When it rains, it pours for NYCFC
Since their humiliating 7-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls last month, Patrick Vieira’s men are still looking for a performance that can put them back to winning ways – and trying to find the formula they possessed earlier in the season, when they briefly stood top of the conference. How about a good run in the 103rd edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the oldest soccer tournament in America?
Enter the New York Cosmos, their local rivals.
Wednesday night’s game at Fordham University was a repeat of last year’s encounter when both teams met in the same round of 16. NYCFC lost that one on penalties, and this time around the Cosmos only needed regular time to score. Danny Szetela headed in the winner in the 88th minute to secure a 1-0 win for the North American Soccer League franchise. Vieira did admit at the end of the game he may have rested too many players as David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Josh Saunders, RJ Allen and Frank Lampard all sat out, but they still had a competent squad which included Kwadwo Poku, Patrick Mullins and Mix Diskerud.
“I gave some players a chance to perform, to show me they deserve to play more and they didn’t show it today,” Vieira said. “That’s why I’m quite really frustrated because the trust I had in them, I didn’t get it back. It’s difficult for me to accept.”
It doesn’t get easier for NYCFC: they host Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. A win against excellent opposition could put them back on a confident track and give them some momentum as they look ahead to another derby on 3 July. A loss, however, could make that slippery slope a tad steeper. LME
Toronto and LA bring the star quality
On paper, this fixture looks to have it all. Two teams filled with talent, technical ability, and an attractive philosophy facing off against each other, but if you look closer – in spite of their equal position in their respective conferences – they might as well be playing in different leagues. Toronto are a defensively strong team, having conceded just 15 goals on the season – only Colorado Rapids and Chicago Fire have allowed less.
This statistic, however, can be deceiving: the Canadians have struggled against Western Conference opposition, having accumulated four losses and just one win against teams from the best coast. There is no doubt that the Eastern Conference is nowhere near as strong as the West: sitting in fifth place can mean two different things on either side of the league.
Los Angeles are an offensive juggernaut, having scored 27 goals so far this season – the most in the league – and they’re not too shabby defensively, with just 16 goals conceded. I know what you’re thinking: “Hold on a minute – LA don’t have Zardes or Keane as they’re away on international duty. This is the perfect time for Toronto to capitalize!” True, but what if I were to tell you that neither player leads the team in goals or assists. That would be Giovani Dos Santos. Mexico’s loss is MLS’s gain: the Mexican international’s decision not to take part in Copa America has been a blessing for the Galaxy faithful.
Dos Santos will cherish the opportunity of being the main goal threat and target for Steven Gerrard, and it will be interesting to see how the visitors approach this game. TFC, of course, have a fit-again Sebastian Giovinco to unleash, and Toronto coach Greg Vanney is expecting big things from Gio and Gio.
“I don’t think they’re so dissimilar, their statures are not so far apart, they shift into pockets and get themselves on the turn, and they’re quick to get going forward before big centre-backs can get a hold of them, so they’re shifty in that way,” he said. Giovinco suffered an adductor strain against the Red Bulls, but should be ready for Saturday night.
Which Gio will come out on top? LME
All change at Houston as Wade Barrett makes his MLS bow
Before the international break, Houston were in a funk. The team were bottom in the West, couldn’t stop conceding goals, and Owen Coyle and the club had agreed a mutual parting of ways. But the club named former club stalwart Wade Barrett as interim coach on 7 June, and the players insist things are better already.
Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over San Antonio in the US Open Cup was Barrett’s first official game as the new coach, but he had been in unofficial charge for the better part of three weeks, leading his team to draws against Vancouver and Dallas after Coyle had been relieved of his duties. “Wade is still getting used to being the head coach. We’re still getting used to him,” Houston skipper DaMarcus Beasley said in the week. “Slowly but surely, we’re implementing the way he wants us to play. If we keep being positive and being confident in our group about how we can play football we’ll be fine.”
Should be expect a Houston team that is mean and miserly, after the flabby defending that characterised Coyle’s reign? Barrett insists not. “I want us to be difficult to play against,” said Barrett. “I don’t want anyone to misinterpret; I don’t want the team to go back to what we were when we won championships. I want us to be a newer, better version.” Prepare for Houston Dynamo 2.0.
