MLS Newsstand - July 9, 2018

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Atlanta United shuts out Philadelphia
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – July 7, 2018
 
CHESTER, PA. —
Bouncing back from its Fourth of July disappointment, Atlanta United defeated Philadelphia 2-0 on Saturday on second-half goals from Josef Martinez and Hector Villalba.
 
The victory moves Atlanta United (12-4-4) to a league-leading 40 points in  20 games. It will be at least five points ahead of the next-best team in the MLS Eastern Conference after Sunday’s games.
 
Perhaps most importantly for the team, it did what it didn’t do against Dallas on Wednesday: hold onto a lead.
 
“It was a big bounce-back game for us,” captain Michael Parkhurst said. “We didn’t want to lose consecutive games. This season, we’ve been able to do that. It’s a big reason we’re at the top of the table.”
 
Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino stuck with the same 11 that came within three minutes of defeating Dallas earlier in the week. Instead, Dallas scored two goals in the final four minutes to take a 3-2 win.
 
Martino said he was slightly worried about fatigue, as well as the team’s mindset following Wednesday.
 
“I didn’t know if we would have the energy to finish the game tonight, but we did,” he said. “I thought the team had a good mindset. Everything I have to say about the team’s mentality is positive.”
 
In a ragged first half, Atlanta didn’t string a lot of passes together, mostly because of turnovers, but still created a few scoring chances. Martinez put Ezequiel Barco through for one, but his pass was blocked after he tried a couple of cut-backs as Union defenders slid past. Martinez got behind the defense but goalkeeper Andre Blake came out, closed down the angle and blocked the shot.
 
Atlanta United’s defense also wasn’t sharp. Philadelphia uncorked 11 shots in the half, but just one was on target.
 
Atlanta United made a tactical adjustment at halftime to use more long passes out of the back to bypass the lines and eliminate Philadelphia’s press. Martino said he noticed that the Union’s defenders were having trouble dealing with those passes a few times in the first half.
 
 “Not just to kick it up field but to try to find the right passes,” Martino said. “That gave us more depth.”
 
After minutes of pressure by Philadelphia, Atlanta United finally broke through and Miguel Almiron broke into the box. He was taken down by Blake for a penalty. Martinez scored in the 58th minute for his league-leading 18th goal and fourth against Philadelphia this season. He had a hat trick in the 3-1 win earlier this season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
 
“Today, he was very, very good for us,” midfielder Julian Gressel said. “Not just in the box when he had a chance on the pen. He worked hard. He tracked back. I think you could tell today that he really wanted to win the game. That’s what we need from him and he did an unbelievable job today and does a good job every week.”
 
Atlanta United then began to seize control of the momentum, something it hadn’t had for most of the game’s first 58 minutes. Its passes were faster and crisper and the players moved with more purpose.
 
That effort paid off when Almiron passed to Martinez, who passed it back to Almiron on the left side of the penalty box. He found Villalba across the penalty box. His one-timed goal gave Atlanta United a 2-0 lead in the 78th minute. It was Villalba’s third goal and Almiron’s ninth assist.
 
With Atlanta United holding onto the lead,  Martino stood on the sidelines motioning for his players to slow the tempo of the game in the 87th minute. It was the team’s sixth shutout this season.
 
Gressel said it’s hard to compare the feeling of disappointment after Wednesday’s loss with the satisfaction of Saturday’s victory.
 
“it just feels good,” he said. “We wanted to win here. Come out after that Dallas loss and win. We said that from the beginning. We said that yesterday after training. We played well. We just had to translate it to the field. Today was a tough game. Today was a mature performance overall. We get a couple of chances, score two goals, keep a clean sheet, get out of here with three points. It’s as simple as that. But it’s a good feeling.”
 
 
Wayne Rooney begins practice with D.C. United: ‘The quality just comes through’
Washington Post – July 6, 2018
 
A year since the courtship between D.C. United and Wayne Rooney began, more than a month since the English star visited the District and eight days since his flight landed in the United States, Rooney finally had his first practice with the cast of players he’ll soon join on the field.
 
Because United left for a two-game road trip the day after Rooney arrived, its newest player couldn’t train with his teammates until Friday. Rooney, who will likely make his debut when D.C. United christens its new stadium, Audi Field, on July 14 against Vancouver, participated fully in practice, which lasted around 90 minutes.
 
“We got him to be a soccer player and to elevate us on the field,” United Coach Ben Olsen said after Friday’s practice. “By looking at the training today, he’s going to do that. I don’t know why that would be a surprise to anyone. He’s an elite soccer player.”
 
During a warm-up drill, Rooney shook the hands of two academy players standing in line behind him. As he turned back around, the younger players looked to each other and smiled.
 
Olsen said the staff will assess Rooney’s fitness using data from tracking devices the players wear. But even without input from those advanced metrics, Olsen said that when watching Rooney “the quality just comes through. The game comes easy to him.”
 
After spending most of his career with Manchester United, where Rooney became the club’s all-time leading scorer, Rooney played with Everton for a year before his arrival in D.C. While Everton’s Premier League season wrapped up in May, Rooney’s MLS counterparts are midway through their season. Through these next couple days, Olsen said the staff will make a decision as to whether Rooney will start or come off the bench.
 
