MLS Newsstand - June 25, 2018

Philadelphia Union 4, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
New York Red Bulls 3, FC Dallas 0
Orlando City SC 0, Montreal Impact 2
Sporting Kansas City 3, Houston Dynamo 2
Colorado Rapids 3, Minnesota United FC 2
Real Salt Lake 1, San Jose Earthquakes 1
Seattle Sounders FC 1, Chicago Fire 1
Los Angeles Football Club 2, Columbus Crew SC 0
Atlanta United 1, Portland Timbers 1
New York City FC 2, Toronto FC 1
Exclusive: Atlanta United dominates final MLS All-Star fan voting
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – June 25, 2018
Dominating the standings and attendance, Atlanta United also dominated the voting for the MLS All-Star game, which will be played against Juventus Aug. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Six Atlanta United players -- goalkeeper Brad Guzan, striker Josef Martinez, midfielders Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco and Darlington Nagbe, and defender Michael Parkhurst -- were voted into the MLS All-Star Fan XI. This will be Almiron’s and Parkhurst’s second consecutive All-Star appearance.
“They are incredible,” Parkhurst said of Atlanta United  fans. “From day one, until now it’s been amazing. Everyone sees it on a game day, and the passion they bring and the excitement and the atmosphere they create. But it’s everywhere. It’s when you are out about in the city and people recognize and the support they give you. It’s when you go to do a player appearance and go to sign autographs for an hour and there’s a line the whole time.”
The rest of the Fan XI is composed of talent that, combined with Commissioner Don Garber’s two selections and manager Gerardo Martino’s remaining 11 selections, which will be made later this summer, should make for a competitive game against the Italian powerhouse.
Joining the Atlanta United players are L.A. Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 23 goals in 70 appearances for Juventus from 2004-06, and LAFC’s Carlos Vela, who was voted in through the EA Sports More than a Vote Challenge. Ibrahimovic has seven goals and three assists in 11 appearances, and Vela has seven goals and five assists in 12 appearances.
Last year’s league MVP, Diego Valeri of Portland, is the remaining midfielder. He has six goals and three assists in 14 appearances.
The other two defenders are LAFC’s Laurent Ciman and Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi.
The Fan XI may not be selected by Martino as the starting 11, but the group has a bevy of World Cup experience, which may help. Ibrahimovic is a two-time World Cup participant with Sweden. Ciman (Belgium) and Zusi played in 2014. Guzan played in 2010 and ’14.
Martino knows what he will get from Atlanta United, which leads MLS with 34 points, and its fans in terms of support.
“It’s an honor,” Guzan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a compliment to our fan base and how much they value our team, how much they value the city in terms of how welcome we are and what it means to be a host city for such a prestigious event. It’s an honor. It’s exciting. It should be a good week.”
Martinez leads MLS with 14 goals this season. Almiron is among the favorites to challenge Valeri for MVP with six goals and seven assists. Barco, 19, has three goals and one assist. Nagbe, acquired from Portland in the offseason, has three assists.
Atlanta United holds several MLS attendance records, including single-game (72,035), set this season, and season average (48,200), set last year. It leads the league in average attendance again this season with more than 48,000. Tickets for the All-Star game can be purchased from
“They love the team,” Parkhurst said. “And we try to show them the love right back. It’s awesome that they got out there and voted for us. I speak for all six of us when I say that we are fortunate and thankful for their support.”
The MLS All-Star Fan XI:
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, Atlanta United. His first All-Star selection.
Defender Michael Parkhurst, Atlanta United. His second consecutive selection and sixth overall.
Defender Laurent Ciman, LAFC. Has three goals in 13 matches for the expansion team.
Defender Graham Zusi, Sporting KC. Has two goals and an assist for the Western Conference’s top team.
Midfielder Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United. His second consecutive selection, has six goals and seven assists in 17 appearances.
Midfielder Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United. Has three goals and one assist in 12 appearances.
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe, Atlanta United. Has three assists in 17 appearances.
Midfielder Carlos Vela, LAFC. Has seven goals and five assists in 12 appearances.
Midfielder Diego Valeri, Portland. Has six goals and three assists in 14 appearances.
Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, L.A. Galaxy. Has seven goals and three assists in 11 appearances.
Striker Josef Martinez, Atlanta United. Leads MLS with 14 goals.
Red Bulls, Special Olympics New Jersey #UnifiedTogether
Asbury Park Press – June 23, 2018
HARRISON - Christian Muniz held up the Red Bull New York jersey, looking at his name and No. 78 printed on the back. Mai Vy Nguyen proudly pointed at her nameplate, hanging on the locker just like the professionals.
They were both part of the Special Olympics Unified team, taking the field against their counterparts from FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon.
Both goals were scored by Unified partners, Cullen Colfi of FC Dallas early in the second half and Adithya Sridhar to tie it up shortly afterward.
Most of the same Special Olympics Texas players had hosted the Red Bulls last summer.
"It was pretty cool, new team, new feeling," said Sridhar, a mechanical engineering graduate student at Rutgers University. "Everyone comes from different parts of the state. Everyone's different ages. But everyone's got to come together. Playing for the Red Bulls Unified team is a huge incentive. Everybody wants to come together to play."
Muniz, a 20-year-old from Linden, was particularly excited to get out on the field at Red Bull Arena.
"I'm excited," said Muniz, who swam at the Special Olympics Summer Games, and was part of Kean University Unified basketball.
"I've never played on a field like this before. We played really well, and tried hard."
Decked out in a grey Nike logo headband, Nicholas Vales from Oceanport started at left back for Red Bulls Unified.  Nguyen and Sridhar started the second half.
"I'm so happy to be here. It's fun," said Nguyen, 25, who has played soccer since age 12 and also works at Goodwill in Old Bridge.
It is the fifth year of the Unified Exchange program, which promotes social inclusion through sports.
The Special Olympics players "signed contracts" with sporting director Denis Hamlett at the Red Bulls' training facility in Hanover Twp. on May 15. They practiced a couple of times before Saturday's match, though many have played together in Union City for years.
Special Olympics New Jersey will host D.C. United on Aug. 26.
Special Olympics has offered Unified sports, which blend athletes with intellectual disabilities and neurotypical partners, for more than 20 years, with 1.4 million participants worldwide. There are 12 colleges and universities in New Jersey which host Unified sports programs, including Drew and Rowan, where assistant coach Jack Boncales was first exposed.
"It was a lot of fun," said Boncales, a Ridgefield Park native and physical education teacher and basketball coach at Shepard Preparatory High School in Morristown.
"I love it. They played hard. They had a good time."
How Park City’s Sebastian Saucedo went from RSL ball boy to budding star
Salt Lake Tribune – June 23, 2018
Sebastian Saucedo was on the sideline when Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and the rest of Real Salt Lake played at Rice Eccles Stadium, just another starry-eyed elementary schooler serving as a ball boy and dreaming of a professional soccer career.
“Growing up in Utah, who would have known a young kid [from Park City] would have been able to just play in general?” Saucedo said after he scored his first MLS goal for RSL at Seattle on May 26.
Saucedo is on track to have a breakout year, not only scoring his first MLS goal but logging more assists (three) in 11 appearances than in the rest of his career combined. He got his opportunity when injuries kept Joao Plata out of the lineup, and while he has yet to displace Plata permanently from his starting role, Saucedo has solidified himself as a prominent figure in RSL’s attack.
“The last month, he’s defending better,” said assistant coach Freddy Juarez, who has coached Saucedo since he played for the RSL Academy. “He’s playing for the team, he’s keeping possession, he’s giving assists, he’s scoring. He’s not a [finished] product by any means, but he’s starting to take advice from other people, applying it and becoming a little bit more of a complete player.”
Saucedo’s parents were watching from home when Saucedo sent a scorcher from outside the box into the back of the net at Seattle last month. His mom later told him that his father was so overwhelmed with pride, he had to leave the room.
“I’ve had a couple goals in Mexico,” Saucedo said of one season he was on loan to Liga MX team Veracruz, “and he was there for one of them, so I couldn’t believe hearing my mom tell me that, that he would be so emotional.”
Saucedo had expected a gruff, “Good job, on to the next one,” from his dad, Martin Saucedo. Sebastian, or Bofo as most call him, grew up training with his dad at the North 40 fields in Park City from a young age. Martin always wanted to set his son up in the best environment to advance his career, and Saucedo quickly rose from the Basin Rec (where he said he’d get access to the field house after school and stay there until it closed) to the Park City Soccer Club. It was his stint with South Weber club La Roca that put him on the RSL Academy’s radar.
“He had a knack to get by guys and then create either a pass for someone else, a shot for someone else, or he scored himself,” Juarez said. “So that’s the first thing. That’s the type of player you think have a high ceiling, and we can now put in a more competitive environment we can work on all the other things, the psychological and all that.”
So Saucedo left his family to join the academy in Casa Grande, Ariz. The lifestyle change was the biggest adjustment for Saucedo — on the field, he scored 50 goals in 60 appearances with the Academy’s U15/16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy matches, then another five goals in four matches with the U-17/18 squad.
Because of his success at the Academy, Saucedo was highly touted heading into the professional ranks as the first homegrown signing from Utah in July 2014, but at the time he didn’t have the benefit of being able to get minutes with the Real Monarchs, RSL’s USL affiliate that played its first season in 2015.
Though there have been some exceptions, “academy guys ... aren’t really ready to go from academy to first-team soccer,” Juarez said. “And so we all see a guy that can score in the academy and think he’s going to come [and do the same thing on the first team]. It’s not true.”
So Saucedo asked for a loan and played in Liga MX. When he returned to RSL last year, he was an occasional reserve. This season he came out swinging and hasn’t looked back, now not just a ballboy for Beckerman and Rimando, but playing and wearing claret and cobalt alongside them.
Zlatan on overcoming injuries -- and winning over the haters – June 25, 2018
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not a modest man, so perhaps it's not surprising that LA's newest celebrity decided to pose for the 10th anniversary of the Body Issue. But there's still plenty for the global soccer icon to open up about. Ibrahimovic sat down with ESPN's Chris Connelly recently and revealed the details of his brutal knee injury, how he's adjusting to his new team and that oh-so-memorable debut.
ESPN: You're here to pose for the Body Issue. So what's different about you physically from every other footballer?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: When I do something, I do it powerful. Is not about the beauty because everybody can look good. But not everybody is powerful. And I bring that.
You also bring creativity and style. What is the moment like on the pitch when you know you can be creative? What has to happen?
I need to be angry. I need to be very angry. Then I bring out my [moves] that you will not expect ... in a good way. And I see things that is difficult to describe. I can see holes in the game that I can use. And then I can see the vision, the second and the third step, what will happen, and I predict those things.
What motivates you?
I find the haters. I make that to give me energy. That is what I had all my career -- I had people that didn't believe in me. I had people who said that I will never make it. They judged me even before I even got a chance. But all that I turn around and I made it a driven power for myself. I was driven to do everything better, never be satisfied. That's how I kept on, and I still find those holes where I get that energy. But the problem is, I make my haters become fans. So I need to have more haters.
