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This Week in MLS – April 12, 2016

This Week in MLS – April 12, 2016
  • Action-packed week highlighted by elite Western Conference showdowns
  • From Plano to Santo Domingo, FC Dallas’ penchant for young talent sets the bar 
  • Week 6 AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 7 Game Previews
Action-packed week highlighted by elite Western Conference showdowns
This week’s slate of games gives fans an extra day of exciting soccer action, as a trio of midweek matches kickoff Week 7 of MLS play on Wednesday. A rematch of last season’s Western Conference final highlights the midweek action when FC Dallas travels to Providence Park to take on defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE). FC Dallas will have revenge on their mind as they return to the site of their disheartening 3-1 loss in the first leg of the 2015 Western Conference final – a deficit they were unable to climb back from. Dallas will hope to have midfield maestro Mauro Diaz back from injury to lead the club’s young international contingent against a Portland side coming off an encouraging 1-1 road draw at LA Galaxy. All-time club leading goal scorer and Nigerian international Fanendo Adi notched his fourth goal of the season in SoCal which ties him for the league lead (Watch Goal). 
Viernes de Futbol play resumes when LA Galaxy hits the road to take on the Houston Dynamo in a nationally televised match at BBVA Compass Stadium (7 p.m. ET, UniMás). LA comes into the match powered by a stingy defense, but will certainly be tested by a league-leading Dynamo attack which has notched 12 goals through five games. Steered by forward Giles Barnes, whose strong performance on the season continued with last week’s unbelievable no-look goal against Seattle Sounders FC (Watch Golazo), fireworks are sure to be in store when the familiar MLS Cup foes meet.   
Following a full day of games on Saturday, a pair of MLS Soccer Sunday matches are in store, as the New England Revolution hopes to continue its recent run of positive performances against Orlando City SC at the always rocking Citrus Bowl (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). Recent signing Julio Baptista is expected to have a more involved role as he comes into fitness for Orlando’s attack after making his team debut in the final moments of last week’s game against Philadelphia. The veteran Brazilian international joins Orlando after spells with some of Europe’s most storied clubs, including Real Madrid, Arsenal and Roma.
Another Western Conference heavyweight battle caps off MLS Soccer Sunday action when league-leaders Sporting Kansas City faces FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX (7 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes). Midfielder Benny Feilhaber scored in his second consecutive match last week and hopes to continue the streak to help keep Sporting KC’s position atop the Supporters’ Shield standings in a Wednesday contest against the Colorado Rapids before Sunday’s clash at Dallas (Watch Goal).
From Plano to Santo Domingo, FC Dallas’ penchant for young talent sets the bar 
After last season’s Western Conference final run with a roster featuring a large contingent of young internationals and top-flight academy products, FC Dallas looks like a team positioned to stay atop MLS for years to come. FC Dallas has been incredibly successful in striking the balance between attracting young internationals and developing homegrown talent, and no two players better represent the team’s approach than a pair of 20-year old midfielders with international experience in Homegrown Player Kellyn Acosta and Ecuadorian Carlos Gruezo.
With FC Dallas leading the league in minutes played by Homegrown Players with 965 this season (Dallas led MLS in 2015 with 6,733 total minutes), the club’s model for a successful youth academy continues to set the bar. Acosta is among the group of talented Homegrown Players already making their mark, as the defender/midfielder’s breakthrough season last year earned him a look from Jurgen Klinsmann and a call up to the U.S. Men’s National Team. Already in 2016, Acosta registered his first two career caps for the senior national team while also representing the U.S. U-23s in Olympic qualifiers. The Plano, TX native’s ambitions extend beyond the pitch, however, as Acosta is currently studying to receive his degree in business and sports management.
Complementing Acosta in the midfield is Gruezo, who arrived as an offseason Designated Player signing from Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart. Gruezo is among an electric group of burgeoning South American stars making FC Dallas among the youngest in the league with an average age just over 24 years old. The speedy midfielder was the fourth-youngest player at the 2014 World Cup where he started for his native Ecuador at just 19 years old. Gruezo, whose father played professionally and represented Ecuador at the national level, made history as the first Ecuadorian to score in the Bundesliga last year. With six starts under his belt in MLS, FC Dallas can expect years of dynamic play in addition to Gruezo’s already illustrious career.
Although Acosta and Gruezo may come from two very different backgrounds, they have been able to form a strong central midfield that will only improve and mature with age. Whether scouting players a continent away or in its own backyard, FC Dallas has shown a penchant for recognizing and developing young talent, a skill that gives the Cup contenders an undeniable competitive edge.
