Philadelphia Union

Photo credit: MLS / Twitter: @MLS

MLS Snapshot: 3 goals, 3 points for Nikolic, rebounding Fire

Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): Nemanja Nikolic is back, and his revival couldn’t have come at a better time for the Chicago Fire, who reclaimed third place in the Eastern Conference on the back of Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Union, which came courtesy of a Nikolic hat trick. After the Hungarian put Chicago up three minutes into the game, Johan Kappelhof (own goal) and Alejandro Bedoya put Philadelphia into the lead almost as quickly. Nikolic got one back from the penalty spot in the 64th minute before completing the comeback with a perfectly placed finish from outside the box 12 minutes from full-time. Having been in the Supporters’ Shield race three months into the season, the summer saw Chicago fall out of the top-four before their recent rebound (four wins from their last seven games).

[ MORE: MLS at Week 33 — all about playoff places, positioning ]

Three Four moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic gets in behind, pokes it past Blake for 1-0 — Here’s something we’ve not seen nearly enough from Chicago of late: Nikolic getting on the end of a long ball into the channel. He finishes this in his sleep every night.

13′ — Bedoya lifts it over Lampson to put Philly 2-1 up — Haris Medunjanin floats the ball back post for Bedoya, who arrives just before Matt Lampson can get there.

64′ — Nikolic converts from the spot, pulls Chicago level — Now three goals ahead of Diego Valeri and David Villa, Nikolic had probably already locked up the 2017 Golden Boot. To be absolutely certain, though…

78′ — Nikolic completes his hat trick, seals all three points — Insurance on the Boot.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Nemanja Nikolic

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′, 64′ – PK, 78′), Kappelhof (9′ – OG), Bedoya (13′)

MLS Snapshot: Blake a star again as PHI knock off SEA, 2-0

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less more): A week after it looked like the entire Western Conference had awakened just in time for a frantic finish to the regular season, this weekend it all came undone just as quickly for every side in the top-four, save for one. A day after the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City, with whom the Seattle Sounders are jostling for home-field advantage in the West (plus the Vancouver Whitecaps, the weekend’s lone winner) lost, Brian Schmetzer’s side made the least of its chance to capitalize on Sunday and lost away to the Eastern Conference’s 10th-place side, the Philadelphia Union. Marcus Epps and Roland Alberg bagged the goals for Jin Curtin’s side, while Andre Blake turned in another star’s performance in goal (reminiscent of his 2017 Gold Cup exploits — at some point a non-UK side in Europe will pull the trigger and land themselves a truly top-shelf ‘keeper) to pull Philadelphia to within four points of sixth place in the East. Seattle, meanwhile, remain fourth, level on points with Portland and Sporting KC, and four points clear of fifth-place Houston Dynamo.

[ MORE: TFC lift Supporters’ Shield | SKC’s home streak ends at 24 ]

Three moments that mattered

28′ — Epps beats Frei from a tough angle for 1-0 — Ilsinho’s through ball to Epps completely reversed the field on Seattle and caught everyone napping on the backside of the play. Stefan Frei probably shouldn’t get beaten inside his near post from there, but in fairness he did appear to be screened by his defender.

62′ — Dempsey puts one on target, but Blake makes the save — Blake was only asked to make seven saves, and the Jamaican no. 1 was up to the task all afternoon long, as was the case five minutes after Clint Dempsey entered the game.

88 — Alberg smashes one past Frei from an unlikely angle — Again, I’ll preemptively defend Frei’s honor by acknowledging Alberg’s shot was moving in a half-dozen different directions. But, if you want to be a legitimate international goalkeeper, that shot can’t be beating you.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Andre Blake

Goalscorers: Epps (28′), Alberg (88′)

