Archive | Match Reports

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Quick and Payneless – 2 losses in 2 for Canadian MLS teams

Posted on 08 September 2013 by Scott Ferguson

Two of the three Canadian MLS teams were in action away from home on Saturday, but neither could take anything from their respective road trips. Vancouver’s playoff hopes are looking like a distant memory after a 3-1 collapse in Dallas, while Toronto fell 2-0 at Portland Timbers in the first game of the post-Kevin Payne era.

In Dallas, Vancouver took an early lead through Daigo Kobayashi, who was excelling in an attacking midfield role that had finally been tailored for him. Dallas came back through Jevaugh Watson’s long-range strike before half-time, and late in the game Mauro Diaz’s volley looked to have sealed it after some work from Eric Hassli in the build-up. While each of Dallas’ were highlight-reel goals, some fans might be questioning goalkeeper David Ousted on all three.

The goal of the night was to come, though, when Jair Benítez scored a 50-yard wonder strike that hit the top corner. Take a look for yourself:

Jair Benítez golazo

Both Vancouver and Portland are part of seven or eight teams in the Western Conference with a realistic shot at the five playoff places, which meant Toronto could do their Canadian cousins a favour with a point or three at Jeld-Wen Field later on.

The Timbers started stronger, though, and Khalif Alhassan took advantage of a short clearance after a Timbers set-piece to make it 1-0 before half-time. Toronto skipper Steven Caldwell as all over the defensive third as usual, and not for the first time this season he was dangerously close to conceding a penalty after blocking a shot with his hand.

If Caldwell is a model of experience for the Reds, it’s much-needed, as it was miscontrol from defensive partner Gale Agbossoumonde that led to Portland’s second goal. Rodney Wallace was able to run clear and finish past ex-teammate Joe Bendik – the goalkeeper was traded for his opposing number tonight, Miloš Koci?, in the off-season.

The next scorer was born in Toronto, but it wasn’t a good thing for the Reds. It was Portland captain Will Johnson who smashed home to make it 3-0.

Diego Valeri finished it off with a tap-in in stoppage time to make it four and pad the team’s goal differential as they climb into the playoff spots.

One man who was conspicuously absent for Toronto was new signing Maximiliano Urruti – with nothing left to play for this season, there has to be a reason for not bedding in the new man for 2014, whether he’s completely match-fit or not. Head coach Ryan Nelsen has been assured that he won’t be part of the culls at BMO Field in 2013, but Urruti may be the key to closing out the season with some respectability – and impressing Nelsen’s new bosses, whoever they might end up being.

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TFC Heads to the CCL Semi-Final!

Posted on 15 March 2012 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Following the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final tie, Toronto FC headed into LA with a big task after getting a 2-2 result at home! Having to overcome the 2 away goal deficit or simply winning the match was never going to be easy.


With a slow start to the match Ryan Johnson took advantage of a great chance to give TFC the 1-0 lead in the first half. The second half on the other hand had a different feel, where LA realized they had to rise up to the occasion and started putting plenty of pressure on TFC  leading to an own goal by Harden. TFC was resilient with Ryan Johnson continuing to put his stamp on the game and setting up Nick Soolsma for Toronto’s second goal and the game winner!


Toronto FC’s game flaw consisted of their high back-line that they were lucky not to have LA penetrate. A non fatigued Galaxy side would have punished this Toronto formation. On the other hand, TFC’s defense dealt well with the crosses into the box in this match in comparison to the home tie, with Kocic playing a major role in controlling his box and keeping the ball out of his net.

Man of the MatchMilos Kocic

All in all, a decent Toronto FC performance versus a softer LA Galaxy led to this result. The next round in the semi-finals versus Santos Laguna will be a difficult task especially in the away leg!


Toronto FC will now remain on the road and face Seattle on Saturday before returning home for their MLS home opener which leads into the first leg of their CCL semi-finals.


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TFC get demolished at home

Posted on 29 May 2011 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

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After the game Wednesday against Vancouver Whitecaps getting called off due to weather, TFC remained at home to take on Philadelphia Union.

The starting line up saw a few changes from the midweek Canadian Championship game. 
Stefan Frei.
Defenders: Richard Eckersley, Dicoy Williams, Ty Harden, Dan Gargan.
Midfielders: Tony Tchani, Julian De Guzman, Mikael Yourassowsky.
Forwards: Nick Soolsma, Maicon Santos, Joao Plata.

This is a very tough game to talk about, it was a very horrible performance by Toronto FC.

In the first half TFC looked like they didn’t show up or were depending on mother nature to save them once again after falling down 2-0 after just 10 minutes and 3-0 by the half.

Second half changes provided a spark, with Javier Martina and Danleigh Borman coming on for Julian De Guzman and Dan Gargan. Danleigh Borman was what TFC needed  from the start of the game as he provided something that Dan Gargan did not provide at the left back position. With that in mind TFC was able to get themselves back in the game with Maicon Santos scoring a brace to make it 3-2.

Shortly after Maicon Santos’ second goal the Union scored another and that was when TFC fell apart letting in 2 more for a final score of 6-2.

It was a historical day with TFC suffering their worst loss at home and conceding the highest number of goals against in their history. Even Real Madrid didn’t score this many times against Toronto.

Luckily TFC has no midweek game and are staying at home next week, this will give them time to regroup and hopefully improve their performances.  On the negative side several players will be leaving for international call-ups which may have TFC short handed. Plata will be with Ecuador for their game against Canada on June 1st and against Greece June 7th. Julian De Guzman and Dicoy Williams have been called up by Canada and Jamaica respectively for the Gold Cup (June 5th – 25th) and are expected to be reporting to their teams this week. Therefore, TFC will likely be without Plata, De Guzman and Dicoy for some of their upcoming games.

On a side note, the TFC reserves tied the Philadelphia Union reserves 0-0.

