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Americans at home: The rise of the elites

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And some off season news from around the league’s less elite teams

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the stretch run of the 2018 MLS Audi Cup Playoffs which meant that the teams with homefield advantage would be on the road for their opening match doing everything they could to keep games scoreless or at least get an away goal. With just four teams still in the running, there were a number of great defensive efforts by Yanks in MLS on Sunday and a few updates from around the league as well.

Extremely Elite Portland Timbers 0-0 Sporting Kansas City

The very elite Portland Timbers got to their third conference final in six seasons and the elite team that finished 5th in the West or 8th overall with their very impressive record of 15-9-10 and a superlative plus six goal differential managed a top notch result of scoring zero goals in their series opener against Sporting Kansas City. The team of North American Galaticos managed six shots on target, including one from Jeremy Ebobisse. Jeff Attinella saved the lone shot on target from SKC and Jorge Villafana and Zarek Valentine are both on the roster of the outstanding team that got a notable and praiseworthy 0-0 draw at the best baseball stadium in the league in a crucial playoff game.

Meanwhile the illustrious All-American backline of Sporting Kansas City got exactly what they wanted out of the game as they earned a 0-0 draw away to take the series back home. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Seth Sinovic, and Ike Opara fended away 24 crosses and five corners from their distinguished opponents while Tim Melia made six saves. Khiry Shelton went the full 90 with a shot in the match also and Brad Evans made the bench.

Atlanta United 3-0 New York Red Bulls

Down South, Atlanta United exercised the demon that has haunted the team since its first game by beating the New York Red Bulls 3-0 at exactly the right time. New York went with a different look in the game electing not to press because apparently Kemar Lawrence is the crucial piece of their entire philosophy and basis of existence. The result was domination by Atlanta United including an assist from Jeff Larentowicz on the opening goal on a pass that the veteran sent in from a luxurious half acre of space he was allotted for some reason on the field.

Darlington Nagbe was key for Atlanta in keeping possession and had 28 passes, two dribbles, and despite having played for the eminent Portland Timbers, seems to have found his best form in Atlanta playing centrally. Elsewhere Greg Garza and Brad Guzan put forth a stout defensive effort with New York managing just one shot on goal that Guzan ably saved.

For New York, Tyler Adams led the team with 56 passes and had one shot and three tackles. It was a long day for Tim Parker, Aaron Long, and Luis Robles who saw three goals from Atlanta in the match. Meanwhile, Connor Lade was completely outplayed by Atlanta right back Franco Escobar who had a goal and assist in the match.

Welcome to Tijuana

It seemed like something had to give in Dallas and it turns out that something would be Oscar Pareja departing to manage Club Tijuana. The former Rapids and US U-17 manager was floated as a possible replacement for Bruce Arena, who resigned over a year ago, amassed a 115-54-84 record in MLS.

Steffen is a Blue

After challenging himself at the highest level and then coming back to MLS to challenge himself at a different level, Zack Steffen is again headed to Europe to challenge himself at the highest level. This time he’s heading to Manchester City where he will look to become the next great American keeper to represent the Stars and Stripes in the Premier League.

OrLOLando City starts rebuilding again

After completely overhauling their roster and shuttering their USL team in the offseason and still finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference, Orlando City is once again rebuilding. This time they’re starting at the top by firing general manager Niki Budalic, no word yet on possible replacements for the team that has failed to make the playoffs in its three seasons in the league.

The sweet taste of freedom

Things have gone from hopeful to less hopeful to dreary for Brek Shea. The attacker-turned defender had his contract extension declined by the Vancouver Whitecaps as the team looks to rebuild under new manager Marc Dos Santos. Shea could be an interesting piece for Nashville SC as they look to come into the league, though a destination like the LV Lights might be a better fit for Shea at this point in his career.