DC United failed to go through in the US Open Cup, falling to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on penalties after a drab goalless draw. Ben Olsen lamented his side’s bad luck, but insisted he was happy with the performance of his largely experimental line-up. “The guys gave me everything they had on the day,” he said. “We didn’t finish some of our chances that were there, and then it goes to PKs and it’s a bit of a coin flip.”
DC have a terrible record in Houston – they’ve only won there once in 12 meetings all time in league and cup play – and they have injury problems: Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko are missing, and Alvaro Saborio missed Costa Rica’s 3-2 win over Colombia with a “muscle strain”, which could present a longer term problem for DC. Alhaji Kamara, the young Sierra Leone forward, scored a debut goal against Sporting KC a few weeks back, but played only nine minutes against Seattle and went scoreless on Wednesday. Can he step up? TH
High-flying Colorado host Chicago
To Colorado, where top plays bottom on Saturday night. The Rapids are perhaps this season’s surprise package, having lost just two of their 14 games so far this season and conceding just 10 goals – they’ve been impressive at both ends. Jermaine Jones is still out on Copa America duty, and Shkëlzen Gashi is trying to get Albania’s first goal (and point) in Euro 2016 play, but the Rapids should have enough to see off the struggling Fire.
Colorado warmed up for their first MLS game since 28 May with a narrow US Open Cup victory, avoiding a – cliche alert! – potential banana skin the Colorado Springs Switchbacks on Tuesday, thanks to Dillon Serna’s goal six minutes from the end. “I’m very excited for the season to get going again,” said Serna, who also was named man of the match. “The Open Cup game was a good opportunity for us to get a game under our belt before the (MLS) season started again. We’re looking forward to Saturday.”
And Marco Pappa is back, too. The Guatemala star injured his knee in April, and has missed a whole chunk of Colorado’s winning run, but he played 86 minutes against the Switchbacks, and is hungry for more. “So happy to be back, for sure, on the field and play some football,” Pappa said. “Happy to be back on the field and happy for result, too. So now it’s time to build my fitness and confidence again, but (Tuesday) is a big step for me.”
Chicago sneaked through to the last 16 of the US Open Cup on penalties, against Indy Eleven, and breathed a sigh of relief after David Accam slotted the last penalty. Chicago have missed their star attacker: the team have looked weaker without the Ghanaian, despite one or two impressive moments from Kennedy Igboananike: they’ve scored just 10 goals this season in 14 games.
Coach Veljko Paunovic is happy for Accam’s return. “In the break that we had he also improved his overall fitness, so we are very happy to have him back and that he is performing well,” he added. “But we still know that David has more to give, to take more leadership in the locker room and we are here to help him.” TH
Orlando stands together during San Jose game
In light of the tragic events affecting the city and its LGBTQ and its Hispanic community, Orlando City’s home game against San Jose Earthquake will commemorate the victims and their families after the horrific events of last Sunday morning. No doubt this fixture will be emotional, and the franchise wants to use this opportunity to give a thread of hope and optimism to its fans – and offer a sense of unity.
Aside from several acts of charity (donations to Orlando’s first responders and support services, proceeds to OneOrlando Fund) there will also be a 30-second moment of silence during the game. This is a first for Major League Soccer. In addition, a section of the stadium will be blocked and devoted to each victim.
On the soccer side of things, Orlando are coming back from a 20-day break due to Copa America. The time off turned out to be a crucial period for some players to rest and recharge their batteries, but they might still be without Kaka, who suffered a thigh injury while away with the Brazilian national team. Orlando City coach Adrian Heath said of his superstar: “I think Ricky’s struggling this weekend. Darwin [Cerén] was the one we were hopeful for. He’s out this morning and he’s running around, he’s OK. We’ll see if we get any reaction out of him.”
Before the break, City were on a four-game unbeaten streak and they will be looking to continue their form as they play an inconsistent San Jose unit. The Quakes are looking to bounce back from a 2-0 loss against Seattle in the US Open Cup on Tuesday night – but will have to do without star man Chris Wondolowski, currently warming the USA bench. LME
This article was written by Luis Miguel Echegaray and Tim Hill, for theguardian.com on Friday 17th June 2016 16.27 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010