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MLS (late-night) roundup: Early favorites, FC Dallas & Portland, emerge

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With three MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 31 more to go…

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Portland Timbers 4-2 Houston Dynamo

Isn’t it just wonderful when you look forward to a game all week, and when Saturday finally arrives, it lives up to everything you hoped of it? That’s Portland versus Houston, in a nutshell. Tied for the Western Conference’s top spot after two weeks, only Atlanta United looked to be on par with Saturday’s combatants in terms of attacking intent and ability.

What transpired at Providence Park was a six-goal thriller chock-full of brilliant midfield play, inspired final-ball making in and around the penalty area, and some decent finish on the business end. Diego Valeri scored twice (once from the penalty spot), and David Guzman and Fanendo Adi added goals of their own for Portland, erasing a 2-1 halftime deficit after Erick Torres (penalty kick) and Romell Quioto had the visitors halfway home with three points. Quiot’s goal, mostly for Alberth Elis’s seeing-eye through ball, was particularly stunning.

Valeri started the comeback just before the hour mark, and Houston couldn’t slow the momentum once Portland began rolling downhill.

2017 looks to be the start of a golden attacking age in MLS, and these two (young) sides are leading the charge. Portland and Houston’s next meeting? July 29, in Houston.


Real Salt Lake 1-2 LA Galaxy

It’s a strange new world, where LA find themselves Robbie Keane-, Landon Donovan- and Bruce Arena-less, and without a single point from their first two games of the 2017 season. Through 68 minutes on Saturday, zero points from three games seemed a distinct possibility, trailing away to RSL despite their man advantage since the 44th minute.

As far as headers go, you’ll not find one more impressive than this one from Yura Movsisyan to put RSL up in the 18th minute.

Dave Romney and Emmanuel Boateng got the goals to bring LA back from the depths of the unthinkable, and give Curt Onalfo his first win since replacing Arena this offseason.


FC Dallas 2-1 New England Revolution

FCD just keep doing work, whether it be in league play or CONCACAF Champions League. On Saturday, three days after a dogged CCL semifinals first-leg affair with Pachuca, Oscar Pareja’s men came back from a goal down to New England and move to seven points from three games.

Lee Nguyen put the visitors ahead, from the penalty spot in the 10th minute, one of just four shots from Jay Heaps’ side on the night. The comeback wasn’t quick, but it didn’t have to be. Maximiliano Urruti hit twice six minutes apart, in the 71st and 77th minutes, to not only rob New England of their first win of 2017, but their first points as well.

The 2017 Supporters’ Shield goes through Dallas, though Portland inch closer and closer with each passing week.

[ MORE: MLS (afternoon) roundup — NYCFC dominate, disappoint; ATL roll ]


Sporting Kansas City 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

Sporting KC have their first goal, as well as their first win, of 2017 following a mostly dominant performance against San Jose. Benny Feilhaber’s long-range, knuckle-balling bomb opened the scoring in the 37th minute (WATCH HERE), and David Bingham’s epic howler made it 2-0 with a minute of regular time remaining.

Good thing for Sporting, too, as all concentration and focus disappeared once stoppage time began. Florian Jungwirth pulled a goal back in the 91st, and Tim Melia was called into action again a minute later. His Save of the Week candidate preserved a narrow, but thoroughly deserved three points for the home side.


Orlando City SC 2-1 Philadelphia Union

At some point, Cyle Larin will stop scoring every goal for Orlando, and I’ll be forced to formulate a lede other than “Cyle Larin’s going to Europe, and soon,” but that day isn’t today, as the 21-year-old Canadian international bagged his second and third goals of the season, each time putting the Lions in front.

The fluidity in the build-up to the second goal shouldn’t go unnoticed, as clinical as Larin may have been with his chance. Carlos Rivas is 22 and two full years into his MLS adventure. He’s made the jump from deer-in-the-headlights newcomer, to full-time contributor on a good team. That’s him with the simple lay-off to Matias Perez Garcia on the second goal, and he absolutely deserves a secondary assist for it. I’ll be petitioning the league on his behalf first thing Monday morning.


