Pulisic Makes History as U.S. Ease Past Bolivia
Pulisic Makes History as U.S. Ease Past Bolivia avatar

Saturday night’s 4-0 over Bolivia assures that the Americans head into next Friday’s COPA America Centenario opening match versus Colombia on a high note.

Gyasi Zardes scored a brace for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Gyasi Zardes scored a brace for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Attacker Gyasi Zardes scored twice to somewhat quiet recent criticism of his play that centered largely on the Galaxy forward’s wasteful first touch and John Brooks and 17-year-old sensation Christian Pulisic added goals to up the feel-good factor.

The win is the third on the trot for the COPA hosts by a combined 8-1 score over Puerto Rico, Ecuador, and now Bolivia.

As with all friendlies these results are to be taken with a grain of salt and of the three opponents keep in mind that Puerto Rico currently holds the 152nd position in the FIFA Rankings while Bolivia has struggled desperately since bowing out at the quarterfinals stage of the 2015 COPA America, after beating Ecuador, and drawing with Mexico to advance from group play.

Since losing to Peru 3-1 to Peru in the 2015 COPA quarters Bolivia has changed coaches and stumbled to a record of one win and five losses in World Cup Qualifying play.

Which is not to diminish the positive takeaways for Jurgen Klinsmann’s group as it heads into the COPA opener on Friday in Santa Clara, California.

Here are a few.

Changing of the Guard?

When Klinsmann sent the U.S. out in a 4-3-3 versus Ecuador featuring Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley in the center of the park we wondered where the creativity would come from.

Pulisic made history as being the youngest player to score for MNT in the modern game. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Pulisic made history as being the youngest player to score for the MNT in the modern game. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

After 45 minutes we found out, it would come from the bench. Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood were introduced after the break and Christian Pulisic and Alejandro Bedoya followed just after the hour mark and the changes opened up the game to the home team’s benefit.

Bedoya is hardly a new face in the U.S lineup but with his play in the COPA build up the Nantes man has shown again that he is a key part of this group with his tireless running and solid two-way play.

But we knew that. Pulisic, Nagbe, and to a somewhat lesser extent Wood, because we’ve seen more of him in a U.S. uniform, represent something new.

And maybe something different. The trio are all comfortable with the ball, just watch Nagbe operate in tight spaces, and they are the type of players Klinsmann needs to implement his long-promised, seldom delivered, “proactive” style of play.

A few friendlies do not offer proof, but the do offer hope. If this triumvirate can deliver on that hope in the cauldron of the COPA then we will be witnessing a true “changing of the guard.”

Stability at the back?

Against Bolivia, the U.S. started Geoff Cameron and John Brooks together in the heart of the defense. While the pair seems to be the likely starters in the COPA, they have rarely played together.

The U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann will need to finalize his back line to gain solidity in defense.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Still, when fullbacks Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin entered the game after halftime, it felt like the band was back together. It has been a long time coming, with Klinsmann’s habit of tinkering with his center back pair preventing the defense from establishing an identity.

It is too soon to say if Cameron and Brooks can establish themselves as a modern Lalas/Balboa or Bocanegra/Onyewu but the COPA will be a good testing ground.

Bradley at the 6

Finally. It has seemed so obvious to so many, for so long but the man in charge resisted. Halfway through the Ecuador match Jurgen Klinsmann dropped Michael Bradley back from the advanced midfield role, the number 10, to the deeper lying number 6 role.

And if that clouds didn’t exactly part and the scales didn’t fall from out eyes, it is fair to say that the play of the U.S. MNT did improve significantly.

Whether it was a lack of options in the 10 position or plain stubbornness Klinsmann has persisted in playing the TFC man as an attacking midfielder. Ever the good soldier Bradley did not complain and he did a decent job of it, hey Bradley is a damn good player.

Bradley  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Bradley has shone for Toronto in the #6 role.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Since the move Bradley has thrived. It is a seriously limited sample size but the U.S. captain is having an excellent year for TFC in the 6 and his ceiling is so much higher in the role.

Klinsmann wouldn’t commit to leaving Bradley in the position but the more confidence the coach has in Nagbe, the more comfortable he can be with this tactical switch.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 2 4
BOL 0 0 0

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Alejandro Bedoya) 26th minute
USA – John Brooks (Alejandro Bedoya) 37
USA – Gyasi Zardes (Bobby Wood) 52
USA – Christian Pulisic (Darlington Nagbe) 69

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan, 14-Michael Orozco (2-DeAndre Yedlin, 46), 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 5-Matt Besler (23-Fabian Johnson, 46), 11-Alejandro Bedoya (10-Darlington Nagbe, 63), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.) (19-Graham Zusi, 73), 13-Jermaine Jones, 9-Gyasi Zardes (17-Christian Pulisic, 63), 8-Clint Dempsey (18-Chris Wondolowski, 72), 7-Bobby Wood
Subs not used: 12-Tim Howard, 22-William Yarbrough, 3-Steve Birnbaum, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 16-Perry Kitchen
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

BOL: 23-Guillermo Viscarra, 4-Diego Bejarano, 21-Ronald Eguino, 5-Nelson Cabrera, 3-Luis Gutiérrez (17-Marvin Bejarano, 68), 13-Alejandro Meleán (18-Rodrigo Ramallo, 54), 8-Martín Smedberg-Dalence (22-Edward Zenteno, 74), 20-Fernando Saucedo (15-Pedro Azogue, 46), 10-Jhasmani Campos (11-Bruno Miranda, 46), 9-Yasmani Duk (capt.); 19-Carmelo Algarañaz (14-Raúl Castro, 46)
Subs not used: 1-Carlos Lampe, 12-Rómel Quiñónez, 2-Mario Saavedra, 6-Wálter Veizaga, 7-Juan Carlos Arce, 16-Cristhian Machado
Head Coach: Julio César Baldivieso

Stats Summary: USA / BOL
Shots: 9 / 6
Shots on Goal: 7 / 3
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 6 / 2
Fouls: 12 / 18
Offside: 2 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
BOL – Jhasmani Campos (caution) 30th minute
BOL – Yasmani Duk (caution) 76

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Nagbe Scores Late Winner for The U.S.
Nagbe Scores Late Winner for The U.S. avatar

Fortune, as they say, goes to the brave, and that axiom proved true Wednesday night in Frisco, Texas when the U.S. MNT pulled out a late 1-0 victory over Ecuador on Darlington Nagbe’s 90th-minute goal after a second half turnaround keyed by substitutes Nagbe and Bobby Wood.

Jermaine Jones was once again called upon. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Jermaine Jones was once again called upon. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

In this middle game of a three-game COPA America Centenario tuneup series, Jurgen Klinsmann sent the U.S. out in a safety first 4-3-3 featuring a veteran midfield of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Kyle Beckerman.

The lineup didn’t work as expected with the trio struggling to defend the pacey Ecuadorians while the U.S. back four barely hung on with help from newly christened number one keeper Brad Guzan.

Yedlin holding off Montero. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Yedlin holding off Montero. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Fullback DeAndre Yedlin was being tested by Ecuador’s elusive winger Jefferson Montero, who was finding gaps between Yedlin and center back Steve Birnbaum. John Brooks made some key interventions to keep the game goalless and the Americans had to be pleased to hear the shrill of the halftime whistle with those zeroes still on the board.

Chances were scarce for the U.S. in that opening 45 with Gyasi Zardes scuffing the team’s only real scoring chance with one his still all too frequent heavy touches.

A pair of double substitutions turned the match in the home team’s direction, with Klinsmann’s changes giving his side a braver, more dangerous look. Nagbe replaced Beckerman and Bobby Wood took over from Zardes on the restart, before Christian Pulisic and Alejandro Bedoya checked in for Dempsey and Jones in the 63rd and 64th minutes, the latter switch having a “Changing of the Guard” air about it.

As influential as the substitutions were, a positional change that saw Bradley fall back into a deeper midfield role, was equally so. It is a position that Bradley plays for Toronto FC and one that many observers have called for the U.S. captain to be used in, calls that Klinsmann has always resisted. The changes brought immediate dividends as the U.S. improved its possession, passing, and movement and went on to control the second half much as the visitors had the first.

Darlington Nagbe (L) scored a lovely volley to win the game. (ISI Photos)

Darlington Nagbe (L) scored a lovely volley to win the game. (ISI Photos)

In the end, it was fitting that Nagbe scored the 90th-minute winner, a skilfully taken volley after a fine move and cross from Yedlin.

The U.S face Bolivia Saturday in Kansas City, Kansas and then it is COPA time. After a run to the quarterfinals at last year’s regular COPA America, the wheels have fallen off the Bolivia bus with the manager resigning and the team going on to compile five losses in six World Cup Qualifiers, topped off with a 7-0 loss to Argentina in a recent friendly.

It will be one last chance for Klinsmann to tinker before he settles on a lineup for the COPA opener June 3rd in Santa Clara, California against a talented Colombia team.

