Robert Earnshaw

MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers

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The game in 100 words (or less): Usually big rivalry games are cagey, disjointed affairs lacking a bit of quality, but that is rarely the case in the Cascadia Cup, no matter which two sides are playing. Carl Robinson will be pleased with his side’s newfound ability to win low-scoring games and typically hold on from a winning position. This time they needed a second goal for three points, but the balance between attack and defense remains much better from the ‘Caps.

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Three moments that mattered

15′ — Mezquida’s curler sneaks inside the post — With Mauro Rosales currently injured, Nicolas Mezquida is currently in charge of taking free kicks for the Whitecaps, and it’s a good thing. The 23-year-old Uruguayan curled his 15th-minute effort over the wall and inside the near post to give the ‘Caps an early lead.

82′ — Adi finishes a lethal Timbers counter attack — Nagbe, to Rodney Wallace, to Fanendo Adi — it’s becoming a pretty routine combination for Caleb Porter’s side, and that’s a very good thing. Nagbe put Wallace into space, which he quickly gobbled up and fed Adi with an easy one six yards out from an empty net.

90′ — Earnshaw with the winner three minutes into his debut — Robert Earnshaw isn’t the most complete forward in MLS by any stretch of the imagination. What he still does really, really well, though, is finish chances one-on-one with the ‘keeper. Pedro Morales provided the splitting through ball and Earnshaw provided the lifted finish and the front flip.

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Man of the match: Darlington Nagbe — He was nearly perfect with his passing (93 percent) and almost always the best player on the field when he asserts himself and takes control of the game. If not for David Ousted, Portland win this game with Nagbe at the heart of everything they do.

LINEUPS

Vancouver Whitecaps: Ousted, Beitashour, Waston, Kah, Adekugbe, Laba, Koffie (Flores 72′), Hurtado (Earnshaw 87′), Morales, Mezquida (Froese 58′), Rivero

Goals: Mezquida (15′), Earnshaw (90′)

Portland Timbers: Kwarasey, Powell, Borchers, Ridgewell, Villafana, Nagbe, Chara, Fochive (Fernandez 75′), Wallace, Urruti (Asprilla 65′), Adi

Goals: Adi (82′)

MLS Snapshot: History! Fire set ties record, Union playoff hopes fade

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Amobi Okugo’s 88th minute goal looked to boost the Union’s playoff hopes, but the fabulous tying Fire provided home heartbreak for Philadelphia at PPL Park on Thursday night.

Draws are pretty much losses for the Union right now, and they ran into a Chicago team that has now tied more games in a single season than any team in MLS history after Thursday’s 1-1 tie.

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Four minutes after Okugo’s heroics had the stadium rocking, Robert Earnshaw brough the boobirds out when he took advantage of a poor clearance from Union keeper Rais M’Bohli in the second minute of stoppage time to see the game out at 1-1.

The tie leaves the Union in seventh place and will make it highly-improbable they rise back into the top five. Meanwhile, Chicago remains in ninth place.

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Andrew Wenger provided the game’s best chance in the early stages of the second half when he streaked down the right flank, but his pass to the middle of the field was hammered wide, point-blank, by Cristian Maidana.

The Union were forced to deal with a few tricky chances, but Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu made them look fairly easy in defense. Jim Curtin’s decision to ask Edu to man the middle of the back line is a clear victory for Philadelphia (and sports bravery).

Sixty-first minute sub Brian Brown took a touch too many when Wenger set him up just outside the 18, curling a low shot well wide of Sean Johnson’s goal.

And then Okugo took advantage of a deflected cross off Brown, sending a ball into the center of the goal past Johnson.

But it wasn’t over, Philly goalkeeper M’Bohli clearance was picked off by Earnshaw. He raced in to chip the keeper with class, providing a bit of history to MLS.

Some interesting names to discuss as Toronto FC declines contract options on several notable veterans

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Toronto FC will be one of the more interesting teams to watch throughout the MLS off-season. (What little of it there is – MLS Cup is this weekend, but we can expect teams to be back into preseason camp by mid-January.) Even before the always-ambitious club reveals its DP dandy, presumably being chased at this very moment, according ot the reports of evocative names we keep reading, the “interesting” is already taking place.

Toronto FC’s list of players whose options were declined includes some names that aren’t necessarily shocking – but would have been at another time.

The list includes former US international Bobby Convey, strikers Danny Koevermans, Robert Earnshaw and Justin Braun and goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Convey (pictured above), of course, continues to be one of the real head-scratchers of domestic soccer. The guy had so very much potential as he signed at an early age, then moved his promising career to England. After initial success, something went wrong there. Then something kept going wrong, whether through attitude or performance decline or whatever, as he sent from San Jose to Kansas City to Toronto. And now to … well, who knows?

Koevermans was hitting goals at a prolific rate when he initially arrived into BMO, but a big injury last year turned into a long rehab this year, and his 2013 campaign never achieved liftoff. At age 35, he’s probably done.

