Jonny Steele

@TheMiamiFC

Miami FC, Calgary Foothills lift trophies in NPSL, PDL finals

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Two clubs that traveled a long way to play for a league title won their respective honors in National Premier Soccer League and Premier Development League championship matches on Sunday.

[ MORE: Man City wins Community Shield ]

The host venues were a two-hour drive apart, but PDL champion Calgary Foothills FC and NPSL victors Miami FC are based more than 3,000 miles apart.


FC Motown’s impressive first season in the NPSL was not enough for a championship, as ex-NASL side Miami FC headed up north and made Paul Dalglish in unusual company: A manager whose won league titles in both the PDL and NPSL.

[ MORE: 2018-19 Premier League previews ]

Dalglish told ProSoccerTalk before the game that he wanted this one bad, and his men went out and worked hosts FC Motown to the tune of 3-1.

“When I won the PDL, we hosted the final,” Dalglish said. “The two MLS Cups were in neutral venues, so this is the first time I’m going to the lion’s den. … You’ve gotta run and fight and scrap til your lungs burn to enjoy it.”

Dylan Mares was named Man of the Match, scoring Miami’s second goal with a terrific free kick. Also scoring were Jeff Michaud and Jonny Steele, who bagged this beauty.


Meanwhile, Calgary Foothills FC paved their coach’s path to the Canadian Premier League with gold during and after a terrific extra time win over Reading United in Pennsylvania on Saturday in the PDL final.

Ali Musse scored twice, the second in extra time, and Dominick Zator equalized with five minutes to play as Calgary won 4-2. Nico Pasquotti also scored for Foothills.

Aaron Molloy and Kieran Roberts scored Reading’s goals, the former buttressing his reputation as the league’s top prospect with a free kick goal.

MLS Playoff Focus: Notes on New York Red Bulls ahead of Sunday’s match at Houston

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Ahead of Sunday’s first-leg of this Eastern Conference semifinal series, here are the must-knows about Mike Petke’s Red Bulls (Sunday’s match kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC):

  • A team of lunch pail toilers

In a lot of ways, managing in this league is about navigating Major League Soccer’s restrictive salary cap. More specifically, where do you put your bargain guys? Because every team has quite a few of them.

For the Red Bulls, the lower salary guys are on the flanks, where Eric Alexander (right) and Jonny Steele (left) have gotten almost all of the starts this year. Both are consummate MLS toilers, quick into the tackle, quick to drive the team forward with some energ, always OK with finding Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill as quickly as possible, 100 percent amenable with letting the pricey types do what they are so handsomely paid to do.

In a lot of ways, Steele and Alexander represent the team in manager Mike Petke’s image more than the stars. Dax McCarty certainly does; the Red Bulls scrappy, busy midfield harrier remains in constant motion, interrupting passing lanes and making himself ever available as the defenders’ initial outlet.

Petke wasn’t a star guy, of course, during his not-so-distant playing days; he was a lunch pail guy in his years as a player for the New York organization.

(MORE: PST previews Dynamo-Red Bulls)

  • Thierry Henry can still score a crackerjack, can’t he?

Of course, even a team of toilers loves to have a guy around who can score (and inspire) with highlight-making goals. That’s Henry, a studious, intelligent soccer man who always knows how to save a little for the stretch-run.

We all remember that fabulous hit just last week against Chicago, right?

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Here’s the thing with Henry: he took some flak from names in the game for his choice not to go play on the artificial turf in Seattle late in the year, and fair enough. But the man knows his body, and can we just see his side for a second?

Maybe, just maybe, if Henry does go play on the artificial turf in Seattle, perhaps he aggravates those heel issues and then doesn’t have that kind of a goal in him. Maybe.

  • The key to the offense is … Peguy Luyindula?

Can it really be that a team blessed with talented types like Henry and Cahill is having its offensive strings pulled by … a guy whose name most of us cannot pronounce? Looks like it.

Peguy Luyindula had two assists last week, and he seems to have found role at the top of the Red Bulls’ midfield diamond.

Here’s the thing about New York’s attack in 2013: Henry could probably perform the creative duty, and does so to an extent, but usually as his team moves in closer to opposition goal. He is a forward in the Red Bulls’ typical 4-4-2 setup, so when Henry drifts too far back into the midfield, the team can sometimes suffer in getting enough men into the attack. We’ve seen that happen over the last two or three years in Harrison, N.J.

