2021 MLS Season

East Fork United

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The 26th season of Major League Soccer will feature one new team and 3 new stadiums as it kicks off on April 16 (about 3-4 weeks later than it would under normal circumstances). The single game on the schedule that night is a re-match of last year's Western Conference title game, as Minnesota United plays at Seattle Sounders. The final games this year will be played on November 7, known as Decision Day as teams have one last chance to either qualify for the playoffs or improve their playoff position. On that day, 26 of the 27 teams will be in action.

Austin FC will debut as the league's newest franchise. The team, which will wear Green and Black, opens its first game at Los Angeles FC on Saturday, April 17. Austin will play its first home game in its new stadium on June 19 against the San Jose Earthquakes. Q2 Stadium will hold 20,500 fans, and will be one of 20 Soccer Specific Stadiums scattered throughout MLS. FC Cincinnati opens its new stadium on May 16 against Inter Miami. The team had played its home games at the University of Cincinnati football field (Nippert Stadium) since its inception, going back to its days as a member of the United Soccer League. The team regularly drew close to 30,000 fans for its MLS home games, despite having a bad team to watch. The new West End Stadium will hold about 25,000. The Columbus Crew, the first team in America to build a Soccer Specific Stadium, will move into its new facility on July 3 against the New England Revolution. The Revs were also the Crew's opponent when it opened its soccer specific stadium back in 1999. The New Crew Stadium will be in downtown Columbus and will hold 20,000 fans.

The MLS Cup playoffs begin on November 19, with 14 teams competing (7 from the Eastern Conference and 7 from the West). MLS Cup will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on Saturday, December 11. Despite the late start to this season, the league is planning on having its teams play a normal 34-game schedule. That will call for some creativity with lineups for coaches, as the summer and fall calendar will be littered with U.S. Open Cup, Gold Cup, and World Cup Qualifying matches. Of course, a lot of how the season plays out is dependent on the pandemic and how it impacts the status and fortunes of each individual and team. Many teams are being cautious about opening up their stadiums to large numbers of fans. It is hoped that the more people who get vaccinated will keep the pandemic's negative effects at bay, which will allow for larger crowds later this summer and fall.

Nashville SC is building a new soccer specific stadium too. The 30,000 capacity venue is scheduled to open sometime in 2022. That's also the year that Team #28 joins the MLS fold. Charlotte FC will play its games in the same stadium that is home to the Carolina Panthers NFL franchise. Capacity for the stadium is about 65,000, but only about a third or perhaps a half of it will be used during soccer games. St. Louis City comes into MLS in 2023. It's new stadium is being built on the western edge of downtown St. Louis and will hold 22,500 fans. Sadly, the Sacramento franchise plans have been scrapped. The capital of California was poised to be the 30th MLS entrant with St. Louis in 2023, but late last month, the lead investor for the team, Ron Burkle, pulled out of the project. Reports say Burkle pulled out due to cost over-runs on Sacramento's proposed new stadium, which were attributed to the COVID 19 virus. Long-time fans of the Sacramento Republic FC, the successful United Soccer League franchise, were understandably devastated by the news. It's no secret that MLS headquarters is interested in owners or ownership groups that: A) have deep pockets loaded with cash, and B) are invested in MLS for the long haul. Burkle had the money to pump into Sacramento's fledgling MLS franchise, but in the end, opted out (he is the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL franchise). So now, the city is trying to come to grips with the bad news while trying to attract other investors or investor groups into putting up the money to make the dream become a reality. Most insiders think Sacramento's chances are a long-shot at best, but, we'll see how it all plays out.

I would hope MLS can at least find another partner city to join St. Louis in a couple of years. I'm not a fan of having odd-numbered teams in a league, because it means somebody is going to be off each weekend. I guess that's beneficial if a team has some of its players with nagging injuries, but I'm sort of a 'symmetry' kind of guy! Naturally, there is lots of speculation swirling around potential teams to join MLS, like Detroit, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tampa, and San Diego. There are plenty of pros and cons about the chances of these places landing a team, but each of them have temporary places to play games until a stadium is built (if an owner feels one is needed). Nashville is playing in the NFL Stadium owned by the Tennessee Titans until next year. New England, Charlotte, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, and Vancouver all play in NFL or CFL stadiums. For playoff consideration and the early part of the season, Montreal plays some of its home games at Olympic Stadium (the Big O).
 

East Fork United

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Just an update on the upcoming MLS 2021 regular season. The first televised game will be Minnesota United at Seattle Sounders. The actual first game kick-off to the season starts 90 minutes prior to the Sounders-Loons match, when San Jose ventures to Houston on Friday night, the 16th of April.

