New York Red Bulls

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Sky Blue FC move to Red Bull Arena

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Sky Blue FC will now call Red Bull Arena home.

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) franchise played two home games at the home of the New York Red Bulls during the 2019 season and strong crowds have led to a permanent relocation from their home at Yurack Field at Rutgers University.

In a statement released on their website, the NWSL side confirmed the agreement is for all of their home games to be played at Red Bull Arena in 2020.

Red Bulls General Manager Marc de Grandpre was delighted to set up the partnership with Sky Blue FC, who are moving to Harrison, NJ.

“We are pleased to welcome Sky Blue FC back to Red Bull Arena after two successful events in 2019,” de Grandpre said. “Having NWSL matches here in Harrison is great for soccer fans in the New York metro area, and we look forward to providing Sky Blue fans, players, and staff a world-class experience every time they enter Red Bull Arena.”

Sky Blue GM Alyse LaHue added that this move will take the club to the “next level” as this switch dramatically improves their home field.

“After our players and fans experienced Red Bull Arena in 2019, we knew it was the perfect venue to host Sky Blue and showcase this incredible league,” LaHue said. “We’re extremely grateful to the Red Bulls organization for all their efforts in reaching this agreement, and will always remain thankful to Rutgers for their commitment to Sky Blue throughout the years. The move to Red Bull Arena builds upon the positive momentum we gained last season and will help propel our club and the league to the next level.”

Sky Blue have been somewhat left behind in the new NWSL era as teams in Portland, Seattle, Orlando, Washington and Utah have been getting big crowds and building off the success of the USWNT, particularly over the past few months.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Red Bulls organization will become more involved in the day-to-day operations or even the ownership of Sky Blue FC.

This is a massive step in the right direction for a franchise which has been lacking in terms of facilities and investment off the pitch.

Fabian downs Red Bulls in extra time, sends Philadelphia to conference semis

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A wild and wacky game saw Philadelphia come from two goals down to force extra time, and Marco Fabian bagged the eventual winner in the 105th minute to put the Union into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 4-3 win. The victory is the first in playoff action for the Union in club history.

New York held a 3-1 advantage at halftime as Josh Sims, Tim Parker, and Tom Barlow all found the back of the net for the visitors in the opening 45 minutes, while Alejandro Bedoya found the back of the net himself.

After the break, things got even more wild. New York coughed up the lead, with Jack Elliott and Fabrice Picault each striking once despite a solid display from Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. With the game level, the final 15 minutes were all Philadelphia as the Eastern Conference three seed peppered New York’s penalty area, but Robles made a fabulous save on a Jamiro Monteiro effort from point blank range at the back post.

In extra time, Fabian found the back of the net with what appeared to be a chipped cross that took a slight deflection and snuck into the top corner from a tight angle.

The Union will get a matchup with Atlanta United in the semifinals, after Frank De Boer engineered a 1-0 win over New England.

 

MLS Playoffs: 5 Key Battles in 1st Round

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It’s playoff time! With the new MLS postseason format, featuring single-elimination matches, the margins between victory and defeat are razor thin. Winning individual battles, or a battle to control a zone in the field, are more important than ever.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five key battles ahead of the start of the 2019 MLS playoffs.

5. Wayne Rooney v. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC CB’s

At this point of the season, every game could be Wayne Rooney’s last in a D.C. United uniform. Along with Luciano Acosta and Paul Arriola, Rooney is clearly the key man to D.C. United’s attack. The ball will flow through him as D.C. gets going, and it will be on TFC to mark him tightly and make sure he has no space to turn and strike the ball, or get on the end of a cross into the box.

Michael Bradley, at 32-years old, is no spring chicken. Especially late in the season, it will be interesting to see how he does marking Rooney when Rooney drops into the space between TFC’s backline, or whether he can pass him off to Omar Gonzalez or Chris Mavinga in the center of defense.

4. Union central midfield v. Red Bulls central midfield

The Philadelphia Union have enjoyed an outstanding season, and a large part of that has been the play in central midfield of Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin. The two veterans are adept on both sides of the ball, can play a pass, intercept passes, and control the tempo of the match. If they’re put off their game, with some pressure as soon as they receive the ball, the New York Red Bulls have a chance to win.

Whether it’s Sean Davis, Christian Caceres, Mark Rzatkowski, or Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra (who is coming off a goal for Paraguay during the international break), their work in the middle of the park will be crucial to determining which team controls the tempo, possession, and ultimately, who creates the most chances. Otherwise, Medunjanin and Bedoya will pick out Brenden Aaronson, Marco Fabian or Kacper Przybyłko and be off to the races.

