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This Week in MLS – May 23, 2016

This Week in MLS – May 23, 2016
  • From humble beginnings, FC Dallas’ Carlos Gruezo now prepared to represent Ecuador in 2016 Copa America Centenario
  • MLS makes strong showing on final United States Copa America Centenario roster
  • With final rosters selected, top MLS players set to participate in fast approaching Copa America
  • MLS’ newest teams Orlando City SC and New York City FC square off in action-packed week
  • Week 12 AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 13 Game Previews
 
From humble beginnings, FC Dallas’ Carlos Gruezo now prepared to represent Ecuador in 2016 Copa America Centenario
"His aggressiveness [adds to the team]. Carlos is experienced, despite that he's young. That helps us a lot also. He has good feet and he understands the game. With Carlos, I feel that he's just embraced the model that we have in the club -- a young guy who is growing with us but at the same time has tremendous talent."  - FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja
 
Carlos Gruezo has grown up much faster than others his age. At the age of 21, the Ecuadorian has achieved more than he could have ever thought possible, overcoming a childhood filled with adversity to reach the highest levels of international soccer that culminated when he suited up for Ecuador in the 2014 FIFA World Cup – one of the youngest players ever to do so. Now filling a vital role in the midfield with FC Dallas, Gruezo will look to impress on the international stage once again in one of the most historic competitions in the world – the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
 
Growing up in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, Gruezo faced extreme poverty. His grandmother raised money by selling food on the streets in an effort to put him and his siblings through school, and the family lived in a small and poorly constructed house made of pieces of wood from the nearby area. When he was 16, Gruezo had his first child, a boy named Johan. At 18, Gruezo had his second child, this time a daughter, Danielle.
 
Despite his humble beginnings, however, Gruezo’s path to professional soccer was always clear. His father was a professional player in Ecuador, earning a cap with the national team in 1998. Despite never living together, Gruezo’s father would later coach him, riding Carlos to the point of obsession in order to improve his game, turning him into the dedicated and hard-working professional he is today. 
 
Named to the final 23-man roster for the Copa America Centenario, Ecuador hopes Gruezo will bring the same physicality and intensity he has shown so often for FC Dallas in his first season in MLS. The team leader in tackles this season, Gruezo is an intimidating presence on the pitch despite standing at 5’7” and hopes to prove on this summer’s biggest stage that no challenge is too hard to overcome, and show just how valuable an asset he can be when facing some of the top competition in the world. Gruezo will next play on his home field Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX on Wednesday, May 25, this time suiting up in the visitor’s locker room for Ecuador’s friendly against the United States (8 p.m. ET, ESPN 2/UniMás/UDN).
 
 
MLS makes strong showing on final United States Copa America Centenario roster
United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann unveiled his roster for the Copa America Centenario with 11 MLS players featured on the final 23-man squad. In what will be the biggest soccer tournament on American soil since the 1994 World Cup, the host United States squad features a number of prominent MLS players at every position highlighted by team captain Michael Bradley, and the second highest scorer in national team history, Clint Dempsey. The United States kicks off the tournament on Friday, June 3 when it takes on Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes).
 
Goalkeepers (1)                                                                                   Defenders (2)
Tim Howard – Colorado Rapids                                                             Steve Birnbaum – D.C United                                                                                                                                                                             Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City
Midfielders (5)
Kyle Beckerman – Real Salt Lake                                                          Forwards (3)                
Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers                                                      Clint Dempsey – Seattle Sounders FC
Jermaine Jones – Colorado Rapids                                                         Chris Wondolowski – San Jose Earthquakes           
Michael Bradley – Toronto FC                                                                Gyasi Zardes – LA Galaxy        
Graham Zusi – Sporting Kansas City                 
           
                                                 
With final rosters selected, top MLS players set to participate in fast approaching Copa America
With the kickoff of Copa America Centenario less than two weeks away, each respective soccer federation has set its 23-man roster and MLS players are well represented among the contingent of nations participating. These international players are expected to play important roles for their respective countries in the historic tournament, with seven teams including the United States, placing an MLS player on its final roster for a total of 28. The Copa America Centenario will run from Friday, June 3 until Sunday, June 26 with the championship game to take place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ (8 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes).
 
