On Sunday at Providence Park the Seattle Sounders brushed aside Cascadia rivals Portland, with Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins ripping the Timbers defense apart.
Martins scored twice and set up Dempsey to score as both players ended their lengthy MLS scoring droughts. Chad Barrett scored a beauty to round off the scoring as the visiting supporters celebrated in style in PDX. This season
Seattle are now top of the Western Conference, the Supporters’ Shield and the Cascadia Cup standings, while Portland are embroiled in an almighty scrap for the fifth and final playoff spot in the West.
Watch the video above to relive all the action from yet another exhilarating Cascadia clash. So far in 2014, Seattle and Portland have tied 4-4, Vancouver beat Portland 4-3 and the ‘Caps and Sounders tied 2-2 earlier this year. That trend of goals galore continue on Sunday in another epic Cascadia Cup encounter.
In the absence of some key players, Seattle’s Lamar Neagle was the pivotal man as Seattle picked up its second win of the season while keeping Montreal winless in a 2-0 victory in Quebec.
Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey were unavailable for the Sounders, who fended off a shot-ready attack from Montreal. The Impact were credited with 25 shots in the match to Seattle’s nine, though just six were on frame.
Troy Perkins made some big saves as usual, but it was his misfortune that got Seattle on the board. Gonzalo Pineda’s free kick was headed off the frame by Neagle, but the ball hit Perkins and entered the goal to give Seattle a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute.
Perkins got his body on the second goal as well, this time a hand, as Obafemi Martins headed home a Kenny Cooper cutback cross to double Seattle’s lead. And yes, he went flip city in celebration.
Frank Klopas is now staring at an 0-3 start to his time in Montreal. The only other team without a point this season is DC United, which has only played twice.
Seattle improves to 2-1-0, their lone loss coming against Toronto FC. Stefan Frei was strong between the sticks for the visitors, who also got several impressive moments from DeAndre Yedlin.
Major League Soccer’s second weekend features the debut of three team’s seasons, including the much-publicized contest between Toronto FC and the Sounders in Seattle. Let’s take a look at what else is cooking and who could come out on top.
By the way, Los Angeles gets the weekend off after its CONCACAF Champions League match but San Jose and Sporting KC have to play on? Couldn’t MLS have at least pitted the two sides against each other? The CCL schedule wasn’t a mystery, was it?
New York vs. Colorado, 4p.m. ET Saturday Despite a 4-1 loss in Vancouver to open the season, Mike Petke got a ray of sunshine this week when his new contract was formally announced. And now he can suit up his full lineup with Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, away from British Columbia’s turf. Colorado has plenty to look forward to with new boss Pablo Mastroeni, new captain Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne moving back to center back, but it may not have much fun this week, testing its season legs out against a bitter NYRB. The pick: New York 2, Colorado 0.
Philadelphia vs. New England, 4p.m. ET Saturday New England was on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline on opening weekend, while Philadelphia gave away a chance at full points against a strong Portland team. Maurice Edu is talking about making PPL Park a scary place, and the Union can get off to a good start Saturday. Jack McInerney kicked off his season with a goal en route to what could be another hot start for the 21-year-old. How many would he need by mid-April to raise a Klinsmann-brow? It’s early in the season but feels like a win here would be gigantic for new-look Philadelphia, especially after the Timbers tie. New England still looking for its form. Close one? The pick: Philadelphia 2, New England 1.
Seattle vs. Toronto, 4:30p.m. ET Saturday (WATCH LIVE ON NBCSN) It’s the big one (though one gets the feeling many TFC matches will be treated as such this season, at least early). Reds captain Steven Caldwell told our own Joe Prince-Wright that the “sky’s the limit” for Toronto this year, and I tend to agree, even if boss Ryan Nelsen isn’t feeling the Seattle turf. And while it may take some time for TFC to find its form as a unit, they have the talent to stick it out in nearly any match. Subplots a-plenty here, and I expect Sounders keeper Stefan Frei to have his say in this one. The pick: Seattle 1, Toronto 1.
