Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 21

2 Comments

source:

Welcome back Boca – been a long time, man:  Chivas USA snapped its 14-game winless streak with a victory in Southern California against Toronto. Was it mere coincidence that former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra and Erick “Cubo” Torres made their debuts for Chivas USA? Hardly. Torres had the game’s only goal, in fact.

Vancouver’s Camilo scores. Again!: It’s Camilo world right now; the rest of us are just trying to keep up the highlights of his goals. Things did not work out well for his Whitecaps, who finished the round of matches late Saturday on the West Coast with a 2-1 loss to the Galaxy. But the Brazilian forward supplied his team’s lone strike, breaking away and finishing the confidence you’d expect of the league’s leading scorer, not with 13 goals. Camilo has 10 goals in the Whitecap’s last 8 games – and holy Cap, that is getting it done!

Lightning in Chester: Lightning delayed the second half of Saturday’s Union-Timbers match for nearly an hour outside Philadelphia.  Around the unusual delay, it was a show of goalkeepers in the team’s 0-0 draw at PPL Park.

The weekend’s “Ooops” moment – and from a highly unlikely source: Generally speaking, Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is a rock. He makes the big saves and sweeps up all the little stuff, all while providing good information to the sentinels in defense. But … what a bad moment he had in Utah, completely misjudging a ball that turned into an RSL goal – the kind of mistake we see from young goalkeepers  (like Andrew Weber in Seattle over the weekend) but so rarely from a vet like Nielsen. Here ‘tis.:

Real Salt Lake’s streak ends: All things considered, Real Salt Lake is in a great place, still well positioned and doing wonderfully in a bit of a rebuilding campaign. Still, this one smarts. Jason Kreis’ team was a goal up at home when Chris Wingert drew a second yellow card. A man down, RSL quickly conceded the equalizer and then, near the end, the telling goal to Sporting KC. And just like that, RSL’s 11-game unbeaten streak went “poof!”

The week’s ref-related controversy: It’s too bad all of Real Salt Lake’s best players could not be available for Saturday’s meeting, a matchup between two of the league’s best.

What’s really too bad is that U.S. Soccer’s referee assigning attachment didn’t understand that this match had the potential to be quite physical and tightly contested – which it most certainly was. Referee Matthew Foerster was working his 15th MLS match, and that relative lack of experience could be seen.

Long story short, things got a little out of control, RSL saw a man ejected and things(as noted a couple of paragraphs up) came apart from there for the home team.

Best goal: When we talk about “best goals,” the money moment usually arrive in the finish. Sometimes, though, it’s about the skillful set-up. Watch young Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes leave a Vancouver Whitecaps defender for dead (falling down, and then attempting some desperate, lunging gambit to get in Zardes’ way just before the far-post finish.) It’s his third MLS goal … and this is why some folks are fairly excited about the Galaxy Academy product: Well done, young man.

.

.

Smash … grab … run!: As the final whistle approached, New England would surely have been OK with a 0-0 draw, not having created much in the way of quality chances at Columbus. But center back Jose Goncalves found goal in the 90th minute, and exciting young attacker Diego Fagundez scored his sixth this year as the Revolution sneaked out of Crew  Stadium with a 2-0 victory thanks to a couple of very late hits.

D.C. United records watch: The lastest butt-whuppin’ in this sad march to infamy (4-1 Saturday to Chicago) leaves the league’s biggest 2013 disappointment with a 2-14-4 record. S the team some picked to rule the Eastern Conference in 2013 remains on pace for second fewest points per game ever in MLS (the 1999 MetroStars hold the mark at 0.47) and for fewest goals over an entire season. Ben Olsen’s team has nine so far through 20 matches; the MLS record is 21, set by United during a 30-game season in 2010.

Week’s top save: Apologies to Donovan Ricketts for failing to hand over yet another top save to the Portland Timbers’ super sprawler, but watch this highly agile stop from New York’s Luis Robles, who had to react with ultimate speed to turn away Richard Eckersley’s deflected effort:

.

 

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.