Skip directly to content

This Week in MLS – March 1, 2016

This Week in MLS – March 1, 2016
  • 20 Teams, 10 Games, One Day
  • Fresh Faces on the Field … and on the Touchline
  • CONCACAF Champions League action continues
  • What were they up to?
  • #Dress4MLS Campaign Kicks Off 2016 MLS Opening Weekend
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 1 Game Previews
20 Teams, 10 Games, One Day
Coming off a 2015 season that saw record-breaking attendances, the addition of two expansion clubs, and the signing of world-class talent, Major League Soccer is ready to build on that success as the 21st season kicks off Sunday with the 20 teams playing in 10 games on one single exhilarating day.  MLS is Back.
 
Fans won’t miss a minute of the action thanks to the unprecedented coverage offered by MLS Soccer Sunday: Week 1 LIVE, a digital “whip around” show that will bring fans closer to the action with nearly four hours of enhanced access to the full slate of Week 1 games.  Beginning at 1 p.m. ET on MLSsoccer.com, ESPN3 and FOX Sports GO, the show will offer 2016 season club previews, live look-ins to the first six matches of the day, in-depth analysis of the game action as well as live on-site reports from Chicago and Portland, all leading in to the four nationally-broadcast matches that evening.
 
National Broadcasts
A rematch of 2015 MLS Cup highlights Week 1 action as Kei Kamara and Columbus Crew SC descend on Portland looking to spoil the Timbers’ home opener live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (4:30 p.m. ET). The task will be easier said than done, however, as Darlington Nagbe, fresh off of a call-up to the U.S. National Team, and the Timbers begin their quest to defend the Cup in front of the Timbers Army and a packed Providence Park crowd.
 
Following the Cup rematch, fans will be treated to three more marquee matches, televised by the MLS national broadcast partners. The Montreal Impact and world-class striker Didier Drogba open action against Canadian foe Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who will look to 24-year-old Uruguayuan Octavio Rivero to put the ball in the back of the net, and 2015 MLS Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year runner-up David Ousted to keep them out (5:30 p.m. ET, TSN/RDS)
 
With two goals in CONCACAF Champions League action last week, Sounders FC captain Clint Dempsey will lead Seattle at home against Western Conference foe, Sporting Kansas City.  Fans around the country will be tuning into FS1 and FOX Deportes (7 p.m. ET) to see if the highly touted rookie forward, Jordan Morris, will figure prominently in Seattle’s plans this season.
 
Rounding out the MLS Soccer Sunday Week 1 action on national television, a new-look LA Galaxy, complete with veteran signings Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands (81 caps), Ashley Cole from England (107 caps) and Jelle Van Damme from Belgium (30 caps), play host to D.C. United, with their exciting newcomer, 21-year-old Boca Juniors midfielder Luciano Acosta. (10 p.m. ET, UniMás).
 
Copa America Candidates
Early MLS season action will also be under increased interest from national team technical staffs as the 16 national team coaches from this summer’s Copa América Centenario will be keeping a watchful eye on not only their players but potential opponents. Approximately 50 MLS players are expected to compete in the historic tournament this June, which will be held across 10 U.S. cities – nine of which are MLS markets – offering fans the chance to watch the biggest men’s soccer event in the United States since the 1994 FIFA World Cup live in person.
 
CLICK HERE for video of the league’s top players previewing the 2016 MLS regular season and Copa América Centenario. (video credit: www.MLSsoccer.com)
 
Fresh Faces on the Field …
This offseason, MLS clubs continued to attract young and exciting talent both internationally and domestically.  Below are a few of the key newcomers to watch:
 
Luciano Acosta (D.C. United): D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta, a 21-year-old midfielder on loan from Boca Juniors, figured prominently in the team’s attack during last week’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Queretaro FC. Last season while on loan with Estudiantes, the speedy Acosta played in 27 matches while starting 11, including seven Copa Libertadores games.
 
Lucas Ontivero (Montreal Impact): The Montreal Impact bring in 21-year-old attacking midfielder Lucas Ontivero who was acquired from Galatasaray, the most heralded team in the history of the Turkish Süper Lig. A native of Argentina, Ontivero previously trained with Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and A.C. Milan academies and is now entering his fifth season as a professional.
 
