New York City FC 5 – 2 FC Cincinnati

It was all New York City FC on Thursday in FC Cincinnati’s last match before the CONCACAF Gold Cup break. The hosts were up…

Graphic: Connor Paquette

It was all New York City FC on Thursday in FC Cincinnati’s last match before the CONCACAF Gold Cup break. The hosts were up three goals by the 29th minute and went into cruise control thereafter. The Orange & Blue got on the board near the end of the first half courtesy of an Héber own goal. The hosts then added two more goals in the second half and yet another own goal. Maxi Moralez was a man possessed for NYCFC, tallying three assists and a goal on the night.

FC Cincinnati remains in the cellar of the Eastern Conference with the result, five points adrift from then next closest team. New York City FC remains in sixth despite the win, now with 25 points total.

New York City FC 5, FC Cincinnati 2

Yankee Stadium | Bronx, N.Y. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

SCORING SUMMARY

NYC – Alexandru Mitrita (Maxi Moralez) 11’

NYC – Héber (Anton Tinnerholm, Maxi Moralez) 17’

NYC – Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Anton Tinnerholm) 29’

CIN – Héber (own goal) 37’

NYC – Héber (Maxi Moralez) 49’

CIN – Sebastien Ibeagha (own goal) 76’

NYC – Maxi Moralez (Valentín Castellanos) 90’

FC Cincinnati: Spencer Richey, Mathieu Deplagne, Nick Hagglund, Forrest Lasso, Justin Hoyte ©, Caleb Stanko, Victor Ulloa (Leonardo Bertone HT), Corben Bone (Frankie Amaya 56’), Roland Lamah (Kekuta Manneh 60’), Emmanuel Ledesma, Fanendo Adi

Bench: Przemysław Tytoń, Tommy McCabe, Eric Alexander, Rashawn Dally,

Stats: Shots 15, Shots on goal 4, Saves 4, Corner kicks 4, Offsides 3, Fouls 4, Possession 39.8%, Passes 363 (74.4%)

New York City FC: Brad Stuver, Maxime Chanot, Tony Rocha, James Sands (Sebastien Ibeagha 57’), Alexander Ring ©, Alexandru Mitrita (Justin Haak 86’), Valentin Castellanos, Anton Tinnerholm, Maxi Moralez, Héber, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Keaton Parks 63’)

Bench: Luis Barraza, Juan Torres, Daniel Bedoya, Jesus Medina

Stats: Shots 20, Shots on goal 9, Saves 4, Corner kicks 5, Offsides 2, Fouls 12, Possession 60.2%, Passes 582 (85.4%)

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

NYC – Maxi Moralez (caution) 45’+1’

CIN – Forrest Lasso (caution) 71’

CIN – Mathieu Deplagne (caution) 83’

CIN – Nick Hagglund (caution) 88’

NYC – Keaton Parks (caution) 89’

CIN – Justin Hoyte (caution) 90+4’

Referee: Allen Chapman

Assistant Referees: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein

4th Official: Robert Sibiga

VAR: Jorge Gonzalez

Weather: 81 degrees and cloudy

Attendance: 18,597

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Colorado Rapids

Graphic: CSDIV

FC Cincinnati opens a two-match road trip against the Colorado Rapids in the Centennial State on Saturday. The Orange & Blue come into the match following a 2-0 home defeat to the New York Red Bulls last weekend. After a promising but goalless first half in that contest, a defensive error by typically-reliable fullback Mathieu Deplagne led to FCC’s demise.

The Rapids are the not-so-proud owners of the worst points total in all of MLS, with just 9 total. However, they have been resurgent lately, earning two wins and a draw in their last three matches played. Their most recent result came on Wednesday, when they drew 1-1 with the Philadelphia Union in Pennsylvania.

This match is the second “Toilet Bowl” of the 2019 MLS season — a meeting between the last place teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences. On April 27th, Atlanta United was the last place team in the Eastern Conference and defeated the same Colorado Rapids 1-0 in the first toilet bowl.

FC Cincinnati is currently plagued with minor injuries. Fatai Alashe, Leo Bertone, Corben Bone, Greg Garza, Allan Cruz, and Darren Mattocks are all listed as questionable for this contest.

Rookie midfielder Tommy McCabe was recalled from loan this week and is available for selection in this match. McCabe made nine appearances, including eight starts and scored two goals while with North Carolina FC in the USL.

Kendall Waston will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation and therefore left early on Friday for Gold Cup duty with Costa Rica.

Kickoff is at 8:30pm Eastern.

Fast Facts

  • Frankie Amaya leads all players from both teams in passing accuracy, at 88.5%. This stat excludes players that have logged less than 300 minutes of playing time this season.
  • The Rapids are led by veteran striker Kei Kamara, who has seven goals on the season. Interestingly, Kamara was drafted by FC Cincinnati in the expansion draft last December but was promptly traded to Colorado for an international roster spot.
  • This match features the only two current interim head coaches in MLS: Yoann Damet and Colorado’s Connor Casey. Casey took the reins for the Rapids on May 1st when Anthony Hudson was fired.
  • The Rapids average 5 more shots per game than FCC (14.6 to 9.6) and have scored 10 more goals (21 to 11). 43% of their tallies are from set pieces or the penalty spot.
  • The Colorado Rapids lead the league in red cards with 5. In contrast, FC Cincinnati has yet to receive a red card this season.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs New York Red Bulls

FC Cincinnati return home to face the New York Red Bulls for their third match under interim head coach Yoann Damet. The Orange & Blue are …

Graphic: CSDIV

FC Cincinnati return home to face the New York Red Bulls for their third match under interim head coach Yoann Damet. The Orange & Blue are licking wounds after last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing in Orlando, and hoping to return to winning ways in front of a Memorial Day weekend crowd at Nippert stadium.

After a slow start to the season, Chris Armas’ Red Bulls have won four of their last six matches and are now in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Saturday’s match is the second meeting this season between these two teams. On April 28th, Red Bull won the first match 1-0 in New Jersey, despite a strong second half performance from FCC. Defender Connor Lade scored the lone goal in the 38th minute of that contest.

The Red Bulls come to Cincinnati after a disappointing 2-2 midweek draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps at home. A rotated Red Bulls lineup led 2-1 until the 61st minute when Freddy Montero equalized from the penalty spot after VAR spotted a handball in the box.

New York will have a few key absentees for this match. Bradley Wright-Phillips, Vincent Bezecourt, and Andreas Ivan are all doubtful due to injury. However, the center back pairing of Aaron Long and Tim Parker is likely to be reinstated on Saturday per Joe Goldstein. Long was injured and Parker was suspended for the match against Vancouver.

Corben Bone, Greg Garza, and Allan Cruz are all listed as questionable for FC Cincinnati. Forward Rashawn Dally has been recalled from his loan and is available for selection in this match.