Toronto will face  Sporting Kansas at BMO Field on Saturday June 4th.

Ratings for players from 1 (low) to 10 (high), ranked by position:

Toronto FC
Stefan Frei: 5
Not one of Frei’s best performances and maybe even his worst. Could he be to blame for all of the goals… no! Should all the work be put on him… no! But his performance was not the greatest, a bad clearance resulted in an easy goal in addition he almost let in what would have been the most embarrassing goal. All in all a bad performance but the defenders need to help him out.

Richard Eckersley : 7.5
Did well and may have been the best player on the field for TFC both defensively and offensively. The player with the most heart on the team on this day.

Ty Harden: 4
Should have been substituted way earlier in the game .Without Attakora or Cann on his side he is too much of a gamble .

Dicoy Williams: 5
Too much responsibly for him, the pair of Harden and Williams is not one that should exist.

Dan Gargan: 4
Another disappointing performance, was at fault for one or more of the goals in the first half.

Mikael Yourassowsky: 7
Did well overall, the effort and heart he puts into the game is what each player should be doing.

Tony Tchani: 5
Not his best performance, did not complete his passes and lost the ball too easily.

Julian  De Guzman: 5
DP? Not for much longer! With performances like this, TFC is lucky to have him be gone with the National team for a while. Lost the ball way too easily and was doing unnecessary things when he had the ball.

Nick Soolsma: 5.5
Has his moments and tries very hard but he is too slow.

Maicon Santos: 6.5
Did what he could in the second half for the team scoring a brace, but it was not his best performance overall.

Joao Plata: 6
Has his moments in the game and needs to be more consistent overall, but TFC shouldn’t be depending on him so much.

Subs Used:
Javier Martina: 6

Came on in the second half and provided something different but once Philadelphia figured his positioning out he was silent.

Danleigh Borman: 7
Provided the spark TFC needed from the start and contributed well in the second half.

Alen Stevanovic: N/A
Was only on for a short period of time and it was too late for him to make an impact..


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TFC earns a point away from home

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

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After a draw against Chivas USA at home, TFC went on the road to face the San Jose Earthquakes who have yet to win at home this season.

The starting line up saw no changes from last week. 
Stefan Frei.
Defenders: Ty Harden, Nana Attakora, Adrian Cann,  Danleigh Borman.
Midfielders: Jacob Peterson, Tony Tchani, Alen Stevanovic.
Forwards: Javier Martina, Maicon Santos, Alan Gordon.

TFC started the game defensively awkward allowing several dangerous shots by San Jose, after finding their rhythm they took the lead in the 27th minute through a goal from Gordon.  Tony Tchani, Danleigh Borman and Alen Stevanovic looked much more comfortable with the team after having several training sessions under their belts.  Stevanovic demonstrated great skill and looks like a great addition to the team moving forward.  Martina on the other hand did not have a great first half and was close to invisible. San Jose was able to find the equalizer through Dawkins after a good run on the left side in the 38th minute. The first half ended with San Jose taking 12 shots and Toronto taking 3, the Earthquakes also dominated 61 percent of the possession.

The second half continued to be entertaining, where Toronto was much more organized and created more opportunities. Martina came out from the shadows and contributed more – feeding several balls into the box. It is important to note that Nana Attakora was subbed off at half time as it was evident that his play has not been what TFC fans have been used to, this is his second time in two games that he has been subbed off at half time. TFC suffered a blow when Stevanovic was down injured and had to be substituted, he was becoming and integral part of the game on the left side with Borman.

There is still more to do for TFC but this performance would be considered a good one moving forward. The club will now head home for a 3 game home stint before starting their Nutrilite Canadian  Championship quest at Edmonton. Toronto will face the LA Galaxy on Wednesday at BMO Field.

Ratings for players from 1 (low) to 10 (high), ranked by position:

Toronto FC
Stefan Frei: 7.5
Did well throughout the game making some great stops that kept his team in the game. He could not have done much about the goal!

Ty Harden: 7
Did well at right back in the first half and slotted well in the middle in the second half. Becoming more comfortable and confident on the ball in each game.

Nana Attakora: 6
Still does not seem himself since returning from injury last week. His second time being subbed off  at the half in two games this time it was for De Guzman. He was not into the game which resulted in another disappointing showing. He also was shown a yellow for his troubles.

Adrian Cann: 7.5
A great performance by Cann, took over most of the defensive duties in the second half and was seen almost everywhere.

Danleigh Borman: 7
Seemed more comfortable and did well to contribute to the team offensively and defensively. Connected well with Stevanovic on the left side.

Jacob Peterson: 7
Did well overall and did well to slot back into defense in the second half.

Tony Tchani: 7
Did well throughout the game, got himself a yellow for his troubles.

Alen Stevanovic: 7.5
A great game for Alen, did well working with Borman on the left side where they created several opportunities. His work rate resulted to his contribution on TFC’s goal. Subbed off in the second half for Zavarise after getting injured.

Javier Martina: 6
Not his best game for TFC, was invisible for the most part and became more involved in the second half.

Maicon Santos: 6
TFC’s new captain did not contribute much and was subbed off early in the second half for Plata.

Alan Gordon: 7.5
Another decent outing, scored the goal for TFC and it certainly will not be his last. He is being praised and getting compared to the big number 9 – Danny Dichio.

Subs Used:
Julian  De Guzman: 6.5

Came on for Attakora and did well to orchestrate the middle of the park. If he continues on in this manner, his stay with TFC will be extended. He also got himself a yellow card for his efforts this evening, which is a habit that needs to change.

Gianluca Zavarise: 6
Came on for the injured Stevanovic, did well with the time given.

Joao Plata: 6.5
Came on for the under-performing Maicon and had several good runs but did not make the correct decisions to impact the game.


