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This Week in MLS – May 2, 2016

This Week in MLS – May 2, 2016
  • Toronto FC are headed home to unveil a renovated BMO Field
  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget shining in the city of stars
  • D.C. United has found its attacking identity in diminutive Luciano Acosta
  • MLS well represented with 35 players named to preliminary Copa America rosters
  • Neutrogena and MLS team up to beat skin cancer
  • Week 9 AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 10 Game Previews
 
After eight-game road trip, Toronto FC ready to unveil renovated BMO Field in home opener

Toronto FC’s long awaited home opener at newly renovated BMO Field is finally here. After opening the season with eight consecutive away games, Toronto expects a sold out crowd of 30,000 for its first home match of the season on Saturday, May 7 against Western Conference leader FC Dallas (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN 4/MLS LIVE).

 

The new BMO Field renovations, totaling $150 million dollars, include a massive canopy covering the stands which will help amplify crowd noise, making Toronto’s home-field advantage all the more dominant, in addition to the expanded seating and premium fan options that were added in Stage 1 last year. Fans have plenty to cheer this season as reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco is off to another hot start, ranking third in the league with six goals scored. U.S. Men’s National Team captain Michael Bradley and fourth leading goal scorer in national team history Jozy Altidore combine to give Toronto a dangerous and star-studded attack. If the team’s progress continues as planned, Toronto will forge a home presence as equally unforgiving as their road schedule to start the season and host postseason matches at BMO Field come the fall.

 

This is the second consecutive season Toronto has opened the season with a lengthy road trip due to renovations to BMO Field, but this time around the Reds found success away from home. The team currently sits third in the Eastern Conference standings and earned 11 points with a 3-3-2 record, equaling the best record by a team starting a season with an extensive road trip in MLS history. Even more impressive, Toronto leads the league with a mere seven goals allowed, shutting down opponents in front of their home crowds. With Toronto making its first ever postseason appearance last season, the team looks to be in prime shape for an encore following a strong start to the 2016 season.

 

LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget shining in the city of stars

On a team full of stars playing in the entertainment capital of the world, it would be easy for Sebastian Lletget to be overlooked, but the LA Galaxy midfielder has held his own both on the field and in the media spotlight. The Galaxy are riding a six-game unbeaten streak and currently sit in fourth in the MLS Supporters’ Shield race powered by one of the most dangerous attacks in the league. Lletget and the Galaxy next host New England Revolution in MLS Soccer Sunday action on May 8 at the StubHub Center, where the team is undefeated this season (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes).

 

A midseason acquisition from English Premier League side West Ham United last year, Lletget has become a regular in the midfield, starting seven of eight matches for LA in 2016. With less than one full season on the squad, the 23-year-old California native has already found his place on a dangerous Galaxy attacking unit that looks capable of winning its fourth MLS Cup in six seasons. In 2015, Lletget broke out with seven goals, and he has continued to contribute, already notching two assists this season, matching last year’s mark.

 

While Lletget has excelled on the pitch, the attention he has received off the field is equally as compelling. Perhaps no player in Major League Soccer has a stronger social media presence than Lletget, who goes by the nickname “Da Boy”. Further adding to his stardom is his romantic relationship with singer Becky G, a pop star with YouTube videos registering over 200 million views.

 

Teammates often tease Lletget for his celebrity status and social media shenanigans, but the crafty midfielder’s importance in the starting XI for LA is unquestioned. After spending six seasons with West Ham, Lletget has finally found his home with the Galaxy and the spotlight has never been brighter. Lletget will be featured in an upcoming ESPN segment this week detailing his growing celebrity profile and his significant impact on the field and in the locker room for the Galaxy.

 

D.C. United has found its attacking identity in diminutive Luciano Acosta

 

“He’s unpredictable, he’s electric and he’s a lot of fun to watch. He comes with a bag of tricks and, when the ball hits his feet, good things happen.” – D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen

 

Transitioning to a new team in a new country is no easy task. Based off the electric playmaking ability midfielder Luciano Acosta has brought to D.C. United in his first season with the team, you’d think the 21-year-old had been playing with this attacking group for years. An offseason signing from Argentina power Boca Juniors, Acosta looks to further add to his already impressive highlight reel when D.C. United hosts New York City FC in MLS Soccer Sunday action at RFK Stadium on May 8 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes).

