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This Week in MLS – May 9, 2016

This Week in MLS – May 9, 2016
  • Two New York left backs shining for both club and country
  • Young Cristian Higuita’s play in MLS has captured Colombia’s eye
  • Mitchell & Ness teams up with MLS stars to launch Spotify channel and expanded product offering
  • Week 10 AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 11 Game Previews
Two New York left backs shining for both club and country
With Heineken Rivalry Week fast approaching, Kemar Lawrence of the New York Red Bulls and Ronald Matarrita of New York City FC prepare to face off in a fierce New York Derby playing their best soccer of the season with matching three-game undefeated streaks. While the duo might share starting left back duties for their respective clubs and both joining the league from their home countries, their journeys to the Big Apple differ greatly. Becoming a professional soccer player was always part of the plan for the 23-yer-old Lawrence who comes from soccer royalty in his native Jamaica – his father hailed as one of the best goalkeepers in national team history. Matarrita, meanwhile, never imagined becoming a pro, instead viewing soccer as a hobby to be played on the grounds outside his house with his older cousins until receiving professional interest as a member of the Costa Rica Under-15 national team.
Lawrence excelled as a child playing for local academy teams while picking up the nickname “Taxi” because of his speed and his propensity to arrive to practice via taxi. He played four seasons in Jamaica’s top league with Harbour View before receiving an offer with the Red Bulls. Following in his father’s footsteps, he has starred for a Jamaican national team squad that has experienced unprecedented success in recent years, with Lawrence at the center of the action during the team’s run to the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup championship game. Lawrence shares a close relationship playing on the back line alongside fellow defender Wes Morgan who just captained Leicester City to the EPL title. With 31 caps already despite his young age, Lawrence has a long and promising career ahead for Jamaica who will again look to make headlines this summer facing the likes of Venezuela, Mexico and Uruguay in Copa America group play.
Across the Caribbean Sea, the 21-year old Matarrita starred for Costa Rican powerhouse Alajuelense, where he got his first taste of MLS from playing D.C. United and Montreal Impact in CONCACAF Champion’s League play in 2015. His high level of play prompted an offer from New York City FC and a call to play for the Costa Rican national team. He has seen a meteoric rise at left back for Costa Rica, receiving eight caps since his first call up in September 2015. Following the team’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica has dominated 2018 World Cup qualifying play thus far, going undefeated through four matches with Matarrita starting every game. In upcoming Copa America action, Costa Rica will rely heavily on the young defender when they face heavyweights Paraguay, Colombia and the United States in group play.
Lawrence and the Red Bulls next travel to take on D.C. United at RFK Stadium in Viernes de Futbol action on Friday, May 13 (7:00 p.m. ET, UniMás), while Matarrita and New York City FC head west to take on defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday, May 15 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes).
The two players will then meet for the first time in the highly anticipated Heineken Rivalry Week match at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, May 21 (3 p.m. ET, FOX).
Young Cristian Higuita’s play in MLS has captured Colombia’s eye
Cristian Higuita has been one of Orlando City SC’s most consistent and dynamic players, tasked with shielding the back line from opponents’ attack. But that isn’t all there is to the tough, young Colombian. Higuita credits his success in soccer to one of his first true loves – dance. He developed agile footwork, comparing similar quick movements in dance to those made in soccer. Growing up in Colombia, Higuita was enamored by the art of dance and as a child considered becoming a professional dancer and quitting soccer altogether. Luckily for Orlando, Higuita decided his fleet footwork was best served on the pitch and is a major reason the Lions have taken a major step forward in its second season of play in Major League Soccer.
Before arriving to the United States for Orlando’s inaugural MLS season, Higuita played in his native Colombia for Deportivo Cali, one of the most successful squads in the country’s history, while also starring for the Under-20 and Under-23 Colombia national teams. The 22-year-old has adapted well in his new home, finishing last season second in the league in tackles per game and twice being named to the MLS Team of the Week this season, garnering a reputation for his continuous hustle on the pitch.
With his standout performance in MLS play the past two years, Higuita has caught the eye of Colombia’s senior national team and was named to the squad’s preliminary 40-man roster for the fast approaching Copa America Centenario. Higuita was also called into the Olympic training camp and could represent Colombia in the 2016 Rio games in August. If his active play on the pitch is any indication, Higuita will have no problem handling the prospect of a busy summer of soccer, hopefully filled with a lot of dancing.
