MLS Daily: Sounders back to their best after convincing win against the New York Red Bulls.

Goals from Clint Dempsey (Pen), Jordan Morris and Harry Shipp won the game for the defending MLS champions.

A crowd of 45,000 witnessed the return of the Seattle Sounders side that won last year’s MLS Cup, after they beat New York Red Bulls 3-1 at CenturyLink Field.

Like in Houston and Montreal, the Sounders started the game slowly, but this time the hosts didn’t take until the second half to find their feet.

In the 27th minute, Morris won a penalty for the home side after being brought down by New York ‘keeper Luis Robles.

Former Fulham and Tottenham man Dempsey slotted home the penalty, which seemed to calm the nerves of the Sounders players. Before then they could clearly feel the expectations of the crowd flowing within CenturyLink Field.

Morris was excellent all night. Somewhat a ghostly figure in the opening two matches, last year’s MLS Rookie of the Year was getting into some great positions, but was unable to double the home side’s lead before the break.

The travelling Red Bulls, whose 18-match unbeaten run in the regular season was brought to a drastic halt, had equalised when Bradley Wright-Phillips headed home.

It was the last time the Red Bulls came forward with any real attacking intent. Seattle piled on the pressure after that, and deservedly went back in front when Morris powered home a header of his own inside the six yard box.

Shipp made it 3-1 with just over ten minutes to go when he purposely deflected Joevin Jones’ long range strike into the bottom left corner.

Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer praised the crowd, and hopes the noise of the supporters continues.

“This is going to be an exciting home season for us,” he said in his post-match conference.

“Today’s atmosphere was good. The fans were loud from start to end and we were able to reward them with a good performance.”

Schmetzer again spoke about the never-say die attitude of his team.

“Once again we have produced a good second half performance,” claimed the Sounders boss.

“I can’t tell you how or why, but the spirit of the team is always there.”

Striker Jordan Morris almost came off at half-time due to injury, but the young forward insists he was fine.

“We said try it for ten minutes, and it felt fine. I never wanted to come off. I always want to play,” he said after the game. 

“It’s the same ankle I sprained a little back in the pre-season, but I don’t think it’a anything serious and I should be fine for next week.”

Both these sides will be in contention to make the end of season play-offs if they perform to the levels we have seen already this season, but they will need to make their form consistent.

The Red Bulls have to be more attacking and cleverer with possession away from home, especially at a hostile location like Seattle.

The Sounders also need to continue to be on the front foot from the get go and attack with pace. Morris, Jones and Oniel Fisher casued havoc for the New York defence all evening, and more of the same will see them quickly climb up the Western Conference.

 

 

MLS Daily: LA Galaxy finally get their first points of the season at Real Salt Lake.

The five-time MLS Champions lost their first two matches of the 2017 campaign. 

Perhaps it’s best if LA Galaxy stayed away from the StubHub Centre.

Curt Onalfo’s side lost both their home matches to Dallas and Portland Timbers respectively in weeks 1 and 2 of the 2017 season.

It’s the first time since 2012 that the Galaxy have lost consecutive home matches in the regular season, making this weekend’s game even in Utah even more important.

Things started badly for the visitors as RSL’s Yura Movsisya headed in their first goal of the campaign at the Rio Tinto Stadium.

Kyle Beckermann was shown a second yellow card just before half-time in what was a game-changing moment, as the Galaxy made their one man advantage count.

Dave Romney cannoned in a thunderbolt of a volley into the top corner to equalise, before Emmanuel Boateng fired home a low cross with just over 15 minutes to go.

Real Salt Lake’s Chad Barrett will be kicking himself with what has to go down as miss of the season so far.

The unmarked substitute somehow managed to shoot wide with an open goal in front of him. But the Galaxy held on to claim all three points.

After the 2-1 victory, match-winner Boateng told LA Galaxy the side were relieved to finally win a game.

“This is a great win for us,” he said.

“I felt we were confident enough to beat RSL. The red card helped us a lot as we could then add some pressure on their defence.

“It was important to get this win before the international break.”

Head Coach Onalfo was delighted to get get his first win as boss.

