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This Week in MLS – May 31, 2016

This Week in MLS – May 31, 2016
  • It’s finally here – Historic Copa America Centenario set to kick off in the U.S.
  • MLS heads into Copa America break with loaded midweek action
  • Canadian MLS clubs battle in Amway Canadian Championship with 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League berth on the line
  • Week 13 AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 14 Game Previews
 
It’s finally here – Historic Copa America Centenario set to kick off in the U.S.
After months of anticipation for the biggest men’s soccer event in the United States since the 1994 World Cup, the Copa America Centenario kicks off on Friday, June 3 when the United States takes on Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1/Univision/ UniMás/UDN). MLS players will take center stage in the summer’s biggest sporting event with 29 players representing eight countries in the renowned tournament.
 
Friday, June 3
 
United States vs. Colombia
After three impressive friendly match victories in preparation for Copa America Centenario play, the United States is confident entering the landmark tournament. MLS players makeup nearly half the U.S. roster with the starting XIs in the warmup matches featuring a strong contingent of notable league stars. Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe was the hero in the U.S.-Ecuador match after scoring the game-winner and his first ever international goal in a 1-0 victory on May 25 and looks to provide solid depth to a midfield loaded with MLS talent. Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids) and Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) join team captain Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) among starting lineup hopefuls, each bringing World Cup experience to the table.
 
LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes shined during the U.S.’s 4-0 rout of Bolivia on May 28, notching a brace, while both Nagbe and Bradley recorded an assist in the victory. Expected to start alongside Zardes is Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey, the second leading scorer in U.S. Men’s National Team history. Anchoring the backline are Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United) and Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) with each player receiving a start during the team’s final two pre-Copa America Centenario friendlies.
 
Saturday, June 4
 
Costa Rica vs. Paraguay
In another match with a strong group of MLS standouts, Costa Rica faces Paraguay on Saturday, June 4 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL (5 p.m. ET, FOX/Univision/UDN). Five MLS players suit up for Costa Rica including a pair of Vancouver Whitecaps FC players in defender Kendall Waston and forward Christian Bolaños. A two-time World Cup participant, Bolaños has four goals for Vancouver this season, while Waston has emerged as an intimidating force on Costa Rica’s backline. Paraguay counters with Seattle Sounders FC Designated Player Nelson Valdez who has played in two World Cups and will be making his fourth appearance in Copa America. 
 
Haiti vs. Peru
In the second match of a triple-header, Haiti and Peru square off at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA on Saturday, June 4 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS2/Univision/UDN). Sporting Kansas City midfielder Soni Mustivar figures to start as a defensive midfielder for a Haiti squad making its first ever Copa America appearance. Mustivar has 12 caps for Haiti, most recently playing in a 3-1 loss to Colombia on May 29.
 
Brazil vs. Ecuador
Fierce South American teams Brazil and Ecuador are the early favorites to advance from Group B and will battle for the early advantage at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, June 4 (10 p.m. ET, FS1/Univision/UDN). Orlando City SC midfielder Kaká suits up for Brazil and will be playing in his first Copa America despite three World Cup appearances. The 2007 Ballon d'Or winner has exhibited fine form this season for Orlando and currently ranks third in MLS with five assists this year. Representing Ecuador is 21-year-old FC Dallas midfielder Carlos Gruezo. One of the youngest participants at the 2014 World Cup, Gruezo’s aggressive style has proven key for Dallas this season as he leads the team in interceptions and figures to start at defensive midfield for Ecuador.
 
Sunday, June 5
 
Jamaica vs. Venezuela
Following a packed Saturday, Copa action continues on Sunday, June 5 when Jamaica and Venezuela face off at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL (5 p.m. ET, FOX/Univision/UDN). Six MLS players will play important roles for Jamaica including Philadelphia Union superstar goalkeeper Andre Blake. Blake has led Philadelphia to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and ranks second in fewest goals allowed, making incredible save after incredible save this season. New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence hails from Jamaican soccer royalty and will start on a backline looking to continue Jamaica’s unprecedented international success following a second place finish in the CONCACAF 2015 Gold Cup.
 