Also (and this really sucks), while all teams will be playing their usual 34-game regular season contests, there will be very few games pitting Eastern Conference sides against their Western Conference counterparts. Teams from the West will only meet Eastern Conference sides 2 or 3 times this year. That means teams will play sides from their own conferences twice, and in some instances, 3 times this season. Talk about a bland bit of schedule-making! The Chicago Fire, the closest MLS team to where I live (until St. Louis comes into the fold in 2023) will play at Sporting Kansas City on September 11th, and play host to Real Salt Lake on October 23rd as their 2 Western opponents. The Fire play Philadelphia, Columbus, New England, New York City, DC United, and New York Red Bulls 3 times. They play Atlanta, Cincinnati, Toronto, Nashville, Montreal, Orlando, and Miami twice. It's baffling that Chicago isn't playing Minnesota United (Western Conference side), which is about as close to the Fire as Chicago is to its Eastern foe, Cincinnati.

For a long time, some MLS fans have felt the league needs to split its teams up into 3 or 4 divisions instead of the 2 which they have run with for almost the entirety of its 26 year-existence. The league has been resistant to changing the structure of its standings though, and has said it isn't considering doing it, even with more teams coming into the league to expand its roster of members. 27 are in play this year, 28 next year (Charlotte FC). 29 in two years (St. Louis City). I hope the lack of creativity in scheduling is down to attempting to put the brakes on spreading COVID 19 and will only serve as a temporary quirk. Fans in MLS cities look forward to seeing players from all over the league, and not just the ones from the Conference their teams happen to be in.
 

East Fork United

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The first night of action for MLS 2021 is in the ledger. Memo Rodriguez put his name in the record books as the first person to score a goal in the new season, with his 39th minute strike to stake the Houston Dynamo to a 1-0 halftime lead over the San Jose Earthquakes. Up to that point, the Dynamo dominated play, and it was a bit surprising they didn't have a bigger lead over the Quakes, whose toothless attack never seemed to get going until after the Rodriguez goal. The Dynamo thought they had taken the lead earlier, but a goal by Fafa Picault was ruled out on an offside call in the 11th minute. Second half saw Maxi Urruti up Houston's lead to 2-0 in the 56th minute with a nice 'turn and shoot' move at the top of the box, and it seemed like a rout was in the making. That's when the Earthquakes buckled down and started to possess the ball better and string some passes together. Paul Marie scored on a beautiful curling shot from about 25 yards out that went just inside the far post to get San Jose back in the game in the 74th minute. Ten minutes later, the all-time leading scorer in MLS history, Chris Wondolowski, scuffed a shot in front of an open goal when he was literally inches...not feet...away from tying up the contest! I couldn't believe my eyes! The announcers at the game couldn't either! Neither could Wondolowski! It was as incredible a miss as Marie's earlier goal was stunning. After that bit of excitement (and incredulity), the final minutes played out with neither team coming close to scoring, as Houston bagged the 2-1 win.

The second contest in Seattle was a scoreless affair in the first half, but Minnesota United had to feel good about what it was doing against the 2020 MLS Cup runners-up. The Loons were doing well in the 'run of play' department, and forced a couple of saves from Sounders keeper Stefan Frei, while one shot by Finnish star Robin Lod hit the near post and bounced away in the 36th minute. Minnesota was also given a boost from keeper Dane St. Clair, who stoned Raul Ruidiaz on a penalty kick following a United hand ball in the box. The second half was a completely different story, as Seattle came out blazing and took the lead in the 49th minute on a blast from distance from Joao Paulo. Minnesota nearly equalized two minutes later, but Brent Kallman's header was cleared off the line by Cristian Roldan. After that, it was pretty much all Sounders. Ruidiaz knocked in 2 goals in the 70th and 73rd minutes to increase the lead to 3-0. The scoring concluded in the 86th minute, as Fredy Monteiro put one in the back of the net to make the final score, 4-0. Monteiro is Seattle's all-time leading goal scorer, but he had been traded after the 2012 season, and was making his first appearance as a Sounder in 9 seasons. Interesting statistic I learned from watching this game: When Seattle scores first at home, the Sounders are virtually unbeatable. They have won 21 straight home games when they score first, and haven't lost one like that since 2015 (a 3-2 loss to San Jose).

Attendance for the games: 6376 in Houston. 7042 in Seattle. MLS teams are being cautious with allowing fans into its games, but it varies from state to state and team to team. Some states are not allowing fans to watch sporting events, while others are allowing limited capacity, but the end result for most clubs is to adhere to the minimum standards or something less than that until we come to grips with the spread of coronavirus. The Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League had 19 of its players test positive for COVID 19, and there's concern that they will not be able to complete the regular season or compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Also, for the 3 Canadian sides in MLS, they won't be playing many 'home' games this year. Canada isn't allowing teams to play in their home stadiums for the time being, to help prevent the spread of the virus, which means no teams from the United States can go north of the border. We'll see how it all plays out, but it has to be frustrating for fans not only at the games, but for the home viewer too. While I enjoy watching games from everywhere in the world, and not just MLS, with little to no fans in attendance, the atmosphere is pretty drab, to say the least. ☹

8 matches are on the schedule Saturday, with Austin FC making its debut in Los Angeles against LAFC. 3 games will be played Sunday, with the highlight being the LA Galaxy playing at Inter Miami.
 

East Fork United

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The opening weekend of the 2021 MLS season concludes Sunday with 3 matches scheduled. From Saturday, half of the 8 games ended in draws, and just one of the visiting teams collected all 3 points.

