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This Week in MLS – June 13, 2016

This Week in MLS – June 13, 2016
  • Dempsey hits 51 int’l goals, leads U.S. to Copa America Centenario quarterfinals
  • Three MLS players see action in first week of Euro 2016 play
  • MLS is back! Action resumes this weekend after Copa America Centenario break
  • MLS clubs begin U.S. Open Cup play with CONCACAF Champions League berth on the line
  • Voting Update: 2016 All-Star Fan XI leaderboard filled with star power
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 15 Game Previews
Copa America Centenario Roundup
The excitement of the Copa America Centenario has swept every corner of the country over the past week and MLS stars have played integral roles in helping their respective teams to positive performances throughout the historic tournament. Overall, 12 MLS players have advanced to the quarterfinals, a number that could rise to 15 if Panama defeats Chile on tonight.
Dempsey hits 51 int’l goals, leads U.S. to Copa America Centenario quarterfinals
After advancing to the Copa America quarterfinals, a homecoming of epic proportions is now set as Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey returns home to Seattle to lead the U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Ecuador at CenturyLink Field on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1, UniMás, UDN). A tour de force for the U.S., Dempsey is currently tied for second in total goals scored in the tournament with two (one behind Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho), while also joining U.S. Soccer’s 50-goal club along the way, now just six behind all-time leader Landon Donovan. Dempsey has been productive at home in Seattle, scoring 16 career regular season goals in 37 games played at CenturyLink Field – a place where the U.S. Men’s National Team has won all five of its games played there dating back to 2003.
But it’s not just Dempsey who has been vital to the U.S.’s success in Copa America. Four MLS players - Dempsey, Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) and Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) – have started every group stage match, while four MLS players have featured off the bench, including goal scorer Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) and Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers).
Ecuador is a familiar foe, having last matched up against the U.S. on May 25 at Toyota Stadium, a game in which exciting young attacker Nagbe notched his first career international goal.
FC Dallas Midfielder Carlos Gruezo Helps Ecuador to Quarters to face U.S.
FC Dallas and Ecuador’s starting defensive midfielder, Carlos Gruezo helped his squad to a second-place finish in Group B this week, starting all three group stage matches and logging 259 out of 270 minutes which rank in the top 10 for midfielders in this tournament. The 21-year-old has proven extremely adept at using his physical style of play to shut down attacking units in MLS and in international play alike. Fans will surely look to see if Gruezo’s familiarity with the 10 active MLS players on the U.S. roster can give Ecuador the upper hand in the upcoming quarterfinals clash.
MLS trio prepared to lead Panama to first-ever quarterfinal appearance in Copa America
One of the bigger surprises of the tournament, Panama can clinch a spot in the quarterfinals with a victory over Chile on Tuesday, June 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET, FS1/UniMás/UDN). Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Blas Perez once again proved why he is one of the premiere playmakers in CONCACAF, scoring a brace in Panama’s 2-1 victory over Bolivia on June 6, the first Copa America victory in the country’s history and brining Perez within one goal of the nation’s all-time scoring record. With an attacking unit composed of three MLS players in Perez, and San Jose Earthquakes midfielders Anibal Godoy and Alberto Quintero, Panama hopes to extend its stay in Copa America and will once again rely on the trio’s ability to make big-time athletic and aggressive plays on the international stage. If Panama can defeat Chile without Perez and Godoy who are suspended because of yellow cards, Panama could further surprise in Copa play.  
Three MLS players see action in first week of Euro 2016 play
Across the Atlantic Ocean, a trio of MLSers are playing important roles for their national teams in Euro 2016 play. Colorado Rapids forward Shkëlzen Gashi was subbed on in the 82nd minute in Albania’s narrow 1-0 defeat to Switzerland, the country Gashi was born and represented nationally at the youth level. Albania looks to make history in its first ever appearance at Euros when taking on host nation France on Wednesday, June 15 at Stade Velodrome in Marseille (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Ireland’s all-time leading scorer and team captain, LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane subbed on in the 78th minute of a 1-1 draw against Sweden on Monday. With an extra few day’s rest to recover from a training camp injury, Keane is expected to play a larger role in Ireland’s next match against Belgium on Saturday, June 18 at Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France (9 a.m. ET, ESPN). A prolific scorer for both club and country, Keane will square off against Montreal Impact defender Laurent Ciman who started and played 75 minutes in Belgium’s 2-0 opening loss to Italy on Monday. The two will likely battle for position all day in a match that could ultimately decide which team advances out of what is being considered “the group of death” at Euro 2016.
