Brad Smith thriving with regular football in MLS

Very few mid-season signings are able to seamlessly slot into their new sides starting lineup but Brad Smith looks completely at home in a Seattle Sounders shirt despite only arriving at the beginning of August. The left-back who joined the club on loan from Premier League side Bournemouth has hit the ground running on the West Coast and has already made a big impression at CenturyLink Field.

Smith needed some convincing to leave the south coast of England and head coach Brian Schmetzer personally phoned the 24-year-old in order to help sell the opportunity. Following the chat, the Perth-born full-back didn’t take long to make his mind up and it would appear that he made the right decision.

His immigration paperwork came through swiftly and he made his debut earlier than expected. His first appearance helped the Sounders beat high-flying FC Dallas 2-1 as they made it eight games unbeaten. At the time of writing, Smith is yet to taste defeat for his new club and has played an integral part in each of those four successes. His superb crossing set up a goal for Raul Ruidiaz on September 1st as Schmetzer’s side came from a goal down to beat Sporting Kansas City 3-1 in a potentially decisive Western Conference clash.

Smith’s cross also led to a penalty for the home side and his attacking style of play has impressed the passionate Sounders fans. His pace is a huge attribute and although his defensive play is a potential area of improvement, his penchant for getting forward tends to disguise those shortcomings.

Most importantly, Smith looks happy to be at the club. He appears to have bonded with the current squad and seems to be taking it all in his stride. He admits that he almost rejected the opportunity due to becoming a father for the first time. But despite the significant upheaval, he’s delighted that he snapped up the chance to play in MLS.

His opportunities have been extremely limited at Bournemouth as he has rarely featured for Eddie Howe’s side since joining from Liverpool. Across four seasons in the Premier League, he has made just nine appearances and admits that he is now “focusing on football” but remains philosophical about the future. His parent club have made a decent start to the 2018-19 season despite many pundits tipping the Cherries to struggle this season. Next year Premier League predictions from Betting.Betfair have them at 7/1 after picking up seven points from a possible 12. Cardiff remain the 4/11 favourites to drop straight back down to the Championship.

Smith’s future remains uncertain but he appears to be relishing the chance to play regular football and he’s helped the Sounders continue their quest for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. He has taken a gamble in a bid to get his stalling career back on track and it appears to be paying off. The attack-minded left-back could have a big say in the MLS playoffs at the end of this season and that experience is likely to be invaluable for the Aussie. His move to the US appears to have benefited both parties and Bournemouth fans will be delighted to see their loanee excelling at CenturyLink Field.

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Dempsey says farewell as Sounders get big win over Sporting KC

Clint Dempsey was barely off the field after his retirement ceremony when Sporting Kansas City took the lead at CenturyLink Field but Seattle Sounders FC would come back to score three unanswered to make it eightstraight wins, the most in a single season in the post-shootout era.

Sporting capitalised on Seattle’s inability to clear their box as Diego Rubio scored in just the second minute of the match. Brad Smith tried to clear the ball but was just beat to it by Gerso Fernandes and the bouncing ball sat up perfectly for Rubio who smashed it into the bottom left corner.

Smith would make up for missing the clearance just ten minutes later as Sounders equalized in impressive fashion thanks to a perfect cross from Smith that found Raul Ruidiaz for the easiest of tap-ins from just a few feet out.

 

It was a sloppy first ten minutes for Sounders and while the equalizer did help to tighten up their passing, Kansas City continued to get dangerous looks at goal and forced Seattle to scramble defensively multiple times in the first half.

While Seattle has struggled mightily at times this season, they have consistently done well in defense when forced to scramble.

The first half came close to having some added intrigue as Nico Lodeiro was brought down just outside of the box in stoppage time by Ike Opara and was shouting for a straight red for denying him and obvious goal scoring opportunity after intercepting a pass. While he looked to be in on goal alone at the time, referee Baldomero Toledo decided that centre-back Matt Besler was close enough for it to not be worthy of a straight red and issued a yellow card instead.

Ruidiaz stepped up to take the free kick but hit it poorly right at the wall for the final play of the first half.

While it’s safe to say the first half was less than impressive from Seattle, the second half was a near complete change of form for Sounders as they swarmed Sporting and took the lead in the 52nd minute and would double it in the 56th.

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First was a stroke of good fortune for the Rave Green as Harry Shipp’s cross from inside the box banked off of the back of Graham Zusi and over the fingertips of Tim Melia making it three straight matches that Seattle has been the beneficiary of an own goal.