U.S. celebrate Nagbe's game winner. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

U.S. celebrate Nagbe’s game winner. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Will bravery win the day for a U.S. Coach and Technical Director buoyed by his team’s second-half surge or will pragmatism win out in this final COPA walkthrough.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
ECU 0 0 0

USA – Darlington Nagbe (Bobby Wood) 90th minute

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Steve Birnbaum, 6-John Brooks (5-Matt Besler, 78), 23-Fabian Johnson; 15-Kyle Beckerman (10-Darlington Nagbe, 46), 19-Graham Zusi (14-Michael Orozco, 87), 13-Jermaine Jones (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 64), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 9-Gyasi Zardes (7-Bobby Wood, 46), 8-Clint Dempsey (17-Christian Pulisic, 63)
Subs not used: 12-Tim Howard, 22-William Yarbrough, 16-Perry Kitchen, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 20-Geoff Cameron, 21-Kellyn Acosta
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

ECU: 22-Alexander Domínguez (12-Esteban Dreer, 46); 4-Juan Carlos Paredes, 3-Frickson Erazo, 21-Gabriel Achilier (20-Robert Arboleda, 73), 5-Cristian Ramirez; 6-Christian Noboa (capt.) (8-Fernando Gaibor, 69), 18-Carlos Gruezo (15-Pedro Larrea, 59), 14-Angel Mena, 7-Jefferson Montero (11-Michael Arroyo, 64); 13-Enner Valencia, 23-Miller Bolaños (19-Juan Cazares, 68)
Subs not used: 1-Maximo Banguera, 9-Fidel Martinez, 17-Jaime Ayovi, 24-Mario Pineida
Head coach: Gustavo Quinteros

Stats Summary: USA / ECU
Shots: 5 / 3
Shots on Goal: 2 / 1
Saves: 1 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 6
Fouls: 16 / 16
Offside: 0 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
ECU – Gabriel Achilier (caution) 22nd minute
USA – Jermaine Jones (caution) 26
ECU – Cristian Ramirez (caution) 35
ECU – Angel Mena (caution) 45

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It was Rivalry Week in MLS this week but this edition can only start in one place…

1) Derby Debacle in the Bronx

New York City sat atop the Eastern Conference when they kicked off on Saturday afternoon in the Bronx against cross-river rivals New York Red Bulls.

Less than three minutes later 5’9” (?!) Dax McCarty headed home from a Sacha Kljestan corner kick and the home team were on the ropes. It would end up 7-0, with a pair of late first-half goals setting the stage for the rout that was to come.

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Co thrashed NYC FC. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Co thrashed NYC FC. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

The Red Bulls pressed high and aggressively from the start and NYC simply couldn’t handle it. NYC stubbornly stuck with its plan of playing out of the back with turnovers leading to near total NYRB domination.

The Red Bulls scored four of its five goals from dead balls, three directly, with McCarty adding a second early in the second half that left the home team in tatters.

It was so bad for NYC that even Frank Lampard’s long awaited return brought no relief, in fact, the $6 million man was booed on his introduction.

Bradley Wright-Phillips bagged a brace, including a very nice bicycle kick just before halftime. Mike Grella was excellent, McCarty’s hunger was even more impressive than his goals and, well, it was 7-0, so all the Red Bulls played well.

For NYCFC, it is all in how they respond to this debacle. The team is at home on Sunday to Orlando. It will be worth watching to see how NYC fans react to this Derby Debacle. Will they show up? Will the New York City Football Club?

2) Giovinco Snubbed and Conte Blames MLS

Italian national team coach Antonio Conte named his Euro roster this week and the Chelsea boss couldn’t find room for Azzurri legend Andrea Pirlo or 2015 MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco, even on a 30 man provisional roster.

Antonio Conte's comments were rather harsh and insulting to the MLS. (ISI Photos/Antonio Conte's)

Antonio Conte’s comments were rather harsh and insulting to the MLS. (ISI Photos/Antonio Conte’s)

At 37 years old it is hard to get too upset on Pirlo’s behalf but the Giovinco snub needed some explaining. So Conte explained and that explanation infuriated MLS followers. “I sent people to America for seven days to evaluate him (Pirlo) and Sebastian. It’s clear that if you make such choices in football then at the end you might pay the consequences.”

3) MLS Internationals

Fortunately, Conte’s view of the league is not unanimous. The Copa will feature numerous MLS players and Montreal defender Laurent Ciman has been selected by Belgium, the second-ranked soccer nation in the world, so Marc Wilmots apparently does not share Conte’s MLS-phobia.

To that end, MLSsoccer.com has been nice enough to provide a list. You’ll find is the link below.

Nelson Valdez in action for Seattle in 2015. (ISI PhotosJoshua Weisberg)

Nelson Valdez in action for Seattle in 2015. (ISI PhotosJoshua Weisberg)

Included are Seattle forward Nelson Valdez, who could face the U.S. in the Group stage with Paraguay and Irish forwards Robbie Keane (L.A. Galaxy) and Kevin Doyle (Colorado) who are on Ireland’s preliminary Euro squad. Remember too that Keane’s Galaxy teammate Giovani Dos Santos turned down a COPA invite from Mexico.

MLS players.

 

4) Seattle Suffer Oba Effect

Seattle knew they were going to miss Obafemi Martins when he made his move to China in the offseason but did they know they would miss him this much?

The Oba and Deuce Show was meant to be replaced by committee, featuring hyped rookie Jordan Morris and Nelson Valdez, plus an uptick in goals from Dempsey.

Morris is starting to show his quality.(Getty Images)

Morris was unlucky not to be selected.(Getty Images)

How has that worked out so far? It hasn’t. The Sounders are in ninth place after finishing the season fourth in the West in 2015. And why are Seattle leading only Houston in the standings? Because they have scored just 10 goals, fewer goals than any team in MLS with the exception of the league’s worst team the Chicago Fire, who have managed nine.

Morris, who leads the Sounders with four goals has done well, although not well enough to make the COPA roster for the U.S.A., but after that, the goals dry up. Dempsey has two, defender Chad Marshall has two, and two players have one apiece. And that’s it.

With Dempsey and Valdez off to the COPA the scoring weight will fall on Morris, too bad he doesn’t have an Oba like strike partner to share the load.

5) COPA Time

After a full slate of games on June 1st and MLS will take a break until June 18th when the league will play two matches. From there on the league will resume its schedule playing games around the COPA knockout rounds.

Klinsmann will be expected to lead the U.S.  (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Klinsmann will be expected to lead the U.S. at the least to the Semis.  (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

With U.S. MNT supremo Jurgen Klinsmann’s declaration that he intends to take his team to the semifinals or better, a lot of MLS players would be unavailable to the teams.

So, subs get ready to pick up the slack.

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

The Rio Olympic Games raised its five-ringed head this week to interrupt the NWSL season for the first, but not last time this year, as Jill Ellis called 25 players into national team camp beginning May 27, ahead of a two-match series with Japan.

The U.S. will be going for Gold. (Getty Images)

The U.S. will be going for Gold. (Getty Images)

The league will stand down from May 29, through June 10 to accommodate the U.S. WNT, as they prepare to defend back to back Olympic Gold this August when the league will once again suspend play.

Play went ahead for the fourth year league this week but it was hardly regular service, not in a week that saw the perfect fall and the downtrodden rise.

Portland Thorns 4-1 vs. Washington Spirit

And then there was one, one team without a loss that is after Portland prevailed in the battle of the unbeaten over Washington.

The Thorns were playing in front of a raucous home crowd of close to 16,000 at Providence Park and they gave that crowd plenty to cheer about. Lindsey Horan headed home from Tobin Heath’s corner, Heat’s fifth of the season, as Horan continues to shine in her first professional season stateside.

 Lindsey Horan  was once again on the scoresheet for Portland. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Lindsey Horan was once again on the scoresheet for Portland. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

The Thorns also had Christine Sinclair back for her first start of the season and the Canadian international picked up an assist on Tobin Heath’s goal that made the score 3-0. An own goal had put the Thorns up by two, so when Heath made it three the Spirit was in trouble.

Crystal Dunn set up Joanna Lohman to give Washington a lifeline but the Spirit would get no closer and when Meg Morris picked off a Washington backpass she finished her chance for her first Thorns goal and Portland had the win.

Even with Saturday’s win third place Portland (3-0-3) trail the Spirit (4-1-1), and Chicago (4-1-1) in league standings.

Boston Breakers 1-0 vs. FC Kansas City

Boston finally scored its first goal of the season and while they were at it the Breakers also picked up win number one of the 2016 campaign. For Whitney Engen it capped a pretty good week personally, the center back scored the winning goal and also stayed in the Olympic picture when she received an invite to U.S. WNT camp.

Boston celebrating Engen's winning goal. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

Boston celebrating Engen’s winning goal. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

The result continues a miserable season for two-time defending champion FC Kansas City, who have gone from first to worst and remain the only team in NWSL without a win.

Houston Dash 0-1 vs. Orlando Pride

Tom Sermanni coached expansion side Orlando Pride earned the first road win in its short history with a 1-0 win over the Houston Dash at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night. Perhaps it was appropriate then on this night of firsts’ that lone goal of the match was also the first NWSL goal for the Pride’s Kristen Edmonds.

Kristen Edmonds (L) hassles Houston's Andressa for the ball. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Kristen Edmonds (L) hassles Houston’s Andressa for the ball. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Edmonds took a pass from took a pass from Lianne Sanderson who earned the assist on the goal but this goal was 95%, who Edmonds fired from distance, leaving Dash keeper Lydia Williams no chance as her shot ticked in off the bottom of the crossbar.

The shutout was third straight for Ashlyn Harris and her defense, impressive in its own right, and it also gives Harris a boost heading to U.S WNT camp where the Pride goalkeeper continues to battle Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher and now Portland number one Adrianna Franch for the chance to back up Hope Solo in Rio this summer.

Seattle Reign 1-2 vs. Chicago Red Stars

Hope Solo was not available for Seattle’s home match this weekend versus the Chicago Red Stars due to a death in the family, and the Reign was also hit by the injury bug with Megan Rapinoe still unavailable as were Jess Fishlock, and Manon Melis.

Chicago hardly needed the help, maintaining its five-game unbeaten run and coming within an 89-minute penalty kick from BBC Player of the Year Kim Little of earning a fifth consecutive shutout for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and her defense.