“We have to be smart about this and make sure we’re not doing anything that’s going to jeopardize him or his safety — we have him for the rest of the season — and we bring him along in a smart way,” Olsen said.
 
Both the Premier League and MLS are physical, Olsen said, adding that he doesn’t expect Rooney to have any issues adjusting the style of play. However, there will be a few new elements to get used to, such as longer travel distances, which Rooney won’t fully experience until next year thanks to D.C.’s backloaded home slate, and the summer heat.
 
While his teammates recently played on the road against New England and the Los Angeles Galaxy, Rooney practiced with the academy players. Even on his first day, Rooney said he called out a few of the younger players who he thought weren’t running hard enough.
 
“I’ve always set high targets,” Rooney said Monday at his introductory news conference. “I demand a lot from myself, and I expect that from my teammates as well.”
 
As he does with other veteran players, Olsen plans to have frequent dialogue with Rooney to seek feedback and ideas.
 
“He’s going to raise the level of each player because he’s used to winning and he’s used to playing at the highest levels,” Olsen said. “When you bring that type of influence within your group, others around him will elevate their games and their mentality.”
 
In the Rooney-less portion of D.C.’s season, Darren Mattocks has been United’s most prolific scorer with eight goals. Rooney and Mattocks might be able to fit into D.C.’s system together, Olsen said, but there’s also a chance they might not. United has been playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Mattocks as the striker. Olsen wants Rooney to score goals, but he also noted the 32-year-old is more versatile than Mattocks.
 
Rooney’s arrival comes at a time when last-place United certainly needs help, but the club remains optimistic. It’s played at least two fewer games than every team in its conference, and of United’s final 20 matches, 15 will be played at Audi Field.
 
“Morale right now is very good for a team that’s sitting at the bottom,” Olsen said. “I think we all understand what the rest of this season needs to look like for us to get into the postseason. We all believe in ourselves and the team and that that’s something we can accomplish.”
 
 
Adama Diomande stays hot, LAFC picks up where it left off with win over Orlando City
Los Angeles Times – July 7, 2018
The second half of its inaugural season began the same way as the first for LAFC, but this time Major League Soccer’s new team got to celebrate in front of its home crowd at Banc of California Stadium.
 
With a 4-1 victory over Orlando City on Saturday night, LAFC gained three points to leapfrog Sporting KC into second place in the Western Conference, one point behind front-running FC Dallas.
 
First-half goals by Adama Diomande and Latif Blessing and second-half tallies by Diomande and Diego Rossi were enough to keep LAFC undefeated at home.
 
LAFC extended its unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1) beginning with a 4-3 triumph June 9 at San Jose.
 
“Tonight there was a hell of a lot of good football,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “When it’s 2-0 we want to make it three, four and five but we have to play smart.
 
“With players back [from the World Cup] we have a deeper team and have more competition, it makes training better every day. Tonight, the creativity was there in the first half especially. Tyler Miller was the player of the game. He made some great saves.”
 
Diomande thought he scored on a header in the 26th minute but was ruled offside; he had another goal erased by the same infraction in the 53rd minute.
 
A video review overturned a potential equalizer by Orlando City in the 72nd minute. Ten minutes later, Diomande finished a scramble in front for his team-leading ninth goal. Rossi, who replaced Aaron Kovar in the 64th minute, provided the exclamation point in the 83rd minute.
 
LAFC (10-4-4), which won its franchise opener 1-0 at Seattle, is off to the second-best start for an expansion club in MLS history, bettered only by the 1998 Chicago Fire, which went on to capture the MLS Cup under Bradley.
 
LAFC missed several chances before breaking through in the 28th minute when Diomande deftly tapped in a feed from Mark-Anthony Kaye.
 
Four minutes later, Kovar threaded a pass to the back post for Blessing, who blasted it into the open net to give LAFC a cushion.
 
Miller made eight saves for his 10th win but was denied his sixth shutout when Sacha Kljestan found the corner in the 59th minute. LAFC has allowed only six goals in eight home games.
 
Orlando City, which has lost nine straight, was playing its first game under new coach James O’Connor.
 
 
From Paris to Portland: Larrys Mabiala has found a perfect home with Timbers
The Oregonian – July 7, 2018
 
Larrys Mabiala had carved out a wonderful life for himself in Turkey.
 
Over two years with Turkish Super Lig club Kayserispor, the veteran center back had developed into an invaluable leader on the backline and earned the respect of his teammates as team captain. Off the field, he loved the natural beauty and hallowed history of Turkey and had grown to enjoy the culture, atmosphere and food in the large and vibrant city of Kayseri.
 
But there was still a feeling of emptiness.
 
Mabiala's wife, Edwina, and young daughter, Layana, were more than 2,000 miles away in their home city of Paris. They had tried to join Mabiala in Turkey when he was competing with Turkish club Karabukspor, but the adjustment to a new school system had been too complicated for his daughter. For five years, the family lived separately as Mabiala moved from Karabukspor to Kayserispor. But after Edwina gave birth to the couple's first son, Jelany, in August 2016, Mabiala knew he had to seek out a new club to reunite his family.
 
That's how he found the Portland Timbers.
 
"I have no regrets about the decision we made to come to Portland," Mabiala said. "It's the perfect life."
 