Then minutes later a cross from Smith hit the arm of Opara inside the box prompting Toledo to award the penalty kick. Lodeiro stepped up to the spot and froze Melia with his shot to put Seattle up 3-1.

Now down two goals with more than 30 minutes to play, Kansas City began to fight their way back into the match, owning the possession stats for the rest of the match as Sounders began playing more defensively.

Seattle was looking like they would defend fairly comfortably for the rest of the match until an 81st minute red card to Chad Marshall was issued after going to VAR.

Even with the man advantage though Sporting failed to break down the stalwart Seattle defense and it would ultimately be the Sounders match to win as they eclipsed Kansas City’s 2012 winning streak of seven matches. They still have one match to go though before they’ll match the nine straight won by Sporting over two seasons, 2012-2013, and will have to do so on the road against Vancouver where a win or draw will clinch the Cascadia Cup for Seattle.

In pictures: Sounders keep streak alive with 1-0 win at Portland

The Seattle Sounders are rolling. They set a club record by making it seven wins on the bounce on Sunday, beating Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers 1-0 at Providence Park.

The game’s only goal came via an own goal, with Portland’s Julio Cascante the unfortunate victim of the game-deciding moment. Seattle weren’t the better side for most of the game but they got the result they needed.

Seattle hadn’t won in the Rose City since August 2014 but they made the most of their opportunity on the night and moved in front of Portland in the Western Conference. The Sounders are now fifth, while the Timbers dropped out of the playoff spots and into seventh.

Check out exclusive photos from the match below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer Denise McCooey.

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In pictures: Confident Sounders embarrass Galaxy 5-0

After out classing FC Dallas at home on Sunday, Seattle Sounders FC demolished LA Galaxy 5-0 in a match that never seemed in doubt for the Rave Green.

In front of 44,213 at CenturyLink Field, Chad Marshall opened the scoring in the third minute with his second goal in as many games. Harry Shipp doubled the lead before halftime and Seattle continued their domination into the second half with an own goal from former Sounder Servando Carrasco and goals from Cristian Roldan and Raul Ruidiaz rounding out the scoring.

The result set the Sounders club record for biggest margin of victory and tied the Galaxy club record for worst loss.

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It was as confident of a performance as we’ve seen from Seattle, now unbeaten in nine and having won their last six, and the fluidity in their ball movement and and off ball runs has been at the forefront of their success.

The build-up to Seattle’s fourth goal was a perfect encapsulation of that confidence and ball movement as Nico Lodeiro and Harry Shipp pass back-and-forth around several Galaxy defenders before slipping Shipp into space behind the defense.

From there Shipp is able to pick out Roldan in a pocket of space between four defenders for the first touch shot into the far corner.

Seattle were not without flaws though and almost allowed the Galaxy back into the match late in the first half as Sebastian Lletget had space at the top of the box to take a shot but skied it high over the bar.

“Our team has started strong the first 20 to 25 minutes of games here recently and we let our foot off the gas a little bit and I think we let them back in,” said Brian Schmetzer post-match.

“We made a couple of corrections at halftime, tried to get some adjustments made and I think that team, again that team did what they were supposed to do, did what they had to do to put the game out of reach and all credit goes to them.”

Although the Galaxy were without five of their regular starters including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romain Alessandrini, and both Gio and Jonathan dos Santos, there really isn’t much excuse for the several poor turnovers, two of which lead to Seattle goals.

The own goal by Carrasco feels like a perfect microcosm of the Galaxy’s day as first Jørgen Skjelvik slips in his own box trying to shield a through ball away from Lodeiro only for the ensuing cross back towards Ruidiaz to bounce right off the feet of the recovering Carrasco and slowly trickle over the goal line.

Seattle will likely have a more difficult time on the road next week as they head South on I-5 to take on hated rivals Portland Timbers. Portland has taken both matches between the two sides so far this season, first a 1-0 win in Portland before getting their first ever regular season win in Seattle since joining MLS with a 3-2 battle in late June.

With an unbalanced Cascadia Cup schedule this year though, Seattle sits atop the Cascadia standings as each team has a win and a loss after playing two matches thanks to the first meeting between Seattle and Portland not being included in the 2018 series.

In Pictures: Vancouver head to Portland and snap 15-game streak in Cascadia Cup clash

The Portland Timbers’ 15-game streak is over. Of all the teams to end their unbeaten run, they would not have wanted it to be Cascadia rivals; Vancouver Whitecaps. But that’s the way it ended as the Whitecaps ran out 2-1 in what was a dramatic night at Providence Park.