MLS Players on Copa America Centenario Rosters
 
United States (11)                                                                                 Jamaica (6)                                                      
Tim Howard – Colorado Rapids                                                             Andre Blake – Philadelphia Union
Steve Birnbaum – D.C United                                                                 Kemar Lawrence – New York Red Bulls
Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City                                                        Jermaine Taylor – Portland Timbers
Kyle Beckerman – Real Salt Lake                                                           JeVaughn Watson – New England Revolution           
Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers                                                     Giles Barnes – Houston Dynamo
Clint Dempsey – Seattle Sounders FC                                                    Simon Dawkins – San Jose Earthquakes
Jermaine Jones – Colorado Rapids                                                       
Chris Wondolowski – San Jose Earthquakes                                          Costa Rica (5)  
Michael Bradley – Toronto FC                                                                Christian Bolaños – Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Gyasi Zardes – LA Galaxy                                                                      Ronald Matarrita – New York City FC    
Graham Zusi – Sporting Kansas City                                                      Álvaro Saborío – D.C. United    
                                                                                                            Johan Venegas – Montreal Impact
Paraguay (1)                                                                                         Kendall Waston – Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Nelson Valdez – Seattle Sounders FC
                                                                                                            Brazil (1)
Haiti (1)                                                                                                Kaká – Orlando City SC
Soni Mustivar – Sporting Kansas City
                                                                                                            Panama (3)
Ecuador (1)                                                                                          Alberto Quintero – San Jose Earthquakes
Carlos Gruezo – FC Dallas                                                                     Anibal Godoy – San Jose Earthquakes
                                                                                                            Blas Perez – Vancouver Whitecaps FC
                                                                                                           
MLS heads into Copa America break with loaded midweek action
Before Major League Soccer takes a two-week break for Copa America Centenario action, there is plenty of soccer left to be played with six midweek contests slated for action. Real Salt Lake looks to continue its impressive start to the season with the final match in its current five-game road trip when it takes on New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, June 2 (7 p.m. ET, MLS Live). It will be a notable return for RSL defender and New York native Chris Wingert. Following eight seasons playing for RSL, Wingert joined New York City FC in 2015, starting 26 matches for the team’s inaugural MLS season. After one season, Wingert returned west to once again to suit up for RSL and to much success as the team currently sits in fourth place in the competitive Western Conference (6-4-2, 20 points). New York City FC likewise sits fourth in the Eastern Conference standings (4-4-6, 18 points), with forward David Villa leading the Golden Boot race with nine goals this season, including a beautiful chip shot goal last week (Watch Goal).
 
FC Dallas looking for revenge as Texas Derby returns on Thursday
The last time these two teams met, Houston came away with a dominant 5-0 victory over visiting FC Dallas in the second week of the season. Dallas has rebounded impressively since then, however, currently sitting in second place in the Supporters’ Shield race (8-4-3 record, 27 points) and will be looking to avenge the early season blowout defeat. Unbeaten in its last four matches, Dallas has yet to lose a home match this season. Houston and Dallas have split 10 all-time Texas Derby series as the Dynamo have a chance to secure this season’s El Capitán with a victory at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX on Thursday, June 2 (9 p.m. ET, MLS Live).          
                                               
Canadian MLS clubs battle in Amway Canadian Championship with 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League berth on the line
The 2016 Amway Canadian Championship continues this week with a spot in the 2017-2018 CONCACAF Champions League up for grabs. In the first leg of the quarterfinals, Montreal Impact head to BMO Field to take on fierce rival Toronto FC on Wednesday, June 1 in search of its third Voyageurs Cup in the last four years (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN4). The last time these two teams met up, defending Landon Donovan MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco’s brace powered Toronto to a 2-0 victory in a regular season league matchup on April 23. With Toronto’s attack missing players due to injury and international duty, the team will rely heavily on young forward Mo Babouli to create offense against Montreal. In his first career MLS start on May 18, Babouli showed tremendous technical ability by sending a perfectly placed entry pass into the box for the first assist of his career on a Will Johnson goal (Watch Assist). The 23-year-old forward was born in United Arab Emirates but has played for Canada’s Under-23 squad and will now be making his fourth consecutive start for Toronto FC, a far cry from nearly giving up professional aspirations a couple years ago.
 
