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MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

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Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

USMNT player ratings from eyelid-pulling draw

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The United States men’s national team played a sleepy 0-0 draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday in California.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Since you care about how the relatively unknown players looked but almost certainly didn’t want to watch, we did it for you.

Because we love you, you wonderful you.

Starting XI

Bill Hamid — 7 — Challenged once, and answered with a wonderful save.

Justin Morrow — 6 — Saw yellow in a friendly within 36 minutes, and otherwise was unremarkable. The goal was clearly not to utilize the attack-minded skill set which made him an MLS Best XI defender.

Ike Opara — 8 — Exceptionally strong at center back, aggressive in closing down attackers, and often getting between the ball and its intended receiver. *Man of the Match*

Walker Zimmerman — 4.5 — Mishit clearance provided Bosnia’s second most dangerous chance, and gave away a PK for the other.

Matt Polster — 6 — BIH targeted the U.S. right side as the second half went on, but Polster ultimately wasn’t trumped by any significant mistake.

Wil Trapp — 7 — Inviting set piece delivery in the 35th minute was not turned on goal, and it was one of several terrific playmaking moments for the Columbus Crew midfielder.

Tyler Adams — 6 — Didn’t look like a teenager for most of the match, and should only grow into the international game.

Cristian Roldan (Off 69′) — 5 — Still yet to show any of his Seattle strength in his national team’s shirt.

Gyasi Zardes (Off HT) — 6 — Difficult to select an influential moment, good or bad, for the one-time USMNT mainstay.

Jordan Morris — 7 — Had as good a chance as anyone at scoring, and notably served a good left-footed cross midway through the first half.

CJ Sapong (Off HT) — 6 — Did some very good things including a cross that Adams used to force a save, but badly mishit a shot attempt, too.

Substitutes

Zack Steffen (On HT) — 6 — Guessed wrong on the missed PK and not troubled much otherwise.

Paul Arriola (On HT) — 7 —  His engine and electric potential a much-needed move for Sarachan.

Kelyn Rowe (On HT) — 7 —  Along with Arriola, injected pace and playmaking into a dull affair.

Juan Agudelo (On 69′) — 6 — Not much doing for the Revolution attacker.

Rubio Rubin (On 83′) — N/A

Plenty of new faces aim to impress for USMNT against Bosnia

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With disappointment from a missed World Cup opportunity still fresh on the minds of those involved with U.S. Soccer, the U.S. Men’s National Team will take another step towards 2022 on Sunday night.

Interim manager Dave Sarachan has put out a young squad heading into tomorrow’s international friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the boss including several bright talents like Tyler Adams and Jordan Morris, as well as players aiming to impress for the very first time.

[ MORE: How will the USMNT line up against Bosnia? ]

Sarachan has selected 15 first-time national teamers for the Americans, which includes a trio of Real Salt Lake products that will look to shine if they are given the opportunity.

Danilo Acosta, Justen Glad and Brooks Lennon have all earned call ups for the first time this January camp, while Minnesota United striker Christian Ramirez has received the same chance up front.

The Yanks will be searching for some new faces to bring in the goals against Bosnia, as Sarachan’s men have a combined 17 goals scored amongst their entire roster. Recently-acquired Columbus Crew winger Gyasi Zardes has the most of any player, having scored six times for the U.S.

Meanwhile, Bosnia features a few familiar faces as well, with Haris Medunjanin of the Philadelphia Union and University of Nebraska-Omaha product Elvir Ibisevic each called up.

The U.S. and Bosnia have only met once previously, a 4-3 American victory back in 2013, which saw Jozy Altidore‘s hat-trick turn out to be the difference on that day.

Blockbuster trade sends Kamara to Galaxy, Zardes to Columbus

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The MLS offseason has been in full force for some time now, and the blockbuster moves continue to take shape.

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew finalized a deal with the LA Galaxy to send striker Ola Kamara to the Western Conference side.

[ MORE: All of the picks from Friday’s MLS SuperDraft first & second rounds ]

In exchange for Kamara, the Galaxy have sent U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Crew. The amount of TAM could increase to $500,000 if Kamara scores 12 or more goals in 2018.

Since arriving on the MLS scene in 2016, the Norwegian had scored 34 regular season goals for the Crew, while adding five assists.

Meanwhile, Zardes has spent his entire professional career with the Galaxy up until this point, after having signed a Homegrown contract with the club over five years ago.

The USMNT winger has scored 34 goals in 131 regular season appearances since making his senior team debut for the Galaxy.