The day began in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida as CF Montreal whipped Toronto FC, 4-2 in what was seen as a stunning upset. 6 different players scored all the goals, as Montreal got out to a 2-0 lead in the first 25 minutes on goals from Mason Toye and Romell Quioto. Toronto pulled one back with a PK conversion from Marco Delgado just before halftime. In the 54th minute, Victor Wanyama put the game away with a header. Djordje Mihailovic, acquired in the off-season from Chicago, scored the final goal for the victors in the 74th minute. Richie Laryea got a consolation goal for the Reds in the 88th minute to close out the scoring. Toronto was coming off a mid-week 2-1 win in the CONCACAF Champions League second leg against Mexican side, Leon. Was fatigue a factor here? Probably so. MLS teams generally don't have the quality in depth to be as dominant as many European or South American teams. Not to take anything away from Montreal though, who looked great in their season opener. The team went through a re-brand in the off-season, changing its name from Montreal Impact to Club de Foot Montreal, complete with a new logo (some fans of the league say it resembles a snowflake, so they're now referring to Montreal as the 'Snowflakes'!). I don't know what it is about professional teams in North America, but they frequently change up their logos or badges to make them more modern or hip or relevant to younger or newer fans. It can be hard to keep track of it all! Tradition and continuity in this area seems to be fleeting. Some fans are bothered by it. Me? Not so much, as long as I can keep up with it.

The second game was a drab 0-0 draw in Orlando, who played host to Atlanta United. There weren't many chances provided by either team with just 3 shots on goal per side. Alexandre Pato, Orlando's star acquisition from Brazil left the match in the 80th minute with an apparent knee injury. It's not known how serious it may be, although Pato left the field on his own power. The game marked the return of Josef Martinez of Atlanta, who missed virtually all of the 2020 season with a knee injury himself.

After a scoreless first half in its inaugural match, Austin FC were done in on a deflected shot from Corey Baird in the 61st minute, as Los Angeles FC held off the MLS debutants, 2-0. The final LAFC goal came in the first minute of second half stoppage time, courtesy of a strike from Jose Cifuentes. LAFC were playing without a couple of stalwarts from the past 2 seasons, Diego Rossi who was out with a hamstring injury and Carlos Vela, who tweaked his ankle and was subbed off in the 22nd minute. Despite not playing at full strength, LAFC became the second team in MLS history to begin a regular season with 4 straight Opening Day wins. Austin will be playing 6 more games away from home before its new stadium is ready for occupancy on June 19th.

The evening contests saw DC United come from behind to knock off New York City FC, 2-1. A 39th minute strike from Brendan Hines-Ike offset Valentin Castellanos' 15th minute goal for NYC to tie the game, before Russell Canouse scored the game-winner in the 44th minute. The surprising stats for this one? DC United only had 38% possession and completed only 58% of its passes, but City could not take advantage of it.

In Frisco, Texas, FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids played to a scoreless draw in a game that was more spirited than the Atlanta at Orlando affair, although the first half of play was considered better than that in the second. Both keepers (William Yarbrough of Colorado and Brian Maurer of FC Dallas) made a total of 5 saves in a quick-paced first half. Play slowed down in the second frame, and Colorado had the best chance of the half but Maurer stopped Michael Barrios' one-on-one breakaway effort in the 79th minute. The end result meant that both teams got a point, and Dallas extended its streak of unbeaten home openers dating back to 2009.

17-year old Caden Clark scored a sensational goal in the 48th minute to stake the New York Red Bulls to an early lead on Sporting Kansas City, but the visitors rallied with 2 goals in as many minutes to snatch all 3 points. The first goal for Sporting happened in the 59th minute, following a hand ball in the box by a Red Bulls player. Gadi Kinda stepped up the the spot and nailed the kick to tie the match. Just a minute later, Daniel Salloi got the game-winner off a nice cross from Khiry Shelton, who found his teammate near the far post and delivered the accurate pass. Final: Sporting KC 2, NYRB 1

A crazy game in Chicago saw all 4 goals scored in the first 27 minutes of play. The Fire got off to a hot start with goals from Robert Beric and Luka Stojanovic in the 5th and 11th minutes, respectively. New England got right back in the contest in the 14th minute, following a header from Adam Buksa. Gustavo Bou completed the scoring for the Revolution with a great sliding effort toward the Chicago goal, as he connected with the ball to guide it in the back of the net at the 27 minute mark. The second half wasn't nearly as scintillating as the first, The Revs nearly won the game in the 87th minute as Edward Kizza saw his strong header hit the crossbar and veered away. The Fire had a chance to win it at the death, with a stoppage time free kick just outside the penalty area, but Matt Turner was able to gather up the effort to preserve the draw.