AT&T Goal of the Week (Week 6) – CLICK HERE to vote
  • Tranquillo Barnetta (PHI) World class free kick sneaks into top right corner of goal, freezes goalkeeper Joe Bendik
  • Chris Wondolowski (SJ) MLS goal leader draws out goalkeeper Chris Seitz and sends left-footed blast into goal
  • Benny Feilhaber (SKC) Sends one-timer toward far post past diving goalkeeper Luis Robles
  • Kellyn Rowe (NE) Headed home a curling cross towards far post for first goal of the season 
  • Giles Barnes (HOU) Volleys home right-footed arching shot over unsuspecting Stefan Frei
  • Dom Dwyer (SKC) Breaks free past defender with smooth spin move and scores third goal of the season
  • Alberto Quintero (SJ) Bangs volley shot from just inside box past a diving Chris Seitz with early goal
  • Adrian Winter (ORL) Outclasses defender with little chip pass to self before capitalizing with shot towards far post
Check It Out
"It doesn't surprise me at all. He works hard every day and has quality in his game. Now he's on a roll and I think every time he comes to the stadium, he believes he's going to score. That's a really great feeling to have on your team."
Real Salt Lake defender Kyle Beckerman on teammate Jaoa Plata, whose league-leading fourth goal of the season proved to be the game-winning score
"When it came down to crunch time it kind of had a feel of a playoff game and you had the feeling it would be a grind. We were all tired but we were pushing for the goal and Tranquillo had a very classy finish."
Philadelphia Union forward C.J. Sapong on his team’s 2-1 victory over Orlando City SC on Friday night.
“They were probably unlucky not to get more than one. We gave them way too much space in midfield to play. In the second half, we did a much better job of pinning down their space. Our movement was quicker and better. We took the game to them.”
Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid on the team’s stoppage time goal to salvage a 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo on Sunday
“To score on headers, we worked on it. We watched video. To hurt them at their game was something that made me happy. We played a good team that hasn’t found their step yet. As far as I’m concerned, at the end of the year, they’re going to be pushing as one of the top teams. They haven’t found their step — and I’m happy we didn’t let them.”
Montreal Impact coach Mauro Biello on the Impact’s 2-0 victory over a struggling Columbus Crew SC on Saturday
"It's important that we can show that mentality, but honestly we don't even want to be in that position where we're down at home. We feel like we should be beating every team at home. We think we're good enough to do that, so there's a little bit of disappointment still."
FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele on his team’s comeback to salvage a 2-2 draw at home against San Jose Earthquakes
Sweet Tweets
Tommy Thompson (@tomthom11): Hard-fought point on the road. Looking forward to being back at Avaya on Wednesday
Dominic Oduro (@Freakyfast8): Hair style for the game... Oh no my head is on fire  #GameDay #IMFC  
Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore): Great effort from the boys tonight. Hard fought point. Happy to be back in the team! #TFC
Andrea Pirlo (@Pirlo_official): It's always an amazing sensation!!  #yankeestadium #pirlostyle @NYCFC
Week 7 Game Previews
Wednesday, April 13
Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids, 8:30 p.m.
  • Benny Feilhaber scored for a second consecutive match as Sporting Kansas City became the first team to reach four wins in MLS this season with their 2-0 victory against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena.
  • The Rapids had their three-game undefeated run put to an end with a 1-0 Rocky Mountain Cup loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Both of the Rapids’ defeats have come by 1-0 scorelines this season; their two wins have also been by 1-0 results.
  • The Rapids have won the last two meetings between the teams – both ending long winless streak. Colorado’s 2-0 victory last Oct. 21 in the final meeting at Sporting Park was their first win in Kansas City since 2002, a 2-1 win at Arrowhead Stadium. After that, Kansas City went 9-0-4 at home vs. Colorado before the win in the last meeting.
  • The Rapids ended a nine-game winless streak against Sporting with their 2-1 win Aug. 29 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. After the previous Colorado victory, March 28, 2009 in Commerce City, KC was 4-0-5 vs. Colorado.
Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas, 10:30 p.m.
  • The Timbers had their winless run extended to four matches when a late own goal gave the LA Galaxy a 1-1 draw Sunday evening at StubHub Center. Fanendo Adi netted his fourth goal of the season, tied for the lead in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
  • Tesho Akindele scored for a second consecutive match as FC Dallas ran their undefeated streak to four games with a second successive draw, a 2-2 result with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday evening at Toyota Stadium.
  • The teams split their two league meetings a year ago, the Timbers winning 3-1 on April 4 at Providence Park, then FC Dallas winning 4-1 on July 25 at Toyota Stadium, snapping a three-game winless streak in the series. FC Dallas have never won at Providence Park, the Timbers winning four of the six league meetings there with two draws; the Timbers have won once in six visits all-time to Frisco.
  • The teams also met in the Western Conference Championship last year. The Timbers claimed a 3-1 win at Providence Park in the first leg, before the teams reached a 2-2 draw in the return match at Toyota Stadium as the Timbers advanced to MLS Cup for the first time.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. New York Red Bulls, 10:30 p.m.