Stefan Frei was among the league’s top ‘keepers from 2009 to 2011, the unquestioned  starter during that time around BMO Field. But his is a cautionary tale of how injurious a serious injury or two can be to a career. He never regained his started spot after season ending surgery very early in 2012. And now he’s a “former TFC” man.

Braun is a big, fairly fast and hard-trying striker who just cannot seem to find the right place. If he could improve technically just a bit, he would easily find a home. As it is, the once-promising American will soon be on his fifth MLS team in five years … if someone bites this time, that is.

And finally there is Earnshaw, one of the real surprise stories of MLS in March and into April. But injuries and general Toronto FC-ness caught up with the Welsh striker, who faded right along with the team.

Stalemate sees Chicago drop needed points in Toronto (Video)

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMyeo1dYMXE]

When is a point on the road in MLS not enough? When we’re past the three-quarter mark of the campaign, you’re on the road in Toronto, and you’re trying to track down two teams to claim a playoff spot.

That’s exactly the situation Chicago found themselves in prior to kickoff at BMO tonight, and at the onset, thinks looked good. A looking cross from Dilly Duka found its way into the back of the net after Mike Magee threw off Joe Bednik, giving the Fire a 1-0 lead. Hold on to the result, and Chicago would sit fifth in the East at night’s end, vaulting New England and Houston to temporarily occupy the conference’s last playoff spot.

Against a team with only four wins this season, you’d think their odds were good, especially with the expectations of a playoff race sure to be on Chicago’s minds. But Toronto’s also managed to get 10 draws out of the season, and before halftime, thanks to some help from the Fire defense, they equalized. Robert Earnshaw saw a ball played through Bakary Soumaré to him in the right of Sean Johnson’s area. Cutting back across goal as Gonzalo Segares’s block slide aside, Earnshaw left Johnson little chance to prevent the equalizer.

It was also the last goal of the match. Though Chicago slowly brought on more attack-minded players and Ryan Nelsen, while making up for Earnshaw’s early exist, looked to counter Frank Klopas’s moves, neither side could distinguished itself from the other. The match ended 1-1.

For Toronto, it was their 11th draw of the year, one that saw newly acquired Bright Dike make his Reds debut. But it was also nothing different from what we’ve seen all year from Toronto. The team just can’t score enough goals to find the win column.

For Chicago, the result has to be a disappointment, particularly given they were up after 20 minutes. Unfortunately, they can’t really claim they deserved much better. Against one of the league’s struggling teams, they failed to show themselves better. As a result, they remain in seventh in the East.

You can see Duka’s 20th minute opener, above. Earnshaw’s 23rd minute response is here:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7hHzU4czE0]

Toronto decision looming on Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw

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The spring loan deals arranged by Toronto FC’s new management – mostly stop-gap measures while a bigger plan could be implemented – are coming to a close. Most of them will expire without much fanfare, and the fans around Exhibition Place have little reason to miss most of the travelers.

But the decision regarding one loanee will be a real puzzler; Toronto FC has a big choice ahead on Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw.

Earnshaw struck early and often to begin his MLS days, almost single-handedly raising March hopes around BMO Field and even topping the league’s scoring list in some of the initial weeks.

Since then the 32-year-old striker’s production has fallen sharply.He still seems to be a quality man to have around at a relatively low salary for a first-choice striker ($155,000 guaranteed). It’s complicated math, really, because there are so many dynamic parts in motion here.

  • He’s 32, so how does that fit as Kevin Payne and manager Ryan Nelsen attempt to build?
  • Would his April and May have looked different if the team playing behind him was better? Truly, the man isn’t getting much help.
  • How much will he gain by having a high-quality striker alongside once Danny Koevermans is fully healthy? If Koevermans bounces back, that suddenly looks like a strike pairing worth watching.
  • On the other hand, as the 2013 season already seems lost in terms of achievement and hardware (just one win in 13 matches), how much sense does it make to give him minutes? Wouldn’t a young striker better serve the club’s long-term interests?

This piece from Walking the Red blog is a great examination of both sides. And it lays out one further element among the myriad moving parts here: Which is the real Earnshaw? Was it the one seen earlier or the slightly more selfish version on display lately? Perhaps any perceived selfishness is out of necessity; as we mentioned, the team behind him is pretty lousy.

Here’s how the story at Walking the Red describes Earnshaw’s ways of late:

Earnshaw seems frustrated at being used effectively as a target man, having to chase long balls and battle Centre Backs for headers he’s very rarely going to win. When he does get the ball, he seems very reluctant to pass, as if desperate to create a chance for a shot on goal, often dribbling into defenders or taking ambitious shots from far out when a pass to keep the move going and wait for a better opportunity would be the best option.

“It’s now 2 straight games that Earnshaw has been subbed off between the 60th and 70th minutes, in games where TFC need a goal. This is form that makes it easy to see just how he’d ended up at Maccabi Tel Aviv before finding his way to Toronto.”