Morris Strikes Late to Give USMNT 6th Gold Cup Title
Morris Strikes Late to Give USMNT 6th Gold Cup Title avatar

With the Gold Cup Final seemingly headed for extra time, Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris picked up a deflected cross and broke the deadlock with an 89th-minute blast that beat Jamaica’s backup goalkeeper Dwayne Miller to give the U.S. MNT a 2-1 win over the Reggae Boyz and a sixth Gold Cup title.

Arena must be pleased with his teams overall performance as well as the Gold Cup title. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

This may have been an off year Gold Cup with World Cup Qualifiers and the Confederation Cup (the latter for Mexico) taking center stage but Bruce Arena will still earn plenty of kudos for claiming the team’s first piece of silverware in his second go around as coach of the U.S. MNT.

Despite an overwhelming possession edge, the game remained goalless until the 45th minute when a beautiful free kick off the boot of Jozy Altidore beat Miller’s dive. Jamaica’s number one keeper Andre Blake had been forced out with a hand injury after taking a kick from Kellyn Acosta on a rebounded shot in the 23rd minute.

Altidore struck his shot well and although Miller got a hand to the ball the understudy was unable to keep the U.S. striker’s shot out of the net. It was an easy leap to think that Blake, who was awarded the Golden Gloves after the match, would have made the save.

Bradley earned himself the Golden Ball for his overall performance of this tournament. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The dominant first half performance by the Americans was keyed by a dominant midfield display by Darlington Nagbe and Michael Bradley, solid defensive work by the old reliable defense pair of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez and strong play up front from Altidore.

But with the action all going the home team’s way, Jamaica pounced on some poor marking by Morris on a corner kick as Je-Vaughn Watson slipped behind Morris to head home the equalizer five minutes after the second half restart.

With the U.S. attack sputtering Arena sent Dempsey in for a very ineffective Kellyn Acosta just five minutes after the Jamaica goal and while the newly minted super sub was unable to get the goal he needed to pass Landon Donovan as the top all time U.S. MNT goalscorer, Dempsey did provide some immediate spark.

Morris celebrates scoring the game and tournament winner. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Still, extra time looked to be on the cards before Morris picked up a poorly hit cross from another sub, Gyasi Zardes and clobbered his shot past Miller for the U.S. win.

The victory improves Arena’s record to 9-0-5 in his second stint in charge of the national team and should give the team at least a slight confidence boost heading into September’s important World Cup Qualifiers.

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

USA – Jozy Altidore 45th minute
JAM – Je-Vaughn Watson (Kemar Lawrence) 50
USA – Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey) 88

Lineups:
USA:­ 24-Tim Howard; 19-Graham Zusi, 3-Omar González, 5-Matt Besler, 2-Jorge Villafaña; 20-Paul Arriola (9-Gyasi Zardes, 76), 23-Kellyn Acosta (28-Clint Dempsey, 55), 26-Michael Bradley (capt.), 25-Darlington Nagbe (13-Dax McCarty, 90+2); 8-Jordan Morris, 27-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 12-Bill Hamid, 4-Matt Miazga, 7-Chris Pontius, 10-Joe Corona, 15-Eric Lichaj, 16-Justin Morrow, 18-Juan Agudelo, 21-Matt Hedges, 29-Jesse González
Head coach: Bruce Arena

JAM: 1-Andre Blake (13-Dwayne Miller, 23); 2-Kemar Lawrence, 21-Jermaine Taylor, 4-Ladale Richie (17-Kevon Lambert, 87), 3-Damion Lowe, 5-Alvas Powell; 8-Oniel Fischer, 15-Je-Vaughn Watson, 18-Owayne Gordon; 22-Romario Williams, 10-Darren Mattocks (11-Cory Burke, 90)
Subs not used: 23-Damion Hyatt, 6-Segio Campbell, 7-Shaun Francis, 2-Rosario Harriott, 12-Michael Binns, 9-Ewan Grandison, 19-Ricardo Morris, 16-Jermaine Johnson, 14-Shamar Nicholson
Head Coach: Theodore Whitmore

Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 13 / 6
Shots on Goal: 8 / 3
Saves: 2 / 6
Corner Kicks: 6 / 3
Fouls: 13 / 20
Offside: 1 / 5

Misconduct Summary:
JAM – Darren Mattocks (caution) 31st minute
USA – Kellyn Acosta (caution) 37
JAM – Ladale Richie (caution) 57
USA – Graham Zusi (caution) 76
USA – Tim Howard (caution) 90+2

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U.S. Hunt for 6th Gold Cup Title Against Jamaica
U.S. Hunt for 6th Gold Cup Title Against Jamaica avatar

No team gets to a final to lose. That’s what the U.S. MNT and coach Bruce Arena will be thinking tonight when they take on Jamaica in the Gold Cup Final in Santa Clara, California, not withstanding the coach’s pre-Cup comments downplaying the importance of winning the event.

Arenal will be hoping to win the final. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

With Arena prioritizing September’s crucial World Cup Qualifying matches against Costa Rica (9/1 @Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.) and Honduras (9/5 @TBD San Pedro Sula, Honduras) the CONCACAF regional championship took on a lesser role.

Mexico had just competed in the Confederations Cup prior to the Gold Cup and El Tri, like the Americans, sent a diminished squad to the CONCACAF Championship.

The Yanks failed to impress in the group stage, doing just enough to advance with its B or C team, only hitting stride in the semifinal win over Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, in the other semifinal match, Mexico was sent home by Jamaica, in a result that was less shocking than it seemed. The two sides had played to a dour 0-0 draw in group action with Mexico’s fourth, fifth and sixth choice strikers failing miserably to make El Tri fans forget West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

Andre Blake has 3 clean sheets thus far in this tournament. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

To get to the final Reggae Boyz keeper Andre Blake did his part to frustrate Mexico’s understudies as the Jamaica racked up its third shutout of the five matches played to date.

The American defense has also stepped up since the beginning of knockout play, not coincidentally coinciding with the arrival of Tim Howard. After Bill Hamid backstopped the U.S. to a 3-0 win over Nicaragua in the final group match, Howard took over with a pair of 2-0 wins resulting.

A dirty El Salvador side turned the quarterfinals into a battle of attrition with the favored Yanks happy just to move on but Arena’s squad found a vein of form in a satisfying win over Costa Rica.

If the U.S. can recapture that level of play then they should be able to claim a sixth Gold Cup to move within one title of Mexico. Arena is expected to go with much the same lineup that featured against the Ticos with Clint Dempsey’s role the most intriguing.

The U.S. MNT legend scored his 57th international goal to tie Landon Donovan as the all time number one U.S. MNT goalscorer. Dempsey should get a chance to take sole possession of that record tonight, but will he get the chance from the start or off the U.S. bench?