A BETTER LIFE
 
Mabiala grew up just outside Paris, less than 20 miles away from the city's iconic epicenter and the fabled Champs-Elysees.
 
But his Paris felt like it was light years away from the glamor and elegance of the famed Parisian boulevards and monuments.
 
His parents had fled a violent civil war in the historically unstable Congo and settled in Montfermeil, a commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris. Montfermeil was an enclave of almost entirely African immigrants and Mabiala grew up in a tight-knit community surrounded by families from a wide-range of countries. His neighbors always treated him as one of their own, opening their doors and offering meals or even a place to sleep. It often felt like he was part of a giant family.
 
But Montfermeil was also one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the banlieues of Paris. There were often robberies and break-ins, and he was exposed to rampant drug dealing on the streets within his community. For many children growing up in the area, their futures felt predetermined and bleak. Some of Mabiala's good friends ended up in prison later in life. Others died young. 
 
"I come from a very, very difficult area in Paris," Mabiala said. "You don't see a window where you can escape from it. So, what you will do is get easy money as soon as possible. Even if you have to do very bad things, you'll do them.
 
"I'm lucky because soccer kept me away from a lot of trouble."
 
Mabiala's father, Jean, had played soccer in the Congo, but had been forced to quit the sport and take a job to support his family. His love for the game never disappeared and Jean made sure to immerse his son in the sport.
 
At 12, Mabiala, who had been competing for a local club, entered a fortuitous skills contest in his neighborhood. He had to juggle the ball 50 times with both feet and run through a handful of challenging drills to demonstrate his talent for the game. Mabiala did so well that he was invited to participate in the final at Clairefontaine, the biggest training center in France. He was the only player at the event not connected with a professional club.
 
"All the other players came from professional clubs, so of course everybody started to look at me because it wasn't logical to them to have a guy at the final that wasn't even playing for a professional club," Mabiala said. "Everybody was calling my father. He started to realize that maybe this was a chance for me to have a better life and escape from everything."
 
At 13, Mabiala joined the prestigious Paris Saint-Germain academy. It was a defining moment in his life. Over the next four years, the physically imposing defender became more disciplined as he took his game to a new level in the famed club's youth program. Soon, he began to envision a future in soccer.
 
He was 17 when Paris Saint-Germain signed him to his first professional contract.
 
THE TRAIN FROM PARIS
During his years in the Paris Saint-Germain academy, Mabiala grew accustomed to taking the train on Friday nights from Paris back to Montfermeil to see his family.
 
That's how he first met Edwina.
 
He was 17 when he caught her eye on what turned out to be a fateful train ride. While he was competing in the academy, she had been taking classes in Paris. It turned out that their families were from a similar area and they had been riding the same train every weekend.
 
"That's how it started," he said with a broad smile.
 
Edwina was by Mabiala's side over the next few years while he began his career as a professional soccer player, fighting through three tough seasons as he dealt with injuries and struggled to earn playing time with Paris Saint-Germain. In 2009, Mabiala moved on to French club Nice. That same year, Edwina gave birth to the couple's daughter.
 
But things changed dramatically in 2012 when Mabiala was offered the opportunity to sign with Karabukspor in Turkey. It was a chance for him to elevate his career. He couldn't turn it down.
 
"Everything was set up for me to live the perfect life in Turkey, but I was missing something," Mabiala said. "For five years, I was playing every game. I was very happy in my career, but I wasn't really happy as a man. It was very difficult for both of us."
 
At the start of 2017, Mabiala began to look for a new opportunity. At that exact same time, the Timbers were reeling after an unexpected season-ending injury to center back Gbenga Arokoyo. The club knew they needed to sign a player to fill the void and hoped to bring in a veteran that could be a powerful and consistent presence on the backline and in the air.
 
That's when their pursuit of Mabiala began in earnest.
 
"It came down to his character and profile," Timbers General Manager and President of Soccer Gavin Wilkinson said. "You can see when you're around Larrys that everyone gravitates toward him. He's charismatic and very likeable. He's a leader in his own way."
 
Shortly after his contract in Turkey expired in June 2017, Mabiala joined the Timbers. Since then, he has developed into a mainstay on Portland's backline. He made 13 starts last year, helping the Timbers earn four clean sheets and finish the season in first place in the Western Conference.
 
After a rocky start in his first two games of 2018, Mabiala has developed into Portland's most consistent defender this year, starting all 15 matches and anchoring the backline as the club has dealt with numerous changes on defense. In the attack, the 30-year-old has grown into a weapon on set pieces as he's gained chemistry with his teammates. He ranks in a tie for third on the team in goals scored with four this season.
 
On June 30, Mabiala outmuscled Sounders defender Chad Marshall to head in his second of two big goals against Seattle and lead the Timbers to their first-ever regular season win at CenturyLink Field. After the match, Timbers forward Samuel Armenteros joked that no one on the team had a bigger head than Mabiala. 
 
"He's been very strong, not only defensively, but finding goals as well," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "I think he's done a fantastic job to make sure that he gives everything we need in that position. He's been just growing more and more in confidence."
 
A BABY BOY
 
The transition to Portland was hardly seamless.
 