Shkëlzen Gashi (Colorado Rapids): Considered one of the top signings of the offseason, the Colorado Rapids acquired Albanian national team forward Shkëlzen Gashi from FC Basel, the champion of the Swiss Super League for six consecutive seasons. The 27-year-old will count as a Designated Player on the Colorado roster and gives the Rapids a dangerous scoring option evidenced by his 25 goals in 41 appearances for his previous club.
 
Carlos Gruezo (FC Dallas):  FC Dallas signed Ecuadorian midfielder Carlos Gruezo as a Designated Player away from Bundesliga side Vfb Stuttgart. The 20-year-old Gruezo was the youngest player for Ecuador, the fourth youngest overall, and the second youngest to start a match at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. A defensive midfielder, Gruezo already has 10 caps for Ecuador despite his young age.
 
Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire): Drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Fire in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, the Stanford standout joined his Cardinal teammate Jordan Morris at the U.S. National Team’s January camp earlier this year, receiving his first cap in a February friendly victory over Canada. A two-time Pac-12 Defender of the Year, Vincent brings intelligence to the pitch as he was awarded the Pac-12 men’s soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2015.
 
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC): Signed as a Homegrown Player, Jordan Morris grew up as a Sounders FC fan, not least of all because his father started out as the team physician when the club was in USL and currently holds the title of Team Medical Director and Orthopedic Surgeon for Sounders FC. Morris has nine caps for the U.S. National Team, scoring the game-winning goal – his first international tally – in a U.S. friendly victory over Mexico last April. The young striker will play a key role for the U.S. U-23 team as they attempt to qualify for the Olympics next month.
 
and on the Touchline
Two new faces appeared in the annual MLS Coaches Photo this year… and the two newcomers are facing off Week 1.
 
After parting ways with Jason Kreis following their inaugural season, New York City FC announced Patrick Vieira as head coach in November. Following a celebrated playing career that included 10 seasons for Arsenal and 107 caps for the French National Team, including winning the FIFA World Cup in 1998, the standout midfielder joined Manchester City overseeing their Elite Development Squad.
 
Chicago Fire, meanwhile, brought in manager Veljko Paunovic, who played for Philadelphia Union in 2011 after spending the majority of his playing days with Atletico Madrid and most recently led Serbia’s U-20 team to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup title in 2015. The two new MLS coaches will get their first taste of league action against each other at Toyota Park on Sunday (MLS LIVE, 2 p.m. ET).
 
CONCACAF Champions League Action Continues
The U.S.-Mexico soccer rivalry continues to play out in CONCACAF Champions League action this week, as four MLS clubs face-off against Liga MX sides in the second legs of the quarterfinal round. On Tuesday night, D.C. United will rely on its home crowd at RFK Stadium to help overcome a two-goal deficit over Queretaro FC (8 p.m. ET, FS2, UDN), while LA Galaxy travel to Santos Laguna with a great chance to advance after a veteran-laden backline held Los Guerreros to a scoreless draw at the StubHub Center last week (10 p.m. ET, FS2). On Wednesday, Seattle Sounders FC will hope Clint Dempsey can have a repeat performance on the road as they look to stun Liga MX giants Club America at hallowed Estadio Azteca after a 2-2 draw in Seattle (8 p.m. ET, FS2, UDN), followed by Real Salt Lake who returns home to a rocking Rio Tinto Stadium, needing a prolific performance in front of goal in order to erase a 2-0 loss in the first leg to Tigres UANL (10 p.m. ET, FS2).
 
#Dress4MLS Campaign Kicks Off 2016 MLS Opening Weekend
As part of MLS’ March to Soccer, the league will be holding its annual #Dress4MLS campaign on Friday, March 4 – the final Friday before the all clubs kick-off the regular season on March 6.
 
The campaign is a call-to-action for fans of all clubs to put on their club gear and display it proudly across social media. By posting photos or video on social media tagged with #Dress4MLS and their favorite club, fans are entered for a chance to win a trip for two to the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, as well as other great prizes from their favorite club.
 
What Were They Up To?
 