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TFC draw at home

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Alan Gordon - Photo Credit to Catherine Solmes


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After winning at home against Portland Timbers, TFC was expected to continue on a positive note against Chivas USA. All was changed when the news of Dwayne De Rosario being traded to the New York Red Bulls surfaced. On Friday afternoon the DeRo trade was confirmed, where TFC acquired Danleigh Borman, Tony Tchani and a first round draft pick in 2012 in return for Dwayne De Rosario. On the other hand, Javier Martina was voted MLS Goal of the Week earlier in the week for his second goal in the Portland game and Decoy Williams was signed.

TFC and Chivas Draw!
The starting line up saw several changes after trades and signings this week. 
Stefan Frei.
Defenders: Ty Harden, Nana Attakora, Adrian Cann,  Danleigh Borman.
Midfielders: Jacob Peterson, Tony Tchani, Alen Stevanovic.
Forwards: Javier Martina, Maicon Santos, Alan Gordon.

TFC started the game on a rough note suffering an early goal deficit. After finding their rhythm they were able to get back into the game and find the equalizer. With DeRo gone and new players starting the match, it was expected to be a difficult afternoon for Toronto. Once again it must be reiterated that it is a building process and the team will learn to cope with DeRo’s absence.

Some positives were evident, as Martina showed great signs of class and will be an integral part of the club moving forward. Several team practices for the new players with the club will create harmony and consistency within the team. Toronto FC can only see themselves moving forward after today, keeping in mind players must remain healthy.

Toronto FC will need to perform and prove their fans that they are a competitive team to maintain the atmosphere BMO Field is used to. The game’s attendance is still considered great in comparison to MLS numbers but 18,968 is below TFC’s regular attendance numbers of 20000 or more. It was evident that there were  many empty seats which in turn made the television broadcast look very unattractive for those watching at home. Whether the attendance numbers are due to the DeRo trade or a lack of interest from fans after 4 unsuccessful season, it remains unknown. The club will need to earn their supporters back with several positive performances at home and on the road.

TFC will now head away from home to face off against the San Jose Earthquakes before coming back for a three game home stint.

Ratings for players from 1 (low) to 10 (high), ranked by position:

Toronto FC
Stefan Frei: 7
He may have not been able to do much about the goal, but did well with what came his way as the game went on.

Ty Harden: 6.5
Did well as a right back, contributed a few crosses on the attack. Still room for improvement!

Nana Attakora: 5.5
Came back from injury and may have been at fault for the goal. Not one of his best performances and was subbed off in the second half.

Adrian Cann: 6.5
Decent performance, with no visible mistakes.

Danleigh Borman: 6.5
Did well to contribute to the team offensively and defensively considering not practicing with the team prior to the game.

Jacob Peterson: 6.5
Did well on the set piece to set up Alan Gordon for the equalizer.  Subbed off at the half for De Guzman.

Tony Tchani: 6.5
Did well throughout the game for a player who has not practiced with the team, could possibly do more.

Alen Stevanovic: 6.5
Did well working with Borman, would probably wish Maicon Santos passed the ball for him to score the winner. Subbed off in the second half after getting injured. He is also another player whose contribution will become greater as time goes on.

Javier Martina: 7
Had a decent game showed great foot work and will be an integral part of the team.

Maicon Santos: 6
Captained the team for the day, scores a low rating today due to his horrible miss. Otherwise he is another player that will be an important part moving forward.

Alan Gordon: 7
A decent game, was at the end of several crosses and set pieces but did not do enough to create solid chances. Scored the equalizer and celebrated with class.

Subs Used:
Julian  De Guzman:
Came on for Peterson, still needs time to come back from injury. His distribution still lacking, got himself a yellow card for his efforts this afternoon.

Decoy Williams: 6.5
Another new signing making his debut, came on for Attakora who just returned from injury. From what was seen can easily take Attakora’s starting spot on the team.

Joao Plata: N/A
Came on for the injured Stevanovic, had little impact on the game.


Martina wins MLS Goal of the Week!

Martina - Photo Credit to Catherine Solmes

TFC striker Javier Martina has won his first ever MLS Goal of the Week award for his amazing finish in the 2-0 win against Portlant Timbers at BMO Field on Saturday. It was his second MLS goal in his two appearances. Martina’s goal gave TFC the assurance lead that they held on with to win the game. The goal assisted by Frei has shown his striker’s instinct which gives everyone a taste of what he can bring to the team in the future.


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Rapids reach MLS Cup Final

Posted on 14 November 2010 by pshea

With a combination of gritty defense and relentless attacking, the Colorado Rapids notched a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night to reach the MLS Cup Final in Toronto next week.

Central defender Drew Moor cleared the ball with his head 17 times during the game for Colorado, and he launched a diving header on goal in the 70th minute. San Jose midfielder Geovanni cleared Moor’s shot off the line to prevent a final nail in his team’s coffin.

Ultimately, Kosuke Kimura’s inswinging cross in the 42nd minute was the game-winner for Colorado. San Jose defender Tim Ward won a race to the ball deep in the corner and knocked it out for a throw-in. Kimura joined Pablo Mastroeni and Wells Thompson to work the ball on the ground amid tight pressure, and Kimura curled a cross into the goalmouth. Omar Cummings streaked to the ball first and froze goalkeeper Jon Busch. What do you call it? A missed flick? A dummy?

“We call that the two-for-one,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said after the game. “If you whip it in and people are running across, it leaves you flat-footed. It’s a good ball in a dangerous area.”

Call it a goal. Call it a ticket to the MLS Cup Final. The 17,779 fans roared their approval and maintained their heated enthusiasm until the final whistle.


The Earthquakes started immediately with hard challenges and aggressive attacking. Ward worked his way up the left wing in the fifth minute, and Geovanni forced Matt Pickens to make the first save of the game. Although this turned out to be the only shot on goal for the visitors all night, San Jose stayed competitive until the very end.