The 34-year-old changed the game when he was sprung from the bench by Arena in the 66th minute versus Costa Rica, setting up Jozy Altidore for the first goal of the match before curling home a delightful free kick to tie Donovan and kill off the Ticos.

Dempsey celebrates his goal and his new record. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Dempsey referenced his comeback from heart problems in suggesting that he was ok with a subs role while Arena pointed to the compact tournament schedule and Dempsey’s age, noting that the Seattle Sounders veteran will be used as a starter or off the bench going forward.

Jamaica will be expected to defend and counter, a tactic that makes sense given the team’s defensive record and the speed at coach Theodore Whitmore’s disposal.

Having fallen to Mexico in the 2015 Championship match, the Reggae Boyz are competing in their second consecutive Gold Cup Final, a first for the team.

To get to that final two years ago Jamaica defeated a U.S. team coached by Jurgen Klinsmann. U.S. vets like Michael Bradley, Howard, and Dempsey will want to avenge that result while Arena would surely love to succeed where his predecessor failed.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

In a week of big MLS stories, let’s begin by asking…

1) Did MLS really turn down $4 Billion?

Yes, but the media rights deal proposed by MP and Silva, owned by Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva, came with a catch, a big one. In order to get its hands on the $4 billion on offer, the league would be required to adopt a promotion/relegation system.

The deal was not that simple. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Another obstacle to any deal is the league’s current contract with Fox, ESPN, and Univision, which runs through 2023. Silva’s proposal would begin when the current arrangement concludes but MLS Executive VP Dan Courtemanche shot the proposal down in remarks to ESPN.

“As was stated to Mr. Silva both in person and in a subsequent letter, Major League Soccer is prohibited contractually from engaging in discussions about our media rights with other distributors,” Courtemanche said.

“We are not in a position, nor are we interested, in engaging with Mr. Silva on his proposal.”

2) Dwyer Dealt!

Fresh off of scoring two goals in three games as he debuted for the U.S. MNT Dom Dwyer has been traded, sold really, to Orlando SC for an MLS record fee.

Dom Dwyer in action for the U.S.(ISI Photos/Howard Smith)

KC will miss Dwyer, who set the club record for goals in a season with 22 in 2014 and is consistently near the top of the MLS goals chart. But Peter Vermes will have plenty of cash on hand to find a replacement with SKC bring back $500,000 in TAM, $400,000 in GAM, plus as much as $700,000 in future allocation fees if Dwyer reaches certain performance targets.

Orlando can team Dwyer with Cyle Larin to form a super strike partnership and Dwyer is also insurance should Larin land that oft rumored transfer to Europe.

3) USA vs Jamaica in MLS Heavy Gold Cup Final

Sunday’s 1-0 Gold Cup victory for Jamaica over Mexico could also be looked at as a win for Major League Soccer, with 10 of the Reggae Boyz game day roster, nine starters, earning their keep in the league.

Andre Blake was the hero for Jamaica against Mexico. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Jamaica’s heroes were a pair of MLS men, goalkeeper Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union) and goalscorer Kemar Lawrence (N.Y. Red Bulls) and coach Theodore Whitmore gave the league a shout out in his postgame remarks.

“MLS has done a lot for our football back in Jamaica,” the coach said. “The experience, the exposure, these players get in MLS and what they bring back to the country, it’s a plus.”

“We have a couple of players, Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers), Kemar Lawrence, Andre Blake, they keep improving and that’s what we need. I can only hope that they can lift our local players to a level where we want them to be, because we are a very young, inexperienced team and they are the ones who have to chart the way for the younger players coming,” Whitmore said.

Jamaica plays the U.S. Wednesday in the Gold Cup Final at 9:30 PM ET at Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, Calif. The game can be seen on FS1, Univisión, and UDN.

The U.S. has won the Gold Cup five times, second to Mexico, who have seven titles, with Canada claiming the remaining championship in 2000. Jamaica has never won the Gold Cup.

4) “A freaking headlock!”

Mike Petke was mad as hell and he simply couldn’t take it anymore following his Real Salt Lake side’s 1-1 home draw versus Sporting Kansas City. The focus of the passionate Petke’s ire? The ref and the MLS league officials who refused to overrule RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman’s recent suspension.

Mike Petke was outraged with the recent decision and failure to overrule Beckermann’s suspension.  (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

At the July 22nd post game presser, Petke brought some photographic evidence, a shot of Philadelphia Union defender Oguchi Onyewu being strangled by SKC midfielder Illie Sanchez, for which there was no suspension. Petke was incensed that Beckerman’s recent suspension had been upheld for what the coach said was extending his arm.

The second pic showed RSL attacker Joao Plata with an arm around his neck as he bore down on the SKC net. The “freaking headlock” in question. Petke wasn’t happy and he will likely be fined and possibly suspended but the combustible coach will at least have gotten his money’s worth.

5) Rampaging Red Bulls

For much of the 2017 season “what’s wrong with the Red Bulls” was a popular parlor game among MLS pundits. Sacha Kljestan was singled out often but the midfielder and team captain appear to be back in form as do the surging Bulls.

A pair of dominant wins just three days apart will cure a lot of woes and a two match 8-1 week will do nicely. First New York topped San Jose 5-1 on July 19th, three days before shutting out Minnesota 3-0, with both victories coming at home.

Kljestan took the club lead in career assists. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Along the way Kljestan passed Thierry Henry, no less, to take the club lead in career assist with 43. Congratulations. Daniel Royer had an even better few days, scoring three goals and adding a helper across the two games to earn MLS Player of the Week honors.

Royer was joined on the Team of the Week by Kljestan and coach Jesse Marsch. The team has climbed to fifth place in the Eastern Conference on the strength of a 5-1 run in league play with the lone loss coming at the hands of local rivals New York City FC.

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Super-sub Dempsey Ties Donovan – Leads U.S. to Gold Cup FInal
Super-sub Dempsey Ties Donovan – Leads U.S. to Gold Cup FInal avatar

Supersub Clint Dempsey led the U.S. to a comprehensive 2-0 win over Costa Rica Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, propelling the Americans to the Gold Cup Final with its best performance of the tournament.

Altidore scoring his goal against Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/Rick Yeats)

After struggling to find form in the group stages of the event Bruce Arena added six regulars to the roster, advancing past El Salvador in a scrappy affair before his squad finally hit form against Costa Rica, easily the best team the Americans have faced so far in the 2017 Gold Cup.

The Americans came into the CONCACAF Championship looking to unearth some gems for the coming World Cup Qualifiers and hopefully 2018 itself, but make no mistake the U.S. is firmly in “win now” mode as Arena trotted out his “A” team.