MLS is back! Action resumes this weekend after Copa America Centenario break
After two weeks without MLS action due to the opening stages of the Copa America Centenario, MLS returns to play this weekend with all 20 teams appearing in an action-packed slate of matches. A pair of MLS Soccer Sunday matchups cap what is sure to be a thrilling return to the pitch when Seattle Sounders FC visit the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena for the weekend finale on Sunday, June 19 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes). With Clint Dempsey out for Seattle while on international duty, Sounders FC looks towards Cristian Roldan to provide a solid boost to the attack. A young and creative midfielder on the ball, the 21-year-old Roldan played a full 90 minutes in Seattle’s 2-0 victory over D.C. United on June 1 and has nearly equaled his total number of starts from his rookie 2015 season already. Roldan will have his hands full, however, against a red hot New York squad that has won three consecutive shutout matches by a combined 11-0 margin. The Red Bulls now sits in second place in the Eastern Conference standings (19 points, 6-7-1 record).  
Sporting Kansas City hosts FC Dallas at Children’s Mercy Park in the first of the MLS Soccer Sunday contests (5 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). Both teams will rely on young promising players to step up in the likely absence of regular starters currently playing in Copa America, with Carlos Gruezo (Ecuador) unavailable for FC Dallas, and Matt Besler and Graham Zusi (United States) for Sporting Kansas City. Midfielder Kellyn Acosta has split defensive midfielder duties with Gruezo this season for FC Dallas, with his solid defensive play securing his first cap for the U.S. Men’s National Team and most recently garnering a call up to a pre-Copa training camp. SKC will look towards midfielder Connor Hallisey to replace Zusi’s reliable production, as the sophomore year player has already surpassed his rookie season total with seven matches started in 2016.
MLS clubs begin U.S. Open Cup play with CONCACAF Champions League berth on the line
MLS clubs finally enter the oldest soccer tournament in North America when all 17 U.S. based teams begin play in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this week. With numerous marquee matchups featured, clubs will battle for the 103rd edition of the U.S. Open Cup title with a spot in the 2017-2018 CONCACAF Champions League up for grabs. For a full U.S. Open Cup schedule, click here.
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes
The lone U.S. Open Cup matchup pitting MLS squads against each other, Portland and San Jose have already faced off three times in MLS play this year with the Timbers winning the season series with two victories to San Jose’s one. Fans will want to play close attention to this matchup as there have been fireworks the previous three times the teams have faced off. The teams last met on June 1 with Portland prevailing 1-0 at Providence Park powered by defender Liam Ridgewell’s first goal of the season with a strong header towards far post. Timbers forward Fanendo Adi led Portland with a brace in a 3-1 victory on April 16, while San Jose forward Quincy Amarikwa scored one of the best goals of the season with a mesmerizing long distance chip to give San Jose a 2-1 victory on March 13. San Jose and Portland face off on Tuesday, June 14 at Providence Park (10:30 p.m. ET).
Minnesota United vs. Sporting Kansas City
The defending U.S. Open Cup champion, Sporting Kansas City will look to defend its title against NASL side Minnesota United – a future Major League Soccer franchise. Led by forward Dom Dwyer’s U.S. Open Cup best five-goals last year, Sporting Kansas City will look to win its fourth title after winning two of the previous four years. SKC will face a hungry Minnesota squad eager to prove early on it will compete against Major League Soccer clubs once making the jump up. Minnesota fell in the semifinals of the NASL playoffs this season and led the league in average attendance. The team’s square off on Wednesday, June 15 at National Sports Center in Blaine, MN (8 p.m. ET).