It's going to be hard to find those haters if you keep going like you have been. [Laughs]
Yeah, but I'll find them. I'll make them upset in some way.
Your accuracy is phenomenal on the pitch. In your book [I Am Zlatan, 2001] you talk about a coach [former Real Madrid manager Fabio Capello] who put you right in the penalty box and just fired balls at you over and over again.
Every day. He put me in front of the goal and I made, like, 50 to 100 shots every day. When I say every day, it was every day. And he continued to push me, push me, push me, and at the end he didn't need to call me. I went there by myself, and I did it because it became my medicine. I needed to repeat it, and I needed to train on it. You train hard, and hard work pays off. And that's why I hit the target maybe more than normal.
What part of your body do you feel the most confident in, as far as your strength? The whole package. There is no weakness.
Even at 36? That changes things a little bit, right?
No, is perfect. I am like the wine: the older, the better. Age is just a number, it's all in your head, how strong you are, how young you are and how you prepare yourself. I do a lot of training. I prepare very well and I like it because it drives me. It never makes me satisfied because when I feel good, I want to feel better. I'm a workaholic.
You suffered a catastrophic knee injury [in April 2017], though. What was that like? It was very strange because I never had a major injury. When it happened, I even said to myself, "I'm not injured." And I tried to walk straight after. There is another player who got injured in the first half -- he was carried out. I was walking out because I said I'm not injured. And when I came in, I still said to myself, "I'm not injured, it's just a small bruise or something." But something felt different. Then the next day it was swollen, and we did MRI and it showed that everything was off. Then you hear all the comments: It's all over. He will never come back. He will never be the one he is. So now the haters come out. And all this gives me energy, all those people that are speaking. So I said, "I decide when I stop football. I decide how I will finish this story. I will not end this story by injury. I will walk out the way I want to walk out." When I walk out, I will feel just like when I began to play, powerful and feeling perfect.
How did you take the mindset that you bring to every match to your rehab?
I trained every day, boring training. But I needed to do it. And I had people around me that believed in me and gave me that extra push. I had my family. I had my agent. I had my physio. We worked every day. And when I signed the extra year with Manchester United [in August 2017], I asked [coach Jose] Mourinho, "Can I do [rehab] from distance? Because if I see the teammates every day, I will go crazy."
Because I want to be with them. I am that kind of person. When the coach needs me, I'm there even if my knee is not there or I have a broken leg or something. I will be there for them because that's how I work. When they need me, I will stand up for them. And I will defend them in every moment. So I asked to keep distance, to do my training isolated. I give a big thanks to United [for letting me do that], to my teammates that was in United, to Coach Mourinho -- that gave me that confidence. And I'm here now, and I'm enjoying my football here now.
Will it be hard for you to watch the Swedish national team play without you in the World Cup?
No. In the beginning, the first games was different because I felt I can do it much better than them, obviously. And still I feel that. But there is a time when you say let them do it and let them enjoy because where I came from, I was not welcome. I was different. I came from a different background. And I went through all those things and I became the captain on my national team. I mean, bigger than that it cannot be.
You heard the cheers here in LA with your phenomenal debut. You're smiling just remembering it. What did it feel like there on the pitch?
It felt amazing because the buildup was amazing. The only wish from Galaxy was please be ready for March 31, and that's the game against LAFC. Just prepare for that game and be ready and be here. And I say, "Don't worry, this is my job. Just make my visa so I have it so I can come over." [Laughs] So everything was ready. I came here. I trained for 20 minutes. I didn't know anybody. The next day I'm selected for the game. The coach asked me, "Are you sure you can play?" I said, "Just give me some minutes. I'll show you." And they were all asking, "How's your knee?" I say, "We just have to find out how it is." And we were losing 1-0, so I'm sitting on the bench and was, like, no problem, we can still do this. After 2-0 I look at my left, I said to him, "I don't know if Zlatan is enough for this." After 3-0, I say, "Listen, this will be a long season." And then I heard the crowd shouting, "We want Zlatan." OK, would they put me in or not? Or they will rest me? I didn't know anything. So I started to warm up. We did 3-1. OK, now it's your turn. You go in and then magic happens. So I gave them Zlatan, like I said. They wanted Zlatan, I gave them that.
You've heard cheers in every great football cathedral in the world. What was it like to hear those cheers in LA?
It was amazing because when I changed clubs I had a special connection with the supporters. I feel the welcome. I feel the energy. I feel the adrenaline. And I just want to give back. I want to give back as much as possible, and especially to the kids out there because they are the future. And I know they don't get to see me every day. Like, "You have the luck now to see me here." So I just want to give back to them as much as possible and by doing what I'm good at, playing football. And that is where the creativity comes in. You want to do something extra. I want to be the example they take after.
For more from the 2018 Body Issue, pick up a copy on newsstands starting June 29.
Mexico's Carlos Vela finds World Cup redemption as El Tri on the brink of knockouts – June 23, 2018
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia -- Three thoughts from Rostov Arena as Mexico defeated South Korea 2-1 to take control of Group F at the 2018 World Cup with goals from Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez.
1. Vela pulls the strings for rampant Mexico
Vela had a long wait to step up and strike Mexico's 26th minute opener past Jo Hyeon-Woo from the penalty spot. Who knows what was going through his mind? Perhaps a more emotional character mind would've thought about four years ago and the abuse he took when he failed to show up for the World Cup in Brazil, or what missing would do to his confidence. And then there was the sad passing of the LAFC player's grandfather last Sunday back in Mexico after El Tri's 1-0 victory over Germany.
"I hope you left proud of me," read Vela's message to his grandfather after what was surely a difficult time away from home.
But Vela put it away and put Mexico on track for another victory in Russia with authority.
This may have only been a penalty goal for Vela, but it felt like redemption; a reconnection with Mexico fans who had shunned him after he rejected a chance to play for the team in Brazil in 2014, when his career was absolutely on a high. The fans shouted his name as he trotted up to take the spot kick; and after he converted it, Vela kissed the crest on his shirt, crossed himself and lapped up the celebration with his teammates.
But it wasn't just the goal. Vela has now put in two performances of the highest quality in Russia, playing off Hernandez and roaming with intent to link play, especially with Mexico's wingers. The arrogance -- not in any way a bad thing when it comes to Vela -- is back in his play, with his close control inviting the opposition in before moving the ball away from them. It gives rhythm to Mexico's attacking.
In Russia, it finally looks like the former Arsenal player belongs and is an important, if not indispensable cog in the Mexican national team.
2. El Tri on the brink of knockout round
This was another promising performance from Mexico and one that will keep the momentum generated from that victory over Germany flowing, even if South Korea's mainly defensive style made it more difficult for El Tri to shine.
The biggest surprise about Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio's starting XI was that there was only one change, with Hugo Ayala exiting for right-back Edson Alvarez and Carlos Salcedo slotting in at center-back. Osorio has still never repeated a starting lineup in two consecutive games since taking over as Mexico coach in the fall of 2015.
In the first half, Mexico had 69 percent possession and largely controlled the game, although South Korea had chances on the break, with Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min unable to finish when through on goal in the 39th minute.
Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was forced into action in the 56th from a sharp Ki Sung-yueng shot from the left side of the box, but El Tri had the better of the chances and managed to get the vital second.
Hector Herrera won the ball in the Korean half in the 66th. Then Andres Guardado delivered the ball to Hirving Lozano, who passed it to Hernandez. The West Ham United striker cut inside and put Mexico ahead at a time when there was growing frustration about missed opportunity. This was a big goal for a striker who hadn't netted for El Tri since last October. And it would have been all the more meaningful given his 87-year-old grandfather Tomas Balcazar was in attendance. Balcazar netted for Mexico back at the 1954 World Cup.
El Tri may not have been completely clinical, but in terms of sheer grit and hard work in hot and humid temperatures -- it was 33 degrees Celsius at kick-off (91 F) -- against a South Korea side unafraid to break up play with tactical fouls.
Mexico's defenders blocked Korea's shots, and by the 13th minute, left-winger Lozano had made two vital defensive challenges, one of which was in the right-back position and the other close to the 6-yard box.
While some of the more favored teams stumble in Russia, Mexico is doing just fine and has been boosted by the huge traveling support -- around half of the 43,472 -- in Rostov Arena.
By the end, the Mexican fans were singing the name of Osorio, and even the goalkeeper chant that caused the Mexican federation to be fined after opener wasn't heard.
Things are going very well for El Tri, who recorded consecutive wins at a World Cup for the first time since 2002, and are now a virtual lock to reach the round of 16.
3. South Korea over-reliant on Son
This World Cup hasn't been a great advert for football in South Korea. As if anyone didn't know it, Son is the team's best player by a distance. And when you take out Swansea's Ki Sung-Yun, there isn't all that much quality.
The South Korea team was happy to foul at will -- 24 compared to Mexico's seven -- and the main tactic seemed to be to defend deep and try set Son free to run behind Mexico's high defensive line. It looked like it could possibly work in moments, but this South Korea side needed to provide more against a Mexican collective that is really clicking and not reliant on any one individual.
Son eventually got his goal - - a screamer -- in second-half injury time, but it wasn't enough, and South Korea didn't really deserve much from this match, just like it didn't against Sweden in the opening game.
The fact only four of South Korea's 23-players play in Europe tells its own story. The Asian team hasn't covered itself in glory in Russia.
Coming (back) to America: How Zack Steffen rediscovered his love for soccer and emerged as a top U.S. keeper
The Athletic – June 25, 2018
The​ moment he returned to the​ picturesque German​ city on the western edge of the Black Forest, anxiety​ was there​​ to greet him. It’s a feeling Zack Steffen couldn’t shake in late June of 2016.
The budding goalkeeper was in the company of his two sisters, Katy and Lexy, for a week as he prepared for his second season with the Bundesliga side SC Freiburg. The familiar gnaw of loneliness, however, was starting to envelop him even before his siblings boarded a plane for home.
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Union ‘put on a show’ with historically dominant win on same night they honor club icon
The Athletic – June 25, 2018
CHESTER, Pa. — The​ “Doop” song​ is loud and upbeat and pretty much designed to get​ you off​​ your feet. And when it blares over Talen Energy Stadium’s loudspeakers, as it does after every Union goal, the good vibes are palpable.
On Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps, it was played five times — four for the season-high-matching number of goals the Union scored in their most dominant win of the year. The other? That came right after a giant black curtain was lifted up to reveal the words: “Ring of Honor Sebastien Le Toux” under the TruMark Financial Suites, as fireworks and loud roars from the crowd accompanied the team’s signature tune.
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New coach Domènec Torrent praises quality of NYCFC players
Pro Soccer USA – June 24, 2018
BRONX, N.Y. — New NYCFC coach Domènec Torrent arrived in the United States a day before his team’s Sunday evening match against Toronto FC. He sat down with Pro Soccer USA contributor Glenn Crooks before the game.
Welcome. You come right in to a tough task taking on the reigning MLS champion in Toronto.
