MLS Newsstand - June 22, 2018

Atlanta United vs. Portland: Three questions
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – June 21, 2018
Atlanta United will host Portland on Sunday in the marquee game in MLS. Kick is at 4:30 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Five Stripes lead MLS with 33 points. The Timbers are in sixth in the West with 22 points.
Jamie Goldberg is the lead soccer reporter at The Oregonian. She has covered the Portland Timbers since 2013.
She answered three questions about the game:
Q. The Timbers went winless in their first five, changed formations, went on a six-game winning streak, but have drawn their past two games. Have opponents come up with a better plan to deal with the 4-2-3-1, or is it just how the results went?
A. I think opponents have made adjustments in the last few games as the Timbers’ system and 4-3-2-1 formation has become more predictable, but the back-to-back draws have a lot more to do with just how those games played out. Portland has found plenty of scoring chances in the last two matches, but has failed to score from the run of play. Against LA, the Timbers had numerous opportunities to score, but weren’t able to put it away. Against Kansas City, the Timbers had to deal with the absence of Diego Chara, which was a major blow. The club still managed to get the clean sheet and could have found a goal if they were more clinical in the attack. Portland has also been without Liam Ridgewell in the last few weeks. Ridgewell is now fit and could return to the field against Atlanta, which could give Portland’s back line a big boost.
Q. Other than the formation, what has been the key in eight-game unbeaten streak?
A. I think this team now looks a lot more bought-in and comfortable with the formation and system. They are also playing with more confidence. Coming home obviously helped as well. The Timbers went winless in five consecutive games to open the season, but all those games were on the road. It also isn’t shocking that it took the club time to adjust to a new coach.
Q. What is the matchup to watch on Sunday and how do you think it will go?
A. It will be interesting to see Darlington Nagbe on the other side of the field for the first time since 2011. I’m excited to see Nagbe and Diego Chara go up against each other at times in the midfield. Nagbe is tremendous at keeping possession and going into 1v1 situations, while Chara is a gritty ball winner in the midfield. I expect to see Chara foul Nagbe a few times in the game, but I also think that Chara is someone that might be capable of taking the ball off Nagbe a few times as well.
Portland Timbers vs. Atlanta United: Players to watch, TV channel, how to watch online
The Oregonian – June 21, 2018
What: The Portland Timbers (6-3-4, 22 points) will travel to face Atlanta United (10-3-3, 33 points) in an MLS regular season game.
When: Sunday, June 24 at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
TV Channel: FOX (In Portland: Comcast 12/712).
Online: Stream live on Fox Sports Go.
How to listen on the radio: 750 AM/102.9 FM The Game; Spanish radio: La GranD 1150 AM/93.5 FM.
Players to Watch
Portland Timbers
Diego Valeri, M: Valeri leads the Timbers with six goals and is tied for the team lead with three assists this season. Valeri took the day off to get some much-needed rest when the Timbers played the LA Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup last week. Valeri should now be well-rested for Sunday's game against Atlanta United. Valeri, who recorded 21 goals and 11 assists in 2017, is the reigning MLS MVP.
Sebastian Blanco, M: Blanco scored the game-winning goal to lead the Timbers to a 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup last week. Blanco has five goals in MLS play this season and six goals overall. He is tied for the team lead with three assists. Blanco is a hard working and versatile attacking player that has consistently found ways to produce this season.
Jeff Attinella, GK: Attinella has started the last seven games for the Timbers, earning four clean sheets, which ties his career-high for shutouts in a season. He now has eight career shutouts in 20 starts since joining the Timbers last year. The Timbers will need Attinella to step up as they try to stop a potent Atlanta attack.
Atlanta United
Darlington Nagbe, M: The Timbers drafted Nagbe as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and the midfielder was a key part of Portland's system through 2017. But Portland traded Nagbe to Atlanta United in the offseason for $1.05 million in allocation money. Nagbe has fit right in with his new team. Starting in the No. 8 position in the midfield, Nagbe has continued to be a dominant force with the ball at his feet. He has three assists this season.
Josef Martinez, F: Martinez is a prolific goal scorer. He has 14 goals in just 16 starts this year after netting 19 goals in 17 starts in his first season in MLS in 2017. Martinez has scored six goals in just the last four games. He also has two hat tricks this season and five hat tricks in 33 career MLS starts, which ties the league record for most career hat tricks. Martinez is dealing with a broken nose and his status is currently day-to-day. Whether he plays Sunday could make a big difference.
Miguel Almiron, M: Almiron recorded nine goals and 14 assists in his first season in MLS last year. He was named MLS Newcomer of the Year and was a finalist for MLS Most Valuable Player for the performance. He has picked up where he left off this season. The Atlanta playmaker has six goals and seven assists in 16 starts this year.
Portland Timbers prepare to face Darlington Nagbe for first time since blockbuster trade
The Oregonian – June 21, 2018
For seven years, Darlington Nagbe was a fixture on the field for the Portland Timbers.
But Nagbe won't be wearing green and gold on Sunday. Instead, he will be on the other side of the pitch in red and black trying to lead his new club, Atlanta United, to a victory over the Timbers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"It's going to be weird," Timbers defender Alvas Powell said. "We miss him, but we're there for a game. We got to compete and we got to make sure that the team is ready to go up against him."
In a blockbuster move, the Timbers traded Nagbe and defender Gbenga Arokoyo to Atlanta in the offseason for at least $1.05 million in allocation money. Nagbe has gone on to play a central role in Atlanta's midfield, starting all 16 games for his new team so far and recording three assists.
But while the trade has paid off for Atlanta (10-3-3, 33 points), the move has also served Portland (6-3-4, 22 points) well. With the allocation money from the Nagbe trade and an influx of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) in MLS, the Timbers were able to acquire four TAM-level players in the offseason in Andy Polo, Cristhian Paredes, Samuel Armenteros and Julio Cascante. All four players have been key to Portland this season.
Paredes has started 12 of 13 games for the Timbers, recording one goal and three assists, and the 20-year-old looks poised to become a central figure in the midfield for Portland in the long-term. Polo has started six games for the Timbers and gained more and more confidence in the lineup over time. Armenteros has recorded three goals and an assist in four starts as he has pushed for more time in the starting 11. And Cascante, who has made three starts this year, has been an important backup for the Timbers on defense.
"I think Gavin (Wilkinson), Ned (Grabavoy) and the staff have done a good job to be able to bring in new blood, new players that can help, players that have bought-in right away," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "Not to say that it's great that Nagbe left, to be clear, but it's great to be able to have all these players that have come in because I think they have done very well."
Portland will still face a major challenge Sunday as they take on Nagbe and Atlanta for the first time this season. While the Timbers are riding an impressive eight-game unbeaten streak in MLS play and a 10-game unbeaten streak overall, Atlanta is currently the top team in MLS and has scored a league-leading 33 goals.