Costa Rica (5)                                                                                        Jamaica (6)
Christian Bolaños – Vancouver Whitecaps FC                                           Andre Blake – Philadelphia Union                      
Ronald Matarrita – New York City FC                                                        Kemar Lawrence – New York Red Bulls
Álvaro Saborío – D.C. United                                                                   Jermaine Taylor – Portland Timbers
Johan Venegas – Montreal Impact                                                            JeVaughn Watson – New England Revolution
Kendall Waston – Vancouver Whitecaps FC                                              Giles Barnes – Houston Dynamo
                                                                                                             Simon Dawkins – San Jose Earthquakes                                       Panama (3)
Alberto Quintero – San Jose Earthquakes                                                 Paraguay (1)
Anibal Godoy – San Jose Earthquakes                                                     Nelson Valdez – Seattle Sounders FC
Blas Perez – Vancouver Whitecaps FC
                                                                                                             Haiti (1)
Ecuador (1)                                                                                           Soni Mustivar – Sporting Kansas City
Carlos Gruezo – FC Dallas                                                                    
           
                                               
MLS’ newest teams Orlando City SC and New York City FC square off in action-packed week
When New York City FC and Orlando City SC entered the league last season, they developed a unique rivalry sparked by their inaugural status in Major League Soccer. Now in their second seasons, both teams are well positioned to make their first postseason appearances after showing much improvement in year two. New York forward David Villa currently leads the Golden Boot race with eight goals scored this season, helping his team to a current second-place standing in the Eastern Conference (4-4-5, 17 points). Adding to New York’s attack are Khiry Shelton and Tommy McNamara, who each are tied for sixth in MLS with four assists on the season, giving the team a dangerous and consistent attacking trio to watch out for.
 
Orlando, meanwhile, counters with the dangerous duo of Cyle Larin and Brazilian superstar Kaká. Larin, the 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year, already has six goals on the season following a brace in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Montreal Impact. Kaká and Larin’s growing chemistry on the field has become apparent as they teamed up on both goals against Montreal, with Larin scoring the game-winner off a brilliant piece of teamwork and passing from Kaká in the 87th minute of play (Watch Goal). New York will be sure to look out for Larin in the match on Sunday, May 29, as the 21-year-old forward has four goals in two career games at Yankee Stadium (4 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes).
 
Original MLS members Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United set to clash
Two of the original members of Major League Soccer, D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City, are set to face off in Viernes de Futbol action on Friday, May 27 at Children’s Mercy Park in the teams’ only matchup this season (7 p.m. ET, UniMás). Sporting Kansas City is in a battle for postseason positioning in the competitive Western Conference standings, as the team hopes to extend its current five-year run in qualifying for the playoffs. Leading Sporting is forward Dom Dwyer, who is back to his scoring ways after slotting home his sixth goal of the season against Real Salt Lake last week, good for sixth in the league rankings (Watch Goal). Hoping to make his season debut for D.C. is 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Bill Hamid. The U.S. men’s national team player underwent surgery in the offseason for a torn meniscus and would provide D.C. with a consistent defensive presence between the pipes.      
 
AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open (Week 12) – CLICK HERE to vote
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips (NYRB) Stunning bicycle kick starts the rout at Yankee Stadium
  • Juan Agudelo (NE) Perfect header brings New England even at home
  • Dax McCarty (NYRB) McCarty rises tall to send header into the corner
  • Cyle Larin (ORL) Finishes off a tic-tac-toe passing sequence for the winner
  • Darlington Nagbe (POR) Amazing free kick from outside the box that gets up and over the wall
  • Arturo Alvarez (CHI) Slickly maneuvers around Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric to finish into an empty net
  • Kwadwo Poku (NYCFC) Brilliant strike from just inside the area to the far post
  • Yura Movsisyan (RSL) Beats a defender to go 1v1 with goalkeeper Tim Melia and finishes
 
Check It Out
 
Quotables
“It’s an opportunity to get back on track after not winning Gold Cup or the Confederations Cup playoff game…What better opportunity are you going to have to win a major competition than on your home soil?”
Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey on the opportunity at hand hosting the Copa America Centenario
 
