Thoughts and highlights on Toronto, LA Galaxy draw

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It’s still troubling to see all those empty seats at BMO Field, once the gold standard in passionate MLS support.

Hopefully the fans who have abandoned TFC (or stashed their scarves for the time being) will recognize that a better product can be found these days along Exhibition Place, where Ryan Nelsen has the Reds organized and working hard for one another.

Unfortunately, Nelsen and his side still have miles to go in terms of getting the personnel where it needs to be, and in teaching the team how to manage matches and situations.

We saw it all there Saturday as TFC gave up an early goal, rallied to take a lead and held that margin until stoppage time. But a mistake in the back gave young Galaxy attacker Jose Villareal a chance to demonstrate his opportunism and his athleticism.

His late goal was the equalizer in a 2-2 draw at BMO Field.

Here are a few quick thoughts, followed by the highlights.

  • Richard Eckersley, once a right back, then a center back and then a right back again – he’s now apparently a left back.
  •  We’ve mentioned before about how TFC still needs more quality in several areas, something club president Kevin Payne is presumably addressing. One is right I the middle of the park, where TFC were clearly outmanned over stretches Saturday. Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas – good MLS midfield men, but not great – mostly had their way through the center.
  • Donovan (pictured from Satruday)? Meh. Then again, what did we expect? Getting him on the field was about elevating his fitness, as much as anything.

(MORE: Landon Donovan back on field for LA Galaxy)

  • TFC was just not a bit creative for most of Saturday afternoon. Luis Silva’s second-half introduction helped (and a clever little something surely helped on TFC’s second goal), but the Reds need more imagination. So far, too many of the TFC goals tends to rise out of Robert Earnshaw’s opportunism.
  • Hard to say what TFC defender Darel Russell might have been thinking with a “clearing” header that he put right back in front of his own goal in stoppage time. Anywhere else and the Reds probably get all three points. A draw against the champs, even at home, isn’t terrible for TFC. But conceding a late equalizer (losing two points in the process) is a real bummer, and surely feels like a loss for Nelsen and Co.

Highlights of Saturday’s match:

Villa: Seeing Pirlo retire showed me that I have to train harder

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New York City FC has quickly become one of Major League Soccer’s most exciting clubs in three short seasons, and a lot of its success can be attributed to be David Villa.

[ MORE: Miguel Almiron named MLS Newcomer of the Year ]

The Spanish international has been with the club since completing a move to MLS in 2014, and has easily been NYCFC’s most important signing since the team’s inception.

Despite boasting an impressive 22 goals in 2017 for Patrick Vieira’s side, Villa knows that his days in MLS are starting to count down after one of the legends of the international game recently announced his retirement.

“[Seeing Andrea Pirlo retire showed me] that I have to train harder every day if I want to continue extending my career. Someday I will leave, as will everyone, it’s a fact of life. But I’m going to fight to make it as late as possible,” Villa told Marca.

Villa, 35, received a one-year extension to his contract in 2017, leaving his future with NYCFC up in the air beyond next season.

Additionally, the forward says that he constantly receives positive feedback about MLS and he knows that there is a lot of interest from players outside the United States in the developing league.

“Really, quite a few [have reached out],” he said. “The MLS is growing a lot and is having more and more global impact. Many have called me and are interested in what’s going on here.”

Brighton 2-2 Stoke: Seagulls remain ninth thanks to Izquierdo’s equalizer

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Three Premier League newcomers remain in close contention with one another after 12 weeks, one of which picked up another positive result today.

[ MORE: Congested PL schedule challenges the big boys ]

Brighton & Hove Albion earned a 2-2 draw against Stoke City at the Amex Stadium on Monday after Jose Izquierdo’s persistence gave the home side the leveler in the 60th minute from Glenn Murray‘s clever pass inside the box.

The result made for Brighton’s sixth consecutive match unbeaten at home this season.

A back-and-forth first half saw the on-loan Chelsea defender give Stoke the lead heading into the halftime break after a disappointing spell of defending by Brighton allowed Zouma to finish of a corner kick.

Pascal Gross gave Brighton an equalizer one minute from halftime after Davy Propper had done superbly to create space for himself down the right wing.

The visitors struck in the 28th minute after Shaqiri delivered a perfect long ball into the path of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

The Cameroonian proceeded to control the pass beautifully from his Stoke teammate, before tucking his shot from close range into the near corner past Brighton goalkeeper Maty Ryan.

Brighton thought they had the chance to level the score prior to the equalizer when the hosts appeared to have a penalty appeal after Murray went down inside the Stoke area. However, referee Lee Mason opted against spot kick.

The two sides will both be in action on Saturday when Brighton travels to Old Trafford to face Manchester United and Stoke takes on Crystal Palace.

At the half: Zouma’s header has Stoke in front against Brighton

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It’s been a wild one thus far at the Amex Stadium, and we’ve still got 45 minutes left to play.

Stoke City holds a 2-1 advantage against newcomer Brighton & Hove Albion after Kurt Zouma gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of halftime.

[ MORE: West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis ]

Zouma headed home close range in first-half stoppage time to restore the Potters’ advantage, after Pascal Gross had equalized in the 44th minute for Brighton.

Stoke opened the scoring just prior to the half hour mark when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting finished off a stellar move that originated from a Xherdan Shaqiri long ball over the Brighton back line.

Brighton were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men after Glenn Murray went in late on a challenge against Stoke defender Kevin Wimmer.

Murray thought he had won himself a penalty kick minutes prior, but referee Lee Mason decided to continue play.

Miguel Almiron named MLS Newcomer of the Year

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Unsurprisingly, one of Atlanta United’s biggest stars took home some hardware on Monday after a stellar first season in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS conference finals ]

Atlanta attacker Miguel Almiron was named MLS Newcomer of the Year today, beating out Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic and teammate Josef Martinez for the honor.

Almiron, who joined Atlanta from Argentine side Lanus, netted nine goals and added 14 assists for the Eastern Conference squad in 2017 and helped guide the club to the MLS Cup Playoffs after finishing fifth in the East.

The 23-year-old received an 37.38% average of the vote for the award, which was compiled based on votes from a combination of media members, MLS players and executives. Nikolic finished second with 24.92 percent, while Martinez checked in at number three.