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This Week in MLS – March 22, 2016

This Week in MLS – March 22, 2016
  • MLS remains most diverse professional sports league in North America
  • U.S. and Canada tap MLS stars for 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers
  • MLS players to lead U.S. U-23s in Olympic qualifying showdown
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 4 Game Previews
MLS remains most diverse professional sports league in North America
 
Major League Soccer continues to set the standard in diversity across the North American sports landscape, as the league boasts the most diverse group of athletes among the top five major sports leagues in the U.S. as determined by birthplace. As of March 18, 2016, a total of 59 countries from around the world are represented in MLS from its current pool of 536 players.
 
With a total of 246 players born from outside of the U.S. and Canada, MLS not only continues to attract players from across the globe, but some of the best talent countries have to offer.
 
This week, 74 MLS players have been called to represent their respective countries including 28 for the U.S., seven for Canada, and 39 players representing 15 countries, including Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guam, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago.
 
These players will be competing at the senior level in 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, Caribbean Cup and friendlies, and at the youth levels in Olympic Qualifying, Dallas Cup and exhibition matches.
 
MLS will have 28 players representing nine countries in 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying (45 including U.S. and Canadian teams), with 13 set to square off in the Costa Rica-Jamaica doubleheader alone.
 
MLS will provide six crucial contributors in 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, including two 2015 MLS Cup winners in Portland Timbers teammates Fanendo Adi (Nigeria) and Adam Kwarasey (Ghana).
 
MLS will also be represented in Europe in a pair of friendlies that will serve as preparation for the UEFA Euro 2016, as prolific countrymen LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane and Colorado Rapids’ Kevin Doyle were called upon by Ireland. For a full list of international call-ups and matches during the March international window, please click here.
 
Some of MLS’ brightest young talent will have a chance to impress on the international stage with 14 MLS players seeing U-23 action, 12 of whom will suit up for the U.S.’s Olympic qualifying showdown with Colombia. Three Homegrown standouts with senior team experience, Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas) and Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), will lead the charge alongside notable 2015 rookies Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes) and Khiry Shelton (New York City FC). MLS will also boost U-20 teams with six players named to friendly squads for Canada and the U.S.
 
MLS’ rich international talent pool will also be on display this summer, as over 50 MLS players are expected to represent half of the countries participating in the 2016 Copa América Centenario. The historic tournament will feature 16 countries spanning North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. 
 
MLS Player Maps
 
MLS Player Lists
 
 
League (year)
Total # of Players
Players Born Abroad
(% born outside U.S.A. & Canada)
Countries Represented
(incl. U.S.A. & Canada)
MLS (2016)
536
246 (45.8%)
59
 
NBA (2015-2016)
443
90 (20.3%)
43
NHL (2015-2016)
748
206 (27.5%)
21
MLB (2015)
1083
291 (26.9%)
21
NFL (2015)
2068
63 (3.0%)
31
 
 
Courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau
*Leagues in season include all players on current rosters.
*Leagues out of season include players on rosters when the season ended.
 
U.S. and Canada tap MLS stars for 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers
MLS will make up half of U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for two upcoming 2018 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches against Guatemala this week, equipping the team with some of MLS’ very best veteran and young talent. The U.S. looks to strengthen its current position atop the group with a victory at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City on Friday (10 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS, NBC Universo) before returning stateside for a home match on Tuesday, March 29 at Columbus Crew SC’s MAPFRE Stadium (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, UniMás).
 
Klinsmann’s attacking unit is chock full of veteran flavor with MLS players comprising four of five forward spots. Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey ranks second in U.S. National Team history in goals scored, while San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski is the league’s fifth all-time leading goal scorer and currently sits tied atop the 2016 Audi Golden Boot standings with three goals in 2016. Adding a dose of youth is LA Galaxy Homegrown standout Gyasi Zardes who comes straight off of notching a brace in the Galaxy’s 3-1 victory over San Jose on Saturday.
 