Tim Cahill can man the attacking midfield role, but it’s clearly not his best spot.

The team thought it had the answer in Brazilian technician Juninho, but he proved too old and washed out by mid-season. (I mean, who saw that coming? Oh, wait a minute … ) That left the club without anything close to a true playmaker. Until Luyindula’s arrival into the role, that is.

(MORE: CSN Houston’s video preview of Dynamo-Red Bulls)

  • Luis Robles in charge

If we’re being honest, most observers didn’t expect to see Luis Robles between the pipes for the Red Bulls by this time of the year.

Ryan Meara, who was so good last year before injury chopped down his potential Rookie of the Year campaign, seemed to be getting healthy and fit in the preseason. And Robles, who was more or less out of the professional game with the club picked him up late last year, seemed prone to gaffes, like a couple that really hurt the Red Bulls early this year.

But Robles settled into the role and has established himself as a dependable man behind commanding center back Jamison Olave and the Red Bulls’ back line.

Oh, and he makes the occasional big save, too, which is exactly what you want from a goalkeeper. His big, diving reach into the upper corner during the team’s last trip into South Texas was truly outstanding stuff.

  • Fastest goal in MLS history

We cannot really talk about this year’s lopsided series (New York won all three meetings, including two in Houston by a stunning combined score of 7-1) without mentioning Tim Cahill’s early goal as the teams met at BBVA Compass Stadium two weeks ago.

It was the fastest goal in MLS history. In fact, let’s not talk about it. Let’s just watch the darn thing:

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Highlights: Own goal decisive as New York rises to top of Supporters’ Shield chase

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The week-in, week-out results haven’t been overwhelming, but group them all together and you have a team that’s now leading the Supporters’ Shield race. After their 1-0 win this evening at Red Bull Arena, that’s where New York sit, a four-game winning streak leaving Mike Petke’s team one point clear at the top of the league.

Credit the first year coach for getting his team re-focused after Aug. 25th’s loss at Chivas USA, with wins over D.C. United, Houston, and Toronto preceding today’s 1-0 over Dallas. But to get today’s result, New York needed some unexpected help from FCD midfielder Erick, whose inexplicable play of a Jonny Steele cross made his 76th minute own goal the decider. As you’ll see in the highlights, above, it was one of the most beguiling touches you’ll ever see, with some kind of lack of balance, spasm, or brain cramp leading to New York’s only goal.

To New York’s credit, they were the slightly better team throughout, but there are a number of games you saw that about a team can’t claim more than a point. On Sunday, Red Bull needed some unexpected help from a particularly generous source.

With the result, New York are now three points clear of Sporting KC in the East. Still, the only win they have over a playoff team since Aug. 3’s 3-2 at Sporting Park is their victory over the then-collapsing Dynamo. In that sense, Red Bull’s rise hasn’t been particularly impressive, even if all the points count the same.

When they visit West-leading Seattle next Sunday, we’ll get a better idea of what Petke’s team’s capable of, but until then, the Red Bulls have the league’s second best attack, a defense that’s allowing 1.20 goals per game, and the most points in Major League Soccer.

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Once again, the top teams are struggling to get through the summer; our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 23 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – Win No. 3 on the year! Conor Doyle, on loan from England’s Derby County, came off the bench for score a swell goal in the 3-1 result over Montreal.

18. Chivas USA – The Goats could generate precious little offense in a 2-0 loss at San Jose. Carlos Bocanegra’s red card stuck more of a bummer on the night.

17. Toronto FC – A 1-0 win at New England represents a nice result, but the Reds remain long, long way from turning this thing around. A resolution to the ongoing pursuit of Maximiliano Urruti would be a great start.

16. Columbus – Robert Warzycha’s team needs an August super-boost of the kind Federico Higuain gave the Crew one year ago. Unfortunately, those lightning-in-a-bottle moments are few and far between, as we know. The Crew has lost six of seven.

15. FC Dallas – The bottom has fallen out spectacularly as Schellas Hyndman’s team has not won since . How did this team get so bad, so fast? (One answer is the continued reliance on David Ferreira, who is a shell of his former playmaking self.)

