MLS Roundup: LA rescued by Donovan, Vancouver ends Cascadia streak


A trio of MLS games graced our Sunday, and a streak came to an end as Vancouver held off a late surge from Portland to beat the Timbers for the first time ever in Major League Soccer play.

The win for Vancouver puts them third in the Western Conference, but it certainly had more meaning than that. In addition, the win for the Whitecaps ends Portland’s 22-match unbeaten streak, and the Whitecaps will gladly take home these spoils along with the three points.

As for the others, Landon Donovan continues his post-cut tear, beating the Chicago heat to steal a point from the Fire, and the Colorado Rapids clearly didn’t take out enough frustration on Montreal last week and took another victim for a spin by thoroughly trouncing Houston.

Chicago Fire 1-1 Los Angeles Galaxy

Landon Donovan cancelled out a Jeff Larentowicz penalty in the 74th minute and secured a point for Los Angeles.  Things seemed dire as the Chicago defense held the Galaxy to a single shot on target – Donovan’s goal.

The Fire played extraordinary defense, but it ultimately let them down. Defender Chris Ritter, on his full debut for Chicago, made a single mistake, giving the ball away to Robbie Keane and the Galaxy duo made Chicago pay by snatching a point.

Manager Frank Yallop was visibly conflicted after the match, calling it “frustrating points-wise, but encouraging performance-wise.”  Larentowicz bagged his penalty in the 68th minute after Quincy Amarikwa was taken down.

The point for either side allows the Galaxy to draw level with San Jose and even leapfrog them into 6th on goal difference. Meanwhile, Chicago has to settle for no change in the table, while the full spoils could have brought them exactly level with New York in 7th.

Following the match, Keane was publicly furious with the decision to play a 3:00 game in the middle of June as temperatures climbed into the 90’s in Chicago.  It should be fun when he watches the international teams play in Brazil.

Colorado Rapids 3-0 Houston Dynamo

23-year-old Deshorn Brown picked up a first-half brace and Kamani Hill added another as Colorado asserted their dominance over a surprisingly hapless Houston squad.

Colorado controlled 62% of possession and registered 15 shots/9 on target, while holding Houston to a big goose egg in the shots on target category.  Houston didn’t have a shot on goal of any type until Will Bruin clanged the post in the 72nd minute.

The win means Colorado remains unbeaten against Houston in their last eight meetings, and completes a remarkable turnaround following their pair of losses to Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA.  The Rapids have not only bounced back to win their last two, but they’ve done so by a combined 7-1 scoreline.

The three points take Colorado all the way up from eighth to third in the tight Western Conference, and they still hold at least a game in hand on those around them.

Portland Timbers 3-4 Vancouver Whitecaps

Just as things were starting to look up for Portland, they have come crashing down.  On the heels of back-to-back road wins – just their second and third wins of the season – the Timbers returned home and caught Vancouver at the wrong time, hammered by the surging Whitecaps 4-1.

The Whitecaps got a pair of penalties from Pedro Morales, plus Erik Hurtado picked one up deep into first half stoppage time and Jordan Harvey completed the halftime sandwich with one just four minutes after the break.

Vancouver’s win gives them a six-match unbeaten run dating back to a 1-0 loss to Los Angeles in early April. Portland nearly completed a remarkable comeback, but down 4-1 it was too big a mountain to climb. Max Urutti scored in the third minute, and after Vancouver poured on the goals, Will Johnson and Gaston Fernandez did their best to pull back level for Portland, but they fell one short.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

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It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

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Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”