Wayne Rooney

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Impact travel saga highlights how far MLS still has to go

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Major League Soccer has made many impressive strides in its 24 seasons of existence. But if the Montreal Impact’s travel situation proved anything, it’s that the league still has a long way to go to be compared alongside the big four American leagues – The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

[READ: Top Premier League Storylines for Week 36]

The Montreal Impact spent around 13 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday in transit ahead of its match on Wednesday evening against the New England Revolution. Remarkably, the Impact beat the Revolution, 3-0 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., but it should never have taken that long to get the Impact down – or any professional team – from Montreal to the Boston suburbs.

According to an article in the Athletic, which details the Impact’s administrative travel mishaps, the team ended up spending seven hours in the Montreal International Airport waiting for a delayed flight to Logan International Airport in Boston, only for the flight to be cancelled at 10 p.m.

The players were then scheduled to arrive back at the airport the next morning to take a charter flight, but then that flight was delayed a further five hours, due to a flight schedule change – Logan Airport wouldn’t accept the charter – and having to go through customs and immigration in Montreal before re-boarding the flight and waiting their turn.

Shockingly, the Impact arrived at their hotel with just three and a half hours before kickoff. Evan Bush, the Impact’s starting goalkeeper and representative for the MLS Players Association, believed that the game should have been called off. Per the Athletic, the Impact asked the league to postpone the game, but the league apparently didn’t want to inconvenience fans and TV broadcasters, who are ultimately the ones that pay to watch the players. So it was a financial decision. The Impact had all their limbs, hence, they were ready to go.

MLS teams are only allowed four charter flights per season (Montreal’s charter planes to and from Boston reportedly won’t count against their four for this season). The league views charter flights – a view that now seems archaic considering how many incredibly rich owners there are in the league – as a type of competitive advantage, which could sway one international or domestic signing from joining one team over another.

Thus, in 2019, everyone from Evan Bush to Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are taking commercial flights and sitting in economy class, sometimes having to split up into multiple groups on different flights to get everyone to the final destination. Most teams save their charter flights for long-haul journeys, like Montreal to Los Angeles or Vancouver to Atlanta, leaving medium and short-haul flights to the mercy of the weather or flight delays at some of North America’s busiest airports.

In 2019, it’s a shame that MLS is still operating this way, as though team owners can’t afford to fly their players around in the type of accommodations that would – over the course of a long, difficult season filled with a lot of travel – help keep players fresher by the end of the year.

Per the MLSPA, there is no binding language between the league and players in the current collective bargaining agreement that mandates a specific amount of charter flights, and the MLSPA wouldn’t stand in MLS’ way if they decided to allow teams free reign on using this type of transportation to and from games.

While events like this can happen in the other sports, having players take charter flights significantly helps both the team administration and helps avoid many of the pitfalls of flying basic economy with the rest of the country.

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.

NYCFC shut down Rooney, DCU for first win (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): New York City remedied their rocky start to the 2019 season with a Sunday stroll through Audi Field and three points. D.C. United, on the other hand, looked a sad shell of their former selves, the side hotly picked to represent the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup 2019. Alexandru Mitrita and Heber bagged the goals for Domenec Torrent’s side, which has lost just once in seven games to start the season and suddenly sits a point outside the East’s seven playoff places. Heber stole the spotlight in his first MLS start, bagging NYCFC’s second goal and notching a secondary assist on their first. Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta were mostly held in check, outside of set-piece opportunities, in large part to a formational switch by Torrent: he opted for three center backs including 18-year-old academy product James Sands.

[ MORE: Everton pummels Manchester United (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

35′ — Mitrita scores through a sea of legs — Mitrita gets a bit lucky when his shot deflects off the leg of Frederic Brilliant, but United’s defending as a whole is far too lax to begin the sequence.

45’+4 — Moralez’s penalty smashes off the post, keeps DCU alive — When it happened, Maxi Moralez’s missed penalty kick appeared to be the second chance United needed to get back into the game. Alas…

56′ — Heber rifles inside the far post to make it 2-0 — United’s lifeline lasted all of 11 game-minutes, as they were slow to react to a simple ball over the top. Heber made the most of his first real look at goal, from a tight angle.