14. New England Revolution – All the good feeling of two consecutive road wins evaporated in losing to Toronto FC at home.

13. San Jose Earthquakes – In echoes of 2012, Chris Wondolowski scored twice as San Jose won comfortably at home over Chivas USA. The ‘Quakes sit just three points out of playoff position.

12. Houston Dynamo – Two Houston forwards found goal, so perhaps things are pointed in the right direction at BBVA, although things were in doubt until the very end during a 3-1 victory over Columbus. Meanwhile, early reports that Clint Dempsey may have included Houston on his MLS wish list appeared to be false.

11. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee (pictured above) supplied his league-leading 14th goal, this one a game-winner as the Fire picked up a valuable three points on the road (at Philadelphia).

(MORE: Major League Soccer’s Round 23 in review)

10. LA Galaxy – Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan are back on the field following Gold Cup and injury absence. The champs have attempted to address their goalkeeping issues.  Now, if they can just get past this cash grab of an international tournament and re-focus on MLS matters, things might be OK.

9. Seattle Sounders – Clint Dempsey. ‘Nuff said. (Well, there’s this: looks like he’ll play this week against Toronto. Find Univision on your channel lineup if you have not already.)

8. Philadelphia Union – After a loss at home in Round 23, this week’s contest at PPL Park against a potentially drained D.C. United (which plays mid-week while the Union is idle) is an absolute must-have three points.

7. Montreal Impact – The Impact’s season of high highs and curious lows continues: Marco Schallibaum’s club fell to D.C. United, 3-1.

6. Colorado Rapids – A 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake was enough to get the Rocky Mountain Cup into Rapids hands for the first time in seven years. That’s a big day around DSG Park.

5. New York Red Bulls – When peripheral figures like Loyd Sam and Jonny Steele can contribute goals and assists, the team will be a good shape. Last week’s 3-2 win at Sporting Kansas City, a lesson in counter-attacking soccer, helped soften the blow of losing Tim Cahill to injury for a few weeks.

4. Vancouver Whitecaps – Yet another rugged, foul-filled Cascadia Cup contest resulted in a 1-1 draw in Portland, a good result for Martin Rennie’s team.

3. Sporting Kansas City – Peter Vermes changed the team’s style this year to be less reliant on high-pressure tactics. The results aren’t encouraging, however. After last week’s loss in the heartland to New York, SKC is just 5-4-3 at home, which is mediocre at best.

2. Portland Timbers – Caleb Porter’s club is not handling the summer disruptions well, with just one win in its last five home matches. The big blow for the Timbers, however, was seeing bitter rival Seattle gather up attention and a roster boost in Clint Dempsey’s acquisition.

1. Real Salt Lake – Generally speaking, a draw on the road is fine, especially against a team in playoff position. But a 2-2 draw in Denver meant RSL handed off the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Highlights and context: Red Bulls prolong Houston’s woes

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New York got a needed win at a sold out Red Bull Arena, but after another performance where Dom Kinnear’s team failed to muster some much needed goals, the questions are mounting for last year’s MLS Cup finalists.

The Dynamo were again without Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia, a situation that has plagued them for much of the last two months. Be it through World Cup qualification or injuries, the team’s two best players have rarely featured for their club. As a result, Houston has been unable to consistently get on the scoresheet.

That was to New York’s benefit this afternoon, with second half goals from Fabian Espindola and Jonny Steele vaulting Mike Petke’s team to a 2-0 win and into second in the East. The evolving state of the conference has a something to do with that lofty standing, but for a Red Bulls team that hadn’t won since May 19, the result will be more important that their conference ranking.

Houston do remain in the top five, two points ahead of New England, but the Dynamo persist in their strange state, not knowing what they actually have. How good can they be? Don’t know until Davis and Boniek are back. Who poses the biggest threat to another playoff run? Don’t know until Davis and Boniek are back. What areas need to be addressed before the postseason? Don’t know until Davis and Boniek are back.

The only thing Houston know for sure is that they can’t compete until their stars are healthy. Winless in league since May 5, scoreless in 429 minutes, and with two goals in their last seven games, the Dynamo may be in trouble.

Though we don’t know until Davis and Boniek are back.