From goalkeeper Tim Howard to a defense led by Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, midfielders Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe forwards Jordan Morris and Jozy Altidore, this was a win for the front line troops.

Still, despite an at times dominant performance by the Yanks the Ticos made it to the intermission level with their hosts at zeros.

The U.S. was missing that something special to breach the compact visitor’s defense and that something turned out to be Dempsey. “Deuce” replaced Paul Arriola in the 66th minute and it took Dempsey just six minutes to spring Altidore for the ice breaker.

Dempsey celebrates his goal and his new record. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

10 minutes later Dempsey made it 2-0 while making some history, tieing Landon Donovan at the top of the U.S. MNT goal scoring chart with his 57th international goal.

Dempsey’s success off the bench may be the blueprint Arena, now 8-0-5 in his U.S. MNT return uses going forward, maximizing the 34-year-old Texans effectiveness all the way to Russia.

The Americans will face the winner of Mexico vs Jamaica tonight in Pasadena with the final three days later in Santa Clara.

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

USA – Jozy Altidore (Clint Dempsey) 72nd minute
USA – Clint Dempsey 82

Lineups:
USA:­ 24-Tim Howard; 19-Graham Zusi, 3-Omar González, 5-Matt Besler, 2-Jorge Villafaña; 20-Paul Arriola (28-Clint Dempsey, 66), 23-Kelly Acosta (13-Dax McCarty, 85), 26-Michael Bradley (capt.), 25-Darlington Nagbe; 8-Jordan Morris, 27-Jozy Altidore (9-Gyasi Zardes, 83)
Subs not used: 12-Bill Hamid, 4-Matt Miazga, 7-Chris Pontius, 10-Joe Corona, 15-Eric Lichaj, 16-Justin Morrow, 18-Juan Agudelo, 21-Matt Hedges, 29-Jesse González
Head coach: Bruce Arena

CRC: 18-Patrick Pemberton; 6-José Salvatierra (14-Randall Azofeifa, 78), 3-Giancarlo González, 2-Johnny Acosta, 24-Kendall Waston, 15-Francisco Calvo; 10-Bryan Ruiz (capt.), 20-David Guzmán (25-José Leitón, 80), 17-Yeltsin Tejeda (5-Kenner Gutiérrez, 74), 7-David Ramírez; 21-Marco Ureña
Subs not used: 23-Dany Carvajal, 1- Leonel Moreira, 16-Christian Gamboa, 26-Jhamir Ordain, 8-Bryan Oviedo, 4-Michael Umaña, 22-Juan Pablo Vargas, 12-Joel Campbell, 27-Jimmy Marín, 19-Ulises Segura, 14-Rodney Wallace, 9-Ariel Rodríguez, 11-Johan Venegas
Head Coach: Oscar Ramírez

Stats Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 10 / 7
Shots on Goal: 4 / 2
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 2 / 4
Fouls: 20 / 15
Offside: 1 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Omar González (caution) 61st minute
CRC – Giancarlo González (caution) 67
USA – Jozy Altidore (caution) 72

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U.S. Tops El Salvador in Sloppy Gold Cup Quarterfinal
U.S. Tops El Salvador in Sloppy Gold Cup Quarterfinal avatar

There was biting, nipple twisting, fakery and more as the U.S. MNT survived a CONCACAF special Wednesday night to defeat El Salvador 2-0 in Philadelphia, booking a semifinal berth versus Costa Rica on Saturday in the process.

Gonzalez opened the scoring for the U.S. with a fine header. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Goals from defenders Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj were enough to see the U.S. MNT past El Salvador but it would be a mistake to think that this was a good evening for the U.S. defense.

But we can get back to that. First the goals. Gonzalez got the ball rolling in the 41st minute when he headed home from a perfectly taken free kick from Michael Bradley.

Lichaj doubled the U.S. lead just before the halftime whistle when he got on the end of a Clint Dempsey setup to fire the Yanks to a seemingly comfortable 2-0 midway lead.

But that margin proved anything but secure as the underdog El Salvadorans pressured the very disorganized U.S. defense, coming close to breaching Tim Howard’s net without quite finding the correct formula.

Lichaj had very nearly gifted El Salvador with an early lead when his short back pass required Howard to spring into action to bail his defender out while also preserving the shutout.

El Salvador caused the U.S. defense trouble in the second half. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

El Salvador threatened often in the final 45 as the American defense left gaps all over that were easy enough for the El Salvador to exploit. The U.S. back four never appeared to be in synch, with Lichaj and his fellow fullback Justin Morrow getting caught upfield on breaks while Matt Hedges and Omar Gonzalez struggled to cover the El Salvador attackers in the resultant open space.

So, the game itself was far from a classic with skullduggery from the visiting El Salvadoran side making the contest something of a mockery as the relatively minor offenses of diving and embellishing by the visitors were largely forgotten when Henry Romero first twisted Jozy Altidore’s nipple and then looked to have taken a bite out of the American striker.

In the night’s other CONCACAF showdown Costa Rica defeated Panama 1-0 prior to the U.S. match, setting up a showdown between the Tico’s and the Yanks on Saturday.

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

USA – Omar Gonzalez (Michael Bradley) 41st minute
USA – Eric Lichaj (Clint Dempsey) 45+2

Lineups:
USA:­ 24-Tim Howard; 15-Eric Lichaj, 21-Matt Hedges, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 16-Justin Morrow; 25-Darlington Nagbe (7-Chris Pontius, 87), 26-Michael Bradley (capt.); 20-Paul Arriola (8-Jordan Morris, 66), 9-Gyasi Zardes (23-Kelly Acosta, 71); 28-Clint Dempsey, 27-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 18-Juan Agudelo, 5-Matt Besler, 10-Joe Corona, 29-Jesse Gonzalez, 12-Bill Hamid, 13-Dax McCarty, 4-Matt Miazga, 2-Jorge Villafaña, 19-Graham Zusi
Head coach: Bruce Arena

SLV: 18-Derby Carrillo; 4-Henry Romero, 5-Iván Mancia, 21-Bryan Tamacas; 7-Darwin Cerén (capt)., 8-Denis Pineda (19-Edwin Sánchez, 78), 10-Gerson Mayen (16-Óscar Cerén, 57), 12-Narciso Orellana, 13-Alexander Larín; 9-Nelson Bonilla (20-Harold Alas, 83), 11-Rodolfo Zelaya
Subs not used: 1-Oscar Arroyo, 22-Benji Villalobos; 23-Ruben Marroquín, 2-Milton Molina, 15-Efraín Burgos, 3-Roberto Domínguez, 14-Andrés Flores, 17-Victor García, 6-Richard Menjivar
Head Coach: Eduardo Lara

Stats Summary: USA / SLV
Shots: 14 / 8
Shots on Goal: 8 / 1
Saves: 1 / 6
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 19 / 26
Offside: 1 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
SLV – Iván Mancia (caution) 18th minute
USA – Darlington Nagbe (caution) 21
SLV – Alexander Larín (caution) 59
SLV – Henry Romero (caution) 81

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U.S. “A” Team on to Gold Cup Quarters as Arena Adds Six
U.S. “A” Team on to Gold Cup Quarters as Arena Adds Six avatar

Bruce Arena’s “What me worry?” reaction to his “B” team’s group stage efforts against Panama (1-1) and minnows Martinique (3-2 win), and Nicaragua (3-0 win) was betrayed when Arena added six national team stalwarts to his callow side ahead of tonight’s quarterfinal matchup with El Salvador.

