MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It was another big week in Major League Soccer with stadium news, CCL happenings, and oh, some league action, too.

1) Stadium News – Cincinnati FC

FC Cincinnati currently play at the Nippert Stadium. (ISI Photos/Garig Bertram)

FC Cincinnati is one step closer to reality now that the Cincinnati City Council has voted to approve a stadium for the club, which hopes to join Nashville as the newest MLS expansion teams.

2) Stadium News – NYCFC

Even stadium location rumors have been hard to come by for New York City FC but website YIMBY has created a stir with its report that the first place club has a lead on a South Bronx location not too far from the team’s current Yankee Stadium home.

NYC FC’s stadium news is hard to come by. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

The stadium would be built as part of a larger project that features affordable housing. No official word has come down from the city or the club so it is too soon to know just how real this is. But hey, we’re talking New York City real estate, how hard could it be?

3) Cascadia Rising?!

It has been a tough start to the season for the American members of the Cascadia MLS group but things are looking up for soccer-loving habitues of the Pacific Northwest with the Portland Timbers picking up its first win of the year, while the Seattle Sounders registered its first point.

Giovanni Bavarese will be pleased with his teams results. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Portland and new coach Giovanni Savarese will be happy to finally end the drought after topping Minnesota 3-2 at Providence Park. Seattle had to settle for a 2-2 draw after traveling to Kansas to face Sporting KC but the defeated 2017 MLS Cup Finalist will hope to build on this point after opening the season goalless through the first three matches before Sunday’s two-goal outburst.

4) Lineup Change Sparks Red Bulls

No doubt still smarting from last week’s CCL elimination at the hands of Tijuana the New York Red Bulls bounced back to topple the Montreal Impact by a 3-1 scoreline. Over 180 minutes of CCL semifinal play RBNY failed to score versus the Goats, going out of the regional Champions League 1-0.

Last week I wrote this regarding New York’s lack of attack and coach Jesse Marsch’s lineup choices: “Over 180 minutes versus Chivas the Red Bulls boss could find just 32 minutes for Alejandro Romero Gamarra, AKA Kaku.

Kaku was the difference.(ISI Photos/Howard Smith)

When the Red Bulls sent Sacha Kljestan packing to Orlando in the off-season the question became who would be New York’s playmaker. The answer looked to be Kaku but with Gamarra on the bench for most of this two-leg set the Red Bulls could merely huff and puff, they could not blow Rodolfo Cota’s door down.”

Marsch made just one change versus the Impact but that change got Kaku on the pitch and quickly paid dividends with the 23-year-old Argentine scoring his first MLS goal in a good Red Bulls performance in front of a concerningly small crowd at Red Bull Arena.

Afterward, Marsch indicated that the shackles were now off of Gamarra, a decision that may have come a week too late for the Red Bulls CCL dreams.

5) TFC Lose to Chivas – At Home!

Last Tuesday night, after the Red Bulls elimination by Tijuana, Toronto FC kept the MLS flag flying with a 1-1 draw that gave TFC a 4-2 aggregate win over Club America, the defending Mexican champions, and a place in the CCL Final.

Toronto’s defeat of America, considered a significantly better club than Tijuana, had Toronto and MLS hopes high, making Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Goats all the more disappointing for MLS boosters.

Jonathan Osorio scored an 19th minute equalizer. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

Toronto was stunned by a goal in the second minute from Rodolfo Pizarro but the MLS champs fought back when Jonathan Osorio added to his list of CCL heroics with a 19th-minute equalizer

But Toronto was victimized in the 72nd minute by either a brilliant free kick by Alan Pulido or a fortunate mishit by the Tijuana star. Either way, TFC is in trouble heading into the second and deciding leg of this tie Guadalajara next Wednesday in Guadalajara having surrendered two away goals.

Bonus – This Week in ZLATAN!

After a quiet second week in MLS, Zlatan Ibrahimovic bounced back with a week that returned the superstar to all caps, exclamation point status.

Here’s how ZLATAN! Did it.

In his first MLS start Zlatan! led the Galaxy to a 1-0 victory over Chicago in front of a full house at Toyota Park, not an everyday occurrence.

Then, just for fun ZLATAN! threatened to break google translate when he tweeted this:

Skyhöga apparently means sky high, which would seem to indicate a World Cup comeback for the retired Swede.

And then to cap things off ZLATAN! became a rare soccer star to crossover into the American mainstream with a charmingly egotistic appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

What did you do this week?

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

DC United – Don’t Use the “B” Word

It may be only half a BILLION, but still. The $500 million figure is the valuation said to be fixed on the MLS original franchise in the process that, according to a Bloomberg report, will see Erick Thohir sell his majority staked to partner Jason Levien with L.A. based billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong coming on board as a DC United investor.

Thohir and Levien. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

That number also includes a brand new soccer stadium in Washington D.C. and the number itself may not hold up to scrutiny, still, it is eye-catching.

Other investors may yet join the DC United group, Thohir may remain in some capacity, and details are scarce at this time, so we will keep an eye out on further developments in the coming days and weeks.

2) Josef Martinez: Goal Machine

Last year in his MLS debut season Martinez made a shambles of defenses across the league, scoring 19 goals in 20 games, making the now 24-year-old Venezuelan the easy pre-season consensus pick for MLS Golden Boot 2018; if he can stay healthy.

Josef Martinez has continued where he left off. (ISI Photos/Perry McIntyre)

Well, so far so good on both counts with a weekend brace giving the gifted poacher five goals to put Martinez atop the MLS Leader Board level with Felipe Gutierrez of Sporting KC and all alone in the MLS record books with a remarkable total of 24 goals from 25 games across his one season plus in Major League Soccer.

3) VAR – What is it good for?

Absolutely Nuthin, some would say. For others, the Video Assistant Referee can be a game saver. Once again this week in MLS VAR made itself known.

Here are a few examples. Winless Portland failed to pick up its first W of the season having traveled across the country to Orlando only to drop a 3-2 thriller in which VAR played a role in the outcome.

Is VAR good for the game? (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

On the plus side, VAR got it right correcting a no call by the referee and awarding Portland a pk after Sebastian Blanco was fouled in the 20th minute. Blanco had initially been given a second yellow card on the play, which was rescinded. So, Portland took a 1-0 lead and continued with a full complement of players.

