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    Canadian Content MLS Round 02 – How did our Canadians do in MLS this week?


    James Grossi

    Sam Adekugbe

    Adekugbe made his first start of the season, having spent the opener on the bench, taking over Jordan Harvey's left-back position for Vancouver in their 0-1 win over Chicago on Saturday.

    It was a glittering performance from the 20-year old English-born defender, combining his prowess in both the offensive and defensive roles.

    He was first called into action to block a hopeful Quincy Amarikwa drive, forcing the attacker wide, before conceding a foul, then prevented Chicago from taking the lead with a crucial defensive header that forced a Shaun Maloney effort over the bar. In whole, it was a balanced performance that showed he had both the speed and the physicality necessary to compete at this level, as well as the willingness to get stuck in, as shown by a fierce sliding tackle on Eric Gehrig along the touchline.

    By the end of the afternoon, Adekugbe had racked up five recoveries, three clearances, three blocks, an interception, and a tackle, conceding three fouls throughout and winning one.

    Gehrig had his hands full with the young Canadian, who showed excellent speed down the flank, tiptoeing the line past the Chicago right-back on out occasion. On another, he cut in-field to attack, causing some trouble before running into a dead end.

    His inexperience was taken advantage of one occasion, where Michael Stephens threaded a neat pass through his legs to pick out Harrison Shipp on a near-post run, but goalkeeper David Ousted was on hand sharply to prevent any additional blushes.

    At times, his passing – having completed roughly 24 of 35 – left a little to be desired, but a strong performance from the third-year player, who made just five previous appearances in MLS, has no doubt earned him more time in the future and given Carl Robinson another option at left-back.

    Tesho Akindele

    Akindele reprized his right-sided midfielder's role in Dallas' 3-1 win over Sporting KC on Saturday night – his second start of the season for Oscar Pareja in that position.

    Having been kept off the score-sheet in game one, it took just seventeen minutes for Akindele to notch his first point of the season, picking up

    . Fabian Castillo sprung the attack, running down the left-channel before slotting a through-ball to the right for the streaking Akindele, breaking away from the KC defenders.

    Under pressure from the recovering run of Marcel De Jong, Akindele turned to hold up play before squaring a set-up pass to Perez in space on the right-side of the area, with which the Panamanian made no mistake, beating Sporting keeper, Luis Marin.

    Nominally on the right, the Calgary, Alberta-native was once more free to roam the pitch as he pleased, using his speed – outracing De Jong on an earlier play to win a corner kick - and size to prod KC. It is that unpredictability that is both a benefit and a curse; good in that it catches opponents off-guard, but bad in that he cannot always get involved in the build up, hence his pass completion – just six of thirteen on the night – suffers, not that that should be a goal in and of itself.

    Buoyed by the assist, the second-year forward nearly provided another before half-time, whisking a low ball through the goalmouth after once more beating De Jong for pace, but no teammate could get on the end of the skipping service – it was recorded as a shot, off-target.

    And he had a solid look to score his first of the second twenty minutes into the second half, only to stray offside before the pass came that poked him through on goal.

    Akindele would be replaced by Michael Barrios in the 76th minute, having added two recoveries and the winning of a foul to his crucial, early assist.

    Steven Vitoria

    Vitoria started a second-straight match in the centre of the Union's back-line as they fought Salt Lake to an entertaining, if bizarre, 3-3 draw in Sandy, Utah on Saturday night.

    Paired once more with Ethan White, as the left-sided of the duo, the Toronto-born defender was a calming presence at the back for the Union, racking up six clearances, six recoveries, a pair of interceptions, and committing two fouls, while winning one.

    For a second time in two matches, he would see a yellow card, this one in the 23rd minute when he was caught stepping into Javier Morales as the Salt Lake midfielder corralled a ball in the centre-circle, clattering into his opponent to draw the ire of the referee and the opposition coaching staff.

    Earlier he nearly paid for a hands-off approach in the opening minutes, leaving a Olmes Garcia ball through the area at the near-post, possibly in fear of an own-goal, only to see it nearly put in at the back-side by a late arriving Luis Gil.