Tim Howard has been added to the squad. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The coach took advantage of Gold Cup rules to add goalkeepers Tim Howard and Jesse Gonzalez, midfielders Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe and forwards Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey at the expense of keepers Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson, midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Cristian Roldan and Kelyn Rowe, and forward Dom Dwyer.

Bedoya, Man of the Match versus Nicaragua, left to attend the birth of his child, while NYCFC custodian Johnson was the lone player on the roster not to see action. It was somewhat of a surprise that Arena sent home Dwyer, who scored two goals in his first three international matches, and Rowe who also broke his duck, while generally impressing but with the Gold Cup there to be won the coach turned to his “old reliables.”

With Howard’s arrival, it made sense that presumed second choice Brad Guzan was sent to join his new Atlanta team for the first time, although it is at least worth considering whether Bill Hamid’s solid effort versus Nicaragua has elevated the DC United man in Arena’s eyes.

As to the players brought in, it’s difficult to argue with Arena’s choices and while it would be nice to Christian Pulisic in this group, the teenager’s two assist performance versus AC Milan on Tuesday indicates that the young man is right where he needs to be at this moment.

Arena has said that it is unlikely that Gonzalez will see action, making this more of an introductory session for the young FC Dallas keeper, who recently pledged his allegiance to the U.S. MNT over the Mexican nats.

Dempsey and Bradley’s experience will hopefully pay off. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Howard, Dempsey, Bradley, Altidore, and Nagbe will most assuredly be counted on by Arena from the off and tonight’s quarterfinal versus El Salvador should be a one sided affair, setting up a tasty semi-final against Costa Rica or Panama.

Goalkeepers: Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas) Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 25/3),Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 104/37), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 134/56), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 19/4)

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Miazga Strikes Late as U.S Top Nicaragua to Claim Group
Miazga Strikes Late as U.S Top Nicaragua to Claim Group avatar

It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t impressive but in the end, almost the very end, the U.S. MNT got the 3-0 victory that it had to have over Guatemala to move on to the Gold Cup Quarterfinals as the top team in Group B.

Having been forced to wait patiently through the first 180 minutes of U.S. Gold Cup action, center back Matt Miazga provided the late game heroics for the Americans with a diving header in the 88th minute.

Panama’s brusque dismissal of the overachieving semi pros of Martinique earlier Saturday evening by a score of 3-0 had let the U.S. know that a win by three or more goals was required to top the group and avoid Costa Rica in the quarters.

Joe Corona opened the scoring for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Rick Orentoski)

Goals from Joe Corona and Kelyn Rowe, both deflected, brought the U.S. within one goal of the target but when Dom Dwyer and then Corona each missed from the penalty spot just minutes apart, a showdown with the Ticos beginning to seem a certainty.

Bill Hamid came up with a huge save in the latter stages of the second half, part of a confident performance by the DC United netminder to keep his end of the 3-0 bargain on the board.

Then came Miazga’s moment. It wasn’t his moment alone, however, the 21-year-old defender had help from Juan Agudelo and Graham Zusi. First Agudelo put the moves on the Nicaragua defense, drawing a reckless tackle on Luis Copete who was already on a yellow and was promptly given his marching orders.

Meanwhile, a second Nicaragua player had left the field for treatment of an injury, leaving the U.S. with a two man advantage and a free kick in a dangerous area.

Zusi delivered a perfect cross from the free kick into that thinned out Nicaragua defense and Miazga launched his 6’4” frame to meet the ball with a textbook diving header.

Miazga celebrating his goal that led the U.S. to top their group. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With “A” listers Tim Howard and Michael Bradley looking on from the stands at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium the U.S. “B” team struggled to improve on their poor Gold Cup beginnings in a dour first half.

Things improved on the re-start and the U.S. received strong performances from Rowe, Hamid, two assist man Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius, Miazga and Matt Besler to finish out Group play with a record of two wins and one tie from the three matches.

Up next The Yanks will face either Honduras or El Salvador with a chance to get to the semifinals, leaving Panama to go up against Costa Rica.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
NCA 0 0 0

USA – Joe Corona (Alejandro Bedoya) 37th minute
USA – Kelyn Rowe (Alejandro Bedoya) 56
USA – Matt Miazga (Graham Zusi) 88

Lineups:
USA:­ 12-Bill Hamid; 19-Graham Zusi, 4-Matt Miazga, 5-Matt Besler, 2-Jorge Villafaña; 13-Dax McCarty; 7-Chris Pontius, 11-Alejandro Bedoya (capt.), 10-Joe Corona (8-Jordan Morris, 66), 6-Kelyn Rowe (20-Paul Arriola, 62); 14-Dom Dwyer (18-Juan Agudelo, 74)
Subs not used: 1-Brad Guzan, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 9-Gyasi Zardes; 15-Eric Lichaj, 16-Justin Morrow; 17-Cristian Roldan, 21-Matt Hedges, 22-Sean Johnson, 23-Kellyn Acosta
Head coach: Bruce Arena

NCA: 1-Justo Lorente; 2-Josue Quijano, 22-Cyril Errington, 6-Luis Copete, 17-Bismarck Véliz (4-Henry Niño, 69); 13-Bryan García (14-Eulises Pavón, 69),8-Marlon López, 19-Luis Peralta (21-Jorge Hurtado, 46); 11-Juan Barrera; 9-Daniel Cadena, 10-Luis Galeano
Subs not used: 23-Henry Maradiaga, 12-Diedrich Téllez, 20-Oscar López, 3-Manuel Rosas, 5-Erick Tellez, 16-Elvis Figueroa, 18-Maykel Montiel, 15-Bismarck Montiel
Not Available: 7-Carlos Chavarría
Head Coach: Henry Duarte

Stats Summary: USA / NCA
Shots: 16 / 6
Shots on Goal: 10 / 2
Saves: 2 / 7
Corner Kicks: 6 / 5
Fouls: 16 / 14
Offside: 3 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
NCA – Luis Peralta (caution) 15th minute
NCA – Marlon Lopez (caution) 42
NCA – Luis Copete (caution) 51
USA – Joe Corona (caution) 59
NCA – Luis Copete (caution) 85
NCA – Luis Copete (sent off) 85

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Will Arena Shuffle the Deck Versus Nicaragua?
Will Arena Shuffle the Deck Versus Nicaragua? avatar

The U.S MNT play Nicaragua Saturday night in Cleveland with a place in the knockout stages of the 2017 Gold Cup firmly in their own control. Failure to advance would be something of a catastrophe for Bruce Arena and his squad which has variously been labeled a “B” or “C” team.