 

With D.C. sitting tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, Acosta has added a dangerous element in the midfield that has paid off with tremendous results in recent weeks. Acosta opened his MLS scoring account in supreme fashion, scoring the AT&T Goal of the Week with an incredible chip shot from outside the box in D.C.’s 3-0 win over New England Revolution on April 23 (Watch Goal). The diminutive 5’3” Argentine native has proven a deadly distributor as well, tied for fourth in the league with three assists, the most recent coming last week when he sent a beautiful curling kick into the box for a Patrick Nyarko equalizing header (Watch Assist).

 

The young midfielder arrived to D.C. via loan in the offseason but has already shown how dangerous he can be in the attack with his lightning quick dribbling skills. Despite the difficult transition, Acosta has excelled on the field and already has D.C. United fans clamoring to make the exhilarating player a permanent signing for the squad.

 

MLS well represented with 35 players named to preliminary Copa America rosters

The biggest men’s soccer event in the United States since the 1994 World Cup is fast approaching. This summer’s Copa America Centenario is two months away and MLS players are expected to play a large role for a number of teams in the tournament. With rosters taking shape, 35 MLS players made preliminary Copa America rosters, per each respective soccer federation’s roster announcements as of Monday, May 2. Additional MLS players are expected to be named this week.

 

UNITED STATES (19)                                                                            COSTA RICA (6)

David Bingham – San Jose Earthquakes                                                Christian Bolaños – Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Steve Birnbaum – D.C United                                                                 Waylon Francis – Columbus Crew SC

Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers                                                     Ronald Matarrita – New York City FC

Ethan Finlay - Columbus Crew SC                                                          Álvaro Saborío – D.C. United

Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City                                                        Johan Venegas – Montreal Impact

Kyle Beckerman – Real Salt Lake                                                           Kendall Waston – Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Lee Nguyen – New England Revolution                                                  

Chris Wondolowski – San Jose Earthquakes                                          PARAGUAY (1)

Jozy Altidore – Toronto FC                                                                    Nelson Haedo Valdez – Seattle Sounders FC

Graham Zusi – Sporting Kansas City                                                        

Clint Dempsey – Seattle Sounders FC                                                    ECUADOR (1)

Mix Diskerud – New York City FC                                                           Carlos Gruezo – FC Dallas

Michael Bradley – Toronto FC                                                               

Gyasi Zardes – LA Galaxy                                                                     HAITI (3)

Brad Evans – Seattle Sounders FC                                                        Soni Mustivar – Sporting Kansas City 

Nick Rimando – Real Salt Lake                                                              Zachary Herivaux – New England Revolution

Jermaine Jones – Colorado Rapids                                                        Derrick Etienne Jr. – New York Red Bulls

Kellyn Acosta – FC Dallas                                                                    

Jordan Morris – Seattle Sounders FC                                                     BRAZIL (1)

                                                                                                            Kaká – Orlando City SC

PANAMA (4)                                                                                        

Alberto Quintero – San Jose Earthquakes                                                                                  

Anibal Godoy – San Jose Earthquakes

Blas Pérez – Vancouver Whitecaps FC                                                  

Román Torres – Seattle Sounders FC                                                    

 

Neutrogena and MLS Team Up to Beat Skin Cancer

Neutrogena and MLS have announced a partnership to support Skin Cancer Awareness Month by promoting the Neutrogena Choose Skin Health campaign across the league. The partnership aims to help raise awareness of the risks of skin cancer and encourage fans and players to start protecting themselves and their loved ones from the most common form of cancer. To do this, the partnership will prominently feature the color orange across the league and promote the Choose Skin Health campaign in-stadium during the entire month of May. Official MLS match balls will have a unique Choose Skin Health decal, players will be provided with orange Choose Skin Health sweatbands and Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport sunscreen to wear on-field and MLS ball kids will be outfitted in campaign t-shirts. Later in the month at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Neutrogena will recognize a child who has fought skin cancer during the Sporting Kansas City vs. Orlando City SC match. For more information about the Choose Skin Health campaign, visit MLSsoccer.com or ChooseSkinHealth.com.

