The dream ended last week. Of course, I’m talking about Toronto FC losing to Chivas de Guadalajara in the Concacaf Champions League championship match on penalties. The game was a Pyrrhic Victory for Toronto. After losing at home 2-1 the team needed at least two goals on the road and to beat a LigaMX team at home in a rowdy environment. Greg Vanney also faced the challenge of an injured backline and became the latest manager to play Michael Bradley out of position. This time it worked though and Bradley started at center back, though he often ventured into the midfield to keep the tempo, hold possession, and organize the attack. What looked like a recipe for disaster with no natural center backs on the field for Toronto worked and the team allowed just one goal, giving TFC a shot at winning the game.
For his part, Jozy Altidore scored a crucial away goal and Marky Delgado, who seems to be emerging as a player to watch in MLS this season, had another stellar game contributing with an assist on Sebastian Giovinco’s goal. Netminder Alex Bono had a stellar game in goal making seven saves on the night. However, A goal by Chivas would ensure that the game would go to penalties after Toronto won in regulation 2-1. After a clutch performance in an unfamiliar role, Bradley would step up and miss his penalty. Altidore, after being subbed off in the 85th minute with a hamstring injury, watched the shootout from the sidelines.
The regular chorus of criticism of Bradley choking and Altidore... only managing one goal seems to have overshadowed that the run to the CCL final is a significant accomplishment. That the team is being led by four stand out American players is also something that should be recognized as a step forward for MLS and US Soccer. Still, the loss further goes to seal the legacy of Bradley and Altidore, two players who seem destined to go down as two of the most maligned players in USMNT history despite their accomplishments for both club and country.
Anyway, here’s how Americans did at home over the weekend...
Glad you were on time
In a game that MLS hoped few would watch with a 10:30 kickoff on Friday night, Vancouver beat RSL 2-0 despite the Whitecaps missing to fringe starters thanks to last weekend’s red cards. The real highlight for an American in the match was this goal saving tackle from Justen Glad.
Grits > Poutine
At some point, teams are going to realize that they can’t bunker against Atlanta for 77 minutes and hope to win 1-0. After a 13th minute goal, Montreal retreated into a shell content to let Atlanta fire 20 shots at their goal and watch four of them go into the net. Darlington Nagbe completed 90% of his passes on the day with Greg Garza flying around the left side of the Five Stripes attack in search of a goal before being subbed off in the 74th minute. Brad Guzan also had what might have been a game saving goal for Atlanta as was discussed by manager Tata Martino.
The ageless wonder strikes again
Perhaps feeling the lingering effects of the travel from Mexico following their midweek match, Toronto FC let a 2-0 lead slip through their fingers at home to Chicago on Saturday. TFC jumped to 2-0 in the 22nd minute, thanks in part to a Michael Bradley assist, after an Alex Bono penalty save in the 38th minute, it looked like the Reds would be in control all game. Then after the half Chicago found their footing and battled back to get a goal in the 69th minute scored by Bastian Schweinsteiger. The team from the Windy Suburb would find an equalizer in Alan Gordon time when the American artifact would find the ball at his feet in the 94th minute and send the equalizer in to secure a draw. Brandon Vincent would go 82 minutes with MLS rookie Grant Lillard going the full 90 in his 3rd start for Chicago.
A big fun mess in Philly
In one of the more haphazardly fun games of the weekend, the Philadelphia Union beat DC United 3-2 in Chester. While the game was light on defense, right back Keegan Rosenberry managed an assist with Alejandro Bedoya contributing with one foul and an assist to CJ Sapong of his own. For DC, well Chris Durkin made the Union midfield look like it was being led by Ross Barkley and might still need some seasoning with Washington allowing three goals to a team that had only scored, ahem, three prior to the game Saturday.
Another win for New England
What originally looked like it might be a long term project with little potential for success this season, the New England Revolution under Brad Friedel have found a surprising amount of success this year. The Revs beat the Western Conference leading Sporting Kansas City 1-0 with American keeper Matt Turner keeping a clean sheet along with defenders Andrew Farrell and Jalil Anibaba. For SKC, Tim Melia’s six saves in the game was one too few as SKC failed to turn their 57% possession and 14 shots into an equalizing goal.
The return of the Grella
In another... less than stellar MLS matchup, the Columbus Crew beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on an 84th minute goal from Mike Grella. Grellinho had been sidelined with an injury to start the year and was making his first appearance on the year. Zack Steffen was forced to make just one save as San Jose only put one shot on target. Meanwhile, it was not a great match for American strikers with Chris Wondolowski held to zero shots and Gyasi Zardes just sending one try toward the goal.
A northern losing streak broken
In Minnesota, Christian Ramirez was forced from the game early for the Loons who beat the Houston Dynamo 2-1 thanks to a 70th minute assist from Miguel Ibarra. Minnesota United has been beset by injuries this year with Ethan Finlay tearing an ACL and now Ramirez set to miss time with a hamstring issue. As far as Houston, well DaMarcus Beasley and Andrew Wenger went the full 90 in the loss.
A less than galactic defense
The Los Angeles Galaxy have Zlatan, but what they don’t have are defenders. They lost to the New York Red Bulls 3-2 in a match that was exciting but technically not very appealing. For all of the press New York gets about their press and passing style, the team managed just 67% passing accuracy in the game, but Bradley Wright-Phillips only needed two passes to create two assists for New York. As for the Americans in the match, Tyler Adams and Sean Davis teamed up to clog up the passing lanes and deny service to the LA attackers. Sebastian Lletget had a quiet night starting for Jonathan Dos Santos in central midfield with a shot on goal in the game.
Rough patch in the Rockies
In Colorado, Orlando City Soccer Club managed two goals to come away with a 2-1 win over the Rapids. Sacha Kljestan picked up his third assist on the year with Chris Muller failing to score for the first time in April. It was a rough night for Zac MacMath and Edgar Castillo losing at home as the Rapids continue to struggle in 2018.
NYCFC continue to roll
It was a similarly rough day for two young Americans in the Bronx as Jacori Hayes was subbed off in the 53rd minute and Reggie Cannon watched NYCFC put three goals past the FC Dallas defense. The lone American starter for NYC, Sean Johnson, held Dallas to one goal and made six saves in the win.
A grande premier in LA
Two of the more exciting teams in MLS faced off in one of the duller matches on the MLS slate this weekend. LAFC celebrated opening their new stadium by getting a win off of a USMNT eligible Stefan Frei howler in the 93rd minute thanks to a Laurent Ciman free kick. Aside from that Clint Dempsey shot the ball a lot, Cristian Roldan put in a gritty shift with lots of hustle, and Will Bruin stood by the goal hoping the ball would bounce off of him into the net. For LA, Walker Zimmerman managed a clean sheet and Benny Feilhaber did his best to try and unlock a defensively cohesive Sounders team.