Jen Hoy scored a brace for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Jen Hoy scored a brace for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

As mentioned earlier Naeher is one of three American keepers fighting for the right to back up Hope Solo in Rio this summer and with the way the trio are performing in NWSL, it seems the U.S. Gold Medal push would be in safe hands if Solo were to pick up a knock.

The hero for the visiting Red Stars on Sunday was Jen Hoy, who scored both goals with considerable help from Vanessa DiBernardo. DiBernardo claimed the assist on Hoy’s 55-minute opener and sent a fine through ball in for Hoy, who scored on her own rebound after a great save from Solo understudy Haley Kopmeyer.

The win puts Chicago level on points with Washington, who occupy the top spot in the NWSL standings by virtue of a superior goal difference.

Western NY 5-2 vs. Sky Blue FC

Can we call this an NWSL Derby, or rivalry along the lines of the New York Red Bulls vs. New York City in MLS?

Probably not for a host of reasons, but we did get a bit of a rout in Saturday’s engagement in Rochester, although in this case it was the home team that dominated.

The Flash were in charge of this on from the opening whistle and it took just five minutes for Western New York to gain the upper hand on the Jersey girls. Jessica McDonald scored the first goal on U.S. WNT call up Jaelene Hinkle’s first assist of the evening and the rout was on.

Jessica McDonald got on the scoresheet twice for The Flash. (ISI Photos)

Jessica McDonald got on the scoresheet twice for The Flash. (ISI Photos)

Goals came in the 19 minute (Sam Mewis, another national teamer), 23 minutes ( Lynn Williams), and a second from McDonald one minute into first-half stoppage time. That sent the WNY into the intermission with a very comfy four-goal lead and that was essentially that.

Not to say that Sky Blue quit, the hole was simply too deep. Sky Blue got one back 10 minutes after play resumed, and it was a cracker of a shot from U.S. World Cup and Olympic winner Kelly O’Hara.

It was never going to be enough as the clubs added a goal each and the home team ran out impressive winners.

Below is the 25 player U.S. WNT roster.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (10): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Gina Lewandowski (FC Bayern Munich), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)

FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)

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Klinsmann’s Copa America Squad – The Good, The Bad and The Unlucky
Klinsmann’s Copa America Squad – The Good, The Bad and The Unlucky avatar

On Saturday afternoon at halftime of a shockingly lopsided MLS New York Derby that was already 3-0 and on the way to a 7-0 New York Red Bulls win over New York City FC, the U.S. MNT revealed its 23 man COPA America roster.

Brad Guzan has be(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Brad Guzan has been rewarded the #1 spot.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

There were no shocks on the scale of that 7-0 thrashing the Bulls laid on their Bronx rivals but being a Jurgen Klinsmann production, there were a few head scratchers. Also revealed on the Fox halftime show was that Klinsmann has ended his goaltender rotation, a welcome development ahead of the Copa America, although an eyebrow or two was likely raised when Brad Guzan was handed the number one designation over World Cup hero Tim Howard.

So here is a quick look, by position, at what we like and don’t about the U.S. COPA 23.

Goalkeeper. I have no problem with Howard taking a back seat to Guzan. Both players endured a tumultuous time in 2015-16 in England but while Guzan won his job back after losing it, Howard only got back into the lineup as a thank you and au revoir from Everton manager Roberto Martinez, who himself was sent packing before Howard’s emotional goodbye in Everton’s season finale.

Ethan Horvath (Getty Images)

Ethan Horvath (Getty Images)

I like that Ethan Horvath got the nod over dependable veteran Nick Rimando. Horvath starts for Molde in Norway and did well in the failed U.S. Olympic bid. I can’t imagine Horvath seeing the field in June but with both of his veterans struggling somewhat it might be worth taking a flyer on the future.

Defense. Tim Chandler, really? Chandler was a pretty exciting get when Klinsmann snared the Germerican as one of his first moves on becoming U.S. coach in 2011. Chandler looked good in some early friendlies but has failed to convince since, frankly appearing disinterested at times.

Klinsmann could have selected Edgar Castillo, a regular for Liga MX finalists Monterrey. Castillo also started the two most recent U.S. World Cup Qualifiers, so even if he is a bit of a weak link defensively, Castillo’s omission is a surprise.

Klinsmann could also have gone with long overlooked Nottingham Forest fullback Eric Lichaj. It was a shock to see Lichaj on the 40 man roster, unfortunately, it was less of a surprise to see the physical defender left out of the final 23.

Orozco was exposed in the second half. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Orozco lack of playing time could be an issue. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

And while Klinsmann selected Michael Orozco who made just three appearances this season for 14th place Tijuana, there was no room for Omar Gonzalez, the former L.A. Galaxy man who is a starter for Pachuca, Monterrey’s opponent in this week’s two-legged Liga MX Final.

Klinsmann likes Orozco’s versatility, and it is a plus that he somehow resisted the urge to pick Ventura Alvarado, but what about Tim Ream? Ream plays central defense and fullback like Orozco and is a better fullback than the Tijuana man while Gonzalez is clearly a better center back than the Tijuana man.

DC United middleman Steve Birnbaum also got the nod ahead of Gonzalez, a selection I have no problem with, although others may differ. One last bit of back line controversy involves Fabian Johnson who is listed as a defender, not as many would prefer in the midfield.

Fabian Johnson is a versatile player. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Fabian Johnson is a versatile player. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Bruce Arena used to say that Landon Donovan was the team’s best player at several positions, making it hard to decide where to pick Klinsmann’s old pal. Johnson presents a similar dilemma today.

Johnson scored a career-high seven Bundesliga goals for Borussia Monchengladbach this season playing as a wing midfielder but Klinsmann remembers Johnson’s fine play at left fullback for the U.S. in the 2014 World Cup, where the coach rated FabJo as one of the best fullbacks in Brazil.

With high caliber opposition at the COPA and some decent options in wide midfield roles, I don’t begrudge Klinsmann the right to slide Johnson back one position.

Perhaps hoping to keep Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay guessing U.S.Soccer listed midfielders and forwards as one unit when it released its 23 man roster.

Midfield/forward. The biggest surprise of the likely midfielders is d-mid Perry Kitchen, who plays for Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Premier League. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but the former DC United man has played just 10 times since signing with the Scottish club in March while Alfredo Morales is a first 11 player for Ingolstadt in the Bundesliga.

Christian Pulisic selection is exciting. (ISI Photos/John Dorton(

Christian Pulisic selection is exciting. (ISI Photos/John Dorton(

The most exciting of the midfield/forward group is clearly 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund starlet Christian Pulisic, let’s just hope Klinsmann plays the kid. Darlington Nagbe also earned a spot, can he step up and fill the huge creativity void in the U.S. midfield? Will he be given the chance?

Although he is not in great goal scoring form veteran Clint Dempsey tends to score when it matters, so he leads the forward group where the biggest misstep for me is Klinsmann’s choice of Chris Wondolowski over Jordan Morris.

Yes, Wondo is tied for second in MLS with seven goals but Morris has four and minus the San Jose man’s two pk’s, Morris is just one back. More important however is the feeling that at 33 we know what Wondolowski is at the international level while the 21-year-old Morris is just getting started.

Klinsmann's team's performance will have to be good.(ISI Photos)

Klinsmann’s team’s performance will have to be good.(ISI Photos)

So, that’s my take on the COPA 23. On the one hand, there is enough depth that Kinsmann can leave out a Bundesliga starter and two defenders set to meet in the Liga MX Final. There are young and youngish players to be excited about, like Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin, Bobby Wood, and Nagbe. Young vets Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, and Alejandro Bedoya are established in top European leagues and MLS stars like Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Gyasi Zardes will be looking to show their wares with the world watching (hopefully).

Whether it comes together or not will be up to the players and up to Klinsmann. The Gold Cup, the Olympic flameout, the loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, and the World Cup Qualifier loss to Guatemala in March are recent stains on this team’s resume.

Those stains are deep and they won’t be easily scrubbed clean. June 3rd in Santa Clara, California the Americans begin COPA play against a tough opponent, Colombia.

A good showing by the U.S. MNT would go a long way towards polishing that sullied rep. A bad result would only deepen the stain.

GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), 12-Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), 22-Ethan Horvath (Molde IK)

DEFENDERS (8): 5-Matt Besler (Sporting KC), 3-Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), 6-John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), 20-Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), 21-Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), 23-Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), 14-Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), 2-DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)

MIDFIELDERS/FORWARDS (12): 15-Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), 11-Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), 4-Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), 8-Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), 13-Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), 16-Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), 10-Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), 17-Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), 18-Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), 7-Bobby Wood (Hamburg SV), 20-Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), 19-Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)

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Emerson Hyndman – Coming of Age
Emerson Hyndman – Coming of Age avatar

Miami, Florida – Only the slightest trace of an English accent could be detected as Emerson Hyndman sat down to talk with GotSoccer Friday afternoon on a perfect day at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s plush Miami hotel. The playmaking midfielder, who left home as a 15-year-old to join Fulham’s youth set up in London, was fresh from a hard earned beach break with his teammates on this “transitional” U.S. roster as he settled in.

Emerson Hyndman in action (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Emerson Hyndman in action against Porto Rico.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

But Hyndman didn’t fly all the way from London to Florida to bask in the sun, no this trip was strictly business for the 20-year-old and the first order of business was to impress. “Anytime I get the chance to show Jurgen and his staff what I can do is a good opportunity,” is how Hyndman put it to GotSoccer.

Left off of the provisional U.S. MNT roster for the COPA America Centenario, Hyndman was not eligible for the final 23 man group that would be announced less than 24 hours after our Florida chat. “Obviously, I was a little disappointed,” Hyndman said of missing out, “but it is something I have to live with.” “It’s a big tournament,” Hyndman continued, “it’s COPA America, something every player wants to be a part of.”