Fast Facts

  • Mathieu Deplagne has logged 1,170 minutes for FC Cincinnati this season, more than any player on either team. Luis Robles of the Red Bulls has played every minute in 12 starts in 2019, 90 minutes less than Deplagne.
  • According to the oddsmakers, FC Cincinnati’s chance of winning, at the time of publishing, is paying the exact same as the odds of New York winning, 2.6 to 1.
  • FC Cincinnati needs to beware of set piece situations. The NY Red Bulls have scored the second most set piece goals in MLS, at 6, and FC Cincinnati have conceded the second most set piece goals, 5.
  • The Red Bulls are one of the few teams in the league with less yellow cards than FC Cincinnati. Their total of 15 cautions is the fewest in MLS. They do however have 2 red cards, including Kaku’s infamous ejection against Sporting Kansas City.
  • FC Cincinnati and the Red Bulls are second and third in MLS with the most interceptions per game at 13 and 12.5 respectively.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati versus New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

MLS Weekly, Week 12: History and Storylines (People)

Image: Joe Craven

To start with a little good news/bad news, I found the semi-obvious location to which the MLS app moved the condensed games (under the “Highlights” tab; more information, less life…did I win?). Moving on The Big Picture, Major League Soccer’s 12th week files under “one helluva.” We are getting trend-lines people, momentum(/season?) altering turns of events, some of them with Games of Thrones-esque blood-letting (timely), and with those hitting the mightiest houses, the plot thickens. Elsewhere, picking week 12’s Goal of the Week came one hell of a lot easier than picking the Save of the Week (Candidate 1 and Candidate 2). Some truly trash officiating rounds out the weekend, and what can be more on-brand than that for MLS? VAR doesn’t work and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

I’ve got one final note for this preamble, and largely because this is an FC Cincinnati-centric site: every game I watched this weekend apart from the…poor display (that’s an aggressive euphemism) between FC Cincinnati and Orlando City SC put that game in sickening relief. To paraphrase an old album by The Cranberries, Everyone’s Competent, So Why Aren’t We? (For more punishment, here are my extended notes on yesterday’s disappointment.) As for what’s below, I came up with three main talking points for the MLS Week 12 – the stuff that seems more relevant or, in one case, historic – but I’ll touch on every game in the past week down below…assuming I don’t forget something. With that, let’s start with the blessed, happy history.


The Ultimate Underdog(s) Go Into the History Books

“…like the clinical finisher he is…in the MLS.”

If you ever needed proof that literally record-breaking success in one arena can never escape the gravity of a failure in another one, there it is. I don’t even know if the announcer intended to conjure the ghost of Chris Wondolowski’s greatest failure, but he qualified that statement, not me.

Where to begin? Yes, I did cry manly tears after every goal Chris Wondolowski scored against the Chicago Fire on his/the San Jose Earthquakes’ way to the 4-1 rout in which he made history. Also, credit Bobby Warshaw and Matt Doyle for giving good background on the scale of Wondo’s unlikeliest of accomplishments. Players beyond counting came into MLS with infinitely more promise of chasing Landon Donovan’s regular-season goal-scoring record, never mind beating it, and that only makes it, for lack of a better word, awesomer. (People who don’t root for underdogs are rightly recognized as terrible human beings.)

Warshaw and Doyle named their own moments for what makes Wondolowski such a special player, but I pulled a different one out of this game – and, fittingly, it’s something I can’t link to. After scoring his first goal and tying the record, another great chance fell to Wondolowski and he got closer to the sideline than the goal with his shot. After that miss, he didn’t slap the turf, or lay on the grass (it’s grass at Avaya, right?) dramatically “contemplating” the miss. He immediately shoved himself off the turf, and got back to it. Three more goals followed, thereby raising the bar that the next challenger to the throne will have to clear.

Each goal he scored showcased an aspect of Wondolowski’s game that it’s worth passing on to the youth. His third came from the (rather attractive) finish that prompted the quote up top, while his second – the one that broke the record – showed what makes a great forward – e.g., following up on every shot. His fourth demonstrates why a forward should never stop looking for an opening, on the grounds that the ball might defy physics and find you. Personally, I’ll always cherish the record-tying goal, and that’s 1,000% down to the fact that Shea Salinas delivered it. That connection – Salinas to Wondolowski – signals to every player who didn’t even make varsity that not all paths to glory take the same route, and to never stop dreaming. In a perfect world, this record will stand forever, or at least for decades, and for that exact reason. And, if MLS really does become a selling league, it should last longer.

One last note on this game: Chicago’s defense has been a wall lately, so it’s significant that the ‘Quakes pulled them apart as badly as they did. There was the rain, I suppose, but Chicago hadn’t allowed a goal in its last three games; hell, they’d only allowed 1.0 goals a game over its last 10 games, and that was only because the Seattle Sounders dropped four on them 11 games before this one. In the end, it took David Ousted enduring a succession of nightmares to make this specific result happen (see the 2nd and 4th goals, especially), on top of the Fire missing shots that few teams do. Don’t sell your Chicago stock yet, because this loss had a freak-ish air to it.

Shots Fired Over the Rockies

First, Diego Polenta should have absolutely seen his second yellow when he stood on the foot of…a player whose identity I can’t recall (but think it was Sam Nicholson) and stopped him from carrying the ball forward and out of the Rapids’ attacking third. Why? I feel alright making that judgment because I saw him staring at the man’s foot as he stood on it, just to make sure he got the placement right. And that’s your first officiating snafu for the weekend…most of which involved LA-based teams. At the same time, I’m glad the Galaxy got away with it because that brushes off any of the asterisks that might have otherwise hung over the Colorado Rapids’ first win of the season.

This has been a long time coming: Colorado has more brave loses in its recent history than most teams see all season. Second, they’ve scored more or as many goals in 2019 (17) than 10 other teams in MLS – some of them in the conversation as credible challengers (e.g., Atlanta United FC (13 goals), New York City FC (15)). The fact that their defense has killed them follows from, but, the Rapids have always had a little something going on. The real surprise, then, is that it took them this long to win. The game primarily featured both teams trading misses – with Colorado’s Kei Kamara leading the boner parade (I got to use the word “boner!”) – but both teams also cleared a ball off the line. It had the feel of an open game too, which means both LA and the Rapids liked their chances enough to go for it. The funny thing is that arrangement worked better for Colorado, who actually out-shot the Galaxy on their home-field.

That said, Colorado made some adjustments before one trading window or another closed (Full Disclosure: I’m terrible at tracking those things), by bringing Lalas Abubakar from Columbus Crew SC and Jonathan Lewis from NYCFC. Both players looked solid, with Lewis causing all kinds of headaches today and Abubakar looking steady and solid. Time will tell if that’s what turned them around, but details aside, but Colorado finally turning a promising performance into a road win officially serves notice to all the even potentially terrible team in MLS. To name some names, time to perk up Orlando, FC Cincinnati, New England Revolution, and maybe even Sporting Kansas City. Your days of muttering “at least we’re not Colorado” could very well be at an end. Speaking of the Galaxy…

Large Houses on Fire

That was the LA Galaxy’s 4th straight loss – and two of those happened in LA’s suburbs, and that means they lost a couple of excuses with this one. Sure, you could chalk up the loss to NYCFC to them finding every one of their feet, but that same sleight of hand doesn’t work with Colorado. The second excuse – e.g., no Zlatan Ibrahimovic – cuts from a different angle, but it’s still concerning. Any team that requires one player to keep it afloat has a margin exactly as wide as said player’s health/capacity to not do stupid sh*t (so they can stay on the field); LA failed the first test, while Zlatan failed the second. The Galaxy might be safe in the standings, they might have plenty of talent, but that’s an official skid in any league, and it’s gone global with this result.

