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This Week in MLS – March 8, 2016

This Week in MLS – March 8, 2016
  • Portland’s Young Internationals Electrify as Timbers Continue Defense of Title
  • New York City FC’s Kids are Alright
  • After Week One Goal-fest, Action Continues on Viernes de Fútbol and MLS Soccer Sunday
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 2 Game Previews
Portland’s Young Internationals Electrify as Timbers Continue Defense of Title
The defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers began their title defense right where it left off with its high-octane trio of young internationals Fanendo Adi, Dairon Asprilla and Lucas Melano, providing some of the most exciting soccer on opening day in a 2-1 win over MLS Cup foe Columbus Crew SC. With all three players still filled with unloaded potential, another year under coach Caleb Porter could mean Portland is set for an MLS Cup repeat. The Timbers will look to further their strong start this Sunday when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium (7 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes).
Adi has given the Timbers a large presence on the attack in more ways than one. The 6’4” Nigerian native possesses an impressive combination of strength and deftness with the ball evidenced by last season’s 16 goal campaign. Adi scored the eventual game winner on Sunday and seems to be coming into his own as he develops into one of the Timbers’ most reliable scorers. Originally from a small town in Nigeria, the striker grew up playing soccer barefoot with dreams of one day making it big. Adi ended up earning the chance of a lifetime after being selected in an open tryout to attend a soccer academy in Lagos. Adi quickly turned heads, eventually making his way around Europe before finally landing in the Rose City. The 25-year-old has found his footing with the Timbers, and his performances have caught the attention of his home country, earning his first call up to the Nigerian national team for Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers later this month.
Also defying the odds is Asprilla, the youngest of nine, who was first noticed by a local coach at the age of 10 in his hometown of Istmina, Colombia. Given the rare opportunity to train fully at a young age, Asprilla quickly rose in the ranks, eventually going on to play 71 games with Alianza Petolera in the Colombian top division Primera A, scoring 22 times. Since joining the Timbers in 2014, the quick and speedy winger has caused trouble for opponents down the wing and was no exception last Sunday, as his deflected shot off of Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark fell to Adi for the game-winning finish.
First scouted by the Timbers in 2012, it was finally the right place and time for Argentine winger Melano to make his way to Portland in the summer of 2015. After a career in the Argentine Premier Division, which included a spell at Lanus – the same club fellow Timber Diego Valeri once suited up for – the Hernando native became another vital addition to a club brimming with South American talent. The 23-year-old didn’t miss a beat adapting to MLS, proving clutch in the postseason with a stoppage time goal in the Western Conference Championship against FC Dallas and an assist on Rodney Wallace’s game-winning goal in MLS Cup.
New York City FC’s Kids are Alright
A trio of American youngsters showed up in a major way on opening day, leading New York City FC to a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Chicago Fire. Midfielder Tommy McNamara and forwards Khiry Shelton and Tony Taylor lit up the field as they all found the back of the net, and will look to stun again in this Sunday’s home opener at Yankee Stadium vs. Toronto FC (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
If you told Tommy McNamara he would one day be playing with the likes of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, he wouldn’t believe you. The West Nyack, NY native grew up with soccer in his veins, as both his father and mother played collegiate soccer. McNamara followed in their footsteps, playing four years at Brown which included graduating with a degree in business economics and attending Clemson for a year in order to attain a master’s degree in applied economics and statistics. Known for his epic mullet, McNamara saw a rookie season cut short in 2013 after suffering a torn ACL with Chivas USA, but was given a second chance when selected by NYCFC in 2014 MLS Expansion Draft. The intellectually-minded midfielder made his mark right away much like he did last Sunday, ringing in the third decade of MLS with the first goal of the season, a screamer from outside the box in the 10th minute (watch goal).
Shelton’s performance was equally as impressive as he assisted on the McNamara goal before notching his own with a 36th minute off-balance shot that Shelton somehow managed to flick in after being tripped up by the goalkeeper (watch goal). The No. 2 pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, the 22-year-old was called in to U.S. Men’s National Team January camp where coach Jurgen Klinsmann got a look at one of the most promising and speedy forwards in the league. The U.S. U-23 staple is one to watch as Olympic Qualifying resumes this month, as they take on Colombia for the final ticket to Rio.