Kamara visits school in native Sierra Leone
Kei Kamara is well known for his abilities on the field, as the Columbus Crew SC forward finished as runner-up in the 2015 Landon Donovan MLS MVP voting, but equally notable are his efforts off the field. Kamara was named the 2015 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his work with Schools for Salone, which helps build schools in his native Sierra Leone. In addition, Kamara and fellow countryman Michael Lahoud, out on loan from the Philadelphia Union, received the 2015 FIFPro Merit Award after opening their own school in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, this past September. Kamara took a trip to visit his school in January, working with the children who have benefited from his incredible efforts to give back to his home country.
 
Altidore hosts fundraiser for hospital in Haiti, visits amid US training
Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore has long been recognized for his philanthropic efforts in Haiti and continued his work with a star-studded event to raise money for St. Luke’s Hospital in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Partnering with Kenneth Cole and Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima, Altidore hosted a fundraiser last month in celebration of the hospital’s life-saving work in the community. On a day off between his training with the U.S. National Team, Altidore flew to Haiti for an in-person visit.
 
Borchers visits local schools, receives coaching license
Nat Borchers took little time off following the Portland Timbers 2015 MLS Cup victory. The defender, well-known for his giant red beard, traveled to Los Angeles a week after lifting the trophy to receive his U.S. Soccer Federation coaching license in an eight-day course. Continuing with the theme of teaching kids, Borchers visited elementary and high school classes and dropped by Rose City Futsal to work with the academy players.
 
Check It Out
                                                                                                     
Orlando City SC: #FillTheBowlAgain
 
Quotables
 
"It's incredible. Last year the fact that we could fill the bowl, bring in 62,500 fans for the opening game was amazing, but in some ways understandable because it was a unique event, it is was one day in history. To think that we could do it again for a second opening game in our second season to me is just beyond unreal."
Orlando City SC President Phil Rawlins on selling on filling the Orange Bowl for the home opener
 
"All three of us take it personally, because we three really built this club up to be competitive and be consistent. Last year was a frustrating year. This year, not just because it's our 10th year, we want to get it back to where it was and needs to be."
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando on himself, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales entering their 10th season with the club and looking forward to the start of the 2016 MLS season
 
"I think the thing with Adi that's been really encouraging is he's gotten better. He came here as a 23-year-old player. He wasn't old, he wasn't really young either, but he was young enough. Where you could still develop a guy, you can still get better and I think he's improved a lot."
Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter on forward Fanendo Adi before the start of the 2016 MLS season opener
 
"Absolutely not. We have a big target on our back. Obviously we have one of the marquee players in the league now. So every time we play anybody they're going to be focused on shutting us down as a team and shutting down Didier as an individual. We're going to need to be even more unified and go into the games with the right mentality."
Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush on whether or not the club enter the 2016 season under the radar
 
“When you watch him play, he oozes quality. He does that in the middle of the field and people say he’s sublimely confident.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson on new signing Christian Bolaños
 
 
Sweet Tweets
 
Dax McCarty (@DaxMcCarty11): 11 days until the season starts. Look forward to keeping this in New York another year … https://www.instagram.com/p/BCLejckojmz/ 
 
Nigel de Jong (@NDJ_Official): Wheels up! #LAvsSAN #CCL
 
Dom Dwyer (@Ddwyer14): Preseason done!
 
Charlie Davies (@CharlieDavies9): A great end to preseason. We've worked extremely hard and we are ready to start the season. Let's gooo! #NERevs #MLS
 
Kaka (@KAKA): #mlsmediaday #miami #fillthebowlagain
 
Brad Evans (@brad_evans3): UNREAL crowd tonight. Thx for coming out! Tough task ahead but a great challenge! See you in Mexico. #sounders #ebfg
 
 
Week 1 Game Previews
 
Sunday, March 6
New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC, 1:30 p.m. ET
 
  • Toronto FC have never won at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls are 5-0-1 all-time vs. TFC in Harrison – the lone draw coming in 2014, a 2-2 result. The Red Bulls are 9-1-1 all-time in home matches vs. Toronto FC, the only TFC victory coming in 2008 at Giants Stadium.
  • The last road victory in the series came in 2013, a 2-1 Red Bulls victory at BMO Field on April 27.
  • The Red Bulls capped their preseason schedule with a 5-1 victory against NASL side Jacksonville Armada on Saturday, as Gonzalo Veron netted a hat trick.
  • TFC concluded their preseason match schedule with a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia Union in Orlando, Fla. on Saturday. TFC ended the preseason with a 3-3-3 record, one of the victories coming against MLS competition.
 