FC Cincinnati got off to a shocking 2-0 lead at Nashville, as Luciano Acosta scored in the 8th minute. Just 4 minutes later, off-season acquisition, Brazilian striker Brenner extended the lead from the penalty spot, after he was fouled in the box by Nashville keeper Kevin Willis. NSH got back in the game in the 20th minute, thanks to a Jhonder Cadiz goal, and the final tally of the night came in the 64th minute, as Randall Leal scored a beautifully placed, looping shot to the corner of the Cincinnati goal from about 23 yards out. Cincinnati keeper Przemyslaw Tyton was kept busy as Nashville peppered the FCC goal with 32 total shots, that resulted in 11 saves. Cincinnati will play two more road games before opening its new West End Stadium on May 16th.

Attendance: Chicago 8102. FC Dallas 8621. DC United 4500. LAFC 4900. Orlando 11,503. No figures available for the Red Bulls, but from looking at the highlights of the match, I'd estimate about 6 or 7 thousand. Nashville also did not provide numbers right away, but it looked like a healthy 10,000 showing up. Montreal will be playing home games in Ft. Lauderdale (where Inter Miami is calling home until its new stadium is finished in a year or so). No figures were available for the game with Toronto, but there didn't seem to be anyone watching the game on-site, which is sad, because under normal circumstances, a Toronto-Montreal game in any sport generally packs in the fans. Toronto will play home games in Orlando and ground share with Orlando City SC. Vancouver is playing home games in Sandy, Utah at Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium. Interestingly, the Whitecaps open their season tonight against the Portland Timbers, while Real Salt Lake is the only MLS team not playing this weekend! The other 2 games Sunday find the Los Angeles Galaxy at Inter Miami and Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew.
 

East Fork United

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Opening weekend of MLS 2021 play concluded Sunday with one wild game in South Florida, a bruising stalemate between expected title contenders, and one surprise result out West.

The first game of the day saw the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy come from behind twice before escaping with an enjoyable-to-watch 3-2 win over Inter Miami. The home team took a 1-0 halftime lead thanks to a stoppage time goal from Robbie Robinson. The lead lasted until the 62nd minute when Javier Hernandez, a.k.a. Chicharito scored to level things up. Inter re-captured the lead in the 68th minute on a PK from Gonzalo Higuain, after Rodolfo Pizzaro was brought down in the box by a Galaxy player. The 2-1 margin was short-lived though, as Chicharito struck again in the 73rd minute. The scoring was capped off in the 81st minute by veteran MLS player Sacha Kljestan, whose shot from inside the top of the box caught Miami keeper John McCarthy flat-footed. Inter came close on a couple of late chances, but Higuain's effort in the 83rd minute at the near post hit the side netting, and 2 minutes later, his older brother Federico saw his blast from near the top of the box flash just wide of the far post. For Chicharito, the performance was some redemption for him. He came to the Galaxy with a lot of fanfare, but only managed 3 goals in last year's abbreviated season (23 games) as the team missed the playoffs.

The second game of the day in Columbus pitted the defending MLS Cup champions against last year's Supporter's Shield winners, the Philadelphia Union. The game played out to a scoreless draw, despite the Crew having the better of play in the first 15 minutes. Once the Union settled down and got a grip on things, they looked like the more dominant side as the game moved onto the late stages of the second half. For the day, the Union outshot Columbus, 15-12 and had a 6-1 advantage on corner kicks, although the Crew had a slight 6-5 advantage over Philadelphia with shots on-goal. Credit to both keepers, who are two of the best in the CONCACAF ranks (Eloy Room--Crew and Curacao and Andre Blake--Union and Jamaica) as they turned aside any potential game-winning shots.

The final game of the inaugural weekend of play saw the Vancouver Whitecaps score an unexpected 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers. Lucas Cavallini, one of the key components to Canada's national men's team hopes to come to soccer prominence on the international stage, got the game's only goal off a bullet header in the 49th minute following a nicely placed corner kick from teammate Cristian Gutierrez. In 2020, Portland's bugaboo was defending set pieces. Looks like the Timbers will have to keep working on that aspect of their defensive game, since the team had the better chances during the run of play most of the night, but couldn't find the back of the net. The game, as mentioned earlier, was played at Rio Tinto Stadium, home of Real Salt Lake, who had the first bye of the season. Canada is having trouble getting a handle on the spread of coronavirus, and has severely restricted travel to the country, not only from other nations, but within its provinces as well. Until the pandemic is brought under better control, the 3 Canadian MLS entries will continue to play its 'home' games in the United States. The recently formed Canadian Premier League, launched in 2019 to some moderate success, did not feature any games last year, and none are on the horizon this year either, which is sad, because the CPL was trying to establish itself in locations without much of an MLS footprint, as it tries to grow the sport and bring it to a new popularity as the U.S.A. have done over the past 25 years.

Attendance: Nothing listed for the Miami-LA Galaxy game, but from viewing the game at home, I'd estimate a good 10-12,000 fans, including about 200 travelling fans from Southern California, which made for a swell atmosphere.
Columbus--5180 (although it looked better than that on television)
Vancouver (Sandy, Utah)--nothing listed. From what I saw, probably fewer than 100. Most of the seats were covered with advertising screens. You could hear some fans that were there, but you could not see them. My figure is going off what I saw prior to kickoff, as the teams emerged from the locker rooms.
 