His second season with New York City FC, Tony Taylor’s 2016 campaign is already off to a much better start after a 2015 that saw the 26-year-old suffer a season-ending ACL tear. A former Club de Portugal player who featured for the U.S. at the 2009 U-20 World Cup, Taylor proved he could be a difference maker in a roster full of international talent, notching the second goal in last Sunday’s goal-fest at Toyota Park. The California native will serve as a threat on the wing in 2016 as new head coach Patrick Vieira looks to build upon a roster flowing with international veterans and young domestic talent.
After Week One Goal-fest, Action continues on Viernes de Fútbol and MLS Soccer Sunday
After attracting over 60,000 fans to the Citrus Bowl for a dramatic last-minute comeback on opening weekend, Orlando City SC looks to carry that magic into the first Viernes de Fútbol match of the season against the Chicago Fire on Friday (7 p.m. ET, UniMás/UDN). Last season’s MLS Rookie of the Year winner Cyle Larin showed no signs of a sophomore slump, scoring a goal in the 94th minute and assisting on another in the 95th to secure an improbable draw for the Lions, and will look to continue his strong performance on Friday. The Fire showed they can score plenty with three goals of their own, however, as newly-signed Designated Player David Accam led the team with one goal on a penalty kick and one assist. If last week is any indication, this will be another high scoring affair to begin an exciting Week 2. 
After a full slate of action on Saturday, fans will be treated to an evening double-header on MLS Soccer Sunday, beginning with New York City FC’s home opener at Yankee Stadium against Toronto FC (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes). New York City FC displayed an impressive attack last week under new head coach Patrick Vieira, with four goals coming from a mix of talented young attacking players who will complement the team’s veteran scorers if they can continue showing strong form. Toronto FC is up to the challenge as it continues its New York stay following last week’s season opening 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. Defending Landon Donovan MLS MVP winner Sebastian Giovinco picked up where he left off last season with a game-winning penalty kick goal and an assist for good measure. 
MLS Soccer Sunday action concludes on the West Coast as the Portland Timbers travel to face the San Jose Earthquakes following an impressive display of strength in last week’s MLS Cup rematch (7 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes). The Timbers already looked in midseason form with tremendous chemistry in the counter attack led by MLS Cup MVP Diego Valeri, and until proven otherwise, are the class of MLS. San Jose counters with one of the most prolific goal scorers in league history, as Chris Wondolowski yet again proved to be the difference maker with last week’s header in the Earthquake’s opening week victory. Fans will have a chance to see Avaya Stadium, the site of this year’s AT&T MLS All-Star game, when tuning in to Sunday’s night cap.
Check It Out
“Anytime you’re able to get a shutout and get three points on the road, it’s a huge victory. We’ve played here many times, and we’ve been snake-bitten quite a few times. I thought we were very well-organized and very disciplined in the game.”
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes on defeating Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field
""He didn't do a whole lot. In all seriousness, that's the reason why we wanted to bring Mike back here. We think he's a great player and can score goals."
LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena joking about Mike Magee and his impact on the Galaxy’s season opening victory
"That's what you see in video games. You don't see that in actual soccer, but we brought it to real life."
Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin on the Lions comeback with two goals scored in stoppage time
"We picked up right where we left off at the end of the year. Last year wasn't an anomaly. We showed today that we can be even better and I'm confident that we can continue to go to another level."
Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter on the team’s improvement following las season’s MLS Cup title
“For us to come in and win this way — on the strength of our defending —it’s great for the group. It’s a better building block for us to win this way than to win by out-possessing them. Psychologically, it’s important.”
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney on the team’s improved defense shown in Sunday’s victory at New York Red Bulls
Sweet Tweets
Drew Moor (@drewmoor): Hey @MLS #SoccerSunday, What. A. Start. to the 2016 season!! Yes, I’m entertained
Dom Dwyer (@Ddwyer14): Thanks to all the fans that made the trip, great result tonight, big 3pts at one of the toughest places to play. Big man @nunoacoelho12
Diego Valeri (@DiegoDv8): Opening game Amazing tifo crew #RCTID #3points
Chris Wondolowski (@ChrisWondo): Great way to start the season off. Thank you to all the fans that helped push us through the 90min. #ILoveThisTeam
Ronald Matarrita (@MatarritaRonald): First game, first win  Primer partido, primera victoria   @Guaje7Villa #NYCFC
Kei Kamara (@keikamara): Salute to our traveling supporters. Things you guys do for us is amazing.  #CrewSC #HeartShapedHands
Week 2 Game Previews
Friday, March 11
Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire, 7 p.m. ET (UniMas, UDN)
  • Orlando City came back to snatch a dramatic draw in their season opener, as Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter both scored less than a minute apart in stoppage time to pull the Lions back into a 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake. It was the seventh time in MLS history a team has scored multiple goals in added time to come back for a draw (a team has never overcome a multiple-goal deficit to win in stoppage time).
