Monday, July 27, 2015

Sunday MLS: Orlando and New York score a lot, United recovers from conceding early

New York City FC 5-3 Orlando City
After a sleep inducing first half (seriously, I fell asleep after 15 minutes) that only featured one goal, the second half was wide open with free flowing excitement. The first half goal (which I had woken up for) was an impressive shot from David Villa. Less than thirty second before halftime, the Spaniard received a pass, turned around, and slotted a shot just inside the near post to put NYC up a goal. 

In the 50th minute, rookie sensation Cyle Larin equalized for the Lions with a similar shot to Villa's tally. The draw was short lived. In the 53rd minute, Javier Calle took advantage of some ball watching Orlando defenders to sneak in and tap home a Thomas McNamara cross to make it 2-1. A couple minutes later, Italian legend Andrea Pirlo was introduced as a sub for his first NYCFC action. On his first touch in the States, Pirlo lobbed a perfect pass to his former AC Milan teammate David Villa, although the not quite chance didn't amount to anything.

Larin made sure to get the Lions back even with a transition goal in the 61st minute. Once again, New York bounced back from a tying goal. In the 67th minute, Villa found his second of the day with a shot through four Orlando City defenders. Although he didn't receive an assist, Andrea Pirlo started the whole thing with a beautiful through ball to Kwadwo Poku. More poor defending from Orlando's back line lead to the fourth goal for New York in the 71st minute. This time it was McNamara wafting in behind ball watching defenders to receive a cross and an easy tap in.

Orlando City would not go away easily. After they went down a pair of goals, Josh Saunders was forced to make a couple of beautiful saves and a shot was cleared off the line by New York's defenders. In the 85th minute, Cyle Larin took a perfect shot that beat Saunders and found the upper 90 to complete his had trick and put Orlando within a goal with five minutes to play.In the second of three minutes of stoppage time, Kaka drilled the post on a free kick that set off a three on one counter attack spearheaded by Poku and Villa, and finished by Mix Diskerud.

As summer arrived, the question surrounding New York City has been whether or not Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard would be enough to vault this team into the playoffs after an atrocious start. This win puts them level on points for sixth place and Lampard hasn't seen the pitch yet. So I'd say, yes, that pair dang well could be enough.

DC United 3-2 Philadelphia Union
This one didn't take long to get started. CJ Sapong scored after all of 20 seconds by receiving a cross with his back to goal, turning around through the DC defender, and burying a shot with little resistance. After three minutes, Sebastian Le Toux scored a rather odd goal. His ball from out wide looked to be a pass looking for a streaking Sapong, but it bumbled past the him and then just... into the goal. It was a horrible goalkeeping error by Andrew Dykstra in addition to the sleepy United defending.

United had their chances to get back into the match. They did control much of the ball for the remainder of the first half. Their first real chance came when Raymon Gaddis brought down newcomer Alvaro Saborio in the box. Fabian Espindola stepped up to the spot and promptly sailed his penalty kick high and wide of the goal. A few minutes later, in the 37th, DC got a goal back with Saborio's first goal in a United shirt.

In the second half, Philadelphia was happy to sit back and defend while DC United attacked. As a result, United found their equalizer in the 66th minute. After a strong save from Brian Sylvestre, Nick DeLeon pounced on the rebound to tie the score with the first goal of his season. The final blow to Philly's upset chances came from Fabian Espinola heading home a cross in the 79th minute.

United remains seven points clear atop the East, while Union are in ninth, a pair of points outside the final playoff spot.

Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes
The Whitecaps jumped on the early scoring bandwagon, much like Philadelphia did, but they were able to hold onto their early gained lead. Mauro Rosales was the man for Vancouver in the fifth minute as he capitalized off a San Jose turnover in midfield. Kendall Watson added the second just after the half hour mark by heading home a Rosales corner. Octavio Rivero added a PK in the second half before San Jose got their final minute consolation goal from Quincy Amarikwa.