Call it “B” or call it “C” the group so far has earned a D minus or an F for its performances in a 1-1 draw in the first game against Panama and a narrow 3-2 victory over the semi-professionals representing Martinique.

With World Cup Qualification his number one priority Arena elected to have his “A” team rest up for more important matches come September, affording this group an opportunity to impress, an opportunity all but a few have failed to grasp.

Jordan Morris scored a brace to help lead the U.S. to a narrow victory in their previous match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Goal scorers Dom Dwyer and Jordan Morris are the obvious exceptions, although a couple of others, Kellyn Rowe, Eric Lichaj, Juan Agudelo, have caught the eye to varying degrees.

In the Group B opener against Panama, by far the highest rated of the Americans first round opponents, Arena stayed with the majority of the side that had shown promise in a 2-1 friendly victory over Ghana on September 1.

Arena changed out eight of that side, we’ll call the game one team the “B” team, for the Martinique match. The “B” team coughed up a 1-0 lead provided by Dwyer, while the “C’s” failed to hold a 2-0 lead after Omar Gonzalez and Morris had tallied and needed a second Morris strike to put down Martinique, which as an Overseas Region of France is not recognized by FIFA.

The midfield, anchored by Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta failed to click in game one, the defense was suspect in game two, with Matt Hedges especially out of sorts.

So, how will Arena approach the Nicaragua match? The Albiazules have lost both of its Gold Cup games, improving in a 2-1 defeat to Panama after being shutout 2-0 by Martinique in the opener.

Arena downplayed his team’s poor performance against Martinique, praising several players, including three of his back four- leaving out Hedges- Morris, Agudelo, debutant Christian Roldan, and Gyasi Zardes, who was wildly inconsistent on the night.

Guzan has had a good tournament. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Brad Guzan was left unmentioned when the U.S. coach was handing out verbal bouquets, perhaps his hash up on the Martinique goal was to blame. Guzan played well outside of that blunder, as he did against Panama but it will be interesting to see if Arena gives Bill Hamid or Sean Johnson a turn between the pipes on Saturday.

Central defender Matt Miazga is the only field player that has yet to see action, will the Chelsea Loan Ranger get the nod versus Nicaragua? Maybe Arena will employ the three back set that worked against Mexico. Very different opponent, to be sure but Arena can’t be pleased with the results from the 4-2-3-1 (Panama) and the 4-4-2 (Martinique) so we will see.

Assuming the Americans advance teams can make up to six changes after the group stages are complete and given what the team has shown so far several new faces should be expected.

Who Arena select to start the next game? (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Below are the lineups from the first two games.

USA:­ 1-Brad Guzan; 19-Graham Zusi, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 2-Jorge Villafaña; 13-Dax McCarty, 23-Kellyn Acosta; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (capt.) (8-Jordan Morris, 85), 10-Joe Corona (18-Juan Agudelo, 62), 6-Kelyn Rowe (9-Gyasi Zardes, 69); 14-Dom Dwyer
Substitutes not used: 12-Bill Hamid, 22-Sean Johnson, 4-Matt Miazga, 7-Chris Pontius , 15-Eric Lichaj, 16-Justin Morrow, 17-Cristian Roldan, 20-Paul Arriola, 21-Matt Hedges

USA:­ 1-Brad Guzan; 15-Eric Lichaj, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 21-Matt Hedges, 16-Justin Morrow; 20-Paul Arriola (7-Chris Pontius, 73), 23-Kellyn Acosta (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 62), 17-Cristian Roldan, 9-Gyasi Zardes; 18-Juan Agudelo (13-Dax McCarty, 86), 8-Jordan Morris
Subs not used : 12- Bill Hamid, 22- Sean Johnson , 2- Jorge Villafaña, 4- Matt Miazga, 5- Matt Besler, 6- Kelyn Rowe, 10- Joe Corona, 14- Dom Dwyer, 19- Graham Zusi

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Morris Brace Saves U.S. Embarrassment in Gold Cup
Morris Brace Saves U.S. Embarrassment in Gold Cup avatar

The ghosts of Gold Cup’s past raised their ugly heads Wednesday night in Tampa when Bruce Arena and his band of not so merry men came much too close to joining Jurgen Klinsmann’s 2015 side and Bob Bradley’s 2011 crew in the annals of USA Soccer Hall of Shame, only to hang on for a 3-2 win over Martinique, a land mass not even considered to be a country by FIFA and therefore not eligible to play in FIFA sanctioned events, no matter their results.

Arena continues to give players the opportunity to show their worth. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With last weekend’s desultory 1-1 draw versus Panama as a backdrop, Wednesday night in Tampa Bay figured to be a different story as Bruce Arena shuffled his lineup to give other players a chance to prove themselves against a true CONCACAF minnow.

All was going to plan early, although the Americans lack of dangerous chances, for all of its possession, left the teams level at zeroes after 45 minutes and it was the visitors who were unlucky as the two teams trudged to the locker rooms at the halfway point.

It was Martinique, population 386,486,
area: 435.52 square miles – so says Wikipedia – not the mighty Americans, population 321.4 million, area 3.797 million miles, that clanged a shot off the opponents post and not the other way round.

U. S. boss Bruce Arena had changed eight of the 11 players from his starting 11 from last weeks uninspired 1-1 draw versus Panama but after 45 minutes it was difficult to pick out any American player who had enhanced his reputation beyond perhaps goalkeeper Brad Guzan and forward Juan Agudelo.

Jordan Morris scored a brace to help lead the U.S. to a narrow victory. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The Yanks finally broke the deadlock when Omar Gonzalez scrambled home the opening goal in the 54th minute and when Jordan Morris added a second tally for the home side ten minutes later, home fans could have been forgiven for expecting a procession of U.S. goals in the final 35 or so minutes.

It was not to be, alas, as an Eric Lichaj miscue and some poor goaltending by Guzan allowed Kevin Parsemain to halve the U.SA. lead just two minutes after Morris’ initial strike.

Morris rang the bell again in the 76th minute but Parsemain pulled one back almost immediately for the underdogs, with the help of a fortunate deflection.