“This win means a lot. I’ve worked my whole life for this job,” Onalfo said after the game.

“I want to win and be successful, and we’re going to be. It’s good to get the first win under my belt and the first of many, many more.

It was a busy Saturday in MLS, with 10 of the 11 matches this weekend now completed.

Portland Timbers came back from 2-1 down to win 4-2 at home to Houston Dynamo and keep their 100% start to the 2017 season in tact.

Columbus Crew won 2-0 in the capital to pile further misery on DC United, whilst Atlanta United continued to make huge strides with another emphatic win over Chicago Fire (4-0).

There were also wins for FC Dallas, Sporting KC, Orlando City and Toronto FC, with New York City FC and Montreal drawing their match 1-1 at Yankee Stadium.

Minnesota United also grabbed their first ever MLS point away at Colorado Rapids in an entertaining 2-2 draw.

 

MLS Daily: Ever-present Keegan Rosenberry is one to watch out for.

The right back was selected as the third overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft by the Philadelphia Union, and has not looked back since. 

It’s been quite a 12 months for Keegan Rosenberry.

The 23-year old has played every minute of every game for Union and scored two goals since he was brought into the side last year. He was also part of the 2016 MLS All-Star team that lost 2-1 to Arsenal last summer and named runner up in the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year award.

“Things happen quickly  in this game,”  Union manager Jim Curtin said to Philly.com earlier this year.

“They happen to people who earn it and Keegan earned it from day one.

“He came in with a great mentality. He’s a winner, and he projects a lot of things we want a Philadelphia Union player to be.”

Adept at one-on-one defending and reading the play, Rosenberry is growing into one of MLS’ most versatile defenders. However, his introduction to Major League Soccer wasn’t a nice one.

The young defender made his debut for the club in Philadelphia’s 2-0 defeat to Dallas on opening weekend in 2016. Where some young players crumble in that situation, Rosenberry began to flourish.

Coincidentally, the team’s results improved just as the right back’s performances did, which resulted in Philadelphia reaching the end of season Play-Offs for just the second time in their history.

They may have lost 3-1 to Toronto in the knockout round, but it has given this Philadelphia team a platform to build on for this year and beyond.

“In the first half of last season, we were near the top of the Eastern Conference and we played well at home,” Rosenberry said in an interview with Philly.com.

“That does a lot for the fans and the expectations for the team and the city.

“We felt that we got better every home game and it was really exciting for us. The challenge this year is to continue to build on that and then be more consistent throughout the year.”

Rosenberry’s performances for the Union were rewarded in January, when the 23-year old was called up to the national side for the first time by USA coach Bruce Arena.

“I think this past year has been one of the most exciting years of my life,” said the 23-year old.

“I think it’s probably the best year that I’ve had to date.

“I’m just extremely thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I’m thankful for the Philadelphia Union for giving me the opportunity to progress as a player.

“There have been other rookies who’ve come into the league with just as much talent or just as much work ethic as I have, but they don’t get a chance to play the same amount of game time that I do.”

The Union have began 2017 with two draws, and travel to Orlando City tomorrow hoping to finally get that elusive first win under their belts.

Hopefully it will also give Rosenberry another chance to impress on the national stage as he continues to grow into one of the MLS’ most valuable young players.

MLS Daily: Getting rid of financial regulations wouldn’t necessarily make the MLS more competitive.

New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo has called for the MLS salary cap to be scrapped in order for the league to compete with China’s top division. 

After the financial collapse of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1980s, the MLS developed a system so that the same fate couldn’t be repeated- but it could cost them the ability to attract the world’s best players.

The rise of the Chinese Super League has escalated over the last couple of years- with teams spending enormous amounts of money to buy some of the highest quality footballers on the planet. Hulk, Oscar, Axel Witsel and Carlos Tevez are just a few of the players currently plying their trade in Asia on mega-buck contracts.

In comparison, the MLS have integrated a system in which clubs can only sign a maximum of three designated players, who can earn above the salary cap thats set across the league.

