Why did Atlanta United dominate MLS All-Star fan voting? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Atlanta United confident goals at home will come (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Union near midway point with potential, questions (Delco Daily Times)
Sporting KC’s Zusi earns his sixth MLS All-Star bid (FOX Sports)
Why did Atlanta United dominate MLS All-Star fan voting?
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – June 25, 2018
How did Atlanta United land at least six players on the MLS All-Star game roster for this summer’s clash with Juventus at Mercedes-Benz Stadium?
The team’s supporters worked. That’s how.
The results of the All-Star Fan XI voting were first published on ajc.com on Monday. Atlanta United, which leads the league in attendance and points, finished with a league-record six players as leaders.
The MLS All-Star game has gone through many iterations before landing on the fans voting on the 11 players who will be a part of the 24-man roster.
The game, which includes days of soccer, music and fan activities, wasn’t as glitzy in 2005 when Atlanta United’s Michael Parkhurst played in his first as it is now. Parkhurst, who played against Real Madrid last year in Chicago, was one of the six Five Stripes players honored on Monday.
“It’s more eyeballs,” he said. “It’s more excitement. There are cool things to do in the days leading up to the game. You get shuttled around here, there and everywhere. You get to meet the best players in the league and talk to them a little bit off the field. That’s cool, as well.”
From 1996-2002, the game was similar to other pro sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada with an East vs. West format. It also tried a game featuring U.S. players in MLS vs. the rest of the world’s players in MLS in 1998.
The league then set up the MLS All-Stars vs. Mexican powerhouse Chivas in 2003. Carlos Bocanegra, who is now Atlanta United’s technical director, was in the starting 11 for MLS. The league tried to set up the All-Stars against Real Madrid in 2004, but that deal didn’t work out, so the game was again East vs. West.
In 2005, Bocanegra was in the Fulham lineup for the game against the All-Stars. It was the last All-Star game in which the fans were able to pick the starting 11.
The game soon started to transition into a bigger spectacle with a new format.
The league switched to the fans picking 11 players who will be part of the roster for the 2006 game because the All-Stars were facing Premier League powerhouse Chelsea and the league wanted to ensure a balanced roster and competitive game.
“The game itself is always an awesome opportunity,” Parkhurst said. “The teams they bring in now are much better than the first couple of games when we played Fulham and Celtic. They are good teams but not the the world-beaters like we play now.
The worst thing about the All-Star game is having to play defense. Put seven attackers on the field, maybe eight, and two defenders and a goalie. Hopefully, we can hold them at bay.”
It’s not unusual in professional sports for a team to dominate spots on All-Star roster.
In Major League Baseball, four of nine American League slots were filled by Red Sox players and five of eight National League slots featured Cubs in 2016. In 2015, four of nine starters were Royals. In 2011, four of nine were Yankees. In the NHL, five of six players voted into the game were Blackhawks.
That format has remained with the All-Stars playing:
2007: MLS 2, Celtic FC 0 in Commerce City, Colo.
2008: MLS 3, West Ham United FC 2 in Toronto.
2009: MLS 1, Everton FC 1 (Everton 4-3 pen) in (Sandy, Utah.
2010: Manchester United FC 5, MLS 2 in Houston.
2011: Manchester United FC 4, MLS 0 in Harrison, N.J.
2012: MLS 3, Chelsea FC 2 in Chester, Pa.
2013: AS Roma 3, MLS 1 in Kansas City, Kan.
2014: MLS 2, Bayern Munich 1 in Portland, Ore.
2015: MLS 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1 in Commerce City, Colo.
2016: Arsenal 2, MLS 1 in San Jose, Calif.
2017: MLS 1, Real Madrid 1 (Real Madrid 2-4 pen) in Chicago.
Atlanta United confident goals at home will come
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – June 26, 2018
Atlanta United scored 26 goals in nine games last season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United has scored 23 goals in 10 games this season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Because they’ve scored more two goals just once in their past four games at the $1.5 billion stadium, it seems as if the offense may not be as lethal as it was last season.
But it doesn’t seem to worry anyone involved with the team. The squad is creating chances – 18 in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Portland – and, well, the other team is trying, too. Atlanta United is third in the league this season in chances created at home (116) and sixth overall (177), according to the league.
