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MLS Wrap: What We Learned

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It was another busy evening of MLS action on Saturday. There were upsets,

Here’s a look back at what we learned from Week 17

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


Earthquakes continue hot form in rout of Galaxy

There weren’t any last minute heroics needed on Saturday evening in the first edition of the Cali Classico.

The San Jose Earthquakes routed the LA Galaxy, 3-0, in front of nearly 51,000 fans at Stanford Stadium in a battle of not only Argentine managers but also more strategic Designated Players v. the Galactico method. It was the Earthquakes fourth win in their last six MLS games, with the other two being draws as the Earthquakes are suddenly in playoff contention.

It took the ‘Quakes some time to get used to Matias Almeyda’s methods, but it’s paying dividends. Vako, who scored a brace on Wednesday in a win over the Houston Dynamo, bagged the first of the night against the Galaxy after a planned free kick routine bounced back to him at the top of the box. Vako’s curling effort in the 11th minute proved to be the difference in the match.

In the final ten minutes, Shea Salinas fired a cracking goal that bounced off the far post and in, while Tommy Thompson dribbled past three Galaxy defenders before his shot took a wicked deflection, leaving David Bingham helpless in goal.

Of course, the Earthquakes wouldn’t have won without their goalkeeper. Daniel Vega made a couple of world-class saves, one on a dipping, curling effort from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and another from Fabian Alvarez. The Galaxy controlled the match, especially in the second half, but thanks to last-ditch defending from the Earthquakes and saves by Vega, they didn’t score.

To add insult to injury, Sebastian Lletget, who continues to battle muscle injuries this season, suffered a right thigh injury, per the club, and was subbed off at halftime.


More drama in Atlanta? 

Thanks to recent acquisition Justin Meram, Atlanta United bounced back from a disappointing defeat at Toronto FC to knock off the Montreal Impact, 2-1. However, the game is partially overshadowed by the substitution of Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez.

The most expensive transfer in MLS history has found life difficult playing for a different coach than Martinez probably expected when he agreed to come to the U.S. (Frank De Boer instead of Gerardo “Tata” Martino) and the MLS style is different than what Martinez experienced in Argentina.

On Saturday, Martinez was subbed off in the 68th minute, well before Meram scored the winner and after the Impact had leveled the score in the 50th minute. Martinez had initially set up Meram’s first goal, but according to de Boer, Martinez wasn’t at his best as the game wore on.

“In the beginning,there was nothing wrong,” de Boer said after the match. “I think he played quite well. He was setting up the first goal, cutting inside, playing it to Justin (Meram), moves through to make the space for Justin to come inside, so I have no problem with that. But in the second half, especially around the 60th to 65th minute,he was making too many mistakes and then it’s a danger to the team in that moment. Then it is my choice to make a decision,and overall against Toronto, I think he played one of his best games. It was short notice that he’d play again and maybe he was tired, but he has to make those plays.”

Martinez spurned European offers to come to the U.S., but one may wonder if he’s regretting that now, midway through his first season here. Of course, this could just be a blip as well. Martinez went the full 90 and could have saved a point with a penalty kick in the eighth minute of stoppage time, but he failed to score.


Are the Revolution turning it around? 

Bruce Arena’s first match on the sideline came in a surprise 2-1 win on the road at his former home, the LA Galaxy. Since then, the New England Revolution has only lost once, which came in the U.S. Open Cup, without a full-strength squad.

In MLS play though, the team is unbeaten under Arena, and the Revolution picked up yet another win on Saturday, as Teal Bunbury’s second half stoppage time goal was the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo.

Everyone seems to be enjoying a new lease on their soccer lives. Carles Gil looks like the dangerous Designated Player he was supposed to be, Justin Rennicks made his first MLS start and Andrew Ferrell looks like a lock-down defender yet again. Arena also went with Matt Turner in goal instead of Cody Cropper, who had been preferred under former coach Brad Friedel.

Interestingly, Arena credited a tactical switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 as the reason the Revolution came back from being a goal down at halftime.

“I think I probably screwed them up in the first half a little bit,” Arena said. “I don’t think that formation they were
comfortable enough in, and not bad, as much as it was more favorable for Houston to play against. We
wanted to see [Justin] Rennicks up top with [Juan Fernando] Caicedo. So, we got that opportunity. I think
the second half, switching our formation a little bit helped. But at the end of the day, it’s still 11 against 11.
I don’t get entirely consumed with the discussion of formations. Of course, if the players know how to
move and work together, any formation you play can work.”