Orlando City SC vs. Real Salt Lake, 2 p.m. ET
 
  • Seb Hines and Kaká put a resounding punctuation on Orlando City’s preseason schedule, as Hines scored four goals – all set by Kaká – in a 6-1 defeat of Brazilian side Esporte Clube Bahia on Saturday evening at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
  • Before opening the MLS regular season, Real Salt Lake face the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Mexico’s Tigres UANL on Wednesday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. Tigres took a 2-0 victory in the first leg Feb. 24 in Monterrey.
  • The teams met once in Orlando City SC’s inaugural season, reaching a 1-1 draw July 4 at RSL’s Rio Tinto Stadium.
 
Chicago Fire vs. New York City FC, 2 p.m. ET
 
  • The Fire concluded their preseason schedule undefeated, capturing the Simple Invitational tournament in Portland with a 2-0 victory against the host Timbers on Saturday evening. Arturo Alvarez and Gilberto scored for the Fire, who won all three of their preseason matches against MLS competition.
  • NYCFC completed their preseason with a 2-1 victory against Icelandic side KR Reykjavik on Saturday evening at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Andrea Pirlo scored the opening goal – his first since arriving at the club – and Mix Diskerud headed home the late game-winner. NYCFC played one preseason game vs. an MLS foe – a 1-0 win vs. Montréal in mid-February.
  • The Fire were undefeated against New York City FC in the club’s inaugural season. The Fire claimed a 1-0 win April 24 at Toyota Park; the teams reached a 2-2 draw May 15 at Yankee Stadium.
 
FC Dallas vs. Philadelphia Union, 3 p.m. ET
 
  • Atiba Harris scored one goal and set up another as FC Dallas completed its preseason campaign with a 2-1 win against USL affiliate Oklahoma City Energy FC. FCD ended their preparations with three wins in three preseason friendlies, one coming against MLS side New England in mid-February.
  • Union completed an undefeated run in the Suncoast Invitational preseason tournament in the Tampa area with a 1-0 victory against Toronto FC on Saturday, as C.J. Sapong scored the game’s only goal. Union also claimed draws with D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls during the event.
  • FC Dallas have never lost to Philadelphia Union. FCD claimed a 2-0 win last March 21 at PPL Park in the only meeting between the teams, their second consecutive victory in the all-time series. FCD has won four of the eight meetings lifetime, with four draws.
  • FC Dallas has won three of the four meetings all-time in Frisco, the only time Union gaining a result coming in a 1-1 draw in 2012.
 
Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution, 3 p.m. ET
 
  • The Revolution have a three-game winning streak alive in the all-time series, including a 2-0 victory last Aug. 15 at Gillette Stadium in the only league meeting between the teams. The Revs have won the last two matches between the clubs in Foxborough.
  • The teams have split their four meetings all-time at BBVA Compass Stadium, with the Revolution winning on their last visit to Houston, a 2-1 win Oct. 21, 2014. All-time, the Revolution hold a 6-3-1 record vs. the Dynamo in Houston.
  • Teal Bunbury scored the game’s lone goal as the Revolution captured the title in the preseason Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz. with a 1-0 victory against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday evening.
  • The Dynamo concluded their preseason preparations with a 2-2 draw with Sporting KC in their final match of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz., as Erick Torres hit for his third goal of the preseason. The Dynamo ended their Arizona sojourn with one win in five matches, all against MLS competition.
  • The teams also played in the preseason in the Desert Diamond Cup this year, with Teal Bunbury and Steve Neumann netting goals in a 2-1 Revolution win on Feb. 24. Erick Torres scored for Houston.
 