“It feels amazing, because the guys in this room have the right stuff. We fight for everything. This was a huge game. There was big pride at stake — more than even points.”
New York Red Bulls midfielder Mike Grella on the club’s resounding 7-0 Rivalry Week win over NYCFC
 
“He’s a different type of leader, quiet. He doesn’t need to talk. I try to make him involved, the link between myself and the rest of the team. It is important for me to make him understand that no one else here has his career.”
NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira on captain David Villa and his influence on the team
 
"People might say this guy is crazy for saying 'MLS champs.' I feel you have to reach for the highest and the see where you end up."
Philadelphia Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart on the club’s high expectations this year
 
"I think I keep growing every game when he's on the field with me and the more we play together, the more I learn from him and he teaches me every time we're on the field. I think if I keep doing things that I'm doing now, I'll keep scoring and Kaká will keep finding me the ball."
Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin on his growing chemistry with Brazilian superstar Kaká
 
"He's meant everything to this team. I think he's been a great leader on the field and a great citizen off of it. The accomplishments he has made as a San Jose Earthquake have been nothing short of incredible and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear on signing Chris Wondolowski to a contract extension
 
Sweet Tweets
Landon Donovan (‏@landondonovan): Great day hanging out at the @HeinekenSoccer House with all the @LAGalaxy fans for #RivalryWeek
 
Charlie Davies (@CharlieDavies9): Our baby shower was a success!!! Couldn't have been a better experience   #DaviesTwins #DaviesBabies
 
Jermaine Jones (@jermainejunior): I am always so proud to wear the American jersey and represent this country. Age doesn't exist for me , only fit or unfit . I can't wait for Copa America. #USMNT #copaamerica #ibelieve #coloradorapids
 
Steve Birnbaum (@StevenBirnbaum): All packed up and ready to go! First stop Dallas  Excited to meet up with the guys and get to work!  #USMNT
 
Dax McCarty (@DaxMcCarty11):NY is...... You guys know the rest
 
Week 13 Game Previews
Wednesday, May 25
Orlando City SC vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET
·         Cyle Larin scored a pair of goals as Orlando City SC put an end to a six-game winless run with their first win since April 3 in their defeat of the Montréal Impact on Saturday night at Camping World Stadium. It was Larin’s first multiple-goal game of the season; he had four a year ago while setting an MLS single-season rookie record with 17 goals.
·         Sebastien Le Toux set up his second goal in as many games – this time the first professional goal from defender Richie Marquez – as Union extended their undefeated streak to five games with a 1-0 win against D.C. United on Friday evening at Talen Energy Stadium.
·         The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Tranquillo Barnetta scored from a world-class free kick in the 90th minute, giving Union a 2-1 win April 8 at Talen Energy Stadium.
·         The teams met twice in Orlando City’s inaugural season, with one goal scored between the two games. Sebastien Le Toux scored the game’s only goal in a Union win Oct. 25 in Chester; the teams played to a scoreless draw Aug. 8 at the Citrus Bowl.
 
Friday, May 27
Sporting Kansas City vs. D.C. United, 7 p.m. ET (UNI)
·         Dom Dwyer scored for a second consecutive games, but Sporting lost for a sixth time in their last nine starts, falling 3-1 to Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at Children’s Mercy Park.
·         United saw their streak of three consecutive road draws come to an end, but they are still winless away from RFK Stadium following their 1-0 loss at Philadelphia Union on Friday evening.
·         D.C. United have a four-game undefeated streak alive in the series between the teams. The teams reached a 1-1 draw last May 9, at RFK Stadium, in the only meeting between the clubs; Sporting was winless in the three meetings between the teams in 2014 with United winning two, one at each ground.
·         The Sporting goal in last year’s matchup was their first vs. United since the last meeting in 2013, a 1-0 win Oct. 18 in Kansas City, also SKC’s last victory in the series. The goal snapped a 308-minute goalless streak vs. United.
·         United won on their last visit to Kansas City, a 3-0 win Aug. 23, 2014. Sporting last won at RFK Stadium in 2012. United was winless against Sporting over three consecutive seasons, 2011-13 (0-6-1).
 