Colorado Rapids 2-2 Minnesota United

Minnesota have their first MLS point, just barely. Adrian Heath’s side came back from a goal down — then blew their first MLS lead in under two minutes, but that’s neither here nor there — to draw away the stingiest defense in all of MLS last season.

Dominique Badji put Colorado ahead in the 17th minute, but that was canceled out by Kevin Molino from the penalty spot five minutes into the second half. Christian Ramirez put Minnesota 2-1 up in the 58th minute, but Marlon Hairston equalized 108 seconds later. Such is life as an expansion team, but it brings the Loons’ goals conceded average down to 4.3 goals per game.


D.C. United 0-2 Columbus Crew SC

Federico Higuain and Ola Kamara converted a penalty kick each — no drama between the Argentine and a striker named Kamara this time — as Crew SC picked up their first win of the season, away to D.C., who look a serious contender for second-worst team (sorry, Minnesota) in MLS through three games. 0 goals scored, 6 goals conceded; 1 point won.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

New York City FC 1-1 Montreal Impact
Atlanta United 4-0 Chicago Fire
Vancouver Whitecaps 0-2 Toronto FC

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Chicago on Fire; TFC lose Giovinco to injury

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The second MLS Saturday of 2017 is just about about halfway complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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Chicago Fire 2-0 Real Salt Lake

Two weeks into an MLS season is absolutely too early to make bold predictions based off of 180 minutes of soccer, but since I said it before the season started, I’m going to ride this pony until it keels over: Chicago’s going to the playoffs. Last week, they came from behind to rescue a point on the road against Columbus Crew SC. On Saturday, the blitzed RSL in the opening 15 minutes, took care of business defensively, saw out a mostly comfortable 2-0 win in their 2017 home opener.

Nemanja Nikolic bagged his first MLS goal to opening the scoring, only 11 minutes on the clock, and Arturo Alvarez made it 2-0 barely four minutes later.

The final score would have been extremely lopsided if not for the (typical) heroics of Nick Rimando. With four points from their first two games of the season, Veljko Paunovic’s side has already matched its haul from the first month of 2016 (four games).

Philadelphia Union 2-2 Toronto FC

Philadelphia and Toronto drew 2-2 but — who are we kidding? — the real story here is the health and well-being of Sebastian Giovinco. The tiny Italian was subbed off in the 45th minute, after Oguchi Onyewu destroyed the 2015 MLS MVP in a collision of knees at midfield. The official diagnosis from TFC was a “leg contusion.”

As for the other 89 minutes, 55 seconds: Jozy Altidore is off the mark for 2017, converting a penalty kick moments after Giovinco left the field after Jay Simpson scored his first MLS goal to put Philadelphia ahead in the 11th minute. TFC took the lead — ever so briefly as it was — in the 71st minute, as Justin Morrow fired past Andre Blake. Two minutes later, C.J. Sapong rounded Clint Irwin and made it 2-2, which is how the game would end.

New York Red Bulls 1-0 Colorado Rapids

Tim Howard played out-of-his-mind amazing on his 2017 debut (WATCH HERE), but Colorado were ultimately undone by an own goal, scored by Eric Miller, in the 45th minute. On the plus side, Colorado haven’t conceded a goal scored by their opponents through two games. They’re equally stingy, and annoying to watch and play against, this year as they were in 2016, which is to say, they’ll be involved in lots of 1-0 games these next eight months. Through two games: a 1-0 win, and a 1-0 loss.

VIDEO: Tim Howard is back from injury, and ready to start for USMNT

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Tim Howard is back from a groin injury that ended his 2016 season prematurely last November, and with just 13 days before the U.S. national team hosts Honduras in a de facto must-win 2018 World Cup qualifier in San Jose, Calif., the 38-year-old looks ready to resume his role as USMNT no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Through 23 minutes of his 2017 debut for the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, Howard showed he’s still as sharp as ever, denying Bradley Wright-Phillips on two occasions the New York Red Bulls striker found himself one-on-one with the American goalkeeper. Tell me if the below miracles look at all familiar…

With Brad Guzan relegated to Cup ‘keeper’s duties at Middlesbrough for the majority of the 2016-17 Premier League season — he’ll join MLS expansion side Atlanta United in the summer — Howard has every chance in the world to impress Bruce Arena this week and next.