East Fork United

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I admit it. I am very poor at judging attendances on the television screen (no matter how big that screen is!). Official attendance for the Miami-LA Galaxy contest was 7939.

On an interesting note though, the television ratings for the MIA-LAG game and the LAFC vs. Austin contest were higher than just about any nationally broadcast baseball or hockey game during the week of April 12-18. There were 17 NHL and MLB games, and the 2 MLS games mentioned drew a better viewing audience than all but 3 of them (2 hockey and 1 baseball). Maybe it was because it was the first-ever game for newcomers, Austin FC and the home opener with fans in attendance to watch David Beckham's own Inter Miami squad play against the team that brought him to America to close out his pro career, but it was a nice surprise to see.

20 years ago, sports writers in America were still bashing the sport of soccer and saying it would never get the level of support other professional leagues do. After the 2001 season, those people may have been right. The league was on life support and had just contracted two of its teams (Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion) to drop its membership down to 10. Over the next 5 years, MLS saw one franchise re-locate (San Jose to Houston), then add 2 new teams (Toronto FC and a newly formed San Jose franchise). The league was able to fix its financial problems in part, by attracting star players like Beckham and Mexico's Cuahotamec Blanco, who might have been on the down-side of their careers, but still had enough gas in the tank to make a positive impact for their teams, and subsequently, MLS itself. Younger players from Central and South America also got a look from teams and were good enough to crack the starting lineups. Newer franchises came along and newer, soccer-specific stadiums were being built, and a loyal fanbase was being developed, as were some club's Youth Academies. And here we are today, at 27 teams playing in MLS, with 2 new ones scheduled to play in the next 2 years. It is an amazing achievement to me. All those sports journalist nay-sayers are now dead or they have been silenced by the overall success of MLS. Soccer is still a popular and growing sport here, and fans have a chance to watch games from across the globe on televised broadcasts that were not available at the turn of the century. Even in the lesser-ranked United Soccer League (equivalent to a 2nd-tier pro league), there is good fan support in places like Pittsburgh, Louisville, Indianapolis, Albuquerque, Sacramento, and Reno.
 

East Fork United

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After the second week of play, the MLS annual parity party was on display. 25 of the 27 teams have played twice and just one of them have accumulated the full allotment of 6 points. The Los Angeles Galaxy got a hat trick from Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) and that was just enough for the Gals to knock off the visiting New York Red Bulls, 3-2 in front of about 7000 fans (25% capacity). While the Galaxy are the only MLS team on 6 points, the Red Bulls and Minnesota United are the only teams sitting on 0 after two games. Minnesota dropped its home opener to Real Salt Lake, 2-1. RSL, playing its first game after having a bye week, got goals from Anderson Julio in the 31st and 41st minutes to go into halftime up 2-0. Robin Lod pegged one back for the Loons in the 86th minute, but it wasn't enough. About 25% capacity was on hand for this contest, or about 4500 fans in St. Paul.

Austin FC not only got its first-ever goal as an MLS team in its game at Colorado, but the team notched its first-ever win too. Andre Shinyashiki's 36th minute strike staked the Rapids to a 1-0 halftime lead, but an 11-minute flurry in the second half boosted the visitors to their first victory. Diego Fagundez scored in the 60th minute, followed by two goals from Cecilio Dominguez in the 67th and 71st minutes, as Austin leaves the Denver area with a 3-1 win.

Atlanta United gets the prize for having the best attendance of the weekend. AUFC topped the Chicago Fire, 3-1 in front of 20,335 fans. Atlanta's stadium holds between 65 and 70,000 (or thereabouts), so roughly 30% capacity was allowed into the venue. The league isn't showing attendances for every game played, and I guess that's understandable (the 3 Canadian teams are playing home games in the U.S.), but if they are going to list attendance figures for one game, they ought to be able to do it for all of them, no matter how paltry it may seem.

5 MLS teams will be in action mid-week as part of the quarterfinal first legs in the CONCACAF Champions League competition. 4 from the U.S.A., 3 from Mexico, and 1 from Canada are taking part at this stage. Philadelphia Union (2-1 losers in their home opener to Inter Miami) play their first leg Tuesday in Atlanta against their MLS Eastern Conference rivals. Cruz Azul is at Toronto FC (in Orlando), also on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Monterey play at Columbus Crew, and also on Wednesday, the Portland Timbers play host to Club America. In their most recent MLS outings, Toronto got a late goal to tie Vancouver, 2-2. Portland defeated Houston, 2-1. Columbus was on a bye week and will be the most rested side of MLS competitors here.
 

