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This Week in MLS – March 28, 2016

This Week in MLS – March 28, 2016
  • MLS Cup champs head to Orlando for first taste of the Citrus Bowl on Sunday
  • Red Bulls’ Karl Ouimette ready to step up for club and country
  • Three Guatemalans to rely on MLS experience in showdown with U.S. at MAPFRE Stadium
  • MLS stars shine for their native countries in international play
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 5 Game Previews
MLS Cup champs head to Orlando for first taste of the Citrus Bowl on Sunday
The 2015 MLS Cup champions head into unknown territory as the Portland Timbers travel to face Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl for the first time on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes). The Lions have created one of the most electric environments in MLS, ranking second in the league for average attendance last year, which they hope will rattle a Timbers side far from their galvanizing confines of Providence Park.
Both teams will have critical international contingents back for Sunday’s tilt, as a combined eight players were called up for international duty during the March international window. Most importantly for Orlando, the Lions will have Canadian international Cyle Larin back from 2018 World Cup Qualifying. The 2015 Rookie of the Year is coming off a record-breaking season which saw him set a new rookie scoring record with 17 goals scored in 27 games, good for sixth-best in the league. The 20-year-old is continuing to prove not only his productivity but his consistency, as the Ontario native has scored in all three of Orlando’s matches to start the 2016 season, and will look to maintain his good form internationally in order to help Canada climb back against Mexico in 2018 World Cup Qualifying action tomorrow night at Estadio Azteca (10:30 p.m. ET, FS1, UDN, TSN2).
Red Bulls’ Karl Ouimette ready to step up for club and country
Karl Ouimette knew his chance would come. Now he just has to take it.
After a string of injuries left the New York Red Bulls without starting defenders Gideon Baah and Ronald Zubar, Ouimette now has a golden opportunity to prove himself to head coach Jesse Marsch, who also coached Ouimette while at the Montreal Impact, and secure his place on with the reigning Supporters’ Shield-winning team. The 23-year-old will be relied upon to anchor the Red Bulls’ backline for the foreseeable future, with his first full test coming in this week’s Viernes de Futbol matchup against the New England Revolution (7 p.m. ET, UniMás).
Ouimette has faced tougher circumstances in recent years, however, as his 20-year-old younger sister passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2014, a tragedy that forever changed his life. Nearly two years removed, Ouimette uses his sister’s memory to fuel his play on the pitch and regularly spends time as an advocate for cancer awareness.
The rising star is not only looking to prove himself in MLS, but also on the international stage. The Quebec native has already received 14 caps for his native Canada, playing in five of seven matches during 2018 World Cup Qualifying. With increased playing time on the horizon, Ouimette’s name will be one both Americans and Canadians discuss frequently in the coming months.
Three Guatemalan players to rely on MLS experience in showdown with U.S. at MAPFRE Stadium
After pulling off an upset last Friday against the U.S. in Guatemala City – a 2-0 win that snapped a 21-game winless streak against the U.S. – one might think La Azul y Blanco have a slim chance for a repeat in their second World Cup qualifying match in Columbus on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, UDN). But Guatemala won’t be as unfamiliar with the new setting as expected, as three players will have plenty of MLS experience to rely on, including one of Crew SC’s very own, rookie Rodrigo Saravia.
Expected to anchor the backline on Tuesday is FC Dallas Homegrown Player Moises Hernandez, who has quickly risen to become a regular for Guatemala, earning his debut just last year and playing the full 90 minutes at center back in last week’s win. Also looking for a start in the midfield is Columbus Crew SC 2016 MLS SuperDraft pick, Saravia, who is set up for a different sort of home debut as he has yet to see MLS action. Likely to start again in the midfield, the 23-year-old will have plenty to prove in front of his club’s home crowd, and will become Crew SC’s first non-U.S. international player to play at MAPFRE Stadium.