    Listed at six-foot, five, Vitoria required every inch of his stature in defending set-pieces, as he was tasked with keeping a lid on the aggressive Chris Schuler in such situations, managing to match the Salt Lake defender on all accounts, though one of the home team's goals would come from such a play – Vitoria had his mark, but Jamison Olave and Garcia broke free, the latter kneeing the ball into the head of the former to find the back of the net – such a peculiar goal.

    Calm, poised, physical, Vitoria looks to be an excellent pickup for a Philadelphia side that has struggled to have a consistent presence in place, often drafting midfielders – either Maurice Edu or Amobi Okugo – into that role in the past. He will lock down that position and is an early shout for the only Canadian to feature in each of his side's matches.

    Marcel De Jong

    De Jong made his debut for Sporting KC in their loss at FC Dallas on Saturday night, having had to sit out the opening match of the season, awaiting a visa.

    Stationed at his customary left-back position, De Jong looked a touch off the pace, struggling to contain the fast and physical styling of Akindele down that side – losing out in the aforementioned footrace and getting exposed on Dallas' opener.

    The Newmarket, Ontario-native made an excellent recovering run to prevent Akindele from bearing down on goal himself, but could do nothing once the pass was played wide to Perez to finish the attack.

    His introduction was not without actual bumps as well, Dallas' Atiba Harris welcoming him to MLS with a solid clattering, earning a yellow card in the 35th minute for his body check on the Canadian – one of two fouls De Jong won that night.

    Come the end of the night, De Jong had compiled decent numbers – five clearances, three interceptions, and a pair of recoveries, while completing 20 of 29 passes – enough to give Peter Vermes a decision to make and Seth Sinovic some competition for that left-back position.

    The night was not without its troubles though, as De Jong was called for a foul throw at one point, caught in two minds as to where to unload, much to the amusement of the announcers.

    He was the subject of a feature interview on MLSsoccer.com with CSN's own Daniel Squizzato.

    Russell Teibert

    Teibert retained his position on the field to make his second-straight start of the season, once more lined up alongside Matias Laba at the base of the Vancouver midfield, as the Whitecaps got their first win of 2015, away to Chicago.

    From that deep-lying position, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native once more contributed that sort of disciplined positional play that has earned him a place in Robinson's first eleven, mopping up trouble and keeping a close eye on Frank Yallop's two-headed attacking midfield, with Maloney and Shipp both lined up in the centre.

    Fans who saw the young Canadian's promising attacking output in 2013 – where he scored a pair of goals and added nine assists – may decry that he has abandoned those dashing runs for an altogether more subtle role, but such is what is necessary at the professional level. And his ability to link the play, thrusting forward while being savvy enough to be in place when danger builds in the other direction, is the sign of a maturing, if not quite as exciting, a player.

    Amassing five recoveries, two interceptions, a pair of clearances, a block, and a tackle, while committing three fouls is hardly the sort of performance that garners headlines, but make no mistake, it is his running that helped Vancouver manage the potential troublesome central duo of Chicago.

    One final note on Teibert, as he grew into the league, the main setbacks could be summed up in two statistics: his incomplete passes and his giveaways, all too often getting stripped out wide or hitting hopeful/wasteful crosses. Now in his fifth season, Teibert, through 154 minutes of play, has misplaced just seven of nearly sixty passes (he went 20 for 27 in Chicago) and conceded possession just twice, both against Toronto on opening day – a mark of a more confident and purposeful player.

    But, he was a little more fun and exciting to watch in those heady days.

    Jonathan Osorio

    Osorio was the fourth and final Canadian to feature in both of his club's two matches, resuming his right-side of midfield role for Toronto FC in their 2-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday.

    Sitting slightly deeper than he had against Vancouver – coach Greg Vanney looked to close down those dangerous wide areas with a three-man shield in front of the back-line – the Toronto, Ontario-native combined a defensive effort with some quality ball-movement to keep TFC's attack on the front foot for most of the first half.

    It was a physical outing for Osorio, putting a nice shoulder barge in on Wil Trapp early, only to be bundled over by Justin Meram in turn later in the half – resulting in Osorio winning a foul.

    He moved the ball very well, completing 22 of 24 passes, linking up nicely with Toronto's high trio, once slotting a ball for Sebastian Giovinco that the diminutive Italian shot over the bar.

    But with Toronto down to ten men, he was sacrificed at half-time, replaced by fellow Canadian Ashtone Morgan, putting a premature end to his night having made two recoveries and an interception in 45 minutes of play.

