Matias Laba

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / Twitter: @HoustonDynamo

MLS (late-night) roundup: Cubo bags a hat trick; MNUFC win a game!

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With four MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 30 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Houston Dynamo 4-1 New York Red Bulls

It’s probably time we start calling Erick Torres by his nickname, “Cubo” (cube, as a reference to the size and shape of his head), once again. After a disastrous first season in Houston, and a subsequent loan to Cruz Azul, who decided against making the signing permanent, Torres is starting for new-old head coach Wilmer Cabrera, and the goals are flowing.

The 24-year-old entered Saturday’s game against New York with a goal in three straight games. 41 minutes into the game, the streak was extended to four. 15 minutes later, he had a brace. 35 minutes after that, Torres completed his first MLS hat trick with a sensational free kick.

As far as early-season MVP candidates go, Torres threw his name into the hat — alongside the likes of David Villa and Justin Meram — with his fourth, fifth and sixth goals of the season, after four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s (afternoon) roundup: Villa, Schweinsteiger, Meram stellar ]


Minnesota United 4-2 Real Salt Lake

After four minutes, everything was beginning to feel all too familiar to Minnesota players, coaches and fans alike — less than 240 seconds on the clock, they were a goal down after Luke Mulholland slotted home from the top of the box. This time, though, the deficit was short-lived, as Kevin Molino headed home from close range in the 16th minute.

Then, the strangest pair of things occurred in unison: the Loons stopped leaking goals, and starting bossing the game themselves. Christian Ramirez bagged his third and fourth goals of the season, 10 minutes apart early in the second half, and the score was 3-1. Johan Venegas added a fourth, just in case, and Adrian Heath had staved off unemployment for an additional week in charge.

[ MORE: Sporting KC rookie got GOT by Vermes, teammates’ April Fools’ prank ]


Vancouver Whitecaps 4-2 LA Galaxy

A game that could have easily featured 10 goals, Vancouver’s 4-2 victory over LA had just six instead. Still, the track meet at BC Place trumped anything and everything on offer elsewhere in MLS.

Cristian Techera opened the scoring in the 19th minute, but Romain Alessandrini equalized with his first MLS goal seven minutes later. The Frenchman put LA 2-1 ahead after four more minutes.

Then, even quicker than Alessandrini’s brace had put LA in front, Fredy Montero (his first goal since returning to MLS) and Matias Laba turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead, in the 66th and 67th minutes. Laba notched a brace of his own with an exclamation-point header in the 87th minute.

[ MORE: San Diego’s April Fools’ prank — Footy McFooty Face ]


D.C. United 2-1 Philadelphia Union

D.C. achieved a pair of firsts on Saturday: they scored a goal, and they won a game. Jose Guillermo Ortiz took care of the first first, and Luciano Acosta (from the penalty spot) secured the second first. C.J. Sapong pulled one back for Philly with 20 minutes to play, and so nearly made it 2-2, if not for the heroics of Bill Hamid.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

New York City FC 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Chicago Fire 2-2 Montreal Impact
Columbus Crew SC 2-0 Orlando City SC

Vancouver joins Montreal in Canadian final; CONCACAF Champions League berth decided in August

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The Vancouver Whitecaps moved one step closer to breaking their Canadian Championship hex with a last-gasp win over FC Edmonton of the NASL on Thursday night.

Matias Laba’s goal in the 7th minute of second-half stoppage time gave the ‘Caps a 2-1 win, 3-2 on aggregate, in their semifinal.

[ MORE: U.S. Open Cup second round wrap ]

Montreal defeated Toronto FC in the other semifinal, meaning Vancouver’s wishes of a CONCACAF Champions League berth will be granted or denied over two legs with the current CCL runners-up.

The Impact will be looking for their third-straight Canadian Championship, having defeated TFC and Vancouver in recent campaigns.

Toronto won four consecutive tournaments before that, and Montreal won the first. In the middle of all that, Vancouver lost a remarkable five title games in-a-row (the first four to TFC and the fifth against Montreal).

The Eddies loss means the final will be conducted without the tournament’s leading scorer. Tomi Ameobi, between brothers Shola (Crystal Palace) and Sammy (Newcastle United) on the family tree, scored four goals.

