Carles Gil

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MLS preview: First v. Second in the East, a logjam in the West

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A number of high-powered matchups dot the landscape as this weekend’s Major League Soccer action takes the field. Here’s all you need to know regarding the games to come on Saturday and Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Philadelphia Union v. Atlanta United — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

A first vs. second matchup in late August? Yes please. Some have tabbed it as “the biggest regular season game in Union history.” An exaggeration? Probably not. Philly sits just level with Atlanta on points, behind only on goal differential, meaning the club could gain full control of the Eastern Conference standings with a victory at home, where they are unbeaten all season long. Meanwhile, Atlanta United comes in having won seven straight games across all competition, so what gives?

But don’t take our word for it. “I’m not going to lie and say it’s the same as any other week because it’s not. The stakes are higher.” That’s Philly head coach Jim Curtin. Yeah, it’s a big game.

New England Revolution v. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

A good ol’ playoff six-pointer. New England, with 38 points, sits uncomfortably in a playoff position, while Toronto FC sits just outside the cut line with 37 points, behind the Montreal Impact on goal differential. This game will reshape the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture should either side come away with all three points.

Both these teams struggled mightily in league play in the past, and both have enjoyed monumental turnarounds. New England has lost just once in its last 15 games, and captain Carles Gil has been a machine during that stretch, scoring five goals and assisting five more over their last eight. Meanwhile, Toronto has put its eight-match winless run in the rear-view mirror with four wins over its last eight, including five points over its last three games. Last time out saw Toronto top Montreal in comeback fashion, and now they search for just their third winning streak of the season. With two games in hand on the rest of the playoff race, can either side gain an advantage over the other?

Portland Timbers v. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake may be in second place in the West, but that position is far from safe. In fact, their playoff safety is far from guaranteed, with the gap between second and seventh just a stunning three points. Portland, meanwhile, remains one of the streakiest teams in MLS, and will be looking to turn around a two-game losing streak that followed a stretch of four wins in five. The most recent came to Seattle in a gut-punch Cascadia Cup loss, and dropped points at home are devastating no matter who they come against. This may be a second vs. eighth matchup, but with just six points of separation, there’s plenty on the line.

Seattle Sounders v. LA Galaxy — Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Cristian Pavon got his first LA Galaxy assist, then picked up his first LA Galaxy goal, and heading into his fifth league match, he could be looking for his first LA Galaxy goal streak as they visit Seattle. Still, the goalscoring headlines have stuck with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has a three-match brace streak to give him 22 goals on the season, just five behind Carlos Vela on record pace. As mentioned before, the Western Conference is a total logjam, and the third-placed Sounders sit just a point above the fourth-placed Galaxy. Both teams are just one game above the cut line, and every point matters.

Full MLS schedule

Saturday

New York Red Bulls v. Colorado Rapids — 7:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact v. D.C. United — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union v. Atlanta United — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas v. FC Cincinnati — 8:00 p.m. ET
Sporting KC v. Houston Dynamo — 8:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps v. NYCFC — 10:00 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers v. Real Salt Lake — 10:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Orlando City SC — 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday

Seattle Sounders v. LA Galaxy — 6:30 p.m. ET
LAFC v. Minnesota United —10:30 p.m. ET

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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The first-ever “Hell is Real” Derby, a back-and-forth battle in Seattle, and an eight-goal fest between Dallas and Minnesota: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the jam-packed action.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England, Seattle split points

In the first game of the weekend, the Seattle Sounders and the New England Revolution set the bar high, putting on a show with six goals and three lead changes in their 3-3 draw. But spectacle aside, neither Bruce Arena nor Brian Schmetzer will be pleased with missing out on two, vital points.

Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil keep paying dividends for a Revs team that is night and day to what they once were under Brad Friedel. The Revs’ discipline and work ethic appears to improve as the weeks go by. It’s small details on the defensive side that is costing them points, however. With nine games to go and a playoff bid far from secured, Arena has no choice than to address the elephant in the room.