Torrent: “Thank you so much. I am happy to be here. I think we are ready to play against a good team against Toronto.  For us, it’s not easy to play in this stadium after this week. I just here arrived. Yesterday was my first training session.”
Was it frustrating having to wait so long after being hired to meet your new team?
Torrent: “Yea, but I cannot change anything. The problem was a Visa; it is not easy to go to USA right now, because it’s very complicated with all the bureaucratic papers. But I am happy, because in the end I’m here. And I arrived before the game, that’s the most important for me for the club. It’s not easy when Patrick is gone and they are one week or two weeks without a head coach. But we have an amazing staff. I watched the whole training session. It’s good.”
Have you been speaking with assistant coached Javier and Rob?
Torrent: “Yea. Javier and Rob are amazing, amazing staff for me. And every day, especially Javier, called me and explained to me what happened in the field, in the training session. But I say to Javier, ‘Don’t worry, I watched the training sessions.’ They work hard, they work very well. I’m very happy to have this staff.”
Did Pep Guardiola help you make the decision to come here?
Torrent: “Ah, of course. Was amazing experience with Pep, 11 years. I learned a lot with Pep. We’re good together. He’s amazing not just like a coach, and amazing person. In fact, two hours before he called and and he asked me are you all ready Domenec? I said, “I am ready Pep.” Pep is like a close friend for me. He is like family. He’s like a brother.”
What did you learn from him that you will bring to NYCFC?
Torrent: “Pep and me think about football the same. We like to make high pressing if it’s possible, to recover the ball quickly. Many people think about Pep, pep like to keep the ball all the time. It’s not. That’s a problem, because Pep likes to attack as soon as possible when recovering the ball. Attack quickly, and after that if it’ not possible, of course keep the ball.
“We like to play all the time with intensity. It’s better for us to play one touch, not two touches or three touches, if possible. But, always it matters the quality of the players. We have a talented team, and I need maybe two weeks more to introduce a little bit of a difference between Patrick and me, but we’re very, very similar. Patrick was in fact a good coach. He has done an amazing, amazing job here, and I respect a lot like a player and like a manager.”
Have you been watching NYCFC’s games?
Torrent: “I’ve seen the last nine games. I think right now, I know absolutely our players, the quality and this is one of the reasons why I’m here because I like this team. When I watch the games, I think this team is a talented team. When I watch the games, I think, ‘Ah, maybe this team is for you.’”
Three things: New York Red Bulls captain Luis Robles is his brother’s keeper
Pro Soccer USA – June 24, 2018
HARRISON, N.J. — Here are three things we learned from the New York Red Bulls 3-0 win over FC Dallas Saturday night at Red Bull Arena
Robles is his brother’s keeper
Luis Robles is a detail freak. He likes to have everything planned out, from his daily routine on the training ground to pre-game and in his everyday life.
So the Red Bulls goalkeeper was thrown for a loop Saturday night when his brother, Angel, a U.S. Army Major, made a surprise appearance post-game upon his return from Afghanistan. He just completed a nine-month deployment, the third tour in his 13 years with the Army.
“I had no idea. When I saw my brother I was in shock more than anything, maybe a little confused,” Robles said. “The way that I saw it playing out was I was going to the airport and picking him up at 3:47 pm and to see him at the stadium and the way the organization did it was truly amazing.
“I was absolutely floored. I’m still floored and I’m just glad I get to spend the rest of the weekend with my brother.”
Kaku can you hear me?
It’s a sequence that has played out a lot for Kemar Lawrence. He motors down the left flank as the Red Bulls attack with numbers, but then Kaku looks elsewhere to make a play.
“Me and him have been at it for a couple of days in a more friendly way because he sees so many thing sometimes, he’s so good at seeing Brad [Wright-Phillips], he’s so good at seeing the midfielder peeling off a defender’s shoulder, so sometimes I’m running from so far that he sees me, but he’s like ‘Kemar is running from so far, I don’t want to play him,’” Lawrence said.
On Saturday night, Lawrence made sure he didn’t just see him, but that he would hear the Jamaican international as well. Kaku didn’t have Wright-Phillips to play to, because the Red Bulls forward was fouled with referee Robert Sibiga playing the advantage. Florian Valot was an option to his right, but he faked a pass there and looked to his left to Lawrence instead.
“To be honest, he was screaming at me from half field,” Kaku said. “I saw him, I gave him the ball and to be honest he’s very quick.”
Approaching the century mark
Wright-Phillips’ goal in the 23rd minute was his 11th of the season, moving him to within three of Golden Boot leader Josef Martinez of Atlanta United.
It was his 25th game-winning goal, which moved him into 12th all-time in league history with Clint Dempsey and Carlos Ruiz and it was also the 97th league goal of his storied career.
“It wasn’t the plan. I didn’t think I would get to 100,” Wright-Phillips said. “I haven’t yet. We don’t know what could happen, but if I did it would be amazing. For this club, how they’ve treated me, how they’ve accepted me, the fans have taken to me, it would be nice, I can’t lie.”
Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar: ‘I can take on anything’ following cancer diagnosis
Pro Soccer USA – June 25, 2018
In the months that followed a bone cancer diagnosis, Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar – more or less – went about the business of being a professional soccer player.
There simply wasn’t time to be slowed down after her received a call that a pain in his leg was Ewing Sarcoma. He treated it like any injury and listened to his options. He found out his recovery time.
The 2015 Homegrown player signee wanted to make sure he could still be a goalkeeper.
“My first thought when I got that phone call from the doctor was, he said it was going to be about a seven-to-eight month process,” Stajduhar said during a May interview with Pro Soccer USA. “The first thought that crossed my mind was, ‘Seven to eight months without being able to play.’ That’s what really brought me down.
“I was absolutely gutted.”
For a while, the pitch was an escape. It was a place he thought about while undergoing treatment.
Toweling off after training, he said playing soccer in Orlando – even with the sun and stifling heat – was what he cared about.
“That’s the only thing I think about,” he said with a smile.
“I feel that my whole life, when I step across the line, everything else goes away. It’s like the whole world falls away and the only thing that matters is the ball, you know?”
He’ll have the time now. There will be less time in the hospital and more on the pitch. There’s time to enjoy his place on Orlando City’s roster.
Stajduhar, 20, was diagnosed in November 2017 and placed on the season-ending injury list. In May, he was cleared to participate in diving drills during training.
On June 19, clad in a suit – he loves fashion and owns five complete suits – Stajduhar rang the bell at the Pediatric Cancer Unit at Orlando Health’s UF Health Cancer Center, signaling the end of six months of treatment.
Stajduhar always knew he’d reach this point.
There were still some low points.
Sitting in a hospital bed, Stajduhar’s thoughts typically wandered to soccer.
For him, it was awful.
“I have two different types of treatment for the chemo,” he said. “One’s a day to a day and a half. One’s five to seven days. During those five to seven days, towards day three or four, those are probably my lowest points, towards the end of those treatments.
“I just want to get out of the hospital and get back here and be able to train and play.”
He would play video games or listen to music – Call of Duty: WWI or the rap trio “Migos,” respectively – but inevitably, he’d think about Sylvan Lake Park and his teammates.
“A lot of times it’s just sitting and thinking about getting back out here on the field,” he said. “It’s almost like torturing yourself. You want to be back on the field so much, but the more you think about it, the worse you feel being stuck in the hospital.”
Plus, when he was first diagnosed, he was told the safest option for him would be surgery that included a knee reconstruction.
“I was like, ‘Crap. That’s probably a whole year gone,’” Stajduhar said.
He didn’t want to halt his development as a player, so he said no to surgery.
“For me, it was never a choice,” he said. “It was always radiation. It was easy, for me.
“My parents were … not skeptical, but cautious, I would say, about doing radiation over surgery. The surgeon, the oncology surgeon, he OK’d it. He said, ‘It’s not ideal, but I think with your situation, it’ll be OK.’ Once he said that, my parents were on board with me as well.”
He had the support of his parents and his girlfriend, but his mother was worried.
“My mom … she just wants me to stay safe and stay healthy through the treatment process so I can finish it,” he said. “They have a more long-term, bigger picture, I would say, than myself. They try to pull me back in from me going too far.”
Club support
Every step of the way, Orlando City has been there for Stajduhar.
Without OCB, Stajduhar’s been training 100 percent with the first team. In particular, he’s spent time with goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
Bendik is a mentor and player-coach for Stajduhar. He’s also a friend – someone who provided an Xbox for Stajduhar to play during treatments and a steadfast teammate in the online shooter game “Fortnite.”
Bendik arrived in Orlando in 2016 and started working with Stajduhar soon after that. Bendik, an MLS veteran at that point, said Stajduhar needed some coaching. It was clear Stajduhar had the work ethic, he just needed a guiding hand.
“For us, he never really slowed down,” Bendik said. “He was just kind of held out of things. For every time I talked to him, I’d be like, ‘How are you feeling?’ And he’d say, ‘I’m good. I’m good.’
“You wouldn’t even know it. He’s just a strong individual character. His work ethic is incredible.”
Bendik was dealing with a concussion toward the end of the 2017 season, which meant he got a chance to chat with Stajduhar during Orlando City’s Nov. 4 charity match to benefit Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
“I just remember being really confident,” Bendik said. “I had heard that he was diagnosed with cancer and he wasn’t going to be back until July and all of these things and he’s sitting up in the stands telling me how he needs to go about getting games so he can get some minutes.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Dude, you’ve got to go through chemo, you’ve got to go through radiation. Don’t even think about that.’”
By the time Bendik finished talking to Stajduhar after that charity match, he knew Stajduhar would be just fine.
“It wasn’t even a question for me,” Bendik said.
Orlando City goalkeeper coach Tim Mulqueen said he’s never worked with a player recovering from a cancer diagnosis. He immediately jumped into research to make sure the cancer was survivable. 
“My first concern was Mason and his long-term health,” Mulqueen said. “Soccer became secondary. I’ve known Mason for a long time, since he was a kid, so my first concern was for him.  Speaking to him, his positive outlook just permeated through everything and it brought me back to life, so to speak.
“It gave me a positive outlook toward how he was going to defeat this.”
Back at it
Now, with chemo in the past, Stajduhar can look toward his next steps with Orlando City.
If he ever wants to start for Orlando City (he hasn’t appeared in an MLS match yet), he’ll have to get past three other goalkeepers. He’s still out for the season and has a ways to go before he’s mimicking German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, his favorite player.
“It’s a difficult task, but I feel like once you conquer all of the adversity and stuff leading up to it, that makes you better,” he said. “One day, I’ll be sitting at the top.”
He’s had his naysayers – nowhere near enough to outweigh the support he’s received.
“It doesn’t matter what other people think or what they say,” he said. “The only opinion that I think matters for everyone is their own opinion. If you think you’re the best, that’s what eventually will happen. You’ll be the best.
“I feel that I can do anything. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Just extreme self-confidence and self-belief. With that, I can take on anything.”
Borek Dockal scores twice as Philadelphia Union rout Whitecaps – June 23, 2018
Borek Dockal scored two goals, Ilsinho and Fafa Picault each added penalties and the Philadelphia Union defeated the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0 on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.
