FC Dallas' Tesho Akindele, front left, goes up for a header with Colorado Rapids' Drew Moor, top, and Jose Mari in front of the Rapids goal. (Photo: AP)

MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 3-2 Colorado Rapids

1 Comment
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKBl5ZQN5ek]

One game, 100 words or less: A prolonged slump in the wake of Mauro Díaz’s injury finally came to an end thanks to two deflected shots and some rare finishing savvy from Fabian Castillo.

Winless in eight going into the match, FC Dallas saw Colorado’s keeper look helpless on a an Andrés Escobar deflection (33′) and a blast from Zach Loyd (45′), allowing the home side to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. With an early second half goal from José Mari, Colorado was back even, but after a left-footed blast that finished his one-man counter, Castillo gave Dallas its first win since April 20.

Three moments that mattered:

1. 33′ – Escobar’s deflection throws off Irwin – The three-goal night gives the impression that FC Dallas came to life, but the team only put three shots on target, two off which needed help to beat Clint Irwin. The first of those tries came in the 33rd minute, when a Jair Benítez restart from well outside the penalty area clipped Escobar. A ball headed toward the right side of goal suddenly changed direction, leaving Irwin helpless to prevent Dallas’s equalizer.

2. 46′ – Matt Hedges follows Walker Zimmerman – When FC Dallas’s best defender didn’t come out for the second half, head coach Óscar Pareja lost his second center back of the day. With Zimmerman already subbed out, Hedges’s loss looked like a debilitating blow. Yet instead of Deshorn Brown building on his opening goal, Colorado’s only score over the last 45 minutes was a corner converted by Mari. Led by Stephen Keel, the replacements held up.

source: AP
FC Dallas’ Tesho Akindele, front left, goes up for a header with Colorado Rapids’ Drew Moor, top, and Jose Mari in front of the Rapids goal. (Photo: AP)

3. 62′ – Castillo puts it all together – Castillo is always one of Dallas’s most influential players, but the chances he created with his unmatched speed rarely see that quality duplicated near goal. Against Colorado, however, a turnover over just inside Dallas’s attacking half turned into a chance to flash his potential. Beating two players after picking up the ball 45 yards out, Castillo beat Irwin with a shot rifled into the right of goal, giving Dallas three points and fans another glimpse of his tantalizing talent.

Three lessons going forward:

1. Deshorn Brown is living up to clichés – You don’t want to succumb into unfounded cliché, but Brown’s opening score looked like a confidence goal. On a bouncing ball near the edge of the six-yard box, the Jamaican international arced a teardrop over Raul Fernández and into goal, showing the ease of a player who knows, conversion or not, more goals will come. Scoring three times in his last two starts, Brown is not up to five on the season.

2. Change can be good – Through most of the spring, Colorado and Dallas were locked into set formations despite hints they should change. Colorado had become far too conservative with its diamond midfield, while Dallas had lost the playmaker it needed to play its 4-2-3-1.

On Saturday, however, both teams showed different looks. Colorado, having moved away from its diamond some time ago, has finally reverted to the 4-2-3-1 that was so successful last season. Across the field, Dallas played a 4-4-2 that didn’t try to shoehorn a midfielder into a playmaker’s role.

Using a set up that suits your personnel. Who knew?

3. The slump may not over yet – FC Dallas ended its eight-match slide, but the keys to the victory should caution fans against thinking a corner’s been turned. Deflections are not a reliable plan for production, and through four years of his Major League Soccer career, Castillo’s been unreliable around goal. Over 90 minutes on Saturday, those factors produced three points, but they also need to be a stepping stone to a more reliable solution.

Where that leaves them:

  • FC Dallas: 6-7-3, currently fifth in the Western Conference
  • Colorado: 6-5-4, third in the West, 10 points back of first place Seattle

Frei leads Sounders to first MLS Cup title in penalty kicks

Seattle Sounders forward Nelson Valdez, left, and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley challenge for the ball during first-half MLS Cup final soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

TORONTO — With tackles that matched the bitter temperature, Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders had little trouble providing intensity.

Goals were another story.

In a game only its champion could love, XXXX defeated XXXX in penalty kicks at BMO Field on Saturday after 120 minutes of 0-0 play with precious few threats on goal.

After the teams traded goals to start PKs, Michael Bradley flubbed his shot right to Stefan Frei. But Clint Irwin stopped Alvaro Fernandez’s shot, Seattle’s third attempt, to keep things 2-2.

It went to bonus kicks, and Justin Morrow hit the bar to set the table for Roman Torres. Yes, the big man, and he nailed it.

The first chance belonged to Altidore, who took a classy ball from Giovinco and had his far post shot deflected off Roman Torres for a corner.