Atlanta has employed Nagbe as a No. 8 in its midfield where he can frustrate opponents with his talent and skill on the ball, beating players in 1v1 situations, connecting smart passes and playing a pivotal role in transition.
"He was a guy that we could look for in the 80th, 90th minute and we knew he would keep the ball no matter what," Timbers defender Zarek Valentin said. "Obviously, when you lose that piece, we have to find different people to play through at times. Atlanta knows they can give him the ball at any moment and he'll either dribble out of pressure, pass out of pressure or even just explode through spaces."
While Nagbe is also capable of scoring a wondergoal here and there - as he did every so often in Portland - he is not a major goal scoring threat. Atlanta doesn't need him to be.
With Nagbe dominating the midfield and keeping possession for his team, Josef Martinez, who currently leads MLS with 14 goals, and Miguel Almiron can focusing on providing the lion's share of goals and assists. Atlanta has additional attacking weapons in Ezequiel Barco and Hector Villalba as well.
Martinez is dealing with a broken nose and whether he plays Sunday could make a huge difference for Atlanta.
"Obviously, (Nagbe) is an incredible player," Valentin said. "He fits their system well. His accolades and his skill speak for themselves, but we can't just be wary of him because they have some very good players all around him."
While seeing Nagbe on the other side of the pitch will be a bit strange for the Timbers, it's not something that the club can spend much time focusing on. 
If Portland wants a chance of keeping its unbeaten streak alive, the Timbers will have to be at their very best Sunday against a highly talented Atlanta side at a difficult Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"The coaching staff and our players get excited about playing better teams, teams that are going to give us bigger challenges," Savarese said. "That's something we enjoy. We want to see that. We have to face (an Atlanta team) that is going to give us a big challenge to confront."
Crew SC | Defense looks to rebound after disappointing 3-game homestand
Columbus Dispatch – June 20, 2018
In May, Crew SC stitched together a brilliant stretch of back-line play, defending its way to five consecutive shutouts and a club-record 512-minute shutout streak.
Like most streaks, however, it ended. Five other short-lived streaks did, too.
The Crew allowed six goals over a recent three-game homestand, securing just two of a possible nine points against Toronto FC, the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United.
Coach Gregg Berhalter lamented that the Crew gave up a set-piece goal in each of the three games, but he said he was not too disappointed with the team’s defensive shape except for the Toronto game, in which the Crew produced a three-goal comeback to earn a tie.
“We still focus on shots that we’re giving up and goal attempts,” Berhalter said. “Red Bull, I think we gave up very few goal attempts; Atlanta, very few goal attempts; and then Toronto I think we were out of sorts at times in our defending.”
The uptick in goals allowed, while sudden and nearly doubling the Crew’s season total, put it only at 16, eight shy of the 24 it had allowed by the midpoint of the 2017 season.
The Crew’s defense has improved. Whether that improvement can hold over final 17 games remains to be seen, but the team believes its first-half performance, born of stronger team defending, is more than a fluke.
“As a professional soccer player, as a professional coach, every time you have a chance to perform, you have to prove yourself, and that’s the mentality that we need to have,” Berhalter said. “We’re a good team, and we want to keep getting better, and that’s the mindset of the group as well.
“I don’t think it’s about proving this person wrong or (that) person wrong; we just want to keep getting better, and we understand that we’re under the microscope and we have to prove ourselves every single game.”
Center back Jonathan Mensah, who did not start in two of the three home games because of a thigh injury but has been steadier to start his second Major League Soccer season, said avoiding lapses in concentration such as the Crew had in a 2-0 loss to Atlanta last week will be critical over the remainder of the season.
“You look at the last game we played, it wasn’t any chances they created,” Mensah said. “We kind of gave them that, so we just have to be focused on the details and the small, small things that happen in split seconds. If we do that, I think we’ll be fine.”
The Crew surged into the 2017 playoffs in part because its defense found a rhythm late, allowing just 12 goals in the final 10 games. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen chalked that up to a strong back-line mentality, something the team had to discover in 2017 and merely has to sustain this season.
“It’s tough to stay consistent, and I think that’s kind of what we’ve been aiming for since the start of last season,” Steffen said. “It’s consistency in our play and our decision-making and our effort. I think we just came up short a little bit” during the homestand.
FC Cincinnati closes season ticket sales after post-MLS surge
Cincinnati Business Courier – June 22, 2018
FC Cincinnati has ended season ticket sales for the 2018 season 10 days earlier than planned.
The club rapidly sold out of season tickets after it announced it would join Major League Soccer in the 2019 season. Prorated 2018 season tickets were originally expected to be sold until June 30.
FC Cincinnati, which current plays in the United Soccer League, initially had a goal of selling 15,000 season tickets for the 2018 season. When that goal was met within days, the club expanded its goal to 20,000 season tickets.
“With strong single-game and group sales, we’ve sold out of our available inventory at 18,000 season tickets, leading us to now close sales,” vice president of ticket sales Jeff Smith said in a statement. “Having so many more fans joining us at Nippert Stadium on a per-game or group basis is really a great testament to the FCC support throughout the Greater Cincinnati region.”
Starting July 2, FC Cincinnati will begin taking new deposits for 2019 season tickets. A deposit of $50 will reserve a place in the priority line behind current season ticketholders to select seats at Nippert Stadium for the team’s inaugural MLS season. Current season ticketholders don’t need to place a deposit and will be contacted later in the summer about the 2019 ticket renewal process and timeline.
Single-game tickets and group tickets are still available for FC Cincinnati’s 2018 USL games as well as its international friendly match against RCD Espanyol on July 28. Ticket information is available on FC Cincinnati’s website or by calling 513-977-KICK (5425).
No fun in the sun; this season needs to be about winning for Whitecaps
Toronto Province – June 19, 2018
There’s nothing better than an ice cream on a hot summers’ eve at Kits beach, watching the sunset light up Burrard Inlet with a kaleidoscope of golden colours.
Unless you’re a 17-year-old playing for Carl Robinson’s Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps’ coach had a heart-to-heart talk with his budding young star Alphonso Davies recently, stressing the commitment a player needs to have as a professional.
“He’s still a kid, he still likes to do kid things,” said the Caps’ coach. “For example, you shouldn’t be out 40 hours before a game. You should be preparing, you should be at home, and if you’re going to go out for some food, you shouldn’t be eating ice cream at 9:30 at night on Kits beach. And that’s the reality of it.”
To be clear, Robinson wasn’t singling Davies out, but citing it as an example of the kind of focus he wants from his players. He’s seen it slide in years past, especially in the summer at Vancouver, where the sunny days remind everyone why they put up with the gloom and damp of the other three seasons.
It had been apparent in their record in the middle months of the season, where historically the team had struggled. With the next seven games, including three Western Conference foes, coming against teams with worse records than the Caps, it’s not a time they can afford to regress.
First up are the Philadelphia Union, who Vancouver visits this Saturday (2 p.m., TSN, TSN 1040), who sit eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 5-6-3 record.