Howard’s so en fuego that only his teammates can score against him right now, apparently. That’s Eric Miller, Rapids right back, poking the ball past Howard in the first half’s waning moments, and the Rapids trail 1-0 at halftime.

UPDATE: He’s at it again. Poor BWP…

MLS (late-night) roundup: Dynamo drop Sounders; Rapids roll on

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With one MLS Saturday afternoon/evening officially in the books, only 33 more to go…

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Houston Dynamo 2-1 Seattle Sounders

Seattle’s defense of MLS Cup got off to a rocky road start on Saturday, as Erick (formerly “Cubo”) Torres finally scored his first goal for Houston — 20 months in the making — followed by an MLS debut goal for Honduran international Romell Quioto. Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s vision was at least partially blocked on the opener, as the 2016 MLS Cup hero went one way, and Torres’s free kick went the other.

22 minutes later, Quioto received the ball 45 yards from goal, took five touches while running straight at Roman Torres, cut inside onto his right foot, and unleashed a curling effort to the far post which Frei never had a chance of saving.

It was all Sounders in terms of possession — 64 percent for the visitors — though the handful of quality chances they managed to create were few and far between. Clint Dempsey made his return to the field, and the scoresheet, after missing the end of the 2016 season after learning of an irregular heartbeat. His put-back of Tyler Deric’s 58th-minute save was as close as Seattle would get.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 New England Revolution

It’s time we all accept something we cannot change: Pablo Mastroeni’s Rapids will frustrate, annoy and sap your will to live until his tenure’s dying day. It was the recipe for success in 2016, and it was equally effective once again on Saturday.

Playing against a much quicker, devastating counter-attacking Revolution side, Colorado clogged up the middle of the field with Sam Cronin and Michael Azira, combatted aerial king Kei Kamara with the likes of Axel Sjoberg and Jared Watts, and made the most of set-piece opportunities through Dominique Badji, the scorer of the game’s only goal.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Montreal Impact

San Jose held Montreal without a single shot on goal over the course of 90 minutes, as the home side picked up their first victory of 2017, with thanks to Anibal Godoy’s delicate, 17th-minute chip to beat Evan Bush.

D.C. United 0-0 Sporting Kansas City

Tim Melia needlessly gave away a penalty kick in the 16th minute of Sporting KC’s scoreless draw with D.C. United, but atoned for his mistake a minute later, as he made a fantastic double-save to keep Marcelo Sarvas, and then Patrick Mullins on the follow-up, off the scoresheet.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Columbus Crew SC 1-1 Chicago Fire
LA Galaxy 1-2 FC Dallas
Real Salt Lake 0-0 Toronto FC

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC — 5 p.m. ET
Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union — 9:30 p.m. ET

Tim Howard talks quality of MLS with Merseyside paper

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Tim Howard was caught off guard by the quality of MLS in multiple ways.

The longtime Premier League and USMNT goalkeeper left MLS at age 23 and returned after a decade and a half.

[ MORE: Slumping Spurs “have to be clever” ]

Howard, 37, was surprised that the quality of play in the league was so good, while also finding the know-how to be a bit off his expectations.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“I thought that tactically the league would be really good, but technically it would be down. I found it to be the opposite.

“Tactically each team needed some work, which I thought was a good thing if we could get the Rapids organised. That was true.

“We’ve got to a point now where people are no longer looking at MLS as a retirement league. Players are coming here to work, to perform, to be a part of a culture. That’s a good thing.”

Howard also admitted that he’s been keeping former teammates Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley up to date on the quality of the league, and says he still misses walking down the tunnel at Goodison Park. Read it all here.