An equally talented eight-man midfield group is comprised of six MLS players, including 2014 World Cup veterans Michael Bradley of Toronto FC, Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake and Mix Diskerud of New York City FC. Breaking their way onto the national team roster as of late have been Portland Timbers star and 2015 MLS Cup winner Darlington Nagbe and Columbus Crew SC’s Ethan Finlay, each of whom made their international debuts last year. They will be joined by New England Revolution’s Lee Nguyen, a 2014 MLS Best XI selection.
 
Holding down the backline for the U.S. will be Sporting Kansas City defender and 2014 World Cup vet Matt Besler who anchors a Sporting KC defense that has allowed an MLS-best one goal on the season. Hoping to line up between the pipes will be San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham, who recorded a clean sheet in first national team appearance against Canada this past February and ranked third in MLS in shutouts last season. Newly signed Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard rounds out the roster. Howard will return to MLS, where he began his career, this summer in a transfer from English Premier League side Everton FC.
 
Canada’s National Team will also feature some of MLS’ best with four players who hope to improve the nation’s already solid standing in group play when they face Mexico on March 25 and 29. Leading the group is 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin, the 20-year-old Orlando City SC forward who set an MLS rookie record for goals scored last season and has showed no signs of slowing down with three tallies in 2016. Joining Larin in the attack is 23-year-old FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele, who took home MLS Rookie of the Year honors in 2014.
 
New Toronto FC midfielder Will Johnson, who was crowned Canada’s 2013 Men’s Player of the Year, brings experience to the roster with 39 international caps to his name. Rounding out the MLS group for Canada is New York Red Bulls defender Karl Ouimette, who has excelled for a Red Bulls squad coming off a 2015 Supporters’ Shield win.
 
MLS players to lead U.S. U-23s in Olympic qualifying showdown
Homegrown MLS talent will be on full display when the U.S. U-23 squad battles Colombia for a spot in the upcoming summer Olympics with three of the 11 MLS representatives coming from the academy system. Many of the 11 players have already made appearances for the senior U.S. team and will rely on the experience to help the team prevail in the two-leg home and home matchup against Colombia that starts on Friday (6 p.m. ET; FS1, UDN).
 
Signed to the most lucrative Homegrown Player contract in league history this offseason, Jordan Morris has been in the mix since day one for a Seattle Sounders FC squad expected to compete for a MLS Cup title and brings senior team experience to the U-23 squad. Homegrown FC Dallas defender Kellyn Acosta experienced a breakout camp in January with the U.S. National Team and will be making his first appearance for the U-23 side, while Columbus Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp, who also featured prominently in the January camp and helped lead Crew SC to 2015 MLS Cup, will also head to Colombia.
 
The future of MLS backlines shine bright with five MLS players locking up eight U-23 defender roster slots. Joining Acosta on the backline will be Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas) and Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire). All but Zimmerman bring with them experience in senior team call ups to the much discussed January camp. Rounding out the roster include New York City FC forward Khiry Shelton and San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Fatai Alashe.
 
Check It Out
                                                                                                     
 
Quotables
 
"When I spoke to my family, when I spoke to Roberto Martinez and the chairman [Bill Kenwright] as well, I thought the decision, and the timing more than anything -- because in life it's all about timing -- and obviously with my discussions with Colorado, it just seemed to be the right move. It was an instinctual gut feeling, and I'm excited about it."
Newly-signed Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Time Howard on his return to MLS with Colorado
 
“When you see big dudes like that, all tatted up with bald heads, you kind of assume he’s going to be a donkey, but he’s the opposite. He’s clever. He’s got good vision, he can run with the ball.”
LA Galaxy forward Mike Magee on new teammate Jelle Van Damme’s offensive contributions to the team
 
“I said (before the year) that (Davis) is probably going to get us seven points on his own. He wound up getting a winner tonight, so that’s three. He’s got four more to get us over the course of the season.”
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes on Brad Davis’ game-winning goal and impact on the team
 