“I think two years ago we talked about the summer months, and made a big focus on it, and we started getting results,” said Robinson. “When the sun comes out here, it puts smiles on peoples faces. And maybe the professionalism wasn’t 100 per cent.
“We talked about Alphonso Davies just there; it’s not just about Fonzie, it’s about every single player on the team. When the sun’s out, what do you want to do? Go spend time in the sun, but you can’t. The reality is you’re paid to play football, and you have to conduct yourself as a professional, even if the sun’s out at Kits beach.”
The sun has certainly been shining on the Whitecaps lately. Before the league headed into the World Cup break, they were unbeaten in six, on a two-game win streak and scored more goals than any other MLS team in the past month — including a regular-season, team-record five in their last game, a 5-2 win over Orlando.
While their two victories came over a Colorado team on a 10-game winless skid (0-9-1) and an Orlando side that stumbled to its sixth straight loss against the Vancouver — ultimately costing coach Jason Kreis his job this week — the Caps did what they needed to: win.
And this upcoming stretch is a chance to gain back the points they’d dropped earlier in the season, including the four losses in five games just before their current undefeated streak.
“I thought it was really important the last home game before the break we had a good result. It was a good win. I think everyone’s really motivated,” said fullback Marcel de Jong, who looks to be back to full health after missing two games with an hamstring injury.
“(Philly is) another good test for us, but I think everyone knows we’re in a good flow, and we’re trying to build from that and keep going.”
While the team has been scoring, the worrying trend of conceding goals from defensive mistakes has continued, the last coming in the waning moments of the team’s 5-2 win over Orlando.
While the Caps have scored the most goals in the past month, they’re also among the league leaders in goals allowed over that six-game span. Only Orlando (17), San Jose (14), D.C. United (14) and Colorado (13) have conceded more, but they have a combined record of 1-14-5 over the past six games, while the Caps are 2-0-4.
Still, de Jong said the team’s mental integrity needs to be sharpened, pointing to the Orlando game as the most recent example, when Dom Dwyer scored four minutes into injury time with Vancouver leading 5-1.
“It’s mostly concentration, especially the second goal against Orlando. We just lost concentration,” he said. “The game was basically over … it wasn’t the time to make those mistakes. We need to keep focus for 95, 99 minutes. That needs to change. That’s what the coaches have been saying to us; those little details are key for us, especially if it’s nil-nil or 0-0. One moment of unsharpness and they’re back in it or even win.”
Streaking Whitecaps visit slumping Union
FOX Sports – June 21, 2018
After back-to-back losses before a two-week break in league play, the Philadelphia Union look to get back on track Saturday night when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit Talen Energy Stadium.
They’ll have to do it without Bosnian international Haris Medunjanin.
Major League Soccer announced this week it had suspended Medunjanin an additional two games for actions that saw him ejected from Philadelphia’s 3-1 loss at Atlanta on June 2.
Referee Sorin Stoica sent Medunjanin off for his very animated protest of Stoica’s decision to award Atlanta United a penalty kick in the 19th minute. Among other things, replays suggested that Medunjanin had spit in Stoica’s direction as part of his protest.
It’s an ironic fate for the midfielder, who won acclaim last year when he offered information to a referee that helped reverse a red card given to an opposing player, D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta.
Philadelphia (5-7-3) has insisted that Medunjanin did not intentionally spit at Stoica. The decision came after an appeal by the MLS Players Association.
“I don’t agree with it, but we have to live with it,” Union coach Jim Curtin said of the suspension. “I think Haris, it’s the first red card of his career, which says a lot about who he is as a player. You could reference the Acosta incident last year. You could go through a lot of things.”
Philadelphia will also be attempting to avoid a third-straight league defeat for the first time this season. They won their last match, a 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 last Saturday.
Vancouver (6-5-5) has also gone two weeks since its last league game, a 5-2 victory over Orlando City that included a breakout performance by Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies.
The 17-year-old scored once and contributed three assists in the win, a result that extended Vancouver’s unbeaten run to six games.
That was just the start of a busy stretch for the winger, who during the two-week break traveled to Russia to speak on behalf of his nation after the United States, Canada and Mexico were named joint hosts of the 2026 World Cup.
Davies, who was named the best young player of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold, returned in time to train with the Whitecaps this week.
“Just like always. Just focusing on the day-by-day, you know?” remarked Davies, who leads Vancouver with seven assists. “Trying not to get too distracted going forward. So, I think with all this stuff that’s happening, I just try to stay in my lane, try to do what I have to do on the field.”
Red Bulls free to focus on MLS play, FC Dallas
FOX Sports – June 21, 2018
When the New York Red Bulls opened the 2018 season in February, they were playing in three different competitions — the CONCACAF Champions League, U.S. Open Cup and, of course, the MLS regular season.
That forced a delicate lineup balance for Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch and resulted in fixture congestion, especially of late when they played a brutal stretch of five games in 15 days.
The Red Bulls lost in the CCL semifinals to eventual champion Chivas de Guadalajara and on Saturday fell to the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in the Open Cup round of 16.
So now, there’s a singular focus for the Red Bulls (8-4-2) beginning Saturday at Red Bull Arena against FC Dallas.
“I think it really creates clarity in our season as to what the objectives are and where we need to go from here,” Marsch said. “I think that clarity has put the players in a position right now where the focus, concentration and energy is to get better every day and find a way to really go after the Supporters Shield this year and in the end go after MLS Cup.”
Marsch gave his players three needed days off after the Open Cup defeat and he noticed the difference when they returned to training on Wednesday.
“I think they were mentally and physically fresh and really went after training today in a really good way,” Marsch said. “We accomplished a lot and we’re thinking about overall where we are in the year and preparing for a really good team to come to town like Dallas.”
FC Dallas’ journey this season is similar to the Red Bulls’ season, with a CCL ouster in the round of 16 to Panama’s Tauro and a loss to defending Open Cup champion Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
Their focus is also squarely on the league, where FC Dallas (8-1-5) is level on points at the top of the Western Conference with Sporting Kansas City, despite the sting of a last-minute Cup defeat at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday.
“We had a good chance at the end, so they had some chances and adapted,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “With that one play in the 89th minute, it was a good combination of a couple bad decisions and a good goal from them.
“The group is fine. Obviously, we wanted to advance in the cup, but now we are just thinking about New York. It’s another big assignment that we have.”
While teams like Atlanta United, New York City FC, Columbus Crew SC and Sporting Kansas City have received plaudits for their play in the first half of the season, FC Dallas has flown under the radar despite being the only team with just one defeat in league play.
“I think they’re not getting enough attention for how good their team has been at the beginning of the year,” Marsch said. “They’re the only team with one loss and that was at New York City about a month and a half ago. We know that part will be a big challenge.
“We’re going to have to prepare in a big way to make sure our players know what they’re trying to achieve and what the quality of their players are.”