The Union snapped their two-game losing streak while Vancouver, which saw two players sent off late, had its six-game unbeaten streak broken.
In the 11th minute, Dockal got loose on the right side of the box and fired a shot. But Vancouver goalkeeper Brian Rowe was in good position to make the point-blank save.
Dockal stayed aggressive and broke through with the first goal of the game and a 1-0 Union lead in the 24th minute.
Cristian Techera made a late push for the Whitecaps in the 45th minute as he dribbled in tight and was able to force a corner kick. Techera also took the corner, which was cleared by the Union.
The Whitecaps were fortunate to be trailing 1-0 as they were outshot by the Union 15-0 in the first half. Midfielder Alphonso Davies, who had one goal and three assists in their last game, was taken out at halftime. It was unclear if the 17-year-old Davies had suffered an injury.
Union defender Keegan Rosenberry took a rare shot on goal in the 48th minute and had it saved by Rowe.
Nicolas Mezquida registered Vancouver's first shot of the game in the 54th minute and was stymied by Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Union captain Alejandro Bedoya ripped a right-footed shot in the 63rd minute which was deflected over the goal by Rowe.
Dockal gave the Union a 2-0 advantage in the 71st minute with his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
The Union received a penalty kick in the 72nd minute when Cory Burke was fouled in the box by Jose Aja, who was shown a red card. Ilsinho converted the penalty in the 74th minute for a 3-0 lead.
The Whitecaps finished the game with nine players when Yordy Reyna was issued a red card in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Picault netted his penalty kick five minutes into the extra time.
Philadelphia was playing without midfielder Haris Medunjanin, who on Friday was suspended an additional two games for his actions towards the referee in a wild incident against Atlanta on June 2.
The Whitecaps were without defender Kendall Waston, who is with Costa Rica at the World Cup.
Borek Dockal, Ilsinho star in Union's 4-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps
Philadelphia Inquirer – June 23, 2018
The Union spent Saturday evening commemorating a lot of milestones. Sébastien Le Toux became the first member of the team’s ring of honor, Walter Bahr’s death was observed with a moment of silence, and Jim Curtin celebrated his 39th birthday.
The most important milestone, though, came during the game. With a dominant win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Union (6-7-3, 21 points) finally jumped into sixth place in the Eastern Conference — and into one of the playoff spots.
It might be only a temporary achievement. Next weekend, Chicago, Orlando or Montreal — seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, and all within one win in the standings — might jump over them. But this will be true no matter the other results: Faced with a chance to make a statement, the Union did.
“We’re at a stage where I know we’re going to play good soccer now,” Curtin said. “I know that we’re going to keep the ball, I know that we’re going to attack and create chances. The only question is how will the group respond to adversity.”
They didn’t have to on Saturday. The first 20 minutes of the game were arguably the Union’s most impressive spell of the season. They recorded a 6-0 advantage in shots, a 179-45 advantage in attempted passes, and 79 percent of the possession.
Four minutes later, they got a well-deserved reward as Borek Dockal fired in the game’s opening goal. Ilsinho jumped on a poor clearance by Vancouver’s Brek Shea — a former U.S. national team phenom who is now a backup left back — and set up Dockal for a rip from 15 yards.
That dominance only grew over the course of the first half. When the whistle blew, the advantage in shots was 14-0. But the score remained 1-0, and Vancouver (6-6-5, 23 points) showed pace and purpose in its rare forays upfield.
Dockal doubled the lead in the 71st minute with another fine goal, on the team’s 20th shot of the game. He took a pass from Alejandro at the edge of the 18-yard box, cut past two defenders and lashed a shot past Whitecaps goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
“For the first time maybe this season, I felt like we had full control over 90 minutes,” Dockal said. “Usually, we make it difficult in the second half for ourselves with a stupid goal that we concede.”
The third goal came on the Union’s next trip down the field. Vancouver’s Jose Aja held back Cory Burke in the 18-yard box, and was sent off for it. Ilsinho converted the penalty kick in the 74th minute with an old-fashioned smash. There was no need for any fancy stutter steps or overthinking the placement, as we’ve seen in the World Cup this summer (and at times in MLS).
Picault finished the game off with a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time. He won the penalty, too, after stealing the ball at midfield and sprinting down the left wing.
At the final whistle, the Union had an impressive haul of stats to show off, with 25 shots and 545 completed passes. The latter figure was the second-highest in a game in team history.
Most important, they had a win that will likely make the rest of MLS take notice.
Red Bulls survive a red card and whip FC Dallas
New York Post – June 23, 2018
A man down for much of the night? No problem for the Red Bulls.
FC Dallas strolled into Red Bull Arena on Saturday night with a seven-game unbeaten streak and a stranglehold on second place in the MLS’ Western Conference. It also played most of the game with one more player than the home club.
None of that seemed to matter much.
The Red Bulls survived the first-half dismissal of midfielder Daniel Royer and calmly dispatched Dallas, 3-0, as two first-half strikes put the game beyond reach of the visitors.
“We knew we were in for a big challenge, and if you would’ve told me we were gonna go down a man in the [27th] minute, I would’ve said it was gonna be a long, long night for us,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “But we showed again what we’re about.”
After a cagey first quarter of the match, New York found a breakthrough via its youngest star, Tyler Adams. In the 23rd minute, the 19-year-old mopped up a lose ball and crossed it to Bradley Wright-Phillips for an easy tap-in.
Four minutes later, the stadium’s good mood was halted temporarily when Royer was sent off for an ugly studs-showing tackle on Dallas’ Jacori Hayes. He initially was given a yellow before a video assistant referee ruling changed the decision to a straight red, and his teammates were forced to adjust.
They did so admirably.
The Red Bulls maintained relative control of the match, even with the disadvantage, as Adams put in an intelligent midfield performance organizing his teammates.
“Tyler’s grown so much over the past two years, three years. … His tendency is to, if he sees something to just do the job himself,” Marsch said. “And he can do that, he’s that gifted. But what’ll be important for him in his overall development is to make sure he’s always controlling what the team’s doing and aware of what’s happening around him.”
Adams’ midfield partner, Sean Davis, also helped to clog up the middle throughout the match, and served a tidy assist to defender Aaron Long just before the break.
Dallas peppered the opposing goal a bit after Long’s strike, but ultimately were not urgent enough throughout the night to threaten the Red Bulls. The visitors were surprisingly lackadaisical and struggled as the home team grew more comfortable in the second half. Dallas also got its own red card in the 90th minute when Reto Ziegler was sent off for kicking at Kemar Lawrence after a tangle-up.
“[To focus on details] was my reminder to them at halftime,” Marsch said. “Because there were a few moments where one guy would tune out and all of a sudden there was a gap in our team and they were able to maybe find a half chance or hit the crossbar, or whatever. But I felt like in the second half we had almost total alertness and commitment from everyone and it helped us really manage the game.”
Marsch’s team talk quickly came to fruition with a Lawrence goal, as the fullback latched onto a through ball in the 48th minute and beat goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez at the near post with a low strike.
Lawrence’s goal effectively ended the game, and marked a patient, resilient performance for a team that has now lost just once in the past eight games.
“It [the red card] wasn’t really on our terms, we had to wait until the opportunity presented itself,” Wright-Phillips said. “And when it did, we had to try and play clean and take our chances. I think we did for the most part.”
The Breakdown: FC Dallas at New York Red Bull
Dallas Morning News – June 24, 2018
FC Dallas traveled to New York on Saturday to take on the Red Bulls and things didn't quite go as planned for Dallas. After going down a goal, and then up a man, things went into meltdown mode with FCD giving up two more goals to a 10 man side.
FC Dallas has never won at Red Bull Arena, they are now 0-4-1 there, so a loss isn't a shock. This kind of meltdown game happens from time to time in soccer. Sometimes it's best to just move on.
Let's remember that Dallas is still in 2nd place in the West with 29 points, had their 2nd best 14-game start in team history, still has a game in hand on Sporting KC, and just came off a four-game win streak in league play. Granted this is two losses in a row if you include the US Open Cup, but that Cup game was a solid performance even though it was a loss.  Hopefully, this wasn't the start of a summer swoon.  The Toros won't dwell on this one too much, but I don't want to talk about it to some extent.
Let's break it down.
Formation and Tactics
FC Dallas started in a 3-5-2, that didn't go so well. FCD had worked on the shape during the week, hoping it would help against the New York high press.  The graphic below is a touch off I believe, Hayes was more of the midfield anchor based on what I saw.
After Daniel Royer of New York got ejected for a tackle on Jacori Hayes, FC Dallas subbed in Michael Barrios for Kellyn Acosta and shifted to a 4-2-3-1 to try and take advantage of being up a man. This was basically pulling an 8 for a winger and keeping two 6s on.
Down 2-0 at halftime, in an offensive move, FC Dallas Head Coach Oscar Pareja brought on Tesho Akindele for Maynor Figueroa, shifting Ryan Hollingshead to left back.
Then once the game was 3-0, and basically out of hand, Pareja brought on Paxton Pomykal for Jacori Hayes making the shape a 4-1-4-1.
New York started in a 4-2-3-1.
Red Bull Coach Jesse Marsch made three subs Alex Muyl for Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Derrick Etienne for Bradley Wright-Phillips, and Aurélien Collin for Florian Valot. All three were straight swaps and none of them seemed to change the shape dramatically.
Due to the red card, Tyler Adams and Alejandro Romero Gamarra shifted left and up a bit in their average position to cover up for the hole in their formation and kinda ended up with a 4-3-2.
0-1 New York Red Bull Goal. 23rd minute. Bradley Wright-Phillips unmarked in the box after Maynor Figueroa losses track of him. A sharp cross from Tyler Adams, who had cleaned up a poor Ryan Hollingshead header, finds BWP for the point-blank goal.
0-2 New York Red Bull Goal. 39th minute. Ryan Hollingshead has a body on Aaron Long but doesn't attack the ball off the corner. A really nice one time volley from Long goes into the Dallas net.
0-3 New York Red Bull Goal. 48th minute. Kemar Lawrence on the break is being tracked by Michael Barrios, Barrios sees Reggie Cannon coming to cover and gives up tracking. Lawrence at full trot gets an edge on Cannon and shoots near post for the goal.
El Guapo
There wasn't a whole lot of good in this one.
Man of the Match I had to think about. I had a gut feeling I wanted to go with but it seemed incongruent with the scoreline. Eventually, I went to some stats and it backed up my gut. Matt Hedges. 85 touches, 85% passing, 9 tackles, 4 aerials won, 3 intercepts, 3 clears, and only 1 foul. That's a damn good effort and he was playing hard all night, even when it was out of hand. This was a captain's performance.
Maxi Urruti brought his usual effort and got off 5 shots, 3 on goal. This one below was pretty good.
I'd like to see Urruti combine better going forward, but there's not exactly another striker for him to work off of.  Oh, also be in the box more.