  • Chris Wondolowski scored his fourth goal in the five matches this season as the Quakes reached a second consecutive draw in a 2-2 result with FC Dallas on Saturday evening in Frisco, Texas.
  • The Red Bulls suffered their fourth loss in five matches this season – all by shutout – after their 2-0 defeat by Sporting Kansas City on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena.
  • The Red Bulls won the lone meeting between the teams last year, a 2-0 win April 17 at Red Bull Arena, their first victory against the Earthquakes since the 2011 season. The Quakes won one of the four meetings in between, a 2-1 win in 2013 at Buck Shaw Stadium, with three draws.
  • New York last won at San Jose in 2003, a 2-0 MetroStars victory at Spartan Stadium. The Quakes have won five of the eight home games since vs. New York, with three draws.
  • The Quakes have not won at New York since 2005. Since San Jose’s return to MLS, the Red Bulls have won five home encounters with the Quakes, with two draws.
Friday, April 15
Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy, 7 p.m. (UNI)
  • The Dynamo snapped a two-game losing slide but saw victory snatched away at the death, Seattle Sounders FC hitting for the equalizer with the final kick of the game to leave the teams in a 1-1 draw Sunday evening at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The Galaxy extended their undefeated run to three games with a second consecutive draw, reaching a 1-1 result with the Portland Timbers on Sunday evening at StubHub Center, thanks to late own goal.
  • The teams evenly split their three meetings last season. The Galaxy won 1-0 at StubHub Center on May 22, the Dynamo won 3-0 on July 25 at BBVA Compass Stadium; the teams also reached a 1-1 draw March 21 in Carson.
  • The May 22 at StubHub Center was the Galaxy’s first league victory against the Dynamo since May 25, 2011, a 1-0 win in Carson, ending a five-game league winless run in the series. The Dynamo had won four consecutive league meetings between the teams before the draw last year.
  • The teams met in three MLS Cups over a four-year period, the Galaxy winning all three, in 2009, 2011 and 2012, all in Carson.
Saturday, April 16
Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact, 5 p.m.
  • The Fire recorded a third consecutive shutout and extended their undefeated streak to four games with their scoreless draw Sunday with New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. The Fire and goalkeeper Matt Lampson have not conceded a goal for 356 minutes, the second-longest shutout streak in club history (longest: 395 minutes in 2009).
  • The Impact snapped a two-game losing run and moved back atop the Eastern Conference with their 2-0 win against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday afternoon at Olympic Stadium.
  • The visiting team has never won in the series. The Fire won last May 30 in the only meeting at Toyota Park, their first home win vs. the Impact since 2013 and snapping an overall four-game winless streak in the series.
  • The Impact won both meetings last year at Stade Saputo, a 4-3 win on Sept. 5 and a 2-1 win Sept. 23. They have won the last three meetings in Montréal.
D.C. United vs. Toronto FC, 7 p.m.
  • Álvaro Sabório scored a pair of goals – the 14th multiple-goal game of his MLS career, tied for 10th all-time in league history – as D.C. United exploded for a 4-0 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday at RFK Stadium, their first victory of the season. Fabian Espíndola also scored two goals – his eighth career multi-goal game – while Luciano Acosta recorded his first two MLS assists.
  • Toronto FC snapped a two-game losing skid but saw their winless run stretched to four matches as their season-opening road swing continued with a 1-1 draw at the New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
  • TFC has come away with points on three of their last four trips to RFK Stadium, with a 2-1 victory last June 6 at RFK Stadium in the only meeting between the teams in Washington, D.C.
  • United have taken points on six of their last eight trips to BMO Field since 2010, with five victories, including a scoreless draw in their only visit there last year on June 27.
Columbus Crew SC vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.
  • Crew SC remained winless to start the 2016 season, falling for the third time in five matches in a 2-0 loss to the Montréal Impact on Saturday afternoon at Olympic Stadium.
  • New York City FC had their winless streak extended to four games – with a third draw in that time – following their goalless result with the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
  • The teams met twice in NYCFC’s first MLS season. They reached a 2-2 draw Aug. 19 at Mapfre Stadium, then Crew SC claimed a 2-1 victory 10 days later at Yankee Stadium.
Colorado Rapids vs. New York Red Bulls, 9 p.m.
  • The Rapids have allowed just three goals in their five games this season, following their 1-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake over the weekend – tied for the fewest in MLS this season (also: Sporting KC). The Rapids have also scored just three goals this season, tied for the fewest in the league (also: Columbus Crew SC).
  • The Red Bulls were shut out for a fourth time in five games in their 2-0 home loss to Sporting KC at the weekend. The Red Bulls were shut out twice in 34 games on their way to the Supporters’ Shield in 2015.