Emerson Hyndman (R ) training with the national team (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Emerson Hyndman (R ) training with the national team (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

And while Hyndman won’t be involved in the expanded South American championships next month, he did go on to earn his second full U.S. cap Sunday afternoon against Puerto Rico when the U.S. topped their underdog hosts by a 3-1 score without ever managing to quite click. Although scrappy, the opposition wasn’t great, still Hyndman likely helped his cause, giving an assured performance in playing the final 45 minutes.

Missing out on the COPA does not mean that Hyndman is facing a low-key summer, in fact, the soon to be free agent is facing the most important decision of his young career. With his Fulham deal set to expire Hyndman said of finding a new club, “it’s a hard decision to make because it’s a big one.”

Raising the ante for the former U.S. U20 World Cup captain is his age. “Yeah, it is,” Hyndman said when asked if this is a particularly important time in his career. “I’m 20 years old now, I’m not 18 anymore,” Hyndman told GotSoccer, adding with a quiet laugh, “I’m moving on into big boy years.”

This past season at Fulham has certainly exposed Hyndman to some grown-up realities. Injuries for one. A broken collarbone -“the shoulder is perfect” – limited his appearances but so too did Hyndman’s decision to announce that he would be leaving Fulham following the 2015-16 season.

Emerson Hyndman (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Emerson Hyndman regrets his comments regarding Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Does he think those comments hurt his chances at the Cottage? “Possibly,” Hyndman conceded. “When I look back on when I said that, I was disappointed in my playing time; looking back it was something I shouldn’t have said but I was young,” then catching himself the 20-year- old corrected, “I was younger at the time, so I’ve learned from that.”

With Fulham fighting to avoid relegation from the Championship to League 1, manager Slovan Jokanovic told the local media that Hyndman wasn’t up to the relegation battle. It seemed an unnecessary slap at the up and comer, especially given that the manager also said that Hyndman “may have played only 11 games for Fulham but I expect he’s going to play 500 more over the next 17 years.”

“He’s going to be an important player for us,” he added.

As he sat overlooking Miami Beach on Friday, Hyndman still seemed mystified by Jokanovic’s words. “He (Jokanovic) always told me, he knew I was a hard worker and I was a good player. He thought it would be hard for me to adapt to the championship,” which Hyndman pointed out, “I’d already played in for a year and a half.”

Hyndman “knew where he (Jokanovic) was coming from but at the same time, “I knew that I could make an impact if I got the chance.” The chance came on Hyndman’s 20th birthday and it was Hyndman who was handing out the presents, his stoppage time winner over Cardiff going a long way toward keeping Fulham in the Championship.

Hyndman’s performance that day elicited this extraordinary mea culpa from his coach after the Cardiff match, “He’s probably one of the more talented players. I am little bit disappointed with myself that I haven’t found more minutes for him this season.”

Hyndman admitted to GotSoccer that he felt some vindication on hearing those comments. “It was nice to hear him say those things, that I could have played him more.” Hyndman doesn’t come off as bitter adding, “I knew what he did think of me and that is all that matters to me.”

That late in the year rapprochement may have come too late for Fulham to retain Hyndman, although he refused to rule out a return to the Thames side club on Friday. “I’m looking at everything,” Hyndman said. “I’m taking everything into account, including Fulham, so I’m looking at other things as well.”

Since his move to England as a teenager, Hyndman has been a regular on the transfer rumor mill, and with that expiring contract, speculation has intensified around the Dallas native. Manchester United has been prominently mentioned for some time, and recently Celtic, Borussia Dortmund, and AC Milan have been mooted.

Not surprisingly, Hyndman wouldn’t offer specifics, “like I said, I’m looking around. I’m looking at England, I’m looking at different places in Europe, I’m just looking around.” As Hyndman weighs his next move GotSoccer wondered if his head would be turned by some of the big name clubs said to be in the running, or would potential playing time be the determining factor as he decides on his next club?

Hyndman (IISI Photos/John Dorton)

Hyndman (IISI Photos/John Dorton)

“Yeah, that’s another big thing,” Hyndman answered thoughtfully. “There’s different sorts of clubs, different places, different leagues, there are different paths you can take. You take a bigger club and possibly not play as much, maybe go on loan or you can settle for a good solid club, maybe not fighting for the same things but you’ll get more chances along the way.”

Hyndman admits that the process is difficult. “I feel like I need to make the best decision for me, personally and that’s going to take a little bit of time.” “I’ll take this time, discuss it with my family, people around me that really help me make these decisions and we’ll see.”

Does Jurgen Klinsmann have a role? “Oh, of course,” Hyndman told GotSoccer in Miami. “He said if you need any help, I’m the national team coach, so I’m here to help in any way I can, so obviously if it comes down to that, I’ll be sure to ask him.”

So, COPA or not, this offseason is a big one for the young midfielder. Should he stay at Fulham or move on? Is a big club the right fit or should Hyndman think small, and what league to play in, what country to live in? These are no small questions for the young professional.

Hyndman seems very unlikely to play 500 more games for Fulham like Jokanovic mentioned. Beyond that, Hyndman could only say, “I’m sure it will be decided very soon,” telling GotSoccer, “I’d say within the next month or so it should be all finished.”

And then it is on to the “big boy years,” for Emerson Hyndman.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

This week’s MLS Big 5 starts off with a four-parter that has played out over a one week period, so let’s get to…

The Kei Kamara Caper

The date was Saturday, May 7 the Columbus Crew were beating up on visiting Montreal, leading 3-1 and about to go even further ahead thanks to a penalty kick. Kamara already had two goals and wanted to take the pk for the hat trick.

All good, right? Wrong. Teammate and usual Crew peno man Federico Higuain wanted to take the shot, sparking a childish display by the two vets that was only solved when captain Michael Parkhurst said, enough, get on with it.

Higuain buried the chance giving the Crew a 4-1 lead but Columbus collapsed, and let Montreal come all the way back to claim a share of the spoils in a 4-4 tie.

Kamara (L) looked dangerous for the Revolution all game. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Kamara (L) looked dangerous for the Revolution all game. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Afterward, Kamara did not hold his tongue, and criticized Higuain quite bluntly, earning himself a one-way ticket to New England. Kamara landed with Revs in a May 12 trade that barely beat the trade deadline.

Just two days later Kamara went 90 minutes for the Revolution in a 2-0 win over Chicago. Kamara did not make the score sheet that day but he will, and it is easy to imagine that he could be just what the Revolution need.

The payoff for Columbus will be longer in coming unless the Crew view this as addition by subtraction, a possibility given some post-trade remarks by coach Gregg Berhalter and Anthony Precourt, the man who signs the checks in Columbus.

New England sent Columbus a package of TAM, GAM, draft picks, an international player slot and a slice any future profits should the Revs sell the 31-year-old Kamara. So, it may eventually work out for Berhalter and co., maybe as soon as the summer transfer window, but for now, Columbus has to find a way to make up for Kamara’s goals, 22 last season, and five so far in 2016.

2) Zlatan!

The American soccer internet lost its collective mind recently when rumors that Ibrahimovich was thinking of making a move stateside now that he is done in Paris.

Ibrahimovic will definitely  (Getty Images)

Ibrahimovic will definitely be a huge signing for whichever team he goes to. (Getty Images)

Not surprisingly, L.A. was the rumored landing spot for the Swedish legend; where did you think he was he going to play, in Philadelphia? Well, maybe. Apparently, the Union held Ibra’s Discovery Rights. No, that doesn’t mean Philadelphia “discovered” the superstar. It is just another of the league’s arcane rules designed to control who plays where and for how much.

It was later said that Philadelphia did not have a claim and in the absence of any concrete information, speculation reigned. So can we expect to see the imperious striker ruling the MLS roost anytime soon?

I doubt it, but would the league benefit from adding the man who said he would only consider staying on at PSG if the City of Paris replaced the Eiffel Tower with one of himself?

Damn right it would.

3) Jozy Altidore and the Case of the Haunted Hammy

Coming to theaters near you? Well no, but then the Toronto and U.S. MNT striker won’t be coming to a soccer field near you anytime soon either.

Once again the powerful forward has been betrayed by his hamstrings, meaning that he will almost certainly miss out on the upcoming Copa America Centenario in June. It was the same injury that struck Altidore down and ruled him out action just minutes into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Altidore is once again unlucky with injury.  (Getty Images)

Altidore is once again unlucky with injury. (Getty Images)

It was hard luck for Altidore in Brazil and it is the same now, but sports can be cruel and Bobby Wood, Gyasi Zardes, and Jordan Morris are standing by ready to stake a claim to Altidore’s position, in June and beyond.

4) The Bronx is Up and Harrison(?) is Down

David Villa is scoring goals, with 8 he is tied for the league lead with Sebastian Giovinco and Fanendo Adi, NYCFC is winning games, 3 in a row now, and the second year club is tied for first place in the East.

NYC FC  celebrating one of  David Villa's goals. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

NYC FC celebrating one of David Villa’s goals. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

And what of the Red Bulls? After a slow start to 2016 things were looking up for New York’s original MLS franchise when the Bulls, who had been struggling for goals, followed a 3-2 win over Orlando with a 4-0 victory over FC Dallas in late April.

A 1-1 draw with Orlando slowed the hype but there was reason for optimism as the 2015 Supporters Shield winners traveled to our nation’s capital to face old rivals DC United.

A 2-0 Red Bulls loss to United was bad enough, but the team played so poorly that captain Dax McCarty felt the need to apologize. Next up is the New York Derby this Saturday at Yankee Stadium with the eighth place Red Bulls chasing first place (level with Montreal) New York City FC.