Sporting KC hopes to shake home woes vs. Dynamo
FOX Sports – June 22, 2018
The adage of throwing out the records when two teams meet certainly is true as Sporting Kansas City hosts the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.
Sporting KC (8-2-5, 29 points) sits on top of the Western Conference table (tied with FC Dallas), but Houston has been a thorn in the flesh for Sporting KC for the past seven seasons.
The Dynamo (6-5-3, 21 points) have not lost in Kansas City since September 2011. They are 1-0-6 in MLS regular-season matches during that span and 4-0-4 in all regular-season matches since June 2014.
Sporting KC has done much better outside of the MLS regular season. Since 2011, the sides are even at 9-9-9.
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes knows that his club will have its hands full.
“They’ve always been a very explosive team,” Vermes said. “They have some very dangerous players going forward. It’s a big challenge for us and we have to make sure that we’re really smart.”
This year’s Sporting KC squad is much different than in recent years. The defense is still stout, though not quite at the level of last year when they led MLS in goals allowed with 29, eight fewer than the next-best club.
They’ve allowed an MLS-best 14 goals in their 15 games, tied with FC Dallas, who has allowed the same number in one fewer game.
But the Sporting KC offense is much stronger.
The offense scored 29 goals, which is sixth-best in MLS and third-best in the Western Conference. Their goal differential of plus-14 is tied with Atlanta FC and the New York Red Bulls for best in the league.
Gerso Fernandes led SKC with eight goals last season. This year, three players have at least four goals and Fernandes is not among them. Johnny Russell and Felipe Gutierrez have five, and Gutierrez has only played six games. He’s nearing the time to return after having successful sports hernia surgery at the end of April. Daniel Salloi has been hot lately, and he has four goals.
Houston sits in seventh place in the Western Conference, but a win in Kansas City could lift the Dynamo all the way to a tie for third place, pending other MLS action.
Houston is second in MLS in shots on goal per game (6.6) and fourth in total shot attempts per game (15.5) while also ranking second in fewest shots allowed per game (9.9). The Dynamo rank second in MLS in big chances created (36). Unfortunately, they also rank second in big chances missed (28).
Houston has played well at home (5-2-0) but has struggled away from BBVA Compass Stadium (1-3-3). Maybe the “friendly confines” of Children’s Mercy Park will help change that pattern.
Houston is led by forward Alberth Elis with eight goals. He also has contributed five assists, one behind team leader Romell Quioto. The 13 goals combined is tied for third best in MLS.
Elis is at the point of the Houston attack, and his 56 shots, 18 more than any other Houston player shows this. His 30 shots on goal are the best in MLS and exactly double the total of forward Mauro Manotas, who is second on the team.
Houston defender Adolfo Machado is the only player on either side participating in the World Cup. Machado is representing Panama.
Shipp regaining form as Sounders host Fire
FOX Sports – June 21, 2018
With the Chicago Fire in 2014, Harry Shipp scored seven goals and was a finalist for the MLS Rookie of the Year Award.
It took him three years with three teams to match that total.
But the midfielder finally seems to be getting back to his rookie form with the Seattle Sounders, who play host to the Fire on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
Shipp, who missed time with an ankle injury, scored his first MLS goal of the season on June 13 in the Sounders’ 2-1 loss at the New York Red Bulls. He also scored in a recent U.S. Open Cup match.
“I feel like I’m at a place to contribute a great amount to this team,” Shipp told after training earlier this week. “I’m someone who doesn’t judge myself on stats, but it’s some nice validation. I’ve put in some good work the last three or four weeks in training and gotten rewarded for it.
“Personally, I’m feeling good and confident, and hopefully I’ll get another goal or major contribution this weekend to help the team win.”
The two-time defending Western Conference champion Sounders (3-8-2) can use all the help they can get, especially offensively. They have lost four of their past five games and scored just 10 goals all season.
The Fire (5-4-7), who are unbeaten in their past three matches, haven’t had trouble scoring with 23 goals this season. Nemanja Nikolic, last season’s Golden Boot Award winner as the MLS’ top scorer, leads the way with six.
“Chicago’s a talented team, they’ve got some guys who can score goals,” Shipp said. “We’ve got some stuff to build off from our last home game (a 2-1 victory against D.C. United). We need a win, we need three points, so hopefully we’ll get that.”
Chicago’s problem has been on defense, having allowed 28 goals.
The Fire are coming off a short week, having posted a 1-0 victory at Atlanta on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup match.
“We have to put aside the Open Cup competition and focus on league,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “The mindset has to be set on our next opponent in Seattle. We know it’s going to be a tough game. They need points and we also do.”
The Sounders will be without defender Roman Torres (Panama) and midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden), who are playing in the World Cup in Russia.
Seattle holds a 7-2-3 edge in the all-time series with the Fire and is 4-0-1 at home.
Rapids look to end winless streak vs. Minnesota United
FOX Sports – June 21, 2018
The Colorado Rapids ended their losing streak, but they couldn’t end their winless streak. They hope to change that when they host Minnesota United FC on Saturday night.
The Rapids (2-9-3) took a quick 2-0 lead on the Chicago Fire on June 13 but couldn’t hold the lead. They settled for a 2-2 draw and some hope that their recent rough stretch may be over.
“In the end, when all is said and done, I’m happy (the losing streak) stopped and we’ve stopped the bleeding,” Colorado coach Anthony Hudson said after the Chicago match. “That was really important because psychologically we got a little break now as well. The most important thing is, after a run like this, we didn’t lose.”
The MLS losing streak ended at eight games but the Rapids still haven’t won since beating Toronto FC 2-0 on April 14. They’ll try against Minnesota (5-8-1), which is coming off a 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo on Monday in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16. Minnesota sits ninth in the Western Conference, six points behind fifth-place Real Salt Lake, so getting three points in Colorado on Saturday is important.
The loss to the Dynamo stung because Darwin Quintero’s late penalty kick went off the post.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” coach Adrian Heath said after the Houston match. “I thought it was a little bit too late. I learned a valuable lesson today about this group, both individually and collectively, that will certainly help us moving forward.
“We’ve got to the stage now where we have to start to make some difficult and hard decisions on people and that is what we will do. I think tonight will turn out to be a really good night in the long term.”
Saturday’s matchup comes in the midst of the World Cup being played in Russia, but that doesn’t take away the importance of the MLS contest. For the Rapids, winning has become vital, especially coming off of a 10-day break between games.
“It was a good time for us to review everything and get refreshed after this break,” Hudson said after a practice this week. “We obviously accept a lot of criticism, and rightly so, but one thing no one can argue is the players haven’t not worked hard. Even on this run they have kept going the whole time.”
Colorado will go from a lull to a busy schedule. Starting with Saturday’s match the Rapids will play four games in 15 days.