The win keeps Vancouver within two points of first place Dallas in the West while San Jose continues to struggle. They sit in ninth and seven points back from the playoffs.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It Happened in America: Dallas dominates, Toronto comes back to tie Crew

Columbus Crew 3-3 Toronto FC
A couple minutes after halftime, Columbus looked like they had this one in the bag. They had goals from Golden Boot leader Kei Kamara, Tony Tchani, and Ethan Finlay just two minutes after the restart. Then Toronto woke up. Perennial threat Sebastian Giovinco scored in the 50th. Collen Warner put in the second five minutes later. The Crew were able to hold out for quite some time until Waylon Francis was called for a dubious penalty in the 87th minute. His legs got tangled up with Jozy Altidore's in the Columbus box. The USMNT veteran went down to draw the whistle and then scored the PK to finish the 3-3 final score.

Montreal Impact 1-0 Seattle Sounders
Seattle continues to look like crap without their two best players. This might be an all time low as they lose to Montreal while only taking three shots, with none reaching the target. Not that Montreal looked that much better, at least from a finishing standpoint. It took them almost 88 minutes for Laurant Ciman to head home a free kick for the only goal of the game. Seattle's lack of points sends them to a tie for sixth with Portland. Meanwhile, Montreal leaps into the playoffs with several games in hand on any competition.

New England Revolution 2-2 Chicago Fire
Lee Nguyen was in the right place at the right time as the clock struck 27:00 to open the scoring for the home team. They would hold the lead until a minute before the break when David Accam was tripped up in the box on a hustle play. Jose Goncalves was a little late arriving to the ball, and it was kind of unlucky for him to nab the feet of the Chicago striker. Shaun Maloney buried the PK to make it 1-1 at the half. Two quick goals defined the second half. First it was Razvan Cocis in the 75th minute to give Chicago the short lived lead. New England equalized two minutes later with one from Kelyn Rowe. The point each keeps Chicago in the cellar of the East, with no real help on the horizon since Didier Drogba seems to prefer French speaking (and playoff contending) Montreal as his MLS home.

FC Dallas 4-1 Portland Timbers
Dallas stays hot as they bang out four against a normally sound Portland defense. A first half brace from Michael Barrios and second half goals from Kellyn Acosta and Mauro Diaz did the real damage. Portland's consolation prize came from their leading scorere Fanendo Adi from the spot three minutes into second half stoppage time. The win gives Dallas a four point lead on top of the West, which seems like quite a lot considering the state of that conference this season.

Houston Dynamo 3-0 LA Galaxy
Houston pulled off one of their better performances of the season as they are able to take down a freshly reinforced LA Galaxy side who was already looking like the best team in the league. They are suffering a bit without Gyasi Zardes and Omar Gonzalez, but Steven Gerarrd shuld more than make up for that loss. Houston got goals from Will Bruin, Brad Davis, and Leonel Miranda on their way to their seventh win of the season. The Dynamo still sit outside the playoffs by five points, however. Galaxy, on the other hand, are in second behind red hot FC Dallas.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Rouge Report: Detroit City falls to AFC Cleveland in NPSL Midwest Semifinal

Detroit City FC 1-2 AFC Cleveland
Detroit City FC's second playoff appearance did not go as planned as, despite late desperation efforts, the fall to AFC Cleveland by a 2-1 score in Madison, Wisconsin.

Things did not start well for Le Rouge as they went down after only six minutes were played. Brian Potocnik put the Midwest's third seeded team up with a well placed shot that banked off the post an in past Alex Bouillennec. City had the better of possession for the majority of the first half, and well into the second, but they never really threatened on goal.

During hte first half, the referee made an... interesting move towards the travelling band of City supporters in Madison. He was evidently unable to cope with the standard level of criticism from the Rouge Rovers and threatenedd to have them removed from the stadium if they kept it up. I guess he either toughened up, or realized that kicking them out would only make things worse, because the referee bashing didn't exactly stop as the game went on.