It was a bad night for Arena and his troops but in a tournament, all that matters is getting the result and living to fight another day. For the U.S. that day comes Saturday when the host nation welcomes Nicaragua to Cleveland for a 7 PM ET showdown at FirstEnergy Stadium. The match can be seen on FXX, Univision, and UDN.

Panama will play Martinique in the early game (4:30) at the same venue. Somehow, despite playing so poorly, the Americans top the group with four points from one win and a draw, leading Panama by virtue of having scored one extra goal. The top two nations and two top third-place finishers advance, so the Americans, Panama and Martinique are still in with a chance to move on.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 3 3
MTQ 0 2 2

USA – Omar Gonzalez 53rd minute
USA – Jordan Morris (Eric Lichaj) 64
MTQ – Kévin Parsemain (Stéphane Abaul) 66
MTQ – Kévin Parsemain (Johan Audel) 74
USA – Jordan Morris (Gyasi Zardes) 76

Lineups:
USA:­ 1-Brad Guzan; 15-Eric Lichaj, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 21-Matt Hedges, 16-Justin Morrow; 20-Paul Arriola (7-Chris Pontius, 73), 23-Kellyn Acosta (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 62), 17-Cristian Roldan, 9-Gyasi Zardes; 18-Juan Agudelo (13-Dax McCarty, 86), 8-Jordan Morris
Subs not used : 12- Bill Hamid, 22- Sean Johnson , 2- Jorge Villafaña, 4- Matt Miazga, 5- Matt Besler, 6- Kelyn Rowe, 10- Joe Corona, 14- Dom Dwyer, 19- Graham Zusi
Head coach: Bruce Arena

MTQ : 23-Kévin Olimpa; 5-Karl Vitulin, 8-Jordy Delem, 21-Sébastien Cretinoir (capt.), 3-Antoine Jean-Baptiste; 20-Stéphane Abaul, 19-Daniel Herelle (22-Johnny Marajo, 78), 11-Johan Audel; 2-Nicolas Zaire (18-Jean-Manuel Nedra, 56), 17-Kévin Parsemain, 12-Yoann Arquin (10-Steeven Langil, 64)
Subs not used: 1-Emmanuel Vermignon, 4-Florian Narcissot, 6-Djenhael Mainge, 7-Grégory Pastel, 9-Antony Angely, 13-Christof Jougon, 14-Yann Thimon, 15-Gérald Dondon, 16-Loïc Chauvet
Head Coach: Jean-March Civalut

Stats Summary: USA / MTQ
Shots: 8 / 7
Shots on Goal: 3 / 1
Saves: 1 / 3
Corner Kicks: 8 / 1
Fouls: 8 / 5
Offside: 2 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
MTQ – Karl Vitulin (caution) 62nd minute
USA – Justin Morrow (caution) 82

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U.S. Tie Panama in Sluggish Gold Cup Opener
U.S. Tie Panama in Sluggish Gold Cup Opener avatar

Sluggish, sloppy but hardly surprising is the verdict as the U.S. and Panama drew 1-1 on hot Nashville afternoon as the Gold Cup got underway.

The starting lineup against Panama. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

That is the same score that these CONCACAF rivals have played to on four consecutive occasions, including the 2015 Gold Cup Third Place match, which the Canaleros won on penalty kicks.

A slowly paced first half raised the question of why and who thought it a smart idea to schedule a competitive sporting event in the heat of a July afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee.

But the game had to be played and Bruce Arena stayed with most of the same lineup that had impressed in last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Ghana in Connecticut. In that friendly versus the Black Stars the U.S. ball movement stood out, today was a different story with much of the problems originating in the midfield.

Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta, so solid in East Hartford, were both slow and sloppy in possession at the base the midfield in Arena’s 4-2-3-1. Further up the pitch from that duo, Joe Corona contributed little creativity in the 10 role and Alejandro Bedoya worked hard to little effect in place of Paul Arriola, with only Kellyn Rowe providing any positives.

The midfield was also leaving big gaps with the back four, with Greg Zusi looking especially vulnerable at fullback where he was badly outplayed by NYCFC reserve Miguel Camargo.

The first half closed without a goal, with Brad Guzan the one player to improve upon his performance of the previous week. Guzan was ok against Ghana, very good today, as he attempts to give Tim Howard a run for the number one job in Russia.

Dom Dwyer has scored in his first two matches for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The U.S finally broke the deadlock five minutes after the halftime break on a fine finish from Dom Dwyer, that’s two goals in two U.S. caps for the newly minted American citizen.

Rowe did the work to set up Dwyer, first controlling a difficult ball and then drilling a low cross for Dwyer to tuck away. But the U.S. was unable to deal with prosperity, allowing the Canaleros to take control of the game in the minutes after the U.S. goal.

It turned out that the home side could only hold that lead for 10 minutes before Camargo followed up after from a fine Guzan save and equalized. Arena would make some changes after that leveler, at one point Dwyer was joined by fellow forwards Juan Agudelo and Jordan Morris, as well as striker/winger Gyasi Zardes.

All to no avail as the U.S. and Panama once again finished in that familiar 1-1 scoreline.

It was a poor day at the office for the Americans, the worst performance of the Bruce 2.0 regime but it is just the first match of the very forgiving Gold Cup group stage with Martinique and Guatemala still to come.

In other words, it’s not time to panic, just yet. Now, if the U.S. doesn’t come up with a win Wednesday night in Tampa when they face Martinique, well…

July 12, 2017
9 PM ET MNT vs Martinique Raymond James Stadium; Tampa Bay, Fla.
FS1, UniMas, UDN

July 15, 2017
7 PM ET MNT vs Nicaragua – FirstEnergy Stadium; Cleveland, Ohio FXX, Univision, UDN

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

USA – Dom Dwyer (Kelyn Rowe) 50th minute
PAN – Miguel Camargo 60

Lineups:
USA:­ 1-Brad Guzan; 19-Graham Zusi, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 2-Jorge Villafaña; 13-Dax McCarty, 23-Kellyn Acosta; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (capt.) (8-Jordan Morris, 85), 10-Joe Corona (18-Juan Agudelo, 62), 6-Kelyn Rowe (9-Gyasi Zardes, 69); 14-Dom Dwyer
Substitutes not used: 12-Bill Hamid, 22-Sean Johnson, 4-Matt Miazga, 7-Chris Pontius , 15-Eric Lichaj, 16-Justin Morrow, 17-Cristian Roldan, 20-Paul Arriola, 21-Matt Hedges
Head coach: Bruce Arena