The Loons are also in a stretch of four games in 15 days, starting with Saturday’s match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It’s a return to the MLS schedule for Minnesota, which is trying to put Monday’s loss aside.
“We have to re-group,” Heath told the team’s website. “The most important thing now is to watch the game again and see if it reinforces a lot of the very strong opinions. We will see where we go from there.”
Real Salt Lake hopes to keep rolling at home vs. Earthquakes
FOX Sports – June 21, 2018
SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake can set a record against the San Jose Earthquakes when the two teams resume MLS regular-season play on Saturday.
Salt Lake (7-7-1) is riding a six-game MLS winning streak inside Rio Tinto Stadium since suffering a 5-1 loss to Los Angeles FC in the home opener. That matches the club’s longest home winning streak, set during the 2014 season.
RSL has been virtually unstoppable during those six home games. It has outscored opponents 13-4 in those matches and had three clean sheets.
Some of the home magic could help Salt Lake bounce back from its most recent loss.
RSL fell 3-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy on June 9, snapping a three-game MLS winning streak for the club. Two second-half goals in a six-minute span from Zlatan Ibrahimovic doomed Salt Lake.
RSL players left the game feeling like defensive breakdowns after halftime prevented their team from carrying a four-game winning streak into the World Cup break.
“They just capitalized on our mistakes,” defender Justen Glad told reporters after the game. “I didn’t think any of their goals were that impressive. I thought they were all stoppable for sure and goals change games.”
San Jose (2-9-4) is looking to generate some positive momentum when the club travels to Utah. The Earthquakes endured a rocky stretch before the World Cup break. They are winless in their last six MLS games.
Danny Hoesen’s strong play up top has given San Jose at least one highlight in an otherwise tough season to date.
Hoesen helped the Earthquakes snap a four-game losing streak with a pair of goals in a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution on June 13. He now has nine goals — tied for fourth among MLS players this season.
“We’re on the right track from the offensive perspective,” coach Mikael Stahre told reporters after the game. “But we concede too many goals. That’s the problem for the moment.”
Conceding too many goals is a shared problem between Salt Lake and San Jose. The Earthquakes have yielded 31 goals, tied for the most in the league. RSL has given up 29 goals, while only scoring 19. That scoring differential is tied for second-worst among MLS teams.
San Jose has not had much recent success in Utah. Salt Lake is undefeated in its last four home matches in the series, claiming a pair of wins and a pair of draws. The Earthquakes last won in the Beehive State in 2013.
Another trip to New York as Dallas tries to shake off Open Cup defeat
Pro Soccer USA – June 22, 2018
Coming off a disappointing 3-2 loss on the road against Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas is looking to come back into Major League Soccer action with a victory against a tough New York Red Bull side.
In a match Dallas coach Oscar Pareja called a “measuring stick test”, the team fell short. It looked like Dallas had a chance to win, but Yohan Croizet smashed a great volley into the back of the net in the 88th minute to secure a victory for SKC.
“We could have been better because the objective was to advance in the cup,” Pareja said. “Obviously, we did not achieve that goal so, there is some frustration but at the same time, I thought we compete very well and we had our chances to win it. That made me feel that it was a good match and there was a lot of positive but at the end, you know what I’m thinking. This first division, professional game is a matter of getting results. Sometimes that just frustrates us. Overall, the boys played well, especially in the first half. I thought we had chances.”
FCD midfielder Jacori Hayes says the match gave the team confidence for a future match at Children’s Mercy Park, such as in the playoffs and in other key matches. Since FC Dallas rebrand from the Dallas Burn, the team has not played Sporting Kansas City in the playoffs.
“I think we did pretty well,” Hayes said. “It was at their place, it’s a tough place to play, and we’re the two top teams in the West right now. Great goal by them at the end to win it but there’s a lot of positives we can take from that game. We won’t be scared if we have to go to that place during playoffs, or later on in the season when we face them or go to other tough places for the rest of the season. We know we can play well away from home.”
Dallas will now travel to New York, to take on the Red Bulls, who currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls have broken out this season and are known by Jesse Marsch’s high press, which has caused issues for many squads. It’s the one feature that makes the Red Bulls distinct from anyone else. When asked if it is either difficult or easier when one team has a specific tendency, player and coach gave similar answers.
“It’s kinda a mixture of both,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta said when asked about whether it was difficult or easier to prepare for a specific aspect of a team. “It’s something we can be mindful of, we can replicate in training as best as we can. At the same time, they’re good at what they do. We’re not going to experience it until we step on the field. We just gotta take the game to them. We know they like to press, they get a lot of numbers in the midfield and there’s some special guys. Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kaku, Tyler Adams and numerous guys that are dangerous on their team. We just gotta be mindful of what they’re good at and take it to them by playing our game.”
“Since I took this job, I haven’t seen anything that’s easy,” Pareja said with a laugh. “Everything is hard. Competing is hard.”
One player that struggled with a press was Hayes, who could not handle the quick, deep press against New York City FC. He was subbed off after 53 minutes and never could get his rhythm during the match. He hopes to learn from that match in preparation for the match against the other New York team.
“Just gotta speed up play,” Hayes said. “Just kind of think what you gotta do and try to play out of the press a couple times and hopefully, they’ll back off because you’ve beaten them a couple of times through that. Just gotta learn from the NYC game and just get the ball off my foot a little quicker.”
Orlando City signs Irish-American centerback Shane O’Neill
Pro Soccer USA – June 21, 2018
Orlando City is set to add Irish-American centerback Shane O’Neill, addressing the club’s lack of depth on the back line following numerous injuries so far this season.
A club source confirmed O’Neill, who trained with the Lions on Tuesday, has been signed. He’ll be available for selection after the secondary transfer window opens on July 10.
He joins Orlando City from Excelsior Rotterdam, which plays in Eredivisie, the highest division of professional soccer in the Netherlands.
The 6-foot-2, 24-year-old centerback has MLS experience. From 2012 until 2015, he played for the Colorado Rapids, compiling 52 appearances (48 starts) in league play and scoring one goal. He had his best season with the Rapids in 2014, when he started 21 games before going down with an MCL injury.
He was signed by the Rapids as a Homegrown player after he decided to forgo playing college soccer at the University of Virginia.
O’Neill, who was born in Middleton, Ireland, is a dual citizen and is eligible to represent both Ireland and the U.S. He’s played for the United States’ U20 and U23 teams, and was called up to the senior national team in January 2015 for a friendly against Panama. He was an unused sub in that match.
O’Neill is just the latest acquisition for Orlando City after an offseason that included more than a dozen new signings — three of them true centerbacks. Amro Tarek (international duty), Lamine Sane (knee) and Chris Schuler (broken arm) have all missed time this season.
Right back RJ Allen was also acquired in the offseason and has been deployed as a centerback.
Orlando City has three matches (home against Montreal on Saturday, away against Atlanta United on June 30 and away against LAFC on July 7) before the secondary transfer window opens. The earliest match O’Neill would be available for is on July 14 against Toronto FC at Orlando City Stadium.