37-year old Pirlo told Gazzetta dello Sport: “The league needs to get rid of any restrictions on transfers and end the rule which allows only three so-called designated players to earn big money beyond each team’s set budget if it wants to compete.

“I’ve seen improvements and from what I have seen in friendly games and the first two rounds of the regular season. The quality has risen a lot.

“But certainly I would get rid of the restrictions on the transfer market. Enough with the three exceptions to the salary cap, which is too little to convince other stars to come here. They need to develop a liberal system where you can buy and sell players without restrictions.

“Now there is even the competition from China. If you want to compete with other leagues, at home and abroad, you have got to get rid of any restrictions.”

Pirlo, along with David Villa, are two of the three designated players currently on the books at Yankee Stadium.

Other notable names on designated contracts include Orlando city captain Kaka, Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, as well as LA Galaxy trio Jelle Van Damme, Giovani Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini.

David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba have all been previously on designated player contracts.

The major problem for the MLS is that players have only considered moving to the states as a last big payday. Most players listed above joined their retrospective clubs when they were in their 30s.

The restrictions on contracts and transfer sums means that players aren’t ready to join a league that isn’t as competitive as the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga when they are at their peak.

A shift in the rulebook could help the teams compete with the Chinese Super League, but it would definitely hamper certain clubs chances of success.

Even if the restrictions were lifted, not all MLS clubs have mega budgets they could use to sign quality players. Like some leagues in Europe, we would probably see three or four clubs competing for the MLS Cup every year, which could drive away certain fans.

At the same time, fans do want to see the world’s best players. Rumours are going round suggesting that LA Galaxy are preparing to offer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a deal to come over to the MLS- a deal which would excite the country let alone LA.

But you couldn’t imagine other clubs, say the San Jose Earthquakes or Sporting KC offering the same deal to the 35-year old Swedish captain. Only a handful of teams could, and that is why the salary cap is worthy of being in place. It makes the league fairer for the smaller budgeted sides.

The quality of the American top flight is forever growing stronger, and when it is at a standard where most if not all players would be worthy of designated player contracts, then we could see a change in the rules.

China may have the money, but it will take time to integrate better footballing standards in the country. Look at the English clubs spending big, like Manchester United. They are still nowhere near winning the Premier League title. Liverpool also have spent a heap of cash and look like possibly missing out on Champions League football.

Leicester City won the Premier League last year, and had one of the smallest budgets in the division.

Money isn’t everything. It may bring the stars, but it doesn’t necessarily bring better standards and excitement. The MLS this year is as competitive as ever, and it’s only going to get better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLS Daily: Big wins for New York City FC and Atlanta United.

The two sides scored a whopping ten goals between them!

It was goals, goals, goals on Sunday in the MLS, with both New York City FC and Atlanta United recording huge wins after their opening round defeats.

NYCFC, who were beaten 1-0 in Orlando last week, thumped DC United 4-0 at Yankee Stadium.

Captain David Villa netted a brace, with Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez both scoring their first goals for New York respectively.

It was a commanding performance from Patrick Vieira’s men, who are looking to once again challenge in the end of season Play-Offs.

The former-Arsenal skipper has been in the New York job for just over a year, and the Frenchman insists his team will only get better.

“It was a great team performance,” he told the press after the match.

“It was important to win our first home match and we did that really well.

“After the Orlando game, I told the players to play the same way because we did create chances but didn’t take them. Today we did take our changes, and we will go and celebrate what was a very good win.”

Moralez, who also got two assists as well as the goal, echoed his manager’s thoughts. He told @NYCFC after the game: “We must carry on playing like this throughout the season.

“I am very happy to have scored the goal but also to have played my debut in front of the supporters and get the win.”

It was also a day to remember for Atlanta, who recorded their first ever MLS win with a 6-1 demolition of fellow new boys Minnesota United.

Despite the freezing cold weather, Atlanta were in red hot form. Josef Martinez racked up the first MLS hat-trick of the season, with Miguel Almiron scoring twice and Jacob Peterson also finding the net for Tito Martino’s team.

After their heartbreaking 2-1 home defeat to New York Red Bulls last week, Atlanta showed the world their true potential as they aim to claim a stake for one of the Eastern Conference’s play-off spots.

