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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In pictures: Atlanta United forced to settle for a point in 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders

Atlanta United couldn’t reward their record crowd of 72,243 with a win, as Seattle Sounders battled to earn a 1-1 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday night.

Atlanta will rue missed opportunities in what was a fiery contest between the two sides. The Sounders will be happy with the road point as they look to build some momentum ahead of their traditional late-season surge towards the playoffs.

It was the visitors who took the lead, right on the stroke of half-time. Harry Shipp’s shot was blocked by Franco Escobar but after going to Video Review, referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the penalty spot.

Nicolas Lodeiro converted and Seattle went into half-time 1-0 up. But it wouldn’t stay that way for very long. Atlanta United came out fighting in the second-half and got the equaliser in the 48th minute.

Josef Martinez was able to beat Kim Kee-Hee to Julian Gressel’s floated cross and steered his header over Stefan Frei. But that was the last time Atlanta were able to get the better of the Sounders goalkeeper.

Frei came up big to keep the score at 1-1 and earned his side a valuable point. Seattle had to play the final half an hour with ten men after Jordan McCrary was sent off, but Atlanta couldn’t capitalise.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey:

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Clint Dempsey equals Sounders scoring record in 1-1 draw with Chicago Fire

Clint Dempsey scored his first league goal of the season, tying Fredy Montero for the club scoring record at 47, but Seattle Sounders FC still dropped two points at home to Chicago Fire as an early goal from Aleksandar Katai would be enough for a 1-1 draw.

Chicago would get on the board first thanks to a perfectly placed shot from Katai in the ninth minute of the match. Multiple Sounders failed to close down on the dangerous Serbian forward, giving Katai a window to shoot from about 25 yards out. His shot was destined for the bottom corner of the net as Stefan Frei did his best to get his fingertips on the ball but wasn’t able to push it wide.

To their credit, Seattle came right back at the Fire, dominating possession before finally working a series of passes that ended with Dempsey in front of the net for a tap in. Starting with Kim Kee-Hee, five different Sounders played the ball as they passed through the Fire defence with a creativity that has been missing from their attack this season. The play develops thanks to an incisive through ball from Cristian Roldan to Will Bruin who was then able to put the ball back in front of goal to a sliding Dempsey.

Dempsey was dismissive of the goal having any added significance having tied the club record saying, “I’m just trying to go out and help the team” before focusing on the club’s goal of continuing to make the playoffs every season.

It’s been a tough year for Dempsey first missing out on his last World Cup after the U.S. Men’s National Team failed to qualify in 2017 for the tournament currently in progress only to have to weather a so far lackluster season in Seattle. At 35 years of age, Dempsey is in the twilight of his career but still says he feels healthy and is “able to move around the field well” but the numerous injuries to teammates like Nico Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez has made it difficult for the forward to score goals.

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“The last few games having Victor back and Nico back, they make such a huge difference in the team and the way that we play… With them in there we’re able to get more numbers forward and create better chances,” said Dempsey.

The result is ultimately a disappointing one for the club as they desperately need to collect maximum points, especially at home, to get back into the playoff picture. It feels even more disappointing when you factor in Chicago sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference and that many of their starters also played in their U.S. Open Cup match just days earlier.

Seattle is running out of time to make the playoffs sitting 11 points back of the sixth and final playoff position with just 20 games remaining but have a great opportunity at home on Saturday against hated rivals Portland Timbers who are currently in a three-way tie for fourth. Seattle will be hoping Dempsey’s goal will get him back to his scoring ways against the team he has already scored against nine times in just ten matches.

Lodeiro breaks scoring drought, key to 2-1 Sounders win over D.C. United

After 363 minutes without a goal in MLS play, Seattle Sounders FC finally found the breakthrough against D.C. United on Saturday night as Nicolas Lodeiro scored in his first game back from injury and international duty to bring his side level in the 57th minute.

Five minutes later Magnus Wolff Eikrem would give Seattle a second as the CenturyLink Field crowd erupted with a cathartic roar that echoed through the building as Sounders took their first lead in exactly a month.

The two goals would be enough for Seattle to secure three points on the night and move them up to 10th in the West but more importantly showcased the Sounders ability to play positive, attacking football.

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Contrary to the matches against Real Salt Lake, Seattle was able to out-possess their opponents and connect passes in the final third. Compared to the 60% and 58% against RSL, Sounders completed 77% of their passes in the attacking third on Saturday.

Having Lodeiro back is definitely a big boost to the team as Sounders are at their best when play runs through the Uruguayan midfielder. Lodeiro led all players in touches and total passes with 105 and 84 respectively while completing a staggering 93% of those passes. It’s also a benefit when that same player can hit a half-volley from the top of the box perfectly into the bottom corner of the goal to end the clubs longest goalless drought (also 363 minutes from July 3rd to August 9th in 2015).