Toronto FC is the other team in trouble, even if they’re a slightly trickier case. They posted crazy numbers against D.C. United in Toronto at mid-week without ever really managing to look menacing. They created too few chances and too many of those fell to Jordan Hamilton, a player on the bare cusp of MLS-level. Things get worse/weirder when you look at the box score for Toronto’s dispiriting loss to Real Salt Lake in Utah. They’re still (barely) holding the ball and dictating the game…but it keeps winding up in a dead end. RSL, meanwhile, banged three lowprobability goals past the rando TFC starts in net and, crucially, that’s not the first time that’s happened. The problems go deeper than Jozy Altidore not starting, basically. At this point, it looks fundamental – even with Alejandro Pozuelo still looking promising and capable as any team in MLS.

Going the other way, both TFC and the Galaxy remain above the playoff cut-off, and LA is eight points above danger to boot. They have ambitious ownership groups that spend real money on talent…I mean, Zlatan? Pozuelo? At the same time, both teams share a present reality with Sporting KC: talented as all get out on the roster side – and with some upgrades under the hood to boot – but who cares if you own a sports car when it’s on blocks in the front yard? I’ll expand on SKC below, but that’s where those three teams are parked right now: sleeping giants that may never wake up. There’s plenty of season left, of course, but sometimes the car never comes off the blocks.

Those are the three big topics (or mine), so let’s move on to the rest of the results. And, sure, maybe I relegated the main event to the under-card.

Los Angeles FC and FC Dallas played a home-and-home series over Week 12, and LAFC took four points of six. There’s not much with which to quibble in LAFC’s home win, but the return leg in Dallas featured the other reffing boner of the weekend – and this prompts another, where to begin conundrum. It starts with the soft penalty call on Bressan, and ends with the question of why Chris Hedges rightly gets sent off for dragging down Carlos Vela while LAFC’s Tyler Miller doesn’t get sent off for football-holding Jesus Ferreira later in the same game. (Also, to spit in their eye a bit, why the fresh hell is that not in the highlight clip, MLS? I found it (see around 1:50), but kindly stop elevating the brand over truth/reality.) These were strange games and I think you can get several reads out of them. Even if Dallas looked far from helpless playing in LA, there’s a solid case that LAFC deserved three points minimum from this swing. Going the other way, how Dallas managed LAFC raised their stock a little for me.

Elsewhere in Texas, the Houston Dynamo deserve credit for another big week at home. After the Portland Timbers made them sweat midweek (and I’ve got extended notes on that), and with Houston still (allegedly?) needing to stockpile points before they play a lot of the second half of the season on the road, the game against D.C. became the main event for their Week 12. The Dynamo passed the test with richly-detailed flying colors: they had to come from behind to win, and they scored both their goals with neither Alberth Elis (concussion precautions) and Romell Quioto on the field. Memo Rodriguez bagged one D.C. should have stopped and seeing Bill Hamid lose his whole damn mind after Tommy McNamara scored the winner tells you everything you need to know about D.C. They’re a frustrated, stuttering team at the moment, and Paul Arriola’s stupid, hostile sending off reveals a little rot in their confidence.

Like the Galaxy and TFC, D.C. is better than fine. Moreover, there aren’t many teams making noise below them. At the same time, TFC really did play them off the park at midweek, no matter how ineffectually. If you review their results, D.C. really does look more like a part of a pack than a contender lately.

The other big mentionables from Week 12 include two more “big clubs” – Seattle Sounders FC and Atlanta dropping points, at least arguably. To clear up any confusion and/or alleviate any hurt feelings, both teams remain strongly in the hunt. A lot of context, however, surrounds the Sounders in this particular moment: these games – a narrow win over a heavily-rotated Orlando squad and surviving a there-but-for-the-grace-of-Brenden-Aaronson’s-youth-go-I goalless draw at the Philadelphia Union – look at lot different when you consider the three straight draws in their recent past. Like Seattle, Atlanta is the opposite of soft. Until Sunday’s loss to the New York Red Bulls, they’d allowed 0 goals over their last five games (also notable: they’d just scored eight over the same period). They had 55 minutes’ worth of game to take advantage after Tim Parker got sent off, but New York stifled them, then went on to steal the game. Like Seattle, again, Atlanta picked up a fairly soft win midweek, when they beat the Vancouver Whitecaps on the back of a(nother) dodgy penalty. In Atlanta’s defense, or maybe more against the ‘Caps, they kept Vancouver from taking a decent shot all the way until the 84th minute.

That leaves just three games from MLS Week 12, and only one of them really registers. Minnesota United FC is simultaneously unbeaten at home and also not that good at home; beating Columbus in Minnesota really only registers for lifting the Loons to a 2-0-3 home record (meaning they’re under 50% on points at home). To give Minnesota its due, they look to have a solid core around Darwin Quintero, Jr. in Brett Kallman, Osvaldo Alonso and Romain Metanaire – and all those guys (on 1/6th evidence; condensed games have shrunk a bit) played pivotal roles in getting this win – but, as must be noted, Columbus has been bloody awful lately. I’m talking puke-bucket-awful, 1-7-0 in their last eight games, and why would you disgrace the two wins that came before those eight games by association. Worse, they were sloppy in this one and, to float an opinion, signing Gyasi Zardes to a DP contract hints at an issue with the fish rotting from the head with this bunch.

To wrap up with the results that only mattered to each teams’ mothers and respective fans, Ignacio Piatti’s substitution appearance was surely the biggest news out of the Montreal Impact’s goalless home draw against the New England Revolution. (Fun side note: they actually posted a highlight clip for that, but not for potential red cards in the games listed above.) Like Cincinnati and Orlando, those are two teams going nowhere at the moment. Elsewhere, Krisztian Nemeth’s full-spectrum performance defined Sporting KC’s 1-1 home draw against Vancouver. Still, Vancouver’s equalizer came ridiculously late and Nemeth’s celebration of the goal he scored moves that one to a solid second in the running for MLS Week 12’s Goal of the Week.


That’s it for this week, see you the next one. Also, just like winter, Gold Cup is coming…

We are getting MLS trend-lines people, momentum(/season?) altering turns of events, some of them with Games of Thrones-esque blood-letting (timely)...

Deeper Cuts: First 30, Lapses, and Roster Questions

Image: Ryan Meyer

The ‘new manager bump’, or an uptick in form following the arrival of a new head coach, might have already worn off for Yoann Damet’s squad. Orlando SC’s 5-1 rout over Cincinnati highlighted how FCC’s problems may go beyond a simple coaching change.