Reggie Cannon was terrific. Ok, maybe he could have done better with Lawrence (NYRB's left back) after Barrios gave up, but on the night Cannon was really good. 88 touches, 92% passing (which led FC Dallas), 3 tackles, 3 intercepts, and 0 fouls. And he's taking guys one with 4 successful dribbles all in the offensive end, only 3 unsuccessful (only 1 in a bad defensive position).
Any minutes for Paxton Pomykal are good minutes. I liked how active he was and he showed good range (see chart). A little ambitious with some of the long balls maybe, but 3 tackles, a successful dribble, 26 touches, and 77% passing. He even took 2 corners.
This just in, Tyler Adams is fantastic. That is all.
Of Two Minds
Kellyn Acosta's performance was fine. His sub was 100% tactical, getting off a linking mid for a winger to try and take advantage of the 10 man... er... advantage. Acosta was clearly pissed and for good reason, no one wants to come off that early. But I don't think in hindsight we should be too worried. I think Acosta is maybe in a rut, he's working his tail off in training though so I'm confident he will find his game.
"We had the advantage of one man and we wanted to move forward. We decided to go with three midfielders in the middle [to start the game]. When we went one man up, we wanted to add another forward and we wanted to sacrifice one of those midfielders, and in this case, it was Kellyn. Kellyn has been getting back into his rhythm [since his injury]. We are trying to add minutes and to give him a chance to recover and be himself. Today was more tactical, just to add another forward instead of having the three midfielders," Pareja said. "Kellyn gives his heart for this team. I know the pain that he has and his frustration not being able to help in the moment, but Kellyn is fine."
17 shots is fairly good off 23 crosses, so is 53.8% possession and 80% passing on the road on paper... BUT keep in mind the man advantage. Only 6 of FCD's shots were on target and 47% came from outside the box. That's not good enough, that's back to the "hit it and hope" long-range shooting from the collapse of last season.
Muy Feo
All three Red Bull goals had a defensive mistake involved. Granted NYRB has some nice attackers, but as I pointed out above with the clips, each play had an FCD mistake.
"I'll say that it was noticeable in the game, they had a lot of energy, and for some reason, we couldn't match that," Pareja said after. "We have many parts of the game where we could've done a better job on that part, but we couldn't. As I said, it was a night to forget and just learn and review and see what happened. Today we didn't look good."
The Daniel Royer tackle on Jacori Hayes was a legit straight red card. As you can see for yourself. Hayes was lucky his leg wasn't broken.
Reto Ziegler's red was just as bad, kicking out after he had been fouled. I'm sure it was a long frustrating night and Ziegler just lashed out. But the card was deserved. (This clip doesn't show the kick out.)
Without Anton Nedyalkov, the left back position has become a problem. Hollingshead is playing against his own nature there, he's not a great defender, and Figueroa is 35 and isn't a good attacker. Nedyalkov was a good balance between the two and a compliment to Cannon on the right. Ziegler as a consequence has taken to hitting long balls rather than building out, 17 long ball passes in this one.
With Nedyalkov being sold I think FCD may be in a bit of trouble at left back. They are going to have to go out and get someone who can start via trade, signing, or transfer.  Hollingshead and Figueroa weren't meant to be the starting left back this season.  The lack of a two-way player is hurting the back line and unbalancing the team.
Next Game
FC Dallas returns to action on Friday, June 29th, against Minnesota United FC at TCF Bank Arena.  Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM CT on TXA 21.
Orlando City falls to Montreal Impact, extends seven-game MLS losing streak
Pro Soccer USA – June 23, 2018
Orlando City is still searching for answers.
During the Lions’ first home match in nearly a month, the story remained the same for the club. Orlando City conceded first and never recovered.
The club fired coach Jason Kreis after loss No. 6 during the current losing streak, but on a stormy Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 23,498, not much changed with interim coach Bobby Murphy at the helm.
The Lions (6-9-1, 19 points) lost 2-0 to the Montreal Impact, dropping their seventh consecutive match in league play and extending a club-record losing streak. It was Orlando City’s second match this week after playing D.C. United on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup game that went into extra time and was decided in the Lions’ favor on penalty kicks.
Orlando City came out flat after playing 120 minutes in the middle of the week.
“I want to apologize to the fans who came out tonight,” Murphy said. “The team selection falls on me and I chose a group that went out there and we weren’t good enough tonight.
“The energy was not there in the first half. For the first 45 minutes, the energy wasn’t there. It was the same group of players that came out to start the second half who were much livelier. You can call it whatever you want to, energy, effort. Bottom line, whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough.”
Since Philadelphia got a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, the Lions are now out of the playoff picture and sit in seventh place in the MLS Eastern Conference table.
Centerback Lamine Sané put Orlando City behind early when he headed a cross from Montreal forward Matteo Mancosu into his own net in the 13th minute. The ball skipped by the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Joe Bendik and for the 14th time this season, the Lions were down 1-0 early.
“It’s a fluke and a really bad way to start the game,” Lions team captain Jonathan Spector said. “Too many times we’ve given up early goals in games because of poor defending or whatever it might be and then tonight it was just a bit of a fluke and I guess when it rains, it pours.”
After the first goal, the Impact were content to stay compact and force Orlando City to try to break them down. The Lions never could and finished the match with just one shot on target (eight shots total), despite 54.2 percent of the possession.
Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti put another goal on the scoresheet for the Impact in the 84th minute. The goal was waved off at first, but then was upheld after video review.
“They’re down, for sure,” Murphy said of the team. “They’re disappointed. The challenge is, you know, all the feel-good stuff we talked about in the last three days, coming off the victory and stuff, now you can’t abandon that stuff. Now my having to hold them accountable is even more important.
“There’s nowhere to hide in this. It’s not good right now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. That’s a choice. We’ve just got to keep going and go back to work. For as long as they’ll employ me, I’ll keep pushing them and holding them accountable and try to get the best out of them.”
After a mostly-uninspired first half, Orlando City played with a sense of urgency after rookie attacker Chris Mueller was subbed on in the 64th minute. Centerback Amro Tarek came off and Orlando City abandoned its new three-man back line in favor of the 4-2-3-1 it had gone with for weeks.
The change in shape meant central attacking midfielder Sacha Kljestan dropped next to holding midfielder Uri Rosell.
It wasn’t enough for Orlando City to overcome a dismal first half that included no shots on goal despite controlling 55.6 percent of the possession.
Orlando City returns to action next Saturday with a match against rival Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Piatti, own goal help Impact beat Orlando City
TSN – June 23, 2018
ORLANDO, Fla. — Same opponent, same result.
Montreal notched its second win against Orlando City in 10 days as the Impact topped the Lions 2-0 on Saturday night.
Orlando (6-8-1) fired its head coach Jason Kreis and last week, but interim manager Bobby Murphy was unable to produce a different outcome as the team lost a franchise-record seven consecutive game. The Lions have conceded 19 goals during that span.
Montreal (5-11-0) has won two in a row — both against Orlando City, which the Impact beat 3-0 on June 13 — and three of its last four.
"I think it was a tough game because we knew that the new manager in charge probably gave more than the team had before, because it's always the case when you change the manager," said Impact head coach Remi Garde.
"We had a solid game, we played very compact in a deep block. And then when we gained the ball, we had many opportunities. We didn't score more goals, but I think at the end we deserved the win."
Ignacio Piatti scored his third goal in the last two games to lead the Impact.
Montreal jumped ahead on Orlando City's own goal in the 13th minute. Defender Lamine Sane's header redirected a cross by Montreal's Matteo Mancuso past goalkeeper to open the scoring.
Orlando City captain Jonathan Spector said the mistake sapped any of the club's early momentum.
"It's a fluke and it's a really bad way to start the game," he said.
"Too many times we've given up early goals in games because of poor defending or whatever it might be, and tonight it was just a bit of a fluke and when it rains it pours."
Piatti made it 2-0 in the 84th when, at the top-left corner of the 6-yard box, he took a feed from Alejandro Silva and evaded sliding goalkeeper Joe Bendik before finishing into an empty net from point-blank range. Montreal was flagged offside on the field, but was awarded the goal after replay review.
Evan Bush had one save in his second consecutive shutout for the Impact.
Impact defender Chris Duvall said the team showed well against an Orlando City club that was aiming to turn its fortunes around.
"It feels great because this is a team that I think has been struggling and a team that we played so recently," he said.
"And I know that this game was little bit more chippy because they had something to prove to, not just us, but around the league, to their new coach, to their fans, to everyone. And I think to still manage to get a shutout against a very good attacking team is a huge win for us."
Kickoff was delay nearly 30 minutes due to inclement weather.
Sporting KC scores twice in last five minutes for dramatic comeback win over Houston
Kansas City Star – June 23, 2018
The offseason wish list was topped by a high-dollar striker, but that search ultimately fell flat, and so Sporting Kansas City turned to Khiry Shelton and Diego Rubio as its solutions. But four months into the season, they opened Saturday’s match absent from the lineup, relegated to substitute options off the bench.
As it turned out, they were the solutions after all.
Rubio and Shelton each scored in the final five minutes, lifting Sporting Kansas City to a 3-2 exhilarating comeback victory over Houston inside Children’s Mercy Park.
On a night in which Sporting KC trailed for 82-plus minutes, Rubio tied the game in the 85th minute, and Shelton scored the game-winner three minutes later.
“It’s hard to describe the emotions that go through my body when something like that happens,” Shelton said, adding, “It’s one of the best feelings.”
Sporting KC (9-2-5) reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the West, moving a full three points in front of FC Dallas, which lost earlier Saturday.
It was a dud early, with Houston grabbing a 2-0 halftime lead. Sporting KC awoke a sold-out crowd of 20,081 late.
The comeback found the substitutes. Rubio entered in the 85th minute, after a lengthy conversation with a pair of coaches. Only 23 seconds later, he secured a game-tying goal, sticking a shot under the crossbar.
Shelton robbed him of the moment.
Three minutes later, after Houston midfielder Eric Alexander was ejected for a second yellow card, Shelton blasted a ball in the back of the net, one-timing a low cross from Daniel Salloi. The goal — prompting perhaps the loudest reaction from the Children’s Mercy Park crowd this season — was his second of the season and kept Sporting KC unbeaten over the past eight weeks. The club has not lost since April 28.
“That’s going to be one of those games we look back on,” Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi said. "Those are the kind of games you need to win to stay at the top of the table.
“You get that first one, and you feel like the second one is coming. The second one comes, and you just get that feeling the third one is coming.”
The wave began to turn in the early moments of the second half. Sporting's Daniel Salloi halved the lead in the 59th minute, a sequence in which Gerso Fernandes and Johnny Russell also placed shots on goal. Salloi has five goals this year. After receiving most of his early-season starts on the wing, he was plugged into the striker’s role.
He touched the ball only six times in the opening half, indicative of a lackluster 45 minutes from the home side.
“When I was done talking to the team at halftime, I knew we were gonna go,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said.
“The coaching staff wouldn’t have needed to say anything when we came in (at halftime),” Zusi said. “We knew — that wasn’t us.”