“We had a few that were close to going in,” midfielder Kevin Kratz said. “It’s not the same as being ice cold in front of the goal. Once we are in the box, this bite to score this last goal, that’s what we need.”
Atlanta United hit the post twice against the Timbers. They had several shots that were stopped right on the line. They also missed at least two point-blank chances.
“As long as you are creating chances, it’s a positive,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “If you are struggling at home and tying the game, that’s more of a tough situation.”
In each of the past two runs at the stadium, Atlanta United blitzed opponents. It scored 19 goals in its first four games last year. It scored 18 in its first five this season.
And then, the team still scored, but not as great a clip, which is a reason why it’s 1-3-1 in its past five games at home. Two of those losses included red cards to Atlanta United players. The other was in the U.S. Open Cup when Atlanta United didn’t field its strongest lineup. It is 5-2-2 in the league at home, and 5-3-2 overall.
“Last year, it was easier because people didn’t know what to expect,” Larentowicz said. “Now, when people come in they are coming with their best game. They have a game plan. they are managing the crowd much better. That comes with watching other teams play here or playing here themselves.”
Next up will be Orlando City, which tied Atlanta United 3-3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The game will be Saturday.
The Lions are struggling this season with seven consecutive losses. The string led to the firing of coach Jason Kreis. It has a goal difference of minus-9, whereas Atlanta United leads the league in goals (34) and is third in goal difference (plus-14).
Atlanta United could feature a strong attacking lineup should manager Gerardo Martino move Julian Gressel from the right wing to the middle in place of the injured Darlington Nagbe, and start Hector Villalba on the right with Josef Martinez as striker, Miguel Almiron as the attacking midfielder and Ezequiel Barco as the left wing.
That quartet of South American players has started just one game together this season (vs. Sporting KC) and it lasted 34 minutes because Villalba was subbed off after goalkeeper Brad Guzan received a red card.
They played well together in the final 33 minutes of the Timbers’ game. Villalba, who came on in the 57th minute and joined the others who started, was particularly dangerous, posting a team-high three shots on goal.
“Like I said, it’s a problem if we don’t create chances, and we create chances – a ton of chances, to be honest,” Gressel said. “It’s just a matter of the final pass – the final concentration – in the box where sometimes we lack a bit of that and that’s why they don’t end up being goals. It’s just a thing that we’re going to have to focus on and really be clinical again.”
Atlanta United is sixth in MLS in chances created in all games, according to OPTA:
Sporting Kansas City 232
Columbus Crew SC 191
Los Angeles Football Club 186
Real Salt Lake 185
Houston Dynamo 182
Atlanta United FC 177
Atlanta United is third in home games:
Sporting Kansas City 142
Philadelphia Union 123
Atlanta United FC 116
FC Dallas 115
Galaxy's Ibrahimovic and LAFC's Vela and Ciman are selected to the MLS All-Star team
Los Angeles Times – June 25, 2018
The Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman of the Los Angeles Football Club have been selected for the MLS All-Star team in a vote of fans.
The MLS All-Stars will meet Italy’s Juventus in Atlanta on Aug. 1.
Ibrahimovic has made 11 appearances with the Galaxy, scoring a team-high seven goals and adding three assists. Three of his goals have been game-winners.
Vela and Ciman are the first all-stars in the history of LAFC, a first-year expansion club. Vela, currently playing with Mexico in the World Cup, leads LAFC with seven goals and five assists in 12 games. This will be his first MLS All-Star Game.
Ciman, the final cut from the Belgian World Cup team, made two previous all-star teams with the Montreal Impact. LAFC’s captain, he has played in 13 MLS games this season.
League-leading Atlanta United took six of the 11 spots on the team selected by the fans. LAFC was the only other club to have multiple representatives.
The rest of the 24-man all-star team will be announced at a later date and will include two commissioner picks and 11 players selected by all-star coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
MLS All-Star Fan Team
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)
Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (LAFC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Migual Almiron (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
Forwards: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Galaxy), Carlos Vela (LAFC)
Toronto FC must be sharper, smarter moving forward this season
Toronto Sun – June 25, 2018
BRONX, N.Y. — Toronto FC continues to stick with the ‘It’s still early mantra,’ but no matter how much talent might be on the roster, if the team continues to play as haphazardly as it did during Sunday’s 2-1 loss against New York City FC, the playoffs will only be a pipe dream.