Bringing invaluable experience into Tuesday’s clash is eight-year MLS veteran Marco Pappa, who spent seasons with the Chicago Fire (2008-12) and Seattle Sounders FC (2014-15) before joining the Colorado Rapids in a trade this offseason. Pappa has contributed considerably for both club and country, recording 36 goals and 28 assists in MLS regular season action, while earning 51 caps and tallying 11 goals for Guatemala, including scoring on future Rapids teammate Tim Howard in 2012. Howard was able to keep Pappa at bay in the first matchup, but the Guatemalan will look to spoil the U.S. goalkeeper’s performance once more before the two suit up alongside each other this summer.
MLS stars shine for their native countries in international play
MLS’ diverse group of international talent shined this past week as players travelled the globe to represent their native countries during the international window. In 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC) and Anatole Abang (New York Red Bulls) both received their first caps for Cameroon, while Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew SC) shined defensively in a pair of positive results for Ghana. In 2018 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying play, Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls) connected with Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution) for a goal in Jamaica’s 1-1 draw against Costa Rica, a match that saw nine MLS players on the pitch. Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders FC) also got in on the scoring action this weekend with an equalizing goal in the 58th minute of Trinidad and Tobago’s eventual 3-2 victory over St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The U.S. U-23 squad, meanwhile, is on the brink of an Olympic berth with the squad facing Colombia on Tuesday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes). Six MLS players were among the U.S. team’s starting lineup in last Friday’s 1-1 draw in Colombia, as Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas) and Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids) led a determined defensive effort on the backline to keep a potent Colombia attack at bay. Columbus Crew SC Homegrown Player Wil Trapp and Chicago Fire 2015 Rookie of the Year finalist Matt Polster will look to man the midfield again, while newly minted Seattle Sounders FC Homegrown Player Jordan Morris hopes to find the back of the net in front of what is sure to be a spirited Dallas crowd.
Check It Out
"One of the best things we can talk about this group of players that I am blessed to coach is the level of inclusion of all of the players. We were missing players for sure, but we always say that the challenge has been opportunity, and opportunity is taken is by the ones that are prepared — and they are very well prepared."
FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja on his team’s strong performance despite missing seven players to international duty
“When I came into the game we were down a man, but we certainly didn’t play like we were down a man. We were very smart, tactically, we still played attacking football. I had some good chances myself. I think if we take the positives out of this game, we’ll be strong and confident heading into Friday against [the New York] Red Bulls, which is really one of our biggest rivals.”
New England Revolution forward Charlie Davies on the team’s ability to attack despite playing a man down much of the match
“It’s a dream playing with him. His movement is incredible. It creates space for us, creates space for himself. He definitely brings something different, and we need that. I think we’re going to be successful when he’s on the field.”
Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Kekuta Manneh on Masato Kudo’s impact on the team during his first start
“It’s unique. I’m not sure the fans will be cheering me that night, but it should be a great game.”
Columbus Crew SC midfielder Rodrigo Saravia on playing in front of his hometown club fans while playing for Guatemala in Tuesday’s upcoming match against the United States
Sweet Tweets
Darlington Nagbe (@darlingtonnagbe): Dinner with my man @gyasinho  showing him why Ohio is better than LA
Jordan Morris (@JmoSmooth13): Proud to be part of this team. Huge result last night! One more game to qualify for Rio #  
Steve Zakuani (@Zakuani11): Speaking of good players, very few can match what Marco Pappa does with a ball at his feet!
Week 5 Game Previews
Friday, April 1
New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m. ET
  • The Revolution have started a season winless through their first four games for the first time since 2001, following their 1-1 draw at New York City FC on Saturday afternoon. Chris Tierney’s free kick goal was New England’s first since their season-opening 3-3 draw at Houston.
  • The Red Bulls return to action after scoring their first goals and winning for the first time in 2016, in a 4-3, come-from-behind win against the Houston Dynamo on March 19. Felipe Martins scored the tying and winning goals six minutes apart late in the match, the first multiple-goal game of his MLS career.
  • A year ago, the MLS Original rivals met three times, with the home team winning each – the Revs won a pair of 2-1 contests at Gillette Stadium, and the Red Bulls won 4-1 at Red Bull Arena. The home team has won each of the last four meetings in league play (two for each club). The teams have met 77 times in all competitions over their history.
