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This Week in MLS – June 6, 2016

This Week in MLS – June 6, 2016
  • MLS players shine in Copa America Centenario matches
  • Three MLS players set to begin UEFA EURO 2016
  • Canadian MLS clubs battle in final leg of Amway Canadian Championship semifinals
  • 2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest Presented by Wells Fargo
  • Week 14 MLS Save of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
MLS players shine in Copa America Centenario matches
Three days into the biggest soccer tournament on U.S. soil since the 1994 World Cup, Copa America Centenario has already given fans marquee moments with the promise of many more to come in the remaining month of play. With 27 MLS players making final 23-man Copa rosters, there are plenty of familiar faces in the international tournament with several MLS stars making noise in the early stages of play.
United States
Despite dropping a 2-0 decision to Colombia in the opening match, the path to advancing is clear as the team prepares to face Costa Rica on Tuesday, June 7 at Soldier Field in Chicago (8 p.m. ET, FS1/UniMás/UDN). Perhaps no player better represents the team’s promising potential than Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, a rising star for both club and country. Nagbe was subbed on in the 66th minute of play in the loss to Colombia and has drawn rave reviews for his ability to make plays in tight spaces, with many calling for coach Jürgen Klinsmann to start the 25-year-old. A stellar play from Nagbe, similar to his game-winning goal against Ecuador in a pre-Copa friendly on May 25, could power the U.S. to a much-needed victory on Tuesday.
Also starring for the U.S. is Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey who registered a team-high seven shots against Colombia and brought a physical style of play so often displayed during his 125 international caps, fifth most in team history. Pending Tuesday’s result, the MLS heavy United States squad (11 MLS players) could be in a solid position to secure a spot into the Copa America quarterfinals when it faces Paraguay in the third and final group stage match at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday, June 11 (7 p.m. ET, FS1/Univision/UDN).
Aside from the U.S., no team has more MLS players on its Copa America Centenario roster than Jamaica with its six standouts. Leading the pack is Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake who starred in Jamaica’s 1-0 loss to Venezuela in the first group stage match on Sunday, making two saves including an incredible stop to aid a 10-man Jamaica squad. Despite playing in his first full season as a starter for both Philadelphia and Jamaica, Blake has quickly become an exciting player to watch and has Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Jamaica will next face Mexico on Thursday, June 9 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA (10 p.m. ET, FS1/Univision/UDN). While Blake is up to the challenge of slowing down a dangerous Mexico attack, another MLS star in Houston Dynamo forward Giles Barnes will be taxed with leading Jamaica’s attack against El Tri. In MLS play, Barnes boasts a Dynamo-best four goals this season, including a tremendous volley against Seattle on April 10. 
Ecuador is off to a steady start in Copa America Centenario following a scoreless draw against world power Brazil on Saturday. Promising 21-year-old FC Dallas star Carlos Gruezo served a key role in shutting down a deadly Brazil attack, starting and playing a full 90 minutes at defensive midfield for Ecuador. Ecuador will next face Peru at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ on Wednesday, June 8 (10:00 p.m. ET, FS2/ UniMás/UDN). The youngest member of Ecuador’s squad, Gruezo gives Ecuador the same physical presence as he brings to FC Dallas’ starting lineup as the team’s leading tackler. Ecuador rounds up group play against Haiti on Sunday, June 12 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ (FS2/Univision/UDN).
Costa Rica
Coming off a scoreless draw against Paraguay in their opening match, Costa Rica included five MLS players in its lineup. New York City FC defender Ronald Matarrita shined in slowing down Paraguay’s attack and will look to bring the same intensity when Costa Rica faces the United States in a pivotal matchup that could ultimately determine which team advances out of the group stage in Group A. Following the matchup against the U.S. on Tuesday, Costa Rica closes group play against Colombia on Saturday, June 11 at NRG Stadium in Houston (9 p.m. ET, FS2, Univision, UDN).
Panama opens Copa play Monday, June 6 against Bolivia at Camping World Stadium in Orlando (7 p.m. ET, FS1/ UniMás/UDN). With an attack led by three MLS players, Panama hopes to play Cinderella in a difficult Group D facing the likes of Argentina and Chile. Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Blas Perez will get a first-hand look at one of most electric players in the world when Panama faces Lionel Messi and Argentina on Friday, June 10 at Soldier Field in Chicago (9:30 p.m. ET, FOX/UniMás/UDN). Perez brings his own scoring ability to the matchup highlighted by a breathtaking bicycle kick goal taking AT&T Goal of the Week honors in Week 11 of the season.
Three MLS players set to begin UEFA EURO 2016
The biggest international tournament in Europe will receive a bit of MLS flair this month with three MLS players make final preparations as UEFA EURO 2016 kicks off later this week. Colorado Rapids Designated Player Shkëlzen Gashi is set to make history, as he leads Albania to its first ever appearance at Euros facing Switzerland in the opening match of group play on Saturday, June 11 at Stade Bollart-Delelis in Lens Agglo, France (9 a.m. ET, ESPN). It will be an emotional matchup for Gashi against some friendly and familiar faces, as he was born in Switzerland and played at the Under-17,19 and 21 levels for the youth national team. Gashi is part of a Rapids squad sitting atop the Supporters’ Shield standings approaching the midway point of the season. A two-time winner of the Golden Boot in the Swiss Super League, Gashi has proven pivotal in Colorado’s attack in his first season with the Rapids with two goals and three assists, including a game-winning goal for his first MLS score on April 13.
