Mike Magee-Chicago

Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 17

Leave a comment

The league was back to a full slate of matches for Week 17:

The champs are complete – well, almost: The two-time defending champion Galaxy had something that very closely resembled a first-choice lineup for one of the few times this year. Robbie Rogers started along the left, with Landon Donovan on the right in midfield. Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane, critical pieces in the mix, were back from international duty. Result: a 1-0 win over Chivas USA in Major League Soccer’s version of a SuperClasico, a win that upended the Galaxy’s run of three without a win.

The caveat here is that L.A. still has David Beckham’s Designated Player slot open… so we’ll see.

The big streaks: One really stands above the rest, Portland’s 15-game unbeaten streak. There are a few too many ties to make this one truly sexy. Then again, a few more showpiece wins like Sundays, a commanding 3-0 result over visiting and suddenly struggling Colorado, may color this one differently.

And one very nasty streak that was busted: D.C. United won. No … seriously. Chris Pontius’ early penalty kick was enough against visiting San Jose. D.C. United’s 1-0 result snapped a club-record 13-game winless streak.

More Mike Magee magic: How this man, traded away from Los Angeles for Robbie Rogers, has single-handedly ignited Chicago’s offense really is something else.

Magee (pictured) scored once as the Fire took all the points mid-week against Colorado, that time from the penalty spot. Then the American attacker had another goal over the weekend in yet another 2-1 win, this one on the road against Columbus. Magee has 10 goals now in 2012, including four matches with the Fire since his move from L.A. last month. He has six goals in six matches with Chicago including U.S. Open Cup contests.

A star is (re)born in Philly: John Hackworth’s Philadelphia Union have been a little mid-pack-ish this year. And even that has been somewhat tenuous, so much about the surprisingly high scoring rate for 20-year-old striker Jack McInerney. To escape ordinary and begin approaching something special, goals needed to start coming from Conor Casey. And voila! After just three goals in 13 games before Sunday, the 31-year-old striker supplied two in the Union’s win over 10-man New York.

The killer red for Sporting KC: What C.J. Sapong did in Dallas was certainly not the worst thing you’ll ever see in a soccer game. Something like this will never injure another player – but it was just so doggone silly and needless. And when a player checks the box on “silly and needless,” he has given the referee an opportunity to show red. Which is exactly what Mark Geiger did after Sapong kicked a ball (barely … but still) into a fallen Andrew Jacobson, an FC Dallas midfielder.

Worse still, SKC was up 2-0 at the time. But down a man in the Texas heat, the visitors conceded twice late and left with a draw.

The red-hot team we aren’t talking about: Yes, yes … Portland keeps rolling. But what about Real Salt Lake? After dismantling Seattle in Utah on Saturday – don’t let a rather tame 2-0 score fool you; RSL out-shot the visitors 17-2 – the team from Utah is now 8-1-1 in all competitions since April. Not bad for a club in a youth movement.

Houston has a scoring problem: And it’s not just about Round 17, although two more shutouts in this go-round won’t help things one little bit around BBVA Compass Stadium.

Houston even missed a penalty kick in a 2-0 loss to Montreal. (Giles Barnes skied that bad boy by several yards!) And then to get blanked at home by a Toronto side being held together by loanees and Scotch tape? No, things aren’t looking good.  Since pushing four goals past D.C. United in early May, Dominic Kinnear’s team, last year’s league runner-up, has scored twice in six league matches. Yuk.

Goal of the Week:  Chivas USA is usually on the other side of these things. But Tristan Bowen smacked a beauty in the Goats’ mid-week loss to Vancouver. Here it is:

.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

Follow @NicholasMendola

Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

meninblazers
twitter.com/MenInBlazers
Leave a comment

Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]

Follow @NicholasMendola

Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Leave a comment

On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

Follow @NicholasMendola