Martinez told the Atlanta Journal Constitution after the game: “It’s always nice to score, even more so when it’s three, but the most important thing is that the team got the win tonight and it feels really good to get the first in in team history.”

Head coach Martino admitted he had never managed a game in the snow before, and said after the match:  “Above all, we played a simple game and avoided problems overall.

“I think if it wasn’t so snowy, we would’ve been able to play more like we did in the first 15 minutes.

“We would’ve liked to have had our first win in the first game, but we’re happy with the first win as a team.”

Elsewhere, Portland kept up their 100% start to the new season with a 1-0 win at LA Galaxy, who themselves are yet to register a single point this campaign.

MLS Daily: Late Will Bruin strike rescues Sounders in Montreal.

The defending champions are still without a win this season. 

The ability to claw back results from the face of defeat is a trait of champions, and that’s exactly what Seattle Sounders did at Montreal Impact last night.

Will Bruin, one of the club’s newest signings, netted deep into stoppage time as the defending MLS Cup champions produced a fine comeback at the Olympic Stadium.

For the second consecutive week, Sounders started slowly, and found themselves 2-0 down thanks to goals from Matteo Mancosu and Ignacio Piatti.

Montreal were cruising at that point, before Nicolas Lodeiro converted a penalty on 83 minutes for the away side

Bruin, a late substitute, proved why he was a worthy acquisition as he was in the right place at the right time to slot home a 94th minute leveller.

The goalscorer told Sounders after the match: “It’s a monkey off my back to score my first goal.

“Hopefully the floodgates will open and I will get plenty more.

This was the second consecutive match that the ex-Houston forward came off the bench, but the striker isn’t too fussed about his position just yet.

“I don’t expect to be an instant starter,” he admitted.

“But I’m hoping to take every opportunity with both hands and give the coach a selection headache.”

But Seattle have now produced two poor performances. One could be excused had they thought Clint Dempsey  wasn’t playing. The American was hardly involved last night, and when he isn’t firing at full cylinders, the Sounders look less like the team that went on to win the MLS Cup last October.

Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match: “We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.

“We don’t want to chasing down one goal, two goals. We played the game we wanted too.

“Every team makes mistakes, we are going to make mistakes. We are trying to get the season up and running. We will get better. We will resolve the defensive issues.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, New York Red Bulls made it two wins out of two after defeating Colorado Rapids 2-0. It’s now 18 games unbeaten at the Red Bull Arena for Jesse Marsch’s side.

Sebastian Giovinco went off injured as Toronto drew 2-2 at Philadelphia Union, San Jose Earthquakes won 3-2 at home to ten-man Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire won 2-0 to end Real Salt Lake’s six match unbeaten record at Toyota Park.

Houston Dynamo won for the second week in a row. They beat Columbus Crew 3-1, whilst FC Dallas drew 0-0 at Sporting KC.

New England Revolution and Orlando City will play their match on September 2nd after their game was postponed due to the weather.

 

MLS Daily: FC Dallas show their intent after overdue victory at LA Galaxy.

It was their first win at the StubHub Centre since 2009. 

FC Dallas could once again be a force to be reckoned with this year.

Yes it’s very early days, but the 2016 Supporters Shield and US Open Cup winners will only have gained more confidence after their impressive 2-1 away win at LA Galaxy last Saturday.

It’s been a long eight years since they last tasted success in the Californian city, but the current crop of Dallas players finally managed to provide that elusive Hollywood performance to take all three points with them back to Texas.

Maximiliano Urruti and Kellyn Acosta were the Dallas heroes with two quality goals on the day. The latter’s strike was assisted by new signing Roland Lamah, and the winger told FC Dallas’ On the Record: “LA are a strong time, but it was important for us to take something there.”

“Thankfully, we took all three points.”

The Belgian midfielder has travelled all over Europe during his playing career, but he has now embarked on a new challenge in the MLS, something he is really excited about.

“I feel great here, it feels like family. Maybe some cowboy boots and hat are next on the agenda!” the 29-year-old joked.