“We had a good 20-25 minutes in the second half,” Yallop recounted, noting a boost when he inserted Arturo Alvarez for Chris Leitch in the 57th minute. “It’s not the personnel coming off. It’s who comes on. Our boys played well. They never buckled, never got down on each other.”

The after-shocks from the first shot of the game transitioned to Colorado. Cummings raced up the middle of the field with the ball in the seventh minute and fired a worm-burner from 25 yards out. Busch collected his first of five saves for the night.

Scott Sealy read an outlet pass from Pickens in the 12th minute and lofted the ball over the bar as the Colorado ‘keeper retreated.

Brian Mullan weighted a near-perfect through-ball to Cummings in the 22nd minute, but Busch left his line in time and blocked the shot at the top of the penalty box.

Conor Casey overcame multiple defenders and sent three shots wide left in the first 30 minutes of play. Casey sent his fourth shot wide left as well, another header in the 78th minute. For the night, Casey ran hard with and without the ball, forcing the visitors to contend with his challenges instead of creating attacks of their own.

Marvell Wynne had a seven-minute stretch in the first half when he was in the defensive spotlight, clearing balls with his head and feet in dangerous situations. Head coach Gary Smith has settled on a starting back line with Wynne and Moor in the middle, Kimura on the right, and Anthony Wallace on the left.

When asked how they would defend against Dallas or the gaLAxy, Wynne said, “We’ll do what we always do. It’s seems to be working. Why change it?”

In recent games, Smith has inserted central defender Julien Baudet for the closing minutes.

“You know they’re going to drop in long balls,” Wynne said. “So it’s smart to bring in a big guy like Julien.”

“He’s a great communicator,” Moor said of Baudet. “At the end of the game, a lot of guys are tired. If you bring in a guy like him, he talks constantly and keeps the intensity up. It’s been nice the last couple games.”

Replacing Jamie Smith on the flank, Thompson delivered corner kicks for Colorado, stayed back on defense when Kimura overlapped, and created danger with the ball.

When asked about his preparation for the game, Thompson said, “As a player, you have to be mentally ready. I didn’t know until about an hour before game time.” Smith left practice early on Friday, and after the Scottish midfielder conducted a brief test before kickoff, Thompson received his assignment.

“Omar opens it up down wide,” Thompson explained. “And Kosuke does his thing. So I stayed back a bit too.”

Rather than race down the wing with the ball, Thompson tends to swerve inside. “I grew up playing center mid,” the midfielder said, “so I tend to drift in and slash.”

Captain Mastroeni drifted and slashed his fair share, forcing saves from Busch in the 63rd and 73rd minutes. Tactically, Mastroeni has made a conscious effort to push forward more in recent games, while maintaining his trademark presence with Jeff Larentowicz as defensive midfielders.

But according to Moor, the captain brings much more than tactics and skill.

“Pablo has been the heart of the team this year,” Moor explained. “He’s been on a mission, and everyone has followed him.”

Looking ahead

“Both teams are tough,” Moor explained. “Dallas plays fast, and LA is very dangerous. They play finesse and can catch you sleeping.”

Mastroeni will be wide awake. According to Colorado’s leader, “We’ve played well against the best teams in the league. So regardless of who we play, it’s going to be a great game.”

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Now and then: Blended player ratings

Posted on 30 October 2010 by pshea

The Rapids beat the Columbus Crew 1-0 on June 5 and again in the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday night (October 28, 2010). The following player ratings for both games range from 1-10 (with 10 being highest).

Colorado Rapids

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Matt Pickens (7): Pickens came out punching in the second half and withstood the shooting gallery in the closing minutes.

JUNE 5, 2010: Matt Pickens (7): Pickens organized his back line again to secure the shutout. At one point in the first half, Pickens, Moor, and Julien Baudet were very vocal and combative with their organization.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Drew Moor (8): Moor ruled the air on Thursday, including a nail-biting head clearance after a goal-line save from Pickens and before a boot to the face from Andy Iro.

JUNE 5, 2010: Drew Moor (8): “I think it went right over Scotty’s head,” Moor said of the free kick for the goal. “He had a couple bigger guys on him, and I was with one of their smaller guys, which benefited me. And Jamie put it into the perfect spot.”

Moor explained the first-half dispute with Baudet and Pickens. “When we’re on the field,” Moor said. “it’s a war. We’re in battle. It’s important that we keep each other on our toes. We’re a competitive bunch.”

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Julien Baudet, one minute (NR)

JUNE 5, 2010: Julien Baudet, 76 minutes (6): Baudet played solid at the back, crunching tackles and only handling the ball loosely once in the second half instead of finding Marvell Wynne on the wing.

JUNE 5, 2010: Scott Palguta, 15 minutes (5): Palguta maintained the shutout, and he attracted attention for the goal.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Marvell Wynne (6): Wynne stayed close to home on Thursday and helped limit the primary Crew attackers to four shots.

JUNE 5, 2010: Marvell Wynne (6): Wynne didn’t attack much, pushing the ball too far on one dribble to the endline in the box. But he didn’t let the Crew get behind him (except for Schelotto’s golden opportunity later in the game).

JUNE 5, 2010: Danny Earls (6): Earls bobbled the ball at different times throughout the game, but overall he was steady.

JUNE 5, 2010: Mehdi Ballouchy, (6): Ballouchy had creative touches all night.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Pablo Mastroeni (8): Mastroeni scored the game-winner and made more than a dozen runs beyond the strikers’ position to catch the Crew off-guard and open space for teammates.

“If we can get players beyond midfield, it throws them on their heels,” Mastroeni explained. “Once we got back there, our wing play gave us possession and allowed us to get further into the attack. That’s what we tried to do in the first half. But unfortunately we were unable to capitalize on all the chances we created.”