Despite the shower of singing from the 20 or so supporters behind the bench, in the 75th minute, disaster struck for Detroit City again as Cleveland scored on a counter attack to go up by a 2-0 score. Charlie MacInnes got City back into the game with a determined efford right after the kickoff. He beat the Cleveland keeper to a long ball forward and, after getting denied once, tapped home an easy goal.

The final ten minutes were a frenzy of mostly Rouge attacks. Zach Schewee nearly equalized a couple minutes later after as he was barely unable to get to a MacInnes header across the goal. MacInnes almost had his second in the 85th as he had a shot stopped by the Cleveland keeper.

In the end, nothing was enough as Cleveland held off any Detroit City attack. They advance to this afternoon's final to play FC Indiana for the right to go to the NPSL National Championship.

The 2015 campaign was a memorable one for Le Rouge. It opened with a 3-0 defeat in a landscape defining US Open Cup match in Ponitac's tin can against Michigan Bucks. It featured record crowds of well over 3,000 supporters for every regular season home game. Will Mellors-Blair became the club's all time leading goal scorer with a pair of goals against Michigan Stars. From the home opener that ended in Seb Harris's thrilling winner, to the regular season home finale being spoiled by Erie, it was a season of memories for Le Rouge and it's dedicated supporters.

What lies in wait for Detroit City? There is still the thought that a new, larger stadium is in the works for the future. As crowds set records in 2015, the club has clearly outgrown the friendly confines of Cass Technical High School. Is a change in league also on the horizon? The growth of the club also has led to talks about Le Rouge becoming a fully professional club and joining the always expanding second tier NASL, or the MLS stooges of the USL in the third tier. Regardless of which league they play in, or which field their matches happen on, I am excited for the 2016 season. The atmosphere at these matches is one of the most unique experiences someone can be a part of, and next year cannot come soon enough.

Friday Night MLS: Plata PK puts RSL past SKC

Real Salt Lake 2-1 Sporting Kansas City
Hooligan's Corner returns after my wedding and honeymoon!

Highlight reel goals were the story as RSL makes a push towards a playoff spot with a home win over Sporting Kansas City. The first one came from Javier Morales in the 34th minute with a wonderful individual effort. He received a headed pass from Sebastian Jaime before splitting two different pairs of Sporting defenders on his way to a perfect shot to put the home side up a goal. Minutes before halftime, Joao Plata thought he had doubled his team's lead when he was through on Tim Melia's goal along the right flank, but his floating shot only found the crossbar.

The second half got started with some fireworks as Benny Feilhaber ripped a golazo from long range as the clock struck 49:00. Backup keeper Jeff Attinella was helpless against the curling blast by the former USMNT standout as he levelled the score. Right before the hour mark, Devon Sandoval led a two on one in the SKC penalty area. He beat Melia with ease, but once again Salt Lake was denied a second goal by the post.

The go ahead goal for Salt Lake finally did come in the form of a penalty in the 71st minute. Olmes Garcia was storming in on the goal when Tim Melia came off his line to claim the ball but clipped Garcia's foot instead. Plata buried the penalty to put the home team ahead for good. Kansas City did try, however, to get back on terms. Their best chance came in the 75th minute when Jacob Peterson had a gaping goal in front of him. He took a great shot, but Attinella dove across the face of the goal to deny the opportunity.

The win means RSL are temporarilly within thre points of the final playoff spot out west. Kansas City sit in fourth, only two points back of Dallas in first with a game in hand.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday Night MLS: Portland squeaks by Quakes late

Portland Timbers 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes
After watching the USA trounce Japan in the Women's World Cup Final, we had an MLS match to take care of before ending our Independence Day weekend. The first half of this one was highlighted by some dubious officiating, particularly from the assistant referee on the Timbers Army side of the field. The first questionable call thwarted a San Jose scoring chance. Alvas Powell handled the ball on the line to keep it out of the net in the 24th minute. Powell may have been lucky to have remained in the game. He could have been red carded for handballing an obvious goal.

