Vancouver Whitecaps

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MLS (afternoon) roundup: NYCFC dominate, disappoint; ATL keep rolling

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The third MLS Saturday of 2017 is one-third of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New York City FC 1-1 Montreal Impact

To reiterate: Rodney Wallace is a heavy for to be named under-the-radar signing of the season. After a year in Brazil, Wallace is back in MLS (he was one of Portland Timbers’ best players during their 2015 MLS Cup run), and looking every bit the perfect complement to David Villa and Maxi Moralez in NYCFC’s trident of attacking terror. On Saturday, Wallace bagged his second goal in as many games (to go with an assist last week as well), in the process putting the home side 1-0 up just before halftime. A lot like Wallace leading up to his loose-ball finish, NYCFC are absolutely relentless along all levels of the field when playing on the tiny Yankee Stadium field.

That relentlessness has revealed an old problem (figuratively and literally) turned new problem: Andrea Pirlo is exposed and left for dead anytime an opponent breaks the high press. They’re also still really suspect at the back, which was best exhibited when Dominic Oduro pulled Montreal back to level terms with just over 20 minutes left to play.

It’s extremely clear, just 37 games into his NYCFC tenure that 1) Patrick Vieira is a very, very good coach; 2) he’s not long for MLS, as a number of forward-thinking European clubs will come calling sooner rather than later.

[ MORE: Five things to watch in MLS — Week 3 ]

Atlanta United 4-0 Chicago Fire

Here’s the thing about Atlanta: you think you know, but you have no idea whether or not they’re #actually good. Just hear me out. Yes, they’ve scored 11 goals in their first three MLS games (conceded just three), and that’s really good. We’ve also seem them capitulate in the final 20 minutes while protecting a 1-0 lead, and lose 2-1. Last week, their 6-1 thrashing of Minnesota United, who look every bit the worst team in MLS history, was played in a literal blizzard. On Saturday, Gerardo Martino’s side walloped the Chicago Fire at Bobby Dodd Stadium, to the tune of 4-0, but did so with a man advantage for 79 minutes. In terms of sheer entertainment value, they’re the best team in MLS.

Anyway, here’s the (awesome) goals, scored by Josef Martinez (two) and Hector Villalba, on Saturday, which is what you’re really here to see.

[ MORE: Arena names 24 to senior roster ahead of WCQs next week ]

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-2 Toronto FC

A summation Toronto FC’s opening three games of 2017: I have no thoughts. A 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake saw next to nothing happen for 90 minutes; last week’s 2-2 draw with the Philadelphia Union was back-and-forth with so little time between the sides trading goals that neither side stood out in any way; Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Vancouver was impressive in that winning on the road is always an accomplishment in MLS, though Brek Shea‘s 70th-minute red card was the beginning of the end for the home side. Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore bagged goals four minutes apart not long after Shea departed.

TFC were without Sebastian Giovinco, it should be said, so any points won should be largely considered a bonus come the end of the season.

CCL: Ousted’s six saves keep ‘Caps alive vs. Tigres

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Vancouver Whitecaps returned from Mexico down 2-0 and without an away goal, but manager Carl Robinson thinks the ‘Caps are in okay shape heading into the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal versus Tigres UANL.

The Liga MX powers picked up their advantage through a Kendall Waston own goal and a seeing-eye shot from ex-Hoffenheim man Eduardo Vargas. The damage was limited to a pair of goals thanks to ‘Caps keep David Ousted.

[ MORE: Mourinho defends “envied” Pogba ]

Vargas and fellow attacker Andre-Pierre Gignac registered a combined seven shots on the night, and Ousted was credited with six saves as Tigres accumulated close to 80 percent possession.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“He put in a very strong performance, as did all the players. They gave their all. I asked them to not leave anything on the pitch and leave no regrets and they certainly done that. [Tigres] were the better team on the night. We’ve got a second leg, and we’re still very much in the tie if we can get that first goal.”

Leg No. 2 is April 5 at BC Place. The other semifinal gets started Wednesday, when FC Dallas hosts Pachuca at 8 p.m. EDT.