  • The teams have played to draws each of the last two seasons in their only meetings, both coming at Red Bull Arena. The Rapids won 2-0 in the last meeting at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, on July 4, 2013. The last Red Bulls victory in the series came in 2012, a 4-1 at Red Bull Arena.
  • The Red Bulls haven’t won in Colorado since 2007. The Rapids have won four of the five home meetings since, with one draw.
  • The Rapids have never won at Red Bull Arena. Their last away win in the series came in 2009, a 3-2 victory at Giants Stadium; the Red Bulls have won two of the five meetings at home since, with three draws.
Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 10 p.m.
  • Joao Plata continued his hot streak and Real Salt Lake remained undefeated to start the season, winning for a second consecutive match and third time in five games with their 1-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. Plata scored his fourth goal of the season; he has been involved in seven of RSL’s nine goals this season (also with three assists).
  • Whitecaps FC equaled their MLS club record, allowing four goals in a 4-0 defeat by D.C. United on Saturday afternoon at RFK Stadium. It was the fifth time they’d conceded four goals in an MLS game – once previously also against United (in 2011).
  • Whitecaps FC have won the last four meetings between the teams – including all three meetings last season – and have not lost to RSL since 2013. The ‘Caps have won the last three meetings at BC Place, including a 2-1 win last May 30 and a 4-0 victory last Aug. 8.
  • Vancouver’s 1-0 win last April 18 was its first ever at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real had won three of the first six home matches in the series, with three draws. The only previous victory by a road team in the all-time series came in 2013, a 1-0 Real victory at BC Place.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Philadelphia Union, 10 p.m.
  • Chad Marshall scored his first goal in nearly two years, since May 3, 2014, literally with the final kick of the game to give Sounders FC a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo on Sunday afternoon.
  • Union won their third match in the last four outings, Tranquillo Barnetta hitting a dramatic free kick winner in the 90th minute for a 2-1 win Friday evening at Talen Energy Stadium.
  • Sounders FC have won the last two meetings between the teams at CenturyLink Field, including a 2-1 win May 3, 2014 in the only encounter between the clubs that season.
  • Union have never lost to Sounders FC at PPL Park. After a 3-1 Philadelphia win vs. Seattle in the grand opening of the new stadium in 2010, the teams played to draws in their next two meetings in Chester, before Union claimed a 1-0 win last June 24 in the only meeting between the clubs.
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m.
  • Diego Valeri collected an assist for a second consecutive match, his first two assists this season, setting up the Timbers goal in their 1-1 draw Sunday with the LA Galaxy.
  • Quincy Amarikwa assisted on both Quakes goals in their 2-2 draw with FC Dallas over the weekend, now with three assists for the season, sitting in second place in the league assist standings (Mauro Diaz of FC Dallas has four). Amarikwa was been involved in four of San Jose’s first seven goals this season.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa netted first-half goals to lead the Quakes to a 2-1 win March 13 at Avaya Stadium, their first victory in the series since 2013, snapping a five-game winless streak.
  • The Timbers have won four of seven meetings between the teams in Portland, with three draws, including a 1-0 win last July 5 at Providence Park in the only meeting there. The Timbers’ 2-1 victory Oct. 4, 2014 in Santa Clara was the first by a visiting team in the all-time league series.
Sunday, April 17
Orlando City SC vs. New England Revolution, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN1)
  • Adrian Winter netted his second goal of the season, but Orlando City SC suffered their first defeat of the campaign, falling 2-1 to Philadelphia Union on Friday evening at Talen Energy Stadium.
  • The Revolution ran their undefeated streak to two games with a fourth draw in six outings this year, reaching a 1-1 result with Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
  • The teams met twice during Orlando City’s inaugural MLS season. They reached a 2-2 draw May 8 at the Citrus Bowl in the first meeting, then the Revolution claimed a 3-0 victory Sept. 5 at Gillette Stadium.
FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. (FS1)
  • Dom Dwyer collected his third goal of the season as well as his second assist in Sporting’s 2-0 win against the New York Red Bulls over the weekend. Dwyer has been involved in five of SKC’s seven goals this season.
  • FC Dallas extended their home undefeated streak in league play to nine matches in their 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes over the weekend. It’s the fifth-longest home undefeated run in club history, the longest since the club-record 14-game streak in 2012-13.
  • Sporting KC won the final two meetings between the teams last season, both at Sporting Park, a 4-0 win on May 29 and a 3-1 win Sept. 18. They were the first two victories for KC in the series since 2012, when Sporting won 2-1 in Kansas City.
  • FC Dallas won 3-1 on March 14 of last year in the only encounter at Toyota Stadium, their first victory in the series since Aug. 27, 2011, a 3-2 triumph at Sporting Park.