Orlando City SC next travels to Children’s Mercy Park to take on Sporting Kansas City in MLS Soccer Sunday action (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes).
Mitchell & Ness teams up with MLS stars to launch Spotify channel and expanded product offering
As part of its product expansion for the 2016 Major League Soccer (MLS) season, Mitchell & Ness and MLS have teamed up with Spotify to celebrate and spotlight some of the League’s key players through their own unique playlists that will be available exclusively on the digital music service. The campaign has players putting together music playlists that inspire them on and off the field. The Mitchell & Ness channel, featuring MLS player playlists as the first playlists featured on the channel, went live last week and can be accessed here. Featured players include Nat Borchers (Portland Timbers), Sean Davis (New York Red Bulls), Nick DeLeon (D.C. United), Stefan Frei (Seattle Sounders FC), Ray Gaddis (Philadelphia Union), Brek Shea (Orlando City), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), and Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City). The expanded product offering includes a range of merchandise for current and future clubs within MLS. Premium branded items will include headwear, apparel, and accessories for both men and women. Photos of the players in some of the new Mitchell & Ness gear can be viewed here.
AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open (Week 10) – CLICK HERE to vote
  •          Ignacio Piatti (MTL) Right-footed wonder strike from inside the box
  •          Kelyn Rowe (NE) Left-footed blast from 18-yards out finds top left corner
  •          Steven Gerrard (LA) Weaves through two defenders to smoothly finish from a tight angle
  •          Nat Borchers (POR) Easy tap-in for the center back after great team build-up
  •          Giovani dos Santos (LA) Stunning volley from the top of the 18 finds the back of the net
  •          Jermaine Jones (COL) Laces the game-winner into the side-netting from the center of the box
  •          Juan Agudelo (NE) Finds the upper corner with a sublime volley from just outside the six
  •          Giles Barnes (HOU) Half-volleys a bouncing ball to the far post past an outstretched Melia
Check It Out
“We’ve all been talking about the national anthem tonight. I was so proud of the city for that moment. It brings a tear to my eye when they’re in full voice. For me, I place this behind the playoff-clinching win. This was important like that. We came home to a packed house. Last year we managed to not win that game (vs. Houston). Today, we had a packed house and we won in a way you can win many games.”
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney on the atmosphere at the club’s home opener at newly renovated BMO Field
“Derby games aren’t about all the quality in the world. It’s about rolling your sleeves up. It’s about fighting. And if you do that and come out on top of your battles, then the quality takes care of itself, and that’s what we’ve got to get back to.”
Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson on facing fierce Cascadia Cup rivals Portland Timbers
“I demand a lot of myself. I also demand a lot out of my teammates. If you’re not doing your job, I’m going to let you know it. But if I’m out here at training and I yell at someone or some guy yells at me, who cares? That means they want to win. I want that.”
Sporting Kansas City’s Brad Davis on his competitive edge
“Clint had a good effort tonight and deservingly got a goal – he deserved that very much so. You have other guys like Brad Evans who is throwing up at halftime and he is going out and playing the whole second half…It was a team effort and the guys brought it tonight.”
Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid on the club’s gritty 2-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes
"This is precious real estate and this is a precious place. The vision is to unite this diverse city around their love of this game. Thank you for this opportunity and we pledge a promise to do you proud."
LAFC president and co-owner Tom Penn on receiving approval to build a $250 million stadium in downtown LA
Sweet Tweets
Marky Delgado (‏@MarkyDelgado): Love this city, love this team, and I love our fans.   Besides picking up an injury, last night was incredible.  #TFC #30,000+
Gyasi Zardes (@gyasinho): Check out my MLS Gameday playlist on the @mitchell_ness Spotify channel. Listen here:
Shkelzen Gashi (@s_gashi11): That's how it should be! 1st Position and our series continues! Wish everybody a wonderful Mother's Day  #Gashi
Daniel Gargan (@heydangargan): There is just something so special about a perfectly manicured carpet of green grass. @siriusfc #LAGalaxy #viewfromthebooth #happymothersdaymoms
Liam Ridgewell (@liam_ridgewell): Tough one to take yesterday. But quick turn around to get that out of our system. Travel time again off to Dallas
Week 11 Game Previews
Wednesday, May 11
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City, 9 p.m. ET
  • The Rapids won their fifth consecutive game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – matching the club’s longest home winning run since winning six in a row in the 2005 season – and also extended their overall undefeated streak to six games with a 1-0 win against Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening.