The CCL winner advanced to the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

MLS (late-night) roundup: HOU hammer CLB; MTL blow late lead to SEA

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / Twitter: @HoustonDynamo
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With two MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 32 more to go…

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Houston Dynamo 3-1 Columbus Crew SC

If you don’t know about the #BabyDynamo, it’s time you familiarize yourself with Wilmer Cabrera’s young (average age of attacking players used on Saturday: 23.4), attack-minded (five goals scored through two games) side. Erick (no longer “Cubo”) Torres has two goals in two games after his stunner completed Saturday’s rout of Columbus; Romell Quioto is the early leader in the clubhouse for Newcomer of the Year after bagging his second in two games; and Alberth Elis looked far more comfortable in his second MLS game, tallying his first goal since arriving in the offseason.

Ola Kamara notched Columbus’s consolation goal, his first of 2017, late into second-half stoppage time.

Montreal Impact 2-2 Seattle Sounders

Seattle’s MLS Cup hangover continued, for 60 minutes at least, as Montreal raced out to a comfortable 2-0 lead on the hard, bouncy artificial playing surface at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Ignacio Piatti’s inch-perfect through ball set up Matteo Mancosu for the game’s opening goal in the 17th minute, but it Piatti’s individual effort, racing 50 yards with the ball at his feet before firing past Stefan Frei from 20 yards out, six minutes after halftime which stole the spotlight until very late on.

Jordan Morris went down to win a penalty for Seattle with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, and Nicolas Lodeiro converted to make it 2-1. Montreal held their slender margin deep into stoppage time, but Will Bruin, having entered the game just eight minutes earlier, turned home a loose ball from five yards out to snatch the defending champions’ first point of 2017.

[ MORE: MLS (afternoon) roundup — Chicago’s on Fire; Giovinco injured ]

San Jose Earthquakes 3-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

From 2-0 down after 17 minutes, to a man up after 23 minutes, to 3-2 up after 79 minutes — just like that — San Jose are level with Houston for the Western Conference’s top spot.

Erik Hurtado and Nicolas Mezquida put the visitors ahead early on, but David Ousted got himself sent off for taking down Chris Wondolowski in the open field, and the comeback was on. Wondolowski pulled one back just after the half-hour mark, before notching the assist on Nick Lima’s first MLS goal nine minutes after halftime, and Anibal Godoy made it 3-2 with 11 minutes of regular time remaining.

Sporting Kansas City 0-0 FC Dallas

With FCD opting to field a largely second-team squad (CONCACAF Champions League semifinal first leg on Wednesday), Sporting KC enjoyed over 68 percent of the game’s possession, as the defending Supporters’ Shield winners — average age of 14 players used on Saturday: 24.1 — proved too well-drilled and disciplined to allow a clear-cut scoring chance all night. Oscar Pareja leads the “play your kids” movement, and with very good reason: they’re an extremely talented, mature bunch.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Chicago Fire 2-0 Real Salt Lake
New York Red Bulls 1-0 Colorado Rapids
Philadelphia Union 2-2 Toronto FC

Report: Whitecaps 16-year-old sought by Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Is CONCACAF about to send another young star to a big-named European club?

Well-connected Metro reporter Kristian Dyer has the story, saying that Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool are among several sides chasing Alphonso Davies.

[ MORE: Man Utd draws Rostov ]

Watch him for a few minutes and it’s not hard to see why. The 16-year-old Canadian is already featuring for the Vancouver Whitecaps, and has a silky skill set and an effervescent attitude on the pitch.

Davies has two goals and two assists in 18 appearances with the ‘Caps first team, and another two goals in eight matches for Whitecaps FC 2.

It’s still so early, but the idea of Canada, with Davies, and the USMNT, with Pulisic, rounding into their career apexes around the same time is dynamite.

FOLLOW LIVE: Stadium, franchise debuts in Orlando, Atlanta

Photo credit: Orlando Sentinel / Twitter: @KAKA
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Sunday no. 1 of the 2017 MLS season is chock-full of special treats, as Orlando City SC open Orlando City Stadium, the club’s brand new, 25,500-seat venue in downtown Orlando, and Atlanta United make their MLS debut at Bobby Dodd Stadium, their temporary home until July.

[ FOLLOW: Live score and updates from Sunday’s MLS action ]

Venue and team debut fanfare aside, they’re also up against a couple high-profile teams with whom you’re perhaps familiar — David Villa and Andrea Pirlo’s New York City FC, and a New York Red Bulls side featuring Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan — after they finished second and first, respectively, in the Eastern Conference last year.

In what should be a superb nightcap to the opening weekend, a new-look Vancouver Whitecaps side, featuring Fredy Montero, Kekuta Manneh and (one can only hope) 16-year-old Alphonso Davies, host the Philadelphia Union at BC Place.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup | Late-night ]

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