Portland were awarded two penalties on the night but couldn’t keep their unbeaten run going. The result means they have been handed their first home loss of 2018. For the Whitecaps, it keeps their playoff push alive following a draw at New York City FC before Saturday’s game. They are now two points outside of the playoffs in the West.

The Whitecaps took the lead in the 14th minute, with Kei Kamara heading in from Kendall Waston’s pass to silence the home crowd. But Waston was then at fault as he brought down Diego Valeri in the box in the 40th minute, with the Timbers being awarded a spot-kick.

But Valeri missed the penalty, dragging his shot wide. And just moments later, the visitors doubled their lead. Brek Shea crossed in and Cristian Techera headed in Vancouver’s second, just a couple of minutes before half-time. The missed penalty and second Vancouver goal sucked the life out of Portland before the break.

The Timbers did come out fighting though and Valeri made up for his first-half penalty miss when he slotted in from the spot on 71 minutes. Portland pressed, looking for the equaliser to extend their unbeaten run to 16 but couldn’t find the goal. Vancouver held on, for what could prove to be three vital points come the end of the season.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s Cascadia Cup clash below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey.

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In pictures: Timbers make it 15 unbeaten with 3-0 win over Union

The Portland Timbers tied a club record by stretching their unbeaten run to 15 on Saturday night. Portland scored two penalties on the way to a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union at Providence Park.

The teams went into half-time with the score locked at 0-0 but Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese told his players to go after the Union after the break. And they did.

Penalties scored by Diego Valeri and Dairon Asprilla put Portland 2-0 up before David Guzman headed in the final goal in the 87th minute. Asprilla and Guzman scored their first goals of the season on the night.

The result moved Portland up into second place in the Western Conference and stretched their home unbeaten run to 10. For Philadelphia, they sit seventh in the East, two point behind New England and Montreal, who currently occupy the final two playoff spots with 12 games to go.

Portland’s impressive run stretches all the way back to mid-April, when they beat Minnesota 3-2 in their 2018 home opener. The Timbers failed to win any of their five opening games to the season – all of which were played on the road – so the fact they’re now sitting second is remarkable.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s game at Providence Park below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey:

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MLS All-Stars vs Juventus: 2018 MLS All-Star Game Preview and Prediction

2018 MLS All-Star Game: MLS All-Stars vs Juventus

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta – Wednesday, August 1st 2018 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

UK TV Coverage: Live on Sky Sports Main Event

MLS All-Stars vs Juventus: Preview

The best in MLS will take on Italy’s finest club side in the 2018 MLS All-Star Game in Atlanta on Wednesday. This will be the 23rd annual All-Star game and could break the attendance record with a full house expected at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The current All-Star attendance record is 70,728, set back in 2010 when fans packed into Houston’s Reliant Stadium to watch the MLS All-Stars take on Manchester United.

The MLS All-Stars are looking to win the game for the first time in three years after losing on penalties to Real Madrid this time last year. Prior to that, they fell 2-1 to Arsenal. The All-Stars last won the game in 2015, beating Spurs 2-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

This year’s All-Star team is stacked with attacking talent, even after Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa have had to pull out. The likes of Atlanta’s own Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco will look to link up with fellow attackers Carlos Vela, Bradley Wright-Phillips and former Juventus star Sebastian Giovinco.

Head coach Tata Martino will set his side up to attack Juventus – a team renowned for their defensive prowess The Bianconeri have added a monumental attacking threat of their own this summer in Cristiano Ronaldo but the 33-year-old will not be ready to make his debut on Wednesday.

Juve are busy preparing for the 2018/19 Serie A season as they will look to retain their league title for the eighth successive year. They are also the reigning Coppa Italia champions and only the second Serie A side to ever take on the All-Stars, following AS Roma in 2013 – a game the All-Stars lost 3-1.

This will be the third of four Juventus preseason games in the United States. They have played two of their three International Champions Cup matches, beating Bayern Munich 2-0 before drawing 1-1 with Benfica, a game they won 4-2 on penalties. They will round off their ICC games when they face Real Madrid on Saturday but all focus is on the All-Star game ahead of that.

Ibrahimovic pulled out of the All-Star game on Sunday night after scoring his first hat-trick for LA Galaxy. That was as a result of playing three matches in a week. David Villa also misses out with injury. Minnesota United’s Darwin Quintero and New York Red Bulls’ Tyler Adams are the replacements.