Saturday, May 28
New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC, 7 p.m. ET
·         The Red Bulls equaled the MLS record for the largest margin of victory in league history, with their 7-0 rout of New York City FC in the Hudson River derby on Saturday afternoon. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Dax McCarty each scored a pair of goals; for Wright-Phillips, he now has six goals in four games against the cross-river rivals.
·         Toronto FC concluded their first homestand with a second consecutive draw, reaching a scoreless result with Columbus Crew SC on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. TFC went 1-1-2 in the homestand, coming after an eight-game road swing while renovations were completed at the stadium.
·         The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Sebastian Giovinco netted a first-half penalty kick then set a late insurance goal from Marky Delgado as Toronto FC took a 2-0 win in the season opener for both clubs, March 6 at Red Bull Arena.
·         The first match victory was the first ever for Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls were 5-0-1 all-time in Harrison before the TFC win; the triumph also snapped an eight-game home undefeated streak for the Red Bulls vs. TFC (7-0-1), which began Oct. 25, 2009. The Red Bulls are now 9-2-1 all-time in home matches vs. Toronto FC.
·         TFC is undefeated in their last three home matches vs. the Red Bulls, with victories in the last two meetings there. The Red Bulls last won in Toronto in 2013, a 2-1 victory at BMO Field.
 
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. ET
·         Crew SC reached a third consecutive draw, their overall winless run now at four games following their goalless result at Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon.
·         Real put an end to their two-game losing slide with their first win away from Rio Tinto Stadium this season, defeating Sporting Kansas City 3-1 on Saturday evening.
·         The last two meetings between the teams have ended in draws, including a 2-2 result last June 27 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the only encounter between the clubs. The teams reached a 1-1 draw in 2014 in the last matchup in Columbus.
·         The last win by either team, RSL’s 4-0 win vs. Crew SC on Aug. 24, 2013, was Real’s first win against Columbus since 2010, snapping a three-game Crew SC winning streak.
·         RSL have not won in Columbus in league play since 2006, the Crew having won six consecutive home regular-season games in the series before the teams reached the draw there in 2014. Real did win the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series between the teams in 2009 in Columbus, on their way to an MLS Cup title.
 
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
·         Lee Nguyen scored a goal and added an assist – the second consecutive game for each – but the Revolution weren’t able to build upon a first win in eight games, dropping a 4-2 decision to FC Dalas on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium.
·         Sounders FC suffered their second consecutive 1-0 defeat, their four-game home winning streak put to an end in their loss to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening at CenturyLink Field.
·         Sounders FC won 3-0 last March 8 at CenturyLink Field in the only meeting between the teams. The opening Seattle goal ended a 259-minute goalless streak vs. New England, the first goal scored by Sounders FC in the series since 2012.
·         In 2014, the Revolution took a 5-0 victory in their only meeting, at Gillette Stadium, the heaviest defeat in the six-year history of the all-time series. It was the Revolution’s first victory against Sounders FC since 2010, with two Seattle wins and two draws in between.
 
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers, 8:30 p.m. ET
·         The Fire put an end to their six-game winless run, Arturo Alvarez netting their first goal after back-to-back attacking shutouts as they defeated the Houston Dynamo 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park.
·         Diego Valeri scored for a second time in three games – on one of two Timbers’ penalty kick goals – and Darlington Nagbe scored from a world-class free kick as the Timbers put an end to a three-game losing slide with a 4-2 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday afternoon at Providence Park.
·         The Timbers have never lost to the Fire in six meetings all-time between the clubs, with four victories and two draws.
·         The Timbers won the only meeting between the teams a year ago, a 1-0 victory Aug. 7 at Providence Park. The Timbers have won three of the four meeting all-time in Portland. The Timbers have come away with a win and a draw in two games at Toyota Park, last a 2-2 draw in 2013.
 
Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union, 9 p.m.
·         The Rapids extended their undefeated run to eight games – with a sixth win in that time – Axel Sjoberg netting his first professional goal for the only marker in the game in their win against Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday evening. The streak is one game shy of the club-record unbeaten run, set on two occasions.
·         The teams have reached draws in their last two meetings, both in Chester, a scoreless result last March 7 in their only meeting of 2015, and a wild 3-3 draw in 2014. Union have still never defeated Colorado on their home ground, with three draws and two losses all-time in Chester.
·         The home team has won just once in eight meetings all-time in the series – a 4-1 Rapids victory Aug. 29, 2010 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The road team has won three times, including a 2-1 Union in 2013 in the last meeting in Commerce City.
 
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas, 10:30 p.m. ET
·         Fatai Alashe netted a late equalizer, but the Quakes weren’t able to come away with a first road win of the season, playing to a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on Sunday evening at StubHub Center. The Quakes return to Avaya Stadium holding a 5-0-1 record in home games this year.
·         Tesho Akindele scored a pair of goals – his first multiple-goal game since hitting for a hat trick in his rookie season – and FC Dallas put an end to a three-game losing streak on the road with a 4-2 victory against the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium.
·         The teams are meeting for the second time this season. The teams reached a 2-2 draw April 9 at Toyota Stadium.
·         FC Dallas is undefeated in the last five matchups between the clubs. FCD is undefeated in their last three home games in the series, winning both meetings at Toyota Stadium a season ago.
·         The teams reached a scoreless draw last June 7 in the first series meeting ever at Avaya Stadium. The FC Dallas victory in the final meeting at Buck Shaw Stadium – a 5-0 victory Aug. 16, 2014 – was their first on the road against San Jose since 2009, a 2-1 win in Santa Clara.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Houston Dynamo, 6 p.m. ET
·         Kekuta Manneh scored his third goal in the last two matches and Pedro Morales scored for a second consecutive match, but Whitecaps FC saw their three-game winning run come to a halt following their 4-2 loss to the Portland Timbers on Sunday afternoon at Providence Park.
·         The Dynamo suffered their sixth defeat in six road outings this season, falling 1-0 to the Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park. The Dynamo have now lost 10 consecutive road games, matching the sixth-longest streak in league history; they are winless overall in their last 14 games away from BBVA Compass Stadium.
·         The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Pedro Morales converted a penalty kick in the 23rd minute, giving Whitecaps FC a 1-0 win March 26 at BC Place.
·         In eight meetings all-time between the clubs, the home team has won each. Whitecaps FC have won all four meetings at BC Place, the Dynamo having not scored their since 2014. The ‘Caps also won the lone meeting at Empire Field.
·         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.
 
Sunday, May 29
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
·         Kaká recorded two assists for the second time this season and third game in his MLS career – all over his last 11 league appearances – in setting up both goals in Orlando City’s 2-1 win against the Montréal Impact at Camping World Stadium.
·         NYCFC became the fourth team in MLS history to concede seven goals or more in a game, their 7-0 defeat by the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon matching the league’s all-time record for largest margin of victory in a single game.
·         The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Cyle Larin netted the game’s lone goal after seven minutes and Orlando City held out the rest of the way for a victory March 18 at Yankee Stadium, the first road win in the four all-time meetings between the expansion class of 2015.
·         The teams met three times in the inaugural season for both. In the first meeting between a pair of expansion clubs to open their MLS histories, the teams reached a 1-1 draw March 8 at the Citrus Bowl. Each team then won on its home ground, New York City FC taking a 5-3 win July 26 at Yankee Stadium, and Orlando City returning the favor with a 2-1 win Oct. 16 in Orlando.
 
Montreal Impact vs. LA Galaxy, 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
·         Ignacio Piatti scored his third goal in the last three games, but the Impact saw their streak of four consecutive draws put to an end, having now not won in their last six games overall, following their 2-1 defeat at Orlando City SC on Saturday evening.
·         The Galaxy extended their overall undefeated streak to nine games and remained undefeated at StubHub Center this season, reaching a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday evening.
·         The teams have reached draws each of the last two seasons, a scoreless draw last Sept. 12 at StubHub Center, and a 2-2 draw in 2014, the first match ever between the teams at Stade Saputo.
·         The Galaxy have the only victory in the four meetings all-time between the clubs, a 1-0 triumph in 2013 at StubHub Center. The teams played to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting, May 12, 2012 at Olympic Stadium in Montréal.