Sporting KC vs. Dallas, 8:30p.m. ET Saturday KC held back some regularsin its CCL win over Cruz Azul this week, and that could pay dividends as they face a Dallas squad that barely held off visiting Montreal last weekend. I think it’ll take time for Oscar Pareja’s system to take hold in Texas and, while ultimately it should work out for Dallas, that won’t help against the reigning champs in a home opener, stung by a last-second loss in Seattle last week. Zusi time. The pick: Sporting KC 2, Dallas 0.
Houston vs. Montreal, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday The last time these two teams met, things got extremely ugly. We’re talking throat-grabbing, kicking-out ugly. That match also sent Montreal home for the year, and none of the players involved in the fracas will feature this week, either for suspensions or injuries. It’s another week in Texas for the Impact, who will hope to be on the winning end after dropping a 3-2 decision to Dallas last week. Houston looked dominant against New England, and I suspect that’ll be the case again on Saturday. The pick: Houston 3, Montreal 1.
San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday If I’m anyone associated with the Quakes, I’m crazy ticked off with MLS for giving my club a huge early season match just days after a pretty big CONCACAF Champions League tie. Come on, right? Now Real Salt Lake walks into Buck Shaw Stadium with a red-hot keeper and the No.1 slot in PST’s Power Rankings. This is a tough spot for San Jose, even at home. The pick: Real Salt Lake 2, San Jose 1.
Portland v. Chicago, 3p.m. ET Sunday Chicago didn’t exactly impress in an opening loss to Chivas USA, but it was a cross-country trip to face an inspired squad. Portland’s a different animal altogether, especially in the confines of Providence Park. The Timbers opened the season with a tie against Philadelphia, and they’ll find more than a goal as they find the win column for the first time this season. The pick: Portland 2, Chicago 0.
Chivas USA vs. Vancouver, 7p.m. ET Sunday This one could be a blast in an “under the radar” sort of way. Chivas was entertaining moving forward and, sadly for them, in defense against Chicago last weekend but picked up a huge win for head coach Wilmer Cabrera and company. On the other side, Kenny Miller and the Whitecaps played a smart match against New York that propelled them to a 4-1 win despite not having a ton of possession. This match has endless possibilities and I’m looking forward to one of those “Coaches’ fright, fans’ delight” matches. The pick: Vancouver 3, Chivas USA 2.
Laura Harvey’s become everybody’s fantasy league nightmare – the person who just won’t stop chasing deals. Since the National Women’s Soccer League season ended on Aug. 31, the Seattle Reign have made five trades, the rest of the league’s general manager surely growing tired of “Laura Harvey, Seattle, WA” popping up on their called ID.
No, Laura, I don’t need another trade offer from you … Yes, Laura, I do realize you like to deal, and I know you’re interested in all on my team’s best players … I just don’t have time for this … You’ve made so many trades, this isn’t even realistic anymore.
But as anybody who’s ever been in a keeper league knows: The person that won’t stop flooding inboxes always stacks up talent. It’s annoying, and you loathe the fact that they’re putting so much time into it, but through pure persistence, the owner finds people’s weak points. They close deals that make you call their trade partners and scream, “Why did you do that?”
“Don’t you know not to listen to Laura? You are ruining the league for everyone! Just stop taking her calls.”
Take this week’s big trade: Harvey got one of the league’s jewels – one of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s vaunted four-deep world-class attack. Sydney Leroux, arguably the player with more pure potential than anybody in the league, was sent west from Boston, where she grabbed 11 goals in 19 games last season. To get her, the Reign gave up a talented prospect (Kristie Mewis), a fungible backup goalkeeper (Michelle Betos), and first and second round picks in the 2015 draft.
This is the kind classic, Fantasy Manager 101 “bag of stuff” deal that infuriates the rest of the league, the one that leaves every other GM saying “I could have beat that.” Going one way, you have a player who’s capable of leading the league in goals. Going the other, you have your typical focal point-plus-grab bag that Seattle will never miss.