5) Atomic Ant Overlooked

Italy coach Antonio Conte has named his provisional Euro roster and former Juventus teammates and current MLS stars Sebastian Giovinco and Andrea Pirlo have missed out.

Pirlo’s omission was not unexpected but Giovinco missing out is tough for MLS supporters not to take as a slap at MLS. Giovinco has been the best player in MLS this last one year plus, and it still wasn’t good enough for the Toronto attacker to claim a spot in Italy’s Euro squad.

Giovinco and Pirlo both miss out on a place in the Italian side for the Euros. (Getty Images)

Giovinco and Pirlo both miss out on a place in the Italian side for the Euros. (Getty Images)

The implications are plain. If Giovinco’s performance since joining MLS is not enough to play for Italy, players with national team ambitions could well conclude that MLS would be bad for their international prospects.

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

There was another full slate of games this weekend in the National Women’s Soccer League with the action kicking off with a Friday night twin bill, so that’s where we start this edition of the NWSL Roundup.

As always, home teams listed first.

FC Kansas City 0-0 vs. Chicago Red Stars

When the 2016 season began FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski knew that he would have to find a way to make do without a trio of World Cup winners, Lauren Holliday, retired, and Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux, both pregnant. No surprise, the two defending champions have struggled.

Now, after Friday night’s 0-0 home draw with the Chicago Red Stars, Andonovski, and his club face another challenge, replacing midfielder Jen Buczkowski, who has decided to hang up her boots in the midst of the season.

Jen Buczkowski's retirement was a shock. (ISI Photos/John Rieger)

Jen Buczkowski’s retirement was a shock. (ISI Photos/John Rieger)

And just because the veteran defender is not the household name that the WC3 are, don’t think that Buczkowski won’t be missed. An ever present in the KC lineup since the team came to be along with the league, the Notre Dame alum has started all 76 league games since 2013 and has played in six championship games as a pro, winning five of them. And how is this for reliable, out of the 6,840 minutes she could have possibly played in the NWSL, Buczkowski played 6,745.

So, good luck filling those shoes, coach.

As for the game on Friday the team’s played to a 0-0 draw, prolonging the champions run of games without a win, keeping FCKC mired in ninth place with a 0-3-2 record.

KC did manage to keep Christen Press off of the scoresheet, although the point Chicago earned was enough to keep the Red Stars alone in second place, just a single point ahead Portland and expansion side Orlando.

Sky Blue FC 1-0 vs. Boston Breakers

Boston Breakers players, fans, and management alike must be forgiven if they feel that life is just being a little bit unfair these days. The old blues song says, “If it wasn’t for bad luck- I wouldn’t have no luck at all,” a song that could have served as the soundtrack Friday night in New Jersey, as a Sky Blue FC cross/shot from U.S. international Kelley O’Hara deflected off Boston’s Kasey Kallman, behind goalkeeper Libby Stoudt and into the Breakers net for the game’s lone goal Friday evening in Piscataway.

Kelley O'Hara's deflected shot saw the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Robyn McNeil)

Kelley O’Hara’s deflected shot saw the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Robyn McNeil)

That one unlucky goal was all stood between Boston and a first point of the 2016 campaign but it was not to be as the Breakers’ “Lost Season” continues. Set pieces can sometimes be a way out of the forest for a struggling team and that looked like being the case for Boston in the 70th minute of Friday’s match, only for Sky Blue defender Erin Simon, who got just enough of a piece of a Kyah Simon shot from a corner kick to allow Sky Blue keeper Caroline Stanley to snuff out the Boston chance.

The Breakers kept the pressure on as the final 20 minutes ticked down, but luck was not on Boston’s side and at 0-5-0 the New Englanders could surely use even a little bit of good fortune.

If Friday’s low scores set the tone, Saturday’s trio of NWSL games did nothing to break the pattern; but in search of goals we go, so let’s begin the Saturday Roundup with the highest scoring contest of the weekend.

Seattle Reign 1-1 vs. Portland Thorns

Unbelievably this goal fest tops the charts!

Portland wrapped up a three-week, four-match road trip with a 1-1 draw at the home of its Cascadia rivals, keeping intact a five-game start without a loss to start the 2016 season.

Not bad return from an extended spell away from the Rose City and one that finds Portland third in NWSL table after five games. The Timbers were first on the board in Seattle on Saturday as Nadia Nadeem looped a header over the advancing Reign keeper Hope Solo for the 46th-minute opener.

Yanez (L) scored the equalizer for Seattle. (ISI Photos/Stephen Brashear)

Yanez (L) scored the equalizer for Seattle. (ISI Photos/Stephen Brashear)

The goal was Nadeem’s first of the year but it stood as the potential game winner for just four minutes, thanks to Seattle midfielder Beverly Yanez. Yanez finished from a well-placed corner kick delivered by Lauren Barnes and the Pacific Northwest rivals were knotted at one apiece with 40 minutes still to play.

Neither side could find a go-ahead goal although Portland’s Allie Long came closest with her header off the upright with Solo out of the play.

Orlando Pride 1-0 vs. Western New York Flash

After playing the role of provider in recent weeks Orlando star Alex Morgan reverted to her more familiar role Saturday scoring the game’s only goal to spark the Pride to victory over the Flash. The shutout was the second on the trot for Orlando keeper Ashlyn Harris had her defense and the U.S WNT backup custodian had to be sharp to earn the clean sheet.

Sanderson celebrates Morgan's goal. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Sanderson celebrates Morgan’s goal. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

In a back and forth match Harris denied Jessica McDonald and Taylor Smith in a match that the Flash completed with just 10 players on the field after Abby Erceg was handed a second yellow card in the games 89th minute.

Washington Spirit 1-0 vs. Houston Dash

The Spirit maintained its almost perfect record moving to 4-0-1 on the strength of Saturday’s 1-0 win over the visiting Houston Dash. Despite an array of attacking talent on hand at the Maryland Soccerplex, these two high powered sides managed just a goal between them with Spirit midfielder Joanna Lohman doing the honors in the 39th minute when the veteran midfielder got on the end of a pass from Christine Nairn.

Lohman scored the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lohman scored the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The Dash are still working their way back to full health with All-World superstar Carli Lloyd still out of the lineup. Morgan Brian and Cari Roccaro each earned their first starts of the season, for rookie Roccaro it was the first of her career. U.S. WNT midfielder Brian went 75 minutes while Rocarro clocked the full 90 in the Houston defense.

2015 NWSL MVP and leading goal scorer Crystal Dunn still has not registered her first goal of the season, maybe she’s saving them for Brazil!

NWSL Pts GP W L T GF GA GD
Washington Spirit  13 5 4 0 1 7 1 6
Chicago Red Stars  10 5 3 1 1 4 3 1
Portland Thorns FC  9 5 2 0 3 5 3 2
Orlando Pride  9 5 3 2 0 7 4 3
Seattle Reign FC  7 5 2 2 1 6 5 1
Houston Dash  7 5 2 2 1 6 6 0
Sky Blue FC  7 5 2 2 1 5 5 0
Western New York Flash  6 5 2 3 0 3 6 -3
FC Kansas City  2 5 0 3 2 2 5 -3
Boston Breakers  0 5 0 5 0 0 7 -7
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Klinsmann Calls in 22 Man Transitional Roster for Pre- Copa Friendlies
Klinsmann Calls in 22 Man Transitional Roster for Pre- Copa Friendlies avatar

Jurgen Klinsmann has called 22 players into what is being billed a transitional camp ahead of next month’s Copa America Centenario.

Klinsmann (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann has called in 22 ahead of next month;s Copa America. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

A highlight of the camp will be the May 22 friendly in Bayamon, Puerto Rico although the game will come too late for players hoping to impress Klinsmann, with final Copa America rosters due on May 20.

Seven players in this group are not part of the 40 man preliminary roster for the Copa America and so are ineligible for the final 23 man roster that will host the special expanded 100th-anniversary edition of the South American (CONMEBOL) Championship taking place across the United States throughout the month of June.

With MLS in full swing, the transition camp roster is limited to European and Mexican based players, minus players busy competing in the Liga MX playoffs.

Ethan Horvath (Getty Images)

Ethan Horvath could not be spared by his club Molde.  (Getty Images)

Also, otherwise engaged is 17-year-old sensation Christian Pulisic, who scored the opening goal on Monday in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 victory that qualified his club for the German U19 Championship match versus Hoffenheim. With the Norwegian league in season goalkeeper, Ethan Horvath could not be spared by his club Molde, where the 20-year-old is the club’s number one.

The most interesting player on the Klinsmann’s list is undoubtedly Fa Fa Picault, the 25-year-old Manhattan-born Haitian- American forward who has been scoring goals of late for FC St Pauli in the Bundesliga 2.

Picault spent six years in Italy as part of the Cagliari youth set up, leaving without making the transition to the senior side. After a stint in the NASL with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Picault moved to the Ft Lauderdale Strikers of the same league, where he notched 12 goals in 24 matches.

A subsequent transfer to Sparta Prague fizzled but after signing a one-year deal with St. Pauli, the striker/winger did enough to earn an extension with the Hamburg club, earning a closer look from Klinsmann in the process.

Freiburg goalkeeper Zack Steffan, midfielders Emerson Hyndman and Caleb Stanko and forwards Paul Arriola, Julian Green, and Amando Moreno round out the seven “ineligibles” called in by Klinsmann.

Injured Altidore is set to mis the Copa America.. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Injured Altidore is set to mis the Copa America.. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The Puerto Rico game is the first of three friendlies as the U.S. MNT prepare for the Copa America Centenario in June. After visiting Puerto Rico, the Yanks welcome Ecuador to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on May 25 (7 p.m. CT; ESPN2 and UniMas), and then Bolivia, May 28 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas (7 p.m. CT; FS1 and Univision networks).