  • David Accam netted a goal and added an assist, but the Fire fell short in a comeback of their own in their season opener, falling 4-3 to New York City FC at Toyota Park.
  • The teams met three times in league play in Orlando City SC’s inaugural season – and OCSC came away with a result on each occasion. The Lions won both matches at Toyota Park, winning 3-2 on June 6 and 1-0 on Sept. 19; they played to a 1-1 draw Aug. 29 at the Citrus Bowl. The teams also met in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, the Fire advancing with a 3-1 win at Toyota Park.
Saturday, March 12
New England Revolution vs. D.C. United, 3 p.m. ET
  • Diego Fagundez played a part in all three goals as the Revolution came back for a dramatic 3-3 draw at the Houston Dynamo in their season opener. Fagundez scored the Revolution’s opening goal of the season after just 3 minutes – matching the earliest goal in a season in the club’s history – then assisted on the Revs’ final two goals, including the stoppage-time equalizer from Daigo Kobayashi.
  • United fell to a 4-1 defeat to the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center in their season opener, as Lamar Neagle scored the club’s first goal of the season after just five minutes.
  • United had the upper hand in the season series between the clubs a year ago, winning one of the two regular season matches, with one draw. They won 2-1 on June 21 at RFK Stadium, their second consecutive home win vs. the Revolution in league play. The teams reached a 1-1 draw May 23 at Gillette Stadium, extending the Revs’ home undefeated streak to four games vs. United in league play.
  • The teams also met in the MLS Cup Playoffs, United taking a 2-1 win at RFK Stadium in the Knockout Round. United have won three of the four series all-time between the teams in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 4 p.m. ET
  • Joao Plata scored a pair of goals in a game for a second time in his MLS career, but Real were hauled back into a 2-2 draw at Orlando City SC in their season opener as the home side scored twice in stoppage time. Plata’s first 2-goal game also came on the road, in 2014.
  • Sounders FC suffered a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City in their season opener at CenturyLink Field, putting an end to a seven-game home undefeated streak in MLS league and cup play dating back to last season.
  • Sounders FC have won the last four meetings between the teams at CenturyLink Field, following a 3-1 win there in the season finale last year. RSL have scored goals on their last two visits to Seattle; they had gone more than two seasons, dating back to 2012, without scoring at CenturyLink Field.
  • Sounders FC last won in league play at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 28, 2011, a span of five games. Real have won their last four home games vs. Seattle.
Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls, 4 p.m. ET
  • Ignacio Piatti netted a pair of goals as the Impact defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3-2 at BC Place in their season opener – the first time the Impact have won an away game in Canada in their MLS history. The Impact were 0-4-4 in regular season trips to Toronto and Vancouver before this year’s opener.
  • The Red Bulls began defense of their Supporters’ Shield with a 2-0 home loss to Toronto FC, ending a five-game home winning streak in MLS play at Red Bull Arena. A year ago, the Red Bulls kicked off the season with a seven-game undefeated streak on their way to the league’s best record.
  • The Red Bulls have a six-game undefeated streak alive vs. the Impact, with four wins in that time. The last Montréal win in the series was a 1-0 win at Stade Saputo in the first meeting in 2013.
  • The Red Bulls have won all five league meetings lifetime at Red Bull Arena, including a 2-1 win last Oct. 7 in the only meeting there between the teams. The Red Bulls have come away with points on three of their five trips to Montréal all-time.
Colorado Rapids vs. LA Galaxy, 7 p.m. ET
  • The Rapids opened their 2016 campaign with a 1-0 defeat at the San Jose Earthquakes. They last opened a season with a victory in 2012, a 2-0 win vs. Columbus; they had reached draws in season openers each of the last two years.
  • Making his return for the LA Galaxy, his first match with the club since 2013, Mike Magee scored a pair of goals to lead his once former and new team to a 4-1 victory against D.C. United at StubHub Center. They were Magee’s first goals in MLS play since Aug. 10, 2014, when he scored for the Chicago Fire vs. the Red Bulls.
  • The Galaxy have a four-game undefeated streak alive in the series. The teams reached a 1-1 draw May 2 at StubHub Center, then the Galaxy claimed a 3-1 victory Aug. 1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
  • The Galaxy have won the last two meetings in Commerce City after last year’s victory there, ending a two-game Rapids home winning streak in the series – their first home wins vs. LA since 2008.
Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Crew SC opened their season the way the 2015 campaign ended – a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers. Federico Higuaín scored the lone Crew SC goal.
  • Union kicked off their new season with a 2-0 defeat at FC Dallas. Union have opened a season with a victory just once in their MLS history, in 2011, with a 2-0 victory at Houston.
  • Crew SC have never lost to Union in Columbus. They have won six of seven meetings there all-time, with one draw, including the last three matches in the Ohio state capital. Crew SC took a 4-1 win last April 25 in the only meeting at Mapfre Stadium.
  • Crew SC took a 3-1 in the final meeting between the teams last year, Sept. 12 in Chester, their third road victory in the last four years in the series.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Nuno Andre Coelho scored the game’s only goal in his MLS debut, leading Sporting to victory against a 10-man Seattle Sounders FC, their first win at CenturyLink Field since 2009.
  • Whitecaps FC got their goals from a pair of defenders – fullback Jordan Harvey and center back Kendall Waston – in their 3-2 season-opening defeat by the Montréal Impact at BC Place.
  • Sporting won both meetings between the teams a year ago, taking a 1-0 win July 12 at BC Place, and a 4-3 victory Aug. 15 at Sporting Park.
  • SKC have never lost to Whitecaps FC at home, winning all three meetings there lifetime. The lone Whitecaps FC victory in seven meetings all-time came in 2014, a 2-0 win at BC Place.
Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Will Bruin set up a pair of goals, one for newcomer Andrew Wenger, but the Dynamo were pulled back into a late 3-3 draw in their season opener at BBVA Compass Stadium as the New England Revolution netted a late equalizer in stoppage time.
  • Mauro Diaz set up both goals – one from Fabian Castillo in the first half, and one from newcomer Max Urruti in the second – as FC Dallas claimed a 2-0 win against Philadelphia Union in their 2016 season opener at Toyota Stadium.
  • FC Dallas have won the last five meetings between the teams, over the last three seasons. FCD has won the last two meetings at BBVA Compass Stadium, just their second and third wins all-time in Houston in 14 meetings in all competitions, the first since 2010. FCD has won three games in a row in Frisco, the last Dynamo victory there coming in 2011.
  • The clubs play for “El Capitán”, the 19th-century Mountain Howitzer cannon to be awarded to the winner of the season series by supporters groups for both clubs. Last year was the first season since 2011 the teams met more than once in the regular season, with both back in the Western Conference.
Sunday, March 13
New York City FC vs. Toronto FC, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
  • Khiry Shelton and Tommy McNamara each had a goal and an assist as New York City FC started off Patrick Vieira’s managerial career in style, cruising to a 4-3 win at the Chicago Fire in their second season opener.
  • Sebastian Giovinco got his second MLS season off to a rousing start, setting up one goal and netting the second as Toronto FC took a 2-0 victory at the New York Red Bulls to open the new campaign. Giovinco scored 22 goals and added 16 assists in winning Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors a year ago.
  • The teams met three times in NYCFC’s inaugural MLS season, and TFC did not win a game. NYC won 2-0 on June 20 at BMO Field – the only meeting in Toronto – and also took a 2-0 win Sept. 16 at Yankee Stadium.
  • The teams also played to a wild 4-4 draw July 12 at Yankee Stadium, with TFC’s Sebastian Giovinco scoring a hat trick in a nine-minute span, and NYCFC’s David Villa scoring a pair of goals, giving him four goals vs. Toronto FC last year.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers, 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • Chris Wondolowski netted the game’s only goal as the Quakes defeated the Colorado Rapids to open their 2016 season, the first time since 2012 the club has won its opening match of the season.
  • The Timbers started off defense of their 2015 MLS Cup title the way the championship game ended – a 2-1 victory against Columbus Crew SC, at Providence Park. Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi scored goals for the Timbers.
  • The Timbers have not lost to the Quakes over the last two seasons, a span now of five matches. The Timbers took a 1-0 victory in the lone meeting last season at Providence Park, their second consecutive home win vs. San Jose. The Timbers have won four of seven matches in Portland, with three draws.
  • The teams also reached a scoreless draw last Aug. 2 in the first meeting ever at Avaya Stadium. The Timbers’ 2-1 victory on Oct. 4, 2014 in Santa Clara was the first by a visiting team in the all-time league series.