In the other matchup, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will look to defend its 2015 Canadian Championship crown when it takes on Ottawa Fury FC in the first leg of the quarterfinals at TD Place Stadium on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN1/MLS Live). A North American Soccer League team, Ottawa lost in the NASL championship game last season.
 
AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open (Week 13) – CLICK HERE to vote
  •          DaMarcus Beasley (HOU) Fakes out a defender in the box before sending a right-footed blast into back of net
  •          Kevin Molino (ORL) Soars for a stoppage time equalizing header past goalkeeper Josh Saunders
  •          Ignacio Piatti (MTL) Sends equalizer past goalkeeper Brian Rowe off well-worked counter attack
  •          Lucas Ontivero (MTL) Holds off defender in the box to create space, sends powerful shot far post
 
Check It Out
 
Quotables
“I just think, in his mind, he’s thinking I can score at any moment, because he’s a goal scorer. Guys are keying on other guys and he’s able to come in and think to score.”
New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps on rookie Femi Hollinger-Janzen who scored the game-winner on Saturday, his second goal in three matches
 
“At 31, this guy can play 10 more years. … Maybe we’ll still be talking when that number is 519 [consecutive] games. Those tough times he went through prepared him for now. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’’
New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch on goalkeeper Luis Robles’ record breaking consecutive starts streak
 
“I want to be part of this team, I want to be part of the family, so it’s just great. Being out six months and with all that has been going on, I feel really happy besides scoring the goal but playing in the game.”
D.C. United forward Alhaji Kamara on scoring the game-winning goal in his MLS debut after doctors told him to give up soccer due to a heart problem only months earlier 
 
“I wanted to strike the ball well and hit the target and I did that. (The goalie) made a mistake, but that happens, it’s football. (We) made some mistakes, but in the end, that’s the one people remember. It’s unfortunate for them, but lucky for us.”
Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba on his game winning free kick goal against LA Galaxy
 
“It doesn’t matter if I get kicked in my head, so be it. We’re going away with a point. As I said before, we don’t want to take a point for granted. We’ll take it however it comes. We just had to stay disciplined and keep saying, ‘We’re going to get our chance. We’re going to get out opportunity’ and pounce on it.”
Orlando City SC midfielder Kevin Molino on his equalizing stoppage time goal against New York City FC
 
Sweet Tweets
Good Morning America (‏@GMA): Huddle up - is it kale or asparagus?! @MauriceEdu & @CharlieDavies9 take on the Chef's Table!  #MLSonGMA
 
Charlie Davies (@CharlieDavies9): When you're on @GMA #MLSonGMA
 
Sal Zizzo (@SalZizzo): A lil ball movement capped off w/ a slam @clade5 to @SalZizzo to @SachaKljestan to @MikeGrella10 to @luisrobles1984
 
Steve Birnbaum (@StevenBirnbaum): Next stop  Bay Area!! Ready to rock for Copa America  #USMNT
 
Ronald Zubar (@zubarronald): Nice stadium and best Fans I love this pict   @NewYorkRedBulls @MLS
 
Week 14 Game Previews
Wednesday, June 1
Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew SC, 7 p.m. ET
  • Brian Carroll scored his first goal since July 12, 2013 – a span of 67 games – bringing Union back for a 1-1 draw Saturday with the Colorado Rapids in a meeting of the two conference leaders. The result extended Union’s undefeated streak to seven games, one game shy of the club record set in 2011.
  • Ola Kamara scored a hat trick for his first MLS goals, as Crew SC followed a string of three consecutive draws with a victory in a 4-3 defeat of Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening. The last player to score a hat trick for his first three goals in MLS league play? Didier Drogba, last Sept. 5 for the Montréal Impact.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Chris Pontius scored a pair of goals, the game-winner coming late in the second half, as Union took a 2-1 win March 12 in Columbus.
  • The first meeting victory was the first ever for Union in Columbus. Crew SC have never lost to Union in Columbus. Crew SC had won six of seven meetings there prior, with one draw, including the previous three matches in the Ohio state capital.
  • 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.
 