East Fork United

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Week 3 of MLS play saw one unbeaten and untied team fall by the wayside, as the Los Angeles Galaxy were blanked in Seattle, 3-0. The Sounders scored a couple of goals in the first 24 minutes of the game, as the Galaxy could muster very little offense. The other unbeaten and untied side, Real Salt Lake, won its home opener against Sporting Kansas City, 3-1. RSL, which missed the playoffs last year and was not expected to do much this season, is the lone undefeated side, having gained 6 points in its first two contests. Defending champions Columbus Crew are off to a slow start. Two games, two draws, no goals. The Crew played Montreal to a 0-0 draw. Another desultory affair occurred in Nashville, which drew with Inter Miami, 0-0. New York Red Bulls topped Chicago, 2-0 for its first win of the season. Houston and Los Angeles FC played to a 1-1 draw. New England edged Atlanta United, 2-1 and Orlando City shut out FC Cincinnati, 3-0. Minnesota United, Western Conference finalists in last season's MLS playoffs, continued to struggle, with a 1-0 home loss against Austin FC. FC Dallas got its first win of the season, with an emphatic 4-1 win against Portland. New York City won at Philadelphia, 2-0, and San Jose whipped DC United, 4-1. The final game of the weekend saw Colorado beat Vancouver, 1-0. Toronto FC was the team with the bye week.

The top 7 teams in each conference qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs this fall.

EAST: New England 7pts., New York City FC 6, Orlando City 5 (+3 GD), Montreal 5 (+2), Atlanta United 4 (+1), Inter Miami 4 (0), New York Red Bulls 3.

WEST: Seattle 7 pts., San Jose 6 (+4), Real Salt Lake 6 (+3), Austin FC 6 (+1), Los Angeles Galaxy 6 (-1), LAFC 5, FC Dallas 4.

In MLS, a team's number of wins determines placement if more than 1 team is tied on points. Goal Difference is the second tiebreaker. It was coincidental that all tied teams after this week were also in front of their rivals based on GD.

CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second legs are coming up this week. Atlanta United will try to overturn a 3-0 deficit, but it will have to do so on the road against the Philadelphia Union. Toronto FC travel to Mexico to play Cruz Azul, which are up, 3-1. Columbus is at Monterey, as that series is knotted up 2-2. Portland play at Club America, as both sides are tied at 1-1.
 
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East Fork United

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CONCACAF Champions League competition concluded the quarterfinal round this week. Philadelphia topped Atlanta, 4-1 on aggregate, following a 1-1 draw in suburban Philly. Next up for the Union will be a semifinal round meeting with Club America, which downed the Portland Timbers, 3-1 to take that series, 4-2 on aggregate. The other semifinal two-leg contest will pit 2 Mexican sides against each other, as Monterrey ended the Columbus Crew's hopes with a 3-0 win to take the series, 5-2. Toronto FC lost in Mexico City against Cruz Azul, 1-0 as that series finished 4-1 on aggregate. The semifinals will be contested in August. No MLS team has ever won the CCL title, so Philadelphia Union's chances aren't looking too great, historically speaking.

MLS regular season play moves into Week 4 with 1 game on Friday, 9 on Saturday, and 3 on Sunday. FC Cincinnati is off this weekend, but the team will move into its new stadium next Sunday, May 16 against Inter Miami. The new place will be called TQL Stadium, which is another bland, corporate name for the place. Before the company secured the naming rights, it was being referred to as the West End Stadium, because of its location relative to the city of Cincinnati. Had they kept the name, I envisioned attractive female supporters referring to themselves as the "West End Girls" with the Pet Shop Boys' tune ringing throughout the stadium! But hey, nobody asked me! 😉
 

East Fork United

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The 4th week of MLS play started and ended with excitement.

The lone game on Friday was a classic 'smash and grab' win, as visiting San Jose stunned Real Salt Lake, 2-1. Chris Wondolowski, the league's all-time leading scorer, hit the back of the net twice in the waning stages to give the Earthquakes their 3rd straight win. Wondolowski was subbed in at the 72nd minute and scored in the 82nd and 87th minutes to offset Rubio Rubin's 43rd minute strike that staked RSL to a 1-0 halftime lead.

The busy Saturday schedule kicked off with Philadelphia adding more misery to Chicago's slow start. The home-standing Fire failed to score as the Union left town with a 2-0 win. New York Red Bulls did the same to Toronto FC, as NYRB posted a 2-0 win in New Jersey. Both Chicago and Toronto occupy the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, along with FC Cincinnati, who were off this weekend. All 3 teams have just 1 point to show for the season. A strange game in Columbus saw the Crew pick up their first win of the season against visiting DC United, 3-1. The game was weird for the fact that DC actually scored 3 goals in the loss (1 for themselves, and 2 own goals for Columbus!). After the game, it was announced that Columbus is going to re-brand its name by dropping 'Crew' as its nickname. It will now be known as Columbus SC, and the logo (badge) will change too. I've seen the proposed new badge, and I think it's hideous compared to what the team has now!

