Montréal downs Philadelphia, leaves the ranks of the MLS’s winless

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Thank Philadelphia, thank Zac MacMath, or just thank probability and time. Maybe even give Felipe Martins and the defense some credit, too. Whatever the reason, the Impact no longer have to count themselves among Major League Soccer’s winless. With a first half goal from Felipe, Frank Klops’s team claimed a 1-0 win over Philadelphia at Stade Saputo, ending the seven-match winless run that had relegated the team to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

With the win, however, Montréal temporarily climbs to ninth, passing Chicago thanks to some help from MacMath. On a long shot from midfielder Patrice Bernier in the 14th minute, the Philadelphia keeper failed to either catch the ball or push it beyond his left post. Giving up a rebound in the six-yard box, MacMath set up Felipe’s easy put back, giving Montréal an early game-winner.

source: AP
Felipe’s 14th minute goal held up as the Impact claimed its first victory of the 2014 season. (Photo: AP Photos.)

From there, a match of fews scoring chances gave Philadelphia little opportunity to even the score. While the Union held 61 percent of the ball and put five shots on target, Montréal had four shots on goal of their own. Even though Andrew Wenger had two early chances to pull his new team even, the Union continued to have trouble converting control into goals.

In that sense, today’s performance was more of the same from the 2014 Union, albeit with a worse result. Even during a strong, mildly eye-opening start to the season, the team’s quality in midfield couldn’t overcome Jack McInerney’s lack of influence near goal. Though McInerney’s since been flipped for Wenger, the team’s problems remain. There’s no deterrent to letting John Hackworth’s team keep the ball.

It made for a somewhat predictable second half, even if McInerney had a chance to double Montréal’s lead shortly after half time. After MacMath denied his former teammate, Philadelphia was allowed to play out a controlling if inept final half. Over the match’s final hour, the Union failed to put a shot on goal from within Montréal’s penalty area.

Now nine matches into the season, it’s time for Philadelphia to be concerned. Whereas in March you could argue the Union goals would come,  three open play in two months form a bigger, more convincing picture. Though Hackworth is tinkering — dropping Sebastien Le Toux and Cristian Maidana today — he’ll soon run out of buttons to push.

As for Montréal, the win will lift spirits, but it shouldn’t change the team’s outlook. Like the goal itself, this victory was more a result of Philadelphia’s failings than the Impact’s success. Credit Klopas’s team for taking advantage of its opportunities, but it’s unclear the team’s actually playing better than it was while winless.

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.