Yes, Toronto had to deal with some brutal humidity — you only had to walk around Yankee Stadium before the game to feel the elements, can’t imagine what it was like for the players — but two teams were on the field and only one of them looked crisp and engaged. There was too much head-hanging and lethargy on the Toronto side, particularly after the 1-0 advantage was built in the first half.
Head coach Greg Vanney explained that part of it stemmed from Justin Morrow and Nico Hasler playing a full 90 minutes for the first time in ages. They were cramping up and others looked tired too. It certainly didn’t help that Victor Vazquez and Auro had to leave early due to minor ailments, which forced unexpected lineup alterations.
Tack on mental errors which tired the club further and TFC was probably lucky to have only fallen by a single goal.
“Assume our roles and be able to communicate with each other in a way that we can communicate with each other in a way that we can problem solve as the game progresses,” Vanney explained of what needs to change. “That’s my job to help us in training, to give us as many solutions as possible as we continue to re-integrate guys into the equation.
“The other part, I find at times we are so committed to trying to get goals that we are forgetting that we need to maintain our shape behind the ball and we need to keep the game in control. The second goal, we have a lot of numbers pushing forward, we lose a ball in between our lines and we’re quite opened up on the transitions.”
These aren’t novice players. TFC remains a veteran-laden group that should be able to adjust, even if that’s asking a lot considering what a puzzle the lineup has been on a week-to-week basis. They can make it easier on themselves.
“We’re away, we don’t need to be quite so opened up at the moment. Next thing you know it’s a crisis break on the other end,” Vanney said. “Goals change games. We’ve got to find the foundation as a group that we can continue to build off of.”
With the excellent New York Red Bulls up next at BMO Field on Sunday, followed by a trip through Kansas City and Minneapolis, and then road games in Orlando and Chicago, the clock is ticking.
Visiting teams have to be especially smart and perhaps a bit more cautious when playing at Yankee Stadium, because of the strange field dimensions there and the collection of quick, opportunistic players New York City FC has assembled.
“Yeah for sure. It’s different, smaller, counter attacks happen very, very quickly, as you saw today,” defender Nick Hagglund said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to handle it.”
“If you lose balls in bad places, they’re on top of your goal quickly. A lot of things are more exacerbated more than they are on a little bit bigger field,” he said.
The Reds found that out the hard way.
NO FIERY ADDRESS
Perhaps because his club had not lost in three matches before falling to NYC FC and also because he recognized how exhausted they were, Vanney did not lambast his side in the locker room for once again dropping points. Instead, he was quite encouraging.
“It’s one of these days where everybody is really tired. They put in a shift, even though in the end it looks a little bit lethargic, trying to work through a lot of things on the day,” Vanney said.
“There are no words that are going to give them the answers they want. Everyone needs to catch their breath. Find something to build off of. The good news is players played 90 minutes. We have to continue to get key guys back in match fitness.”
Another week of training should help with that and the team also should see Jozy Altidore at least doing some work at training this week in advance of an early-mid-July return to action.
Union near midway point with potential, questions
Delco Daily Times – June 24, 2018
CHESTER >> We’ve reached the Rorschach test portion of the MLS calendar, where the Philadelphia Union is what you want to believe it is.
Finishing the weekend above the red line in the Eastern Conference applies a rosier sheen to that 16-game inkblot of the first half, for sure. But consider this: If the Union, fresh off a 4-0 throttling of Vancouver Saturday, travel to Los Angeles FC next week and lose, they’ll have 21 points through 17 games, exactly half a season. Meaning they would be on pace for precisely 42 points for the third consecutive season and fourth time in last five years. At least their record, if mirrored on the other side of halfway, would be different than the 11-14-9 of the last two seasons.
That’s one way to look at things. Another is measuring how the Union’s 1.31 points per game compares to previous seasons’ playoff participants (spoiler alert: Not favorably). Or you could judge the Union as the team they’ve been over the last seven games, a stretch where they have posted a 4-2-1 record and collected points at a rate of 1.86 PPG. Then you can apply the caveat that in those two losses, Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin were on the field for 19 minutes each, after red cards and subsequent suspensions.