    Ashtone Morgan

    Coming on for Osorio at half-time, Morgan made his first appearance of the season, taking over the dismissed Justin Morrow's left-back spot for the second half of play in Columbus.

    It was not a great night for Morgan.

    Once a shining light of the TFC Academy and a ray of hope for the future of the Canadian game, Morgan, sadly, has stagnated over the past season, making just three appearances for a total of 168 minutes in 2013.

    And he looks every bit as rusty as that lack of playing time indicates.

    Prior to last season he had accumulated more than 5000 minutes of first team action, holding down the starting position for large patches of 2012 and 2013, but since Ryan Nelsen took charge of the club, requiring more defensive acumen from the 24-year old, his confidence has waned.

    To be fair, he has not had it easy in his limited minutes – coming on down a man against a side as eager as Columbus were, having been swept in the Trillium Cup the previous year and denied in Houston during First Kick; neither fate, nor has luck been his friend.

    Recall his first appearance last year, having to wait until September to make his debut under new boss Vanney, only to be sent off for a hauling down Sebastian Le Toux who had broken clear on goal after Doneil Henry was caught up field.

    Already short-handed and with TFC on the back foot, Morgan did not cover himself in glory.

    Columbus' first goal in the 57th minute, scored by Justin Meram, saw

    , allowing the lively Crew SC attacker to swing a cross towards the back-post where Meram guided his header into the goal.

    While on the second goal, just four minutes later, Morgan was helpless to mark two men at the back-post as

    from the left, Outnumbered, the Toronto, Ontario-native had no chance, but that he provided such little cover to foil either attacker is not good enough.

    Morgan did however learn the lesson of the first, getting out in a more timely-manner to block the next dangerous cross from his side, before repeating the feat again, recovering well to put a Hernan Grana cross out for a corner kick.

    The nightmare would continue as he was nearly culpable for a third Columbus goal when he whiffed on a loose-ball challenge with Grana, allowing the defender a clear path to goal, which he courteously whisked over the goal, sparing further embarassment.

    He did however have one moment that exhibited his quality, whipping a perfect cross of his own to the near-post from out wide that bamboozled the Crew defenders and nearly fell to the feet of Giovinco for a spot of consolation in the 82nd minute – but the match was in truth already gone.

    In his 45 minutes, Morgan made three clearances, one interception and a recovery, while completing six of his nine passes, but it was all the other stuff that will keep him down the pecking order. Unless, of course, Morrow's controversial red card stands and Morgan is drafted into duty again in two weeks time – he needs the playing time to find his feet.

    Kyle Bekker

    Bekker made his first appearance of the season for FC Dallas in their 3-1 win over Sporting KC on Saturday night, coming on in the 89th minute in place of Fabian Castillo.

    Just seconds into his match, he would get into a tussle with Kevin Ellis, putting a late foot in on the defender that drew the ire, leading to a slight scuffle, Bekker throwing Ellis to the ground, and yellow cards to each – not wasting any time in getting his first booking of the season out of the way.

    Worth noting is that Bekker took up a very advanced position in the Dallas midfield in this briefest of cameos, perhaps indicative of where Oscar Pareja sees him contributing, though further evidence will be required before that can really be determined.

    His passing was perfect – a stunning two for two – while he collected a recovery, an interception, and a clearance in his barely four minutes of play; quite a busy four minutes indeed.

    The Rest

    Cyle Larin made his first appearance in the gameday eighteen for Orlando City as they won 0-1 in Houston.

    Continuing the drizzling of off-season news, this review lost one of its potential-stars in the off-season, as LA Galaxy striker, Rob Friend, retired from professional soccer, ending his eleven-year career after just one year in MLS. The 34-year old Friend's season was cut short after ten appearances through the first four months play due a concussion and subsequent lingering-symptoms, registering a single assist.

    Announcing his retirement on December 10, Friend said, ““I’m extremely grateful to have played the game I love for a living. I have been fortunate enough to work with some outstanding teammates, coaches and clubs who have helped shape me on and off the field over the past 10 years. I will always be thankful for the experiences, relationships and opportunities the game itself has given me and am honored to finish my career as an MLS champion with the Galaxy.”

    Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league and the league as a whole.

    You can follow James on twitter @grawsee or read more of his writing at Partially Obstructed View

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