Nashville, opening the season with 4 consecutive home games, got a 2-0 win over New England for its first victory of the year, following 3 straight ties. CJ Sapong and Alex Muyl tallied goals in the 25th and 75th minutes for the win. Cristian Dajome scored both goals in the 57th and 71st minutes to lead Vancouver past Montreal, 2-0, which absorbed its first loss of the season. FC Dallas and visiting Houston Dynamo played to a 1-1 draw, as did Orlando City and New York City in Florida (another 1-1 affair). In the Battle of Los Angeles, also known as 'El Trafico', the Los Angeles Galaxy sent the home fans home happy, with a 2-1 win over rivals, LAFC. Chicharito, following a poor 2020 season, got his 6th goal in 4 games in the 11th minute to put the Galaxy ahead. Diego Rossi tied the game in the 62nd minute, and Jonathan Dos Santos scored the game winner in the 79th minute off a nice assist from, you guessed it---Chicharito! The final game of Saturday saw a stunning comeback from the Colorado Rapids, who staked Minnesota to a 2-0 halftime lead before rallying to win 3-2. A 57th minute goal from Kellyn Acosta put the Rapids on the comeback trail. Cole Bassett leveled things up for the home side in the 71st minute, and Danny Wilson pushed Colorado to the summit of victory with his 82nd minute winner. For Minnesota, the devastation left one of the Western Conference pre-season favorites languishing at the bottom of the standings with zero points.

Sunday's games began in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, which is Inter Miami's temporary home until their new stadium is finished sometime next year (or possibly 2023). Atlanta United scored first, courtesy of Josef Martinez in the 9th minute. Miami got the equalizer from Lewis Morgan in the 77th minute, and that's how the game ended, despite Miami protests wanting a couple of penalties awarded in the last 10 minutes of play. One of the complaints may have had some merit, but the other was not penalty-worthy, according to the replays of the incident. The second game was a rivalry between Seattle and Portland. The first half was a drab affair, before Portland was awarded a penalty in the 55th minute, but Diego Valeri's shot hit the post and bounced back onto the field of play. Seattle took advantage of the miss as Raul Ruidiaz scored in the 63rd minute. Fredy Montero added an insurance goal in the 79th minute to give the Sounders a 2-0 cushion. Bill Tuiloma scored a stoppage time free kick for the Timbers for some consolation, as Seattle wins it, 2-1. The final game of the weekend was an entertaining 2-1 win for Sporting Kansas City against Austin FC. The league newcomers got on the board first with a 7th minute goal from Jon Gallagher. Tomas Pochettino nearly doubled Austin's advantage in the 34th minute, but his rocket shot from 30 yards out struck the crossbar. Austin had a player sent off in the 67th minute (a second yellow card infraction), and that allowed Sporting to mount waves of attacks that finally paid off with an 82nd minute goal from Ilie Sanchez. Gadi Kinda got the game-winner just as the contest was moving into second half stoppage time.

Here are the Conference leaders after Week 4

EAST: 1. New York City FC 7 pts. (2 wins, +6 GD) 2. New England Revolution 7 (2 wins, 0 GD) 3. New York Red Bulls 6 (2 wins, +2 GD) 4. Orlando City SC 6 (1 win, +3 GD) 5. Nashville SC 6 (1 win, +2 GD) 6. Columbus Crew 5 (1 win, +3 GD) 7. Atlanta United 5 (1 win, +2 GD).

WEST: 1. Seattle Sounders 10 pts. (3 wins, +8 GD) 2. San Jose Earthquakes 9 (3 wins, +5 GD) 3. Los Angeles Galaxy 9 (3 wins, 0 GD) 4. Vancouver Whitecaps 7 (2 wins, +2 GD) 5. Sporting Kansas City 7 (2 wins, 0 GD, 6 goals scored) 6. Colorado Rapids 7 (2 wins, 0 GD, 5 goals scored) 7. Real Salt Lake 6 (2 wins, +2 GD).
 

East Fork United

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Week 5 in MLS sees the first batch of mid-week games for the 2021 season. 6 games are on tap Wednesday and 1 on Thursday. 8 games are set for Saturday and 5 on Sunday. The Chicago Fire, who play the lone game on Thursday (at DC United), is the team that gets the weekend bye. FC Cincinnati opens its new stadium Sunday against Inter Miami.

8 MLS teams listed attendance figures from Week 4. No one is at full capacity here, and probably won't be on a league-wide basis until late summer or early fall, depending on coronavirus infection rates. No word yet on when the 3 Canadian teams will be allowed to play home matches due to travel bans on visiting teams. Here are the numbers on attendances I was able to find as of Monday morning.

Nashville--12,510 (capacity is about 30-35,000 for soccer)
Orlando--11,503 (capacity is 25,000)
Real Salt Lake--10,448 (capacity around 20,000)
FC Dallas--8749 (capacity is 18,000)
Inter Miami--8074 (capacity is 19,000)
LA Galaxy--7193 (capacity is 27,000)
Chicago--6457 (capacity is 30,000)
Columbus--5180 (capacity is 24,000)
 

Groundhopper 101

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Great to see the crowds heading back. Looks quite positive over there in terms of getting more fans back as the season goes on.
 

Groundhopper 101

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While it's been nice to watch games during the pandemic, having fans in attendance is so much better, even if capacity is limited.

I might be looking at getting to a New York game in the summer if travel allows. When I went to Orlando I brought tickets on Ticketmaster quite easily but it might be a little more tricky this time with reduced crowds but hoping the numbers go up before then. New York mayor seems confident!
 