  • Sporting saw their winless run extended to six games – the club’s longest since a club-record 10-game run without a victory in 2011 – in their 2-0 loss at the Houston Dynamo on Saturday evening.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Dom Dwyer scored a late equalizer to pull Sporting level, but Shkelzen Gashi netted just five minutes later in the 82nd minute to give the Rapids a 2-1 victory April 13 at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • The Rapids have won the last three meetings between the teams – ending long winless streaks in the process. The Rapids ended a nine-game winless streak against Sporting with their 2-1 win last Aug. 29 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. After the previous Colorado victory, March 28, 2009 in Commerce City, KC was 4-0-5 vs. Colorado.
  • Colorado’s 2-0 victory last Oct. 21 in the final meeting at Sporting Park was their first win in Kansas City since 2002, a 2-1 win at Arrowhead Stadium. After that, Kansas City went 9-0-4 at home vs. Colorado before the win in the last meeting.
FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers, 9 p.m. ET
  • FC Dallas return home after going winless and goalless on a three-game road trip to Vancouver, New York Red Bulls and Toronto, following their 1-0 defeat at Toronto FC on Saturday evening. FCD were outscored 8-0 in the three defeats.
  • The Timbers had their three-game undefeated run put to an end and remained winless away from Providence Park in five games this season, Vancouver coming back from an early deficit to record a 2-1 win at BC Place on Saturday afternoon.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Tesho Akindele and Fabian Castillo each scored a goal and added an assist as FC Dallas took a 3-1 win April 13 at Providence Park.
  • The win in the first meeting was the first ever for FC Dallas at Providence Park, the Timbers had won four of the six league meetings there with two draws. The Timbers have won once in six visits all-time to Frisco, on Oct. 25, 2014.
  • The teams also met in the Western Conference Championship last year. The Timbers claimed a 3-1 win at Providence Park in the first leg, before the teams reached a 2-2 draw in the return match at Toyota Stadium as the Timbers advanced to MLS Cup for the first time.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Houston Dynamo, 10:30 p.m. ET
  • The Quakes suffered a 2-0 defeat at Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday evening, their first attacking shutout in 22 games, since a scoreless draw at the Portland Timbers on Aug. 2, 2015.
  • The Dynamo won for the first time since March 12, putting an end to a six-game winless streak (and three-game losing run) in their 2-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday evening at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The Dynamo won the final two meetings a year ago, winning once at each ground, claiming a 2-0 victory July 10 at Avaya Stadium, then winning 2-1 on Aug. 8 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The Quakes had won the two previous meetings in the series, once at each ground, including a 1-0 win last May 5 at BBVA Compass Stadium, and a 3-0 win May 25, 2014 in the final meeting ever at Buck Shaw Stadium.
  • The two teams have shared a pitched rivalry since the Earthquakes returned to the league in 2008, after the Dynamo moved to Houston from San Jose in 2006. The Dynamo have won eight meetings and the Quakes six, with one draw.
Philadelphia Union vs. LA Galaxy, 7 p.m. ET
  • Union return to action after a weekend off, after they conceded a late equalizer for a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes at Talen Energy Stadium last time out, remaining undefeated at home this season though seeing their three-game winning run in Chester put to an end.
  • The Galaxy hit for multiple goals for a fourth time in five home games this season, rolling to a 4-2 win against the New England Revolution on Sunday afternoon at StubHub Center. The Galaxy have scored 17 of their 22 goals this season at home, with two four-goal games and one five-goal game (and, also hit for four goals in a win at the Houston Dynamo).
  • Robbie Keane returned to action for the first time since March 19, scoring a pair of goals in the win vs. New England. Keane has four goals in four league games played this season.
  • The Galaxy have won the last three meetings between the teams, outscoring Union 13-3 over that time. The Galaxy won the lone meeting between the teams a year ago, a 5-1 win June 20 at StubHub Center; that victory followed wins by a 4-1 scoreline in each of the two previous seasons.
  • The Galaxy have won six of the eight meetings all-time between the teams, with one draw. Union have never defeated the Galaxy at home, losing twice with a draw in three all-time meetings in Chester. The Galaxy have won four of the five meetings all-time in Carson, including the last two.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Chicago Fire, 10 p.m. ET
  • Masato Kudo scored his first career MLS goal for the equalizer, then set up the game-winner as Whitecaps FC overcame an early deficit for a 2-1 win against the Portland Timbers on Saturday afternoon at BC Place.