You can apply the same lens to the Union’s measurables. They’ve allowed just 21 goals in 16 games, a concession rate that is tied for fourth-best in the East and seventh in MLS, certainly deserving of a playoff space were it to continue. But their 20 goals scored, including getting shutout in eight of 16 outings, doesn’t pass muster.
So what exactly can we know about the Union at this point? Manager Jim Curtin is sure of a few things.
“We are at a stage where I know we are going to play good soccer now,” Curtin said. “I know that we are going to keep the ball. I know that we are going to attack and create chances. The only question is how will the group respond to adversity? So if Vancouver did score a goal against the run of play, how strong are we to rebound from that? Fortunately we did not get to find out today, which I am happy with.”
There’s also more certainty on the individual fronts. The Union (6-7-3, 21 points) struggled two weeks ago against Toronto without Bedoya and Medunjanin, but were fine Saturday against Vancouver sans just Medunjanin. They know Borek Dockal is the elite chance creator that the Union were hoping for when they landed him. And they know that the depth Curtin has praised exists if not yet fully drawn upon. Warren Creavalle has been excellent deputizing for Medunjanin, Ray Gaddis is in the midst of one of his best all-around seasons and Derrick Jones continues to bide his time in USL where he’s a weekly Team of the Week candidate, it seems.
“You talk about professionals, you talk about Warren and you talk about Ray, who have been in and out of the lineup and then they step up and do big things for us,” Curtin said. “So the squad depth that we have and professionalism of those guys when they are called upon they can really raise their level. I am really happy for the two of them.”
Questions loom, not just limited to how they go about replacing sporting director Earnie Stewart with minimum friction during a promising season. CJ Sapong isn’t producing, nor is David Accam. How does Curtin awaken them without sacrificing the chemistry others have created, without depriving the lineup of hotter alternatives (namely Cory Burke and Ilsinho)? Does it warrant a summer acquisition if they can move on from lingering non-factor Jay Simpson?
Those questions are different than in seasons past. Curtin isn’t trying to cajole a bad team into playing well. He’s trying to entice a good team into either being great or at least consistently playing at the level it’s capable of. Short of the sluggish start to the season, with Dockal settling in and Accam flailing in the lineup, he’s done that.
Can he do more of it? That too remains to be seen.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, six Atlanta players headline MLS All-Star Fan XI selections
ESPNFC.com – June 25, 2018
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and six Atlanta United players headlined the 2018 MLS All-Star Fan XI selections on Monday.
Ibrahimovic, who joined LA Galaxy from Manchester United in March, has made a splash in Major League Soccer, scoring seven goals in 11 appearances. And now the former Juventus man will get the chance to play against the Italians in the MLS All-Star Game in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, hosts Atlanta will be well-represented at their home stadium, with Josef Martínez, Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Michael Parkhurst, Darlington Nagbe and Brad Guzan all being selected by the fans to participate in the game.
Joining those seven will be a host of veterans with vast World Cup experience.
That group includes LAFC and Belgium defender Laurent Ciman, Sporting Kansas City and United States midfielder Graham Zusi, and LAFC forward Carlos Vela, who makes the team as the "More Than a Vote" Challenge winner.
The "More Than a Vote" Challenge tabulates the number of goals fans score with MLS players in the popular video game FIFA 18. Using that criteria, Vela outscored Ibrahimovic, Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC), and Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC).
Reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri rounds out the Fan XI, marking the fifth time the Argentina playmaker has been selected for the game.
The complete 24-man All-Star roster will be released at a later date. Of the 13 spots still up for grabs, MLS commissioner Don Garber will select two players and All-Star manager Gerard Martino will choose the remaining 11. Martino, who coaches Atlanta United, will also select the team's starting XI on gameday.
The 2018 MLS All-Star Game will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Wednesday, Aug. 1, at 7:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN.
Sporting KC’s Zusi earns his sixth MLS All-Star bid
FOX Sports – June 25, 2018
For the sixth time in his career, Graham Zusi is headed to the MLS All-Star Game.
The Sporting Kansas City veteran defender was named to the 2018 MLS All-Star Fan XI, the league announced Monday. The right back previously earned All-Star honors from 2012-2015 and 2017.