There’s also some concerns to be had with Seattle’s continued injury woes as Kelvin Leerdam had to be subbed out making it eight straight matches (including the 2-1 loss in the U.S. Open Cup in Sacramento) where coach Brian Schmetzer has been forced to use a sub due to an injury.

The silver lining to the Leerdam substitution was that Cristian Roldan played extremely well filling in at right back, eventually assisting on the game winner from Eikrem, the man who replaced Leerdam on the field. Brian Schmetzer complimented Roldan on his work rate and his ability to push up the field but then quickly get back to defend when possession was lost.

Although it was a much better performance from Seattle than of late, it was against a D.C. team that currently sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just two wins and 9 points.

The real test comes on Wednesday when Sounders make a cross-continent trip to face New York Red Bulls who are 4-1-1 at home so far and have a Eastern Conference best +13 goal differential. Seattle will need another strong performance on short rest from the likes of Lodeiro, Roldan, Clint Dempsey, and Osvaldo Alonso if they plan to leave Red Bull Arena with a result.

Seattle Sounders’ woes go from bad to worse with back-to-back losses to RSL

It was a rare regular season home-and-home series for Seattle Sounders FC as they first hosted Real Salt Lake before traveling to Utah a week later for the second and final match this season against RSL. Unlike Seattle’s most recent home-and-home playoff series, the Sounders failed to score a goal and dropped both matches, 1-0 at home and 2-0 on the road.

While the first match saw Seattle take more shots than Real Salt Lake, they struggled to create dangerous scoring opportunities and were slow on the counter-attack making them easy to defend against. Cristian Roldan said after the match that the team isn’t creative enough right now and is lacking mental toughness which has lead to late goals conceded and poor decisions in passing.

Coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match, “We need to be creating more and better chances… We had numerous chances inside the box and we can’t score. So something has to break for us; as soon as it does break I think we have more goals in this team.”

 

Schmetzer also brought up how its hard to fault players for taking chances and missing them and that individual mistakes have been the biggest issue for the club currently.

Roldan conceded that the road match would be more difficult to dictate the game and find possession and Salt Lake would prove him right, out shooting Sounders 18 to 5. Seattle failed to put a shot on target and even with Dempsey back in a attacking midfield role along with Will Bruin (albeit not 100% healthy), they looked woefully inept in attack. Seattle struggled to connect passes in the final third in both matches completing just 60% in the final third at home and 58% on the road. By comparison RSL completed 64% on the road and 76% of their passes in the final third at home.

For the Sounders to right the ship this will need to be a focal point for Schmetzer and his coaching staff in the coming weeks. Having Nico Lodeiro back in the lineup will be a big help although it remains to be seen how healthy his foot is and how he will react mentally to missing the Uruguayan World Cup roster and injury concerns still loom over Bruin, Handwalla Bwana, Osvaldo Alonso, and Victor Rodriguez who made his return in the 74th minute in Utah but is likely not yet 90 minutes fit.

There are a lot of bad statistics to look at for the 2018 Sounders’ campaign – eight shutouts in 11 matches, only seven goals scored, 13 players missing at least one game to injury or suspension – but the one bright note has been their defence. Through 11 games they’ve only conceded 14 goals and while most of the league has played more games than Seattle, that currently leaves them tied for second in least goals conceded. The four teams who have conceded less or as many goals as Seattle are all in playoff positions.

While it certainly feels like the sky is falling in Seattle with how poorly the season has gone, if the goalscoring dam can break there is a chance that the Sounders can begin to climb back up the standings. Sounders fans can only hope that the dam breaks before the hole is too deep to dig out of.

In pictures: NYCFC keep up 100% home record as Orlando City suffer fourth-straight loss

New York City FC handed Orlando City their four consecutive defeat, winning 3-0 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night. The visitors squandered a great chance to level the game from the penalty spot but missed that golden opportunity as their miserable run continues.

NYCFC’s victory made it six wins from six at home this season. The result saw them move into second place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Atlanta United.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored a brace to help the hosts to victory, with Maxi Moralez adding a late third to rubber stamp the result. But the biggest moment of the game came just after the second-half began, with the score at 1-0. Orlando were awarded a penalty when Alex Callens pulled down Chris Mueller inside the box. Sacha Kljestan stepped up but saw his penalty strike the post.

For Orlando City, that moment summed up their form of late as another concerning result leaves them clinging on to their playoff spot. They are still sixth in the East but are at risk of dropping further down the table after taking no points from a possible 12.

The Lions have suffered four-straight losses – all to Eastern Conference rivals – so Jason Kreis knows he need to turn their form around very quickly. They travel to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps next weekend, while NYCFC host Atlanta United in a crucial clash at the top of the East.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s game below, courtesy of Ashley Marshall:

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New York City FC vs Orlando City | 2018 MLS Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: New York City FC vs Orlando City

Yankee Stadium – Saturday, June 2nd 2018 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Preview

Saturday evening sees New York City FC welcome Orlando City to Yankee Stadium. Both the Eastern Conference sides are in an inconsistent run of form.