2016 All-Star Fan XI leaderboard filled with star power
Only three weeks remain for fans to vote their favorite MLS players to the All-Star Fan XI, with the current leaderboard featuring a bevy of star power, internationals and promising young talent. Fans can continue to vote via online ballot and/or the AT&T/EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge through July 4 at 3 p.m. ET. The MLS All-Stars will face Arsenal FC on July 28 at Avaya Stadium in the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.
Ten players – one goalkeeper, three defenders, four midfielders and two forwards – with the highest combined votes will be named to the All-Star Fan XI. The 11th player – a forward – will be determined by the AT&T/EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge.
Below are the players that currently lead in All-Star Fan XI voting:
All-Star Fan XI Leaders
as of June 13, 2016
Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Joe Bendik (Orlando City SC)
Brek Shea (Orlando City SC)
Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact)
Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union)
Ashley Cole (LA Galaxy)
Kaka (Orlando City SC)
Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)
Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)
Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact)
David Villa (New York City FC)
AT&T/EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge Leaders
MLS_More than a vote scorers 6-10
Check It Out
“What I’m proud about this team is the character they showed, the determination, the heart. In the last two World Cups, the Confederations Cup, we advanced out of the group, and we were in difficult groups. But now it’s about once you advance out of the group, what are you going to do? Hopefully we can keep pushing. ”
Seattle Sounders FC and U.S. Men’s National Team forward Clint Dempsey on advancing out of the group stage in Copa America Centenario
"This is a huge statement to teams in South America or whoever watches it on TV, because this team has a fantastic spirit and character.”
U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann on the U.S.’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Paraguay to advance to the Copa America semifinals
“He’s meant a lot to this team on so many levels. It is exemplified on the field but there is so much that people don’t see. The clout he has within our player group is at the highest level. As much as he may not be your classic No. 10, we feel he fits into our system in a perfect way. The way he can commit to and understand the tactics and his intelligence and savviness on the field means that we can command games. To me, he is as important to us as any other player is to their team. So yeah, he’s an MVP candidate.”
New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch on midfielder Sacha Kljestan’s MVP performance so far this season
“Very hands-on (smiles). I put in the training sessions together with my coaches' and my staff's input. I do ask their opinion a lot. But for me to feel good — and my coaching style is — I need to be right in there, sweating, feeling it, definitely not (standing) from the sideline, watching. I need to be in there with the guys and feeling what they're feeling so hopefully I can make the best decision, of what's actually going on, not just what I'm only seeing.”
Real Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar on his hands-on coaching approach
“It’s a special day for us being able to sign the first Homegrown Player. He’s an exceptional young talent who has been tugged in a lot of different directions. We are fortunate that he was born here in Atlanta and wants to play for his hometown club.”
Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra on the club’s first Homegrown Player signing
Atlanta United signs first homegrown player (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Sweet Tweets
Steve Birnbaum (‏@StevenBirnbaum): Big win last night! Proud of the guys for such a gutsy performance! Seattle bound #USMNT    
Shkelzen Gashi (@s_gashi11): Ready, to continue our History!
#Gashi #Euro2016 @UEFAEURO @MLS #SG11   ⚫️
Kaká (@KAKA): 1st ever visit of #PopeFrancis to @WFP #Rome, proud to be an Ambassador Against Hunger! #ZeroHunger
Kei Kamara (@2k3): Had an amazing experience shooting #CopaAmerica #BrazilVSPeru last night. Thanks to everyone who made this possible. Esp. @travelingceo for taking me under her wings. ✔
Adam Jahn (@AdamJahn14): Thanks to all the @SJEarthquakes fans who came out to see us off to Portland! We'll bring back the W for you!
Week 15 Game Previews
Saturday, June 18
New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union, 1 p.m. ET
  • NYCFC concludes a four-game homestand at Yankee Stadium with the Union game – and they are winless in their first three, their overall streak without a victory now at four games (0-2-2) after the 3-2 home loss to Real Salt Lake on June 2. David Villa scored a goal and added an assist; he is now atop the MLS Golden Boot standings with 10 goals.