  • When the Revolution defeated the Red Bulls 2-1 at Red Bull Arena in the first leg of the 2014 Eastern Conference Championship, it was their first win of any sort in New Jersey since 2007, ending a 10-game winless streak there in all competitions.
  • When the Red Bulls won 2-0 in Foxborough on June 8, 2014, it was the first for New York in New England since 2002. The Revolution had won 13 of 19 meetings in league and MLS Cup play since that previous New York win.
Saturday, April 2
Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union, 5 p.m. ET
  • The Fire return to MLS play following a second draw in as many matches last time out, reaching a scoreless result with Columbus Crew SC on March 19.
  • Union are coming off a second consecutive victory, a 3-0 win vs. the New England Revolution on March 20 at Talen Energy Stadium, as C.J. Sapong recorded his second career two-goal game in MLS. Union have won back-to-back games in league play for the first time since May 17-24, 2015.
  • The Fire have not lost to Union over six consecutive meetings in MLS play, with two wins and four draws since the last Philadelphia victory in the series, May 18, 2013 in Chester. The Fire won 1-0 at Toyota Park last March, the Fire’s first win at home vs. Union since 2012; Philadelphia had won two of the four Bridgeview meetings in between, with two draws.
  • The Fire have come away with points on their last three trips to Chester, with draws in the last two meetings there.
  • The teams did meet in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal last year, Union reaching the title game for a second year in a row with a 1-0 win in Chester.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Sporting KC are the last team remaining in MLS with a perfect record to start the season, following their third victory in three games on March 20 in a 1-0 win vs. Toronto FC. It matches the club’s second-longest winning streak to open a season (also: 2006), after winning seven games in a row to open the 2012 campaign.
  • Real are also still undefeated to begin the season, after conceding a pair of late goals for a second time this season in seeing a two-goal lead reversed, in their 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers on March 19. Yura Movsisyan scored his first MLS goal since Oct. 24, 2009.
  • Real have a two-game winning streak alive vs. Sporting, having won the last two league meetings a year ago, both by 2-1 scorelines, and both at Rio Tinto Stadium (June 21 and July 24) – their first wins against KC since the 2011 season. RSL haven’t lost in four consecutive regular season matches vs. SKC.
  • Real have never won at Sporting Park, in six meetings lifetime, including MLS Cup 2013. RSL last won in Kansas City in 2009 (at CommunityAmerica Ballpark).
  • The teams also met in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal a year ago, Sporting winning 3-1 in Kansas City on their way to the title.
FC Dallas vs. Columbus Crew SC, 9 p.m. ET
  • FC Dallas won a third match this season by multiple-goal shutout, rolling to a 3-0 win against D.C. United on Saturday afternoon at RFK Stadium. Michael Barrios scored two goals in a game for the second time in 30 appearances in his MLS career.
  • Crew SC return to action after gaining their first point of the season following a pair of losses, reaching a 0-0 result with the Chicago Fire in their last match, March 19.
  • FC Dallas won the lone meeting between the teams a year ago, a 3-0 win Sept. 6 in Columbus, snapping a three-game Crew SC undefeated streak alive in the series. It was FCD’s first win in Columbus since 2007, ending a six-game home undefeated streak in the series for Crew SC (4-0-2).
  • When Crew SC won 4-2 at Toyota Stadium on Sept. 29, 2013, the last meeting between the teams there, it was their first win in Frisco since 2008.
Colorado Rapids vs. Toronto FC, 9 p.m. ET
  • The Rapids return to league play after extending their undefeated streak to two games in a 1-1 draw at D.C. United on March 19. The Rapids have scored two goals this season; Marco Pappa has been involved in both, with a goal and an assist.
  • Toronto FC play the fourth game of their eight-game road swing to start the season, now with a 1-1-1 record to start the year following their 1-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City last time out on March 20.
  • Toronto FC won the only meeting between the teams a season ago, a 3-1 win Sept. 19 at BMO Field, snapping a two-game Colorado winning run in the series.