PAN : 12-Jose Calderon; 2-Michael Amir Murillo, 4-Jan Carlos Vargas, 23-Roberto Chen, 17-Luis Ovalle; 8-Edgar Yoel Barcenas, 6-Gabriel Gomez (capt.) (19-Josiel Nuñez, 70), 20-Anibal Godoy, 18-Miguel Camargo (11-Armando Cooper, 71); 9-Gabriel Torres, 10-Ismael Diaz
Substitutes not used : 1- Alex Rodriguez , 16- Orlando Mosquera, 3- Angel Patrick, 5- Fidel Escobar, 7- Ricardo Clarke, 13- Roderick Miller, 14- Valentin Pimentel , 15- Eric Davis, 16-Orlando Mosquera, 21- Leslie Heraldez, 22- Abdiel Arroyo
Head coach: Hernan Dario Gomez

Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 10 / 13
Shots on Goal: 8 / 8
Saves: 7 / 7
Corner Kicks: 5 / 2
Fouls: 3 / 14
Offside: 1 / 1

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U.S. Learns opponents at U17 World Cup this Fall
U.S. Learns opponents at U17 World Cup this Fall avatar

The United States has learned its opponents for the U17 World Cup set to take place in India from October 6-28. It will be far from easy for the U.S. who have been drawn into Group A along with the host nation, Colombia and Ghana.

The U17’s have a tough group. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Under coach John Hackworth the Young Yanks took Mexico to penalty kicks in the CONCACAF Championship match before falling to their bitter rivals. Josh Sargent led the way for the Americans, scoring five goals to finish third at the regional championship.

Sargent was one of five Americans to make the First 11 for the CONCACAF event along with goalkeeper Justin Garces, fullback Jaylin Lindsey, center back James Sands, and center midfielder Chris Durkin.

Sargent impressed enough to earn a callup to the U.S. U20 World Cup team whose coach Tab Ramos indicated that Sargent may have outgrown this age group.

The fourth place finish in 1999 led by Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley is still the best result by the U.S. at the U17 World Cup.

Here are the groups.

Group A – India, USA, Colombia, Ghana

Group B – Mali, New Zealand, Turkey, Paraguay

Group C – Germany, Iran, Costa Rica, Guinea

Group D – Brazil, Spain, Korea DPR, Niger

Group E – France, Japan, Honduras, New Caledonia

Group F – Mexico, England, Iraq, Chile

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

Week 11 saw plenty of excitement in NWSL, with Alex Morgan’s return, Mega Rapinoe’s goal rampage, and the continued excellence of Sam Kerr, so let’s get to the Roundup.

As always, the home team is listed first.

North Carolina Courage (8-4-0) 0 vs Sky Blue FC 1 (6-6-1)

With back to back Player of the Month awards, Sky Blue’s Aussie star Sam Kerr shows no signs of slowing down, scoring the lone goal as the New Jersey side topped first place and defending champion N.C. Courage in Cary, North Carolina on Saturday.

Kerr continues to shine for Sky Blue. (ISI Photos)

Kerr didn’t do it all herself, of course, captain and U.S. WNT legend Christie Pearce (formerly Rampone) made a huge save off of the goal line to frustrate Makenzy Doniak just three minutes into the match.

Orlando Pride (4-5-3) 0-1 vs Chicago Red Stars (7-3-2)

Morgan returned for Orlando. (ISI Photos/Jeremy Reper)

Alex Morgan’s 65th-minute return wasn’t enough to bring a home victory to the Pride, not against second-place Red Stars. Christen Press scored the only goal of the match on a penalty kick earned by her U.S. WNT teammate Casey Short, who was chopped down in the box just moments after entering the game as a 66th-minute substitute.

Orlando goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe very nearly played the late hero role but her header was saved by Chicago defender Danielle Colaprico. Ali Krieger then walloped the clearance off of the crossbar as the Red Stars hung on for the road win.

 

 

Boston Breakers (3-6-3) 1-0 vs Washington Spirit (3-6-2)

The Breakers broke a couple of negative streaks with Saturday’s narrow win over Washington in a bottom of the table battle. Boston ended an eight-game winless run, scoring for the first time in 269 minutes when Margaret Purce scored the game’s only goal in the 72nd minute.

Purce scored her first career goal in the NWSL. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

It was the first career NWSL goal for Purce and it came on the same Jordan Field where Purce starred during her college career at Harvard. The Spirit came close to a scoring a late equalizer only for Brooke Elby to channel Christie Pearce to deny Havana Solaun on a late chance.

Seattle Reign (5-2-5) 2-0 vs Portland Timbers (5-4-3)

It was the Megan Rapinoe show in Seattle on Saturday as U.S. MNT star Megan Rapinoe scored twice from play to add to her two pk effort Wednesday versus Chicago.

Rapinoe looks back to her best. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

With her league-leading nine goals, Pinoe would seem to be back at full strength and it will be hard for WNT coach Jill Ellis to keep the dynamic winger out of the lineup when the U.S. WNT opens the inaugural Tournament of Nations in Rapinoe’s city, at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.

FC Kansas City (3-5-4) 1-2 vs Houston Dash (4-7-1)

The final game of the weekend saw FCKC fall at home to the Dash after the home team opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time. Shea Groom put KC on top with her first goal of the season after Groom led the team with six goals in 2016.

Daly equalized for Houston.  (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Houston leveled through Rachel Daly in the 55th minute with the English striker taking advantage when KC keeper Nicole Barnhart fumbled Daly’s initial shot after Carli Lloyd had put Daly in behind Becky Sauerbrunn with a perfect pass.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

After the long July 4th weekend, Major League Soccer sent us into the Gold Cup break with a full set of thrillers, so let’s see how everyone fared.

1) The Good

FC Dallas and Atlanta United were the only two clubs to make it through the busy schedule unscathed, with each side picking up two victories. Dallas enjoyed some home cooking in topping Toronto 3-1 on Saturday before celebrating Independence Day with a 4-2 win at Toyota Stadium over DC United.

Acosta in action for FC Dallas. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

The pair of victories put Dallas briefly atop the Western Conference level on 31 points with Sporting Kansas City, who pushed past Dallas with a 1-1 home draw versus Philadelphia on Thursday.

The holiday week was also kind to Atlanta United with the expansion side following Saturday’s 3-1 road win over Columbus with some July 4th fireworks in front of nearly 45,000 fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium as AUFC doubled up San Jose 4-2.

Those results saw the Tata Martinez led newcomers to rise to fourth place in the Eastern Conference with just one point less than Dallas.

The Seattle Sounders and the New York Red Bulls also emerged with a perfect record from the Holiday week, although the two clubs were only called into league action for one match a piece.