New York City FC players ready themselves without their new coach
Pro Soccer USA – June 21, 2018
Day 11 since New York City FC’s announcement of Domenec Torrent as the new head coach will conclude without his presence at the team’s training facility – and the possibility that the former Manchester City assistant will be absent from this Sunday’s home encounter versus Toronto FC.
Torrent, named to replace Patrick Vieira on June 11, is in the process of obtaining a work visa. Sporting Director Claudio Reyna indicated last week that the club is attempting to expedite the process and is hopeful that his advent is imminent.
“With visas it’s not so easy in this country,” Finland international Alex Ring said. “The players have to stick together and show it on the pitch.”
In the meantime, caretaker Javier Perez guided his eighth training session with the assistance of goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian and head athletic trainer Kevin Christen. Rodrigo Marion, the NYCFC Academy Director who lent a hand to Perez last week is currently in San Diego for the Development Academy playoffs.
In the absence of the permanent head coach, the internal leadership from veterans Ring, David Villa, Maxi Moralez, Sean Johnson are critical to the proper preparation of their squad.
Johnson, in his ninth season in Major League Soccer said: “To me that (internal leadership) doesn’t change game in and game out – no matter who is the manager. We’ve tried to carry that throughout the season no matter what has popped up.”
The 27-year old Ring signed his first professional contract in 2010 with his home club, Helsinki and has experienced multiple coaching maneuvers in his career – most notably the five managers in four seasons at FC Kaiserslautern.
“Of course it plays a part,” Ring said. “It’s the job of the more experienced players to drag the team through situations like this. We know what to do and we have to take responsibility now since the coach is not here. It’s part of the business and you have to cope with it.”
Ring has observed that this year’s squad has the resiliency to recovery from situations both on and off the field.
“We’ve always stood up after a bad game or also all the rumors flying around considering Patrick and the new coach not arriving yet,” Ring said. “It shows how strong we are as a team. I’m sure in the long haul its going to take us very far.”
“If you look back at our last game (a 1-1 draw with Atlanta) and all the questions surrounding Patrick’s departure, leading up to the game, in and around the game and after the game – that tells you something about this group,” Johnson said. “Outside influences don’t really affect our team.”
“We’ve seen everything with us this season,” Ring said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity and we always come out swinging – that’s the quality of our team.”
New York City FC had not lost back-to-back matches under Vieira since April of 2016 and are currently second in the Eastern Conference table.
With the pending arrival of Torrent and four new assistant coaches, Ring anticipates alterations in the program.
“Things will probably change a little bit but I think that’s always good – keeps you on your toes,” Ring said. “A new coach, everyone gets to prove themselves again.”
Johnson believes that Torrent will have already accumulated opinions on individuals and the group when he lands state-side.
“I’m pretty sure the boss (Torrent) has watched just about all if not all the games this season,” Johnson said.
Analysis: Crew SC at midseason shows stellar defense but depth of scoring is an issue
The Athletic – June 22, 2018
Halfway​ through the MLS regular season​ seems as​ good a time as any to assess the chances of the​ Crew SC.
Despite​​ dealing with the saga of a potential Austin, Texas, move, the team has shown flashes of being a real contender in the Eastern Conference, and it still has potential to add pieces and to improve as the season comes to a close.
But off-field distractions aside, a positive start to the season — even better than last year, when the team was one goal away from an MLS Cup Final berth — means one question still looms large for Columbus faithful: how good is this team?
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LA’s Efrain Alvarez, courted by Mexico and the U.S., is at home with both teams
The Athletic – June 20, 2018
Efrain Alvarez leads​ the way​ through his family’s beige stucco house, passing the painting of​ the Virgin​​ Mary that hangs next to the TV in the living room, cutting through the narrow, clustered kitchen, exiting out the back door, and turning down a few steps onto the driveway, where a rusting hockey-sized goal sits in front of an outdoor table and four mismatched chairs. A soccer ball has found a temporary resting place against the fence. His puppy, Salah, scratches at a makeshift barrier in the doorway of a wooden building behind the house that serves as the bedroom he shares with two of his brothers.
Alvarez nods at the goal.
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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact
The Mane Land – SB Nation – June 19, 2018
Familiar foes travel to Orlando City Stadium as the Montreal Impact look to tame the Lions for the second time in just 10 days. While the league’s lengthy World Cup break is coming to a close, Orlando City will bookend it with the Quebecois side.
SB Nation’s own Emily Santella — Managing Editor of Mount Royal Soccer— is back again to provide some updates and insight since last Wednesday’s match. If you’re interested in reading my answers to their questions, you can find them over at their site.
Ignacio Piatti got out of his slump in style last match. What was different about the Argentinian last Wednesday than the matches leading up to it where he went scoreless?
Emily Santella: Piatti was given a surprise rest against Dallas and it was revealed that it was due to a lingering minor injury. I think that this rest time, and ultimately time to properly heal his injury, allowed him to break out of his slump. In addition, the early penalty allowed him to start the game off on the right foot.
The Impact have just one positive result on the road this year. What does Montreal need to improve on to take points back home?
ES: The Impact have shown they can either be dominant and well organized or crumble completely in front of their opposition this season. Moreover, their biggest struggle has been in the final third. Even in their win against Orlando on the 13th, they benefited from a penalty, an own goal and a side pushing forward to try and get back into a game. The Impact need to be more decisive in the final third and more deadly with their plays.
Do you think Remi Garde will change anything up tactically given the back-to-back matches?
ES: I think most of the tactical changes that will happen may be due to injuries. Jeisson Vargas, who left the game with an injury. has been absent from practice and will not play. Raheem Edwards left practice prematurely on Tuesday but was present on Wednesday; his availability may be questionable. In addition, it will be interesting to see if Jukka Raitala makes a return to the lineup. Most of the season he played as a center back instead of his natural position (left back). With the relationship installed between Rudy Camacho and Rod Fanni it would be surprising to see him take either one’s spot but I could see him taking Lovitz’s spot on the left.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
ES: Injuries: Zakaria Diallo (out), Kyle Fisher (out), Victor Cabrera (out), Michael Petrasso (questionable), Louis Béland-Goyette (out), David Choinière (out), Jeisson Vargas (out).
Predicted lineup (4-3-3): Evan Bush; Chris Duvall, Rod Fanni, Rudy Camacho, Jukka Raitala; Ken Krolicki, Samuel Piette, Saphir Taider; Alejandro Silva, Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Ignacio Piatti.
Predicted final score: Impact will get their second road win, 2-1.
Minnesota United Vs Colorado Rapids: 3 things to watch for – Where are the goals?
Fansided– June 21, 2018
Minnesota United take on the struggling Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, CO on Saturday night. After another loss against the Houston Dynamo, this time in the US Open Cup, Adrian Heath’s team are in desperate need of a win.