  • Union extended their undefeated streak to a club-record tying eight games in their last match, a 3-2 win against Columbus Crew SC on June 1 at Talen Energy Stadium. Chris Pontius scored a goal, his fifth of the season, and added an assist, his fourth of the campaign.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Chris Pontius and C.J. Sapong scored first-half goals to lead Union to a 2-0 victory April 23 at Talen Energy Stadium.
  • The teams evenly split their season series in NYCFC’s first season in MLS. The teams reached a 1-1 draw in the only meeting at Yankee Stadium, on April 16. The teams split the two encounters in Chester, Union taking a 2-1 win on April 11, and NYCFC returning the favor in a 2-1 win June 6.
Columbus Crew SC vs. Montreal Impact, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Crew SC had their undefeated run put to an end after four games last time out, a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia Union on June 1. Ola Kamara scored his fourth goal over the last two matches, while Ethan Finlay set up both Crew SC goals.
  • The Impact put an end to a six-game winless run in league play in their last MLS match, Didier Drogba scoring directly from a free kick with almost the final kick of the match for a 3-2 win against the LA Galaxy on May 28.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. On May 7 at Mapfre Stadium, Kei Kamara and Federico Higuaín each scored two goals for Crew SC, but Didier Drogba scored a goal and added two assists, including setting up Dominic Oduro’s stoppage-time equalizer in a 4-4 draw. On April 9, the Impact claimed a 2-0 win at Olympic Stadium; Crew SC has not scored a goal in their last three visits to Montréal in league play.
  • The Impact have won once in Columbus in seven meetings there all-time, a 2-1 win June 6, 2014. Crew SC won 2-1 on Sept. 14, 2013 at Stade Saputo, the only other victory by the away team in 13 meetings in the all-time league series.
  • The teams also met in a pulsating Eastern Conference Semifinal Series last year. The Impact won the first leg 2-1 at Stade Saputo, then Crew SC advanced behind a 3-1 win in extra time in the second leg in Columbus as Kei Kamara netted a pair of goals, including the overtime winner.
Orlando City SC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Orlando City reached a second successive draw in extending their undefeated run to three games in their last match, a 2-2 draw with New York City FC on May 29 at Yankee Stadium. Kevin Molino scored a goal – his second consecutive game with a tally – and added an assist.
  • The Quakes were shut out at the attacking end for a second consecutive league match in their last contest, a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers on June 1 at Providence Park, extending their winless run to three games.
  • The teams met once last season in Orlando City’s inaugural season, reaching a 1-1 draw at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on May 24.
Toronto FC vs. LA Galaxy, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Toronto FC were shut out at the attacking end for a second consecutive match, their winless streak now at four matches following a 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on May 28. TFC’s current goalless streak is at 228 minutes, tied for ninth-longest in MLS this season.
  • The Galaxy had their winless run extended to four matches last time out, reaching a scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City on June 2 at StubHub Center. It was the Galaxy’s fourth draw in their last six matches.
  • The Galaxy have a 10-game undefeated streak alive in league play against Toronto FC, including shutout victories each of the last two seasons, both matches at StubHub Center. Since 2008, the Galaxy have won five of the 10 meetings, with five draws. TFC has not scored in the last 192 minutes in the series.
  • The last four meetings between the teams in all competitions at BMO Field have ended in draws. TFC’s last home win vs. the Galaxy came in 2008 – when they swept the season series, also winning in Carson.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m. ET
  • Whitecaps FC extended their home undefeated run to seven games (4-0-3) in league play in their last MLS match, playing to a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on May 28 at BC Place.
  • The Revolution concluded a three-game homestand with a second win in that time last time out, getting a late goal from Femi Hollinger-Janzen for a 2-1 win against Seattle Sounders FC on May 28 at Gillette Stadium. Lee Nguyen scored a goal and added an assist – his third consecutive game with a goal and an assist.
  • Whitecaps FC won the only meeting between the teams a year ago, a 2-1 win June 27 at Gillette Stadium, the only victory by the visiting team in the all-time series. The Revolution had won the first two meetings ever in Foxborough, before a draw there in 2014.
  • Whitecaps FC won the last meeting in Vancouver, a 4-3 triumph in 2013 at BC Place, their first meeting there ever. In the only other matchup in British Columbia, the teams played to a 1-1 draw in the first encounter ever, at Empire Field in 2011.
