MLS News
Seattle's Sigi Schmid Throws Tactical Knockout Punch to Win Supporters' Shield
MLS News
Saturday, 25 October 2014 15:30

For the second consecutive match against the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders manager Sigi Schmid played his tactics to perfection. 

Following a 2-2 draw at StubHub Center six days ago, all the Sounders needed was a draw at home in front of 57,673 boisterous fans at CenturyLink Field to clinch the Supporters' Shield. 

For the second game in a row, Schmid opted to take a more defensive approach to his starting 11 by aligning Brad Evans in front of DeAndre Yedlin on the right side. That move was made in order to shut down the attacking threat on the left wing put forth by the Galaxy.

The plan once again worked, as the Galaxy were held to three shots on target in a game where they held 59 percent of the possession, per 

Schmid let the game play out until the 73rd minute, when he opted to bring on Guatemalan winger Marco Pappa in favor of Evans. 

Six days after the same substitution produced two goals to earn a road draw, Pappa scored both goals in the 2-0 victory to hand Seattle its first Supporters' Shield in franchise history. Goal USA's Seth Vertelney gave an update on Seattle's history-making path: 

Once Pappa entered the match, the Galaxy had no answer for what the Sounders were throwing at them. Pappa benefited from a smart, quick free-kick taken by Obafemi Martins in the 85th minute. Then in the 90th minute, he slotted home the second strike after a defensive lapse by Galaxy 'keeper Jaime Penedo let Pappa walk in on goal. 

There is no debating how valuable a player such as Martins or Clint Dempsey is to the Sounders, but what some may not realize is that role players like Pappa are crucial to the team's success as well.

Schmid, whose side suffered embarrassment in the form of an early playoff exit in 2013, was fully aware of that, which is why he let Pappa stay on the bench until it was time to go in for the kill. 

By the time Pappa found his way onto the turf in Seattle, the match was on the verge of a full-blown fistfight between the enforcers on both sides of the ball. 

With things getting chippy, it was time for an attacking adjustment to be made in order to switch up the pace of the match. Bleacher Report UK highlighted a tense encounter between Los Angeles and Seattle:

Schmid did that nine minutes before LA manager Bruce Arena, whose side was playing without star forward Robbie Keane, and the Seattle boss reaped the rewards after the match.

Arena's first substitution in the 82nd minute saw Alan Gordon replace Baggio Husidic, but it was too little, too late for the Galaxy, who were in need of a win to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference and the Supporters' Shield. 

The wrong tactical change was also made by Arena during that switch, as he decided to move Gyasi Zardes out on the left wing instead of Landon Donovan. 

While Zardes may have more pace than Donovan at this point in the respective careers of the two players, Donovan is the more experienced player. It should have been Donovan who was playing out on the left wing during the final eight minutes tearing into the tired Seattle defense, but that was not to be. 

There can be an argument made that the Galaxy's attack wasn't as potent as usual due to the loss of Keane. Or you could point to the absence of the suspended Omar Gonzalez as to why the defense broke throughout the final minutes. 

Those arguments do have some merit, but when the all-time league leader in goals and assists is out on the pitch, excuses should not be made. The Galaxy also received one heck of a defensive effort from Leonardo, who was thought to be the weak link of the back four with Gonzalez out. 

Looking back at the match, it was not the individual performance of one particular player that defined the result, it was an astute managerial decision that did. 

With the Supporters' Shield now in the possession of his club, Schmid can now set his sights on winning the MLS Cup with the same superb tactics that took away the consistent scoring threat of the Galaxy in order to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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New York Red Bulls Help Fulfill the Dreams of 5-Year-Old Girl with Rare Disease
MLS News
Friday, 24 October 2014 10:51

MLS' New York Red Bulls made one of their classiest signings yet, and it helped fulfill the dreams of a five-year-old girl. 

Red Bulls brought on Irelyn Maloney on a one-day contract. Young Irelyn was born with Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF), which is a rare genetic disease that has prevented her from competing in sports. 

Irelyn always wanted to become a footballer, so the Red Bulls helped her make good on that with a contract. She even scored in training! 

She donned the No. 31 shirt of her favourite footballer, Luis Robles, and got her own locker. 

"If she could play soccer every day, and every minute of every day, she would," he mother, Shannon, told the Red Bulls' official website. "She wears her cleats to school, she wears her cleats to the food store and to the doctor's. She just absolutely adores it." 

