first leg, Svensson was tapped to sub on at the San Siro after just 19 minutes for an injured Jakob Johansson. Svensson and Sweden held on for a 0-0 draw, causing Italy to miss its first World Cup in 60 years.
 
Now, Svensson feels surviving Group F with Germany, Mexico and South Korea will be a tough but attainable challenge for Sweden.
 
“As a team, I think going through the first group round is what everybody expects us to do, or hopes for us to do,” Svensson said. “It’s always different when you have one country that is much better than the others. That game against Germany will be hard. It’s not just about us, you need luck to have a good result against that kind of team. The other games will be more about what we can do. How we can break them down and adjust to have a good result against Mexico and South Korea.”
 
As for Svensson, he is still most likely to see time off the bench as a substitute if Sweden has a late lead and wants to put another capable defender on to the pitch.
 
It’s hard to say (what my role will be),” Svensson said. “For me, individually, of course I would love to play as many minutes as possible. But if I don’t, I’m going to be supportive and make sure my teammates are as ready as possible.”
 
Svensson’s tenacity and commitment to defending is what got him rapidly included into Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders side, where he made himself indispensable. If Andersson’s Sweden finds itself in need of a similar player, Svensson’s adaptability may offer him a chance to live every player’s dream and contribute at the World Cup.
 
“It’s a weird feeling that you’re ready to do everything you can,” Svensson said. “You’re ready to run until you die for your team. But of course, it’s going to be even more when you play for your national team, when you play in the World Cup and you know the entire world is watching and you know how much it means for the country and for your teammates and for everyone around the team. It’s a great feeling, so hopefully I’m not too nervous. Hopefully that turns into ambition and motivation.”
 
 
LAFC’s Carlos Vela plays role in Mexico’s historic World Cup win over Germany
Pro Soccer USA – June 17, 2018
 
MOSCOW — It is a gigantic night for Mexican football, and the Luzhniki exploded in the colors of the Mexican flag when the final whistle signaled the first major upset of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Among the players on the Mexico squad that helped write history was LAFC forward Carlos Vela, who started on right in Mexico’s 4-3-3 formation.
 
While Hirving Lozano bossed Bayern München right back Joshua Kimmich at will on the left flank of Mexico’s attack, Vela was mostly taken out of the game by surprise inclusion Marvin Plattenhardt. Plattenhardt, a defender for Hertha Berlin, made the starting XI at the last moment as regular starter Jonas Hector fell sick just before kickoff.
 
Plattenhardt had been considered the weak link in a side containing top players in any position. But Mexico head coach Juan Osorio’s match plan was not about overloading one flank or the other.
 
“We have watched Germany’s wingbacks for some time, and we knew that they have struggled there. As a result, we emphasize the wing. That was our tactic, to hit Germany while sitting deep, exploring their lack of ability to play out wide in the back,” Osorio explained after the match.
 
So while LAFC forward Vela did not shine the same way as his counterpart on the left, his tactical position on the field was still significant. Both wingers sat deep, doubling up with Javier Hernandez, who would move over from one flank to another to support either Vela or Lozano on either side.
 
It was a brilliant tactical plan that worked like magic against a Germany side that seemed sluggish when moving back. Both Vela (58’) and Lozano (66’) were taken off in the second half to make a tactical adjustment to Germany bringing on Marco Reus (60’), Mario Gomez (79’) and Julian Brandt (86’).
 
In fairness at this point, neither winger were needed anymore. Mexico sat deep and contained a German side that struggled to get behind El Tri’s defensive line. Furthermore, Mexico was also a bit lucky with Timo Werner (64’ and 67’), Toni Kroos (76’) and Julian Brandt (88’) missing the net by a whisker in the second half.
 
The missed chance by Brandt marked the start of the celebrations with at least half of the announced 78,000 spectators dancing and singing in anticipation. When the final whistle went, El Tri supporters could no longer be contained.
 
The other MLS players on Mexico’s roster, brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos, remained on the bench for the match.
 
Pouring out of the stands, fans were seen chanting, dancing and singing all around the concourse and within the perimeter of the stadium. Today, Mexico made history. And while much of the talk will be about hero “Chucky” Lozano, LAFC superstar, Vela also made a significant contribution to this match.
 
 
Blanco Strike Sinks Galaxy; Sends Timbers Through To Quarters
US Soccer – June 16, 2018
 
A lone goal from diminutive Argentine Sebastian Blanco on the half-hour mark was enough to see the Portland Timbers past LA Galaxy (1-0) and through to the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The home side – playing at their Providence Park for a second game on the trot – were always in firm control and never looked in danger of losing despite the slimness of the final scoreline. The Timbers now move on to meet the winner of next Wednesday’s Round of 16 game between Los Angeles FC (MLS) and Sacramento Republic (USL).
 
The home side came out swinging in the early stages of the first half, signaling their intent with a flurry of attacking play. Inside the first 15 minutes, captain Diego Charra, powerful striker Samuel Armenteros, Blanco and Fanendo Adi all had good sights at goal only to be thwarted by wayward finishing or the fine reflexes of David Bingham in the LA Galaxy net. Even without playmaker Diego Valeri, the Timbers bossed all the meaningful possession in the first half and controlled the midfield with Blanco at the top of a diamond formation that seemed to drive the visitors crazy.
 
