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.

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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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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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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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In pictures: Sounders fail to score in disappointing draw with 10-man Columbus

It was a disappointing return home to CenturyLink Field for Seattle Sounders FC as they spent the majority of the match a man up but failed to score against Columbus Crew SC in a 0-0 draw.

The Sounders were dealt a fortunate hand 15 minutes in when Pedro Santos’s high boot caught the face of Alex Roldan, prompting head referee Hilario Grajeda to issue a straight red card after going to video review. Columbus responded in turn by substituting off Cristian Martinez for Alex Crognale and putting every man behind the ball while Seattle was in possession. Seattle struggled to break down the Columbus defence and resorted to trying to get the ball to wide positions to limited success and the attack consistently faltered in the final third.

When Seattle stole possession from Columbus, the counter-attack lacked impetus and the Crew were back with everyone behind the ball before the Sounders could get into a dangerous position. “You have to try and be more quick with the ball and find the middle of the field more quick,” said Osvaldo Alonso. “Pass the ball and try to find the forward. We played good defence and we tried to score and it didn’t happen.”

While they had limited chances in the second half, the best chances of the game came from Columbus when down a man. Gyasi Zardes had an early look that he pushed just wide of goal in the 22nd minute and in the 36th helped to create a chance for Milton Valenzuela that ended up over the bar from inside the six yard box.

With the lion share of possession and 17 shots taken to Columbus’s five, Seattle controlled much of the match but still struggled to test goalkeeper Zach Steffen. Columbus was defensively sound, putting as many men as possible in the 18 yard box to make it more difficult for Seattle to break them down. The Sounders lacked the creativity to get in between the defensive line of Columbus and spent most of their attacks probing the back four but not stretching them. “We’re disappointed in the result. It’s not good enough. I’ll make sure that we watch this tape and we work on attacking movements to try and break that final line and be a little more creative,” said coach Brian Schmetzer.

“You know we moved the ball too slow. I mean the few times when they did get into our end of the field and we won possession of the ball we need to sprint, we need to get down the field before they get a chance to get bunkered in. So we will look at that and the coaching staff will train that to make sure that we create more good opportunities.”

“I think everybody in the stadium knew we were gonna get it and push it wide and try to cross it,” said Will Bruin. “You got to find other ways to create chances and you know we just haven’t been able to do it.

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“We got to be willing to take chances. We gotta get some creativity, some flair, we got to move the ball quicker, like I said we got to pass and move we got to try things. I think we’re too caught up with playing the simple pass and you know, ‘I’m not gonna make the mistake I’m just gonna move it to the next guy.’ And you’re not gonna score like that its so easy to defend and thats a prime example tonight.

“We need to find a solution to this because if you can’t tell I’m pretty frustrated right now. We’re gonna look at film tomorrow and I mean I hope we look at ways to exploit Toronto and ways we can attack them… I just hope we can generate some goals.”

Seattle’s busy week continues as they travel to defending champions Toronto FC on Wednesday before returning to the West Coast to take on local rivals Portland Timbers on Sunday.

In pictures: LAFC open Banc of California Stadium with dramatic late win over Sounders

LAFC 1-0 Seattle Sounders – A historic day for Los Angeles FC ended in Hollywood style as Laurent Ciman struck a 93rd-minute winner to lead the hosts to a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders.

LAFC fans have waited a long time to watch their team play at home and they made the occasion a special one. Their support was rewarded with almost the final kick of the game, with the hosts moving back into 2nd place in the West, just two points behind Sporting Kansas City.

Seattle will be incredibly frustrated to have lost 1-0 to the expansion side for the second time this season. They did create chances, with Steven Beitashour’s goal line clearance in the first-half proving to be a pivotal moment. The defeat leaves Seattle rock bottom of the West with just four points from six games.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s historic game below, courtesy of Denise McCooey, John May and Hazel May.

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In pictures: Alonso and Roldan brothers lead Seattle to 3-1 win over Minnesota

Seattle Sounders FC notched their first win of the season on Sunday with a 3-1 win at home against Minnesota United FC. Sounders scored two goals in two minutes from Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin to give Seattle an early lead after 25 minutes. Minnesota brought one back in the 66th minute from Christian Ramirez before Jordy Delem scored his first MLS goal in the dying seconds of the match to end the visitors’ comeback bid.