Of course, it is important to note the adversity the Orange & Blue faced. Family emergencies, injuries, and extreme heat all impacted both the lineup selection and the game plan. Despite these hurdles, the score was deadlocked at halftime amid a competitive – yet sluggish – Sunday afternoon affair. What went wrong for Cincinnati in the Sunshine State?

First 30 Minutes

Fans may have wanted to watch the fast, possession-oriented style of play Damet teased them with in his coaching debut. Perhaps due to the limited roster, he opted for a lower line of confrontation and a more defensive approach in Orlando. The conventional belief behind this strategy is to play safe and limit mistakes, and to hit strong on the counter.

FC Cincinnati did this relatively well the first 30 minutes. Frankie Amaya and Emmanuel Ledesma were receiving the ball, turning, and dribbling up the field with pace before making defenders commit. Darren Mattocks did well on the day to create an opportunity for Ledesma which blasted off the crossbar, and to clinically finish a half-chance into the roof of the net surrounded by four purple defenders. Truthfully, Mattocks was lucky to never be closed down on his goal, and Robin Jansson dived in when all he had to do was contain and push out wide.

Costly Lapses

The positives stop there. Mattocks had only 11 touches before his substitution. After the first goal, FCC began to sit back and afforded Orlando more opportunity to dictate play. Some players, meanwhile, switched off at critical moments.

After the deflected goal from Tesho Akindele put Orlando on the scoreboard, FC Cincinnati looked shell-shocked in defense as James O’Connor’s side tallied 10 shots after half-time and over 200 more passes throughout the match.

FCC was also second best on three separate corners. The first mistake, Kendall Waston’s WWE maneuver leading to Nani’s rebound penalty conversion, was the epitome of the type of defense that landed Cincinnati in its rough predicament.

The 2-1 score line gave Orlando all the momentum it needed to bury FC Cincinnati with pace, possession, and set pieces, while Cincinnati looked toothless in attack. Fitness may have been an issue, as numbers rarely supported the player on the ball, and attackers were not tightly marked with conviction in crucial moments as the match progressed. Getting a point or three on the road looked very unlikely at that stage, and the late game substitutions did little to quell these fears. Spencer Richey did well to keep the game as close as he did.

Roster Questions as Gold Cup Looms

Damet finds himself in one of the toughest coaching environments in the country right now. He must, as the youngest MLS coach in history, find a way to inspire a limited roster of players while Jeff Berding scours the planet looking for his inevitable replacement.

Alan Koch may have lost the locker room, and with it, his job. An interesting development after his departure is that some of the team’s highest profile players are still not starting. Are there injury issues at play or do recent choices in player selection go beyond that? Will Damet have the support of the dressing room and front office to make these tough calls?

Fanendo Adi, the star striker and highest-earning player on the team, was not brought to the Queen City as a backup. It remains to be seen how Damet will utilize Adi, but there is little evidence to suggest he provides a spark off the bench.

Where does USMNT player Kenny Saief fit into this club’s short-term or long-term plans? Is Greg Garza reliable enough to build around given his very unfortunate but continued injury troubles?

Has Justin Hoyte overtaken Nick Hagglund as Waston’s center back partner, despite the funds the organization gave up obtaining Hagglund? Additionally, the club is currently using an international spot on the second-string keeper.

Selecting strong matchday squads will only get harder for Damet as the Gold Cup approaches and players leave for international duty. It will give other players an opportunity to shine, and luckily for Cincinnati, there is a still a lot of season left to be played.

At this point in the season, however, a four-goal loss to 10th place Orlando is a big blow to a club aiming for a playoff berth.

Orlando City SC 5 – 1 FC Cincinnati

Graphic: Connor Paquette

Orlando City SC roared back against FC Cincinnati after Darren Mattocks scored the opening goal in the 34th minute. Tesho Akindele scored two, Nani scored two, and Dom Dwyer added insult to injury by adding a fifth in the 82nd minute. The Orange & Blue drop their eighth game out of 13, and fall from 11th to the bottom spot in the Eastern Conference.

Additionally, Greg Garza left the match in the 7th minute with an apparently severe calf injury.

Orlando City SC 5, FC Cincinnati 1

Orlando City Stadium | Orlando, Fla.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

SCORING SUMMARY

CIN – Darren Mattocks (Eric Alexander) 24’

ORL – Tesho Akindele (Will Johnson, João Moutinho) 37’

ORL – Nani (unassisted) 50’

ORL – Nani (Ruan) 59’

ORL – Tesho Akindele (unassisted) 64’

ORL – Dom Dwyer (Josué Colmán) 82’

FC Cincinnati: Spencer Richey, Mathieu Deplagne, Justin Hoyte, Kendall Waston ©, Greg Garza (Alvas Powell 10’), Eric Alexander, Victor Ulloa, Frankie Amaya, Emmanuel Ledesma, Kekuta Manneh (Kenny Saief 65’), Darren Mattocks (Fanendo Adi 64’)

Bench: Przemysław Tytoń, Nick Hagglund, Nazmi Albadawi, Caleb Stanko

Stats: Shots 5, Shots on goal 3, Saves 4, Corner kicks 4, Offsides 1, Fouls 13, Possession 38.9%, Passes 351 (83.5%)

Orlando City SC: Brian Rowe, Ruan, Lamine Sané, Robin Jansson, Sebastián Méndez, Will Johnson, João Moutinho, Cristian Higuita (Josué Colmán 78’), Nani (Dom Dwyer 66’), Chris Mueller (Benji Michel 85’), Tesho Akindele

Bench: Greg RanjitsinghKyle Smith, Kamal Miller, Oriol Rosell

Stats: Shots 17, Shots on goal 9, Saves 2, Corner kicks 11, Offsides 0, Fouls 9, Possession 61.1%, Passes 547 (88.8%)

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

ORL – Will Johnson (caution) 43’

ORL – Sebastián Méndez (caution) 45’+4’

CIN – Alvas Powell (caution) 45’+6’

CIN – Victor Ulloa (caution) 71’

ORL – Dom Dwyer (caution) 74’

CIN – Frankie Amaya (caution) 75’

CIN – Emmanuel Ledesma (caution) 87’

REF: Nima Saghafi

AR: Eduardo Mariscal, Chris Elliott

4TH: Luis Guardia

VAR: Geoff Gamble

AVAR: Eric Weisbrod

Weather: 90 degrees and sunny

Attendance: 22,341 (reported)

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Orlando City SC

FC Cincinnati returned to winning ways under interim head coach Yoann Damet last week, and look to extend their success…

Design: CSDIV

FC Cincinnati returned to winning ways last week under interim head coach Yoann Damet and look to extend their success against Orlando City SC this Sunday. They’ll reacquaint themselves with former rival, James O’Connor, in the process. O’Connor coached Louisville City FC from 2015-2018 before taking the reins at a struggling Orlando City last June.

Orlando City SC are in tenth place in the Eastern Conference, one place and one point ahead of FC Cincinnati in the standings. The Florida outfit come into Sunday’s match on the heels of three consecutive defeats, including a 2-1 midweek loss to the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink. They rotated heavily for that match so many of their usual starters should be rested for Sunday’s contest.