D.C. United vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 8 p.m. ET
  • Alhaji Kamara scored the earliest goal of a player making his MLS debut, when he netted the only goal in United’s win at Sporting Kansas City on Friday. Kamara came off the substitutes’ bench in the 85th minute and scored 33 seconds later – the fifth-fastest of any goal for a player after coming onto the field (since 2011), and the 48th time a player has scored within a minute of coming on as a substitute. No player has scored in the first minute of a start in their MLS debut.
  • Sounders FC have lost three consecutive games for a second time this season, after their 2-1 loss at the New England Revolution on Saturday evening. Sounders FC also dropped their first three games of the season March 6-19.
  • Sounders FC have won the last three meetings between the teams, and are undefeated in the last five league encounters in the series (4-0-1), including a 1-0 win last year at CenturyLink Field in the only meeting. United’s last win against Seattle in league play came May 4, 2011, when they claimed a 2-1 win at RFK Stadium – their only victory in five home matches vs. Seattle.
  • United have not scored vs. Sounders FC since their last victory, now having been shut out in five consecutive meetings between the teams, their scoreless streak in the series at 488 minutes.
  • The clubs also met in the 2009 U.S. Open Cup Final, won 2-1 by Seattle. Sounders FC won the Dewar Trophy three consecutive years from 2009-11; United winning in 2013.
 
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m. ET
  • Diego Valeri scored for a second consecutive match, his fourth goal over the last six matches, but the Timbers weren’t able to come away with a first away victory of the season, reaching a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening.
  • The Quakes remained undefeated at their Avaya Stadium home this season, extending their current undefeated run to three games after a scoreless draw Saturday with FC Dallas.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, each winning on their home ground in the first two. Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa netted first-half goals to lead the Quakes to a 2-1 win March 13 at Avaya Stadium, their first victory in the series since 2013, snapping a five-game winless streak. On April 16 at Providence Park, Fanendo Adi scored a pair of goals as the Timbers claimed a 3-1 victory.
  • The Timbers have won five of eight meetings between the teams in Portland, with three draws, including the last three meetings there. The Timbers’ 2-1 victory Oct. 4, 2014 in Santa Clara was the first by a visiting team in the all-time league series.
 
Thursday, June 2
FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo, 9 p.m. ET
  • FC Dallas followed a string of three consecutive victories with a draw, coming away with a second consecutive road result following their scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday evening.
  • The Dynamo gained a result for the first time in seven away matches this season, DaMarcus Beasley scored his team’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Dynamo had lost their first six road games.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Andrew Wenger scored one goal and set up two others as the Dynamo rolled to a 5-0 victory March 12 at BBVA Compass Stadium, the most goals scored by a team and the largest margin of victory in the Texas Derby.
  • The first meeting victory snapped a five-game FC Dallas winning streak in the series, over the last three seasons. FCD had won the previous 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.
 
LA Galaxy vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10:30 p.m. ET
  • The Galaxy saw their nine-game undefeated streak come to an end, conceding a late, late game-winner on a Didier Drogba free kick in a 3-2 loss to the Montréal Impact at Stade Saputo. Giovani dos Santos scored his sixth goal in the last seven games; he also has five assists over the same span.
  • Sporting suffered a second consecutive defeat, their seventh loss in their last 10 games, falling 1-0 to D.C. United on Friday evening at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. SKC’s Brad Davis and the Galaxy’s Giovani dos Santos traded first-half goals as the clubs finished in a 1-1 draw, May 1 at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • Sporting’s last win against the Galaxy in Carson came in 2010 – the last victory by the visiting team in the series; the Galaxy have won their last three home meetings with KC. The Galaxy have not won in Kansas City since 2007; Sporting have won four of their eight home games since, with four draws.
 
New York City FC vs. Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. ET
  • NYCFC had their winless streak extended to three games in cruel fashion, Orlando City SC scoring the equalizer deep into second-half stoppage time to leave the teams in a 2-2 draw Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. David Villa scored his ninth goal of the season, now leading the MLS Golden Boot standings.
  • Real Salt Lake scored three goals for a second consecutive match, but suffered a defeat in this one, falling 4-3 to Columbus Crew SC on Saturday evening. The trip to Yankee Stadium concludes a five-game road swing for RSL; they are 1-3-0 thus far on the run.
  • The teams met once during NYCFC’s inaugural season. John Stertzer and Alvaro Saborío scored on either side of halftime to lead Real to a 2-0 victory, May 23 at Rio Tinto Stadium.