3. Julian Gressel v. Jalil Anibaba

It’s a direct rematch of the last week of the season, where Atlanta United triumphed over the New England Revolution with a 3-1 win to close out a strong regular season campaign. While there’s plenty of focus on Josef Martinez, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez – who didn’t play in the season finale – and Ezequiel Barco, the real difference-maker in the attack for Atlanta United is Julian Gressel. The German-born wing back has plenty of marauding runs forward, is always available to receive a pass and can deliver quality crosses too. He ended up with two assists in the season finale and Anibaba was eventually substituted, though it may have been more to give the Revs some offensive punch with Juan Aguedlo coming on. It will be up to either Anibaba, or someone on the Revs to shut him down, cutting off one supply line of balls into the box for Josef Martinez to rifle home.

2. Jordan Morris v. Reggie Cannon

It’s a battle of two U.S. Men’s National Team regulars. Jordan Morris has had a resurgent second half of the season and appears to be in the best form of his life. On the other side, Cannon’s parlayed his terrific form for FC Dallas, despite his young age, into a starting role for the USMNT.

Morris in recent weeks has proven he still has his game-changing pace, as well as an improved left-footed touch. It’s going to be up to Cannon to stay with Morris down the wing, or pass him off to a teammate such as Reto Zeigler should Morris cut inside and not leave space open behind Cannon for a runner down the left wing.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic v. Ike Opara

One of the league’s best strikers against the reigning MLS Defender of the Year. 6-foot-5 (Zlatan) against 6-foot-2 (Ike Opara). When Ibrahimovic and Opara meet, it will be one of MLS’s duels of the ages. Zlatan has been nearly impossible for defenders to contain in MLS, as he not only uses his incredible size and tactical nous to win headers, but his technical ability on the ball ain’t bad. However, if there’s one player who can push around Zlatan, it might be Opara.

Opara has been a revelation to Minnesota United and could single-handedly be the reason they’re hosting a home game in the playoffs this year, rather than hitting the road or watching from home. He’s also part of the reason Sporting KC has been a complete mess this season.

If history is to be used as a precursor, the only meeting between Opara and Ibrahimovic this season ended in a scoreless draw. We’ll see if Opara can notch another win over Ibrahimovic this weekend as well.

Robinson called into USMNT camp after Zimmerman injury

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Walker Zimmerman has withdrawn from USMNT camp after suffering an injury in LAFC’s final match of the regular season.

Atlanta United youngster Miles Robinson will take his place.

The move has implications on the USMNT and could affect the MLS Cup Playoffs, though LAFC won’t play for 17 days.

[ MORE: Pulisic excited for Cuba, Canada ]

We’ll begin with the latter, where Zimmerman is a fine passer who can help outweigh mauler Aaron Long’s weaknesses in that department.

Robinson is also a very good passer, but won’t be expected to leap into the starting lineup against Cuba and Canada for the upcoming CONCACAF Nations League matches.

Fortunately, the Cuba game is first. That allows Gregg Berhalter to test run a center back pairing that already cannot include the injured John Brooks. It seems likely Berhalter will stick with Long — who’s been quite good for the Red Bulls since his recent misadventures with the USMN —  and unite him with either Tim Ream or Matt Miazga.

As for LAFC, Bob Bradley‘s men are strong and deep but could face an El Trafico with the Galaxy in the second round. Zlatan and Co. are a much bigger handful than Minnesota United’s attackers, as the Loons midfield is what makes them tick.

Zimmerman left Sunday’s 3-1 win over Colorado in the 66th minute with a scary-looking apparent head injury, and is an integral part of the Supporters’ Shield winners. Hopefully he won’t miss any time.

[ MORE: MLS Cup Playoff Power Rankings ]

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers v. DC United, Galaxy v. Sporting KC on a busy MLS Sunday

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Five games with playoff implications on the line, now that’s a MLS Sunday you don’t want to miss.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7 hours ]

Things kickoff with the Portland Timbers hosting D.C. United, and comes to a close with a vital Western Conference showdown between Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy, who look to jump back into a playoff position.

In between, the Real Salt Lake look to remain second in the Western Conference as they travel to Allianz Field to take on an inconsistent Minnesota United, while the Seattle Sounders hope to jump ahead of RSL in the standings as they host the New York Red Bulls.

Sunday’s full MLS schedule

Portland Timbers v. D.C. United — 3 p.m. ET

Toronto FC v. Colorado Rapids — 5 p.m. ET

Minnesota United v. Real Salt Lake — 5:30 p.m. ET

Seattle Sounders v. New York Red Bulls — 6 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Sporting Kansas City — 10 p.m. ET