VAR was not called on when a slight breeze knocked Dom Dwyer to the turf in the 82nd minute allowing referee Baldomero Toledo’s incorrect call to stand.

VAR also saw plenty of action in Atlanta’s 5-0 win over the LAFC, reversing a first-minute red card on Chris McCann for a hellacious, red card worthy, tackle on Benny Feilhaber.

But VAR got it right later in the match when the referee’s helper narced on Walker Zimmerman when the LA defender appeared to have escaped punishment for taking Miguel Almiron down in the penalty area.

4) zlatan

Last week it was all capitals and exclamation points, we even had an all ZLATAN! Big – 5 but today normal service is resumed and in the wake of the Galaxy’s 2-0 loss at Kansas City, Ibrahimovic and the L.A. Galaxy are merely item number four in GotSoccer’s weekly league-wide roundup.

Zlatan had a pretty quiet game and some credit should go to Kansas. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

First place Sporting KC get the credit for derailing the ZLATAN! Hype train after last week’s spectacular debut versus the Galaxy’s fellow Los Angelenos, LAFC.

Ibrahimovic had a few dangerous moments, including a couple of long-range bombs, once he entered the fray in the 62nd minute with LA trailing 2-0 but Tim Melia and the SKC defense stood strong to improve to 4-1-1.

5) CCL Fever

Tuesday night at 8:00 the New York Red Bulls host Chivas Guadalajara in Harrison, New Jersey trailing 1-0 after the first leg in Mexico. Then in the nightcap, Toronto will try to make a 3-1 lead over Club America stand up at Estadio Azteca.

It will be tense and there will be blood, meaning bad blood, not spilled blood.

MLS have high hopes of getting at least one team into the CCL Final, Liga MX would like to maintain its traditional dominance.

CCL Fever – Catch it!

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Toronto Advance to CCL Final as Red Bulls Fall
Toronto Advance to CCL Final as Red Bulls Fall avatar

Harrison, N.J. – For 23 years it has been the same old story for the New York Red Bulls and on Tuesday night that tale saw the Major League Soccer originals fall short of their goal yet again. This time that goal was a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final and following this latest disappointment team captain Luis Robles admitted that it is more than a little frustrating.

“It’s very old,” Robles told the post-game press throng. In his usual straightforward manner, the Red Bulls keeper took us into the locker room to relay a conversation with fellow veteran Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Robles is trying to figure out how to get over the hump. (ISI Photos/Howard Smith)

“Brad sits next to me, and he’s sat next to me since 2013, and tonight he just says, ‘hey we’ve got to stop having this feeling’. “We’re sitting here,” Robles continued, “trying to figure out how to get over the hump.”

MLS has had trouble getting over the CCL hump, never having won the competition since the format was changed 10 years ago.

Last night Toronto FC took a step toward getting over that hump, knocking off Club America by a 4-2 aggregate score after securing a 1-1 tie at the fabled Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Toronto booked a date in the CCL Final despite losing striker Jozy Altidore to injury after just seven minutes on Tuesday night, with the U.S. international joining Victor Vasquez, Justin Morrow, and Chris Mavinga on Toronto’s already overflowing injured list.

TFC rode a 12th-minute goal from Jonathan Osorio, responding in the best possible fashion to losing their power forward. Led by a stellar performance by aspiring USMNT goalkeeper Alex Bono the Reds kept America off of the scoreboard until Andres Uribe converted a stoppage-time penalty kick for America.

But while Toronto moves on to the CCL Championship match New York is left to ponder how they could dominate Chivas to a tune of 20 shots to one without scoring even once. Tuesday’s 0-0 draw, when taken alongside along last weeks’ 1-0 loss, raises questions that found no answers in last night’s post-mortems.

Marsch’s selections leave some questions.  (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

One possibility? Coach Jesse Marsch’s lineup choices. Over 180 minutes versus Chivas the Red Bulls boss could find just 32 minutes for Alejandro Romero Gamarra, AKA Kaku.

When the Red Bulls sent Sacha Kljestan packing to Orlando in the off-season the question became who would be New York’s playmaker. The answer looked to be Kaku but with Gamarra on the bench for most of this two-leg set the Red Bulls could merely huff and puff, they could not blow Rodolfo Cota’s door down.

Meanwhile, Bradley Wright-Phillips was used in a new role, as yep, a playmaker. Marsch has made a point of noting more than once this season that BWP is more than just a goal scorer, saying this last night: “Yeah, we were playing him almost like either like an underneath striker or like a No. 10, and when they go man-to-man, you know, then when his back is to goal, it’s hard for him to get away and find space.

So by putting another striker up there and having him float a little bit more underneath, he can catch balls, be facing the goal a little bit more, helping to put combinations and plays together, and then you know, the goal was also to have him joining in late for crosses, for balls in the box.

So yeah, it was overall, Brad’s a much better footballer than most people will give him credit for. There will days where we can do that, where we can almost use him as a second striker or an underneath striker or a No. 10.”

It sounds good in theory but here is an alternate theory. When your team scores zero goals over 180 minutes, and when your team dominates like the Red Bulls dominated Chivas on Tuesday night, perhaps it might have been better to have played your club’s all-time leading goal scorer as close to your opponent’s goal as possible while leaving the playmaking duties to someone else.

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USWNT Beat Mexico in a Sloppy Thriller
USWNT Beat Mexico in a Sloppy Thriller avatar

After last week’s facile 4-1 victory over Mexico in Jacksonville, Florida more of the same was expected when the USWNT faced off against the same opponent Sunday afternoon in Houston.

Pugh scored the opener. (ISI Photos/ Wilf Thorne)

That prediction seemed right on the mark when Cecilia Santiago denied Carli Lloyd her 100th U.S. goal in the opening minute of the match and we certainly seemed headed for a U.S. rout two minutes later when Mallory Pugh effortlessly rounded Santiago after receiving a pinpoint pass from Megan Rapinoe to give the home side an early lead.

But despite the eventual 6-2 USWNT win this was far from easy, so let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Sunday’s USWNT performance.