There were a number of factors that led to the end of Leroux’s time in Boston, factors beyond Harvey’s persistence or the coincidental going home narrative laced throughout the trade’s announcements. Having never played a full professional season before, Leroux’s transition to the professional game was not exactly a smooth one. A relationship with then-head coach Lisa Cole that saw the natural striker sometimes played wide and eventually sat early in the season never improved. As questions about intensity were accompanied by days away from the team documented on the player’s Instagram, the link between star and club seemed to suffer. Leroux’s 2014 would have to be better.
Boston had to decide if they wanted to be in the Sydney Leroux business. Sure, the Pacific Northwest native may have preferred playing on the West Coast, but if Boston doesn’t want to make this deal — if they’re willing to take a chance on rebuilding a relationship with one of the league’s most talented players — they don’t make the deal. And they certainly don’t accept a discount rate for some of the world’s best attackers. If Boston had to decide if they wanted to be in the Leroux game, this week’s trade told us their decision.
It’s not that either side wanted it to fail. It’s that it never clicked. It’s a relationship that ended in a passive, mutually filed divorce. That’s why you didn’t hear a lot of surprised reactions when Breakers general manager Lee Billiard made the tough call, deciding to make a deal where he gave up the best player. Boston wasn’t going to get a Lauren Holiday, Abby Wambach or Alex Morgan in the deal. None of those players were available. He had to trade down.
From his point of view, Kristie Mewis may have been as good a centerpiece as Billiard was going to get. The Boston College and Hanson, Mass. talent has huge local ties, something that’s led Billiard to covet her since January’s draft. But she’s also in transition. A skilled, attacking player at BC, Mewis now projects as a left back for the U.S. Women’s National Team. With Boston short on fullbacks and having traded last year’s number one pick (defender Casey Short) to Chicago, it’s assumed Mewis will be patrolling the left flank at Dilboy Stadium. If Mewis becomes one of the league’s best left backs (and I really should bold and italicize that if), this deal becomes merely lopsided instead of a steal.
But where the swap gets even more interesting (if that’s even possible) is with Seattle. A team that was decimated at the beginning of 2012 by the absences of all their U.S. stars (Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez) has completely reloaded. In three months’ time, they’ve done from a team unable to avoid a seventh place finish to a potential competitor.
In goal, Hope Solo will be ready from game one, whereas a wrist injury kept her out of action until the middle of last season. Even when she returned, she didn’t seem right, whether it was her wrist, the lingering effects of shoulder surgery before the 2011 World Cup, or both. This fall, however, she has looked closer to her normal self for the national team, sparking hope she’ll be full-on Hope Freakin’ Solo come April.
Defense, however, was Seattle’s big problem, and although there are still no stars in the squad, there are a lot of decent options. U.S. international Stephanie Cox heads a deep fullback corps that includes Nikki Marshall, Elli Reed, and Kiersten Dallstream. In the middle, Canadian international Carmelina Moscato will try to rebound from a bad 2012, with reliable options like Lauren Barnes and natural midfielder Kate Deines also available. Even if a couple of players flop (as happened last year with Canadian international Emily Zurrer), Harvey has options.
Last season, the midfield, had to carry the team, but the load was so heavy that the team would occasionally hit a wall in the middle of the second half. This year, Jessica Fishlock and Keelin Winters won’t have to shoulder as much of the load, and with promising destroyer Mariah Nogueira having also been acquired from Boston (seriously, why so generous, Boston?), Leroux won’t be the only Breaker gift in Harvey’s squad.
But it’s in attack, where Seattle struggled desperately in the absence of Rodríguez (pregnancy), where the Reign has improved the most. Of course, there’s Leroux, but on Wednesday, Seattle announced the acquisition of Kim Little, a Scottish international who has spent the last six years at Arsenal in England. In her former North London charge, Harvey has a player who already has 32 UEFA Champions League goals to her credit. Once Megan Rapinoe returns mid-year from her time at Lyon, Seattle will have one of the most talented and balanced attacks in the league.
Compared to the team that started on Aug. 17 against the Thorns (the Reign’s last game), there haven’t exactly been wholesale changes. Seven players that were chosen that day could be in Harvey’s XI come April. It’s the fact that she’s been able to acquire the likes of Leroux, Little, Nogueira and Moscato while giving up almost nothing from her core that’s so galling:
Leroux was acquired with spare parts plus the Mewis, who Harvey got from Kansas City for Rodríguez earlier this fall.
