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MLS (late-night) roundup: TFC-ATL thrills; RSL win big in a blizzard

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With five MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 29 more to go…

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Toronto FC 2-2 Atlanta United

It’s still early, but Toronto and Atlanta threw their hat in the ring for Game of the Year consideration, as TFC remained unbeaten on the season (one win, four draws) and Atlanta moved to four games without a defeat (two wins, two draws).

The game was played at roughly 500 mph, which suited both teams just fine. Hector Villalba opened the scoring after 15 minutes, slotting past Alex Bono after reeling in Miguel Almiron’s incisive through ball, but Sebastian Giovinco pulled TFC level with an easy finish after Jozy Altidore‘s clever backheel flick.

Justin Morrow put TFC in front a minute before halftime, but Leandro Gonzalez Pirez found Hector Villalba with a deft 50-yard ball behind the TFC defense, and the Argentine beat Bono with ease.

[ MORE: Saturday’s (afternoon) roundup — Fire burning bright; DCU, NE win ]


Philadelphia Union 1-3 Portland Timbers

Philadelphia are five games without a win to start the season, and Jim Curtin is answering questions about his job post-game. Richie Marquez headed the home team in front after 26 minutes, but the lead was short-lived and everything came unraveled just as quickly.

Darlington Nagbe slotted a long-range effort past Andre Blake six minutes later, and Portland were in control from that point forward. Roy Miller didn’t make it 2-1 until the 66th minute, but the eventual result was hardly ever in doubt. Fanendo Adi completed the scoring from the penalty spot, his 46th goal for Portland, making him the club’s all-time, all-division leading scorer.

[ MORE: U.S., Mexico, Canada to announce joint 2026 World Cup bid ]


FC Dallas 2-0 Minnesota United

For the second time in six games, Minnesota conceded fewer than four goals and the made FCD genuinely work for the three points. It was 0-0 until the 43rd minute, Minnesota’s longest stretch of game time before conceding a goal at the start of a game this season. Javier Morales bagged the opener, and Michael Barrios made it 2-0 four minutes after halftime, as FCD delivered the perfect response to being knocked out of CONCACAF Champions League in such heartbreaking fashion earlier in the week.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Where do the three unbeatens slot in? ]


Real Salt Lake 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

More than an inch of snow fell and accumulated on the field at Rio Tinto Stadium between the opening and full-time whistles, which meant weird things were bound to happen. Happen, the weird things did.

In this instance, the “weird” a truly dominant performance as new head coach Mike Petke made his RSL debut. New Designated Player Albert Rusnak bagged his first MLS goal, which turned out to be the winner, nine minutes into the second half. Yura Movsisyan tallied his third of the season to make it 2-0 in the 74th minute, and Luke Mulholland completed the rout four minutes later.

Extreme weather conditions or not, RSL looked comfortable, composed and in total control.

[ MORE: Stadium vote falls short, STL’s expansion hopes dashed ]


San Jose Earthquakes ___ Seattle Sounders

For 83 minutes, a stalemate with virtually nothing to separate the two sides. Then, a stunning hit from Nicolas Lodeiro, and a Chris Wondowloski specialty — “Who? Me? You don’t see me gliding to the far post. No need to follow me there,” and he scores.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Chicago Fire 1-0 Columbus Crew SC
New England Revolution 2-0 Houston Dynamo
D.C. United 2-1 New York City FC

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

[ MORE: NYCFC teen signs for Gladbach ]

Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola