Nicolás Lodeiro is the man to save Seattle Sounders' season; and Red Bulls fume

Uruguay midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro - Picture Supplied by Action Images

He had already made his Seattle Sounders bow by the time he took to the field to face Orlando City, but at the Citrus Bowl on Sunday evening Nicolás Lodeiro truly arrived.

There were glimpses of the Uruguayan’s capabilities against the LA Galaxy the week before, yet in central Florida he produced a showcase of his full range. This performance underlined how one exceptional player can elevate an entire team, and there is no doubt that Lodeiro is exceptional.

Clint Dempsey claimed the match ball, and the headlines, with a hat-trick in the 3-1 victory, but that was largely down to Lodeiro. Well, technically two of his three goals were down to Jordan Morris, but the performance of the sometimes maligned rookie was certainly down to Lodeiro. The Uruguayan’s position on the right side of Seattle’s front four freed up space for Morris, which he used to record four “big chances”, as Opta calls them, a record high for any MLS player this season.

Just a few days ago I wrote about how the signing of Lodeiro could see Dempsey strike up the kind of attacking partnership he enjoyed over the past couple of seasons with Obafemi Martins, but in truth the arrival of the former Ajax playmaker could have the biggest impact on Morris. Lodeiro’s creativity around the edge of the box has given the Sounders a new dimension, but his greatest quality is that he makes others around him better, none more so than Morris.

Statistically, it’s difficult to quantify just how important Lodeiro has already become to this Seattle team. While he notched not one assist or goal on Sunday, he made two secondary assists. Those contributions often go uncharted in soccer, but that doesn’t mean they are any less significant. In some cases they are the most important transition in an attacking move, and Lodeiro is excellent at producing them. He is the footballing equivalent of Jon Favreau’s character in Swingers – the guy behind the guy.

Seattle needed a result like the one they got against Orlando City. Their season has faltered before it ever really got going, winning just two of their last 12 league outings before Sunday’s game at the Citrus Bowl. Sigi Schmid paid for such dismal form with his job and now Lodeiro is doing his best to ensure the Sounders don’t concede their entire season. His signing could prove to be a watershed moment for the club, not just in the context of the 2016 seasons but in seasons to come too. GR

Marsch sees red as Red Bulls drop points on the road

Perhaps Jesse Marsch has a point after all.

The Red Bulls boss has had his problems with MLS officials this season. In his most recent stump against PRO, Marsch paid the price for suggesting officials make calls to protect ageing designated players. That pre-NYC FC rant worked in his favor en route to an impressive victory.

But the animated Marsch felt the wrath of the officials for his on-field critiques on Sunday night.

Marsch was ejected late in the Red Bulls-Galaxy 2-2 draw after referees failed to reward his team on not one, but two clearcut penalty chances. The uncalled penalty shouts, along with a string of physical tackles and outright injuries, drove the Red Bulls boss to his limit, resulting in his ejection just shy of extra time.

As he received his marching papers, an animated Marsch hugged fourth official Kevin Stott on his way to the locker room, clearly fuming from another frustrating road encounter.

It’s clear to see how the Red Bulls head coach reached that boiling point. He was forced to make three substitutions within the first 47 minutes – all due to injuries. First, it was Damien Perrinelle collapsing on a foul from Jeff Lawrentowicz. It was arguably a yellow card-worthy tackle but the Galaxy midfielder managed to leave that scrap with a simple foul – his only call of the game. Connor Lade was next, suffering a knee injury that required an ice wrap – and a towel to bite on for the pain. Rounding out the wounded, Bradley Wright-Phillips requested a sub just two minutes into the second.

That string of bad news did lead to some positivity. The oft-overlooked Gonzalo Verón got extended minutes at the pinnacle of the attack and made the best of his opportunity. A rainbow chip over Brian Rowe put his side up 1-0. Six minutes later, Sean Davis, in for the injured Dax McCarty, showed his class with his first-ever MLS goal, doubling New York’s lead.

But as has been the case for the Red Bulls this season, they were unable to close out the road result – only this time, it wasn’t entirely their fault.

Mike Magee cut New York’s lead in half with 10 minutes to go. Then, opportunity arose for New York. Brian Rowe fouled Alex Muyl in the box, challenging on a late ball. Despite the foul, no PK was given. Then, it was Verón getting tripped up by Rowe mere feet from head official Hilario Grejada. Again, no call. No PK.

But the ensuing goal from Ashley Cole is what set Marsch off. Had either of the previous calls gone New York’s way, the Red Bulls would have had a better chance to leave LA with a rare three points. Instead, Marsch and his men head back to Harrison feeling like they left two behind. DM

Fire in a hole as Open Cup beckons

While Saturday night marked another milestone for Nick Rimando’s career, let’s not forget: every away match without a win only further carves the Chicago Fire’s name into Major League Soccer’s history books.

The Fire’s 3-1 loss against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto not only furthered their unenviable position as the worst team in Major League Soccer, but it also extended their winless run on the road to 36 matches – a record that dates all the way back to 12 July 2014 (a 1-0 win over the Revolution).

That is an unbelievable number when you think about it. The streak spans three MLS seasons, three calendar years, three Chicago Fire coaches and a total of 747 days. In fact, the last time the Fire tasted victory on the road, Ellen Degeneres introduced Oscar-watching baby boomers to the magic of a selfie and Justin Bieber earned his troubled child-star badge with an arrest for DUI – with a tabloid tickling mugshot to boot!