 

AT&T Goal of the Week (Week 9) – CLICK HERE to vote

  •          Brad Davis (SKC) Bending left-footed strike beats LA Galaxy keeper Brian Rowe
  •          Maxim Tissot (MTL) Long distance strike finds the left bottom corner
  •          Diego Valeri (POR) Fantastic free kick sneaks past an outstretched Clint Irwin
  •          Didier Drogba (MTL) Picture-perfect free kick from outside the box dips into the left corner
  •          Christian Bolanos (VAN) Nets first MLS goal with incredible side-footed volley off a corner kick
  •          Simon Dawkins (SJ) Cuts two defenders before smoothly finishing past Philadelphia keeper Andre Blake
  •          David Villa (NYCFC) Stunning volley off a Pirlo corner kick bounces past Vancouver keeper David Ousted
  •          Giovani dos Santos (LA) Completes counter attack with sublime chip over SKC keeper Tim Melia

 

Check It Out

New York Red Bulls:  LUIS ROBLES: Ironman Award Presentation

Portland Timbers: Jake Gleeson visits Community Cycling Center

Seattle Sounders FC: How yoga can help ease the body and mind

D.C. United: Demolition Day

New England Revolution: This or That: Juan Agudelo

Major League Soccer: MLS supports relief efforts after natural disasters

 

Quotables

 

“There are two kinds of leaders — vocal leaders and those who express their leadership through their talent on the field. David is not vocal. The way he works on the field, he’s sending his message to the players. He was a real captain today.’’

NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira on captain David Villa’s performance that led the club to its first home win of 2016

Just when NYCFC really needed him, David Villa was there (New York Post)

 

“Each game when you don’t score and you’re feeling more and more pressure, it kind of eats at you when you’re playing. Then you get your first one — this is the life of the forward — you can go out there and play a little freer and with more confidence, and then goals like the goal that happened today kind of come, where you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.”

Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris after scoring in his third consecutive match

Streaking Morris could lead to streaking Sounders (Tacoma News Tribune)

 

“Coach told me to utilize my speed, that there were going to be some open spots and to be aware of those. I saw it coming from the beginning, and I envisioned it happening. I’m just really happy I got my first goal in MLS, and I hope to continue on this trajectory.”

Orlando City SC midfielder Carlos Rivas on scoring his first MLS goal

Orlando City rallies for dramatic 2-2 draw at New England (Orlando Sentinel)

 

"I was lucky it was an international game. The Irish Federation surgeons were at the game, people on stand-by. Straight into X-ray machines at the stadium, everyone checking it out and cleaning it, a million people testing it, in an ambulance and straight to hospital, straight to theater (operating room) where there was two plastic surgeons on stand-by ready to go. It couldn't have happened in a better place."

Colorado Rapids forward Kevin Doyle on his gruesome injury suffered while playing for Ireland
Rapids striker Kevin Doyle lucky and thankful his injury wasn't much worse (Denver Post)

 

"He's got all the quality in the world. I remember when he was 16 and he was training with us, and I knew this kid had quality, I knew he could be the Jordan Allen he is today. It's just a testament to his hard work."

Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran on young Homegrown Player Jordan Allen who scored the game-tying goal vs. Houston

Again on the receiving end of a harsh tackle, Jordan Allen responds (Salt Lake Tribune)

 

Sweet Tweets

Nick Rimando (‏@NickRimando): Facetime had a new meaning tonight. Thanks to all to fans that made it out and supported. I'm well and ready next week.

https://twitter.com/NickRimando/status/726677810916540416

 

Jack McInerney (@jackmcinerney99): Unpacking and see 6 years ago today I scored my first goal #coincidence #memories

https://www.instagram.com/p/BE5GGRfqKyk/

 

Keegan Rosenberry (@kjroze): We carry on! All our focus on 3 points against LA #StandForBlue

https://www.instagram.com/p/BE6nCleNLtmzMb-9mqwMpw1Uexh8fJo2ZwBZ_o0/

                                                                       

Drew Moor (@drewmoor): Extremely proud of this Club.  Time to get home to our house....  #TFCLive #TFC #Reds

https://twitter.com/drewmoor/status/726904121442373634

 

Osvaldo Alonso (@OzzieAlonso): thanks to the @Mariners for giving me the opportunity to throw out the first pitch, amazing experience .

https://twitter.com/OzzieAlonso/status/727147307456581632

 

Week 10 Game Previews

Friday, May 6

Orlando City SC vs. New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m. ET (UNI)

  • Carlos Rivas scored the equalizer in the 90th minute, but Orlando City still saw their winless streak extended to four games in a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution on Saturday evening. It was Orlando City’s fourth goal this season in the 90th minute or later, leading to three draws.
  • The Red Bulls won their second match in a row, scoring four goals for the second time this season, in their 4-0 rout of FC Dallas on Friday evening at Red Bull Arena. Lloyd Sam, Felipe Martins and Sacha Kljestan each had a goal and an assist; Kljestan now has four assists over the last three games; he leads MLS with five assists for the season.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season, and the second time in three weeks. Bradley Wright-Phillips hit for a pair of goals in a three-goal Red Bulls burst in 11 minutes in the second half as they took a 3-2 win April 24 in Harrison.
  • The teams split their two meetings a year ago in Orlando City’s first MLS season, the road team winning on each occasion. The Red Bulls claimed a 2-0 victory on July 18 at the Citrus Bowl, then Orlando City turned the tables in a 5-2 triumph Sept. 25 at Red Bull Arena.