Patrick Vieira’s NYCFC come into this one having won just two of their last five games. As a result of their recent run they have lost a little ground in the race at the top of the East. Although they are sitting third, they are just two points behind the leaders.

Form at Yankee Stadium paints a completely different picture for New York City FC. They have won all five of their home fixtures and will be looking at this game as a winnable one.

Orlando City have lost three games on the bounce. They are in danger of slipping out of the top six and considering their form earlier in the season it will be disappointing for all involved.

Jason Kreis’ side saw their inability to find the back of the net when they are on top cost them last time out. They lost 2-1 for the third game in a row, this time at the hands of Chicago. In stark contrast, some clinical finishing was enough for Chicago to inflict that defeat on Orlando.

The Lions are hoping for the return of Dom Dwyer, they have not been the same side without him. The striker has six goals in the seven games he has played – so it’s no surprise they have missed his input.

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Team News

New York City FC

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: None.

🌏 International Duty: Ronald Matarrita and Rodney Wallace.

🚑 Out: Yangel Herrera (ankle).

Orlando City

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: Dom Dwyer (lower body injury), Scott Sutter (lower body injury), Lamine Sane (lower body injury) and Jonathan Spector (concussion).

🌏 International Duty: Yoshi Yotun and Amro Tarek.

🚑 Out: Mason Stajduhar and Chris Schuler(broken arm).

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Key Stats

New York City’s MLS form: W/L/D/W/L

Orlando City’s MLS form: W/W/L/L/L

Key stat: New York City FC have a 100% record at Yankee Stadium in the 2018 regular season. They’ve won all five of their home fixtures.

New York City vs Orlando City venue for their next meeting

MLS: NYC FC vs. LA Galaxy at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y., USA, on Monday, Mar 12, 2018. Photo: Ashley Marshall

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Prediction

New York City FC 3-1 Orlando City: Despite Orlando being in a difficult run of form there is encouragement for them as they are still finding the back of the net. NYCFC’s Yankee Stadium form and superior league position makes it difficult to see anything but a home win. No game is a given, but Orlando have work to do if they are to bring that 100% home record to a stop.

Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy | 2018 MLS Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy

Providence Park – Saturday, June 2 2018 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST)

UK TV Coverage – Live on Sky Sports Football

Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy: Preview

Portland Timbers welcome LA Galaxy to Providence Park on Saturday evening, looking to extend their impressive run to seven consecutive MLS wins. LA Galaxy arrive with some key absentees are and are up against it as they try and bounce back from their midweek loss to FC Dallas.

The Timbers are the league’s hottest team right now. Portland have won six-straight games – four of which have come at home – and have climbed to fourth in the Western Conference, five points behind leaders SKC with two games in hand.

Portland’s players have clearly now taken on Giovanni Savarese’s philosophies and they are paying dividends. They come into this one off the back of last weekend’s 3-2 win at Colorado Rapids, with Swedish striker Samuel Armenteros netting a brace.

LA Galaxy will be looking to their own Swedish striker to try and guide them to victory here. Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned from suspension by scoring twice in Wednesday night’s home clash with FC Dallas. However, those goals weren’t enough as LA fell 3-2.

The Galaxy have now lost five of their last seven games and sit eighth in the West heading into the weekend. Sigi Schmid’s men have more than enough quality to be performing better than they are. They just need to start putting a few good results together. Winning at Portland on Saturday would go a long way to helping.

This will be their second meeting of the season after the Galaxy beat the Timbers 2-1 on the opening weekend in Giovanni Savarese’s first MLS game as a head coach. However, Portland did win the only league clash at Providence Park last term, winning 3-1.

Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy: Team News

Portland Timbers

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: Vytas (thigh), Jeremy Ebobisse (thigh), Kendall McIntosh (thigh).

🚑 Out: Roy Miller (Achilles), Liam Ridgewell (quad injury), Jake Gleeson (back), Jack Barmby (lower leg).

🌎 International Duty: David Guzman and Andy Polo.

LA Galaxy

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: None.

🚑 Out: Bradford Jamieson IV (concussion), Rolf Feltscher (shoulder surgery).

🌎 International Duty: Jonathan dos Santos, Giovani dos Santos, Ola Kamara.

Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy: Key Stats

Portland Timbers’ MLS form: W/W/W/W/W

LA Galaxy’s MLS form: L/L/W/W/L

Key stat: Portland have won 10 of their last 11 MLS games at Providence Park, outscoring their opponents 26-8 in that time.

Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy: Prediction

Portland Timbers 2-1 LA Galaxy: Both teams have plenty of attacking threats, even with key international absences. Portland are on an incredible run and don’t look set to drop their form here. The Galaxy had a tough time midweek and need to try and shake off the disappointment quickly. However, it’s hard to see them stopping the Timbers, who should make it seven wins on the bounce.