  • The Fire return to action after a weekend off, their last match a 1-1 home draw with D.C. United on April 30, ending a two-game homestand. The Fire travel to Vancouver with a 27-game road winless streak dating back to July 23, 2014, matching the longest in MLS history.
  • Whitecaps FC won the lone meeting between the teams a year ago – a 1-0 victory on March 14 – their first win ever at Toyota Park, with their first goal scored in Bridgeview, Octavio Rivero putting an end to a 355-minute goalless drought there. The Fire won one of the first three meetings at Toyota Park, with a pair of draws, both of which finished without goals.
  • The Whitecaps have won both encounters at home, scoring seven goals (allowing three) vs. Chicago.
Friday, May 13
D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m. ET (UNI)
  • D.C. United had their two-game undefeated run put to an end, dropping a 2-0 decision to New York City FC on Sunday evening at RFK Stadium.
  • The Red Bulls had their two-game winning streak put to an end, Orlando City SC coming back for a 1-1 draw Friday evening at Camping World Stadium.
  • The Red Bulls have a four-game undefeated streak in league play alive in the series. They have a six-game undefeated streak in regular season matches going at Red Bull Arena, with four consecutive wins, including 2-0 victories in both meetings in Harrison last year, on March 22 and Aug. 30.
  • United have a three-game undefeated streak in the series alive at RFK Stadium, reaching a 2-2 draw last April 11 in the only league meeting there; United had won the two previous home games in the series.
  • The teams also met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals for a second consecutive years, and a third time in the last four years, the Red Bulls winning the series 2-0 on aggregate with 1-0 victories on each ground. It was the sixth time in 20 MLS seasons the arch-rivals have met in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
  • The teams play for the Atlantic Cup, awarded to the winner of the season series by supporters groups from both clubs. They’ve met 84 times in all competitions over the years; New York has won 30 and United have won 42, including a 7-4-2 record in the postseason.
Saturday, May 14
Columbus Crew SC vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Kei Kamara and Federico Higuaín each scored a pair of goals, but the Montréal Impact overcame a three-goal deficit in the second half to leave the teams in a 4-4 draw Saturday evening at Mapfre Stadium. For Kamara, it was his first multiple-goal game of the season and the 11th of his MLS career; he led MLS with six multi-goal games a year ago. Higuaín has seven multiple-goal games in his MLS career.
  • Jermaine Jones scored a third goal in four games since joining the Rapids – all at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – hitting for the only goal in Colorado’s 1-0 win against Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening.
  • Crew SC won the lone meeting between the teams a year ago, a 2-1 win Aug. 8 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, snapping a four-game winning streak in the series. The Rapids had won three games in a row in the series until the teams reached a 1-1 draw on July 4, 2014 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
  • The Rapids won on their last visit to Columbus in 2013, a 2-0 victory, their first victory in the Ohio state capitol since 2000. Crew SC have now scored goals on back-to-back trips to Commerce City, their first since 2009, which was also their last win there, a span of 396 minutes between goals.
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Juan Agudelo scored for a second consecutive game, but the Revolution had their winless run extended to six games with just a second loss in that time, falling 4-2 to the LA Galaxy on Sunday afternoon at StubHub Center. The Revs have one win in 11 starts this season.
  • The Revolution have won the last two meetings between the teams in Foxborough. When the Fire won there July 12, 2014, it was their first victory at New England since 2010.
  • The Fire have a four-game undefeated streak alive at Toyota Park, with a 2-2 draw there last July 25, then a 3-1 victory on Oct. 3. The Revolution have won just twice all-time at Toyota Park – a 2-1 win in 2006, then a 1-0 victory March 9, 2013.
FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 9 p.m. ET
  • FC Dallas had their goalless streak extended to 292 minutes in the 1-0 loss at Toronto FC over the weekend, the ninth-longest scoreless drought in club history and the third-longest in MLS this season.
  • Jordan Morris scored for a fourth consecutive match – equaling the MLS record for an rookie scoring in consecutive games – and Clint Dempsey scored his first goal since April 2 as Sounders FC won a fourth consecutive game at CenturyLink Field in their 2-0 defeat of the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
  • The teams met in the Western Conference Semifinals for a second consecutive season last year, FC Dallas winning the series on penalty kicks after the two legs finished 3-3 on aggregate, each team winning 2-1 on its home ground. The season prior, Sounders FC advanced on away goals, after the series ended 1-1 on aggregate.