Sporting KC put nine shots on goal in the second half after failing to test Houston keeper Joe Willis even once in the first. The substitutes beat him late, a crowd willing them to push forward. The intensity of the second half was such a contrast to the first 45 minutes that Vermes complimented the referee for calling the match differently after having to adjust to a different speed.
Rubio has scored three times this season, all of them off the bench. It’s been a theme for Sporting KC, which broke a club-record with its eighth goal from a sub in a single season.
Shelton, who started 12 of the team’s first 13 matches, recorded his first MLS game-winning goal.
“People get their opportunities and take advantage of them,” Shelton said. “I can’t be mad about (not starting). We’re a team. I’ve had my opportunity to showcase myself. Other guys have stepped up as well. I mentally know that and just (stay) mature about the situation.”
Sporting Kansas City rallies to defeat Dynamo
Houston Chronicle – June 23, 2018
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Daniel Salloi had a goal and two assists and Khiry Shelton scored a late goal in Sporting Kansas City's 3-2 comeback victory over the Houston Dynamo on Friday night.
Shelton, who came on in the 76th minute, gave Sporting KC its first lead in the 88th. Salloi, on the left side, played a cross to a charging Shelton, who finished from just outside of the 6-yard box to make it 3-2.
Mauro Manotas scored in the opening and closing minutes of the first half to give Houston (6-6-3) a 2-0 lead at the break.
Salloi, a 21-year-old homegrown, slipped the rebound of a shot by Gerso Fernandes inside the near post in the 59th minute and Tim Melia, who finished with four saves, made a diving one-on-one stop of a shot by Mauro Manotas in the 78th. Diego Rubio came on in the 85th minute and scored seconds later to make it 2-2.
Houston's Eric Alexander received his second yellow card and was ejected in the 87th.
Smith’s stoppage-time goal helps Rapids snap skid
FOX Sports – June 23, 2018
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Tommy Smith scored in the seventh minute of stoppage time to give the Colorado Rapids a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United on Saturday night.
The 28-year-old defender has two career MLS goals, both in the last two games.
Minnesota’s Miguel Ibarra tapped in the rebound of Darwin Quintero’s to open the scoring in the 20th minute. Edgar Castillo tied it in the 50th with a rising blast into the far corner from the edge of the box.
Ibarra ran onto a through ball from Quintero on the right side and tapped a cross to a charging Christian Ramirez for an empty-net finish that put Minnesota (5-9-1) back on top in the 65th minute. But Joe Mason answered in the 74th, slipping behind the defense and chipping a first-timer over the head of goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to make it 2-all.
Ibarra was given a straight red card in the 77th minute for violent conduct.
Colorado (3-9-3), which snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 2-2 tie with Chicago on June 13, won for the first time since April 14.
Extra time unkind to Minnesota United as the Loons lose 3-2 to Colorado Rapids
Minneapolis Star Tribune – June 24, 2018
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Minnesota United lost the lead, then a player — and finally the game to the struggling Colorado Rapids on Saturday night.
The Loons failed to hold their second-half lead, giving up the tying goal in the 74th minute and the winning goal in extra time in a 3-2 loss to a team that hadn’t won in more than two months.
Colorado got the winner on Tommy Smith’s header off a corner during six minutes of injury time. It came after United midfielder Miguel Ibarra was given a red card in the 77th minute. Ibarra had a goal and an assist and Christian Ramirez the second goal for the Loons (5-9-1).
It was a frustrating end to Minnesota’s first MLS match since June 3. Loons coach Adrian Heath said he thought the extra time already had elapsed before the Rapids scored.
“It’s a tough one to take tonight because at no stage did I think we were going to lose the game,” he said. “I never try to make excuses, but there’s no stoppages after the six minutes. Why we carry on play I don’t know. It’s a perfect opportunity — six minutes were up on the board and the ball was in the middle of the field.”
The Loons took a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute on Ramirez’s goal. Colorado protested there was offsides on the play, but the goal held up under review.
Minnesota lost the lead again when Joe Mason tied it in the 74th minute. Ibarra went to get the ball near midfield and got into a scuffle with Colorado defender Danny Wilson as he kicked the ball. Rapids’ Jack Price shoved Ibarra down from behind but things stopped before it escalated further.
Moments later, he was ejected.
“I think they told me that I tried to punch him,” Ibarra said. “I had no intention of punching him. I was just trying to get the ball. I pushed him, shoving back and forth. That was that.
“I was actually expecting a yellow for both players but once I saw the red I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the replay 10 times. On the replay I don’t see me throw a punch.”
Ibarra gave the Loons a 1-0 lead when Darwin Quintero came down the left side and took a close shot on keeper Tim Howard that trickled through and rolled toward the goal. Ibarra came racing in and scored in the 20th minute.
The Rapids (3-9-3) got the equalizer early in the second half when Edgar Castillo scored with a shot from the top of the box just under the crossbar in the 51st minute.
Colorado kept the momentum, and forced goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to make a leaping deflection on a direct kick in the 61st minute.
San Jose Earthquakes end Real Salt Lake's home win streak – June 24, 2018
Real Salt Lake's Damir Kreilach and San Jose's Danny Hoesen scored second-half goals as the Earthquakes and RSL battled to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night in Sandy, Utah.
The draw snapped Salt Lake's six-game home winning streak. It was the most consecutive games that the club had won in Utah since 2014.
RSL needed one more win to break the club record. They could not get it despite dominating offensively for much of the game. Salt Lake finished with a 27-15 advantage in shots and an 8-4 edge in shots on goal.
Last-place San Jose earned a draw for the second straight match. The Earthquakes have gone seven matches without getting in the win column.
Salt Lake controlled possession and tempo during the first half but could not produce any goals. RSL had a 12-4 advantage in total shots. The hosts also possessed the ball 72 percent of the time, though it resulted in only two shots on frame.
In the second half, Salt Lake turned up the pressure, and it finally paid off.
Kreilach put RSL on the board in the 54th minute. Corey Baird redirected the ball into an unmarked Kreilach in the heart of the 6-yard box. From there, the Croatian midfielder headed it home to put Salt Lake on the board.
Hoesen leveled the score in the 64th minute. Magnus Eriksson blasted a shot to the center of the goal, where Nick Rimando made a save. The ball trickled out to Hoesen, and he chipped the rebound over Rimando and into the net before the Salt Lake goalkeeper could cover the ball up.
Hoesen now has 10 goals for the season, one of four MLS players to tally double-digit goals thus far.
Rimando was credited with three saves while Quakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell stopped seven shots.
Real Salt Lake squanders opportunities, settles for draw with San Jose Earthquakes
Deseret News – June 23, 2018
SANDY — Real Salt Lake’s franchise record six-game home winning streak came to a frustrating end on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Despite dominating possession and creating the bulk of the chances all night against a poor San Jose squad, RSL was forced to settle for a discouraging 1-1 draw against the 11th place team in the Western Conference.
“It felt like Colorado last year when we absolute killed them and couldn’t score a goal. It feels like a loss to me,” said RSL midfielder Albert Rusnak.
RSL finished the game with a 64 percent-36 percent edge in possession and outshot San Jose 27-15. Its lone goal came early in the second half by Damir Kreilach, but San Jose equalized 10 minutes later as the teams ultimately shared the points.
“We did more than enough to get three points, and, like a handful of games this year already we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” said RSL coach Mike Petke.
Despite the discouraging draw, the point helped Real Salt Lake remain in a tie for fifth place in the Western Conference with 23 points, just one point behind fourth-place Houston.
RSL could easily be sitting in sole possession of fourth place, though, with better finishing against a San Jose team that sat back and tried to transition. Even then, RSL found plenty of space to play through the Earthquakes, and it started early.
RSL dominated the opening half with a 72-28 edge in possession, but it had nothing to show for it. Corey Baird had the best chance of the opening half in the 11th minute, but he chipped a breakaway shot wide of the post after Rusnak played the ball into space behind San Jose’s defense.
Only two of RSL’s 12 shots in the opening first half forced San Jose keeper Andrew Tarbell to make a save.
The home side continued to push the pace early in the second half, and after near misses by Baird and Sebastian Saucedo in the 46th and 52nd minutes respectively, RSL eventually broke through in the 54th minute on the rare double header off a corner kick.
Baird got the initial header on Rusnak’s corner, redirecting it in front of goal where Kreilach was in perfect position to easily head it home for the 1-0 lead. It was the third goal of the season for Kreilach.
“We’ve been trying to do a little more set pieces over the last couple of weeks … it’s a free opportunity at goal, and it was executed very nicely. Corey with a great flick and Damir continuing his run,” said Petke.
It was a short-lived advantage.
In the 65th minute, San Jose’s Valeri Qazaishvili crushed a shot toward straight at Nick Rimando, who couldn’t hold on to the ball. The rebound trickled straight to Danny Hoesen, who calmly slipped it past Rimando for his 10th goal of the season tying the game at 1-1.
Hoesen’s goal felt like a double whammy for RSL because it came just a couple of minutes after Rusnak hammered a long-range shot off the crossbar.
“I was seeing the shot go in, and suddenly at the last second it rose above and hit the crossbar. I had a couple of chances myself, none of them went in, 28 shots on target and one goal is probably a lack of quality,” said Rusnak.
Both teams had great chances to win it late. With RSL pressing forward for the winner, Hoesen outdueled RSL defender Marcelo Silva to a San Jose clearance, but he sailed his wide-open shot against Nick Rimando well over the crossbar.
In the final sequence of the game, Silva headed a corner kick from Rusnak off the top of the crossbar.
“It’s tough … right now in the moment to take too many positives because it eventually feels like a loss,” said Petke.
Petke was forced to go to his bench early on Saturday when Justen Glad was subbed off in the 31st minute because of a potential concussion. He originally collided with San Jose’s Florian Jungwirth in the 17th minute going for a 50-50 ball, but returned a couple minutes later after being looked at by the trainers.
Roughly 10 minutes later, he signaled to medical personnel that he needed to come off for precautionary reasons, with Nick Besler replacing him.
Missed chances cost Chicago Fire in their visit to Seattle
Chicago Tribune – June 23, 2018
The Chicago Fire missed an opportunity to take three points on the road, settling for a 1-1 draw in their visit Western Conference champions Seattle Sounders, Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
Aleksandar Katai continued his excellent run of form with his fourth goal in the last six games, but the Fire once again suffered from lack of finishing and missed a chance at three points against a Seattle team that sits towards the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
One of the primary objectives for head coach Veljko Paunovic was for his side to get off to a strong start, an aspect the team had been lacking most of the season.
The Fire accomplished just that, thanks to an in-form Katai, who made a diagonal run through the Seattle defense off Brandt Bronico's pass and converted from distance to put Chicago ahead only nine minutes in.
.”I know in the past I was a little bit harsh with Katai, but he had a fantastic game and I knew that he could do that,” said Paunovic.
“He has to work and figure out a way to work for the team in both directions. Together with the others, he had a fantastic game.”