With the win, the Revs sit just three points outside of the playoffs. We’re not saying that they can win the whole thing, but a late-season surge to make the playoffs? We’ve seen weirder things happen.

MLS early roundup: DC’s Rooney smashes free kick; NYCFC, Montreal win

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Three of five Wednesday matches in Major League Soccer are in the books, headlined by another fine goal from the Black-and-Red’s former Manchester United star.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-2 Man City ]


Columbus Crew 0-1 DC United

Wayne Rooney‘s zipped free kick was enough to give DC United a win in Columbus, which loses its third-straight match and fails to move ahead of its Wednesday visitors.

First place DC has a four-point edge on Toronto in the Eastern Conference, though the Black-and-Red have played three more matches.

The English forward hammered a waist-high shot past the outside of the wall despite Federico Higuain’s best efforts to get in the way, and it beat Zack Steffen inside the post.

Rooney now has five goals and two assists in eight matches this season.

New England Revolution 0-3 Montreal Impact

New England manager Brad Friedel would’ve been very happy with his goalkeeper and not much else, and then he would’ve changed his thoughts on Cody Cropper as well. Cropper was very busy against the Quebecois side well before 2017 Generation Adidas draft pick Shamit Shome scored his first MLS goal off a Cropper error.

Anthony Jackson-Hamel added an 85th minute goal to put the result to bed, and stroked a second in stoppage time to complete the score line.

New York City FC 1-0 Chicago Fire

A game with eight yellow cards saw just one goal, including a caution for goal scorer Valentin Castellanos. The Argentine midfielder slid onto a doorstep pass to complete a NYCFC counter attack in the win.

Dwyer withdraws from USMNT camp due to injury

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CHICAGO (AP) Orlando City SC forward Don Dwyer has withdrawn from the U.S. soccer team’s training camp because of a strained right hamstring.

[ MORE: MLS comings & goings — LA, RSL, Colorado make big moves ]

The U.S. Soccer Federation said Wednesday that Dwyer will not be replaced on the roster ahead of the exhibition on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Carson, California.

Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris, Christian Ramirez, Rubio Rubin and C.J. Sapong are the remaining forwards on the 29-man roster.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Monday ]

Full roster

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Cody Cropper (New England Revolution), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)

Defenders: Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC)

Midfielders: Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Russell Canouse (D.C. United), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids), Ian Harkes (D.C. United), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United FC), Rubio Rubin (Unattached), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union)

MLS: ATL leave it late in PHI; NE’s playoff hopes die in DC

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Philadelphia Union 2-2 Atlanta United

The game in 100 words (or less): Atlanta United’s defense, the expansion side’s achilles heel all season long, lapsed for no more than five minutes against the Philadelphia Union, and Tata Martino’s side struggled to a 2-2 draw which might ultimately cost them dearly in the playoffs race. With a chance to distance themselves from the Montreal Impact for sixth in the Eastern Conference, and set themselves up beautifully as the home-heavy portion of their schedule approaches, those five minutes cost Atlanta a pair of points against a 10-man Union side (Josh Yaro, 52nd minute) which held just 31 percent of possession on their home field. Roland Alberg and Alejandro Bedoya scored the Union’s goals, pulling Jim Curtin’s side to within three points of sixth place, while Atlanta remain a point back of Montreal (now level on games played, with 10 to go). Yamil Asad and Tyrone Mears blazed the comeback path for Atlanta.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s MLS roundup — TFC dominant; wild Texas derby ]

Three moments that mattered

18′ — Alberg gets behind, slots it past Guzan for 1-0 — Someone along the Atlanta backline lost track of… well, just about every attacker in the box. The lofted through ball fell to the chest of Alberg, and the Dutchman showed great composure at close range to collect and finish the chance.

23′ — Bedoya reacts quickest, makes it 2-0 — Alberg whipped the corner kick into the box, Jack Elliott headed it on at the near post, and Bedoya contorted his body to put his foot on the ball and double the lead.

26′ — Asad roofs it from a tough angle, and it’s 2-1 — It’s unclear whether or not Josef Martinez meant to head this ball an entire 90 degrees away from goal. In the end, it simply looks like a brilliant assist.