For the second-straight week Alex Roldan got the start as Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Clint Dempsey both started on the bench before coming on as substitutes. Roldan brought a needed energy to the lineup and made great off-ball runs to create space for his teammates. “I always liked Alex,” said coach Brian Schmetzer after the match. “I thought he was very, very good [at Seattle U]… I just think it’s a great storyline because Alex is becoming not just Cristian’s brother but he’s becoming his own man and I enjoy that.” While he didn’t show up on the stat sheet this week, he outperformed both Dempsey and Eikrem his 60 minutes on the pitch and made a solid case for his continued inclusion in the lineup.

Osvaldo Alonso was healthy enough to make his first start for Seattle since August 27th of last year when he suffered the right quad strain that kept him out of the 2017 MLS Cup. With Alonso in the lineup Seattle are able to control the midfield and organize their attack and that was on display against Minnesota. When Eikrem replaced Alonso in the 75th minute for a planned substitution, Minnesota was able to find more attacking chances due to not having Alonso’s defensive presence in the centre of the pitch.

It was also a great game for Cristian Roldan, recording assists on the first two goals of the match. Playing much of the match in an attacking midfield position, Roldan coordinated the attack, ran at defenders, and drew the attention of the Minnesota defense which opened the field for his teammates.

He and Alonso would get the assists on the first goal of the match as Roldan, playing just in front of United’s back four, draws two defenders as the pass comes from Alonso and makes a first touch pass to Svensson in the now vacated space. Svensson then unleashes a rocket of a ball into the top left corner of the goal with one of the better strikes we’ll see this season.

The second assist for Roldan is the more impressive if not the flashier of the two as he makes a smart run into space on the left wing to stretch the defense before hitting a first time cross into the box. His cross is low and well hit but most impressively it splits two defenders from 20 yards away to find Bruin open at the top of the six-yard-box.

The biggest concern for Seattle though, as they look towards LAFC next week, is how their pace and aggression dropped off after the first 30 minutes of the match. “It was a good [opening] 30 minutes. The key is that we need to watch the film and figure out why, after 30 minutes, the team didn’t perform as well as they should have,” said Schmetzer. “I challenged them at halftime a little bit. ‘You want to be a championship team? Championship teams are able to finish games out, close games out, get that third goal and make sure that the game becomes a little easier.’ After the game, my opinion changed a little bit and I said, ‘Well, championship teams actually kind of win ugly sometimes, and you’ve got to gut things through.’ That’s another character trait of championship teams. In October, nobody’s going to remember that this was a hard game. They’re just going to say, 3-1 scoreline and that’s three points.”

Seattle Sounders next match sees them opening up Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles as they face LAFC. They’ll be looking to get revenge on the league’s newest team after losing 1-0 in the opening game of the season as they kick off at 6 PM PT (1 AM GMT) on Sunday April 29th.

Check out exclusive photos of Sunday’s game, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Match gallery: Sounders lack discipline, lose 1-0 to Impact

Three games. Three reds. Zero goals. Zero points.

It’s been a nightmare start for Seattle Sounders (0-3-0, 0 pts) this season as they lost 1-0 at home to Montreal Impact (2-2-0, 6 pts) on Saturday night. Kelvin Leerdam was sent off for violent contact in the first half as a lack of discipline continued to plague the Sounders’ season. Down a man, Seattle was still able to create chances in the final third but couldn’t keep a clean sheet as Ignacio Piatti dribbled through the Seattle defence and found a wide open Jeisson Vargas to give the Impact a 1-0 win.

Losing Leerdam was only half of the problem for the Sounders as the club is currently on their longest scoring drought to start a season. Still missing Osvaldo Alonso to injury, Seattle lacks a midfield presence to both distribute offensively and stop the ball on defence. As a result the Sounders have had to rely solely on moving the ball up the wings and playing outside-in instead of being able to work from the middle of the field and play from the inside out.