The Good

Carli Lloyd eventually did score her 100th career international goal, just the sixth U.S. player to reach the century mark. Congratulations.

Morgan scored her second brace in a row. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Alex Morgan scored her second consecutive brace against Mexico, and also chipped in with an assist, 19-year-old Mal Pugh scored her fifth goal of 2018, joint leader with Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe scored one goal and assisted on four. Impressive.

The U.S. also showed composure to come back from a rare deficit when they fell behind Mexico 2-1 in the 24th minute. A loaded attack featuring Morgan, Pugh, Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Lindsey Horan will scare any country the U.S. faces but the brings us to …

The Bad

Campbell looked vulnerable in goal at times. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

There have been calls from many quarters, this one included, for coach Jill Ellis to open up the goalkeeping competition, so on Sunday Ellis handed Houston Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell her first international start. It did not go well…

The Ugly

With the Americans leading 1-0 Monica Ocampo leveled the match when she scored directly from a corner kick, a rare Olimpico. Stationed at the near post Crystal Dunn fanned on Ocampo’s swerving inswinger and with Campbell inexplicably standing a step or two behind her own goal line the ball skipped into the U.S. goal for the Mexican equalizer.

One could put that goal down to bad luck, except that it happened again. No, not another Olimpico but a second goal from a corner kick that featured shoddy defense and less than dominant goalkeeping.

Kiana Palacios celebrating her goal against the U.S. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Mexico went ahead of the U.S. 2-1 in the 24th minute when Ocampo swung another dangerous ball into the U.S. goalmouth. Campbell was unable to fight through the crowd between her and the ball, ending up on the ground as Kiana Palacios slipped in between Becky Sauerbrunn and Morgan Brian to head home untouched from approximately one yard.

Campbell is a good keeper and may well bounce back from this, and set pieces can be fixed through repetition but as for the goalkeeper competition, it should be the turn of Adrianna Franch to challenge Alyssa Naeher.

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

Do you like goals? Yes? Well then, this past weekend was not the one for you in NWSL action. On the other hand, if you are from the defense win championships school you will have been thrilled with a slate of games featuring three shutouts from four matches.

As always home teams first.

Houston Dash 0-0 vs Utah Royals

In a sign of things to come Houston hosted Utah on Friday night to kick off the NWSL weekend with a match that left the scoreboard operators entirely untroubled. With five saves Dash keeper Jane Campbell had a little something to do with that while the visiting Royals never managed a shot on April Smith’s goal.

Jane Campbell kept a clean sheet for her team. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

The tie was the second in as many games for each of the teams leaving the clubs level with two points apiece in fifth and sixth place in the league standings.

North Carolina Courage 1-0 vs Sky Blue

Despite an overwhelming 23 to 3 advantage in shots taken the North Carolina Courage had to wait for a 92nd minute tally from substitute Jessica McDonald to claim a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sky Blue FC.

McDonald got the game winner. (ISI Photos/Grant Halverson)

McDonald ran onto an exquisite through ball from Jaelene Hinkle to beat the Sky Blue defense before using the cool that has earned her 36 career NWSL goals to round Kailen Sheridan to set up a composed finish.

The game was the first of the season for Sky Blue as well as the NWSL coaching debut for the New Jersey outfit’s new boss Denise Reddy. Reddy will have been pleased with the play of another Sky Blue debutante, Carli Lloyd, with the USWNT superstar giving a good account of herself at the first time of the asking for her home state club.

The Courage move to 2-0-0 in the early days of the 2018 season, notching a second consecutive clean sheet in the process.

Washington Spirit 2-0 vs Orlando Pride

It took a while but the Washington Spirit eventually located their shooting boots as a pair of late goals from Mal Pugh (80’) and Ashley Hatch (88’) proved too much for the depleted Orlando Pride Saturday in Orlando.

Pugh scored the opener and winner. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

The Pride was minus its dynamic duo with both Marta (international duty) and Alex Morgan (concussion protocol) missing out and those losses would unsurprising prove to be too much for Tom Sermanni’s side to overcome.

The win is the first of the young season for the Spirit, who move to 1-1-0 while the Pride remains winless after a draw in the season opener.

Chicago Red Stars 2 -3 vs Portland Thorns

With several players missing for both teams and with the Thorns minus suspended coach Mark Parsons, Portland edged Chicago in the second game of a Toyota Park doubleheader that saw the MLS representatives of the same cities draw 2-2 in the opener.

Sinclair was once again involved in her teams victory. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

In what proved a lively finish to the NWSL weekend a brace by Canadian superstar Christine Sinclair was matched by one from the Red Stars Alyssa Mautz with the difference in this match turning out to be a ninth-minute strike from Portland’s USWNT star Lindsey Horan.

The five goals in the match were two more than the rest of the league combined.

Parsons was suspended by the league for two games for confronting an official following the team’s opening 1-0 loss to North Carolina. It means that, pending appeal, the coach will miss out on Portland’s home opener April 15 versus Orlando.

Chicago travels to Utah for an April 14 matchup with the Utah Royals, the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime.

The NWSL is on international break until April 14.

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USWNT Cruise to Win Over Mexico
USWNT Cruise to Win Over Mexico avatar

It was all too easy for the USWNT Thursday night in Jacksonville, Florida in a facile 4-1 win over Mexico, a match that served primarily to highlight the vast drop in quality between the Americans CONCACAF opposition and the tougher foes the defending World Cup champions can expect to face next year in France 2019.

Morgan scored a brace. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

The Americans came out of the blocks quickly at EverBank Field pressuring Mexico into an early mistake that led to a U.S. goal in the sixth minute. 19-year-old center back Tierna Davidson, still playing for Stanford University, started the play when she intercepted an errant pass and quickly found Alex Morgan. Morgan’s through ball to Megan Rapinoe was centered to Mallory Pugh for the easy tap-in and the Americans were on their way.

Despite U.S. domination, Mexico kept the score to 1-0 at the half but there was no holding the home team on the resumption. Alex Morgan kicked off the rout when she earned and then converted a penalty kick in the 51st minute. Morgan added another just two minutes later to claim seventh place on the USA’s all-time goal-scoring list. Tonight’s goals were numbers nine and 10 for Morgan in her last 12 national team games.