She added that Irelyn's had 40 hospital stays and six surgeries in five years. 

In spite of this, prior to her visit with Red Bulls, she got to compete in an actual match. Earlier this month her sister's team held a special game that she competed in as part of the Twin County Soccer Association. 

[New York Red Bulls]

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Seattle's Attack Set to Thrive at Home with Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez Suspended
MLS News
Thursday, 23 October 2014 22:54

The entire dynamic of the season-ending home-and-home series between the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy changed in the 88th minute of Sunday's 2-2 draw at StubHub Center. 

Galaxy center-back Omar Gonzalez, who was already on a yellow card, picked up a second caution for his tackle on Seattle's Gonzalo Pineda. 

As Gonzalez walked into the tunnel, the hopes of LA returning from Seattle Saturday with the Supporters' Shield, and the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs, disappeared. 

Gonzalez, who spoke to about the decision Wednesday, was not happy with the decision made by referee Ismail Elfath. 

I had a few days to think about it and look at the play again and from my standpoint, it wasn’t a yellow. I think that I went to the ground because I thought that I was going to the ball and I did get the ball first. He continued running and then tripped over me.

Since returning from the World Cup, Gonzalez has been in terrific form in the middle of a back four that has seen its share of injuries in 2014. 

Saturday afternoon's match at CenturyLink Field was supposed to be a great test for how the healthy back four of A.J. DeLaGarza, Dan Gargan, Robbie Rogers and Gonzalez would hold up in a testy road environment. 

Instead, the Galaxy will most likely use the unreliable Leonardo at center-back alongside DeLaGarza, which means Seattle should have a field day attacking on its home turf. 

Due to the defensive-minded lineup that Seattle manager Sigi Schmid trotted out Sunday, the Sounders only played with their best attacking lineup for 24 minutes. 

And what a 24-minute span that was, as the Sounders charged back to score twice in a three-minute span to make Saturday's match worth everything. 

Schmid aligned his starting 11 Sunday in a defensive fashion so that DeAndre Yedlin could receive help marking Landon Donovan from Brad Evans. 

The plan worked to near perfection, as the duo of Evans and Yedlin only committed one major mishap, which led to the Galaxy's first goal. 

Now that Seattle will be playing at home, expect Schmid to put his best attacking lineup on the pitch so the team can get off to a fast start. 

As we saw in the second half at StubHub Center, the Galaxy defense can't handle Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle and Marco Pappa when all four are out on the pitch. 

Pappa and Neagle bring plenty of width to the Seattle attack, which can leave Gargan and Rogers isolated on the wings in defense.

When Martins holds possession in the middle of the field, like he did in the buildup to Seattle's equalizer, he draws more attention to himself, which allows a wide player like Neagle to prance into the box unmarked. 

With so much space in between the wingers and the penalty area when the ball is out on the wings, Martins and Dempsey are able to make runs to connect with passes from the wing players. The News-Tribune's Don Ruiz relayed Dempsey's comments:

Containing the runs from two of the top scorers in the league will be a difficult task for 90 minutes without Gonzalez in the middle to command the Galaxy back line. 

DeLaGarza is a respected defender in the league, but Leonardo has suffered through his share of struggles all season long. 

Add in the noise made by the 54,000-plus fans at CenturyLink Field, and you have a recipe for disaster at the back for Bruce Arena's side. 

Another motivating factor for the Seattle front line to pounce early at home will be the embarrassing defeat the Sounders suffered at the hands of the Galaxy back on July 28. 

In that game, the Galaxy attack tore apart Yedlin on the left wing and left with a 3-0 victory that will surely be in the minds of every Sounders player Saturday. 

In Yedlin's defense, that was his second league match after the World Cup and the whirlwind ride he experienced after Brazil due to his breakout performance for the United States. 

The young defender, who is headed for Tottenham once the season ends, showed plenty of poise against Donovan in the first round of this home-and-home series, which leads us to believe he will show no fear again, even if Evans is left out of the lineup in favor of Pappa. 

Lest we forget, Seattle has motivation to win everything in its path this season after the awful late-season collapse in 2013 that saw it fall to rival Portland in the Western Conference semifinals. 