  • Sounders FC have won the last five league meetings between the teams in Seattle, and six of the eight meetings there all-time, including a 3-0 win last June 13. The only FCD win at CenturyLink Field came in 2011, a 1-0 victory on May 25.
Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Giles Barnes collected a goal and an assist, the second time in his five MLS seasons he’s had a goal and an assist in the same game, in the Dynamo’s 2-0 win against Sporting KC on Saturday. Barnes had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win last Sept. 26 vs. Colorado; he has a goal and two assists in the last two games.
  • Real Salt Lake were shut out for the first time this season, suffering a second defeat in three games after a six-game unbeaten run to start the year, falling 1-0 to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening in Commerce City.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season, the second time in two weeks. Jordan Allen netted a second-half equalizer, then set up Yura Movsisyan for the game-winner for a 2-1 RSL victory April 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium. It was Real’s fifth consecutive victory over the Dynamo, dating back to 2013.
  • Real have won on their last two visits to Houston – their first wins ever there. They suffered eight defeats and one draw in their first nine road games against the Dynamo. RSL has taken points from their last eight home games vs. Houston, with five victories in that time.
Montreal Impact vs. Philadelphia Union, 5 p.m. ET
  • The Impact became the eighth team in MLS history to overcome a deficit of three goals and gain at least a draw, coming back for a 4-4 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Saturday evening. Ignacio Piatti scored pair of goals – his second two-goal game this season – and Didier Drogba scored a goal and added a pair of assists, while Dominic Oduro scored the equalizer in stoppage time for a second time in three games.
  • Chris Pontius scored for a second consecutive week and Tranquillo Barnetta collected an assist for a second consecutive week in the Union’s 1-1 draw with San Jose on April 30. Barnetta had a goal and three assists over the last four games.
  • Union won the final meeting between the teams last year, a 1-0 victory Aug. 22 at Stade Saputo – the first win ever by the visiting team in the all-time series between the teams. The Impact had won the first four meetings between the teams at Stade Saputo before last year’s Union won.
  • Union have won two of the five matchups in Chester, with three draws, including a 2-2 result last June 27 in the only meeting there.
Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Toronto FC made a triumphant return to a renovated BMO Field, Tsubasa Endoh scoring his first career professional goal to lead his club to a 1-0 win against FC Dallas on Saturday evening. Sebastian Giovinco collected the assist; he has been involved in each one of TFC’s 10 goals this season (six goals, four assists).
  • Christian Bolaños scored for a third consecutive match, hitting for the game-winner as Whitecaps FC claimed a 2-1 win against the Portland Timbers on Saturday afternoon at BC Place.
  • Toronto FC won the lone meeting between the teams last year – a 3-1 win at BC Place in the season opener on March 7, the first win by the visiting team in the all-time league series. Whitecaps FC had won the first two home matchups in the series.
  • TFC have won two of the three meetings in MLS play at BMO Field; the teams reached a 1-1 draw July 16, 2014 in their last encounter in Toronto.
  • The teams have met three times over the last five years (2011, 2012, 2014) in the Canadian Championship, Toronto FC winning the aggregate series on each occasion. Twice (2011 and 2012) they met for the Voyageurs’ Cup in the final. In each instance, the teams played to a first-leg draw in Vancouver, then Toronto won the second leg at home.
Sunday, May 15
Sporting Kansas City vs. Orlando City SC, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN1)
  • Kevin Molino scored for a second consecutive game, his fourth goal in the last six contests, but Orlando City saw their winless run extended to five games despite coming back for a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Friday evening at Camping World Stadium.
  • Sporting return home for Orlando City match not having won at Children’s Mercy Park since March 20, a span of three home matches. The club record is five consecutive home games without a victory.
  • The teams met once in Orlando City SC’s inaugural MLS season, City claiming a 3-1 victory Sept. 13 at the Citrus Bowl.
Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • Nat Borchers scored his first goal of the season in the Timbers’ 2-1 loss at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon, which snapped their three-game undefeated run. Borchers has scored at least one goal in each of the last eight seasons, hitting for a single-season career-high in 2011 and 2015.
  • David Villa scored his third goal in the last two matches, setting New York City FC on their way to a 2-0 win against D.C. United on Sunday evening at RFK Stadium. Khiry Shelton set up the goal – his third consecutive game with an assist – then scored one of his own as NYCFC won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
  • The teams met once in New York City FC’s inaugural MLS season, the Timbers taking a 1-0 victory April 19 at Yankee Stadium.