2) The Bad

Tuesday’s barbecue was fouled by the bitter taste of defeat for the LA Galaxy, DC United and Atlanta’s fellow expansion side, Minnesota. The week’s most ignominious defeat, of course, belonged to one-time dynasty, LA, who were absolutely hammered at home by a 6-2 score by Real Salt Lake, no one’s idea of a juggernaut in 2017. That humiliation came on the back of a 2-1 Galaxy loss in the California Derby at San Jose, a loss inflicted on Curt Onalfo’s stumblers by way of a Shea Salinas dagger three minutes into stoppage time. So, not a good few days for the LA Galaxy.

Minnesota began its week with a docile 3-1 loss to New York City FC in the Bronx before ruining their supporters Fourth with a 1-0 shutout loss in front of the home fans.

Ben Olsen’s crew suffered two losses on the road.(ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

DC rounds out the 2L group, although Ben Olsen’s crew have a bit of an excuse, in that both losses, 2-0 to Montreal and 4-2 to Dallas were on the road, although that qualifier will be of little comfort to last place United.

3) The Meh

This is the vast majority of the league, clubs that neither hurt nor greatly helped themselves, something like splitting an MLB doubleheader, for all your trouble you end up where you started.

Atlanta celebrating their victory over San Jose.(ISI Photos/Perry McIntyre)

Still, in a league where away wins are tough to come by, let’s give a shout-out to the road warriors. On Friday, June 30 Orlando took a trip to the mountains and emerged with a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.

One day later Atlanta took advantage of the Crew’s hospitality to secure a Dos a Cero victory over Columbus, a familiar scoreline at the Stadium Formerly Known as Crew.

On July 5th, Toronto turned the tables on Orlando with a 3-1 win over the Lions while the New York Red Bulls struck late through the unlikely Gonzalo Veron to claim three huge points over New England at Gillette Stadium.

RSL, home losers to Orlando, made up for that disappointment with an explosive display to be long remembered at the StubHub Center, lighting up their clueless hosts 6-2 for the win of the week over the LA Galaxy.

4) Fit to be tied

What to make of Portland’s recent results? The Timbers faced two tough opponents over the holiday, didn’t lose, didn’t win. Caleb Porter’s men haven’t won a match since a 2-0 home win versus FC Dallas back on June 10, yet the 2015 MLS Champions sit just one point out of third place, three out of second and just four points behind SKC in the very forgiving West.

A 1-1 home draw against Western Conference table toppers Sporting KC started the festive week for Portland and a 2-2 tie in Chicago against Eastern Conference leaders Chicago finished it.

Diego Valeri missed his pk which stopped them taking all 3 points. (ISI Photos/Rick Osentoski)

A missed penalty kick by Diego Valeri could have earned two more points for Portland versus SKC and late Timbers pressure could/should have claimed the spoils against the Fire.

Instead, the Timbers winless streak stretched to five MLS games, including three consecutive draws.

Last night’s set to between Sporting KC and Philadelphia finished at 1-1 at SKC, leaving Sporting with the same 0-0-2 mark as Portland to show for the week, although KC won’t feel as badly done by as the Timbers, perched as they are at the top of the Western Conference standings.

Philadelphia was looking to join the 2-0 group after an impressive 3-0 home win over New England on Sunday. Instead, the Union joins much of the rest of the league who finished the arduous pre-All Star Game run in all even at 1-1. The Meh group.

5) MLS Gets Real

When Madrid, not Salt Lake, face the MLS All-Stars at Chicago’s Soldier Field on August 2nd Fire coach Veljko Paunovic will be at the helm and while the final 24 man roster has yet to be selected the fans had their say with this just released Fan XI.

Veljko Paunovic will manage the MLS All-Star team. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

2017 MLS All-Star Game Fan XI

POS Player (Appearances) Club
GK Tim Howard (3) Colorado Rapids
D Greg Garza (1) Atlanta United
D Graham Zusi (5) Sporting KC
D DaMarcus Beasley (5) Houston Dynamo
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (1) Chicago Fire
M Miguel Almirón (1) Atlanta United
M Kaká (3) Orlando City SC
M Michael Bradley (3) Toronto FC
F David Villa (3) NYCFC
F Nemanja Nikolić (1) Chicago Fire
F Sebastian Giovinco (3) Toronto FC

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Boys to Men for 16 Year Old NYCFC Signing James Sands
Boys to Men for 16 Year Old NYCFC Signing James Sands avatar

We rarely get to be there at the beginning, so it was an eager group of reporters who huddled around James Sands this past Thursday night inside the New York City FC locker room for the 16-year-old’s first press “scrum” as a professional soccer player.

Sands shone for the U17’s. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Sands had impressed in pre-season, then went on to excel for the U.S. U17 side at the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers and the midfielder/defender is expected back with his national team peers at the age-group World Cup in India this autumn.

In the meantime, however, Sands put pen to paper to become the first player to sign on with New York City Football Club under the Homegrown Player rule and now it was time to meet the press.

Standing in front of an NYCFC backdrop stood a tall, blonde, somewhat nervous, young man. The first question, or rather his new teammate’s reaction to that question, broke the ice.

As Sands considered how to answer that question, “how does it feel to finally call yourself a professional soccer player?” loud cheers and laughter erupted from a group of his now fellow pros.

It was something of welcome to ranks, kid moment and Sands relaxed a bit. “It’s definitely a special feeling for me, it’s a dream come true and for it to happen at a club like this, at a local club, it’s a true honor.”

Sands expressed how getting to know the team is special.  (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Relaxed or not, Sands sounded most his age when he asked what has surprised him about his ascension to the paid ranks.

“I think just meeting them in person, just seeing how they’re just normal people like everyone else,” Sands began. “They’re superstars on this team but just getting to know them, it’s special.”

Sands had been around the veterans back in the pre-season and GotSoccer asked Jack Harrison, at 20 a grizzled veteran, for his impressions of his young teammate.

“We were roommates in the preseason actually and I got to know him a little bit and help him with his homework as much as I can,” Harrison said to more laughter. “No, he’s a great kid and a fantastic addition to the team. It’s not only great for the team, it’s great for him as well. I’m excited to play alongside him.”

Sands doesn’t figure see much if any first team action in 2017, a club release notes that the Rye, New York native “will complete summer school in July and will train with the first-team around his international obligations.”

But back to the scrum. Sands is a twin, and brother Will is a prospect with the NYCFC Academy team, so I had to ask, is there any jealousy there? It was another jocular moment and Sands smiled before delivering a very mature answer. “No, he’s definitely been supportive. We’re naturally competitive, being twins but I think he’s still there pushing me and I think it benefits both of us.”

James Sands will be off to India for the U17 World Cup. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Sands had made it through his first small test as a pro and soon he will be off to India for one last outing with the U.S. Boys National Team at the U17 World Cup. That will close the “Boys” portion of James Sands’ career and begin a new chapter for James Sands, professional soccer player.

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