Dave 56

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I might be looking at getting to a New York game in the summer if travel allows. When I went to Orlando I brought tickets on Ticketmaster quite easily but it might be a little more tricky this time with reduced crowds but hoping the numbers go up before then. New York mayor seems confident!
Whenever you decide to go there will be an element of a gamble with Covid. Autumn seems a little safer. I am looking at a possible trip in October, starting around the 14th. However, at the moment there is probably no more than a 20% chance of it taking place. It will be a last minute decision.

I always book tickets for MLS games, although they are usually available on the day but it's a long way to go and not get in! Still games in the USL championship in September and October, with college games usually starting mid September.

Are you looking to see both New York sides? other matches? driving or public transport?
 

Groundhopper 101

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Whenever you decide to go there will be an element of a gamble with Covid. Autumn seems a little safer. I am looking at a possible trip in October, starting around the 14th. However, at the moment there is probably no more than a 20% chance of it taking place. It will be a last minute decision.

I always book tickets for MLS games, although they are usually available on the day but it's a long way to go and not get in! Still games in the USL championship in September and October, with college games usually starting mid September.

Are you looking to see both New York sides? other matches? driving or public transport?

Thanks for the information. There are still tickets available for the New York City game this Saturday which is a good sign. Will be using public transport and will be mainly seeing New York so if I can get a game in then that's a bonus. NJ/NY GOTHAM FC is the women's team out there and are playing at the New York Red Bull's ground at the same time so that's a very good back up I guess!
 

Dave 56

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Leatherhead
The Yankee stadium is one of the easiest to visit by public transport. The subway stop 161st/Yankee Stadium, quite literally just across the the road. Here are a couple of possibilities of seeing a game with a NJ/NY game at Harrison :-

August 28th. NYC v New England Revolution. KO 17:30
August 29th. NJ/NY v Orlando Pride KO 17:30


Even better.

September 25th.

NJ/NY v North Carolina Courage. KO 15:00

NYC v Red Bulls KO 19:30


Harrison station is about 5 minutes walk from the Red Bull stadium. Journey time, with one change 75 minutes, Two in a day and a local derby!!
 

East Fork United

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Mar 2, 2020
Messages
34
Midweek MLS games are complete. Toronto FC bagged its first win of the season, 2-0 over defending MLS champs Columbus Crew in Orlando, Florida. Michael Bradley (13th minute) and substitute Jozy Altidore (87th minute) secured all 3 points for TFC, while the Crew continue to struggle. Officially, the team has scored 3 goals, but technically, it's only 1 through 4 games as DC United scored 2 for the Crew via the own-goal route! The re-brand for Columbus is not going well either. Fans of the team are about as riled up about it as they were 4 years ago when their then-owner, Andrew Precourt, tried to move the team out of Ohio and down to Austin, Texas. In the end, new owners (and the State of Ohio) stepped in and prevented such a move, but Precourt got his expansion team approved, and it's more than ironic that Austin FC have gotten off to a better start than the Crew have this season. Oh well, what would sports be without a little drama, right?

Usually, a soccer game can be played in about an hour and 50 minutes or so, including halftime and stoppage time in both halves. The Montreal at Miami contest (actually played on the same field both are calling 'home' for this season) took much, much longer than that. CF Montreal (another questionable re-brand) blew out to a 2-0 halftime lead following Bjorn Johnsen's 14th and 25th minute brace. The second half began as normal, but play was halted in the 48th minute due to lightning in the area. The delay lasted a whopping two hours and 20 minutes!! When play resumed, most of the 8220 fans who showed up expecting an Inter Miami win were long gone, and Montreal held on to the halftime advantage to record the win.

Minnesota United, like Toronto FC, notched its first win of the 2021 season, at the expense of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Ramon Abila, an off-season signee for MNUFC, came onto the pitch in the 67th minute, and 5 minutes later, he scored the game's only goal in his first appearance for the team! Minnesota fans (4100 of them) go home happy and very relieved to see the Loons take the 1-0 victory.

In Philadelphia, the Union and New England Revolution played to a 1-1 draw in front of 5000 fans, with both goals coming very late in the contest. Teal Bunbury put the Revs ahead with his 85th minute goal, but it was offset by Kacper Przbylko's strike in the 88th minute, as both teams shared the points.

At Houston, Maxi Urruti's 56th minute goal propelled the Dynamo to a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City in front of 7054 fans. The final game on Wednesday saw Cristian Roldan score on a sweet volley from 20 yards out in the 18th minute, and that was all the Seattle Sounders needed to claim its 1-0 win over homestanding San Jose which limited capacity to 5000 fans.

The only game on Thursday saw DC United heap more misery over the Chicago Fire, 1-0 in front of 3935 fans. The only tally of the night came in the 7th minute off the foot of Edison Flores. The Fire had chances to tie the game and potentially take leads, but they hit the post and crossbar one time each, and saw United keeper Jon Kempen stop a couple of promising shots. United break a 3 game losing streak with the win. Chicago get the weekend off and must try to figure things out to improve on their 1 point in 5 games start (and being outscored 10-3 in those games).
 

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