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

Man of the match: Heber

Goalscorers: Mitrita (35′), Heber (56′)

Report: Man United scouted D.C. United’s Acosta

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Count Manchester United in as the latest European giant to scout D.C. United’s star playmaker Luciano Acosta.

Just a few months after Paris Saint-Germain nearly signed the Argentine on transfer deadline day last January, Manchester United has reportedly sent a scout to watch Acosta, according to a report from Pablo Maurer with The Athletic. It’s Acosta’s fourth season at D.C. United but he’s finally lived up to the talent he has since the arrival of Wayne Rooney in July 2018. Last season Acosta had 10 goals and 17 assists, most of which came in the second half of the season.

[READ: Everton tops Arsenal with Jagielka’s goal]

So far this season, he has one goal and two assists in five matches, though he struggled in Los Angeles FC’s 4-0 rout of D.C. United last weekend.

It’s likely that Man United sent a scout to Audi Field on the advice from Rooney himself or his intermediaries, but it’s also a sign that big clubs in Europe are really starting to scout and look at players plying their trade in MLS. Miguel Almiron’s performances for Newcastle since his arrival have shown that the level in MLS has risen to the point that stars in the league can fit into the Premier League in the right setting.

MLS is an attractive setting for Premier League clubs to see if players can grow. Especially for South American talents, its a chance to move to a new culture, learn English and challenge themselves in a more physical league, all of which are similar to the Premier League. While the talent and skill level in the Premier League is clearly higher, just adapting culturally and learning how to live abroad are key skills that will make the adjustment to England much easier.

Barring any sort of big departures this summer, it doesn’t look like there’s a place for Acosta at Old Trafford at the moment. He’d certainly be behind Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and maybe even Alexis Sanchez in the depth chart.

Per The Athletic, Acosta has drawn interest from clubs in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, England and France.

LAFC blitzes DC United for 4-0 win to stay atop MLS table

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Carlos Vela started it off and Diego Rossi bagged a hat-trick as LAFC bulldozed D.C. United for a 3-0 road win at Audi Field to keep the Major League Soccer points leaders in charge.

Vela had a penalty saved in the 12th minute, but made amends almost immediately when he buried a left-footed curler in the 15th minute to open the scoring, willing his shot around his defender Steve Birnbaum and into the top-left corner past a bamboozled Bill Hamid. After his hat-trick against San Jose last time out, the goal is Vela’s seventh of the league season in just six games, leading the league over four players each with four.

Then Rossi was unleashed, and made his mark on the first half. In transition in the 27th minute, Vela on the right flank delivered an inch-perfect low cross to a streaking Rossi who somehow stretched to reach the ball and sneak it past Hamid’s near post, one the goalkeeper will probably want back.

He struck again just past the half-hour mark when Mark-Anthony Kaye snatched the ball in midfield and easily broke the back line with one pass to Rossi, who picked out the back of the net with a right-footed curler. He caught Frederic Brillant far too aggressively up the field and completely unable to get back and cover after the turnover.

The second half went from bad to worse for D.C. United as they lost captain Wayne Rooney after a very bad tackle lunging in studs up on the shins of Rossi near the touchline. The referee initially gave a yellow card, but after a very quick check of VAR – the speed of which told the tale – it was overturned to a straight red card, the fourth of his professional career and first with D.C. United.

D.C. manager Ben Olsen was furious about the call, requiring a lengthy talking to from the referee, but it was quite obviously a red card on replay. The hosts actually had their best opportunity of the match soon after falling a man down as Brilliant had a go with his right foot that required a kick-save off the line by Steven Beitashour on 57 minutes.

LAFC came inches from a fourth as Eduard Atuesta hit the top-left corner of the bar with a 67th minute free-kick, as close as you can get to scoring without finding the back of the net. They finally got the fourth in fitting fashion as Rossi grabbed his hat-trick off yet another giveaway just outside the D.C. box that looked far too easy for the visitors.

The win sees LAFC move to 16 points through six matches, four more points than anyone else in the league at this point. D.C., meanwhile, came into the day on a 15-game unbeaten run and level with Toronto and Columbus at the apex of the Eastern Conference, but their chance to take over the top spot slipped away, with Toronto sliding in front after a draw with Chicago and Columbus still to play New England later tonight.