MLS All-Stars vs Juventus: Team News

MLS All-Stars

Position 2018 MLS All-Star Squad
Goalkeepers Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew)
Defenders Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United), Laurent Ciman (LAFC), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Michael Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Alphonso Davies (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Jonathan Dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Alberth Elis (Houston Dynamo), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Alexander Ring (New York City FC), Ilie Sanchez (Sporting Kansas City), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Yoshimar Yotún (Orlando City SC), Wilfried Zahibo (New England Revolution)
Forwards Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Josef Martinez (Atlanta United), Darwin Quintero (Minnesota United), Carlos Vela (LAFC), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)Juventus

Juventus

Position 2018 Juventus Preseason Squad
Goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny, Mattia Perin, Carlo Pinsoglio, Mattia Del Favero
Defenders Mattia De Sciglio, Giorgio Chiellini, Mehdi Benatia, Alex Sandro, Mattia Caldara, Andrea Barzagli, Joao Cancelo, Daniele Rugani, Pietro Beruatto, Roman Macek, Grigoris Kastanos
Midfielders Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio, Emre Can, Leandro Fernandes, Matheus Pereira da Silva, Alessandro Di Pardo, Nicolo Fagioli
Forwards Federico Bernardeschi, Luca Clemenza, Stefano Beltrame, Andrea Favilli

MLS All-Stars vs Juventus: Key Stats

MLS All-Stars’ last five: L/L/W/L/D

Juventus’ preseason form: W/D

Key stat: Both sides have scored in each of the past six MLS All-Star games. There have been 29 goals scored in the past eight editions of the match – an average of 3.6 per game.

MLS All-Stars vs Juventus: Prediction

MLS All-Stars 3-2 Juventus: This has all the makings of being a spectacle. The All-Stars have an abundance of attacking talent and will have to set up to attack the Italian giants. However, that could lead to an open game and Juventus have more than enough weapons themselves to unleash. Either way, this should be full of goals and we think the All-Stars have enough to edge it. Don’t be surprised to see former Juve man Giovinco score the decisive goal…

Sounders win third straight with 3-1 victory over NYCFC to continue playoff push

Seattle Sounders FC made it sixstraight unbeaten on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field, knocking off New York City FC by a score of 3-1. Goals from Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson, and Harry Shipp helped to cap off a stretch of three games in nine days with maximum points from all three matches.

In both of his starts for Seattle, Raul Ruidiaz has shown his ability to draw defenders and create space for his teammates and has made the club much more dangerous in the attacking third. His first goal for the club in the midweek fixture in San Jose gave Seattle their first win at Avaya Stadium and only their second win in San Jose since joining MLS in 2009. On Sunday his presence and work rate in front of goal created the space that allowed his teammates to find scoring opportunities.

Making the most of those opportunities was Harry Shipp who finished the day with a goal and an assist. Shipp looked as confident on Sunday as he has all season, constantly winning the ball in the midfield with his work rate and making precise, dangerous passes to his teammates to stretch the NYC defence.

“The most proud I am is since I started playing again, we’ve been winning games and for me that’s what I take pride in,” said Shipp. “It’s not the goals, it’s not the assists, it’s about winning games.”

For the first time since the signing of Ruidiaz, coach Brian Schmetzer gave us a glimpse of what the team looks like with both Ruidiaz and Will Bruin on the field in a 4-4-2 and was coy when asked afterwards how much that formation factors into his plans for the rest of the season. If anything having both Bruin and Ruidiaz on the field at the same time gives Seattle a striker pairing that is able to be strong in holding the ball high up the field while also having the speed to get behind their opponents back line.

Even in this stretch of sixstraight unbeaten the Sounders feel like they still have improvements to make. Cristian Roldan after the match said, “The incredible thing about this [run] is we’re not playing well. We’re grinding out games, we’re winning these games because we’re playing good defense and we’re scoring one or two goals. And that’s the scary part.” Roldan specifically pointed to the first 30 minutes of the match where he felt the team needed to improve saying the team needs to be better in possession, create more chances and be less predictable in attack.

The Sounders next test will be Saturday, August 4th against Minnesota United who have been extremely dangerous since adding Darwin Quintero from Liga MX side Club America. Since joining the club Quintero has scored nine goals in 17 matches and turned Minnesota into playoff contenders. It’s going to be a challenging road test for the Sounders, especially for the centrebacks as they try and contain Quintero for 90 minutes.