Mabiala's wife had grown accustomed to the bustling city and dynamic urban lifestyle in Paris. It took time for the family to adapt to a culturally different and more low-key Portland and discover activities and restaurants that fit their tastes. At times, they couldn't help but think about the 5,000-mile gap that separated Portland from Paris.
 
But over time, that gradually changed. It is now clear to Mabiala that he and his family made the right choice.
 
"My wife is happy," Mabiala said. "My daughter loves the school. My son is very happy. This is the perfect thing that could have happened to us."
 
In March, the Mabialas welcomed their third child. They named him Jamal. He is the first of the three children to be born in the United States. That's something that Mabiala thinks about often.
 
"To be able to raise and to have a kid that was born in the United States, it's completely different than where I was born, where my parents were born," Mabiala said. "This is what I wanted. Besides the fact that I wanted to be a soccer player, I wanted to raise my kids in good conditions, in a beautiful city, like this. It fills me with pride."
 
 
Samuel Armenteros scores twice to lead Portland Timbers to 2-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes
The Oregonian – July 8, 2018
 
When he scored his first goal as a Portland Timber back in May, Samuel Armenteros immediately jumped over the barrier and sprinted up the stairs into the stands in the north end of Providence Park to celebrate with the fans.
 
He didn't repeat that epic goal scoring celebration Saturday night, but he still made sure to give Timbers fans a reason to celebrate.
 
Armenteros scored two goals to lead the Timbers (8-3-5, 29 points) to a 2-1 win over the last-place San Jose Earthquakes (2-10-6, 12 points) in front of 21,144 fans at Providence Park Saturday.
 
"A good win," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "Important to get three points at home, especially when you play against a team from the same conference. It was important for us to perform today. I thought for the majority of the match, we did a lot of good things."
 
With the win, Portland extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games in MLS play and 13 games overall. The Timbers are one of just three teams in the Western Conference that has yet to lose at home this season. Portland holds a 5-0-2 record at Providence Park this year.
 
Portland took the early lead after Lawrence Olum intercepted a pass from San Jose in the midfield in the 14th minute. The ball bounced to Diego Valeri, who dribbled up the middle before slotting a beautiful pass off to Armenteros. Armenteros fired a shot past Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell to put the Timbers up 1-0.
 
"He's now feeling more game ready," said Savarese on Armenteros. "Now, we see he's a lot more comfortable on the field and I think that's the reason why he looked very good today."
 
Portland controlled 58.1 percent of possession in the match and outshot the Earthquakes 19-14 (6-3 on target) in the game.
 
Armenteros put the game all but out of reach in the 53rd minute when he got on the end of another terrific pass from Valeri and managed to slot a left-footed shot between two San Jose defenders and past Tarbell to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead.
"I though the guys did a very good job to create good opportunities," Savarese said. "Especially in the second half, there were many, many chances. I thought we were very dangerous."
 
Armenteros has scored six goals in seven starts this year and has found the back of the net in two consecutive matches. Valeri has recorded five assists in the last two games and leads the club with eight assists this season.
 
"He performed very well today," Savarese said on Valeri. "He was clinical in those passes."
 
Armenteros came close to scoring another fantastic goal in the 44th minute when he unexpectedly attempted a bicycle kick off a throw-in from Alvas Powell. The Timbers forward managed to send his shot toward the corner of the net, forcing Tarbell to make a diving stop.
 
The Earthquakes began to pressure the Timbers late in the game as they tried to get back into the match. San Jose scored its lone goal in the 87th minute when Florian Jungwirth got on the end of a pass from Quincy Amarikwa and slotted a shot from close-range under the hands of Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. After conceding 12 goals in the first five games of the year, Portland has only allowed 10 goals in its last 11 games.  
 
"They were able to score and then we suffered toward the end," Savarese said. "It was a difficult three points that we're very happy to be able to achieve in this game."
 
 
Kragthorpe: Real Salt Lake makes a statement by taking down another of the West’s best teams
Salt Lake Tribune – July 8, 2018
 
Too tired to celebrate Real Salt Lake’s biggest week in a long, long time, forward Jefferson Savarino sat down and defender Danilo Acosta crouched in the middle of the field after the final whistle.
 
Rest was enough of a reward for RSL, after Albert Rusnak’s penalty kick early in the first half and Luis Silva’s goal in stoppage time made a steamy Saturday night a success at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL’s 2-0 victory over Western Conference leader FC Dallas was the latest episode in a four-day stretch that radically altered the season’s outlook for this team.
 
RSL (9-8-2) suddenly looks a lot better than average, thanks to the most meaningful short-term showing of the Mike Petke coaching era. Victories over Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, teams that began the week tied for first place in the West, made a significant statement in Major League Soccer. “We have such a special team, and we have to make the most of it,” forward Sebastian Saucedo said.
 
The homemade banner is hung on the railing in the middle of the south stands about 40 minutes prior to every home game, a capital-letters tribute to RSL’s coach: “Mike Freakin Petke.”
 
He’ll qualify for that favorable nickname as long as his team keeps winning home games. Since that memorable — or forgettable, more accurately — 5-1 loss to Los Angeles FC in the home opener in mid-March, Real is 8-0-1 at the RioT. Attendance is down this season (Saturday’s crowd: 17,319), but the atmosphere remains lively and the home team is delivering consistently.
 