Never mind that the Fire are coming off of an impressive 2-2 draw at home against the highly touted New York Red Bulls or the fact that they have actually been competitive in most matches this year. Saturday’s match was a chance to end that streak for good.

Instead, the Fire seemed content to go through the motions, happy to wrap up another pointless road trip in order to prepare for their vital US Open Cup semi-final match against the Revolution on Tuesday.

And can you blame them? It isn’t like the MLS regular season will produce any kind of glory for this beaten-down bunch. As odd as it seems, this Fire team was looking past RSL – and all the proof you need came in the first goal. A flatfooted Fire backline watched on as a slow-rolling 25-yard shot from Olmes García skipped past the defense, beating a slow-to-react Matt Lampson to open the scoring.

A boneheaded PK made it 2-0 within the first 30 minutes. By the start of the second half, David Accam and Michael de Leeuw were pulled out of the match, with Tuesday on the mind. Arturo Álvarez’s 58th-minute goal breathed life into the bunch, but it was a fleeting moment. Nick Rimando made sure of that.

Paunovic’s initial insertion of Accam and De Leeuw to the starting XI signaled a competitive tone to this encounter, but the team’s response told another story. By the end of the 90, Chicago added another blemish to their already unsightly record.

But this time, there was no question about their motivation. As if their 4-11-6 record wasn’t indicator enough, this Saturday’s performance proves where Chicago’s priorities lie: it’s US Open Cup or bust. DM

Nick Rimando is the unheralded great of his goalkeeping generation

There are theories that attempt to explain why the USA is so prolific at producing exceptional goalkeepers, but regardless of how they are made there is no doubting the quality of the country’s shot-stoppers over the past decade or so. There was Kasey Keller, then Tim Howard, then Brad Guzan, all with a background in Major League Soccer. Nick Rimando, however, is the unheralded great of the contingent.

Of course, North American soccer fans are familiar with the brilliance of the Real Salt Lake keeper, but having played his entire career in the States the 37-year-old seems doomed to never receive the credit he truly deserves. Maybe that will change now he’s a record-breaker, with Rimando picking up his 181st MLS win against the Chicago Fire on Saturday. No player in league history has won that many games.

The RSL number one was already number one in terms of MLS shutouts (126) and has now made more starting appearances and played more minutes than anyone else in the North American top flight, with Rimando surely now running out of space on his walls for another framed record. He is a bona fide legend of the league.

“You don’t achieve that record by doing one thing,” gushed Jeff Cassar after the win over Chicago. “It’s many things. It’s being a leader. It’s being unbelievable at your craft. He’s come up big so many times for this club in moments when it’s shootouts and big saves. He’s a leader in the way he approaches the game and he’s just gotten better and better.”

Rather bizarrely, Rimando has never picked up the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year honour, but he is MLS’s goalkeeper of the decade following stints with the Miami Fusion, DC United and of course Real Salt Lake. At just 5ft 10in he is somewhat short for a goalkeeper, particularly in the modern age, but he more than makes up for that in terms of reflexes, presence and experience. He is an anomaly in many ways, but a gloriously consistent one.

With just three more outings Rimando will tie the record for the most MLS appearances in total, with the 37-year-old needing 45 more saves to claim the record in that column as well. Some claim MLS lacks enough strong figureheads and icons to build narrative from, but they don’t come much more iconic than Rimando. GR

Kei Kamara and New England Revolution a less than perfect match

It should have been the perfect signing for the New England Revolution. With Jay Heaps in need of a frontman to lead his attacking line, he couldn’t have found a better candidate than Kei Kamara to perform that role. What’s more, they signed him for nothing more than targeted and allocation money of just over $300,000, opportunistically capitalising on a turbulent situation at the Columbus Crew. The theory behind the move hasn’t quite matched up with the reality, though.

Indeed, Kamara hasn’t had the impact that was predicted of him for the Revolution. Saturday’s 4-1 defeat to Toronto FC was something of a nadir in New England’s season, and while the loss certainly couldn’t be attributed to the striker there was little to suggest Kamara is any closer to being the player his team so badly needs him to be.

Kamara’s scoring record since joining from Columbus isn’t the worst, although four goals from 12 games isn’t the mark of the league’s most dangerous frontman. The issue with the Sierra Leone international at the Revs is more of a stylistic one. He has become something of a misfit at his new club, with New England reluctant to play quickly through the lines of transition as the Crew did so effectively last season.

While Columbus would cross it into the box early, allowing Kamara to attack the ball without breaking his stride on the run, the Revolution are more likely to delay their delivery, with the Sierra Leone striker not as effective from a standing start. Heaps’s side simply aren’t playing to Kamara’s strengths and that is detrimental to everyone involved. The 31-year-old is among the league’s best at attacking crosses, getting in between the opposition defense, causing general mayhem in the attacking third. The Revs, however, aren’t allowing him to do that.

New England, in fact, become a more predictable, one-dimensional outfit since the signing of the forward from Columbus three months ago. Against TFC at BMO Field that was exposed, with Sebastian Giovinco netting his second hat-trick in his last four outings as the Revs fell way short of the required standard. The Italian edged out Kamara for last season’s MVP award, but the two players have enjoyed differing fortunes since. That contrast was clear for all to see on Saturday. GR

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Graham Ruthven and Dave Martinez, for theguardian.com on Monday 8th August 2016 13.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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