Against Montreal, too often the attacking midfield of Handwalla Bwana, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Magnus Wolff Eikrem were pushing too high, almost in line with the Montreal defenders while Gustav Svensson and Christian Roldan were sitting deep to play the ball out of the back. This left a void the center of the field making it difficult for the Sounders to mount an attack. Once they turned the ball over to Montreal there was no one in the middle of the pitch to slow down the attack and the Impact were often quickly into the final third.

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With two weeks before their next match, a Sunday trip to Kansas City, Seattle have some time to find a solution. Alonso is likely to be healthy in two weeks although it remains to be seen if he’s ready for 90 minutes. While his control of the midfield should help the Sounders, the defensive midfielder known as ‘the Honey Badger’ is not one for being disciplined. That task will have to fall on the shoulders of head coach Brian Schmetzer in the coming weeks as the team prepares for Sporting KC.

If there was any bright spot from Saturday’s loss, it’s that Seattle still managed to create scoring opportunities even while down a man. The Sounders had multiple shots on target late in the match but failed to trouble keeper Evan Bush with them. Had they managed to more accurately place their shots, we could be talking about an improbable win or draw instead of their third-straight loss.

Clint Dempsey will return from his one-match suspension when the Sounders travel to Kansas City on April 15th to help Seattle find their first goal of the MLS season. It will be a difficult task against Sporting (3-1-1, 10 pts) who currently lead the Western Conference but who have also allowed nine goals to ten scored.

In pictures: NYCFC 2-1 LA Galaxy – Cole sent off as Villa scores decisive goal in 100th appearance

NYCFC 2-1 LA Galaxy – All eyes were on Yankee Stadium on Sunday evening as New York City FC welcomed LA Galaxy for their home opener. Both sides came into the contest following Week 1 victories but it was NYCFC who made it two wins from two, beating LA 2-1 in David Villa’s 100th match for the club.

New York City started brightly and were rewarded when winter signing Anton Tinnerhom rifled a shot in off the crossbar following good work from Jesus Medina and Villa. The Spaniard’s cross was blocked by Michael Ciani but only into the path of Tinnerholm, who volleyed in off the bar after 22 minutes.

NYCFC then doubled their lead in the 33rd minute, as Villa celebrated his 100th NYCFC appearance with a goal. The hosts raced away on a counter-attack led by Jesus Medina. He played in Ben Sweat, who saw his effort saved by David Bingham straight into the path of Villa who simply tapped home.

LA Galaxy improved after halftime and got a goal back on the hour-mark through Jonathan Dos Santos. But they couldn’t get the equaliser despite pressing for most of the second-half.

Their chances took a major blow in the late stages as captain Ashley Cole was sent off for a second yellow card offence for seemingly tripping David Villa. The game ended NYCFC 2-1 LA Galaxy as New York City FC keep their perfect start to the season on track.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographer Ashley Marshall.

NYCFC 2-1 LA Galaxy: In Pictures

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Gallery: Exclusive images as Houston stun Portland to advance to Western Conference Final

The Houston Dynamo stunned the Portland Timbers with a 2-1 comeback win at Providence Park on Sunday night. The 2015 MLS Cup champions were eliminated on their own turf, with the Dynamo advancing to the Western Conference Final, where they’ll face the Seattle Sounders.

This time last year, Houston were the worst side in the Western Conference. Now, they are just two legs away from the 2017 MLS Cup Final. Their turnaround has been remarkable and they fully deserved their win at Portland on Sunday.

Dairon Asprilla gave the hosts the lead on 39 minutes, blasting the ball high and beyond Joe Willis. Asprilla’s task was made significantly easier by an unfortunate slip from Dynamo defender Dylan Remick.

However, Remick would soon atone for his error. Just four minutes later he volleyed the Dynamo level. That goal left the Houston in control, due to their away goal. Portland needed one more but couldn’t find it.

Then, in the 77th minute Mauro Manotas struck from distance and beat Jeff Attinella to put the game beyond Portland’s reach. The Dynamo advanced against the odds, leaving Portland players and fans stunned at the fact their season ended in such fashion.

Houston will face the Seattle Sounders over two legs in the Western Conference final, with the winner advancing to MLS Cup to take on either Toronto FC or Columbus Crew SC.

Check out exclusive pictures from Sunday night’s game, courtesy of MLSGB Photographer Denise McCooey.

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