Corben Bone, Kenny Saief, and Allan Cruz are all listed as questionable for FC Cincinnati.

Fast Facts

  • 42% of FC Cincinnati’s attacks come down the left side. That percentage is tied as second most left-sided attack in the league. That percentage is typically even higher when Greg Garza is in the match. In comparison, Orlando City FC is fairly balanced but favors the right slightly at 39% of attacks originating there.
  • FC Cincinnati are second-best in MLS in aerial duel success rate at 53.9%. Only LAFC does it better.
  • Greg Garza returned from injury to start last Saturday, and led FCC in total passes (91), total passes in Montréal’s half (37) and total touches (107).
  • FC Cincinnati have the fewest total yellow cards, at 14, in MLS and the fewest cards per game at 1.2. Orlando City SC, in comparison, have 22 yellow cards after 12 matches.
  • Nani has lived-up to his DP billing for Orlando City SC. In just 8 starts, he has 5 goals, including 2 game-winning goals, and 4 assists. However, he has been nursing a calf injury and did not play in OCSC’s last two matches.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati at Orlando City SC on Sunday.

MLS Weekly, Week 11: The Field Takes Shape (For Now)

However it happened – corporate corner-cutting, a mass arrest of Major League Soccer’s more tech-savvy interns – the highlights team at Mothership HQ …

Photo Credit: Stephanie Romero

However it happened – corporate corner-cutting, a mass arrest of Major League Soccer’s more tech-savvy interns – the highlights team at Mothership HQ opted against splicing together (near as I can tell) even one condensed game this weekend. As such, I’m flying blind(er) with this weekend’s review (and I’m not sure I’m entirely against it; seriously, over-preparation is something people do). The biggest, more relevant caveat I can provide follows from there: I’ve only watched the highlights, checked the box scores and line-ups for all the games this week, then did some math to come up with everything down below. It’s better than guessing – by a fair stretch, I’d argue – but it’s not the ultimate dream, aka, total coverage. That said, even if the coverage isn’t total, everyone will be mentioned. To share a kind of user’s guide, when I use a phrase like “super-active,” what I really mean is, “he showed up all over the highlights.” Also, unless I make a clearly detailed point, assume I’m thinking “it looked like” in front of every sentence that describes a game-state of any kind.

For this week’s review, I decided to start with my hometown Portland Timbers, and not just to proselytize (though, by the earth beneath my feet, and the gods over my head, I will make Timbers fans out of as many people as possible). For anyone who hasn’t heard, the Timbers lost last Friday to the Vancouver Whitecaps all the way up in the very bottom of British Columbia. As noted in the write-up I posted to Conifers & Citrus, the Timbers turned a slow start all the way around, to the point where the ‘Caps couldn’t keep track of where the next punch would come from. Portland ended with the number of shots that one usually only sees in a rout (having reviewed every box score from this past weekend, I’ve got about 15 games’ worth of back to that argument,) only they never scored. 27 shots…27 wild-ass shots, apparently, but that box score provides a decent impression of the totality of that game.

If you take the time to read that post, I felt all right after Friday’s loss – disappointed, but, with Portland playing well over five of the last six games, and winning three of those in a row, all them away, I could still see a fairly clear path forward. With Providence Park still rushing to completion, the Timbers still having two games left to play on the road before returning home…to face Los Angeles FC (srsly? sh*t).

Staring down the cold-steel barrel of those two games – away to the Houston Dynamo, then away to the Philadelphia Union – made me feel like I’d read the script for Friday’s loss to Vancouver upside down. According to recent math, Houston and Philly away are just about two of the hardest road games available in MLS 2019, and then the Timbers face (per one opinion) MLS’s Manchester City in their first home game against LAFC. That’s the sharper clarity you miss by focusing too much on the present. Bottom line, the Timbers threw away its best chance to come out of their road trip with more than 10 points – and they did it while out-playing a team on the road and for 2/3 of the game. As a Timbers fan first, I’d much rather have 13 points right now than try to pry them out of their next three dips into your higher rings of Hell. The point is, you can’t always tell what a yesterday’s loss means until you look ahead to a tomorrow or two down the line.

To pull back and stare at the big picture, MLS Week (by a slim margin) 11 was a busy and fairly talkative mess. During a week where 1/3 of the league played two games, the league’s two, increasingly-clear heavyweights packed their dominance rituals into just one game – and they weren’t the only teams making noise…of whatever kind or sound (see the Colorado Rapids, and cry). Of the teams who played two games during Week 11, four of them more or less carried on in a meaningful direction (three of them, for sure, the fourth less so); and there are smaller trends to track even under all of that. I plan to touch on every team/game in MLS in this review (and we’ll see how I do), but I want to start in the most obvious place – i.e., with MLS two clear heavyweights.


Of Contenders (and Dark Horses)

When Los Angeles FC….more or less pounded Columbus Crew SC in Ohio this weekend, they very quietly slapped down any (or just my) talk of a slow-down. And, yes, Columbus hasn’t been great, but they’d just done a tidy dance atop LAFC’s inter(-ish)-city rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy, four days before, and that at least opened the floor to some questions. Watching the highlights cleared up at least the present confusion – especially with Carlos Vela looking like a player from another, better league – and then you see the soccer gods show their favor in such transparent, almost heartbreaking ways to anyone who hasn’t been a favorite child. It only gets worse when you see Mark-Anthony Kaye all over the highlights to boot. For those who haven’t checked, LAFC’s goal differential is, for this kind of league, off the charts.

That same factor – e.g., an eye-catching goal differential – sells me on Philly as well. LAFC’s differential is wider (29 gf, 8 ga versus 23 gf, 12 ga), but the Union’s still lives on a distant (small sample) planet from the rest of MLS with that +11 spread. After mopping the floor with the opposition at home over the past two games (not to mention padding that goal differential), the Union traveled Toronto FC, a reportedly tricky, definitely big venue, shivved the home team, and went home with all three points. From the highlights alone, the brightest spot I saw was them getting a solid ROI out of Kacper Przybylko. Better still (from Philly’s point of view), it looked like Philly smothered them all the way until they choked the game-opening goal out of them. At this point in the season, LAFC and Philly look like something like global gatekeepers, teams doing well (enough) in any venue.

Before I forget Columbus and TFC, one of them had a reasonable week (Columbus), while a disaster hit the other one (TFC). Defensible as it may be to get (numerically) played off the park by Atlanta in the Dirty South – TFC’s other, arguably worse loss over Week 12 – handling the Union at home was TFC’s real litmus test. While TFC played under the same profile in both games, the loss to Atlanta highlights the chilling, semi-unexpected hint at what’s eating TFC: they’re both dominating and dicking around with possession, and have the non-results to show for it. Not one shot on goal against Atlanta. The story is brighter in Columbus – Gyasi Zardes woke up (and that’s one hell of an assist), and they got half the points from Week 11 – but it feels notable all the same to see them play themselves into the space between the Galaxy and LAFC (as in, is that their level?). To get back to Atlanta, though…

While I think anyone with eyes can see that Atlanta’s enjoyed a bit of an upswing lately, I’m not sure everyone noticed that they’ve allowed just one goal in their last six games. Those same six games haven’t been the toughest stretch by any means – e.g., four games at home, and against some of MLS’s dimmer bulbs (at present! dream, guys!), the New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City away and the Colorado Rapids and, in their other game this weekend, Orlando City SC at home. In other words, those are games they should be winning. The point is, they are, Hector Villalba looked dangerous across both games, and Josef Martinez got two assists against TFC and, again, teams aren’t scoring against them.