Colorado Rapids vs. Chicago Fire, 9 p.m. ET
  • The Rapids saw their perfect record at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park come to an end, but still remained undefeated at home for the season in their last match, a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia Union in a meeting of the two conference leaders on May 28.
  • The Fire return to league action coming off a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on May 28 at Toyota Park. David Accam scored his first goal since opening the season with goals in the first two games of the season.
  • The teams met once a season ago, a 1-0 Rapids victory Aug. 22 at Toyota Park – their first win ever in Bridgeview. Colorado’s last previous road win against Chicago came in 2004, at Soldier Field.
  • The Rapids are unbeaten in their last four home encounters with the Fire, with one win and three draws, including a scoreless draw there in 2014. Colorado’s 2-0 win in 2012 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park snapped a three-game winless streak in home games vs. the Fire. They had last won in Commerce City in the series in 2008.
Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United, 9 p.m. ET
  • The Dynamo are coming off a second successive draw in their last match – both under interim head coach Wade Barrett – a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas on June 2.
  • United alternated wins and losses for a fifth consecutive match last time out, a 2-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on June 1 at RFK Stadium.
  • When United won 3-1 on Oct. 12, 2014 in the last meeting between the teams at BBVA Compass Stadium, it was their first victory in Houston in 12 meetings all time in league and cup play. The Dynamo had won 10 of the first 11 matchups there, with one draw.
  • The teams reached a 1-1 draw last April 18 at RFK Stadium in their only meeting of the season. United’s win on May 21, 2014 at RFK Stadium was their first in all competitions against the Dynamo since the 2012 season. The Dynamo had won six of seven meetings in between, with one draw, including a victory and a tie in the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship.
Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. ET
  • Real return home after completing a five-game road swing with a second consecutive victory, defeating New York City FC 3-2 on June 2 at Yankee Stadium. Yura Movsisyan and Juan Manuel Martinez each scored, their second goals in the last three matches.
  • The Timbers extended their undefeated run to three games with a second consecutive win at Providence Park in their last match, a 1-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes on June 1.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan staked Real to a two-goal lead, but Fanendo Adi scored two goals five minutes apart late in the second half to leave the teams in a 2-2 draw March 19 at Providence Park.
  • The Timbers have won the last three meetings at Rio Tinto Stadium, their only wins ever in Utah. The only Portland home win vs. Real Salt Lake came in the first meeting ever, in 2011; the last five league meetings in Portland have all been draws, with three in a row all finishing goalless before the first meeting this year.
Sunday, June 19
Sporting Kansas City vs. FC Dallas, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN)
  • Sporting had their winless run extended to three games with a second consecutive attacking shutout in their last league match, playing to a goalless result at the LA Galaxy on June 2. Sporting have one win in their last 11 matches (1-7-3).
  • FC Dallas stretched their undefeated streak to five matches with a second consecutive draw last time out, a 1-1 result with the Houston Dynamo on June 2 at Toyota Stadium.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Michael Barrios and Mauro Rosales each scored on either side of halftime to lead FC Dallas to a 2-1 win April 17 at Toyota Stadium. FCD has won the last two meetings in Frisco, their victory there last season their first in the series since 2011.
  • 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.
New York Red Bulls vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • The Red Bulls won their third game in a row – all by shutout – in their last match, a 3-0 win against Toronto FC on May 28 at Red Bull Arena. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a hat trick in the opening 27 minutes – the fastest triple from the start of a game in MLS history – for all three goals; Wright-Phillips has five goals and an assist over the three-game winning run, where the Red Bulls have outscored their opponents 11-0.
  • Sounders FC put an end to a three-game losing slide in their last league game, a 2-0 win at D.C. United on June 1. Rookie Jordan Morris scored his fifth goal of the season, all coming over the last eight games.
  • The Red Bulls have a three-game home undefeated streak in the series, including a 4-1 win Sept. 20, 2014 at Red Bull Arena, their first victory in the series since 2011.
  • Sounders FC have a three-game home undefeated streak in the series, including a 2-1 win last May 31 at CenturyLink Field in the only meeting between the teams.