  • The Rapids won 1-0 on April 12, 2014 in Toronto, their first victory ever against TFC at BMO Field (the Rapids did win MLS Cup 2010 there). TFC had won the first six meetings between the teams in Ontario.
  • The Rapids’ 1-0 victory in the last meeting at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, in 2013, was their first victory against Toronto FC since 2010 in Commerce City, snapping a four-game winless streak in the series (0-3-1).
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Montreal Impact, 10 p.m. ET
  • Sounders FC have opened a season with three consecutive losses for the first time in their MLS history, following their 2-1 home loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on March 19 – their fourth consecutive loss at CenturyLink Field to their Cascadia rivals. Sounders FC have opened a season with a four-game winless streak on two occasions in MLS (2011, 2013).
  • The Impact saw their perfect start to the 2016 season come to an end last time out, suffering a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas on March 19.
  • The Impact won the only meeting between the teams a year ago, a 1-0 win July 25 at Stade Saputo, their third win in four meetings all-time in the series. The Impact have won both meetings all-time at Stade Saputo.
  • The Impact have won the only meeting between the clubs at CenturyLink Field, a 1-0 victory March 2, 2013. The lone Sounders FC win in the series came in a 2-0 win, March 23, 2014 at Olympic Stadium in Montréal.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. D.C. United, 10:30 p.m. ET
  • Chris Wondolowski scored for a third consecutive game to start the season, but the Quakes lost for the first time in 2016 in their last match, falling 3-1 to the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on March 19. It’s the first time in his career Wondolowski has scored in each of the first three games to open a season.
  • D.C. United remain winless on the season, suffering a second loss after a pair of draws in their 3-0 defeat by FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon at RFK Stadium.
  • The Quakes won the only meeting between the teams a year ago, a 2-0 win Aug. 22 at RFK Stadium, snapping a two-game United winning streak in the all-time series. The Quakes have won four of their last trips to the nation’s capital; the only United home win in the series since 2009 came in a 1-0 victory June 22, 2013.
  • United won the last meeting between the teams at Buck Shaw Stadium, a 2-1 win in 2014 which was their second win in their last three visits to San Jose. United’s win there in 2011 was their first on the road against San Jose since 1998.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. LA Galaxy, 10 p.m. ET
  • Gyasi Zardes scored two goals in a game for the fourth time in his MLS career as the Galaxy won for the second time this season last time out – both wins at StubHub Center – in their 3-1 defeat of the San Jose Earthquakes on March 19.
  • Pedro Morales scored his fourth consecutive goal – all over the last three games, all from the penalty spot – as Whitecaps FC won for a second consecutive match in a 1-0 win against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at BC Place. The ‘Caps are the first team in MLS history to score four consecutive goals over three games all from penalty kicks.
  • Whitecaps FC won both meetings between the teams last season, a 2-0 win April 4 at BC Place, then a 1-0 win June 6 at StubHub Center. The Galaxy were 9-1-2 vs. Vancouver over the first 12 meetings between the teams, before last season.
  • The Whitecaps FC in the second meeting a year ago was their first ever vs. the Galaxy in Carson. The Galaxy had won the first six regular season home meetings with Whitecaps FC, outscoring them 13-1; they also took a victory there in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, a 2-1 win in the Knockout Round.
Sunday, April 3
Orlando City SC vs. Portland Timbers, 8 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • Cyle Larin made it three goals from three games with a marker in each, as Orlando City SC remained undefeated on the new season in their last match with their first win of the year, a 1-0 victory at New York City FC on March 18.
  • Fanendo Adi did it again, scoring two goals as the Timbers overcame a late two-goal deficit to record a 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake on March 19 at Providence Park. Adi has scored 28 goals in 60 league appearances; in the 18 games when Adi has scored a goal, he’s netted a brace in 10 of those.
  • The teams met once in Orlando City’s inaugural season, Cyle Larin and Kaká netting goals as OCSC came away with a 2-0 win against the Timbers on April 12 at Providence Park.