Cummings leaked free on successive plays early in the game, sending a number of passes on a silver platter for Casey and others. In the 23rd minute, Cummings found himself streaking down the right side again, and Casey snaked through the defenders’ blindsides and crashed to the ball at the near post. With a half-dummy, half-flick, Casey distracted the defense and allowed the ball to roll across the goalmouth for a sliding Mastroeni to put away.

JUNE 5, 2010: Pablo Mastroeni (5): The captain lashed out at Lenhart and created a hole in the Rapids midfield for their midweek visit to Chicago. Other than a sloppy square ball that could have easily turned into a goal, Mastroeni paired with Larentowics to dominate central midfield. (Red card, however).

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Jeff Larentowicz (7): Larentowicz took more shots than anyone on the field, and he paired again with Mastroeni to deny easy passage up the middle.

JUNE 5, 2010: Jeff Larentowicz (6): Larentowicz stabilized midfield and maintained possession. For much of the game, the Rapids worked the ball laterally through midfield and along the back line. But it was hard to penetrate.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Wells Thompson, 75 minutes (7): Thompson placed all the corner kicks well, and worked hard on the flanks to penetrate while keeping Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers from attacking much. Thompson and Brian Mullan switched frequently and fluidly.

JUNE 5, 2010: Wells Thompson, 60 minutes (7): Thompson cleverly collected a slip pass from Jamie Smith in the box and then cut it back to Omar Cummings in front of the net. But Cummings pinged the post.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Brian Mullan (8): From the opening play to the final whistle, Mullan had a complete performance. Like Thompson, he limited the Crew flank players, yet he also cut inside frequently to take shots and slip passes to a darting Omar Cummings.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Macoumba Kandji, 15 minutes (5): The ball didn’t bounce Kandji’s way much as the visitors pressed for the final half-hour.

JUNE 5, 2010: Colin Clark, (5): “I thought he put in a fabulous shift,” Smith said.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Conor Casey (6): When Macoumba Kandji replaced Wells Thompson, the Crew increased attacking pressure and tackled the ball with more success. Casey and Omar faded for most of this time period, although they pushed appropriately in the final minutes to secure the shutout. Casey cleared three free kicks with his head on defense, in addition to three shots for the night.

JUNE 5, 2010: Conor Casey (5): “I just didn’t think it was working,” Smith said of substituting Conor Casey. “For the first time in a long time, they had him bottled up. It was really difficult for him.”

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Casey said of the upcoming match in Chicago on June 9. “We want to keep our momentum.”

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Omar Cummings (8): Cummings raced behind the Crew defense in regular waves throughout the first half, particularly past Shaun Francis on the right wing. The goal was one of many occasions for Cummings on the flank early in the game. But Cummings didn’t see much of the ball toward the end of the game.

JUNE 5, 2010: Omar Cummings (6): Cummings had defenders on edge, but other than his first-half blast that Hesmer saved, his attacks and shots were not threatening. He hit the right post off a Wells Thompson pass in front of the goal, stepping ahead of defensive pressure.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Coach Gary Smith (6): “We took the game to them. You’ve seen a group of players that emptied the kitchen sink and played a good 45 minutes of football. And disappointingly didn’t get their just desserts. I thought we deserved more. Wells came in and did a fabulous job [for Jamie Smith]. The midfield in general was so competitive. They’ve given us such a good foundation to work from. They [Crew] are a talented, deep squad. There are players in that group that are very capable.”

Columbus Crew

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Andy Gruenebaum (5): The Rapids put only two shots on goal, and Gruenebaum’s defenders were especially diligent, blocking five attempts all night. Experiencing his first MLS minutes of 2010, Gruenebaum’s games in other competitions seemed to rust-proof him somewhat. He bobbled only once. He handled all the high balls and didn’t do any Santa Claus distribution.

JUNE 5, 2010: William Hesmer (6): Moor’s goal would challenge any goalkeeper, and Hesmer saved a blast from Omar Cummings in the 36th minute (a lefty from the top of the box).

JUNE 5, 2010: Eric Brunner, 55 (5): Brunner had one mistouch that forced him to clear the ball in the first half, but for the most part he helped neutralize Colin Clark and keep the scoreline knotted at nothing.

JUNE 5, 2010: Jeb Zayner, 45 (4): Zayner replaced Brunner shortly after halftime, and he was rumored to be more of an attacking back. But he didn’t push forward, and he didn’t attack the ball when Drew Moor scored the game-winner.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Andy Iro (7): Iro limited Casey’s chances and helped sequester the striker during the Crew’s closing minutes.

JUNE 5, 2010: Andy Iro (7): Iro dominated the air, and he joined with Marshall to muscle Casey out of his game.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Chad Marshall (7): Marshall forced Pickens to make a save in the 77th minute, and he spent the rest of the game preventing similar chances on the other end.

JUNE 5, 2010: Chad Marshall (7): Working with Iro, Marshall cooled off one of the most dangerous goal-scorers in the league. Marshall was tough in the air and on the ground.

JUNE 5, 2010: Gino Padula (5): Padula managed Cummings and stepped up into the attack.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Eddie Gaven (6): Gaven again sparked the most attacks for the Crew, although Schelotto delivered a number of well-weighted passes. Perhaps the Crew defenders deserve the credit, but Gaven never slowed down a quick counterattack from Columbus.

JUNE 5, 2010: Eddie Gaven (7): Gaven was the most creative midfielder for the Crew, spinning strawlike situations into golden opportunities. Gaven stole Mastroeni’s square ball and orchestrated the visitors’ best chance of the night.

JUNE 5, 2010: Adam Moffat (5): Moffat kept shape for the Crew in midfield, but his contributions were limited.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Robbie Rogers (5): Rogers didn’t have chances (no delivery and no dominance over his defenders).