U.S. ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Zach Steffen (SC Freiburg)

DEFENDERS (7) : John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham)

MIDFIELDERS (7) : Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Caleb Stanko (SC Freiburg), Danny Williams (Reading)

FORWARDS (5) : Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Fabrice Picault (FC St. Pauli), Amando Moreno (Club Tijuana), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)

40 man preliminary roster for Copa America Centenario.

GOALKEEPERS (5): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (15): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)

MIDFIELDERS (12): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading FC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (8): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund),Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

NWSL Week 4 is in the books and the two-time defending champions FC Kansas City still hasn’t won, the Washington Spirit still haven’t lost and the Boston Breakers remain the only club without even a single point earned in 2016, so, with that in mind let’s take a closer look at the weekend’s results.

FC Kansas City 1-2 vs. Houston Dash

We knew coming into the season that the FCKC would miss retired World Cup winner Lauren Holiday, and pregnant strikers Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux, who are both unavailable, though I’m not sure how many expected the double defenders to find themselves in ninth place in the 10 team league after four rounds of NWSL play.

Lauren Holiday was once again the star getting a goal and an assist for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lauren Holiday retirement has left a void in the team.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

But after conceding two late goals to fall to the Houston Dash at home on Saturday that is precisely where Kansas City finds itself.

The Dash have some injury issues of its own, most prominently Carli Lloyd’s injury, but Lloyd’s U.S. WNT partner Morgan Brian returned to go 45 minutes on Saturday, and U.S. Youth star Cari Roccaro made a late cameo for her first appearance since being drafted by Houston.

With that said the star of the day, and the league’s Player of the Week, was Chioma Ubogagu, the London-born, Texas raised Stanford and U.S. Youth WNT star, who left the Arsenal Ladies club to take a crack at the NWSL.

Chioma Ubogagu was the NWSL player of the week. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Chioma Ubogagu was the NWSL player of the week. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Ubogagu scored one goal and assisted on Houston’s opener by Denise O’Sullivan, the Irish woman making her second substitute appearance for the Dash.

FCKC didn’t play like a team searching for its first win, with Mandy Laddish, in particular, peppering the Houston goal. Laddish was robbed more than once by Hope Solo’s former national Team understudy Nicole Barnhart and Laddish also was narrowly wide a long-range curler that had Barnhart stranded.

Boston Breakers 0-1 vs. Chicago Red Stars

And that bring us to Allston, Massachusetts where two teams going in very different directions continued on those paths as the visiting Chicago Red Stars shut out the struggling Boston Breakers 1-0.

Press was once again on the scoresheet for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

Press was once again on the scoresheet for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

A Christen Press goal was all the Red Stars needed to claim a third straight 1-0 victory, this one over the anemic Breakers, who have yet to score a goal in the 2016 season.

With the first half winding down Kristie Mewis missed a golden opportunity to end that dismal streak when her pk rattled off the post and then off of Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

That miss would come back to haunt the home side in the 60th minute when Christen Press scored her league-leading third goal of the season (tied with Diana Matheson, Wash. Spirit).

Washington Spirit 0-0 vs. Portland Thorns

The aforementioned Matheson was unable to find the net on the weekend for Washington and the Spirit could not maintain perfection, playing to a goalless draw at home on Saturday to the Thorns.

2015 NWSL MVP and leading scorer Crystal Dunn did put the ball in the Portland net but her first half effort was waved away for offside.

Portland is the league’s only team other than the Spirit yet to suffer a loss, coming out of Saturday’s encounter with a record of two wins, no losses, and two ties from this game a game that was played with an edge.

Heath wash shown  (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Heath was sent off after being shown her second yellow. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

The Thorns silky smooth U.S. WNT midfielder Tobin Heath was judged to have stepped over that edge when she was handed a second yellow card late in the match. Emily Sonnett and Lindsey Horan joined their teammate Heath in the referee’s book along with the Spirit’s Megan Oyster.

The two combative clubs will try to get back in the win column next Saturday with Washington hosting high-powered Houston while the Thorns will make the short trip to Seattle to face its Cascadia rivals, the Reign.

Sky Blue FC 1-2 vs. Western New York Flash

Rounding out Saturday’s NWSL schedule WNY spotted New Jersey side Sky Blue a first half lead before turning the tables with a late brace, traveling home to the Rochester area with the full complement of points.

Maya Hayes © celebrates the opening goal with there teammates)

Maya Hayes © celebrates the opening goal with there teammates)

Sky Blue took that lead on 35th-minute goal crafted by a pair of former Nittany Lions, with Maya Hayes finishing from a Raquel Rodriguez, the second pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft, who continues to impress.

A pair of U.S. WNT Olympic chasers took care of the scoring for WNY as Jaelene Hinkle converted a penalty kick to tie the match in the 72nd minute and Sam Mewis bagged the winner just four minutes from full time.

Orlando Pride 2-0 vs. Seattle Reign

Expansion side Orlando Pride earned the club’s first shutout on Sunday at Camping World Stadium, the Stadium formerly known as The Citrus Bowl, topping the Reign 2-0.

8,211 fans turned out the recently re-christened grounds, down from the record-breaking 23,403 that witnessed the team’s home opener two week’s ago against Houston.

As big a drop as that is, 8,000 plus is a big turnout for an NWSL match and once again Tom Sermanni’s side treated the home fans to a victory, sandwiching last week’s 1-0 loss at Chicago between a 3-1 win over Houston and Sunday’s shutout victory over the Reign.

Morgan looks back to her best. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Morgan is definitely pulling the strings for her team’s offense. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Alex Morgan’s name doesn’t show up in the goals column from Orlando’s victory but the national team mainstay was influential for the Pride, assisting on Sarah Hagen’s 12th-minute goal and taking the shot that produced the rebound that Lianne Sanderson put behind Hope Solo in the 87th minute to seal the result.

Solo’s U.S. WNT backup Ashlyn Harris kept the clean sheet, as she battles Red Stars shutout machine Alyssa Naeher for the number two spot behind Solo in Rio this August.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It was another hectic week in MLS, a week of highs and lows, ups and downs, a week of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

1) The Good- Toronto Homecoming a Smash!

The Reds were rewarded for their patience on Saturday when the team finally opened the fully renovated BMO Field with a 1-0 win over FC Dallas in front of a raucous sellout crowd of over 30,000.

Tsubasa Endoh was on target for Toronto. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Tsubasa Endoh was on target for Toronto. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

The natural grass field was a brilliant green, the roofs over the stands kept the noise in, making BMO a potential house of horrors for future opponents, and Japanese MLS rookie Tsubasa Endoh scored his first league goal to send those energetic fans home happy.

After starting the past two seasons on extended road trips TFC has a shiny new park to call home, and although I hate to be a party-pooper, there are a couple of concerns. First, TFC will share the stadium with Canadian Football League side the Toronto Argonauts (yes the CFL is still a thing). In addition to the Argo’s, the CFL Championship game, the Grey Cup, is scheduled for the stadium. Also on tap, the “occasional” rugby match, an outdoor hockey game, and who knows what else.

Officials have said there will be no CFL lines, and have praised the grounds crew’s ability to keep the playing surface in top condition, but we will just have to wait and see.

2) More Good- Keane Returns with a Bang, Morris keeps scoring, Dempsey Scores Too- and Check Out Jermaine Jones and Colorado!

L.A. are hot, and watch out league, now they’re getting healthy. On Sunday night, Robbie Keane returned from injury and tapped home twice from the doorstep to spark the Galaxy to a 4-2 home win over the New England Revolution.

Giovani Dos Santos (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Giovani Dos Santos scored a brilliant goal for the Galaxy. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

The game featured brilliant goals from Gio Dos Santos and Steven Gerrard for L.A, some fine playmaking from Gyasi Zardes, also for the Galaxy and a couple of crackerjack tallies from Kellyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo in a losing cause the Revolution.

This pair still has a way to go before making anyone forget the Deuce and Oba Show but Jordan Morris scored for the fourth match in a row and Clint Dempsey notched his first goal from play as the Seattle Sounders evened its record at 4-4-1 as the team climbs to within a point of playoff position.

A look at the top of the Western Conference not only shows that Colorado leads MLS with 20 points but also reveals a team that is a perfect 5-0-0 at home. A shock, given that Dick’s Sporting Goods Park was hardly a citadel last year as the Rapids compiled a 5-7-5 home mark last season on the way to a Western Conference-worst 37 points. Impressively, Colorado has now matched its 2015 home win total, and there are 24 more games still to be played.

Jermaine Jones has played four so far, and the 34-year-old number 10 has already scored three goals for the Raps. Yes, I did say number 10. Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni is playing the rugged German-American in an attacking midfield role and who could argue with the results?

Not Jurgen Klinsmann. In fact, the U.S. MNT boss joked on twitter that Jones may be in for another positional change.

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3) The Bad – The Frank Lampard Affair

Frank Lampard was recently announced as part of BBC’s Euro coverage this summer and while the injured midfielder will not travel to Europe and will thus be available for New York City FC, the optics, as the saying goes, are not good.

Lampard (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Lampard’s lack of appearances has bee somewhat of a disappointment for NYC FC fans. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

NYCFC fans are not thrilled that the pricey DP, who has yet to play a minute for the club in 2016, has elected to moonlight while he continues to rehab his slow healing calf strain. Keep in mind that Lampard only joined NYC last July, seven months later than promised, only to be promptly injured.

That meant Lampard debuted on August 1, and played just 10 games for an expansion team that sorely needed his leadership and his goals. Lampard’s late arrival cost the team any real chance it had of making the playoffs in its inaugural season, a failure that cost coach Jason Kreis his job.