The next weird play came in the 40th minute when Diego Valeri thought he had the first goal of the match. Valeri collected a pass and was clearly offside, but the assistant kept his flag down as the Argentinian scored. Referee Ricardo Salazar stepped in to make the correct call and the goal was not counted. Portland got hosed again at the beginning of first half stoppage time. Dairon Asprilla was jacked in the face with an elbow by Jordan Stewart along the right touchline near the corner. It should have been a foul and a yellow card, but nothing was whistled.

Aside from the officiating, there was a decent game going on. Other than the situation that led to the Powell non-handball, Portland controlled the pace of the game. They came close a few times, but were unable to push one across to break the deadlock in the first half.

The second half was filled with Timbers attacks and shots being fired at David Bingham's goal. Despite all the chances, the closest the Timbers came to a goal was in the 87th minute when Gaston Fernandez thought he had a header in the net, but he was called offside. The winner finally came in the first minute of stoppage time when Diego Valeri took a free kick that bounced around in the area until Jack Jewsbury flew in to sneak it past Bingham.

The Timbers extend their home winning streak to five games, a franchise record for the MLS era. More importantly, they jump to third place and are within a point of first in the crowded West. San Jose stays below the red line, two points behind Sporting Kansas City in sixth place.

USA hammers Japan for third Women's World Cup title

United States 5-2 Japan
It was rather anticlimactic, but the USA have won the World Cup.

Carli Lloyd was the champion early on for the USA as she bagged a pair of goals before five minutes expired. The fisrt one came in the third minute after the USA won a corner. As the FOX broadcast team was speaking of the USA's height advantage over Japan, the corner came in low right to the spot Lloyd was charging. Lloyd banged home the ball to send BC Place into a red, white, and blue frenzy. Before anyone had a chance to calm down, Lloyd struck again as she was in the right place at the right time to boot home a rebound off a free kick.

The match calmed down a bit after the first five minutes of fury from the Americans and Japan started to settle into the game. They really had no choice but to throw women forward toward the goal and try to break the USA's unbelieveable defensive spell.  That would end up backfiring on them something terrible. Just before the quarter hour, the USA caught a break that ended with a nice ball forward to Alex Morgan, who laid it off to a streaking Lauren Holiday, who drilled the ball home.

At the quarter hour mark, there was more disaster for Japan. Lloyd struck again as she caught Japan's keeper out of position and lofted a shot from the halfway line that trickled in off the keeper's hand. Minutes later, Lloyd was inches away from heading home her fourth of the game. She connected on a cross, but her header wafted wide.

Japan was completely lost. They entered the match unprepared for the American onslaught that came in the first fifteen mintutes. From the opening kickoff, the USA was in complete control. They outcalssed Japan in every way imaginable.

As they continued to pour numbers forward, Japan did get a goal back before a half hour was up. The USA's fantastic streak of 540 minutes without a goal allowed came to an end in the 27th minute when Yuki Ogimi lofted a shot beyond the reach of a diving Hope Solo.

Japan's offensive attitude continued through the rest of the first half, but they couldn't add to their one goal total. The USA was happy to sit back and defend and not allow Japan any space in the box. It was only halftime, and it was already the highest scoring Women's World Cup Final in history.

The second half started with the USA on the attack, but it was Japan getting the early goal. It will go as an own goal off of Julie Johnston's head as she tried to clear with her noggin, but instead put the ball just beyond the line to make it 4-2 in the 53rd minute. Just a few minutes later, it was Tobin Heath capitalizing off a mad scramble in the box to make it 5-2 to the Americans.

As time wound down, Japan would attack, USA would defend and not allow anything. A few ceremonial subs brought in Abby Wambach and Christine Rampone to count down the seconds towards the third world championship in USA's storied women's soccer history.