Another team rising from the depths is New York City FC, who have lately mastered the art of turning Ds into Ws. NYCFC wrapped up their fourth win in five games all the way in Los Angeles, and they (again, from the looks of it) played pretty circles around the Galaxy. When people ask what makes a team better, it can be something unexpected as having a fullback like Anton Tinnerholm on the roster (who was involved in both goals). To wrap up the Galaxy, as cranked up as I’d be the goals they allowed against Columbus (i.e., up the gut), they have bigger fish to burn – e.g., that’s 3 straight losses, yes? On the plus side, losing to a surging NYCFC side at home isn’t the same as losing to a lot of teams right now.

That leaves only one dark horse in the stable, the Chicago Fire. To draw an arbitrary line, Chicago has allowed just five goals in its last seven games – and, to those wondering, I used that cut off to keep the math useful and to isolate the period where Chicago collected a helpful number of points. 3-2-2 might not win a team any titles, but it’ll probably get them to the playoffs – a reasonable step forward for a team like Chicago. More to the point, that defensive solidity (also, the formation is notable) has let them build the kind of reliable results that help give faith in a team – e.g., tight losses away to NYCFC and LAFC, and thrashings of teams they should thrash at home (e.g., Colorado, New England, and, this past weekend Minnesota United). With that defense clicking and Aleksandar Katai prowling, Nicolas Gaitan leading lethal counters across two games, and Frankowski’s incredible speed, I’m just saying that sleeping on Chicago suddenly looks like a bad idea.

An Interlude, The Maddening Tweener

Before moving on, there’s one fringe, deeply deceptive candidate who has very quietly improved its recent record: the New York Red Bulls, a team that has become hard to track precisely because it keeps losing some freaky-ass random games with stunning regularity. Now comes the fun: look at the line-ups the Red Bulls started in each of Week 11’s games. If I gave you a blind taste-test as to which of those line-ups lost in Harrison, NJ and which won in Frisco, TX, I’m something like 75% certain you’d get it wrong. The funnier thing is that the Red Bulls have now won three of their last four games, and they probably got unlucky against Montréal. While they’ve looked more like they used to in recent weeks (i.e., one- or two-touch passes and lots of movement, like this), the one thing that keeps me from rising them to the land of the living is the low numbers I keep seeing them produce. When you’re already at the margin, it doesn’t take much to knock you off the edge.

Should We Fire Our Coach? (Signs Point to Yes!)

Of the two teams who fired their coaches this week – FC Cincinnati and the New England Revolution – both of them won the game immediately after the defenestration. In Cincinnati’s case, the most visible change came from either shuffling around personnel or commitment to a new way of playing (NOTE: both could be valid; the second one is mine, the other one is more precise). The decision to put their foot on the ball a lot more in the post-Alan-Koch era paid off for FC Cincy, but I would also never call the Montréal Impact an easy read – not least because they aren’t all there. On the one hand, sure, if they translate that (now) 4-4-2 record to the end of the season, they’re deep in the playoffs. At the same time, none of what I saw around their win over RBNY nominated them for powerhouse (this was a gift, but not an egregious one), and, as noted in my longer write-up on their road loss to FC Cincy, they hardly graced Ohio with their presence. To close with Cincinnati, the concept looks good, but keep a lid on expectations till further notice (and may they come soon).

I know less about the Revolution, I mean besides the brutal (savage? war-crimes-esque?) divide between their evisceration on the road at Chicago and their eye-catching win over the San Jose Earthquakes. At the same time, the eye test might have some wrinkles in it. First, the Revs got pushed around a bit in every even loosely attacking metric except goals scored. On the one hand, it’s great they caught San Jose with their pants down, but can they build a season around it? Also, I didn’t make much of this in the paragraph above on Chicago, but, holy sh*t, the comedy of deeply-unfunny errors that end with Nemanja Nikolic scoring on the third gift the Revs gave him. They’re still terrible defensively, and that’s going to amount to a burden. That said, were I a New England fan, I’d draw comfort from seeing Mike Lapper re-imagine the team and get results. If pressed, I’d play Lapper’s XI against Brad Friedel’s last XI every day of the week.

Well, that’s it for everything I can fit into a topic. To close out the rest of the results I haven’t mentioned yet, the Colorado Rapids…reverse conjoured a loss at home to Real Salt Lake, one that included the tragic, immediately-caveated phrase right after the Rapids scored their (thoroughly decent) equalizer, “and how important can that one be?” Note how they hung the thought, waiting for the inevitable failure; Kei Kamara missing the PK only amplifies the case that this team is cursed. To go a little more global, Colorado ranks among a bunch of teams that I’ll never call decent until they utterly convince me. It’s going to take six weeks’ worth of wins before I take them seriously (or even just stop mercilessly measuring any result they get against something that debunks it). And, to use a handy example, RSL hangs from the same hook: sure, they’re in the playoffs at time of writing, but only by the grace of punching every convenient team that’s available to them.

To well and truly close out, I didn’t see anything that exonerates Minnesota’s loss to Chicago (if nothing else, you’re worried about Katai beating Ike Opara like that). I think…wait, crap! I forgot the late, late show – i.e., D.C. United’s narrow 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. My only thoughts there are, 1) feels like more of the same (e.g., an SKC loss); 2) Wayne Rooney serves up a mean set-piece; 3) most importantly, and as much as I try to avoid it (and I need a therapist for this), as much as I keep trying to dismiss D.C. United, they’re 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. If I can’t get as excited about D.C.’s three wins in their last four as I get in the Red Bulls, what good am I?

Finally, and I think this is the last one, the Seattle Sounders beat the Houston Dynamo at home 1-0 late on Saturday, and a second consecutive bomb from Cristian Roldan feels like the only surprise there. (Also, Alberth Elis should have done better with this one).


Please, God, let that be everything. Overall, I think it’s safe to argue that, until further notice, MLS has two clear contenders: LAFC and Philly. Some “hot” teams exist between them and the grasping pit below – e.g., Atlanta, NYCFC, (missed it, but) and DC; and maybe Chicago and the Red Bulls (all Eastern Conference teams…hmm) – but the rest probably feel stuck in a permanent loop of “how do we make things better, I mean without spending money?”

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Montréal Impact

After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact

Design: CSDIV

After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact. Interim head coach Yoann Damet now leads the team, and interestingly, he was an academy coach with the Montréal Impact for three years prior to joining FC Cincinnati in 2017.

The Orange & Blue have lost five straight matches and have not scored a goal in that timeframe. Their most recent disappointment was in San Jose where they suffered a 1-0 defeat despite having a man advantage for most of the second half.