Coach Jill Ellis continued the Crystal Dunn at left back experiment while continuing to slot Davidson in alongside Abby Dahlkemper at center back in place of team co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn who made her long-awaited return in the 77th minute in place of Mal Pugh.

These two sides meet again Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium, in Houston, Texas.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 3 4
DEN 0 1 1

USA – Mallory Pugh (Megan Rapinoe) 6th minute
USA – Alex Morgan (penalty kick) 51
USA – Alex Morgan (Lindsey Horan) 53
USA – Carli Lloyd (Lindsey Horan) 54
MEX – Katie Johnson (Ariana Calderón) 64

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 16-Emily Sonnett, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 17-Tierna Davidson, 19-Crystal Dunn; 3-Andi Sullivan (10-Carli Lloyd, 53), 6-Morgan Brian (20-Allie Long, 71), 9-Lindsey Horan; 11-Mallory Pugh (4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 77), 13-Alex Morgan (capt.) (22-Ashley Hatch, 80), 15-Megan Rapinoe (21-Savannah McCaskill, 71)
Substitutes: 18-Jane Campbell, 25-Hailie Mace
Head coach: Jill Ellis

MEX: 1-Bianca Henninger; 2-Kenti Robles, 13-Annia Mejía (23-Christina Murillo, 57), 3-Bianca Sierra, 5-Mónica Flores (22-Greta Espinoza, 46); 7-Cristina Ferral (8-Ariana Calderón, 46), 6-Karla Nieto (4-Vanessa Flores, 78), 19-Katie Johnson (21-Renae Cuéllar,76); 11-Mónica Ocampo (capt.) (17-María Sánchez, 76), 10-Stephany Mayor, 18-Kiana Palacios
Substitutes: 9-Anisa Guajardo, 12-Cecilia Santiago,14-Jocelyn Orejel, 16-Marcela Valera
Head coach: Roberto Medina

Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 20 / 9
Shots on Goal: 6 / 1
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 3 / 4
Fouls: 7 / 10
Offside: 4 / 0

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CCL Fever – Catch It! Toronto Win – Red Bulls Lose
CCL Fever – Catch It! Toronto Win – Red Bulls Lose avatar

Major League Soccer went one for two in the first leg of this week’s CONCACAF Champion League (CCL) semifinals with Toronto FC topping Club America 3-1 in a battle of league champions Tuesday night in Canada before the New York Red Bulls fell 1-0 on the road Wednesday evening to Chivas de Guadalajara.

Neither result guarantees anything; even Toronto’s two-goal lead may not be enough when they kick off at fortress Estadio Azteca in round two while the Red Bulls may rue their inability to score at least one away goal when they host The Goats in the first game of next Tuesday’s CCL program.

Chris Mavinga was missing from squad. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

Toronto showed impressive resolve and depth in defeating Club America despite playing without regulars Victor Vasquez, Chris Mavinga, and Justin Morrow. Depth has long been cited as a reason that MLS clubs are unable to compete successfully with Liga MX sides in this competition, so Toronto rightly earned many plaudits for Tuesday’s win.

TFC opened the scoring when Sebastian Giovinco earned and then converted a penalty kick in the ninth minute. Andres Ibarguen leveled at the 21-minute mark but Jozy Altidore (44’) and Ashtone Morgan (58’) padded the TFC lead to secure a first leg victory, unfortunately an incident in the increasingly notorious BMO Field Tunnel and Club America coach Miguel Herrera’s reaction to that incident has cast a shadow over the match.

In a wild post-game press conference televised live on Univision Deportes “Pojo” accused members of the Toronto Police Department of physically attacking three of his players.

Here is a sample of the remarks from the controversial former Mexican national team coach.

“In my opinion, if the police are going to be in the tunnel area it should be to separate players, not to hit them. A CONCACAF staffer was present there and saw everything so I hope they report it.”

Toronto coach Greg Vanney saw things differently, telling “One of their coaches took exception to, I think, the PK, was having a go at Sebastian, and Sebastian kept walking and Johnny [Osorio] stepped in between the assistant coach and Sebastian. I told the coach and the head coach that his coach shouldn’t be talking to our players, he needs to keep moving. And the next thing was an elbow from said coach – [the] assistant coach who was talking – into Johnny’s nose. And if you want to see Johnny’s nose, you can take a picture of it if you want. And then it escalated from there.”

Osorio confirmed Vanney’s version of events to the Toronto Sun:

So, it should be more than a little interesting in Mexico City next Tuesday.

The Red Bulls 1-0 loss to Chivas de Guadalajara wasn’t quite as crazy, but hey, this is Concacaf, so there was still a little bit of madness to it.

How was this game crazy? Let us count the ways.

1)The Red Bulls conceded in the 26th minute on a turnover from 19-year-old rising club and USMNT star Tyler Adams.

2) RBNY goal-scoring ace Bradley Wright-Phillips, on fire this year in the CCL and MLS, missed a breakaway chance in the 79th minute.

3) New York played a man down from the 73rd minute when veteran defender Aurelien Collin foolishly left his leg in despite playing with an earlier caution.

4) The referee missed a blatant handball in the 60th minute when Chivas’ Carlos Cisneros handled in the box with his arm extended well away from his body.

5) After Adams was fouled a melee ensued during which Jair Pereira, henceforth known to be referred to as “the Chivas Strangler” grabbed Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis firmly around the throat while already playing with a yellow card.

But for sheer gall, my favorite part of this incident was that when Pereira finally released Davis’ throat from his grip the Chivas man directed a schoolmarm like finger-wag at the referee or perhaps his opponents as if to say, “No, no! there is nothing to see here!”

Yep, Tuesday night should be fun in the Concacaf Champions League. CCL Fever – Catch it!

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MLS – Big 5: Special All ZLATAN! Edition
MLS – Big 5: Special All ZLATAN! Edition avatar

Major League Soccer ran a full schedule of games this weekend beginning on Friday night with the defending champions Toronto winning its first league match of the season. Vancouver handed Columbus its first loss of the campaign, 10 man Atlanta won in frigid Minnesota, NYCFC won to go top of the East despite the late withdrawal of David Villa.

So, lots of good games and exciting moments but all pales in the wake of ZLATAN! And so, in a first for GotSoccer’s MLS Big – 5, this week’s edition is all devoted to one man, one lion, the one called ZLATAN!

1) Making Bragging Fun Again

“It Ain’t Braggin’ if you Can Do It.” Dizzy Dean, baseball Hall of Famer. “I am the Greatest.” Muhammed Ali. Reggie Jackson upon joining the New York Yankees in 1977. “I didn’t come to New York to be a star, I brought my star with me.”

“They chanted ‘We want Zlatan.’ So I gave them Zlatan,” ZLATAN! to Fox following his MLS debut.

On Saturday the man who announced his decision to leave Manchester United and join the Los Angeles Galaxy with an image of himself as Jesus arm wrestling the Devil and a full-page ad in the L.A. Times that said simply, “Dear Los Angeles, You’re welcome” joined the pantheon of legendary U.S. Sports Braggarts when he scored two goals in his MLS debut to defeat LAFC in the first meeting between the neighboring teams.

2) The Man Knows How to Make an Entrance

ZLATAN! does not wait around, he does not settle in, he simply gets right down to it. Known for scoring on his debut at previous stops in his illustrious career, Saturday’s effort is part of a pattern that includes goals in his first game in the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

So we shouldn’t really have been surprised that ZLATAN! suited up just nine days after signing with the Galaxy or that he scored just six minutes after entering the match on Saturday.

3) Audacious

It wouldn’t do for ZLATAN! to debut with a tap-in. No, the man who calls himself The Lion had to do something special for his introduction to Tinseltown, like maybe an almost 40-yard blast that leaves the keeper scrambling and clawing at the air helpless to keep the mighty strike from ZLATAN! out of his net?!

4) The Equalizer and then the Winner!

With ZLATAN! sitting on the bench the Galaxy trailed newcomers LAFC 3-0 and then 3-1 when Sebastian Lletget gave the Galaxy a glimmer of hope in the 61st minute. Chris Pontius made it 3-2 two minutes after ZLATAN! entered the fray.

Then ZLATAN! took over, scoring that stunning equalizer before rising majestically above the LAFC defense to power home the winning header in stoppage time, sending the StubHub crowd into a frenzy and damn near breaking American soccer twitter into the bargain.

5) Game Winner Looked Offside but…

As the hysteria surrounding ZLATAN’S! match winner subsided dissenting voice began to appear on Twitter noting that ZLATAN! looked to have been offside on the goal. Replays were produced which seemed to offer confirmation.

Then a different video emerged that seemed to show that the goal was good. Of course, it was. This was, after all, ZLATAN!

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NWSL Roundup – Season Opening Edition
NWSL Roundup – Season Opening Edition avatar

A long, difficult off-season finally came to its natural conclusion this weekend as the NWSL regular season began with a full slate of just four games.

Forgotten for at least one day, perhaps, was a close season scarred by the dissolution of the Boston Breakers franchise with no new expansion franchises coming online to take Boston’s place.

Amanda Duffy still remains the face of the league.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The league still has not landed a commissioner, although General Manager Amanda Duffy remains the public face of the league in much the same way a commissioner would.

We also saw players orchestrating trades to their hometowns, Carli Lloyd, and for family reasons, Sydney Leroux. Hardly the sort of thing that screams big-time professional sports.

And then hanging over everything, unignorable even on opening day was the Christian Press mess. Traded from Chicago to Houston, Press said, um heck no, I won’t go, scotching what had been presented as a done deal.

Duffy had stated that the league was working on finding a landing spot within the league for Press but today the USWNT attacker ended that prospect, for now, with a tweet.

On to the games then, with Lloyd’s new team, Sky Blue FC sitting out this week.
Home teams listed first.

North Carolina Courage 1-0 vs Portland Thorns

It won’t take away the still lingering disappointment of last October’s Championship match loss to this same opponent but it was still a nice way for the NC Courage to open the new campaign after such a long off-season.

The home team may have been advantaged by the fact that the Thorns were missing six players, including U.S. international Tobin Heath but the Courage made the most of Portland’s misfortune despite doing without their own USWNT star Sam Mewis.

Denise O’Sullivan assisted on the winner for her team. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

North Carolina dominated possession in front of 4,210 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Park but was only able to put one shot past Adrianna Franch, the 2017 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year who somehow continues to be left out by USWNT coach Jill Ellis.

The lone goal of the match came in the 70th minute and it was an absolute beaut off the boot of Debinha on an assist from Denise O’Sullivan.

The match also was an NWSL homecoming for Crystal Dunn. Dunn spent last season with Chelsea before returning to the league with North Carolina after her rights were traded from the Washington Spirit.

Orlando Pride 1-1 vs Utah Royals

It didn’t take long for Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir to put her name in the NWSL history books as the scorer of the first goal in the history of the Utah Royals, just three minutes in fact.

Jónsdóttir slipped behind an Orlando defense that was a bit slow to realize that the season had begun and expertly applied the finish to Diana Matheson’s inch-perfect long ball to give the new* club its first lead.

Marta scored from the penalty spot. (ISI Photos/Jeremy Reper)

The lead did not last all that long with Orlando equalizing in a controversial manner through a Marta penalty kick after Becky Sauerbrunn had been called for a deliberate handball and issued a yellow card in addition to surrendering the pk.

The game was the first for Sydney Leroux with Orlando and coach Tom Sermanni wasted no time in fitting the sometime U.S. international into the lineup alongside Orlando’s twin superstar strikers, Brazil’s Marta and USWNT’s Alex Morgan.

The trio didn’t light up the scoreboard in the opener but keeping the lid on the Orlando attack should cause many a sleepless night for opposing NWSL coaches and defenders alike in the coming weeks and months.
*FC Kansas City folded and the rights to those players went to the new franchise in Utah.

Seattle Reign 2-1 vs Washington Spirit

It was the Megan Rapinoe Show at UW Medicine Park at Memorial Stadium on Saturday when the USWNT star scored one goal for the Reign and set up Jodie Taylor for the second as Seattle treated the home fans to an opening match victory.

Rapinoe was once again at the heart of everything. (ISI Photos/Stephen Brashear)

Pinoe was all over the stat sheet taking 11 shots, with six on goal and creating 2 chances with 85 total touches. Statistics can, of course, tell many stories and sometimes none at all but this was not the case Saturday in Seattle when the numbers and the eye test told a similar tale.

Trailing 2-0 at the half Washington made a game of it when Joanna Lohman scored in the 68th minute in her first action since she tore her ACL on day one of the 2017 campaign.

Washington fans had their first chance to see the 2018 NWSL College Draft overall number one pick in action as USWNT midfielder Andi Sullivan went the full 90 in her NWSL debut.

Houston Dash 1-1 vs Chicago Red Stars

In an interesting scheduling quirk, the Chicago Red Stars visited the Houston Dash to kick off the 2018 season. Yes, the two clubs involved in the embarrassing Christen Press deal were matched up on opening day with Press nowhere in sight.

Press wasn’t the only prominent player MIA on Saturday, with Chicago hard hit by the injury bug to the tune of being forced to manage without six key players.

Keever (R) scored the opening goal for Houston. (ISI Photos/ Trask Smith)

2017 NWSL MVP Sam Kerr, who arrived from Sky Blue in exchange for Carli Lloyd, is on international duty for Australia while five more players, including 2017 U.S Soccer Female Player of the Year Julie Ertz, were unavailable through injury.

With all that to consider Houston’s new coach Vera Pauw will count herself a bit unlucky to have come away with just one point, especially given that the Red Stars goal came in stoppage time.

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Young Yanks Search for Meaning in Win Over Paraguay
Young Yanks Search for Meaning in Win Over Paraguay avatar

The United States Men’s National Team defeated Paraguay 1-0 Tuesday night in North Carolina in front of a sellout crowd of 9,825!

A game between two nations that failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia this summer can’t help but inspire an existential moment or two. With that in mind, our word for today is “meaningless.” As in the phrase “meaningless friendly.” Or the question: “Can any game really be called meaningless?”

The players seemed to find meaning in the friendly match.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The players certainly seemed to find some meaning in the match with Paraguay piling up five yellow cards to two for the U.S.A., and this in a match where the referee exhibited a strong desire to, eh, “let them play.”

When not taking lumps out of each other the players clearly wanted to impress, although, with both sides coached by caretaker managers, the players would have been unsure of exactly which eyes it was that they were hoping to catch.

In the case of the U.S. players, there is also an as yet to be hired General Manager to convince. But with that in mind, there were some players who showed well on the night and here are a few thoughts on that.

Matt Miazga has polished off the rough edges from his game and has added physical strength to become a commanding presence at the heart of the U.S. defense.

He paired very well with Cameron Carter-Vickers, his old partner from the U.S. national youth teams, making it is easy to pencil in the two as the future of the position for the senior squad. Particularly with John Brooks’ constant injury issues.

But, and there’s always a but, both Miazga and CCV are at crucial points in their respective careers. Carter-Vickers is playing at Ipswich after a stint at fellow English Championship side Sheffield United. Miazga is in his second season at Vitesse in the Netherlands top flight. Both have benefitted from the experience gained on these loan moves from parent clubs Tottenham, for Cameron-Vickers, and Chelsea, for Miazga.

Wil Trapp got man of the match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

What happens next season is paramount for the duo. It may not be at Chelsea or Tottenham but both need to step up a league if they want to lock down a couple of spots that are there for the taking.

“Wil Trapp, Wil Trapp, Wil Trapp.”

After Columbus beat the New York Red Bulls in a game at Red Bull Arena back in 2014 RBNY star Thierry Henry described the reason for the Crew’s effectiveness by singing the praises of the Columbus midfielder.

Henry seemed to indicate that he saw Trapp as a future member of the USMNT, when he said, “He has, hopefully for him, a good future. He’s American, you guys should be happy, but today I thought he was the difference.”

Since then Trapp’s senior international career has been limited to scraps. Last night Trapp was excellent. If this match turns out to be the start of something for the 25-year old that would give this match some meaning.

Run, Tyler, Run!

19-year-old midfielder Tyler Adams was everywhere against Paraguay, gliding over every inch of the pitch, including a lengthy gallop that earned a penalty kick for the lone goal of the match.

At one point Adams outraced an opponent to win a loose ball in the midfield despite having spotted his rival about six yards in a 10-yard race.

Adams broke through with the Red Bulls and the USMNT U20’s last season, he is breaking out with Red Bulls and the full national team this season and while Adams can still refine some of his offensive skills, new challenges beckon; sooner rather than later.

So, meaningful then? We will see.

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

USA – Bobby Wood 45th minute

USA: 12-Zack Steffen; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Matt Miazga, 5-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 19-Jorge Villafaña; 20-Wil Trapp; 6-Darlington Nagbe (9-Cristian Roldan, 90+2), 8-Marky Delgado (11-Tim Weah, 86), 4-Tyler Adams, 10-Kenny Saief (23-Rubio Rubin, 67); 7-Bobby Wood (18-Andrija Novakovich, 77)
Substitutes not used: 1-Bill Hamid, 13-Erik Palmer-Brown, 14-Antonee Robinson, 15-Eric Lichaj, 17-Shaq Moore
Head coach: Dave Sarachan

PAR: 1-Roberto Fernandez; 5-Bruno Valdez, 4-Fabian Balbuena, 3-Gustavo Gomez, 13-Junior Alonso; 16-Cristian Riveros (6-Richard Ortiz, 65), 8-Rodrigo Rojas (10-Derlis Gonzalez, 83), 21-Oscar Romero (19-Cecilio Dominguez, 80), 7-Nestor Camacho (17-Hernan Perez, 54), 23-Miguel Almiron; 9-Federico Santander
Substitutes not used: 12-Alfredo Aguilar, 2-Juan Patiño, 11-Angel Romero, 14-Luis de la Cruz, 15-Richard Sanchez, 18-Roberto Ovelar
Head coach: Gustavo E. Morinigo

Stats Summary: USA / PAR
Shots: 6 / 11
Shots on Goal: 3 / 3
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 15 / 19
Offside: 5 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
PAR – Roberto Fernandez (caution) 44th minute
PAR – Junior Alonso (caution) 53
PAR – Rodrigo Rojas (caution) 56
USA – DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 62
USA – Cameron Carter-Vickers (caution) 81
PAR – Federico Santander (caution) 90
PAR – Richard Ortiz (caution) 90+1


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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It is three weeks in now and MLS season 23 is beginning to get its legs under itself. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s still too early to draw many conclusions but there are still some things to discuss. Like how about this for starters!

1) IBRA to LA!

It has been talked about for what feels like forever and now Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl is reporting that the wait is finally over and that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is winging his way to L.A. to become the latest star to join the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Ibrahimovic looks set to join the Galaxy.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

According to the SI report, the Galaxy has gotten themselves quite a financial deal in freeing the Swiss legend from Manchester United bench, with Ibra agreeing to a two-year deal worth just $3 million.

Zlatan hasn’t played much since returning to the United panel after recovering from a serious injury but it is not too difficult to imagine the showman that is ZLATAN! pulling out all the stops and finishing his career on a high note amidst the glamor of Tinseltown.

2) A Bridge Too VAR?

Clint Dempsey and all of his Seattle Sounders teammates coaches, fans, etc would certainly say yes, enough with the VAR.

Dempsey saw red. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

Dempsey saw red in the 37th minute of Seattle’s 3-0 loss to FC Dallas on the weekend, with the Video Assistant Referee called into play to lend a hand to chief whistler, Chris Penso.

The camera angles weren’t perfect but it seemed like a righteous red from my easy chair.

Less clear in my mind was the red dished out to Vancouver center back Kendall Waston in Vancouver’s 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Atlanta. Waston was called for a penalty and that red card in the 13th minute for a perceived infringement against Leonardo Gonzalez Perez.

To me, it looked like Gonzalez Perez initiated the contact and there should not have been a red or a foul but the referee and his pal VAR thought otherwise.

3) Toronto winless?! WT…H

Greg Vanney’s team has a heavier schedule due to their successful cup run. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

The league’s star-studded standard bearers, coming off perhaps the best season in league history, are 0-2. Which is surprising. But remember, that is just in league play. Greg Vanney’s team is fighting a battle on two fronts and the outlook is decidedly rosier on that second front, the Concacaf Champions League, where TFC has joined the New York Red Bulls as semifinalists in the North American version of the Champions League.

4) And NYCFC Makes 3

3-0-0, to put it more precisely. NYCFC entered its St Patrick’s Day showdown with ex-coach Jason Kreis and fellow Class of ‘15 members Orlando as one of four MLS sides sporting a perfect 2-0-0 record. By the end of the weekend, Columbus had drawn 0-0 at Philadelphia, Vancouver had been spanked 4-1 in Atlanta, while LAFC stood pat with a bye.

David Villa’s absence has had a negative impact on NYCFC’s attack. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

NYCFC had to make do without David Villa and the attack struggled in his absence. But the defense stood firm and a pair of opportunistic goals would be too much for Kreis and his Orlando strugglers who fell to 0-2-1.

5) The Old Lady to Take on the Best of MLS

Despite the recent partnership announced between MLS and Liga MX Major League Soccer will play at least one more foreign superclub in its annual All-Star match when Italian giants Juventus come to Atlanta this summer, putting the MLS vs Liga MX battle aside for now.

Buffon & Co will grace the MLS fields. (ISI Photos/Mark Lawrence)

It will be a chance for MLS supporters see the greats of the Italian league up close and personal, including goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon, star attackers Paulo Dybala, and Gonzalo Higuain, and defender extraordinaire Giorgio Chiellini.

And it will be a special treat to see Higuain face off against his brother, Federico, the playmaking wizard of the Columbus Crew.

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Cordeiro and Fellow Co-Chairs Discuss United World Cup Bid
Cordeiro and Fellow Co-Chairs Discuss United World Cup Bid avatar

With the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup firmly in FIFA’s hands, the bids were due last Friday, the Presidents of the U.S Soccer, the Mexico Football Federation, and Canada Soccer spoke to the media via conference call Monday from Kuala Lumpur.

Carlos Cordeiro

The three Presidents, Carlos Cordeiro, U.S., Decio De Maria, Mexico, and Steven Reed, Canada, traveled to the Malaysian capital in an effort to persuade the members of the Asian Football Confederation to cast its lot with what is known as the United Bid over that of its only competitor, Morocco.

As described by the trio of Presidents, the United Bid features three pillars, Unity, Certainty, and Opportunity. In the groups opening remarks Reed discussed unity, DeMaria tackled certainty, and Cordeiro finishing up by describing the opportunity to host the World Cup in North America in 2016 as a chance to “throw the biggest party the world has ever seen.”

Cordeiro also stated that the United Bid members, “see the opportunity for record revenues.” “We anticipate sold out stadiums for every match,” the U.S. Soccer President continued, with “an expected 9.8 tickets sold with ticketing revenues of more than $2.1 billion,” which Cordeiro called a new record.

It was all very positive but with Sports Illustrated’s recent article suggesting that the United Bid was in real jeopardy of losing out to Morocco along with disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s endorsement of the Moroccan bid- remember, this is FIFA- the first question went to Cordeiro and it concerned the chance that anti-American feelings could cost the group the World Cup.

Cordeiro wasn’t buying it, saying “we believe strongly that this decision will be made on its merits,” expressing confidence that group’s submission, “on its merits will be seen to be a superlative bid.”

“This is not geopolitics, we’re talking about football,” Cordeiro replied when asked if U.S. decisions made by the Trump administration had sparked a “backlash.” “We’ve had no backlash.”

The Presidential Triad recently took the lead of the United Bid when the presidents were named as co-chairs of the bid committee, moving longtime U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati aside in the effort to bring the World Cup back to the continent for the first time since U.S. 1994.

The world cup (ISI Photos/Ben Queenborough)

Was that move made to push the “united” nature of the bid to the forefront in hopes of quelling any perception that the U.S. was the dominant partner with Gulati at its head?

Noting that he had just been elected as President of the U.S. federation in February, Cordeiro said: “it was natural that you would expect me, as the new president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, to take responsibility for our share of the bid and that is why I stepped up to the plate.” Cordeiro also pointed out that although the three were together in Kuala Lumpur they would more often be traveling separately as they chased down support. “Divide and conquer, right?” Cordeiro asked. “Isn’t that the saying.”

The U.S. Soccer President was backed by his co-Chairmen with De Maria saying colorfully, “we are nothing more than three guys representing three institutions, reaching for an objective,” while Canada’s Reed, pointed out that the three, “don’t really dwell on titles.” “We are three co-chairs at the present but we’ve always been together in terms of trying to achieve this common agenda.”

Unity, certainty, and opportunity. Will it be enough? We must wait until June 13, one day before the World Cup gets underway. In the meantime, the three co-chairmen will be seeing the world.

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Still No Coach or GM – So Sarachan Names Young Roster to Face Paraguay
Still No Coach or GM – So Sarachan Names Young Roster to Face Paraguay avatar

With no World Cup positional battles to sort out and no job security issues to concern him, interim USMNT coach Dave Sarachan passed over mainstays from Michael Bradley to Christian Pulisic in favor of a young, inexperienced squad to face Paraguay in Cary, North Carolina on March 27.

This callow crew has an average age of just over 23 years old, so it is no surprise that the roster features five first time call-ups, with that quintet among the more interesting prospects in the group.

Weah in action for the U17’s. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Previously best known as the son of George Weah, the current President of Liberia and the former World Player of the Year, 18-year-old attacker Tim Weah recently made his senior debut for French super club Paris Saint-Germain after impressing for the U.S. at the U17 World Cup.

Another to make his European club debut of late is former U.S. U20 captain Erik Palmer-Brown who began his career with Belgian side KV Kortrijk, following a loan from Manchester City, who signed the center back from his home club of Sporting KC.

Antonee Robinson is another young player who has gone on loan to seek the first-team action, in his case the English born and raised 20 year old went from Everton to English Championship side Bolton, where he has seen regular minutes at a perennial position of need for the U.S., left fullback.

Another fullback to get his first call to the full national team squad is Shaq Moore, who made his La Liga debut for Levante in September, even earning a start against Barcelona. With competitors returning from injury, Moore has not seen much action of late for Levante, so this call-up comes at a good time for the 21-year-old.

The least known of the five is 6’4” striker Andrija Novakovich. The 21-year-old Wisconsin native signed on with English Championship club Reading in 2014 but has only recently hit his stride with a loan to Dutch second division side SC Telstar. Novakovich’s total of 18 goals is second in the Eerste Divisie, reason enough to bring the lanky striker in for a closer look.

Kenny Saief gets another chance to impress. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Though no longer a debutante Israeli-American Kenny Saief returns to the U.S. fold after picking up an injury in his U.S. bow at last summer’s Gold Cup. After switching allegiances from the Israeli national team Saief was injured in his Gold Cup debut last summer. Now after impressing this season for Anderlecht, the intriguing midfielder gets another chance to impress, well, I’m not sure who this group needs to impress.

WIth no permanent coach and no General Manager yet on board this young group will just have to go and do its job and let the chips fall where they may.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 5/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 1/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich Town/ENG; 1/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 14/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 4/1), Shaq Moore (Levante/ESP; 0/0), Erik Palmer-Brown (Kortrijk/BEL; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers/ENG; 0/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 15/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 49/0)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Kekuta Manneh (Pachuca/MEX; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 1/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC; 24/1), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 2/0), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 1/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 3/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 0/0)

FORWARDS (3): Andrija Novakovich (Telstar/NED; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana/MEX; 4/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 36/10)

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Seattle Crash Out of CCL to Chivas- Club America Also Advance
Seattle Crash Out of CCL to Chivas- Club America Also Advance avatar

With a chance to join the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC in the Concacaf Champions League semifinals the Seattle Sounders came up small Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss to Chivas in Guadalajara.

Seattle were minus their playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

The Sounders came into this second leg with a 1-0 lead but minus playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro. The bad news continued for Seattle when striker Will Bruin lasted just 8 minutes before he was sidelined with an injury. Center back Chad Marshall was then felled in the 35th minute following a clash of heads, forcing the Seattle captain out of the match with a with a badly swollen eye.

Seattle managed to make it to the break level at 0-0 on the evening and hanging on to that slim 1-0 aggregate lead but a pair of Chivas goals five minutes apart were as inevitable as they were deadly to the Sounders hopes.

First Oswaldo Alanís beat Stefan Frei with an impeccably placed free kick in the 50th and when Javier López added a second goal just five minutes later there seemed to be no way back for a Sounders side that was being badly outplayed by the home team.

Stefan Frei had a frustrating evening. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

José de Jesús Godínez made Seattle’s exit from the CCL all but official with a third Chivas goal in the 80th minute. In the evening’s other quarterfinal match Mexico’s Club America travel to Panama City with a 4-0 lead and had little trouble with Tauro, advancing with a 7-1 aggregate score after last night’s 3-1 victory.

It was quite a let down for MLS fans one night after the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC had flown the league’s flag proudly in securing Concacaf Champions League semifinals berths.

New York earned its spot by completing a two-game sweep of Club Tijuana, adding Tuesday’s 3-1 home win to a 2-0 road victory. TFC opted for a slightly more dramatic route versus Tigres UNAL, barely hanging on to lose 3-2 on the night in Monterrey, to draw 4-4 overall and advance to the semifinals thanks to the away goals rule.

The Reds got on the board first through an own goal in the 64th minute but that the lead would last just five minutes when it was erased by Tigres’ Chilean international Eduardo Vargas.

Sebastian Giovinco answered with yet another free kick goal to boost the visitor’s hopes. But Tigres were not done yet, adding goals from French international Andre-Pierre Gignac in the 84th minute and then in added time from the penalty spot.

Toronto managed to hang on to join the Red Bulls in the CCL semifinal where they will face Club America. New York takes on Chivas Guadalajara with both opening games taking place on April 3rd in Guadalajara and Toronto with the reverse fixture being held on April 10th.

The final is also played on a two-leg basis, beginning on April 17 and wrapping up on April 24th.

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