“Dallas is nice. I knew the moment I stepped into the dressing room that I was in a good place.”

Oscar Pareja, Head Coach of FC Dallas, has done the vital job of keeping together the majority of his double-winning squad from last term, with the addition of some excellent individuals.

Forward Cristian Colman joins from Paraguayan side Nacional, whilst MLS veteran Javier Morales also signed across the dotted line. Both are excellent acquisitions which ultimately makes the side look even more stronger on paper.

With the added squad depth, and a good backing from the supporters, Dallas will no doubt be on the hunt for that first ever MLS Cup victory.

They also now have the capability to go on a strong cup run, as well as challenge for the domestic title, something they may have lacked last season.

Currently, they are still in the CONCACAF Champions League, where they play Mexican side Pachuca in the semi-finals, and it’s a competition again where they could go all the way.

Winning trophies is like lust, once you get into motion, you just don’t want to stop. 

Dallas have a winning formula, and should they stay injury free, you can bet they will continue to add to their trophy cabinet this year.

 

 

MLS Daily: Penalty king Nick Rimando could be crucial to Real Salt Lake.

The goalkeeper is a specialist when it comes to stopping spot-kicks. 

This is Nick Rimando’s tenth season at Real Salt Lake, but while he may feel like a piece of the old furniture nowadays, he is still a valuable asset for this young team.

The 37-year old is well known for his exceptional reflexes, which have made him one of the best goalkeepers in the MLS.

During Real Salt Lake’s 0-0 with Toronto last Saturday, Rimando saved a Sebastian Giovinco’s penalty- his tenth since 2010. No goalkeeper in the league has managed to save more than six in the same time period.

Overall, the American has made 29 career penalty saves. He holds the league record for appearances (425) and clean sheets (130). He also has 22 caps for the USA.

It has led many, including fellow countryman Tim Howard calling Rimando the ‘greatest goalie in MLS history’.

Having won the MLS Cup twice in his career, once with DC United in 2004 and the other with Real Salt Lake in 2009, Rimando knows the means of winning trophies- he has the experience that youngsters in the squad crave for.

After the 0-0 draw on Saturday, Rimando told the media:

“Our goalkeeping coach does a great job with the tapes. We study hard, we have a good idea of who will take the kick, which way they will go, so its up to us to guess that way.

“Hopefully the next penalty we give away will end the same way.”

Real Salt Lake have been in a transition for the last couple of seasons. Head Coach Jeff Cassar is trying to embed more youngsters into the side, and has seen progress being made.

In 2016, they made the Play-Offs; losing out to LA Galaxy 3-1 on aggregate. However, that didn’t keep key midfielder Javier Morales from leaving.

Albert Rusnak has come in for a $450,000 transfer fee from FC Groningen as his replacement. The 22-year-old will step into Morales’ playmaker role on a designated player contract and it will be interesting to see how the Slovakian performs in what are big shoes to fill.

Eight notable players in the Real Salt Lake squad are aged 22 or younger, and should all make their positions their own, this could become a dangerous side for years to come.

Rimando stands as the old guard with the new kids on the block protecting him. This blend could be just what Real Salt Lake need to push themselves up the Western Conference and challenge once again for the MLS Cup.

 

MLS Daily: Late heartbreak for Atlanta.

It was almost a winning start in MLS for Gerardo Martino’s men. 

It was a famous night in the state of Georgia which nearly ended in ecstasy for the home fans.

Argetine midfielder Yamil Asad scored Atlanta’s first ever goal in MLS after 25 minutes with a first time finish at the back post from Tyrone Mears’ cross.

For a majority of the match, the home side seemed comfortably against a well-organised New York Red Bulls team.

Atlanta, who are coached by former Barcelona and Argentina boss Martino, were just 18 minutes away from victory before the visitors equalised through Daniel Royer.

The home team would have probably taken a point at the start of the evening, but even that was cruelly taken away from them when the unfortunate Anton Walkes put the ball into his own net.

With Atalanta pushing for a late equaliser, Carlos Carmona lost his cool and the Spaniard was sent off for violent conduct to end any chance of a comeback for the home team.