Montréal arrives in the Queen City buzzing after a 2-1 midweek win over the Red Bulls in New Jersey. They were without star playmaker Ignacio Piatti and rotated their roster, but still won. As a result, they occupy third place in the Eastern Conference. Further, they are tied on points with the two leaders in the East, but a -3 goal differential leaves them in a lower position. Piatti will also miss the match against FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

Greg Garza, Corben Bone, and Alvas Powell are all listed as questionable for this contest, although Garza did return to practice this week. Kickoff is at 1 pm Eastern Time.

Fast Facts

  • FC Cincinnati is second in the league in aerial duels won, with 19.4 per game. Only the New York Red Bulls can boast a higher rate.
  • FC Cincinnati and Montréal Impact have the second and third worst shots per game averages in MLS. However, Montréal at 10.6 shots per game have scored 14 goals and FC Cincinnati, at 10.2 shots per game have netted only 8.
  • The Montreal Impact have scored twice as many goals from open play, 10, as FC Cincinnati have, 5, this season. FCC ranks last in the league in this category.
  • The Impact lead MLS in successful dribbles with 148. In comparison, FC Cincinnati are 15th with 102 total. Keep in mind that Montréal has played one additional game at this point in the season.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Montréal Insights

For some insights on this week’s opponent, we reached out to our friends in Montréal for perspective on FC Cincinnati’s new head coach, Yoann Damet and Saturday’s matchup.

Antony de Varennes, co-editor in chief of culturesoccer.com, shared the following on Damet’s philosophy as a coach.

“Yoann Damet is a coach that likes to be close to his players. He strongly believes that the human side of the players is as important as the tactical approach. On the pitch, he focuses on the players as a group and not as individuals as he thinks that a well-balanced group will enhance individual performance.”

For additional insights on Damet, check out the article below from Culture Soccer (you’ll need a browser translator if you don’t speak French).

Il était une fois Cincinnati E1 : Construire un effectif

Additionally, friend of the blog Hady Raphaël and co-editor in chief of culturesoccer.com, gave us some insights into Montréal’s squad rotation on Wednesday and who we might see line up on Saturday.


For Saturday, the lineup and formation all depends on our injured players. We had eight injured players on Wednesday, that’s why Garde changed his tactical system from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3.

If everybody’s healthy except Piatti, I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to our normal 4-3-3 (right to left):

Bush
Sagna-Diallo-Raitala-Lovitz
Azira-Piette-Taider
Novillo-Okwonkwo
Urruti

If we still have injuries we will keep our same tactical formation in 3-4-3 with Taider in the lineup for sure and I’m pretty sure we’ll see Sagna back in the lineup too.


Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Montréal Impact.

MLS Weekly, Week 10: The Rich Quantity of Data That Tells Us Who Sucks

With the arrival of MLS Week 10, fans of Major League Soccer finally have a body of current context to help them understand the results they’re seeing…

Credit: Rainclaw7 / License

I want to start this week’s post by correcting the record. If it wasn’t last week that I slagged off on the condensed games on the MLS App as a path to enlightenment, it was the week before. All it took to get me back into the fold was the decision to preview the state of the San Jose Earthquakes by watching their three games prior to this weekend’s (100%-guaranteed sleeping-meds) win over FC Cincinnati. A longer taste of what they’d done over that period shrank them a little. While it’s still true that the condensed games rob you of any and all sense of what happens in the middle of the – and that poop is vital (often) – they still deliver a larger sample of opportunities (by the attack) and failures (from the defense), and that’s more information in your head no matter how you slice it.

At any rate, watching all those condensed games gave me a better read on San Jose’s “revival,” which looks even less impressive still after suffering through 90 minutes of watching them pass circles around FC Cincy (for those who want more pain, see my extended notes). A handful of thoughts circle over the corpse of Cincinnati’s loss to the ‘Quakes – chief among them, that San Jose didn’t do much with all that time on the ball, and that Cincy could have stolen a point but for Daniel Vega’s right hand(?).

All the same, few things push back against any narrative about San Jose becoming a force quite as hard as the sub-text of all the results that built their eight-point haul from their last four games. For one thing, the streak started against a Sporting Kansas City squad that hasn’t won since the end of March. The road draw that followed came against a Seattle Sounders team that last won over a pair of squeakers at home against Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC; and the game before that saw them stymied by FC Dallas and Jesse Gonzalez’s right hand. The point isn’t to crap on all those results – eight points out of 12 is never bad, especially with two of the games on the road – but to put that narrow win over Cincinnati in the proper context of San Jose narrowly beating a team that has been pretty damn bad lately, and at Avaya Stadium.

The grander point I want to make is that, with the arrival of MLS Week 10, fans and observers of Major League Soccer finally have a body of current context to help them understand the results they’re seeing, Hallelujah. Just six teams in the league haven’t yet played 10 games, which means that 18 teams have, and that means we have data, guys!

As (the few) close observers of this space know, I used to compile all that stuff into the Form Guide ULTRA, the table of results (etc.) that I use to track results. That will show only the last 10 results for each team for the rest of 2019 going forward, but 10 games reaches back far enough into any given team’s history to establish a sense of their “form.” For reasons of timing and sanity, I’ve decided to post the Form Guide ULTRA later in the week (but here’s last week’s post for reference), but, with 10 games under the collective belts of 3/4 of MLS, the ground beneath my feet finally feels firm enough to allow for me to judge a slippery concept like form. With that context in the back of our minds, let’s talk about all the results from the past week and what they might actually mean.


I’ll start by writing off the games that didn’t really move the needle – which isn’t the same thing as calling the results meaningless. DC United’s 3-1 helping of hate over Columbus Crew SC files doesn’t budge the needle for the same reason as Cincinnati’s loss to San Jose – e.g., Ohio is in free-fall, y’all, as in both Ohio teams have lost their last five games. In other words, beating either Columbus or Cincinnati doesn’t matter until further notice. In their defense, both teams have played a bunch of recent games on the road – three of their last four for Columbus and four of their last five for Cincinnati – so maybe they’ll both turn things around upon arriving home. Against that, both teams have struggled with scoring all season; Columbus has scored only 9 goals, while Cincinnati has…oof, just eight. The horror deepens for Cincy after that, sadly, in that they haven’t scored in five whole damn weeks, leaving them at 0 goals scored, versus nine allowed. Columbus, meanwhile, has had…moments on the field, both offensively (and ruled offside) and offensively (huh, MLS was too ashamed to highlight it), and, this week at least, DC got some bounces. Still, five straight losses are what they are and, given the venues where each played this past weekend, and the circumstances under which they arrived, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that both Columbus and Cincinnati lost this past weekend.