With a clear path to surge as the second best in West, splitting points was arguably worse for the Sounders, who’ve picked up a meager point in the last three home games. Talk about missing out on home-field advantage.

 


Toronto fail to jump above playoff line 

Toronto FC, healthy and all, had the pristine opportunity to jump above the red line in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando, however, had other things in mind.

A goal from substitute Benji Michel was enough to earn a draw for James O’Connor’s side, who found themselves outpossessed and outshoot throughout the stretch of the game.

And despite not reaping the benefits from their control, there was a silver lining for The Reds. Patrick Mullins, who joined from the Columbus Crew this summer, opened his scoring account, finishing a ball that was set on not leaving the box.

Toronto (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal and New England, while Orlando (30 points) stand right behind the Canadian side in the Eastern Conference table. Dropping points for either side from here on out will hurt, there’s no way around it.


 

So far, the “Hell is Real” Derby lives up to the hype

MLS has a new derby, and it lives up to its name and hype.

The “Hell is real” Derby between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati got off to a dramatic start with league newcomers scoring two in 23 minutes. Darren Mattocks and Emmanuel Ledesma gave FC Cincy and their supporters every reason to believe that the first derby – which happened to be Ron Jans coaching debut – was theirs.

But then Gyasi Zardes answered with one of his own from the spot.

And then in the 62nd minute, Pedro Santos did this:

A stunning rocket from at least 20 yards out, it marked the Portuguese’s seventh goal of the season. He leveled the score and salvaged his team a point, but, most importantly, the Designated Player let everyone know that Ohio’s rivalry is as competitive and entertaining as they get.

 


 

Dallas and Minnesota partake in a wild game

Not having picked up three points at home since early July, FC Dallas were in a dire need to overturn that as they hosted red-hot Minnesota United.

They did it in soul-stirring fashion, edging Adrian Heath’s side 5-3 at home. Poor defending came in bunches, specifically from the Loons, causing for six lead changes and a red card with minutes to spare. It was the type of environment that was destined to give someone the opportunity to stand out.

With the score level, Dallas Homegrown Brandon Servania delivered, scoring a brace in less than ten minutes and giving his side the three points.

Dallas are now seventh in the Western Conference, only three away from second-place Seattle. The West cannot be overlooked.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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There were many takeaways from a busy night of MLS matches. Here’s some of the biggest lessons we learned from the early slate of games.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


New England is good? New England is good

Most teams get a bump when there’s a coaching change, but few could have expected what we’re witnessing in New England over the last two months.

With a 4-1 win over a hapless Orlando City side, the New England Revolution improved to 11 games unbeaten and would qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs if the season ended today. That’s an incredible change in fortunes, considering the Revolution were dead and dusted just two months into the season under former coach Brad Friedel. For whatever reason, Friedel didn’t work out but hiring Bruce Arena has made the Krafts look like they made a brilliant decision.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that new signing Gustavo Bou has been terrific, Carles Gil has been outstanding in midfield and everyone has taken their games to another level. Antonio Delamea at centerback alongside Andrew Farrell have been lockdown, with Luis Caicedo and Wilfried Zahibo protecting in front of them. That’s allowed Edgar Castillo, Brandon Bye and the Revs attackers more freedom to attack.

The Revs are arguably the hottest team in MLS right now, and there’s no sign that they’ll slow down any time soon.


Union, Red Bulls miss out on chance to advance

The New York Red Bulls had a chance to stay ahead of New York City FC and even move ahead of D.C. United in the standings with a win on Saturday, yet they couldn’t capitalize in their match.

Defensive miscues led to the New York Red Bulls coughing up three goals in a surprising 3-2 win for the Columbus Crew at Red Bull Arena. That’s left the Red Bulls in fifth-place, just one point above the red line and in danger of potentially dropping out of the playoff picture. With razor-thin margins, this defeat at home was a big black eye for the Red Bulls.