“Fun” was Petke’s description of the week’s showing, but nobody was overreacting. In the locker room, players already were talking about next week’s visit to Minnesota United in an effort to reverse RSL’s road trend.
 
The players know what’s expected of them, in terms of playing style and performance. “If they haven’t bought into my stuff by now, I shouldn’t be here,” Petke said after Wednesday’s defeat of Sporting KC.
 
Petke is now 22-20-6 since taking over the team early in the 2017 season. One trait distinguishes Petke’s teams, above any other: They either win or lose. Ties are common in MLS, but not for RLS anymore. Whether they settled for them or viewed them as achievements, former coaches Jason Kreis and Jeff Cassar tied more than twice as many games as Petke. He plays to win, which sometimes results in losing.
 
This week’s wins over the West’s two best teams solidified RSL’s position above the MLS playoff cut, as the season moved into the second half. Last season’s 8-3-4 finish started with a July 4 victory. Although it was not sufficient for RSL to earn a playoff berth, that run helped Petke get established and created some momentum going into 2018.
 
Some ugly losses raised questions about the team’s direction in the spring. As of this July’s checkpoint, though, Real is trending well again. RSL dominated possession and turned away Dallas’ few scoring chances on a night when the visitors played conservatively and hoped for counter attacks that rarely materialized.
 
“My players managed the game perfectly,” Petke said. “At times, it was a bit boring, but I could care less.”
 
Rusnak’s penalty kick in the 11th minute was Saturday’s only goal until stoppage time, when Silva took a well-timed pass from Savarino, who was one-on-one with Dallas’ lone defender. Silva easily beat goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, clinching the victory.
 
The crowd remained involved to the end, moaning when another scoring opportunity was missed. The fans want more from this team. Judging by the week’s performance, they’ll get it.
 
 
Dynamo roll to shutout of Minnesota United
Houston Chronicle – July 7, 2018
 
For fans at BBVA Compass Stadium it had to feel like déjà vu.
 
The crowd teemed with excitement as Dynamo forward Romell Quioto situated the ball for a corner kick from the right side of the field then launched the ball into the box. It descended to Alberth Elis who used his upper body to knock it towards the foot of Philippe Senderos who flung the ball into the top of the net.
 
From the foot of Quioto to the top of Elis then down to Senderos for the score. It was a successful sequence in the Dynamo’s late surge to tie Los Angeles FC in their last contest but on Saturday it helped lift Houston to a 3-0 victory over Minnesota United.
 
Houston (7-6-4) dominated possession in the contest, more than tripling Minnesota’s number of shots and corner kicks in the process.
 
Quioto led the assault in the first five minutes although his attempt—the first shot in the game—went wide. Just after the half hour mark defender Alejandro Fuenmayor hustled to a rebound and lobbed a floating cross into the box where Elis’s header was saved.
 
Minutes later Minnesota Untied (6-11-1) had a chance to take charge when second-leading scorer Christian Ramirez got past the Dynamo backline for a shot that rolled just wide of the post.
 
In Houston’s last league match-up with Minnesota in April, Houston went up by one after 10 minutes but surrendered goals in each half to lose by a score.
 
But in the 52nd minute on Saturday, from the same spot from which he helped tie the LAFC game, Quioto lined up for another cross.
 
As he booted the kick, Senderos fought through the scrum and emerged. This time Elis wasn’t needed and the Swiss defender used his forehead to direct the ball into the back of the net for his first brace with the Dynamo.
It was the third goal of the season for Senderos (all of his Dynamo goals have come from corner kicks). It also gave Quioto his 10th assist of the year, tying the league lead in what was his third consecutive match with an assist (a career milestone).
 
Not to be outdone, Elis got on the scoreboard in stoppage time when he poked home his ninth goal of the season—tying Mauro Manotas for the team lead.
 
Saturday’s match saw the return of Dynamo center back Adolfo Machado, who rejoined the lineup after his World Cup stint with Panama.
 
The win extends Houston’s home unbeaten streak to eight straight across all competitions. It’s the fourth of six straight Western Conference games for the Dynamo, who came into Saturday’s match a point away from sixth place in the MLS.
 
 
Stu Cowan: Impact continue impressive run with 2-1 win over Colorado
Montreal Gazette – July 8, 2018
 
The Rapids came into this MLS game against the Impact obviously looking for a nil-nil road tie and for the first half they looked sort of like the Canadiens last season: bad, boring and unable to score.
 
But at least the Canadiens try to score.
 
The Rapids had 10 men — including former U.S. World Cup goalie Tim Howard — sitting back playing defence with one man left alone up front as a decoration. It made for a dreadful first half with only one shot on target by the Impact and none by the Rapids.
 
After watching so much exciting soccer and so many great goals at the World Cup in Russia, the first half at Saputo Stadium was not the “beautiful game” and could have been used as Exhibit A for sports fans who say soccer is boring. Watching grass grow could be more fun — and the grass at Saputo Stadium is actually quite beautiful.
 
But the Impact aren’t boring — at least not anymore.
 
Algerian international midfielder Saphir Taïder finally broke through Colorado’s two lines of defence to open the scoring in the 55th minute for the Impact and he scored again in the 56th. The Rapids then had to open up offensively and Dominique Badji scored in the 78th minute to make things interesting, but the Impact held on for a 2-1 victory.
 
The Impact have now won four straight games, outscoring the opposition 9-1, and are 5-1-0 in their last six, improving to 8-11-0 on the season and moving into the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rapids fell to 4-11-3.
 
This has been a very impressive turnaround by the Impact under new head coach Rémi Garde to finally give Montreal sports fans something to cheer about after a terrible NHL season by the Canadiens, and what’s looking like another brutal season for the CFL’s Alouettes. The Als fell to 1-3 with Friday night’s 28-18 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks at Molson Stadium.
 
“It was really hard, but it was not frustrating,” Impact defender Samuel Piette said about trying to break through the Colorado defence. “We knew we just needed one goal to win that game. It didn’t come in the first half, so we weren’t stressed about it at halftime. We just had to keep doing what we did.”
 
The Impact actually needed two goals to beat the Rapids and have now scored at least two goals in each of their last four games. For Taïder, they were only his second and third goals of the season, which might not seem like much for a designated player in MLS. But Taïder’s role and his star power aren’t the same as Didier Drogba’s when the striker was the Impact’s designated player.
“He’s a No. 8, box to box, he’s there to take the ball from our defence, our back line, and put it in a good spot,” Piette said about Taïder. “That’s what he does normally and he did that as well today. But to get two goals for him was the cherry on the sundae. I’m happy for him, but he doesn’t need goals to show his value to the team.”
 
The Impact showed they can win even when Ignacio Piatti, who leads the team with nine goals and had four in the previous three games, doesn’t find the back of the net.
 
The second half was much more exciting than the first — which wouldn’t have been hard — with the Impact getting six shots on target while the Rapids had two. The Impact controlled the ball for most of the game with 68.2 per cent possession and it seemed like it was much more than that.
 
Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush saw his shutout streak come to an end after 414 minutes off a set piece, when Badji banged home a loose ball in the goal area off a free kick.
 
The Impact will be back in action Wednesday when they play New York City FC at Yankee Stadium (7 p.m., TSN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio) and return to Saputo Stadium next Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes (7:30 p.m., TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio). The Impact now have a 6-3-0 record at home.
 
Piette said the fans weren’t the only ones the Rapids were trying to put to sleep during the first half Saturday night.
 
“Obviously, it’s more like a boring game,” he said. “You feel like you’re just doing passes on the side. But that’s the way they played. I think we played the same way in Atlanta (during a 4-1 loss earlier this season) when you play a good team. We’re in a great moment now, so I’m not surprised they used that style of play.
 
“At the end of the day, we just want to win,” Piette added. “It doesn’t matter how they play.”
 
 
Ed Willes: Brilliance of Alphonso Davies highlights Whitecaps' victory
The Province – July 8, 2018
 
Two teams searching for traction this MLS season met at B.C. Place on Saturday. This is what we learned from the match as the Vancouver Whitecaps beat the Chicago Fire 3-2:
 
ALPHONSO THE GREAT
 
In a battle, if that’s the right term, between two teams that started the night 6-7-5, the Whitecaps hammered out a 3-2 win in a contest highlighted by a moment of shimmering brilliance from Alphonso Davies.
 
With the Caps leading 2-1 in the 72nd minute, and the crowd of 22,120 fretting over a boatload of near misses by the home side, Davies sprinted down the sidelines, skipped past a pair of Fire defenders and, when it appeared he’d run out of room, left his feet to square the ball to Kei Kamara for the eventual game-winning goal.
 
It was Kamara’s second goal of the game. The only wonder is he didn’t have three more.
 
A ‘MUTCH’ NEEDED GOAL
 
Vancouver midfielder Jordon Mutch scored the crucial go-ahead goal early in the second half and, on a night when the Caps’ big guns butchered a series of scoring chances, it was fitting that Mutch supplied the game’s pivotal moment with his first-ever MLS goal. While supporters were still settling in for the second half, the Crystal Palace man reeled in a long ball from Efrain Juarez, navigated his way around Fire keeper Richard Sanchez and nervelessly finished the play.
 
Kamara’s second goal would stand as the game-winner after former Whitecaps midfielder Tony Tchani brought the fire within one with a strike from distance in the 80th minute. Kamara’s goals were the 105th and 106th of his MLS career, moving him past former Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario into seventh place on the MLS all-time goals list.
 
There were a few nervous moments in the final 10-plus minutes, mostly of the scrambly variety around Whitecaps goalie Brian Rowe. Chicago’s Namanja Nikolic had the best chance when his strike from in front of Rowe went over the bar in injury time, but the Caps brought the win home.
 
CHANCES GALORE
 
The teams went into halftime tied 1-1 but the larger story was the number of gilt-edged chances the Whitecaps missed.
 
Yordy Reyna forced Sanchez into a save in the seventh minute before Kamara missed a header in the 11th minute and chipped it over the crossbar in the 15th minute. Davies blasted one high from a prime scoring area in the 23rd minute, then rattled the woodwork when he was put in alone by Reyna.
 
Even the Whitecaps’ lone goal was produced with maximum effort. Doneil Henry started the play when he dispossessed Fire star Bastian Schweinsteiger outside the Whitecaps penalty box. At the other end of the break, Kamara was forced wide by Sanchez before Davies teed it up for Reyna. Sanchez made a spectacular save off the Caps’ frontman but Kamara finally converted the rebound.
 