New York City FC is scheduled to play five matches during the Euro and given Lampard’s limited contribution to the club to date, it should not be unreasonable for his team, his teammates, and the team’s fans to expect Lampard to give 100% of focus to his day job.

4) More Bad – Top Trio Tumble

It was a Lost Weekend for the 2015 MLS Cup finalists Portland and Columbus, who continued their season-long struggles while highly touted Dallas suffered a third consecutive shutout loss. Portland and Columbus currently sit in 9th place in the Western and Eastern Conference respectively, following after weekend action. Defending MLS Champion Portland dropped a 2-1 decision at Vancouver while a 4-4 Columbus tie at home to Montreal saw the Crew blow a 4-1 lead while embarrassing themselves with some unprofessional behavior. (More on that later.)

Oscar Pareja (L) (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta

Oscar Pareja (L) will need to address his side’s failure to score away from home. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta

Dallas can’t be faulted too much for falling to a fired up Toronto side that was debuting its newly refurbished stadium in front of a hyped up crowd on Saturday, but back to back, to back, shutouts indicate road worries that Oscar Pareja will have to sort out, and the sooner the better.

5) The Ugly – PK Madness at MAPFRE!

Columbus was cruising along very nicely on Saturday, with a 3-1 lead that was about to become 4-1, once someone converted an upcoming penalty kick. Instead, all hell broke loose with Kei Kamara looking to take the spot-kick to complete his hat-trick, only to see the club’s designated pk man Federico Higuain refuse to cede the chore or the ball.

Higuain would not back down. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Higuain would not back down. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

It was a petulant display by a pair of DP’s that continued until team captain Michael Parkhurst told the two to get on with it. Higuain put the chance away but the incident did not reflect well on either of the Crew stars and the debacle raises questions over coach Gregg Berhalter’s control over the club.

Kamara signed a DP deal with Columbus just prior to the season ending a contract dispute that arose after the striker’s 22 goal season in 2015. But the new deal won’t mean much to the club if its two stars cannot get along.

6) The Interesting- Big Day for Japan!

We have added a special category this week to recognize Vancouver’s Masato Kubo and Toronto’s Tsubasa Endoh, two Japanese players who each recorded their first MLS goals on Saturday.

Masato Kubo will be hoping to see more playing time for Vancouver. (Getty Images)

Masato Kubo will be hoping to see more playing time for Vancouver. (Getty Images)

Both forwards are in their first year in the league, with the 26-year-old Kudo arriving in Vancouver on a free transfer while 22-year-old Endoh was a 1st round selection out of Maryland in the 2016 SuperDraft for TFC.

Both face a fight for playing time on team’s with crowded forward stables and this weekend will have done them no harm in that battle.

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MLS – BIg 5
MLS – BIg 5 avatar

1) Home, Sweet, Home for TFC

For the second year in a row, Toronto FC opened its season with an extended road trip necessitated by the renovation of BMO Stadium. Last season the Reds emerged from a seven-game odyssey with a respectable 3-4 record and went on to qualify for the MLS playoffs for the first time in club history.

Clint Irwin minding the net for Toronto. (ISI Photos/Tim Bouwer)

Clint Irwin minding the net for Toronto. (ISI Photos/Tim Bouwer)

It may be familiarity but TFC weathered the storm pretty well this year too and head into Saturday’s home opener versus suddenly reeling FC Dallas with a 3-3-2 record good for third place in the Eastern Conference.

Backboned by a new look defense led by goalkeeper Clint Irwin TFC has surrendered just seven goals, the fewest in the league. On the flip side, Toronto needs to up its goal tally. With nine goals scored, TFC is fourth from the bottom in that category, and Giovinco has notched six of the nine.

So, welcome to your newly completed home Toronto, now how about some goals from Jozy Altidore (0, so far) and company?

2) FC Dallas Ride the Road to Ruin

Well, maybe not quite ruin, third place Dallas are still level on points with shock first and second place clubs, Colorado and Real Salt Lake, but Dallas road results have to be a concern for soccer aficionados in the Lone Star State.

Oscar Pareja (L) will surely be disappointed with his team's performance. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta

Oscar Pareja (L) will surely be disappointed with his team’s performance. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta

Eyebrows were raised when Oscar Pareja’s highly rated bunch were smacked by a 5-0 scoreline in Houston in the team’s first away game of 2016, but away wins at DC and Portland quelled any talk of a trend.

But that was before Dallas ended April with a disastrous two-game set that began with a 3-0 flop in Vancouver followed swiftly by a 4-0 demolition by the New York Red Bulls. And it’s not as if either of those opponents were hot coming in. Vancouver had compiled a 2 win, four loss, and 1 tie record before they topped Dallas and while the Red Bulls were coming off of a 3-2 win over Orlando, the Bulls sported a 2-6-0 mark before they handled FCD last Friday in New Jersey.

These disappointing results may just be a blip for this undoubtedly talented squad, but it so it is a blip that Pareja will want to remove from the team and the league’s radar.

3) Jordan Morris is Heating Up

Jordan Morris has had a very peculiar career for a modern American soccer player, starting with the fact that he received his first national team cap while still a college student at Stanford. Morris was the first college player to suit up for the U.S. MNT since Chris Albright was called into camp at the end of the previous century.

Morris is starting to show his quality.(Getty Images)

Morris is starting to show his quality.(Getty Images)

Morris had already scored a senior national team goal versus Mexico, Mexico! in an April 2015 friendly, so some jittery types got a little, well, jittery when the 21-year-old did not immediately set MLS on fire upon his debut in March.

Did Morris make the right decision when he elected to play with his hometown Seattle Sounders and not Bundesliga strugglers Werder Bremen, who tried to sign the poacher in January? Had the hype train gotten carried away with Morris, was he as good as we thought/hoped?

But then Morris scored his first professional goal against Philadelphia and everyone exhaled. When Morris netted again in Seattle’s next game, against Colorado, the U.S. soccer nation began to remember what it saw in the former Stanford Cardinal in the first place, and then when Morris pounced on a rebound to give the Sounders a late win against the Columbus Crew the engineer began pegging shovels full of coal into the furnace and the Jordan Morris hype train was fired up and ready to resume scheduled stops.

On each of the next four Saturdays, The Morris Express is scheduled to disembark in Seattle, vs. San Jose; Frisco, Texas, vs. FC Dallas; back to Seattle, to play Colorado; and then on to New England and a Wednesday stop in the nation’s capital on June 1.

Of course, Morris might not make it to all of those stations, Copa America is coming and the man who started all this Morris hype, Jurgen Klinsmann, will very likely be calling on Morris, who made the provisional U.S. 40 man roster and is moving closer to the final 23 man squad with each goal.

4) Red Bulls Turn on the Tap

Yes. I do mean the goals tap. It had been jammed pretty tightly for Jesse Marsch’s boys this season, just one year after New York led the league in goals scored and goal difference. NYRB’s goal scoring problems started right at the top this season; 2015 team leader Bradley Wright-Phillips was goalless until breaking out with a brace in a 3-2 Red Bulls win against Orlando on April 24.

The Red Bulls (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)


The Red Bulls made it look easy.  (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

New York followed that outburst with a 4-0 blowout win over FC Dallas that saw Mike Grella score for the second straight week joined on the scoresheet by Lloyd Sam, Sacha Kljestan, and Felipe, all contributors to a diversified attack that led MLS with 62 goals in 2015.

Sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, New York has work to do to get where they want to be and added veteran Aurelien Collin to shore up the defense this week. But Jesse Marsch and Ali Curtis built this team to score goals and the team’s two most recent results showed that the Red Bulls can still fill it up.

5) Taking In 1st Home Win for NYCFC

On a personal note, your trusty correspondent did things a little differently this week, eschewing the privileges of the press box to sit with his family in the Yankee Stadium seats to watch New York City FC chase its first home win of the season against the Vancouver Whitecaps. (NYCFC got that win, 3-2)

Much has been made of the oddities of the Yankee Stadium layout and you’ll find no argument here, it’s agreed; the layout at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx is ill-suited to soccer. NYCFC and its big time owners do need to get cracking on that new stadium, but narrow pitch be damned, our foursome had a great time on Sunday.

Sitting just beyond third base in the stadium’s second level the sightlines were excellent, even if we couldn’t quite make out the corner kicker taker near the left field foul pole. But there was action right from the start when NYC goalie Josh Saunders gifted Octavio Rivero with a first-minute goal when he brain locked on a back pass.

NYC FC  celebrating David Villa's goal. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

NYC FC celebrating David Villa’s goal. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

We saw a great goal from David Villa, and from my perch in the stands I never thought to ask -where was the Vancouver defense? – as my colleagues in the press box felt compelled to. No, I was content to sip a $12 beer and enjoy the game with the family and isn’t that what it’s all about?

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

Week three of NWSL season four got underway with two Friday night games. The Washington Spirit traveled to Rochester to face the Western New York Flash and the Houston Dash welcomed Sky Blue FC. The league then stood down on Saturday, leaving it to the rest of the sports world to battle for attention, before coming back with three more games on Sunday.

Little (L) was voted the NWSL player of the week. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

Little (L) was voted the NWSL player of the week. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

So let’s begin this week’s NWSL Roundup with Friday’s doubleheader. As always, home teams listed first.

Western New York (3-0-0, 9pts) 0-3 Washington Spirit (1-2-0, 3-pts)

Three weeks into the league’s fourth season and the Washington Spirit just keep rolling along, even if Friday night’s 3-0 win wasn’t quite as easy as the scoreline makes it appear. The Spirit did jump out to a quick lead just four minutes in when Canadian international Diana Matheson put the finishing touch on Crystal Dunn’s set up.