Little’s discovery rights were obtained from Washington for Christine Nairn, a talented player but one who is actually the same age as Little.
Nogueira, a promising 22-year-old who was staring at Stanford this time last year, was obtained for two third round picks.
And Moscato cost Harvey midfielder Kaylyn Kyle, who was one of the worst in the league at her position before being moved into central defense.
Most of these trades make sense for both teams, but from Seattle’s point of view, they’re four upgrades that didn’t cost Harvey anything that worked (Fishlock and Winters in the middle) or drew fans (Rapinoe and Solo on the posters). Come April, Seattle should reap the benefits of Harvey’s rotisserie baseball management.
The offseason’s only three months old, the college draft is still a couple of months away, and teams don’t even know who the next set of allocated players will be. Yet Harvey has already assembled a roster that looks as strong as Western New York’s, Kansas City’s or Portland’s – the three teams that finished bunched at the top of last year’s standings.
While talent on paper doesn’t necessarily mean production on the field, it does mean better odds for a Seattle team that seemed cursed in 2013. But over the course of three months, Seattle’s general manager/head coach has put all that in the past. You may not want her in your fantasy league, but thanks to her Let’s Make a Deal approach to the offseason, Laura Harvey has made the Reign the NWSL’s most talked about team, not to mention a contender in 2014.
First E.J., now Obafemi Martins? What’s going on at forward for the Sounders?
Even if the worst case scenario happens, the Seattle Sounders have Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle, a forward duo most Major League Soccer teams would envy. Yet with Eddie Johnson having likely played his last game in Seattle while Obafemi Martins is looking to move, it’s worth considering what’s going on at forward in the Sounders.
The Johnson news made waves on Wednesday, but another piece of news was obscured by yesterday’s headlines of Sigi Schmid’s confirmed return: Seattle’s Nigerian international put out a come and get me plea, saying he felt “out of the loop” in Seattle. That’s not a reference to his place in the team; instead, it hints at his desire to return to Europe, were presumably he’ll increase his chances of making Nigeria’s potential World Cup squad.
Whether it’s true that Europe increases his chances for Brazil 2014 doesn’t matter. Martins perceives it to do true, so despite spending less than a year with a team that had to help buy-out his contract to free him from Levante, the vagabond is looking for another move. The 29-year-old specifically mentioned Turkish champions Galatasaray, who are coached by his former Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini. If getting back in the loop is his goal, though, Martins would likely consider other spots, be it on a short-lerm or permanent basis.
He liked MLS, he said. The United States had been a good experience, and he’s been treated well by Seattle’s fans. Seemingly, Martins just has a thing for loops.
For some, this will serve as an ‘I told you so’ moment, with many noting Martins had played with five clubs in six years before joining Seattle. If he were to move back to Europe in January, it would likely be to his seventh team since the summer of 2009. At this point, no new Martins employer should expect the wandering attacker to stay long. The man’s a bit of a mercenary, having only appeared in 20 MLS games before now entertaining a move.
If you’re Seattle, a team already looking to trade one of its starting forwards, what do you do? Given how much was invested to get Martins to Seattle, the team would presumably want some return on their investment (if they’re even willing to let him go). If a team like Gala’s ready to do that, it’d be best to take what you can get, cash in, and go back into the market. Yesterday’s comments cast doubt on the notion Martin will be willing to settle in Seattle.
Conceivably, this could open a Designated Player spot for Eddie Johnson, but don’t look for Seattle to do an about face on the U.S. international. Even if cap considerations are a big part of the Johnson picture, there would have to be a serious course correction for “E.J.” to be in rave green come March.
Instead, Seattle would likely take Martins’ departure as an opportunity to test the market, even if that opportunity would be an unexpected one. If they’re still willing to show the financial commitment they did with the Dempsey and Martins deals, the Nigerian’s departure could be a boon. The Sounders can find a striker who’s not so obsessed with loops.