At the same time, the Union had a chance to extend its lead atop the MLS Eastern Conference. Instead, a shell-shocked Union got crushed, 4-0 by the Montreal Impact. New Impact signing Lassi Lappalainen scored a brace in his debut with the club, while Orji Okwonkwo scored again off an Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti assist. The Union backline of Matthew Real, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis were completely overrun by the Impact’s speedy attack.


Seattle gets 3 big points on road

With Raul Ruidiaz out injured with a concussion and other nagging injuries to star players, the Seattle Sounders would have been happy to come away with just a point from its trip to Houston.

Instead, the squad will be bringing back all three.

There weren’t many quality chances, but Jordan Morris scored a wonderful goal, first looping the ball over two defenders into a goal-mouth scramble before finishing into the far corner. In addition to Morris’ goal, U.S. youth international and 16-year-old Danny Leyva started and went the full 90 in midfield for the Sounders, and was quite clean on the ball throughout.

With the win, the Sounders move for the time being into second place, though still 11 points back of Los Angeles FC.

Red-hot Revs beat FC Cincy, make it 10 games unbeaten (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Statistically speaking, no other team even comes close to rivaling the New England Revolution as the hottest team in MLS. With a 2-0 road victory over expansion side FC Cincinnati on Sunday, Bruce Arena’s side hasn’t lost in 10 games (nine of which have been played since he was named head coach) and now sits above the playoff cut line in the Eastern Conference. At present, two points separate them and fourth-place New York City FC. Carles Gil has been a revelation as a new signing last winter, and Arena has gotten so much more out of the rest of the remaining roster than Brad Friedel did during his 15 months in charge. Gil scored what turned out to be the early winner on Sunday, followed by an insurance goal (set up by Gil) from Antonio Delamea early in the second half. It was as routine as a road victory can be in MLS, which is as much of an indictment of Cincinnati as it is a compliment to the Revs.

[ MORE: Pity proves his point as Atlanta tops DCU late (video) ]

Two moments that mattered

9′ — Gil cleans up a mess and makes it 1-0 — Sometimes, if not most of the time, Cincinnati defends exactly how you would expect an expansion team to defend.

55′ — Delamea heads home for 2-0 — Headed goals don’t come much easier, or less contested, than this one.

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

Man of the match: Carles Gil

Goalscorers: Gil (9′), Delamea (55′)

MLS Wrap: Atlanta United, Revolution thrash opponents

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It was a night of routs in MLS as both Atlanta United and the New England Revolution came away as huge winners.

Atlanta United thrashed ten-man Houston Dynamo, 5-0, while the Revs took out the Vancouver Whitecaps, 4-0. Toronto FC outlasted the New York Red Bulls with a 3-1 victory at home, while Columbus earned a point thanks to a 90th minute goal.

Here’s a rundown of today’s action, and what we learned from it.


Atlanta United 5-0 Houston Dynamo

Atlanta United dominated the match on Wednesday, but they got an assist from a poor decision from Alberth Elis. The Honduran forward, while arguing with the referee after being shown a yellow card, appeared to bump into the referee. Immediately, the referee reached into his back pocket and pulled out a red card, just six minutes into the match.

That really put Houston on the back foot and led to relentless pressure from Atlanta. First it was Darlington Nagbe and Brandon Vasquez scoring in the box. Then Josef Martinez scored a brace before Julian Gressel, who’s cross set up the opener, put the finishing touches on the match.

It was a rare bright spot for Atlanta United fans in what’s been an up and down season. However, it seems that Frank De Boer has figured this team out, and is starting to get some strong results.


New England Revolution 4-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

What once seemed impossible – the Revolution making the playoffs in 2019 – now seems like it could happen.

Bruce Arena’s Midas touch continued on Wednesday as the Revolution routed the Whitecaps, 4-0. Revs new signing Gustavo Bou opened the scoring, but it was Carles Gill, Teal Bunburry and Diego Fagundez who all found the scoresheet.

Since Arena’s arrival in New England, the Revolution has lost just once. The club’s current form is what’s keeping them alive in the playoff picture.

Other MLS scores

Toronto FC 3-1 New York Red Bulls

Chicago Fire 2-2 New York Red Bulls