It went from a group stage full of questions to a dominant knockout round performance that featured a systematic dismantling of the best team in the world and a total destruction of the defending champions. The USA went from giving me "no reason to believe that they would win the World Cup" to being undisputed champions of the world.

In a campaign highlighted by stout defense and few goals, the USA saved all their fireworks for the day after the Fourth of July, when they needed them the most. The five goals scored in the final were more than the first three games of the group stage combined, and equal to the three previous knockout round games.

The champions also featured many individual awards. Carli Lloyd, and her 15 minute hat trick in the final, was the deserved Golden Ball winner as the tournament MVP. She scored as many goals as Germany's Celia Sasic, but lost out on the Golden Boot on a minutes played tiebreaker. Hope Solo, and her 540 minute shutout streak, took the Golden Glove for the top goalkeeper. In my mind, the unsung hero, who sadly won't walk away with a personal medal, was Becky Sauerbrun. She quietly kept the superstar backline together when the more flashy Julie Johnston started to breakdown late in the competition. Without her responsible clearances and timely interventions I doubt that the team goes six whole games without conceding a goal. Overall, it was a team victory and each one of those ladies earned that World Cup Trophy.

Congratulations to the United States Women's National Team, who find themselves on top of the world for the third time.

It Happened in America: Galaxy score big again, rough night for Canadian teams

Columbus Crew 2-1 New York Red Bulls
Anatole Abang got the Red Bulls on the board in the eighth minute, but that was all they would get as Ethan Finlay got to play hero for Columbus. He levelled in the 33rd and scored the winner with only 15 minutes remaining. The Crew jump up to second place in the East, still 11 points back of DC United, though. The Red Bulls are three points clear of the red line, but only a point out of second.

Montreal Impact 1-2 New York City
Montreal was doing everything right here, they were controlling possession and bombing shots in towards the goal, but only one of them managed to go in, and it was a 77th minute PK frkm Ignacio Piatti. David Villa scored twice for City, however. First in the 34th and again five minutes after the penalty conversion. Josh Saunders was the reason for Montreal's failures. He stopped eight shots to keep things in City's favor. Their rare attacks were rather efficient. They only had five shots on their way to the Villa brace.

FC Dallas 3-0 New England Revolution
Dallas brought their goal scoring boots as they welcomed the defending Eastern Conference champions into their home. Mauro Diaz started the party before ten minutes went by with a free kick that he scooted underneath the Revs' wall. Fabian Castillo doubled the lead in the 64th with a second chance goal. Less than ten minutes later, Michael Barrios finished the visitors off after a perfect feed from Diaz. Dallas keeps pace in the West. They are in fourth, but only three points back of first place. The Revs are mired in that second to sixth group in the East that is separated by only a point.

Colorado Rapids 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
An unexpected three points against the top team in the West was not enough to dig Colorado out of last place, but it was a step in the right direction. Vicente Sanchez got them off to the right start by scoring less than 90 seconds from the opening whistle. Kekuta Manneh would half volley home the equalizer off a lucky looping cross from Mauro Rosales. Mark this one as an assist of the year candidate. Kevin Doyle would provide the upset ten minutes after the second half began with a well placed header. Vancouver drops to second, but are level on points with first place Seattle.

Real Salt Lake 1-1 Orlando City
Kaka scored in the fifth minute but Orlando couldn't hold the lead. Sebastian Jaime put RSL on the board in the 28th minute. Any chance that the Lions had at three points on the road took a major hit when Kaka was shown straight red for shoulder charging Javier Morales from behind just before halftime. Salt Lake pressured hard, but ten man Orlando held on for the draw.