Matheson (L) (ISI Photos/Robyn McNeil)

Matheson (L) scored a brace against the Flash. (ISI Photos/Robyn McNeil)

The goal was the second of the season for Matheson and the helper was number three from 2015 NWSL MVP Dunn, but the floodgates hardly opened after that initial strike.

In fact, the outcome might have been different if the Flash had converted a penalty kick in the 49th minute, instead Sam Mewis clanked her spot kick off of the upright and into the waiting arms of Spirit netminder Stephanie Labbe to miss out on a potential equalizer.

Matheson wasn’t so wasteful when she faced down WNY keeper Sabrina D’Angelo from 11 yards out, making the Flash pay for Jaelene Hinkle’s takedown on the Spirit’s Cheyna Williams and extending Washington’s lead to 2-0 with her 70th-minute pk.

A late own goal added to Western New York’s misery and assured Washington of a perfect 3-0-0 record and continued residence atop the NWSL standings.

Houston Dash (1-1-1, 4pts) 0-0 Sky Blue FC (1-1-1, 4pts)

The Dash will be without the services of Carli Lloyd for the next three to six weeks and the deleterious effect of her absence was clear to all in game one of the post-Carli era with Houston unable to muster a goal in a 0-0 home draw.

Houston will miss the attacking prowess of Llody. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Houston will miss the attacking prowess of Llody. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

In fairness to Lloyd’s remaining attacking colleagues, a good deal of the credit for the zero on the home side of the ledger Friday night is down to Sky Blue keeper Caroline Stanley. Stanley’s primary victim at BBVA Compass Stadium was Dash rookie striker Rachel Daly who was unable to convert on a quartet of chances, with a 50/50 split on those lost chances divvied up between Stanley saves and Daly misses.

Andressa also troubled the Sky blue defense while New Jersey-based Sky Blue received a promising offensive performance from Costa Rican international midfielder Raquel Rodriguez; who last year earned the MAC Hermann Trophy for her outstanding season with Penn State.

The result leaves the teams stranded in mediocrity with four points each, with identical 1-1-1 records.

Seattle Reign (2-0-1, 7pts) 1-0 FC Kansas City (0-2-1, 1pt)

The Reign earned a small measure of revenge for last season’s NWSL Championship loss with Sunday’s 1-0 win over two-time defending champions FCKC. Kim Little continued her stellar play for the Reign, scoring the game’s lone goal in the 56th minute, and the Scot’s second tally of the year was too much for the still winless champs to overcome.

Fishlock's injury will surely be a blow to Seattle. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Fishlock’s injury will surely be a blow to Seattle. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The victory, the second in a row for the Reign, took some of the sting out of the news that the team will be without Jessica Fishlock for the next four to six weeks due to a fracture to the Welsh midfielders left tibia.

The result and the score was a reversal of Kansas City’s win in last year’s final, so a tight match was no surprise. It is, however, a shock to look at the NWSL standings and find only the Boston Breakers at 0-0-3 below the 2014 and 2015 NWSL title holders.

Boston Breakers (0-3-0, 0pts) 0-1 Portland Thorns (2-0-1, 7pts)

Boston hosted the Portland Thorns on Sunday with hopes of eliminating that ugly ought from its win column, but the Thorns would see to it that the Bostonians misery would continue for another week at least by handing the home side a 1-0 loss.

Portland’s Tobin Heath maintained her sizzling form setting up Dagny Brynjarsdottir for the game’s only goal, picking up her fourth helper of the young season. Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch earned a shutout in her first game as a Thorn, her first in the league since the 2013 NWSL Championship match, which Franch lost 1-0 to Portland as a member of the Western New York Flash.

After spending time playing in Norway, the former U20 and U23 U.S. WNT keeper was sharp in her return on Sunday and she gives coach Mark Parsons another option on a talent-laden squad.

Chicago Red Stars (2-1-0, 6pts) 1-0 Orlando Pride (1-2-0, 3pts)

In a match rife with implications for the U.S. WNT Olympic Gold Medal defense, Chicago’s Christen Press beat Orlando keeper Alyssa Harris for the only goal of the game as Red Stars netminder Alyssa Naeher picked up the shutout in a battle between Hope Solo’s backups.

Press was once again on the scoresheet for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

Press was once again on the scoresheet for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

That is not to say that Harris did not play well, she did, but in earning a second shutout on the trot Naeher will surely have caught national team coach Jill Ellis’ eye, remember Ellis is on record as saying that league form will have a lot to do with her Rio selections.

On that same note, Ellis is sure to be happy with Press’ performance early in the NWSL campaign. Not only has Press scored in back to back weeks, the forward’s overall game has been outstanding.

NWSL Pts GP W L T GF GA GD
Washington Spirit  9 3 3 0 0 6 1 5
Portland Thorns FC  7 3 2 0 1 4 2 2
Seattle Reign FC  6 3 2 1 0 5 2 3
Chicago Red Stars  6 3 2 1 0 3 3 0
Houston Dash  4 3 1 1 1 4 4 0
Sky Blue FC  4 3 1 1 1 3 3 0
Orlando Pride  3 3 1 2 0 4 4 0
Western New York Flash  3 3 1 2 0 1 4 -3
FC Kansas City  1 3 0 2 1 1 3 -2
Boston Breakers  0 3 0 3 0 0 5 -5
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Klinsmann Names 40 Provisional Roster for Copa
Klinsmann Names 40 Provisional Roster for Copa avatar

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named his 40 man Provisional roster for next month’s Copa America Centenario, and as expected, there are a few surprises.

John Brooks was once again the hero. (ISI Photo/Thomas Eisenhuth)

Chandler joins the defense once more. (ISI Photo/Thomas Eisenhuth)

Most of the intrigue around this 40 man group is at the often troublesome left back position, where Brek Shea and Jorge Villafana did not receive a call but Tim Ream, Tim Chandler, Kellyn Acosta, Edgar Castillo, and even forgotten man Eric Lichaj did.

Mix Diskerud was named as one of 15 midfielders despite finding himself relegated to bench duty for New York City FC, and Perry Kitchen got the nod from Klinsmann following his move to Scottish club Heart of Midlothian, undoubtedly the most Game of Thrones sounding club name among the roster invitees.

The versatile Fabian Johnson is listed at midfield, where he has shone this season for Borussia Monchengladbach, although we need only think back to Brazil 2014 to recall that Johnson is the best fullback on this U.S. roster. Johnson played on the right side of the defense in Brazil but is equally adept on either flank.

When the U.S. shockingly fell 2-0 to Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying on March 26, Klinsmann was called to task for playing players out of position, a charge Klinsmann refuted in the wake of that historic loss to Guatemala, who had never previously defeated the U.S in World Cup Qualifiers, or in fact, in any competition since 1988.

It is the usual suspect upfront for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

It is the usual suspect upfront for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Led by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, the forward pool contains no surprises, although it does provide a promising glimpse into the future with the inclusions of 17- year-old Dortmund sensation Christian Pulisic, Seattle’s suddenly red-hot Jordan Morris, and fast rising Bundesliga II goalscorer Bobby Wood.

But let’s take a quick look at the left back candidates, remembering that all players named to the 23 man Copa roster must come from this preliminary list, with a May 20 decision day looming for Klinsmann and all the national teams.

First the two non-invitees, Brek Shea, and Jorge Villafana. Shea is relatively new to the fullback position and an injury last season robbed the Orlando club man of precious developmental time, and maybe of his chance to make this team. Shea still has all the ingredients to make the grade at the position, Copa may have simply come too soon.

Jorge Villafana’s continued inability to get a look is the bigger surprise. The 26 old Mexican-American earned his place with Chivas USA after winning a contest, Sueno MLS.

But last season the one-time novelty was a key piece in Portland’s MLS Cup run, impressing in both the Conference Final and the Championship match, contributing some lockdown marking first against Dallas’ Fabian Castillo and then against the Crews’ Ethan Finlay. Those performances earned Villafana a $1 million transfer to Santos Laguna in Liga MX, but still no call from U.S. Soccer.

Tim Ream (ISI Photos/Joe Toth)

Tim Ream (ISI Photos/Joe Toth)

That leaves a somewhat imperfect bunch fighting for the left fullback spot. Castillo does not defend well, a problem given the job description and the Copa level competition. Tim Ream is steady but provides little going forward and as a center back, Ream brings center back pace to the wide role. Chandler is back in the mix with Eintracht Frankfurt after a long spell out of favor and can play either fullback position. But Chandler has rarely impressed on national team duty and has often seemed indifferent to the honor.

Acosta is a talented young player, but the FC Dallas man had a nightmare at the fullback position in U23 Olympic Qualifiers versus Colombia and looks far more comfortable as a defensive midfielder.

Lichaj is the roster’s biggest shock, the Notts Forest defender has long been viewed as the defense’s version of Benny Feilhaber, deserving of a call-up, but destined never to receive one.

Unlike Benny, however, Lichaj refrained from public pronouncements on the topic and amusing, if possibly detrimental stunts; see Feilhaber modeling a Klinsmann jersey at Sporting KC’s jersey day.

Lichaj is another that can play on the right or left side, bring a robust physicality to either wing.

We will have more on this roster in the coming days.

Here is the upcoming schedule as the U.S MNT prepare for the June 3, opener in Santa Clara, California vs Colombia.

U.S.A. vs Puerto Rico: Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Sunday, May 22 (12 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas, UDN).
USA vs. Ecuador: Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. May 25 (7 p.m. CT; ESPN2 and UniMas)
U.S.A. vs. Bolivia: Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. May 28(7 p.m. CT; FS1 and Univision networks).

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (5): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (15): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)

MIDFIELDERS (12): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading FC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (8): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund),Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

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