Here are three things to watch for against Colorado on Saturday.
3. A golden opportunity for points
Having already lost twice to the San Jose Earthquakes this season, who sit just one point ahead of Colorado, the Loons need to start getting points against struggling sides while they can, and Saturday’s match in Colorado presents another opportunity to do so. The Loons earned four points in their two matches against the Rapids last season, but will likely need six against them this season to stay in contention for a playoff spot.
One thing going in Minnesota’s favor this season is that they now have Darwin Quintero on the team. Quintero has struggled a bit recently, but he has the ability to destroy any MLS defense when he’s on his game. This, combined with the recent scorching form of Miguel Ibarra, gives Minnesota a good chance of getting a result.
Another positive is that the Rapids have really struggled to score goals this season. Brent Kallman and Michael Boxall will still need to be sharp, as one mistake by either could make the difference in this one, but this is not the same challenge as defending one of the top offences of MLS.
2. Familiar faces
An April trade between the Rapids and Loons sent Scottish winger Sam Nicholson to Colorado, while American full-back Eric Miller went to Minnesota.
On Saturday, both players will face off against their former clubs, and Miller will return to the stadium where he played for over two years. With Miller currently battling an injury, his status is not certain, though he is expected to play. He has been a big improvement over what the Loons previously had at the full-back positions, so it seems that they trade has worked out for them so far.
Nicholson, meanwhile, has taken some time to settle in with his new club, and has yet to make much of an impact with Colorado — that could just come down to the fact that the Rapids are a team in disarray, making it a lot harder to come in and make an immediate impact with the club.
Minnesota United will still need to be mindful of Nicholson, though, as the 23-year-old’s pace and technical ability mean that he can take over a match when he’s on form, as was most evident in Minnesota’s match against the Chicago Fire earlier this season, where Nicholson put on an attacking clinic in a Loons victory in Chicago.
  1. More needed from strikers
It’s been said all season, but the Loons still haven’t been able to get the kind of production they got last season from strikers Christian Ramirez and Abu Danladi.
The pair scored an impressive 22 combined goals last year. This season, however, Ramirez and Danladi, along with rookie striker Mason Toye, have combined for a disappointing three goals, all of which have come from Ramirez.
For reference, Darwin Quintero has scored three goals himself in just 10 matches since arriving in Minnesota. Though Ramirez has picked up his form slightly more recently, he’s still behind the pace he set last season, while Danladi and Toye have both failed to score so far.
Minnesota will definitely need more production from their forwards, not just in Colorado, but moving forward, especially if they hope to contend for a playoff spot. It will be interesting to see if any of the three strikers can get on the score sheet against the Rapids, and how all three do as the season goes on.
Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC | 2018 MLS Match Preview – June 20, 2018
The Philadelphia Union are hoping to build off the momentum from a U.S. Open Cup triumph over the New York Red Bulls and climb above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference against a Vancouver Whitecaps FC side that brings a six-game unbeaten streak to Chester.
Vancouver is also unbeaten in their last four games against Philadelphia (2W-2D). The Whitecaps have outscored the Union 9-5 over those four games, per Opta.
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Philadelphia Union
For the fourth straight year, the Union faced the Red Bulls in the USOC and thanks to second-half goals from Haris Medunjanin and Cory Burke nine minutes apart, Philadelphia (5-7-3) advanced to the Quarterfinals following a 2-1 victory.
The Union have lost back-to-back league games for a third time this season. They responded with a win the two previous times.
“Overall, a really good win against a very good team,” Jim Curtin said after the Round of 16 win. “We have a home game in our stadium and we are three wins away from a trophy, which is something to be proud of. We still need to find ways to finish all these chances we are creating as a team.”
  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - Richie Marquez (sports hernia surgery)
Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Andre Blake — Keegan Rosenberry, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Raymon Gaddis — Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin — Ilsinho, Borek Dockal, Fafa Picault — Cory Burke
  • Notes: CJ Sapong has scored 4.47 goals fewer than his xG total (6.47), the third-worst xG differential of any MLS player. … Philadelphia’s 2-0 loss to Toronto on June 8 snapped a three-game winning streak at home. They had scored at least three goals in each of the wins.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The Whitecaps (6-5-5) are hoping to pick up where they left before a World Cup break after a resounding 5-2 win over 10-man Orlando City SC at BC Place on June 9. It was their second straight win and sixth game without defeat as Alphonso Davies had one goal and three assists to help power a four-goal explosion in the final 14 minutes.
Kei Kamara struck for a brace and Yordy Reyna and Nicolas Mezquida added late insurance goals.
“I know what’s ahead for him, I know the good, the bad and the ugly,” Carl Robinson said of Davies. “He’s going to have to experience it all and go through it all. There’s not a right and a wrong right way of dealing with it and I’m trying to best prepare him for what lies ahead.”
  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: D - Jose Aja
  • International duty: D - Kendall Waston
  • Injury Report: OUT: GK - Stefan Marinovic (left knee sprain); DOUBTFUL: D - Marcel de Jong (left hamstring strain)
Projected Starting XI
(4-4-2, right to left)
GK: Brian Rowe — Jake Nerwinski, Jose Aja, Doneil Henry, Brek Shea — Cristian Techera, Aly Ghazal, Felipe, Alphonso Davies — Kei Kamara, Yordy Reyna
  • Notes: Vancouver is averaging 1.9 goals per 90 in the 1,003+ minutes that Kamara been on the field this season (averaging 0.8 goals per 90 in the 571+ minutes he has not). … The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last five games (2W-3D). It is their longest unbeaten streak since a seven-game streak from August 19-September 23, 2017 (5W-2D). The Whitecaps are averaging 2.8 goals per game over their current unbeaten run.
All-Time Series
  • Overall: Philadelphia Union 2 wins, 7 goals … Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3 wins, 10 goals … 3 draws
  • At Philadelphia: Union 1 win, 6 goals … Whitecaps FC 1 win, 6 goals … 2 draws
  • Last meeting at Philadelphia: Philadelphia Union 2, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3 (June 25, 2016)
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Jeremy Hanson, Jeremy Kieso
4th Official: Kevin Broadley
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
New York City FC vs. Toronto FC | 2018 MLS Match Preview – June 22, 2018
It’s a new era for New York City FC, who usher in Domenec Torrent as head coach after Patrick Vieira’s departure to OGC Nice. They face the defending MLS Cup champions for the first time this season, with fireworks usually on display in their contests at Yankee Stadium.
TFC won their last meeting with NYCFC – 4-0 in Toronto on July 30, 2017. NYCFC had won two of the first six games (2W-4D), scoring two or more goals five times.
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New York City FC
Last time out, New York City (8-3-4) played arguably their best game of the season, a dominant effort that nonetheless forced them to settle for a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium on June 9.