Joining Gashi at Euro 2016 is LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane, once again representing the Republic of Ireland as team captain. The all-time leader for Ireland in both caps and goals scored, Keane has four goals in six matches for the Galaxy this season. Ireland kicks off Euro 2016 play against Sweden on Monday, June 13 at Stade de France in Saint-Denis, France (12 p.m. ET, ESPN). The final MLS member playing in Euro 2016 is Montreal Impact defender Laurent Ciman who scored his first international goal in heroic fashion with a game-winning goal against Norway in a friendly match on June 5. Ciman pulled in the hardware in his first season in MLS last year, winning the MLS Defender of the Year while being named to the Best XI and MLS All-Star squads. Belgium will face Italy on Monday, June 13 for its opening match of Euro 2016 play at Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).  
Canadian MLS clubs battle in final leg of Amway Canadian Championship semifinals
Toronto FC and Montreal Impact add another chapter to their heated rivalry in the second leg of the 2016 Amway Canadian Championship semifinals on Wednesday, June 8 at Saputo Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET). In the first leg of the semifinals, Toronto came out with a strong performance en route to a 4-2 advantage over Montreal powered by a pair of braces from homegrown players Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton. The Impact, meanwhile, got on the board with a stunning free kick goal by star Designated Player Didier Drogba and a header from 2016 MLS SuperDraft second round draft pick Michael Salazar. Montreal is in need of a tremendous comeback performance if it hopes to win its third Voyageurs Cup in the last four years. If Toronto can hold onto the advantage, it will advance to the championship round with a chance to win its first Canadian Championship since 2012.
In the other matchup, Vancouver Whitecaps FC host NASL side Ottawa Fury FC  on Wednesday, June 8 at BC Place (10 p.m. ET). Vancouver fell behind 2-0 in the first leg of the semifinals and will look for a furious rally at home if it hopes to repeat as Canadian Champions after winning the title in 2015.
2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest Presented by Wells Fargo
It’s that time of year again as nominations for the 2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest presented by Wells Fargo will be open June 8 at 12:00 PM EDT – June 28 at 7:59 PM EDT. Each year, Major League Soccer and Wells Fargo recognize individuals who use soccer as a tool to make a difference in their community. During the nomination period, MLS fans will have the opportunity to nominate themselves or another leader in the community who uses soccer to make a positive impact in their local community. After the nomination period concludes, one Community MVP finalist will be selected to represent each of the 20 MLS clubs. Those finalists will gather at the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game in San Jose, CA, where the Grand Prize winner will be announced during a halftime ceremony and receive a $10,000 donation for their selected charity.
MLS Save of the Week voting now open (Week 14) – CLICK HERE to vote
  • Jake Gleeson (POR) Deflects the ball out of play with diving stop near post
  • Chris Seitz (DAL) Calmly collects a Ricardo Clark shot at goal
  • Bill Hamid (D.C.) Punches out an Osvaldo Alonso screamer
  • Brian Rowe (LA) Strikes down a Jimmy Medranda volley blast
  • Nick Rimando (RSL) Stops a David Villa shot dead in its tracks with diving stop
  • Tyler Deric (HOU) Makes game-saving stop on Maximiliano Urruti’s blazing shot
  • Matthew Jones (PHI) Dives to deny Ola Kamara’s attempt at goal
  • Steve Clark (CLB) Leaps to catch Tranquillo Barnetta’s strike
Check It Out
"Blake is a top-class keeper, a young keeper as well. He's grown so much more since I've known him. Vocally, he's coming out and taking crosses, his kicking has improved... If he keeps on going at this rate, the world's his oyster."
Houston Dynamo forward Giles Barnes on Jamaica teammate and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake’s continued improvement
"I am really proud of the grit that the team and staff have shown through what has been a hard stretch, to be fair. I think that we have the best to come in this second half of the season."
Real Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar on his team’s resiliency and strong start to the season
"Clint was a warrior out there. He gave everything he had. He was really fighting and fighting positively."
U.S. National Team coach Jürgen Klinsmann on Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey’s performance in the opening match of Copa America Centenario
“We are a family there. This is our last big international competition. We want to give the new generation an example, how to represent our country.”
Seattle Sounders FC forward Nelson Valdez on representing Paraguay in Copa America in what is likely his final major tournament
"I'm excited that he did not take it the wrong the way. He took the news and he said, 'Alright, I'm going to go for it.' He's also been wearing the captain's arm band, and I think that's just for what he does on the field for our guys."
New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps on Lee Nguyen’s incredible response to being left off the U.S. Copa America roster
Sweet Tweets
Sean Johnson (‏@sjohn25): Who's going to the #USMNT game tmr at soldier field!?  #USAvCRC
Shkelzen Gashi (@s_gashi11): We arrived well in France! #Gashi #Euro2016 @UEFAEURO #Kuqezi #Albania #SG11
Matt Lampson (@lampstrong): Very proud to celebrate #nationalcancersurvivorsday today. It has been a long journey. Make sure to congratulate any and all survivors you know! #suckitcancer #cancersurvivor #surviveandthrive #cancerfree #ohiostatebuckeyes
Carlos Bocanegra (@BocaBoca3): Looking forward to the @ussoccer vs Costa Rica game here in Chicago. Brings back some good memories.
Connor Lade (@clade5): Soccer Night in Newtown, CT with @chrisduvall91 Wonderful event for a wonderful community! @NewYorkRedBulls #RBNY