The All-Star Game, which pits the MLS All-Stars against Italian powerhouse Juventus, will be played Aug. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Zusi, 31, has played every minute of all 16 MLS matches this season, helping Sporting KC post an MLS-best seven shutouts and a league-low 1.00 goals-against average. Zusi (two goals, one assist) leads MLS in touches (1,439) and has 29 chances created, tops among league defenders.
The 2018 MLS All-Star Fan XI:
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC)
Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United FC), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)
Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United FC), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United FC), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
Forwards: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United FC), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club)
Atlanta leads way with six All-Star Fan XI selections
NBC Sports – June 25, 2018
It may be hard to believe with all the World Cup festivities going on, but the Major League Soccer season is nearly halfway over.
And that means it’s almost All-Star time.
The MLS All-Stars will continue their recent tradition of facing a European superpower in August, with Juventus being welcomed to the United States in early August.
But, which players from MLS will we see in action?
Last season’s expansion sweetheart Atlanta United leads the way in the fan voting with six players from the Eastern Conference side voted into the Fan XI, including attackers Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender/captain Michael Parkhurst also made the team from Atlanta.
In all, only five clubs were represented based on the Fan XI, with the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman, Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri each rounding out the squad.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)
Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
Forwards: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge)
Orlando City right back Scott Sutter grateful to rejoin team after injury
Pro Soccer USA – June 25, 2018
ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City right back Scott Sutter didn’t expect to miss so much time when he first injured his knee.
He felt a sharp pain on the inside of his right knee early in Orlando City’s match against the Portland Timbers on April 8. He continued to play until he was subbed off for RJ Allen in the 58th minute of the match.
He wouldn’t return to game action until the 66th minute of Orlando City’s 2-0 loss to the Montreal Impact on Saturday – two and 1/2 months later.
“Obviously, it’s been a long eight, nine weeks, a lot longer than we all thought it would be,” Sutter said after Saturday’s match.
“At the beginning, we thought it’d be more like four or six weeks and then it was two months and that’s the worst part of playing soccer, obviously, is not being able to play and having to watch and not being able to help the team. It’s alright when everything is going well and you’re winning, but when you’re losing, you just want to get back out there as quick as possible.”
Looking back, playing after that initial pain might not have been the best idea, Sutter said. He said the pain started when he passed the ball with his foot at an odd angle. It was a pass he’d done thousands of times, he said, but there was a “knife-like” pain in his knee afterward.
“Then I crossed the ball and knew that something was wrong and I think [former head coach] Jason [Kreis] at the time saw that I was clutching my knee and brought me off, so it’s probably not wise to carry on and play through the pain, but I didn’t think it was much and it ended up being worse than I thought.”
Sutter made his return to Orlando City’s match-day 18 on Wednesday. He was on the bench last week for the Lions’ game against D.C. United in the Round of 16 of the U.S Open Cup, but he was never used.
“We’re trying to get Scott some game minutes, which is hard to do because we don’t have a second team to get him game minutes,” said interim coach Bobby Murphy. “We wanted to get him minutes on Wednesday but the game didn’t lend itself to that.”
Sutter missed 11 games in MLS play and two Open Cup matches with his injury.
He didn’t get the return he wanted on Saturday – Orlando City lost its seventh-consecutive match – and said while he was out, he just tried to keep his head down and work. He didn’t keep too close an eye on the standings; he just wanted to help the club succeed.
“There’s no lack of effort from everyone that’s on the team,” he said. “I think it just comes from that little bit of success, that one goal, that one result in the league that stops this losing streak, that gets us back on track.
“I think that is what we need. It doesn’t matter how it comes, it could be the worst performance of the year, but just we grind out somehow with a lucky goal or something. That might be the turning point that we desperately need. We just need to keep working hard and hopefully at some point it’ll come. We all know we need to be better in every aspect.”
O’Neill adjusting to Orlando
Orlando City’s newest player can’t take the pitch until after the secondary transfer opens on July 10, but he’s already training with the Lions.
Centerback Shane O’Neill is back in MLS after an extended stay in Europe. He started his professional career with the Colorado Rapids in 2012. Orlando City confirmed his signing on Friday.
He said the league and grown leaps and bounds since he last played in 2015.
“Everyone’s got a great stadium now,” he said. “Not only that, but the quality has improved. You’ve got younger players coming from Europe over here and the quality has just gotten a lot better of the American player, with the academy system.