The Sounders have already won the U.S. Open Cup in dramatic fashion in September with a 3-1 win over Philadelphia in extra time, and they could well be on their way to trophy No. 2 with Gonzalez out and the Supporters' Shield on the line. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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Top 10 Strikers of the 2014 MLS Season
MLS News
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 06:59

As the 2014 MLS season comes to a close, Bleacher Report will examine the 10 best players in each position from this past campaign. The top 10 goalkeepers, defenders, defensive midfielders and attacking midfielders have already been revealed, with one list left in the series.

Part five features the top 10 strikers of the 2014 MLS season. They'll be graded based on goals, assists, composure, intelligence and their work rate both on and off the ball.

Here are the 10 best strikers of 2014.

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MLS Player Power Rankings After Matches from October 16-19
MLS News
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 00:00

For the past three months, only three players have topped the Major League Soccer Player Power Rankings. 

That all changes this week, as none of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan sit in the top position on our weekly ranking of the top-20 players in the league. 

All three of those players are near the top of the chart, but two other Most Valuable Player candidates impressed more in Week 32 to warrant a changing of the guard at the No. 1 spot. 

Continue reading on for a look at who earned the top spot in the latest edition of the MLS Player Power Rankings. 

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Toronto FC Goalkeeper Joe Bendik Picks Up 'Injured' Time-Wasting Opponent
MLS News
Monday, 20 October 2014 10:16

Toronto FC goalkeeper Joe Bendik may have finally solved the age-old problem of time-wasting due to injury. 

Well, "injury." 

On Saturday, Canadian rivals Toronto FC and Montreal played to a 1-1 draw in Major League Soccer.

In the waning moments of the match, Montreal's Felipe Martins went down as the Impact looked to hold on for a draw.  

Bendik, wholly unimpressed with Martins' "injury," simply walked over to the Brazilian midfielder and put matters (and Martins) into his own hands and picked him up.

Martins, unpleased, then went after Bendik.

What was he so mad about? It appeared as though Bendik healed his mysterious injury!

[YouTube, h/t Metro] 

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5 Things We Learned from MLS Matches from October 16-19
MLS News
Monday, 20 October 2014 04:42

As much criticism as Major League Soccer sometimes gets for not embracing a single-table format, fans couldn’t ask for a much more exciting finish to the regular season heading into the final week of regular-season play.

In the Eastern Conference, while the five playoff teams are already decided, three teams are still battling for final positions, including who gets to avoid the play-in game and who gets home-field advantage.

In the West, the final playoff position is still up for grabs, as is the battle to avoid the play-in game and the race for the league Supporters’ Shield.

Read about all the action, see video of another great strike from Lee Nguyen and get the latest on the Jurgen Klinsmann-Don Garber feud in this week’s edition of “5 Things We Learned from MLS.”

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Winners and Losers from MLS Matches from October 16-19
MLS News
Monday, 20 October 2014 00:54

With so much attention centered around the match between Seattle and LA in Week 32, it was easy to forget about the other matches that took place across Major League Soccer.

In the eight other games this weekend, we saw a few teams miss out on improving their respective positions in the standings, as well as a few nice stories in the Eastern Conference.

Also mixed in those contests were the best and worst passes of the week, and a major compliment from a legend about a young American star. 

Here's a complete look at the winners and losers from MLS Week 32. 

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MLS Team of the Week for Matches from October 16-19
MLS News
Sunday, 19 October 2014 23:17

Throughout the four days of play in the 32nd week of action in Major League Soccer, fans of the league were treated to plenty of standout performances. 

Although many fans focused on the clash between Seattle and LA, there were plenty of other matches this weekend that carried playoff implications. 

In those matches, there were a few surprise showings from young players, including a pair of stars from Columbus. 

Along with the young stars of the league, a few veterans also found their way into the 4-3-1-2 formation that the latest MLS Team of the Week is shaped in. 

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6 Bold Predictions for MLS Matches from October 17-19
MLS News
Thursday, 16 October 2014 23:32

There are only two weeks left in the Major League Soccer regular season, and much to our chagrin, there is less chaos in regard to the playoff races than there was entering last week. 

With a few teams looking to close out their respective home slates with a bang, we decided to make some bold predictions about the matches some would label as meaningless in Week 32. 

On top of that, we are also banking on two key players to have big days for two completely different reasons.

Throw in an outlandish prediction about what is supposed to be the best match in the league this season, and you have the six bold predictions for MLS Week 32. 

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