Confidence is certainly growing for Sounders though as they fight to make the playoffs yet again. Schmetzer said, “We’ve discussed this a lot that we put ourselves in a really big hole and so we need to collect points. I don’t care where we collect them, how we collect them, we need to collect points because this team deserves to be in the playoffs… It’s just a question of can we dig ourselves out, can we get enough points to get in.”

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Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich ‘a done deal’ in record MLS transfer

The record-breaking transfer that will take Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich is “a done deal” according to multiple sources. The deal for the 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps star will be the most expensive in MLS history.

Bayern will pay £11.5m for the Canadian winger, which could rise to £18m according to TSN’s Kristian Jack, but he adds that Davies will remain a Whitecaps player until the end of the 2018 MLS season. That would see Davies join up with his new teammates in Germany on January 1st 2019.

The transfer will make Davies Major League Soccer’s most expensive export. Jozy Altidore’s £6m move to Villarreal in 2008 has stood as the record transfer for ten years. The deal taking Alphonso Davies to Bayern is also worth more than the record sum of £11m Atlanta United paid for Ezequiel Barco ahead of this season.

Davies has taken MLS by storm since making his debut in July 2016, when he became the second-youngest player to play in the league at the age of 15, only behind Freddy Adu. He has gone on to make 54 MLS appearances for the Whitecaps, scoring three and assisting nine.

All three of those goals and eight of the nine assists have come this season, with the pacey winger looking sharper than ever. It’s no surprise Europe’s top clubs have been tracking his progress given how quickly he has developed in such a short space of time.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool were reportedly interested in signing him last season but didn’t make a formal offer due to work permit concerns. But Bayern have now swooped as they look to make an investment in the North American market. Reports also suggest they are hoping to add USMNT star Christian Pulisic from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Davies, who turns 18 in November, is expected to return to Vancouver Whitecaps training after the deal is completed. He missed the weekend loss to Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders, following permission from head coach Carl Robinson. He is averaging a goal or assist every 137 minutes this season so Vancouver will need his services while they still have them for the remainder of the season.

The Canadian winger was also named to the 2018 MLS All-Star team to face Juventus on August 1st, so he will still be expected to be available for the game.

Lodeiro inspires Sounders to beat Whitecaps as another late-summer playoff surge looms

Throughout their MLS history, the Seattle Sounders have made a trend of struggling in the early stages of the season before finding their stride in the Summer, much like they did in 2016 en route to winning MLS Cup. That Summer, Nico Lodeiro joined the club and, under then interim coach Brian Schmetzer, helped lead Seattle into playoff positions and ultimately was named the 2016 MLS Newcomer of the Year.

Fast forward two years later and the Sounders again find themselves in a hole, trying to continue their streak of making the playoffs every year of their MLS existence.

This time the hole is much deeper and the club has been devastated by injury all year but for possibly the first time this season the lofty expectations seem to be within reach.

The Sounders knocked off their Cascadia Cup rivals Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Saturday thanks to a brace from Lodiero and a confident performance from his teammates. Most excitingly we finally got a chance to see Raul Ruidiaz take the field in Rave Green and while it’s apparent that he is still learning how to play with his teammates he already looks dangerous in front of goal.

Ruidiaz’s debut would have been the biggest talking point this week if not for Lodeiro upstaging him with a masterful performance in midfield. Lodeiro’s passing was precise and incisive, constantly splitting defenders and finding open teammates. After opening the scoring from the penalty spot in the 4th minute of the match, Lodeiro doubled the lead in the 31st with a knuckling ball that completely fooled the Whitecaps’ keeper Stefan Marinovic. With the two-goal lead, Lodeiro seemed to really get into a groove and spent much of the second half terrorising defenders with his ball control and forcing Vancouver to foul him a match-high seven times.

With more time together Lodiero and Ruidiaz have the potential to unlock the Sounders attack as they learn each other’s habits and tendencies. Ruidiaz’s pace will help to stretch opposing defenses and open space for other attackers and should Lodiero continue his form from Saturday he’ll be an integral part of maximizing the danger that Ruidiaz creates.

As Seattle now prepares to head to Avaya Stadium in San Jose to face the cellar dwelling Earthquakes, they’ll also be looking to build upon only their third shutout of the season and first in a winning effort. Now just 10 points out of the playoffs and with games in hand, the Sounders will be desperate to get their first win at Avaya and continue their climb from the bottom of the Western Conference.

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