“Overall, couldn’t have asked for a better time and a better opportunity with this club.”
O’Neill had a built-in relationship with Orlando City in midfielder Dillon Powers. The two played together in Colorado.
“Huge, for sure,” O’Neill said. “Dillon’s an amazing guy, so that’s been nice to have a good friend in the area, obviously. When you’re over in Europe, it can be a little bit more challenging.
“It’s been really nice to have somebody I know quite well. He’s helped me around the area.”
O’Neill said he’s looking forward to playing in purple for the first time.
“First, I’ve got to earn my spot and prove myself to the teammates,” he said. “That’s first and foremost. It’s such an amazing club. The atmosphere, training ground in this area, it’s been top-notch. It’s just exciting times and hopefully I can contribute to the team.”
Samuel Armenteros feeling at home after European transfer troubles bring him to Portland
The Athletic – June 25, 2018
If everything had gone as expected, Samuel Armenteros wouldn’t be a Portland Timber right now. He’d be 5,000 miles away playing for Utrecht in the Eredivisie. But, as Armenteros says, “Soccer can change.”
It was only six months ago he signed a deal with Utrecht and then waited for the official word that his loan from Benevento Calcio in Italy to the Dutch club had been approved.
“I had my clothes packed, my furniture was taken care of—I cleaned the whole apartment,” Armenteros says. “I was just ready for the phone call, and it didn’t come.”
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Attack takes a step forward as Union steamroll Whitecaps
SBI Soccer – June 25, 2018
The Philadelphia Union have teased their fans at moments this season showing signs of playing good attacking football. Still, consistency has been the biggest question mark for the team who have struggled to continue taking steps forward.
On Saturday, the Union had one of their best offensive performance of the 2018 season as they rolled past the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0. It was the perfect day for the team as they also honored Sebastien Le Toux, one of the team’s greatest players, as they inducted him into the Ring of Honor at halftime.
With all the energy and action around Talen Energy Stadium, the Union stuck to their plan and handed Vancouver a lopsided defeat on the road. Following the 15-day layoff from league play, Union head coach Jim Curtin was proud of his team for getting the job done.
“Overall, a very strong performance from the players,” Curtin said. “It was an important game especially with us without one of our best players. Obviously you do not want to fall behind at this stage of the season but it was an important result for us and to get the clean sheet.”
“We talked a lot about knowing that Vancouver is one of the best teams at sitting deep with ten guys behind the ball and then countering and breaking. I thought we handled the first half extremely well and played some of our best soccer.”
Borek Dockal headlined the offensive success for Philadelphia, scoring two goals on the day. Brazilian winger Ilsinho chipped in a third from the penalty spot, while Fafa Picault iced the afternoon with a stoppage time PK of his own.
With Haris Medunjanin missing out due to suspension, Dockal led the Union’s creative front and was rewarded with a pair of goals. The 29-year-old Czech leads the team with five goals this season, and is one of 10 players in MLS to have at least five goals and five assists in 2018. Dockal felt that overall the team’s performance was one of the best this season and as a group they all felt comfortable.
“For the first time maybe this season, I felt like we had control for 90 minutes,” Dockal said. “Usually we make it difficult for ourselves in the second half with a stupid goal we concede. This time we had full control of the game. I felt this first half was one of the best halves we played all season.”
The Union totaled 25 shots in total against the eventual nine-men Whitecaps, and peppered Caps keeper Brian Rowe with 11 shots on goal. It was the most shots on goal that Philadelphia have had in a MLS match this season, proving that things look to be turning around. Their 609 passes also shows the improvement possession-wise that the Union seem to be showing as they continue to build offensively.
Curtin has noticed some small changes in the group as a whole which he feels will benefit the bunch. The question remains can they build off of this performance in their next match in Los Angeles on June 30th.
“I said it to Earnie (Stewart) Friday after training that we are at a stage where I know we are going to play soccer now,” Curtin said. “I know that we are going to keep the ball, attack and create chances. The question is how will we handle adversity? Fortunately today we did not get to find out, which I am happy with.”
Their first win since May 30 sees the Union (6-7-3) occupying the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A road date with LAFC beckons next weekend before a busy month of July features home meetings with both Atlanta United and the LA Galaxy.