LA Galaxy 4-0 Toronto FC
After taking a match off from scoring a bunch of goals, LA got right back into form by bagging four against Toronto. Robbie Keane's hat trick was the highlight of the night. He had a trio of goals before the hour mark before Sebastian Lletget added the final tally in stoppage time. LA continues to look scary as Steven Gerrard's arrival nears. Even with Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes taking off for the Gold Cup, Galaxy are going to be mighty scary in the second half.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Friday Night Football: Sounders get back on track, Dynamo and Fire even

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Chicago Fire
A battle of bottom feeders in each conference ended even as it took a while to find some goals. After each side had a close call in the first half, former Chicago Fire man Alex scored on his first touch after being brought on as a sub to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the 56th minute. Patrick Nyarko made a determined effort to level the score in the 72nd. After a nice series of Fire passes, Nyarko's first shot was saved by Tyler Deric. The Ghanaian, making his first appearance for Chicago this season, was diligent enough to grab his own rebound and score the equalizer. The score finished even at a goal and neither made progress towards digging themselves out of the basement. Chicago remains is last in the East while Houston is in ninth out West.

Seattle Sounders 1-0 DC United
On the other end of the standings, DC United took their Supporters' Shield lead into Seattle to face the Sounders, who are still without Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Seattle controlled the game for the first 25 minutes before getting a boost from some violent play by DC United's Fabian Espindola. Espindola threw an elbow to the throat of Zach Scott. Even with a nearly 60-40 possession advantage, it took Seattle until the 88th minute to secure all three points. Tyrone Mears scored his first of the season by pouncing of  a rebound in space near the corner of the box. His shot curled perfectly past backup keeper Andrew Dykstra to give the Sounders the win. Seattle temporarily jumps back in front of the West, they can drop if Vancouver gets any points against Colorado tonight.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

England tragically fall out of Women's World Cup, Japan to face USA for the title

Japan 2-1 England
Wow. Words cannot describe how England crashed out of the World Cup. As a nation, England have had more than their fair share of major tournament defeats on the men's side, and now the women can join in on that awful reputation.

Both sides scored from the spot in the first half, and both penalties were borderline calls. Japan got theirs first. In the 32nd minute, Saori Ariyoshi was making a run into the penalty area when she was challenged awkwardly by Claire Rafferty on the edge of the box. The challenge rightfully drew a whistle, but was on the very edge of the penalty area. It was more of a correct call than the one that gave the USA their first goal last night, but it was still very close. Aya Miyama confidently scored from the spot to put Japan ahead.

England stormed back and earned a PK of their own in the 39th minute. Sarah Houghton went down while chasing a free kick into the box to draw the whistle. It may have been a dive, but I am willing to give the referee the benefit of the doubt. Fara Williams buried her shot to make it 1-1 going into the break.

In the second half, England was the better team. They hit the woodwork twice. They had a couple shots trail inches wide. Meanwhile, Japan could barely muster any possession to mount a real attack. Things were rushing towards extra time until well into the three minutes of stoppage time. Japan was getting a rare break and a chance on England's goal. The cross came in towards the box and England's Laura Bassett reached her toe out to try and clear, but her clearance was directed right at goal. After hitting the crossbar, the ball bounded over the goal line to put Japan into the final.

I hate to poke fun at such a tragic defeat, but it might have been the most England way to lose ever. Even when compared with the series of penalty shootout losses in both the World Cup and European Championships, the England women found a new way to shoot themselves in the foot.

But you can't help but feel awful for those women. They went toe to toe with the defending world champions for 90 minutes. In the second half they were the better team, and really deserved to win. Instead, they crash out in the worst way possible. Anyone not actively cheering for Japan, and maybe even a few Japanese supporters, has to feel sympathetic towards the Three Lionesses after this one. The progressed further than any England team of any gender has gone in any World Cup in almost 50 years, but they really should have gone even further.

On to the positive. Japan will face the USA in a rematch of the 2011 final. Japan took that one in penalties to win their first ever Women's World Cup. The USA got revenge in the 2012 Olympic Final with a 2-1 win, but they are seeking the ultimate prize this time. The 2011 Final was one of the greatest matches I have ever seen, so this one has a lot to live up to. The USA are the favorites, but Japan is nothing to take lightly. Kickoff is Sunday at 7pm from Vancouver.