But all those misses would become a massive part of the night’s storyline when Chicago scored in the 42nd minute on one of their few forays into the Whitecaps’ end. The Fire’s Kevin Ellis beat Felipe on the goal before finding Nemanja Nikolic unmarked five yards from the Whitecaps’ goal.
 
LAUNCHING PAD?
 
If you were looking for signs from the Whitecaps, this was about the point where they launched their best stretch of play in 2017. Beginning on July 5 with a win over New York FC, the Caps went 7-3-1 over their next 11, led by Reyna and Fredy Montero. Reyna, who was coming off a red-card suspension, was a danger man on Saturday night.
 
FORCED MOVES
 
A groin injury to Kendall Waston forced Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson to start a makeshift backline. Jose Aja took Waston’s left back spot alongside Doneil Henry. Juarez wore the captain’s armband for the Caps and had a big game in the middle of the park. The Whitecaps did surrender two goals but the back four handled most of its business efficiently.
 
 
United signs fast Ecuadorian winger Romario Ibarra
St. Paul Pioneer Press – July 9, 2018
 
Minnesota United added its first player of the summer transfer window on Monday. The club announced the signing of winger Romario Ibarra, a 23-year-old Ecuadorian expected to inject speed into the Loons’ lineup.
 
To complete the transfer, Minnesota used Target Allocation Money, a Major League Soccer fund used to acquire players that earn higher salaries and are expected to be key influencers on the field.
Ibarra’s potential debut could be in the international friendly against Costa Rica club Deportivo Saprissa on Wednesday or in a MLS match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Both games are at TCF Bank Stadium.
 
“He changes games with his pace and he challenges defenders,” United head coach Adrian Heath said in a statement. “He’s of a great age at 23 and has had a good start to his career.”
 
United signed three previous players using TAM: captain center back Francisco Calvo, midfielder Rasmus Schuller and center back Vadim Demidov, all before Minnesota’s and the players’ first seasons in MLS in 2017. Calvo and Schuller are regulars in Minnesota’s lineup, while Demidov didn’t pan out and his then-team-high $550,000 salary for 2018 was bought out in February.
 
United can officially add players to its roster in the summer transfer window from Tuesday though August 8. Ibarra is expected to be the first of a few new additions.
 
At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds Ibarra has 16 goals in 131 matches with Universidad Catolica in Ecuador’s top flight since 2014. He earned his first call-up for the Ecuadorian national team in South American confederation qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia. While Ecuador was eliminated, he scored goals in games against Chile and Argentina in 2017.
 
“I know how difficult these types of players are for us to cope with,” Heath said. “It will make a change now that we have one of these players on our roster that we feel, with his skill and pace on the counterattack, can be a difference maker.”
 
Ibarra’s goal in the CONMEBOL qualifier against Argentina came 38 seconds into the match on Oct. 10, 2017. The deficit woke up legend Lionel Messi, who orchestrated a hat trick in Argentina’s 3-1 win.
 
Renato Ibarra, Romario’s brother, is also on Ecuador’s national team and plays for Mexico’s Club America, where he was teammates with Darwin Quintero. In March, Quintero became Minnesota’s first Designated Player, the highest-priced additions that should be among the club’s MVPs. United can sign up to three DPs, and the other two spots are now vacant.
 
Ibarra’s salary budget charge wasn’t included in the club’s release, but will become available from MLS players union in its twice-annual release of salaries in September.
 
The club didn’t release the length of Ibarra’s contract, but according to Futbol Pacifico in Ecuador, the deal is for three years. His signing, which includes an international roster spot, will be completed when his visa and other paperwork are obtained.
 
 
Maxi Moralez the difference as New York City FC edge the New York Red Bulls
ESPNFC.com – July 8, 2018
 
Maxi Moralez scored in the 85th minute to give New York City FC a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium on Sunday to move into second place in the Eastern Conference.
 
NYC trails Atlanta United by six points. The Red Bulls are third after having their three-game winning streak snapped.
 
Jonathan Lewis started the winning play by stripping the ball from Aaron Long and spotting Moralez in the middle of the box for his seventh goal.
 
Sean Johnson stopped a near-post shot by Alex Muyl in the 90th minute to run NYC's record to 8-0-1 at home. He made four saves for his sixth shutout.
 
His counterpart, Luis Robles, made three saves but the Red Bulls fell to 6-1-3 vs. their neighbor all-time in the rivalry to spoil the Red Bulls coaching debut of Chris Armas.
 
The team's assistant coach was promoted to replace Jesse Marsch, who resigned on Friday to pursue other opportunities, most likely a position with sister club RB Leipzig of Germany's Bundesliga.
 
Johnson's save on a sneaky try by Kemar Lawrence kept the match scoreless in the 65th minute. Lawrence was nearly at the end line on the left side when his shot almost slipped by Johnson at the near post.
 
Ten minutes after that a deflected ball off Johnson went to Alejandro Romero Gamarra, but his shot went awry. That was followed in the 77th minute by a stretching save by Robles at the other end on a bending ball by Jesus Medina from 12 yards.
 
NYCFC played without injured forwards David Villa (eight goals, four assists) and Jo Inge Berget (four goals).
 