The goal that Portland’s impressive play warranted came after 30 minutes – and it was a team product of the highest order. The ball moved through midfield from left to right and found its way up front for Adi, who back-heeled into the penalty area for the outstanding Blanco. The Argentine livewire wriggled by his marker and slotted coolly past the keeper for a goal that brought the home fans to their feet. The Galaxy managed to muster a little resistance near the end of the opening period, but they were unable to lay hands on an equalizer as the whistle went for halftime with the Timbers in total control, having taken seven shots to only one from the visitors in the first 45 minutes of play.
 
The Timbers kept up the pace and pressure at the start of the second half. Armenteros had a pair of chances early on, but his luck was out on this night. One of his efforts skimmed the crossbar and the other – a brilliant bit of chest control and a full volley – was blocked at the last second by Galaxy captain Ashley Cole – at 37, the oldest field player in Major League Soccer. The men from LA grew into the game as the second period progressed, finding the gaps and holes that eluded them in the first half. But they suffered a big setback in the 55th minute when Ola Kamara went down with a serious muscle injury and was forced out of the game (he was replaced by Ariel Lassiter who scored a pair of goals in the side’s Fourth Round win over amateurs FC Golden State Force).
 
Chris Pontius had a chance for the Galaxy with a header from close-range in the 73rd minute, but Portland’s keeper Jeffery Attinella – with precious little to do up to that point – was more than up to the task with a simple standing save. The visitors poured numbers forward in search of an equalizer in the final quarter-hour and they forced another save for Attinella when Lassiter carved out a little shooting space in the 88th minute. But the Timbers – despite a few shaky moments – weathered the storm to become the first team through to the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Open Cup thanks to the slim 1-0 win. 
 
“I’m very happy because we played a good game and had good moments throughout,” said Blanco, the hero for the home side who scored his first-ever Open Cup goal. “We suffered a little in the last 20 minutes when LA they put the pressure on us, but we were the better team on the night. We have passion and fire as a team and that’s something you need – especially in a cup like this, which is very important to us.”
 
Tune in to ussoccer.com tomorrow night (June 16) for two more Round of 16 games as Philadelphia Union travel to take on 2017 runners-up New York Red Bulls (7 p.m. ET) and defending champions Sporting Kansas City open up their Children’s Mercy Park to 2017 champs FC Dallas in a rematch of last year’s scintillating Quarterfinal (8 p.m. CT).
 
 
LAFC's Carlos Vela helps Mexico knock off Germany in World Cup opener
MLSsoccer.com – June 17, 2018
 
Mexico pulled off the biggest surprise of the World Cup's opening week on Sunday, defeating defending champions Germany 1-0 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, and two key figures with MLS ties were prominently involved.
 
Former Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio was the architect of a well-crafted game plan that stunned the world, as he set up El Tri to stymie the Germans' build-up play and break out in transition.
 
LAFC star Carlos Vela (pictured at top) got the start as the central attacking midfielder in Osorio's 4-5-1 formation, and ran the counterattack to good effect in a first half controlled by Mexico to a startling degree.
 
The underdogs conceded the majority of possession, but tore apart a complacent German side again and again, finally cashing in when Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez fed Hirving "Chucky" Lozano for the game's only goal in the 35th minute.
 
Vela made way for Edson Alvarez in the 58th minute as El Tri dropped into a more defensive posture, soaking up wave after wave of German pressure down the stretch but never conceding the equalizer. The LA Galaxy sibling duo of Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos were unused substitutes.
 
There were plenty of other MLS links in this one. Real Salt Lake Homegrown product Carlos Salcedo, who spent three years in RSL's system before moving on to Chivas Guadalajara, Fiorentina and Eintracht Frankfurt, logged a full 90 minutes at Mexico's right back spot.
 
And former Red Bulls Designated Player Rafa Marquez, a resounding flop in MLS who subsequently rejuvenated his career for both club and country, made history when he came off the bench as El Tri's final substitute to help lock down the victory. The 39-year-old is only the third player ever to appear in five World Cups, and the first to do so as captain in all five.
 
 
MLS unveils Atlanta-inspired jersey for 2018 All-Star Game pres. by Target
MLSsocer.com – June 18, 2018
 
Major League Soccer on Monday unveiled the adidas jersey that MLS’s best will wear on Aug. 1 when they take on Italian giants Juventus in the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (7:30 pm ET | ESPN, Univision – Full TV and streaming info).
 
The 2018 All-Star jersey is a bold restyling of an iconic design, a modern interpretation that can be worn from the stadium to the street. The jersey features cream white as its central color, with red and blue chevrons on the sleeves.
 
It also includes a trio of thoughtful details: an All-Star patch on the jock tag; a triangular patch on the sleeve and the MLS theme of “Club, Country, Community” on the back neck.
 
The jock tag’s four intersecting lines shaped into a railroad crossing nods to the rich history of Atlanta’s transportation structure, from the past (the construction of the Western and Atlantic Railroad) to the present (Atlanta’s reputation as the busiest aviation hub in the world).
 
The jerseys are available for purchase now at MLSstore.com and will be available at select Atlanta Target stores in the coming weeks. The jersey is also available at select Dick’s Sporting Goods locations.
 
Tickets to the 2018 MLS All-Star Game start at $35 and are available through Ticketmaster.com. Fans can vote for their favorite MLS players using the all-new online All-Star ballot and by playing EA SPORTS FIFA 18; check out the full details.
 
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