MLS Snapshot: Fire lose again, continue slide into KO round

Photo credit: MLS / @MLS
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): The Chicago Fire’s slide toward the mean — some might call it regression, indicating maybe, just maybe, they overachieved during the first half of the season — continued on Saturday, following a brief reprieve to begin the month. Veljko Paunovic’s side lost its seventh game in 11 outings, falling 3-1 away to the Philadelphia Union. Bastian Schweinsteiger remains sidelined with a calf injury, but the rest of Chicago’s key figures — Nemanja Nikolic, Dax McCarty, David Accam and Matt Polster remain in place. Chris Pontius did the majority of the damage on Saturday, bagging Philadelphia’s first two goals, followed by CJ Sapong for the third. Luis Solignac grabbed a consolation goal inside the final 25 minutes, but the damage had been done. The result means Chicago (48 points) remain third in the Eastern Conference, still four points back of New York City FC and just two points clear of Atlanta United, who have two games in hand.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

10′ — Pontius heads the cross home for 1-0 — Keegan Rosenberry cut inside and delivered a delicate, left-footed cross into the box. Pontius got away from his man and met the ball with his head at the top of the six-yard box.

55′ — Pontius again, this time on the rebound — Fafa Picault’s shot was saved by Matt Lampson, but no one followed up to boot the rebound clear. Pontius reacted quickest, and the lead was two.

64′ — Sapong pokes it home for 3-0 — This is Sapong’s 14th of the season, tying Sebastien Le Toux’s club record (2010), and reminded me once again the Peter Vermes insisted on playing Sapong as a winger for multiple seasons before trading him.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Chris Pontius

Goalscorers: Pontius (10′, 55′), Sapong (64′), Solignac (67′)

Union’s Blake explains why Premier League move fell through

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Several of Jamaica’s top talents currently play in Major League Soccer, but it’s those same talents that have drawn interest from abroad, including the Premier League.

[ MORE: Assessing USMNT, BVB star Pulisic on his 19th birthday ]

Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake — widely seen as a top five shot-stopper in MLS — and New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence have seen their stocks rise significantly in the United States’ top flight, but have had moves to England derailed by their national team’s standing in the world soccer.

Jamaica, currently ranked 61st in FIFA’s World Ranking, isn’t seen as a top priority in terms of global club’s granting working permits for its players, and as a result, Blake and Lawrence have been denied the opportunity to play in England.

In Blake’s case, Goal has reported that the 26-year-old had “multi-million dollar offers” from both Brighton and Crystal Palace over the summer after performing well at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Blake recently explained why his move to England’s top flight fell through, but remains hopeful that a transfer to Europe remains in his future.

“I knew everything all the way, and it’s such a tough situation,” Blake told Goal USA. “But I can’t get too worked up over it, even though it’s a very good opportunity I’m missing out on. Maybe it’s not time yet, or maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve just got to keep working hard and maybe some day, some how, if it’s supposed to be it will happen.”

Lawrence, who is now in his third year with the Red Bulls, has proven on multiple occasions in MLS that he has the talent to play either left back or in the midfield, making him a coveted player.

For the Kingston native, he says it’s difficult to accept the rules currently set forth by FIFA, but he continues to play each match in hopes that he can eventually make the leap.

“It’s hard to know that you want to play in that top division, that top league, and you can’t get to go because of stipulations like that,” Lawrence said. “It’s their rules and you have to live by it.

“We talk about it on a regular basis, but these things take time,” Lawrence added. “More than one time opportunities like that have presented themselves for me, but we already know that if they’re not talking about a $10 million or $11 million transfer it’s a no-no for Jamaican players in England.”

MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 0-0 Philadelphia Union (video)

Twitter/@NewYorkRedBulls
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): Bradley Wright-Phillips provided a solid spark for the Red Bulls attack, but the home side couldn’t manage three points at Red Bull Arena. The hosts dominated the game’s chances, however, the reigning Eastern Conference winners struggled to find a final product. Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch opted for a very different starting XI on Sunday as he and his side prepare for Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup final against Sporting KC. For the Union, Jim Curtin’s squad did well to hold the Red Bulls and picked up a rare result at RBA for the third time in the team’s history.

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Etienne nearly stuns the Union — There weren’t many chances in the opening half, but this one that Derrick Etienne put on display was nearly a thing of beauty.

40′ — Red Bulls continue to mount pressure — When Gonzalo Veron is healthy, he’s a very dangerous player. Nearly caught Blake at the near post on this attempt.

77′ — — Red Bulls’ Twitter account says it all on this one… Surely should’ve gone into the back of the net.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: 

Goalscorers: N/A