The other predictable/meaningless results included Minnesota United FC’s 1-1 draw at Allianz versus Seattle and, to make the bigger stretch, Los Angeles FC’s goal-less draw in LA against the Chicago Fire. To start with the latter, I only watched the highlights and checked the box score – which showed what I expected (e.g., LAFC domination, and they came close) – but that happens; when Chicago turns the tables on LAFC at home, that’s news. With Seattle at Minnesota, it’s great to see Ike Opara get rewarded with a goal (and over Chad “F-ing” Marshall) after getting stoned twice against the Los Angeles Galaxy two weekends ago, but, even with Seattle’s Cristian Roldan answering back with a screamer/GOTW candidate (I have another favorite), the essential dynamic of this game looked the same coming out as it did going in – i.e., Minnesota is a good team that’s still a couple of steps behind perfect progress (though it was good to see them play well (enough) without Darwin Quintero Jr. out there), while Seattle is a strong team that has under-achieved enough lately to make it feel predictable.

The last game that files under “It Doesn’t Matter” was the Portland Timbers 2-1 road win over RSL. As discussed at length in my extended notes, by no means did Portland outplay Real Salt Lake; both their goals relied on a mixture of talent and divine intervention, but the general underlying trend held up: Portland has its formation and sense of self sorted out, while it’s entirely possible that RSL only got their two most recent wins by playing bad teams in good circumstances (or, in FC Cincy’s case, just circumstances). With that, we turn to the real stuff, the games that really might have mattered this past weekend. May as well start with the headline…

So, is the Philadelphia Union the sh*t, or did they just happen to line up against two sh*t teams over Week 10? Their week started Wednesday when they fairly outclassed FC Cincy – if only in the second half – and it ended with them absolutely steam-rolling the New England Revolution – if only after the 65th minute. If there’s one result to linger on, it’s the New England game: the Union coughed up a lot of quality chances for a game that ended 6-1, but they also put up literally crazy numbers against them (which, here, means 15 freakin’ shots on goal). Because it’s virtually impossible to understate how slackly the Revolution can defend (there are no words), I recommend eating a salt lick as you digest those goals, but the reality is that Philly does have talent, their young defenders look good when they should, and, no matter how crappy it is, Sergio Santos became the latest guy to score a goal for them. They’ve got a couple of biggies coming up – e.g., at Toronto and versus Seattle – and that should clarify things a bit.

After that, I assume that Atlanta United FC’s 3-0 demolition of SKC in KC will be the next biggest headline on the weekend. For what it’s worth, that’s not wholly unjustified. As I’ve noted for a few weeks, the Five Stripes have returned to posting last season’s numbers and what they did against SKC (again, in KC) can best be described as assault. If you get a chance to vote on goal of the week, or even MVP, just be honest and vote Ezequiel Barco who, on the back of Josef Martinez’s self-sacrifice, put on a clinic of shooting from distance. With Atlanta’s good works acknowledged, it is vitally important to return to the starting premise of this post: between injuries and a CCL hangover that feels like a spin into cirrhosis, Sporting Kansas City is easy pickin’s right now. We’re talking Ohio-level…

To shift the conversation to happier climes, things are going much better lately for both teams with “New York” in their names. First, the New York Red Bulls lent some credence to the idea that they’d only need one good week to get going when they beat the Galaxy 3-2 in Harrison, NJ – and that was a win they had to salvage to boot. New York City FC made the bigger splash by absolutely stuffing the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo – that’s to the tune of zero (0) shots on goal for the Quebecois. NYCFC is the bigger story, without question, not least because they’ve picked up 10 points from the last 12 available. And this is no home-field fluke, because they beat both Montreal and D.C. away and, in a solid follow-up to the games that came before it, they left L’Impact looking complacent and confused. Dome Torrent’s job looks fairly safe all the sudden. It’s harder to track what’s going on with the Red Bulls. For one, they looked far (far, far, far) better in the condensed game I watched tonight than they ever did against FC Cincinnati last weekend (see “far, far, far” for my extended notes). Part of that surely followed from the Galaxy trying to play a little (ahem!), and the thing to point out there is essential freakishness of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For what it’s worth, I think LA will become more like a normal team when he’s gone, but there’s no denying that he’s a real weapon in the here and now. In a break with precedent, his size didn’t define the kinds of goals he scored/set up on Saturday (and credit Diego Polenta for both entry passes), but that’s always a factor.

The bigger story is LA’s record on the road – well, that and the fact that they gave up two highly similar goals against the Red Bulls (no video, MLSsoccer.com, srsly?), and as close apart as the goals they scored. To wrap up the Red Bulls, we’ll see; the way they scored the game’s first goal after extended pressure on LA recalled the Red Bulls teams of the last two-three seasons, and that’s potentially huge. The deeper story/question is how much of that result followed from what will ultimately become the Galaxy’s home/road split – i.e., the Galaxy is perfect at home (6-0-0, while reportedly not playing that well), while being…somewhat less on the road (1-2-1 after yesterday). The Galaxy picked up their lone win against Vancouver, and before the ‘Caps settled on an identity, so that’s another candidate for an asterisk. The bigger question is what happens to the Houston Dynamo when they finally leave the snug confines of BBVA Compass Stadium (which truly rolls off the tongue, does it not?).

For as bad as they’re not doing, FC Dallas strikes me one of those mid-table teams that MLS allegedly does not have. By that I mean, they’re always a tough out, while also being fairly damn limited on the attacking side of the ball. I was about to reference their scoring to prove that point, but they’ve scored 15 on the season (even if four of those came against RSL), which puts them comfortably in the top half of the league. In that sense, Houston beating Dallas 2-1 could very well underscore how good Houston could be in 2019 (also, enjoy this goal by Mauro Manotas, who had two on the night, especially the build-up). Dallas doesn’t get a ton of offense outside of what comes through Bryan Acosta and, especially, Michael Barrios. If anything stands out in this game, it’s the box score – Dallas held the ball a lot – but Houston has the sharper edge, and maybe even the better defense. If they can take that on the road and work it, it might be time for everyone to party like it’s the mid-late-aughts.

All the above leaves only one question left to answer: who is the worst team in MLS? My notes on New England’s loss to Philly make a pretty good case for the Revolution, but the Colorado Rapids screamed out a pretty loud shot for the claim this week with a 2-3 home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. In spite of some serious snafus (very serious, I assure you), I’m still going to hand the crown to New England. If nothing else, the Rapids fought back more credibly – and, had Diego Rubio not gotten sent off for stupid, who knows what might have happened? – but the bigger reason has less to do with the final score-line than it does with how the Revolution’s issues felt global, while the Rapids’ felt more specific somehow, as if it kept going back to one player getting hung out by the scheme. On a simpler level, the Rapids at least tried to fix their issues by firing Anthony Hudson; back in New England, meanwhile, Brad Freidel still sits on the hot seat (and I don’t know what else they have to see before they accept that Friedel has lost all of that team).

To wrap up Vancouver (and, golly, I do hope that’s everyone), Lass Bangoura showed well in this game and the more that happens, the more threatening the ‘Caps look. That said, their concerns include giving up two legit penalty calls – i.e., that’s hardly the path to glory – but Colorado has to feel significantly, permanently worse about how badly Axel Sjoberg screwed up in this game.


All for this week. If all goes well, and nobody dies (it’s been an issue lately), I’ll be back with more next Monday.