JUNE 5, 2010: Robbie Rogers (6): Rogers shows the speed and spark to be dangerous, but he didn’t find opportunity against a well-positioned Colorado defense.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Guillermo Barros Schelotto, 68 minutes (5): Some of Schelotto’s passes were picture-perfect, but every challenge for the ball went the way of the Rapids. Warzycha replaced his engine and transmission when the warranty seemed about to run out in the 68th minute.

JUNE 5, 2010: Guillermo Barros Schelotto (5): Creative one-touches and attacks, but Schelotto missed a golden opportunity late in the game. Mastroeni slid a sloppy square ball through midfield, and Eddie Gaven stole the ball and sprinted toward goal. Gaven cut the ball to Steve Lenhart, who rolled it to Schelotto left of center but deep in the box. Schelotto fired the shot high over the bar.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Andres Mendoza, 22 minutes (5): Mendoza didn’t shoot or touch the ball very much, but his arrival on the field coincided with the Crew resurgence.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Steven Lenhart (4): Lenhart pushed hard to create chances out of limited chances, committing two fouls and failing to shoot at all.

JUNE 5, 2010: Steven Lenhart (6): Lenhart worked for opportunities, but he didn’t get a lot of service.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Jason Garey, 22 minutes (5): Like Mendoza, Garey didn’t take a shot, but he wasn’t one of the victims when Jair Marrufo’s whistle started to take on a hurricane-like shrillness for Rapids fans in the closing minutes.

JUNE 5, 2010: Emilio Renteria, minutes (4): Fouled Colin Clark moments after a hand-of-god attempt in the box.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Emmanuel Ekpo (4): Ekpo was involved in a lot of plays early in the game, usually on the losing end of the duels. He ran the full 90, but not effectively.

JUNE 5, 2010: Emmanuel Ekpo (6): Ekpo sparked the Crew attack when he came on, pressuring Danny Earls and creating fan anxiety.

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Brian Carroll, 84 minutes (4): Carroll uncorked a couple shots, but otherwise his foul on Kosuke Kimura on the flank was the only notable contribution.

OCTOBER 28, 2010:Kevin Burns, six minutes (NR):

JUNE 5, 2010: Mike Lapper, NR: “It came down to individual duels,” Lapper said. “I thought we did well tonight, but sometimes it’s a cruel game.” “We’re passing the ball well, but we need to work on finishing.”

OCTOBER 28, 2010: Rob Warzycha (NR): He didn’t expect to see any more from Lenhart and Schelotto for the night, and Mendoza and Garey didn’t contribute much individually, but they helped increased the intensity and create chances.

JUNE 5, 2010: Rob Warzycha, NR: The coach stayed home to celebrate a high school gradation, but he kept in touch on the phone throughout the game, including halftime.

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Rapids captain surges forward

Posted on 29 October 2010 by pshea

The pregame calculus for the visiting Columbus Crew at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Thursday night required special surveillance for Colorado’s Omar Cummings and Conor Casey. But relentless attacking from Pablo Mastroeni gave the Rapids a 1-0 victory and altered the equation in the two-game series.

Mastroeni scored the game-winner and made more than a dozen runs beyond the strikers’ position to catch the Crew off-guard and open space for teammates.

“If we can get players beyond midfield, it throws them on their heels,” Mastroeni explained. “Once we got back there, our wing play gave us possession and allowed us to get further into the attack. That’s what we tried to do in the first half. But unfortunately we were unable to capitalize on all the chances we created.”

Cummings leaked free on successive plays early in the game, sending a number of passes on a silver platter for Casey and others. In the 23rd minute, Cummings found himself streaking down the right side again, and Casey snaked through the defenders’ blindsides and crashed to the ball at the near post. With a half-dummy, half-flick, Casey distracted the defense and allowed the ball to roll across the goalmouth for a sliding Mastroeni to put away.

Noting how the momentum shifted when Robert Warzycha replaced Steven Lenhart and Guillermo Barros Schelotto with Jason Garey and Andres Mendoza in the 68th minute, Mastroeni said, “They had their opportunities late in the second half.”

In fact, the visitors took six of their nine shots after the Rapids had taken their fifteenth and final shot of the night in the 63rd minute. The end of the game looked like a tide-shifting march toward the aggregate goal total to determine who advances to the Eastern Conference finals. The teams face again next Saturday afternoon in Columbus.

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RSL = Rapids Sorry Late

Posted on 23 October 2010 by pshea

Many reporters had their stories written five or 10 minutes before the final whistle at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night, but Real Salt Lake scored twice in stoppage time to turn an impending shutout loss into a 2-2 tie.

If you want to read a mythical story line scripted eight hours before kickoff*, scroll below the Player Ratings. In the meantime, here’s the “Real” story.

The Rocky Mountain Cup heads back to Salt Lake City for another year, despite a subpar showing. Head coach Jason Kreis, defender Nat Borchers, and captain Kyle Beckerman didn’t hesitate to denigrate their performance overall.

“We didn’t come out with enough energy,” Borchers said, “and we lost the ball a lot. Frankly, this was one of our worst performances of the year.”

“I thought the effort was not there in the first half,” Kreis said, noting how he thought his players had a “tremendous reaction” to his halftime request for more committed defending and taking care of the ball.

“We have to play better in the playoffs,” captain Beckerman explained.

Although he was disappointed with the turn of events at the close of the game, Colorado head coach Gary Smith was quick to praise his top two goal-scorers (Omar Cummings and Conor Casey).

Player Ratings

Colorado Rapids

Rapids player ratings on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best:

Matt Pickens (3): Despite three saves and a solid performance overall, Pickens was too casual with the ball when Alvaro Saborio blocked his clearance and scored the first goal for the visitors in the closing moments of stoppage time.