“I was surprised it came to me, but I just got a little touch on it and it went it. No one was defending me. I felt good I got a goal but I think I could have brought more. I think next time I come here I’ll get another one.”
Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin on his game-winning goal and continued success scoring in New York
 
"We seem to make these games really exciting. These first three have been nail-biters. A point here at Providence Park is a good thing and there are areas for us to improve and I'm excited about that."
Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar on the team’s early season results and Saturday’s draw against Portland
 
Sweet Tweets
 
Mix Diskerud (@MixDiskerud): Can't wait to see the boys again. @ussoccer
 
Khiry Shelton (@khiryshelton14):  #TeamUSA #RoadtoRio #OneNationOneTeam
 
Tim Parker (@Tim_Parker26): Great to get the road win tonight ! Proud of the boys for the full 90+ battle!! Now on to Olympic qualifiers tomorrow to battle for   
 
Ethan Finlay (@EthanFinlay13): Honored to earn my 100 MLS appearance tonight. Proud to say they have all been with this great club.  #CrewSC
 
Week 4 Game Previews
 
Saturday, March 26
New York City FC vs. New England Revolution, 3 p.m. ET
  • NYCFC are now winless in their last three games at Yankee Stadium dating back to last year, shut out for the first time since their 2-0 loss to the Red Bulls last Aug. 9, following their 1-0 defeat by Orlando City SC on Friday evening in The Bronx.
  • Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth became the fourth goalkeeper in MLS history – and second in the last two seasons – to save two penalty kicks in one game when he stopped two in New England’s 3-0 defeat by Philadelphia Union on Sunday. This is the third consecutive season the Revolution are winless after their first three games.
  • The teams met three times a season ago in NYCFC’s first year in MLS, and the Revolution won two, once at each ground. New England claimed a 1-0 victory July 18 at Gillette Stadium, then took a 3-1 victory on Decision Day at Yankee Stadium.
  • New York City FC won the first ever meeting between the teams, a 2-0 win March 15 at Yankee Stadium, the club’s first-ever victory in Major League Soccer.
 
D.C. United vs. FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. ET
  • FC Dallas won 2-1 last July 18 at Toyota Stadium, their second consecutive 2-1 win in Frisco in the all-time series. D.C. United last won in Frisco on Sept. 1, 2007, a 4-0 victory. FC Dallas have won four of their six home meetings since, with two draws.
  • United won 4-1 in the last meeting at RFK Stadium, April 26, 2014, their second consecutive 4-1 victory at home in the all-time series.
  • Fabian Espíndola scored his first goal of the season as D.C. United recorded a second consecutive draw in their home opener, a 1-1 result with the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium.
  • Max Urruti netted his second goal of the season and Mauro Diaz scored his first as FC Dallas won for a second time by shutout at Toyota Stadium this season in their 2-0 victory against the Montréal Impact on Saturday. FCD has scored four goals this season; Diaz has a goal and two assists.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Houston Dynamo, 10 p.m. ET (TSN1)
  • Pedro Morales scored two goals from the penalty spot as Whitecaps FC won for the first time this season after two losses in a 2-1 win at Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday. Morales has scored the ‘Caps last three goals – all converted penalties. Whitecaps FC have won four consecutive league games against their Cascadia rivals at CenturyLink Field.
  • The Dynamo have scored 11 goals through their first three games – the most of any team in MLS history after three games. Will Bruin scored a pair of goals – his eighth career multiple-goal game in MLS – and Boniek Garcia added a pair of assists – his third career multiple-assist game in MLS – as the Dynamo suffered a 4-3 loss at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
  • In seven meetings all-time between the clubs, the home team has won each, including in both meetings between the teams a year ago. Whitecaps FC won the last meeting between the clubs, a 3-0 win at BC Place on Decision Day last year, their third home win in the series.
  • The Dynamo have won both meetings all-time at BBVA Compass Stadium, including a 2-0 win last Aug. 29, in their three home wins in the all-time series.