Martino however was pleased with his team’s performance and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution afterwards: “We were much closer to converting a second goal then they were to equalise.

“They managed to turn the score around but I think we had started to control the game again up until they scored that leveller.”

“We want to be a team that is very aggressive and quickly win the ball back when we lose it. The message we want to put out there is that we are a team that is very comfortable in this league and is excited to represent the city.”

Goalscorer Asad added: “It was a joy to score (Atlanta’s first ever MLS goal). I’m very excited to be a part of the club’s history, but I’m unhappy that we lost. We still have a lot of things to work on.”

Red Bulls’ playmaker Sacha Kljestan, who was made club captain during the off-season, said: “Atlanta seem to be doing a lot of things right.

“Their training facility is top-notch and the atmosphere of the stadium with the fans was amazing. Atlanta as a team are very good- I think they will do pretty well this season.”

Jesse Marsch, Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls, praised the mentality of his team but was also full of praise for the opposition.

“Atlanta tested us in big way in the first half  but we hung in there,” he said.

“At half-time, we asked the players to put a little bit more effort in and be a little bit clearer tactically. I thought for the most part we did that.

The effort in the second half  was really good, and it was a great comeback. There is a lot of spirit within this team.”

Elsewhere last night, Orlando kicked off their new season with a 1-0 win over New York City FC.

Cyle Larin scored the only goal of the game, as Orlando opened their new stadium with victory.

Vancouver Whitecaps could only draw 0-0 at home to Philadelphia Union.

 

 

MLS Daily: Defeat for defending champions Seattle Sounders in Houston.

First-half goals from Erik Torres and Romell Quioto give the Dynamo all three points on opening weekend. 

2016 was a season to forget for the Houston Dynamo, and one to remember for the Seattle Sounders.

Whilst Houston finished bottom of the Western Conference, Sounders went on to win the MLS Cup for the first time in their history.

The off-season has seen a lot of change- especially in the Dynamo camp. Wilmer Cabrera has taken over as Head Coach following Wade Barrett’s brief stint towards the second half of last year, as well as over a dozen new players.

Five of those, including goalscorer Quioto, made their debuts for the home side last night, and the team looked fresh and up for the task ahead. There was an energy around the Compass Arena that had been missing for some time.

Right from the first minute, Dynamo were on the front foot, with Sounders keeper Stefan Frei keeping the scoreline goalless with two good saves early on.

But Torres’ free-kick and Quioto’s superb curling effort from 20 yards gave the hosts a deserved 2-0 lead at half time.

The defending champions on the other hand just weren’t at the races during the opening half. Although on a positive note, it was good to see Clint Dempsey make his first competitive start since August, after he suffered a heart related issue last summer.

The former Fulham and Tottenham midfielder scored Seattle’s goal, in what was a much better second half performance, with a composed finish at the back post.

Head Coach Brian Schmetzer told Sounders after the game: “It was a good goal from Clint. I probably ran him out longer than I wanted too but we had discussed it and he felt ok to play.

“I told the players to be more patient with possession in the second half. We tried to play killer passes too quickly in the opening 45. When we got more patient we looked more of a threat.

“This was a good learning tool for us. The lesson here is that we cannot afford to let teams press us. We have a target on our backs.”

This was a cagey opening performance from the champions ahead of what will be one of the closest MLS seasons in history, and Sounders forward Jordan Morris said: “We are the champs. Teams are going to come at us and away from home they were going to be fired up.

“We need to learn from our mistakes ahead of next week. We’re all frustrated. We are better then that but hopefully we can turn it around next weekend.”

Elsewhere, FC Dallas won at LA Galaxy for the first time since 2009 as goals from Maximiliano Urruti and Kellyn Acosta helped the visitors to a 2-1 victory.

Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire drew 1-1 at the MAPFRE Stadium, DC United and Sporting Kansas City ended goalless and a Dominique Badji header saw off New England Revolution as Colorado Rapids made it a winning start to 2017.

Sebastian Giovinco missed a penalty as Toronto played out a 0-0 draw at Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes beat 10-man Montreal Impact thanks to an Anibal Godoy goal.