 

Saturday, May 7

Columbus Crew SC vs. Montreal Impact, 7:30 p.m. ET

  • Crew SC had their two-game winning streak put to an end, dropping a 1-0 decision at Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday evening.
  • Didier Drogba scored his second goal of the season, in his fifth game of the year, but the Impact were still held to a 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday afternoon at Stade Saputo.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Hassoun Camara and Kyle Bekker scored second-half goals to lead the Impact to a 2-0 win April 9 at Olympic Stadium. Crew SC has not scored a goal in their last three visits to Montréal in league play.
  • The Impact won the lone meeting in Columbus a year ago, a 2-1 win June 6, their first ever in Columbus, in six meetings there all-time. Crew SC won 2-1 on Sept. 14, 2013 at Stade Saputo, the only other victory by the away team in 11 meetings in the all-time series.
  • The teams also met in a pulsating Eastern Conference Semifinal Series last year. The Impact won the first leg 2-1 at Stade Saputo, then Crew SC advanced behind a 3-1 win in extra time in the second leg in Columbus as Kei Kamara netted a pair of goals, including the overtime winner.

 

Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m. ET

  • The Rapids had their three-game winning run put to an end but still extended their undefeated streak, gaining a 2-2 draw with the Montréal Impact on the road. Shkelzen Gashi had a goal and an assist; he has all of his two goals and two assists since coming to MLS over the last four games.
  • Real rebounded after their first defeat of the season, Jordan Allen scoring a goal and adding an assist in a 2-1 win against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season for the Rocky Mountain Cup, a trophy awarded by the supporters groups of both teams. Joao Plata scored the game’s only goal to lead Real to victory April 9 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • Real won on their last visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, a 2-1 win last Oct. 4. The Rapids’ 3-1 victory last July in Commerce City was their first vs. Real since 2013, ending a five-game winless streak in the series, when RSL had three wins and two draws over the stretch.
  • Real have a 13-game home undefeated streak alive vs. Colorado. Since the Rapids last win in Utah, a 2-0 victory April 30, 2007 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Real have won nine games with four draws. Colorado has never won at Rio Tinto Stadium (0-7-4 all-time in league play).

 

Seattle Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10 p.m. ET

  • Jordan Morris netted his third goal in as many games and Sounders FC won their third game in their last five outings, claiming a late 1-0 win against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
  • The Quakes remained winless away from Avaya Stadium but still came back to snatch a late draw, gaining a 1-1 result with Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon in Chester, Pa.
  • The Quakes have a five-game undefeated streak alive in the league series, with three wins and a draw. The last Sounders FC victory came May 17, 2014, a 1-0 win at CenturyLink Field.
  • The Quakes won on both visits to CenturyLink Field last year, a 3-2 victory March 14, and a 2-0 win June 20. They were the first wins for the Earthquakes in Seattle since 2012.
  • The teams played to a 1-1 draw in their final meeting of the season last year on Sept. 12, in the first meeting ever at Avaya Stadium. The goal was the first scored by Sounders FC on four visits to northern California, since a 2-1 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium in 2012. Seattle last won at San Jose in 2010.

 

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET

  • The Dynamo suffered their third consecutive defeat and had their overall winless run extended to six games, dropping a 2-1 decision at Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening.
  • Brad Davis scored his second goal for the club, but Sporting saw their winless streak stretched to five games in a second consecutive draw, a 1-1 result with the LA Galaxy on Sunday evening at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • The teams played to two draws a year ago, a wild 4-4 draw April 25 at BBVA Compass Stadium and a 1-1 draw Aug. 1 in Kansas City, before the Dynamo claimed a 1-0 victory in Houston on Sept. 23. It was the first victory for the home team in the series in nine matches, since a Dynamo home win in 2012.
  • Each team won at the other’s home ground in the two matchups in 2014. Sporting won 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 6, then the Dynamo returned the favor with a 3-1 victory Aug. 29 at Sporting Park. Sporting’s last win at home in the series came in 2011, winless in their first meetings at Children’s Mercy Park (0-1-4).
  • The teams met three consecutive seasons in the MLS Cup Playoffs from 2011-13, the Dynamo advancing in the first two meetings before SKC triumphed in the last. The 2011 and 2013 meetings were for the Eastern Conference Championship; both clubs find themselves in the Western Conference beginning this season.