But as the half progressed, the Sounders gradually took control of the ball after a rough start, spreading out the Fire defense and creating spaces for the likes of Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro to threaten Chicago's goal.
In the 23rd minute, Cristian Roldan and Will Bruin combined on the right flank to set up Dempsey, who beat out Dax McCarty to the box and scored the equalizer, his first goal of this 2018 season.
The teams hit the halfway with the tables turned, as Seattle closed out the half in control of the game and maintained it for the better part of a second half that featured more plenty of opportunities for both teams to take the lead.
The Fire missed two clear chances to take the game after regaining control halfway through the second 45 minutes.
Nemanja Nikolic received a perfectly placed through ball from Bronico but failed to finish past Stefan Frei. Similarly, Alan Gordon, who entered the game in place of Nikolic with a minute left, received a cross from Rafael Ramos and missed an easy tap-in by sending his shot wide.
"I was surprised we didn't score. I think we created a lot of chances and we gave our best efforts towards the goal. That's sometimes just how the game is,” said Bronico.
The 1-1 result is Chicago's third consecutive draw in MLS action after defeating Atlanta United in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 midweek, keeping them out of the top six places in the Eastern Conference by one point.
The Fire return home next Saturday, June 30 to host New York City FC and new coach Domenec Torrent.
After a long wait, Clint Dempsey gets back on track with a goal as Sounders tie Chicago 1-1
Seattle Times – June 23, 2018
Clint Dempsey was his usual stoic, composed self in discussing the time it took him to register the one goal needed to tie a franchise record.
Many babies have been conceived and born in the gap between Dempsey’s equalizer for the Sounders in the 1-1 draw Saturday night with the Chicago Fire and his previous regular-season strike back in September against Vancouver. In the interim, the Sounders team he and Fredy Montero now lead with 47 career regular-season goals apiece has gone from a defending champion to a dethroned finalist, to a squad trying to avoid the Major League Soccer basement.
And even Dempsey, who can rattle off exact moments of his prior scoring slumps with expert recall and nerveless poise, had to admit the math is becoming a challenge for his team if it wants a playoff shot.
“We’re not looking that far (ahead), we’re looking at the next game,’’ Dempsey said after his team failed to secure a much-needed home victory in front of 39,513 spectators at CenturyLink Field. “It’s a must-win. We’ve got to get three points. That’s how we’re approaching every game.’’
That message had been delivered moments before in a postgame address to the squad by Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer, who wasn’t thrilled with a run-and-gun second half in which both teams abandoned serious defending and took turns missing a blizzard of chances that nearly won it for their respective sides.
Besides Dempsey’s goal in the 22nd minute, erasing a ninth-minute opening score by Chicago midfielder Aleksandar Katai, the only thing that kept the Sounders from coming away with zero points was the acrobatic effort of goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Chicago poured it on the final five minutes of regulation and into extra time, forcing Frei into key stops.
His biggest came off a blast to the near post by Jorge Corrales in the 89th minute that Frei had alertly anticipated before diving back across his goal mouth to knock the ball out of bounds. Frei then got somewhat lucky in extra time when a turnover led to a through ball and near-certain scoring chance for Alan Gordon, who somehow failed to put his shot on net.
Gordon and Frei would collide moments later, both leaping for a ball in the air. The goalkeeper took an elbow and forearm to the head and was clearly groggy in being helped off the field as the final whistle blew.
Frei still was being evaluated after the game, and no immediate update on his condition was given.
For the Sounders, now 3-8-3 and with 12 points in 14 matches, the Dempsey goal was a welcome development for a team needing to get on a roll. At least four matches remain before any reinforcements likely will arrive during the summer transfer window, and the Sounders likely will need to win at least two and steal some points in the others.
Otherwise, they’d need to average more than two points a game the final 16 matches to have a realistic playoff shot, and that’s something they couldn’t manage during their stellar second-half runs the past two years.
“We’ve started to look at the standings and do the math,’’ Schmetzer said. “Today was two points dropped.’’
Schmetzer was optimistic about his veteran players, including Nicolas Lodeiro, Victor Rodriguez, Will Bruin and Dempsey providing a stronger attacking look in recent games. He talked about Dempsey being a streaky goal-scorer and hoped his first-half conversion of a Bruin pass will be the start of something good for a Sounders team that outshot Chicago 19-15.
But those good things have to come soon.
“Guys need to start getting hot, getting switched on,’’ Schmetzer said.
Bruin was physically abused throughout the game, but caught a break when a defender draped on top of him as he took a Harry Shipp pass suddenly backed off at the last instant.
“I thought he’d be all over me, but he gave me just enough room,’’ Bruin said.
Bruin tapped a quick pass from the right side across the goal mouth to a sliding Dempsey, who redirected it home.
After a “frustrating” season of near-misses and non-chances alike, Dempsey admitted “it felt good” to see the ball enter the net.
“Anytime you get good service to the box it’s always great as an attacking player because it gives you more opportunities to score,’’ Dempsey said. “I had some good looks tonight, and we created some good chances.’’
Dempsey alluded to a lack of chances during his drought, something he says had improved with Lodeiro and Rodriguez returning. He says the game has become more “fun” of late.
“I’m just trying to help the team with this run they’ve had of making the playoffs every year,’’ he said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. The goal is to try to put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs again, and hopefully we can do that.’’
Laurent Ciman, Adama Diomande on target as LAFC shuts out Columbus Crew – June 24, 2018
Laurent Ciman and Adama Diomande scored in the opening eight minutes and LAFC cruised to 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.
LAFC has won two straight after four games without a victory. The first-year club is 3-0-3 at home.
Columbus has followed three consecutive ties with a pair of losses.
Ciman scored in the fourth minute in his return to Los Angeles. The Belgian defender was in Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as a standby player, but Belgium coach Roberto Martinez released him last weekend.
He ripped a 35-yard free kick that skipped once in front of Crew backup goalkeeper Jon Kempin, who started because Zack Steffen injured his knee in training on Thursday.
Columbus has allowed a set-piece goal in four straight games. Ciman's three goals in 2018 have come on free kicks.
Diomande made it 2-0 four minutes later, moving back from on offside position to take a pass from Lee Nguyen to score in a third straight game. He has four goals for the season.
LAFC won despite forwards Carlos Vela (Mexico) and Marco Ureña (Costa Rica) and defender Omar Gaber (Egypt) being at the World Cup. Vela scored Saturday in a 2-1 win vs. South Korea.
Columbus settled down after the early deficit and found its possession game. In the 69th minute Crew midfielder Federico Higuain's goal off a header was ruled offside.
LAFC's Tyler Miller was otherwise not tested. He made just one save for his fifth shutout of the season and his career. Kempin finished with three saves.
The Crew has scored three goals in compiling a 2-3-3 road record.
On June 30, the Crew hosts Real Salt Lake and LAFC is home to the Philadelphia Union.
LAFC takes down Columbus Crew on franchise’s milestone day
LA Daily News  – June 23, 2018
LOS ANGELES — LAFC’s 2-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC marked the culmination of a big day for the team on Saturday.
On Saturday morning the nascent Major League Soccer franchise celebrated the first World Cup goal from one of its players when the face of the team, Carlos Vela, scored on a penalty kick to help Mexico defeat South Korea 2-1.
Later in the day, 21-year-old Portuguese midfielder Andre Horta was officially introduced at a news conference as LAFC’s third designated player signing.
And on Saturday night, Laurent Ciman and Adama Diomande scored to give LAFC the victory in the “Black & Gold” battle at the Banc of California Stadium.
“I think today is testament to what we’ve been doing for a number of years in terms of implementing this vision of ownership, of being a top team as quickly as possible,” said LAFC’s executive vice president of soccer operations John Thorrington. “Carlos is testament to that. Andre is testament to that. The success of the team so far. We didn’t set out to be in a good position a third of the way through the season. Certainly we are content with how we have started but know that there is a lot to do.”
Ciman returned to LAFC after a stint with the Belgian national team and stepped up to a free kick directly in front of the Columbus net. As he did on the road at Montreal and the during Banc of California Stadium’s opener, the 32-year-old LAFC captain hammered a line drive that found the net from 35 yards away for his third goal of the season.
“We knew we were getting a leader, a guy at the back who could helps us play at the back but the part of his free kicks has been a great surprise,” Bradley said. “By now, in certain situations, he’s been capable of coming up with something different. It’s been a great plus.”
LAFC doubled their lead in the eighth minute with a quick series of passes that left striker Adama Diomande alone in the box. The Norwegian turned, faced Kempin and slotted home his fourth goal in MLS play, and his third in three games.
Playing at full force along the defensive line, LAFC bottled up Columbus striker Gyasi Zardes, who stepped onto the pitch tied for second in the MLS with 10 goals. LAFC allowed Zardes just four touches in the opening half, and limited him to one shot during the 90 minute contest. They similarly stifled the usually productive midfielder Frederico Higuain.
“The understanding between Walker and Laurent was very good,” Bradley said. “We understand the things that Gyasi has done at Columbus that made him successful. We had an idea of some of his movements. Higuain is very active but I thought Eduard Atuesta handled the role very well.”
Wearing colors that are more black and yellow than black and gold (they claim the latter), Columbus came into the game leading the league in passing stats and were off to its best start under head coach Gregg Berhalter.
Missing American international goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who injured a knee in training on Thursday, the Crew called on backup Jon Kempin to maintain their stellar goalkeeping and goals-against record. Steffen established the eighth-longest regular-season shutout streak (525 minutes) until Columbus’s last match, a 2-0 defeat to Atlanta on June 13.
Kempin didn’t last more than four minutes before conceding Los Angeles’s first goal of the game.
Columbus put just one of 10 shots on target against LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller, and their frustration was apparent as the game progressed. LAFC did not back off its attacking style despite the early lead, collecting 16 total shots, five of which were on frame.
Referee Kevin Stott issued four yellow cards against the Crew (Milton Valenzuela, Frederico Higuain, Pedro Santos and Lalas Abubakar) compared to one against LAFC (Eduard Atuesta). Higuain’s transgression came when he protested an offsides call in the 69th minute that nullified a headed goal.
Defenders Steven Beitashour and Walker Zimmeran experienced their own professional milestones, playing in their 200th and 100th MLS games respectively.
LAFC improved to 8-4-3 (27 points) while Columbus dropped to 7-5-6 (27 points).
“We haven’t had a start like that at home so it was a good feeling,” said Bradley, noting that June 23 has been kind to him before: It marked eight years since he coached the U.S. men’s national team to a stunning World Cup victory over Algeria.
Portland Timbers keep unbeaten streak alive, hold on for 1-1 draw with Atlanta United
The Oregonian – June 24, 2018
Larrys Mabiala noticed something about the opposing defense on the Portland Timbers first free kick of the game. He took a mental note.
"I judged that they were defending way too high," Mabiala said. "I just told myself that I was about to stop my run a little behind the defense."
Just minutes later, that recognition paid major dividends. On a free kick from a similar spot, Mabiala ended his run on the back post, where a rebound fell to him. He headed it past goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 32nd minute, giving the Timbers (6-3-5, 23 points) an early 1-0 lead over league-leading Atlanta United (10-3-4, 34 points).