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 10

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Week 10 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and it’s safe to say the last three days of MLS action was one of the best in recent memory. In 10 games played between Friday and Sunday, just one team — the Philadelphia Union — failed to score a goal.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll find not a single Union player on this week’s MLS Team of the Week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 10 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Instead, you will find the likes of Kei Kamara and Bradley Wright-Phillips — scorers of braces — as well as Mauro Diaz and Pedro Morales — creators of goals a plenty. There’s also Nick Rimando, 93rd-minute-penalty-saving extraordinaire, because how could you not give that guy the nod?

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 10

Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

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Defenders: Emanuel Pogatetz (Columbus Crew SC), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Nat Borchers (Portland Timbers), Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers)

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Midfielders: Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Pedro Morales (Vancouver Whitecaps), Matias Laba (Vancouver Whitecaps)

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Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo)

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MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 D.C. United

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The game in 100 words (or less): It’s really, really tough to go on the road in MLS and win. Even when you have a man advantage for 50 minutes. So, big credit goes to D.C. United for doing just that on Saturday night, beating the Whitecaps 2-1 at BC Place, but in truth, the red card was 90 percent Vancouver’s undoing. Sure, they remained the dominant side with United playing conservatively on the road, but the typical lethal edge was missing from Carl Robinson’s side, realizing they couldn’t quite get the same numbers as usual forward. As for United, they just beat perhaps MLS’s best team, on the road, with a five-man bench and a couple of key starters missing. That’s impressive. Really, really impressive.

[ RECAPS: Two games on Friday night ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Boswell turns his header home to equalize — United were a goal down after 70 seconds (Pedro Morales), but Bobby Boswell reminded everyone he’s still got a bit of spring left in those aging legs of his, getting up over two defenders and beating David Ousted to the near post.

42′ — Yellow card No. 2 for Laba, and he’s gone — Matias Laba probably didn’t need to trip Fabian Espindola, because he had the human eraser, Kendall Waston, still behind him and able to take a yellow card, if need be. Instead, Laba tripped Espindola and saw his second yellow. Vancouver still controlled the game, but lacked their usual cutting edge a man down.

64′ – Rolfe’s snap shot can’t be stopped — Despite holding a man advantage for nearly 25 minutes at this point, the Whitecaps were still in control of the game and creating more scoring chances. So, imagine their level of surprise when Chris Rolfe popped up with the most opportunistic of goals, taking a nothing 50-50 ball and slamming it home from the top of the penalty area.

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

Man of the match: Bobby Boswell — Not only scored the equalizing goal early on, but, along side Kofi Opare, had Octavio Rivero in his back pocket all night long. Sure, the man advantage helped, but Boswell was flawless all game long.

LINEUPS

Vancouver Whitecaps: Ousted, Adekugbe, Kah, Waston, Beitashour, Laba, Teibert (Manneh 70′), Mattocks (Koffie 46′), Rosales (Techera 76′), Rivero

Goals: Morales (2′)

D.C. United: Dykstra (Worra 58′), Korb, Opare, Franklin, Pontius (Doyle 90′), Farfan, Kitchen, DeLeon, Rolfe (Silva 76′), Espindola

Goals: Boswell (9′), Rolfe (64′)

Vancouver’s Kenny Miller wants to extend his deal soon, but how long to keep the veteran?

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Lots of folks are loving life in Vancouver after the Whitecaps opened the head coaching tenure of Carl Robinson with a 4-1 throttling of New York this weekend, and you can count striker Kenny Miller among them.

The 34-year-old Scotsman scored twice in the win, and his postgame comments made sure to make mention that he’ll be out of his contract in June and would really like to stick around.

“Listen, it’s one game. As I said before, we don’t get carried away. It’s fantastic, we’re going to go away and enjoy it – but it would be great to be off the market early doors.”

Of course, he’ll want to strike while his boots are hot. Miller is a Designated Player, bearing the same mark as Pedro Morales and Matias Laba. So how long of a deal would it take to keep the elder of the three (Morales is 28 and Laba is 22)? That will play a big role in any decision on his future.

He’s making $1.1 million and has netted 12 times in 37 appearances for the Whitecaps. He’s three goals away from 200 in a  585-appearance career that saw him play for Rangers, Celtic, Bursaspor, Wolverhampton, Derby County and Hibernian before arriving in Vancouver.

Presumably Miller would rather get an extension that pushes his deal through this season and maybe next, and could play the “going home” hand if things don’t work out before June. He retired from international soccer after scoring in Scotland’s 3-2 loss to England last August, so his only business is club soccer.

The smart money’s on Vancouver getting him to stick around through at least this season, but manager Carl Robinson used a wary approach when discussing Miller’s desires in late February. It’s something monitor, especially if the Scot keeps scoring.