Drew Moor (7): Moor had another solid night, performing his defensive duties and getting forward for set pieces too.

Marvell Wynne (7): Wynne’s speed secured the Rapids defense, and he didn’t give any gifts to the visitors.

Kosuke Kimura (8): Kimura won individual duals (offensively and defensively), and he served a perfect cross for Conor Casey’s goal in the 51st minute. Coach Kreis condemned his players for not handling basic plays like the throw-in on the right side that led to the Rapids’ second goal. Kimura tossed it to Mastroeni and took the one-touch return pass forward before launching a curling cross off Casey’s diving head. In the 71st minute, Kimura raced Morales for the ball not far from midfield. Instead of positioning for a tackle, Kimura ran through the play and rifled a long shot not too far wide of the goal.

Anthony Wallace, 84 minutes (7): Wallace overlapped to receive the ball from Jamie Smith in the 16th minute, firing a low, hard cross into the box for Cummings to caress into the corner with his left foot.

Julien Baudet, 6 minutes (NR): Baudet didn’t get a chance to do much during the final turn of events.

Pablo Mastroeni, (8): The captain teamed with Jeff Larentowicz to give Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales as few opportunities as possible. The two visiting midfielders took one shot apiece, and they didn’t get much time on the ball.

Jeff Larentowicz (7): Larentowicz applied relentless pressure and uncorked a couple shots.

Jamie Smith, 45 minutes (5): Smith said his hamstring felt tight at halftime, forcing coach Smith to insert Wells Thompson early.

Brian Mullan, (3): Before the final play of the game, Mullan was MVP material worthy of a “7” or “8.” He ran down every hopeless cause, and he almost put the Rapids up 3-0 immediately after Casey’s goal. Instead of backing off, Mullan ran through a play and tackled the ball forward, cut past Beckerman, continued running with the ball, and fired a low shot just wide of the left post. But with millimoments to play, he fouled Morales unnecessarily on the flank, ran back into the crowd in the penalty box, and then fouled Jamison Olave with an improbably powerful wrestling move. A stellar performance ended with the game tied off a penalty from Mullan’s mistake.

Wells Thompson (6): Thompson added energy in the second half.

Omar Cummings, (6): You can’t blame Cummings for much. He put one of his four shots in the goal, a deft redirection with his left foot off a cross from Anthony Wallace in the 16th minute. If anything, the Jamaican goal machine held the ball too long in crowded situations, perhaps killing off a few more opportunities.

Conor Casey, 64 minute (7): Casey’s goal was the result of sheer determination and agility. Sandwiched between two defenders, he dove sideways to redirect the ball past Rimando.

Macoumba Kandji (8): Kandji replaced Conor Casey in the 64th minute, and he didn’t get a lot of lucky bounces during his 26 minutes on the field (no shots, and not very many chances on the ball with space and time).

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake player ratings on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best:

Nick Rimando (6): Rimando snagged a few high balls and finished with one save (Larentowicz in the 85th minute). His defenders blocked four shots on-goal as well.

Robbie Russell (6): Russell played tough on Conor Casey and anyone else who visited his area.

Nat Borchers (7): Borchers cleared the ball to conclude a Halloween-scary sequence for the visitors in the 76th minute. Colorado’s Anthony Wallace completed a clever give-and-go with Omar Cummings on the left wing and pushed the ball to the endline before crossing it on the ground to Brian Mullan. Mullan fired a shot off Chris Wingert, and Borchers cleared Mullan’s ensuing cross in the box.

Jamison Olave (6): Olave matched Casey’s physical presence, and Olave’s positioning in the penalty box (specifically, on his back) was a critical component of the game-tying goal.

Chris Wingert (8): Wingert played tough in the back and saved a sure goal in the 76th minute.

Javier Morales (7): Morales gave the extra edge to Real Salt Lake’s attack, but he didn’t have many opportunities. He forced Pickens to make a save in the closing moments of the first half.

Ned Grabavoy, 29 minutes (5): Other than earning a yellow card for hacking Kosuke Kimura after getting burned on the flank, Grabavoy didn’t do much.

Andy Williams, 61 minutes (6): Williams raced to the endline with the ball on his last play before being subbed, slipping a dangerous pass into the box that might have forced Kreis to reconsider his substitution plan if the visitors had scored.

Kyle Beckerman (7): Although Beckerman didn’t find much space or time on the ball, he played steady in the middle.

Will Johnson, 76 minutes (4): Perhaps too much mileage lately has wilted Will’s legs. He took a shot in the 68th minute, but he was largely ineffective.

Collen Warner, 14 minutes (NR)

Robbie Findley, 61 minutes (4): Findley managed merely one shot during his time on the field.

Alvaro Saborio (8): Seemingly dressed like a ghost for Halloween, Saborio slipped unnoticed all night, putting four of five shots on goal and scoring both tallies in the final moments. “He always gets a sniff,” captain Beckerman said of Saborio, recalling a similar goal against Columbus earlier in the season. Saborio chased a lost cause, deflected a nonchalant clear from Pickens, and followed the play as Pickens raced back to get the bouncing ball. Pickens ended up in the net like a tuna when the ball bounced off the crossbar, and Saborio fired it in from inches out. Saborio calmly scored the tying goal with a penalty kick moments later.


*this is not real. This was written in speculation eight hours before kickoff…

RSL = Rapids Spoil Legacy

With a 7-0 victory, the Colorado Rapids spoiled seven measures of success for Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night. To wit:

  1. The Rocky Mountain Cup returns to the east side of the Continental Divide.
  2. The Supporters’ Shield goes to the gaLAxy.
  3. The Houston Dynamo retain the MLS goals-against record of 23 (set in 2007).
  4. The Kansas City Wizards retain the MLS road-goals-against record of 16 (set in 2000).
  5. The Wizards keep their shutout record too (16, also set in 2000)
  6. D.C. United (2007) and the San Jose Earthquakes (2005) will continue to share the MLS best goal-differential of plus-22.
  7. RSL will face a higher-seeded opponent when the playoffs begin.