And coincidentally it was Darlington Nagbe, who played his first game against Portland since being traded from the Timbers last December, who initially helped Mabiala become comfortable with the team.
"We were very close," Mabiala said. "It was very funny to see him [on the other side]." The Timbers got Mabiala's goal early and held on late, grabbing a 1-1 draw with Atlanta by the skin of their teeth Sunday afternoon.
The draw keeps the Timbers' 11-game unbeaten streak across all competitions chugging along, grabbing a valuable road point for a team whose form is as good as any in Major League Soccer.
The Timbers' plan was evident from the outset. Absorb pressure from the potent Atlanta attack, remain disciplined and to pick their spots in the counter-attack.
"I thought for the majority of the game, we did a very good job with that," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "We handled really well the crosses, the movements behind. Then when we had the ball we created chances. We had very clear and open chances, as much as they did. I thought a tie was a fair result."
The Five Stripes maintained a staggering 72 percent possession in the first half but increasingly found themselves on the back-foot as the half progressed. Midfielder Sebastian Blanco spearheaded that counter-attack in the first half, consistently finding large pockets of space in the overzealous Atlanta midfield.
"He was very dangerous going forward," Savarese said. "Fantastic game for him."
In the 23rd minute, a Timbers counter led to a shot from Blanco from outside the box that rattled the top-right corner of the crossbar. Mere minutes later, the Timbers got their breakthrough on the Mabiala header.
But down 1-0, Atlanta opened the second half with renewed attacking vigor, poking and prodding in search of an equalizer.
And after 55 minutes of frustration, the top-scoring team in Major League Soccer finally found a goal. A deflection off the foot of Mabiala landed at the feet of midfielder Julian Gressel. With the goalkeeper off his line, Gressel made no mistake, slotting home the coveted goal and giving the sold-out crowd hopes for all three points.
It just wasn't meant to be.
"When they were throwing numbers forward like that, we did a good job like we did the whole half of just defending and sitting in our block really well," said goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. "Credit to the defense, they did a really good job of bunkering in and holding on for that point."
It's a point for Portland that feels a whole lot like a win on the road against the team atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Timbers continue to charge ahead, now moving into a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference with multiple games in hand. Their run of play has put the conference on notice for what's to come.
When asked where they envision taking it from here, Mabiala chuckled.
"I see this going all the way until the end of the season."
Atlanta United draws with Portland
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – June 24, 2018
Perhaps needing a super hero in front of goal, Atlanta United used a goal from Julian Gressel to salvage a 1-1 draw with Portland on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United dominated possession (approximately 68 percent), but couldn’t finish scoring chances. Josef Martinez, wearing a black mask to protect his broken nose, missed so many chances, including two inexplicable misses at the end of either half, that he eventually ripped off the gear in the second half. What was supposed to last six weeks lasted about 60 minutes.
The draw, with an announced attendance of 45,116, moves Atlanta United to 34 points, most in MLS. The team will host Orlando, losers of seven consecutive, on June 30. The Timbers stretched their unbeaten run to nine games.
Atlanta United had 21 shots, 10 on target, and 18 chances (second most this season) created to get just the one goal. It’s a trend that has continued in the past few home games. Lots of offense, but not a lot of goals. The team has scored more than one goal at home  just once once its past five games.
“The most important thing is that we are creating chances,” manager Gerardo Martino said. “At some point you have to think those will start go in.
“It seems like weird things are happening on some of the plays. It’s one thing to miss shots or for the goalkeeper to make a great save, but on Josef’s last chance tonight it’s difficult to explain exactly what happened.”
That last chance came with Martinez, sans the mask, diving almost into the goal, but his header from just a few feet went sideways, instead of into the goal. He was whistled for a handball, which may explain the bizarre bounce. Something similar happened near the end of the first half. He said on Friday that he worried the mask would affect his vision when looking for the ball. He declined to answer a question after the game.
Martino said he suspects the mask interfered with Martinez’s vision, but hadn’t had a chance to ask him.
After dominating possession in the first 20 minutes, Portland began finding seams within the defense and created several good scoring chances on counter-attacks. A shot by Sebastian Blanco hit the post. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan saved another on a free kick.
The Timbers broke through in the 33rd minute on a diving header by Larrys Mabiala. A free kick from the left was touched by Samuel Armenteros. Guzan saved that, but, as Atlanta United defenders stood with their arms raised looking for an offside call, the rebound floated to Mabiala to nod home at the far post. The free kick was the result of a poor tackle and subsequent yellow card to Franco Escobar. It was the Timbers’ seventh goal from a set piece, tied for sixth most in the league.
The team tried to play with three guys in the back to break up counters, or man-mark Diego Valeri or Blanco.
A Martinez attempt was blocked by several Portland defenders just before the half. Frustrated, Martinez kicked the advertising boards behind the goal before grabbing them and shaking them back and forth.
Martinez missed again in the 52nd minute, putting a spinning effort over the crossbar.
“We know he has a special personality,” Leandro Gonzalez Pirez said. “We know when he’s missing chances we don’t need to say anything to him. We just know that he thinks about the chances that he misses. He’s a goal-scorer who has scored however many goals. Tonight he missed some. That’s just how it goes. We aren’t worried about it.”
The Timbers, playing banked lines of four or five at the back, with four or five in the midfield, proved hard to break apart or through.
“They defended well,” Martino said, pointing out that attacks in the second half came from all sides, whereas attacks in the first half typically started on whatever side the ball was won.
Atlanta United continued to dominate possession and the work paid off with an equalizer from Gressel in the 56th minute. His first career goal came at Providence Park in Portland last year. Sunday’s was his seventh in his MLS career. He actually tweeted earlier this week that maybe his seventh would come against the same team in which he opened his account.
Gressel said that Atlanta United had a better balance in the second half of offense versus defense. That may have helped him score.
“When a team has a lot of numbers in the box, and defends with everybody, it’s tough,” he said. “We have enough creativity and enough players to unlock a defense like that a bunch of times.”
Darlington Nagbe, one of those creative players and who was facing his former team for the first time after being traded during the offseason, was forced off with an injury that happened just before the goal. Martino said it’s a muscle injury, possibly an abductor, but he wasn’t sure.
Villalba came on in Nagbe’s place. He ripped a shot from 19 yards that skimmed off the crossbar. He came close a minute later when he tried to poke a left-footed shot into the right corner. But he couldn’t get anything on it and Jeff Attinella scooped it up.
Villalba kept firing, hitting a dipping shot that Attinella got low to smother in the 84th minute.
Miguel Almiron charged again second later, but Attinella made the tough save.
“It was a crazy game,” Gonzalez Pirez said. “We kept attacking wave after wave. For us, the ball just wouldn’t go in tonight.”
Torrent wins in NYCFC debut, 2-1 over Toronto FC
FOX Sports – June 24, 2018
NEW YORK (AP) Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.
Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.
NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.
Victor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.
NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.
Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.
Toronto FC looked far from great in loss to New York City FC
Toronto Sun – June 25, 2018
BRONX, N.Y. — Halfway toward picking up a huge road victory, bad old Toronto FC re-emerged. And against a dominant home side like New York City FC a visiting opponent needs to be strong, smart and committed for a full 90 minutes.
TFC, battling energy-sapping heat, certainly wasn’t that in a 2-1 defeat on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Toronto dropped to 4-8-3 — three more defeats already compared to last season’s spectacular campaign — and while there are still a lot of games to be played, it will take far better efforts from the Reds to get back into the mix.
“Still just struggling to get back to who we are, what we’re best at,” was captain Michael Bradley’s assessment afterward in a Toronto locker room filled with sun-scorched, tired players.
“It’s been a trying stretch in every way, but we’re going to continue to play and continue to try to find the right ways to get things going but there’s no doubt that it’s been a real challenge.”
Both teams were coming off long, World Cup layoffs, but New York City looked sharper and dealt with the elements better in what Bradley said was the first match of the season where you could really feel the heat.
Beset by mistakes all season long, the Reds played nearly error-free in taking a 1-0 lead into the break, but the combination of a lack of concentration and poor technical play led to a pair of NYC counters, resulting in a brace from Jo Inge Berget.
Outside of Victor Vazquez’s clever 37th-minute chip past Sean Johnson which opened the scoring, Toronto FC looked punchless until a final surge in stoppage time which resulted in the team’s only two shots on goal of the final half.
“Over the course of the game, especially on the defensive (side) we weren’t really efficient, which cost us a lot of energy. And then you could see between the energy, humidness, we started to fade a little bit on the physical side,” said head coach Greg Vanney. “We’ve got a lot of different people in a lot of different places in terms of their match sharpness, in terms of their fitness levels and we’re still missing some guys. We’ve got to work through it as a group. There’s no excuses. We’ve just got to work through that as a group.”
NYC was playing for the first time under new head coach Domenec Torrent, who replaced Patrick Vieira. Vieira had never beaten TFC. Toronto came in with just one road win and one draw in six away matches, while NYC FC had earned 19 of a possible 21 points at its fortress in the Bronx. New York is now unbeaten here in 10 games dating back to last season, surrendering more than one goal only once in that span.
“We were just not super efficient, and we burned a lot of energy trying to make plays with our legs instead of just communicating with each other in a way to move people in the right positions to be efficient,” Vanney said. “With that comes fatigue, the way you want to move. They’re a good team and when you play good teams like that you’ve got to be more efficient on the defensive end so you have the energy on the attacking end.”
Berget’s tying goal, six minutes into the second half, was particularly back-breaking for Toronto.
“We didn’t start the half good, came out a little bit flat,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio, one of the best TFC players on this day. “The conditions might have helped that, it was really humid, it was hard playing conditions, but it’s not an excuse. (We) let in that first goal, (it) really hurt us and we really couldn’t recover from it.”
Both sides were missing players due to injuries or international duty and it got worse for New York, when captain and star striker David Villa had to leave early in the first half due to a groin issue. Villa had averaged nearly two goals a game against Toronto in his career. Thanks to Berget, though, Villa’s absence became merely a footnote, while Toronto had to sub out the goal scorer Vazquez and the man who had set it up, Auro, due to nagging minor injuries.
Toronto will have a week to stew on its first loss in four games before hosting the New York Red Bulls next Sunday.
In what has been a trying season for Toronto FC, at least Alex Bono continues to flash fine form.
The goalkeeper, who signed a contract extension with the club during the week heading into Sunday’s game with New York City FC, made a number of acrobatic stops that helped the Reds stick around against an excellent home side.
TFC was outshot 18-10 and 8-2 in terms of shots on target, but Bono was the best Toronto player.
Ideally, though, Bono wouldn’t have to be quite so busy.
“Well, I’m glad Alex is playing well, (but) I don’t want to rely on Alex in terms of working our way back into the playoff picture,” head coach Greg Vanney said after the game.
“As a collective group, we’ve got to get co-ordinated again. It’s me continuing to work with the guys and then we need to find a foundation that we can get on a run with.”