The Red Bulls next host Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. NYCFC stays home to play Montreal on Wednesday.
 
 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores yet again in Galaxy’s rout of Columbus Crew
FOX Sports – July 8, 2018
 
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Romain Alessandrini scored two goals as a substitute to help the Los Angeles Galaxy beat the Columbus Crew 4-0 on Saturday night.
 
Ola Kamara opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, making a run through the middle of the area to finish Ashley Cole‘s low cross.
 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic drew a penalty when Lalas Abubakar took him down in the area. Ibrahimovic converted from the spot in the 56th for his 11th goal in 14 appearances this season.
 
Alessandrini entered as a substitute for Kamara in the 60th minute and made it 3-0 for the Galaxy (7-7-4) in the 67th. He stole it from Abubakar at the top of the penalty area and dribbled up the left side for a close-range finish.
 
Alessandrini added a 20-yarder in the 93rd minute to cap the scoring.
 
The Crew (8-6-6) have lost three of their last four.
 
 
Saphir Taider scores 2, surging Montreal Impact beat Colorado Rapids 2-1
Pro Soccer USA – July 7, 2018
 
MONTREAL (AP) — Saphir Taider scored two goals only a minute apart early in the second half, and the Montreal Impact held on to beat the Colorado Rapids 2-1 Saturday night for their fourth straight win.
The Impact (8-11-0) have won five of their last six games to get back into the hunt for a playoff spot in the MLS Eastern Conference.
 
Substitute Dominique Badji scored for the Rapids (4-12-3), who lost a second game in a row and fell to 1-6-1 on the road.
 
The Impact found themselves against a opponent that played 10 men back, clogging the 18-yard box in front of designated player goalie Tim Howard. They tried high crosses, low crosses, dribbles from Ignacio Piatti on the left and Alejandro Silva on the right and lobs up the middle — each time being blocked by a blue and yellow-clad Rapids defender.
 
Fullback Daniel Lovitz danced in and shot over the bar early on and Piatti got off a curling shot in the 40th minute that went into Howard’s arms, the only one of nine first-half shots to get through while the Rapids had no attempts.
 
In the 55th minute, Silva recovered a ball and fed it to the right side, where Taider shot between Howard’s legs for a goal.
 
Two minutes later, a counterattack saw Silva feed Piatti on the left for a lob into the middle that the Algerian international fired in for his second of the game and third of the season.
 
A free kick in the 79th saw the ball go off defender Rod Fanni to Badji, who had replaced Yannick Boli in the 50th, alone on the doorstep for an emphatic blast into the net on his seventh goal of the season. The goal ended Evan Bush and the Impact’s shutout string at 420 minutes.
 
 
Johnny Russell scores for first time since April in Sporting KC’s 2-2 draw with Toronto
Pro Soccer USA – July 7, 2018
 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It had been more than two months since Johnny Russell scored his hat trick against Vancouver. After that April night, Russell didn’t find the back of the net again until Saturday, when his goal against Toronto broke the drought and put Sporting ahead 2-1 before the team eventually ended the night in a 2-2 tie.
 
In the 62nd minute, just five minutes after an Ilie Sanchez penalty kick tied the hosts up with Toronto, Diego Rubio found himself in traffic near the box. He smoothly maneuvered the ball out and sent a perfectly-placed pass into Russell, who shot it just out of reach of Toronto keeper Alexander Bono.
 
Russell casually completed a standing front flip near the corner of the field in celebration, the first time he could celebrate a goal of his own in 78 days.
 
What would have been Sporting’s game-winning goal was overshadowed by Toronto’s equalizer seven minutes later. Jordan Hamilton created space for himself near midfield and sent a rocket in from distance, which Melia wasn’t quick enough to save. That initiated a 69th-minute tie that neither team could extricate itself from.
 
Still, SKC manager Peter Vermes was OK with the result, especially considering it was Kansas City’s third match in eight days. The last couple weeks have stuffed Sporting’s injury report, and several young players have had to play significant minutes. Jaylin Lindsey and Wan Kuzain both started Saturday.
 
“Very, very proud of the guys, great effort from the opening whistle,” Vermes said. “I’ve said this before, and it’s never a disrespectful comment: It’s hard to have Linds and Kuz to play so many games in a row when they’re as young as they are … Frankly, they’re punching above their weight class at the moment.”
 
Kansas City was on its heels early, and Toronto took advantage. Jonathan Osorio translated a laser of a cross into a goal slipped just past a diving Tim Melia. That 24th minute goal was the difference in a 1-0 first half.
 
The closest Sporting got to scoring in the first half was a misplaced Russell header that bounced six inches wide of the far post in the seventh minute.
 
“On another night, we score two, three more goals,” Russell said. “Tonight wasn’t our night in that sense, but I think we showed some positive signs of us getting back to what we were doing before.”
Coming back from that early 1-0 deficit was a good sign for a team that hasn’t had a win in its last three matches.
 
“Our energy levels were high, our commitment to the game was where it needed to be and for the most part the execution was there as well,” defender Matt Besler said. “That looked like a typical Sporting Kansas City performance. I know the result wasn’t there and that’s the most important part, but when you go back and rewatch the game and break down the things we look for and who we are and our identity, it was a good performance overall.”
 
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