90+1′ — Mears heads home from distance — It’s an unlucky goal to give up, but one the whole of their 40-minute man advantage, Atlanta were deserving of their point.

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

Man of the match: Roland Alberg

Goalscorers: Alberg (18′), Bedoya (23′), Asad (26′), Mears (90+1′)


D.C. United 1-0 New England Revolution

The game in 100 words (or less): Already seven points out of the playoff places in the East, losing to last-place D.C. United, 1-0 on Saturday, was almost surely the final nail in the Revolution’s coffin for the 2017 season. After winning three of four from mid-July to early August, the Revs have now lost back-to-back games to New York City FC and United. Luciano Acosta scored the game’s only goal, pulling Ben Olsen’s side to within a single point of the Revs in their bid to leave the East’s cellar..

[ MORE: Wednesday’s MLS roundup — TFC dominant; wild Texas derby ]

Three One moments that mattered

71′ — Acosta pokes home from close range — Lloyd Sam floated the ball into the box, Kofi Opare headed back across the face of goal, and Acosta was the only player make the far-post run, which made it oh so easy to beat Cody Cropper.

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

Man of the match: Russell Canouse

Goalscorers: Acosta (71′)

MLS Snapshots: Fire break losing skid; Sounders extend unbeaten run

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Chicago Fire 4-1 New England Revolution

The game in 100 words (or less): The Chicago Fire have risen from from a very brief slump (back-to-back losses for just the second time all year, coming right on the heels of an 11-game unbeaten run), thanks to a comfortable 4-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday. Unlike Chicago, most MLS sides would struggle mightily when their top striker is not only kept off the scoresheets, but limited to just one shot on the night. That’s the extent to which the Revs managed to shut down Nemanja Nikolic, the league’s leading scorer (16 goals), but it wasn’t nearly enough, as Matt Polster, Juninho, Michael de Leeuw and Luis Solignac stepped up as less likely scorers (left back Patrick Doody assisted on three of the four) to run the Fire’s sterling home record to 10W-1D-0L on the season. The victory moves Veljko Paunovic’s side to within three points of Toronto FC, who drew last-place D.C. United on Saturday, in the Supporters’ Shield (and home-field advantage) race.

[ MORE: Sunday’s MLS schedule is chock-full of important matchups ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Polster puts a bit of bend on it for 1-0 — Who needs a left foot when you can do this with the outside of your right?

24′ — Alley-oop to Kamara, and it’s 1-1 — There’s (still) no one in MLS that can compete with Kei Kamara in the air, so Chicago decided they wouldn’t even try.

39′ — Juninho hits it low, through traffic for 2-1 — Bastian Schweinsteiger draws everyone’s attention, only to fool them with a clever dummy. Juninho keeps the strike low, but with power, and Cody Cropper couldn’t do anything about it.

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

Man of the match: Patrick Doody

Goalscorers: Polster (8′), Kamara (24′), Juninho (39′), De Leeuw (49′), Solignac (90+2′)


Minnesota United 0-4 Seattle Sounders

The game in 100 words (or less): Don’t look now, but the Seattle Sounders are unbeaten in seven games (four wins) following Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of expansion Minnesota United, and Brian Schmetzer’s side have climbed all the way up to third place in the Western Conference (even if only for the time being) as a result. Clint Dempsey had himself a night in this one, bagging a brace and an assist in 90 minutes of work. That’s five goals and two assists for Dempsey in his last four games, bringing his season tallies to nine and three. Perhaps more importantly, Jordan Morris scored his third goal of the season, and his first since April 23. More importantly of all, though, is the clean sheet, Seattle’s third straight game without giving up a goal (while scoring seven themselves).

[ MORE: Sunday’s MLS schedule is chock-full of important matchups ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Bruin leads, finishes the counter for 1-0 — Bruin and Demspey played the two-man game to perfection, and the latter fed the former through for an easy opener.

18′ — Dempsey heads it from a yard out for 2-0 — Gustav Svensson served it up, Chad Marshall sent it back across the face of goal, and Dempsey could have headed this one home with his eyes closed the entire way.

71′ — Morris gets in behind, makes it 3-0 — Nicolas Lodeiro timed his pass perfectly, just as Morris did his run. When the pass and the run sync up like this, you’re bound to hit pay dirt.

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

Man of the match: Clint Dempsey

Goalscorers: Bruin (9′), Dempsey (18′, 72′), Morris (71′)