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Rapids romp at home again

Posted on 30 September 2010 by pshea

While Philadelphia Union forwards faded like ghosts, Omar Cummings struck twice in the first half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday night, sparking a 4-1 Rapids victory.

Going all-in with three midfield substitutions at halftime, the Union reacted to Colorado’s dominance with prudence, if not desperation. But it didn’t matter. The Rapids positioned perfectly on defense, swarmed the middle of the field, and poured on speed and creativity for the crushing third and fourth goals.

Player Ratings

Colorado Rapids

Matt Pickens (6): The visitors took six shots all night, and Pickens saved one of two on-goal. After Kosuke Kimura chased down Sebastien Le Toux in front of the net in the second half, Drew Moor cleared the ball away, and Pickens snagged the subsequent cross.

Drew Moor (7): Moor took a beating, particularly in the second half. But he didn’t whine, and he earned Save of the Game honors with his goalmouth clearance.

Marvell Wynne (7): Wynne used his speed wisely and positioned properly. He also blasted a shot on-goal at the close of the first half, but the deflection for a corner kick marked the end of the period.

Kosuke Kimura (8): Kimura was once again a warrier who used speed to attack with the ball and strength to hold his ground when he positioned himself on defense. Kimura sparked the first goal by sprinting up the wing with the ball, pausing play, and sending a pass forward to Macoumba Kandji, who worked to the endline and cut in before delivering a silver-platter drop to Cummings.

Anthony Wallace (6): Wallace won balls in the air and on the ground, and he foreshadowed the third goal with his long free kick in the 11th minute. Lined up with four on the ball, the Rapids executed the either/or play. For this shot, the touch went to the left of the wall, and Wallace blasted it on-goal, forcing Brad Knighton to deflect it.

Pablo Mastroeni, 70 minutes (8): The captain started the game receiving iffy passes that put him in jeopardy, but he didn’t whine when he got crunched. In the 68th minute, Cummings suffered one of many fouls from Jordan Harvey between the posts about 35 yards out. With the four-man either/or alignment for the free kick, Mastroeni received the touch and blasted an uncatchable shot at Knighton. Wells Thompson swooped in to put away the rebound for the third goal of the game.

Jeff Larentowicz (6): Larentowicz and Mastroeni play central midfield like a sweeper/stopper pair. When one gets beat, the other supports and contains. The beaten player retreats and often wins the ball back right away. The Union midfielders never had much time to play.

Jamie Smith, 62 minutes (6): Smith’s attacking dribbles produced chances, and he blasted a shot on-goal.

Brian Mullan, 28 minutes (6): Immediately creative on attack, Mullan also kept the defensive shape. 

Wells Thompson (8): Thompson scored the third goal, and he also fed the ball to Kimura, who sparked the first goal. Thompson’s speed and controlled defending helped keep the game flowing fast for Colorado. (Fouls give visitors a chance to rest.)

Omar Cummings, 75 minutes (9): Although he had a few errant passes and missed a chance for a hattrick in the 53rd minute, Cummings was consistently deadly (despite an injured ankle). He earned himself space for the first two goals of the game, and he kept the visitors on their heels.

Quincy Amarikwa, 15 minutes (7): Amarikwa increased the tempo to close out the game, and he brought Kandji back to life. Amarikwa scored the fourth goal by simply sprinting into position while Kandji carried the ball, and he slipped with a similar play moments before the goal. His first run made Danny Califf look like a statue.

Claudio Lopez, 20 minutes (6): Lopez added a velvet touch and tempo while Kandji and Amarikwa flew forward. Lopez took two shots and changed the attack.

Macoumba Kandji (8): Although he faded at the start of the second half, Kandji was deadly and played a part in three of the four goals. His speed and touch were relentlessly helpful, and he didn’t whine when he got fouled.

Philadelphia Union

Brad Knighton (6): Knighton can’t be blamed for Cummings getting open and other Rapids players running too fast.

Danny Califf (4): Califf had a tough assignment.

Jordan Harvey (5): Harvey played hard, winning tackles, fouling, and getting forward. After he hammered Thompson, he hammered him again on the ensuing play.

Michael Orozco Fiscal (6): Fiscal was the most consistent defender.

Sheanon Williams (4): Long throw-ins make up for sloppy defending.

Fred, 45 minutes (3): Fred’s passes were too ambitious, and he didn’t win the ball in the middle.

Kyle Nakazawa, 45 minutes (4): Nakazawa didn’t add to the game.

Justin Mapp, 45 minutes (5): Mapp showed the most pulse for the Union in the first half, but like his fellow first-half midfielders, he didn’t take a shot at all.

Jack McInerney, 45 minutes (5): McInerney calmly pushed the ball forward in the 90th minute and calmly reacted to Moor’s sliding deflection and half-volleyed the consolation goal.

Stefani Miglioranzi, 45 minutes (3): Miglioranzi was not a factor.

Andrew Jacobson, 45 minutes (2): Jacobson didn’t take a shot during his 45-minute stint, but he fouled consistently.

Amobi Okugo (3): Okugo suffered a reverse-nutmeg when Cummings first-timed the second goal of the game off a corner kick.

Sebastien Le Toux (5): Le Toux flew down the wings and into the final third, but Kimura and the other backs denied clear chances.

Alejandro Moreno (4): Moreno fouled twice during his 90 minutes, but he didn’t shoot at all.

Up next

Following a triple-hat-skunk (three 3-0 shutouts in three consecutive home games), the Rapids won again by a three-goal margin. Colorado hosts D.C. United on Saturday night.

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