 

Toronto FC vs. FC Dallas, 7:30 p.m. ET

  • Sebastian Giovinco set up Will Johnson for the lone Toronto FC goal, but they concluded their season-opening eight-game road swing in a 2-1 defeat at the Portland Timbers on Sunday afternoon. TFC has scored nine goals, Giovinco has played a part in each one (six goals, three assists). TFC ended the trip with a 3-3-2 record and 11 points, equaling the best record by a team starting a season with a lengthy road spell in MLS history.
  • FC Dallas suffered a second consecutive heavy defeat, dropping a 4-0 decision at the New York Red Bulls on Friday evening. FC Dallas have conceded 17 goals this season; 12 have come in their three losses (0-5 vs. Houston; 0-3 vs. Vancouver; 0-4 vs. Red Bulls).
  • FC Dallas won the lone meeting between the teams a year ago, a 3-2 victory April 18 at Toyota Stadium. In league play, FC Dallas have not lost to Toronto FC since 2007 – the first meeting ever between the clubs. FCD has won eight of the 13 regular-season encounters since, with five draws, including a 6-0-2 record all-time in Frisco.
  • The teams are meeting at BMO Field for the first time since 2013. FC Dallas have won on two of their last five trips to Toronto, with three draws.

 

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Portland Timbers, 5 p.m. ET

  • Octavio Rivero scored the second-fastest goal in Whitecaps FC’s MLS history, but they weren’t able to hold out, dropping a 3-2 decision to New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
  • Fanendo Adi moved into a tie atop the MLS Golden Boot standings and Diego Valeri returned from suspension to score his second goal this season directly from a free kick, leading the Timbers to a 2-1 win against Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at Providence Park, extending their undefeated run to three matches.
  • Whitecaps FC have won just twice in 14 all-time MLS meetings between the teams, both of those victories coming in the last six meetings, including a 2-1 win last March 28 at BC Place in the only win by a team in three league meetings last year. The last two three matchups overall have ended in draws in Portland, including a scoreless result May 2, and a 1-1 draw July 18 in regular season play.
  • The ‘Caps have come away with points in four of the last five encounters at Providence Park, with a win and three draws.
  • The teams also met in the Western Conference Semifinals a year ago, with the Timbers taking the series with a 2-0 victory in the second leg at BC Place, following a scoreless draw at Providence Park.

 

Sunday, May 8

LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

  • Giovani dos Santos scored his fourth goal over the last three matches and the LA Galaxy stretched their undefeated streak to six games with a third draw in that time, reaching a 1-1 result at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday evening.
  • The Revolution had their winless streak extended to five games with a fourth draw in that time, Orlando City hitting for a late equalizer to leave the teams in a 2-2 draw Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium.
  • The teams reached a 2-2 draw in their lone meeting a year ago, May 31 at Gillette Stadium. Each team hit for five goals in consecutive regular season matches the two years previous, the Galaxy rolling to a 5-1 win July 16, 2014 at StubHub Center, and the Revolution taking a 5-0 win June 2, 2013 at Gillette Stadium.
  • The teams have also met three times in the MLS Cup final, the Galaxy winning all three, all in extra time (2002 at Gillette Stadium; 2005 in Frisco, Texas; 2014 at StubHub Center).

 

D.C. United vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)

  • D.C. United ground out their third consecutive draw away from RFK Stadium, reaching a 1-1 result with the Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park. Luciano Acosta collected his third assist of the season; he has a goal and three assists over the last four games.
  • New York City FC snapped their seven-game winless run, winning for the first time since the season opener and winning for the first time this season at Yankee Stadium, coming back for a 3-2 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon.
  • David Villa netted a pair of goals vs. Vancouver, already his third two-goal this season, also hitting for a brace March 13 vs. Toronto FC and April 16 vs. Columbus. It was Villa’s seventh multiple-goal game in his MLS career, in 39 career league appearances. Villa has scored six of NYCFC’s last nine goals.
  • The teams met twice in New York City FC’s inaugural MLS season, each winning on their home ground. NYCFC won 3-1 on Aug. 13 at Yankee Stadium, and United won 2-1 on Oct. 2 at RFK Stadium.