That was also Vieira’s last match in charge of the team, as he left for Nice, while Torrent was named as his replacement soon thereafter. Torrent spent the last 11 years as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
Torrent, though, has been stuck in Spain while awaiting his work visa, with holdover assistants Javier Perez and Rob Vartughian running training sessions with the assistance of academy director Rodrigo Marion.
  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: D - Ronald Matarrita, M - Rodney Wallace
  • Injury Report: OUT: M - Yangel Herrera (ankle surgery), D - Cedric Hountondji (hamstring injury)
Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3, right to left)
GK: Sean Johnson — Anton Tinnerholm, Sebastian Ibeagha, Alex Callens, Ben Sweat —Alex Ring, Ebenezer Ofori, Maxi Moralez — Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, David Villa, Jo Inge Berget
  • Notes: Sean Johnson has saved 87.5% of shots faced at Yankee Stadium in league play this season, tied for the highest of any keeper with multiple home starts. … NYCFC have gone unbeaten in their last nine home games dating back to season (6W-3D). They have conceded multiple goals just once during this span.
Toronto FC
Toronto (4-7-3) have historically played some wild games in the Bronx, so maybe a 4-4 draw against D.C. United at home on June 13 was good preparation for Sunday’s showdown. In that match, the Reds trailed 3-0 at halftime before roaring back to tie on goals by Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez and Nick Hagglund.
Yamil Asad put D.C. back in front in the 90th minute, but Hagglund leveled again in the second minute of stoppage time.
“I don’t necessarily think the ideology of the group will shift a whole bunch because the new coach is also going to look to try to play," Greg Vanney said of NYCFC under Torrent. "That’s his mindset, he’s been around Pep for a long time and I’m sure has had his fair share of say in a lot of the vision of how those teams have played over his years.”
  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: F - Jozy Altidore (foot surgery), D - Drew Moor (quadricep strain), D - Chris Mavinga (hamstring strain), GK - Caleb Patterson-Sewell (elbow injury); DOUBTFUL: D - Ashtone Morgan (hamstring strain)
Projected Starting XI
(4-1-4-1, right to left)
GK: Alex Bono — Auro, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund, Greg van der Wiel — Michael Bradley — Nick Halser, Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez, Ryan Telfer — Sebastian Giovinco
  • Notes: Osorio has scored five goals in 12 appearances for Toronto in 2018, as many as he had in 86 appearances between 2015 and 2017. … Toronto’s 2-0 win against Philadelphia in their last road game snapped a seven-game winless streak on the road (5L-2D). The Reds had conceded an average of 2.6 goals per game during that run.
All-Time Series
  • Overall: New York City FC 2 wins, 13 goals … Toronto FC 1 win, 13 goals … 4 draws
  • At New York City: NYCFC 1 win, 10 goals … Toronto FC 0 wins, 8 goals … 3 draws
  • Last meeting at New York City: New York City FC 2, Toronto FC 2 (July 19, 2017)
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referees: Kathryn Nesbitt, Nick Uranga
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
MLS-based referee Jair Marrufo assigned to Belgium-Tunisia World Cup match – June 21, 2018
PRO (Professional Referee Organization) referee Jair Marrufo has been appointed to oversee Saturday’s World Cup group-stage match between Belgium and Tunisia, his first on-field assignment of Russia 2018.
It marks the first such experience for the El Paso, Texas native, who has to date worked only VAR (Video Assistant Referee) postings in this, his first World Cup.
The 2008 MLS Referee of the Year, Marrufo will be joined by another MLS-based official, assistant referee Corey Rockwell, as well as their Concacaf colleague Juan Zumba of El Salvador.
Two Uruguayans round out the officiating crew for the Group G clash at Spartak Stadium in Moscow, which holds major implications for both teams. A Belgium victory would clinch advancement for the Red Devils, who defeated Panama 3-0 in their opening match, while likely spelling doom for Tunisia, who suffered a 2-1 loss to England keyed by Harry Kane’s last-gasp winner.
Calm Before the Storm? Torrent-less City Take On Toronto
The NYCFC Nation – June 22, 2018
NEW YORK CITY, NY – When Toronto FC comes to town it’s nearly always a wild one. New York City FC restart their season after a turbulent World Cup break in which they lost both Patrick Vieira to OGC Nice, and Ronald Matarrita to a hamstring injury. There is additional uncertainty in that Vieira’s replacement, Domenec Torrent, has not yet arrived in the US, with the club citing visa difficulties.
The numbers going into this one are not on the Blue side. NYCFC  have not beaten Toronto since September 16, 2015. In the six matches since, NYCFC has gone 0W-3L-3D with a combined -11 goal differential (including a 0-7 defeat over two legs in the 2016 playoffs).
Toronto FC
TFC had a difficult go of it in the early part of the season. A tough schedule that included the CONCACAF Champion’s League meant Greg Vanney and his first-choice squad weren’t playing very much in the league. The Reds found themselves in the Eastern Conference basement, winning only three of their first ten matches in 2018.
Vanney has also been plagued by injury. Jozy Altidore, Drew Moor, and Chris Mavinga have all been out for extended periods of time, especially effecting the defending champ’s back line. Moor returned to training just this week, but Mavinga and Altidore remain sidelined. Ashtone Morgan is listed as doubtful.
In Altidore’s absence, Jonathan Osorio has really turned it on. The midfielder has three goals and an assist in TFC’s last two matches – a 2-0 win over Philadelphia and last week’s 4-4 draw with DC United. Sebastian Giovinco is also an ever-present threat, but he’s been quiet by his sky-high standards – perhaps because opposing defenses have less to account for without Altidore.
Despite their struggles, Toronto FC match up well against NYCFC. They do well everything the Pigeons struggle to defend, namely taking long shots from outside the box, creating chances from the wings, and of course Giovinco’s set pieces in dangerous areas.
New York City FC
It seems unlikely at this point that Domenec Torrent will be on the touchline for NYCFC this weekend. His stand-in will likely be goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian. The former Union technical director took the reins once before in a friendly against the Puerto Rican national team (a match that featured two own goals, but ultimately finished 2-1 after a Kwadwo Poku stoppage-time winner).
It remains to be seen whether or not Vartughian has received any instruction from Torrent. By extension, it’s unclear if any major changes will be made to the Starting XI. With Yangel Herrera done for the year, Ebenezer Ofori will have his hands full trying to contain Osorio while also getting his first head-to-head match-up with Giovinco. Alex Ring can hopefully help his line-mate out there, but this certainly seems like a match that’s ripe for disappointment. A win will go a long way to quell the uncertainty surrounding the club over the long break.
For my part, I don’t expect Vartughian to make wholesale changes. Jo Inge Berget will still be in the lineup, and I think if Maxime Chanot is fully healthy he’ll be back in his starting role. When Torrent finally does make it here, then maybe we’ll see a rebirth of Jonathan Lewis, along with some more minutes for guys like Kwame Awuah, James Sands and Joe Scally.
It should be noted, however, that Sands and Scally are both at the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs which run through June 30th.