Giovinco had trouble with his service in the cold, and a fifth minute offering was returned by Joevin Jones on a long counter which finished in the hands of Clint Irwin.

Seattle gained its footing and held the ball deep in Toronto’s end, but wasn’t able to trouble Irwin. Jonathan Osorio was next to trouble a keeper, though ex-Reds backstop Frei collected his effort.

A scary moment arrived in the 27th minute, as Giovinco ripped a left-footed effort into Roman Torres’ face just inside the 18. The Sounders defender fell hard (and surely the 25 degree weather didn’t help the impact).

Justin Morrow then supplied a lofted cross from the left fringe that Altidore headed down to a sliding Frei. Still 0-0, 30′

Service left a lot to be desired on set pieces, and Giovinco earned a free kick before firing it off the wall in the 39th minute.

Giovinco teed one up right after the break, but hit it off the outside of the net with the outside of his boot and it remained scoreless.

Though the chances remained scarce, the hosts had a few. Bradley picked out Giovinco with a diagonal ball that the Italian slid square for Altidore. The striker was held from getting to the ball, but no call came and Toronto won a corner that came to nothing.

The chippy play continued, and the chances remained few. Seattle called upon Andreas Ivanschitz  and Toronto turned to Will Johnson and ECF hero Benoit Cheyrou. Extra time seemed predestined, and so it came to pass.

Cheyrou won a corner with a left-footed shot just after play resumed. Giovinco teed him up for a similar chance three minutes later, but Frei collected the low offering. That was about it for the first 15 of ET.

Toronto’s third sub was Tosaint Ricketts, and he took a ball out of the air from 15 yards only to miss wide of the right post. Kicks were looming. Ricketts then picked out Altidore in the center of the box, but Frei flew to palm the headed ball off the line.

Seattle nearly went on top via a deep throw-in, as Lodeiro spied Torres at the back post and Beitashour whiffed on his attempted clearance. Irwin grabbed the loose ball first.

Follow @NicholasMendola

WATCH: Stefan Frei made the most amazing, unbelievable save in ET

Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei reacts as time runs out in the second half of the second leg of an MLS Western Conference soccer finals game Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Commerce City, Colo. Seattle won 1-0 to advance to the MLS championship game. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

Words simply fail at at a time like this.

[ FOLLOW: Live score and updates from MLS Cup 2016 ]

Stefan Frei made the best save you’ll see for quite some time, 108 minutes into MLS Cup 2016, to deny Jozy Altidore on the doorstep. The distance covered across the face of goal, the leap, the stretch, the strong hand underneath the ball … it’s all straight out of a Hollywood film which you’d question its legitimacy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS Cup coverage ]

MLS Cup 2016 will be decided on penalty kicks.

FT — MLS Cup 2016: TFC, Sounders headed to extra time

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco, left, battles Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan during second-half MLS Cup final soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

After 90 minutes of knock-down-drag-out soccer, MLS Cup 2016 is headed to extra time.

[ FOLLOW: Live score and updates from MLS Cup 2016 ]

The score, just as it was when proceedings kicked off at BMO Field nearly two hours ago, is 0-0. Toronto FC have had the majority of the game’s chances, but never really threatened Stefan Frei and the Seattle Sounders’ superbly organized defense. Seattle, on the other hand, managed all of three shots in the first and second halves combined, the first of which didn’t come until the 76th minute.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS Cup coverage ]

PST’s very own Nicholas Mendola is reporting live from a frigid, frozen BMO Field (gametime temperatures in the low-20s), so make sure you follow him on Twitter, right here, and check back to PST for live updates, full-match recap, and post-game reaction from every angle.

FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup 2016 — Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders

KANSAS CITY, KS - DECEMBER 07:  The Philip F. Anschutz trophy is seen on the field before the start of the match between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup at Sporting Park on December 7, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Leave a comment

279 days after First Kick, it’s all come down to this: MLS Cup 2016, between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, a pair of first-timers in MLS’s postseason title decider.

[ FOLLOW: Live score and updates from MLS Cup 2016 ]

Fighting out of the red corner, it’s Sebastian Giovinco (4 goals, 4 assists in five playoff games in 2016), Jozy Altidore (5 goals, 4 assists) and Michael Bradley. Fighting out of the blue (and Rave Green) corner, it’s Nicolas Lodeiro (4 goals), Jordan Morris (2 goals, 1 assist) and a suddenly stout Sounders defense (3 goals conceded).

[ MORE: TFC, Sounders present unique tactical challenges for each other ]

PST’s very own Nicholas Mendola will be reporting live from a frigid, frozen BMO Field (gametime temperatures expected to be in the low-20s), so make sure you follow him on Twitter, right here, and check back to PST for live updates, full-match recap, and post-game reaction from every angle.

Who: Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders
What: MLS Cup 2016
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
Why: To crown a champion