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Colorado Rapids, 3 p.m. ET
 
  • The Quakes concluded their preseason schedule with a 1-0 victory against the NASL New York Cosmos on Saturday afternoon at Avaya Stadium, with Clarence Goodson scoring the game’s only goal.
  • The Rapids finished off their preseason campaign with a 3-0 win against USL side Arizona United SC on Saturday evening in Tucson, as new Designated Player signing Shkëlzen Gashi scored one goal and set up another. It was the Rapids’ second win of the preseason, both against non-MLS competition.
  • The Quakes have a 12-game undefeated streak alive vs. the Rapids. The Rapids last defeated San Jose in the first meeting in the 2011 season; the Quakes have won six of the 12 meetings since, with six draws.
  • When the Quakes took a 1-0 victory last Aug. 14 at Avaya Stadium in the second meeting with the Rapids, it ended a string of four consecutive draws in the all-time series. The last victory for either team had come in 2013, a 1-0 Quakes win on Oct. 9 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
 
Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew SC, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN1)
 
  • The match is a rematch of MLS Cup 2015, a 2-1 Timbers victory at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus. Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace gave the Timbers a 2-0 lead after just seven minutes; Kei Kamara pulled a goal back on 18 minutes, but the Timbers held on for their first MLS title.
  • The Timbers also won the regular-season meeting between the clubs last season, also a 2-1 victory in Columbus (on Sept. 26). The all-time league series is exactly level, with each team having won twice in six meetings (with two draws).
  • The Timbers ended their own Simple Invitational tournament with a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Fire, their 2-0 defeat by an MLS club in the event (also falling to Vancouver Whitecaps FC). The Timbers did defeat NASL side Minnesota United FC 4-0 to kick off the tourney.
  • Crew SC concluded their preparations with a 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution in the final of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz., after reaching draws in their first three matches in the competition. Kei Kamara was the leading scorer in the event with three goals.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Montreal Impact, 5:30 p.m. ET (TSN, RDS)
 
  • The Impact took a 2-1 win in the only league meeting between the teams last season, June 3 at Stade Saputo, their first victory ever against Whitecaps FC in MLS competition. The ‘Caps had won the first two matches, before the teams played to a scoreless draw in 2014 in their last match at BC Place.
  • The teams also met in the Canadian Championship final last season, Whitecaps FC claiming their first national championship 4-2 on aggregate, winning 2-0 in Vancouver after a 2-2 first-leg result in Montréal.
  • Whitecaps FC ended their preseason with a pair of victories in the Simple Invitational in Portland, concluding the event with a 3-1 win against NASL side Minnesota United FC behind two goals from Pedro Morales. Whitecaps FC went 5-1-0 in their preseason, with four victories coming against MLS sides.
  • The Impact wrapped up their preseason campaign with a scoreless draw with hosts Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL in their final match of the Suncoast Invitational.
 
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
 
  • Sounders FC face a massive test ahead of their MLS season opener when they travel to Mexico City to take on Club América in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series on Wednesday. The clubs reached a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Seattle as Clint Dempsey netted both Sounders FC goals.
  • Sporting KC concluded their six-game preseason schedule undefeated, ending the run with a 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo in the final match of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz. Newcomers Nuno Andre Coelho and Daniel Salloi netted goals for SKC in their third draw in the competition, all against MLS teams.
  • Sporting won the season series between the clubs in 2015, the first time they had ever won the season set with Sounders FC. SKC took a 1-0 win June 6 at Sporting Park; the teams also played to a pair of draws, once at each ground.
  • Sounders FC have a five-game undefeated streak alive at home vs. Sporting. SKC has won once all-time in Seattle – a 1-0 victory in 2009 in the first meeting ever between the clubs. Since, Sounders FC have won three of their home meetings, with a pair of draws.
 
LA Galaxy vs. D.C. United, 10 p.m. ET (UniMás)
 
  • Both clubs face the second legs of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series before meeting in the MLS season opener. The Galaxy travel to Torreón, Mexico for their second leg, after playing to a scoreless draw in the opener last week at StubHub Center.
  • United must overcome a two-goal deficit in their second leg on Tuesday if they are to advance, falling to a pair of late goals in a 2-0 defeat by Queretaro FC in Mexico last week.
  • D.C. United won the lone meeting between the teams a season ago, a 1-0 victory March 28 at RFK Stadium, ending a 10-game Galaxy undefeated streak in the all-time series. The Galaxy had won five of the matches in between, with five draws, dating back to 2008.
  • The Galaxy have a 10-year, eight-match home undefeated streak alive vs. United. D.C.’s last victory vs. the Galaxy in Carson came July 23, 2005, a 2-1 triumph.