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  • Canadian Content MLS Round 03 – How did the Canadians do in MLS this week?


    Tesho Akindele

    Akindele started a third-straight match for FC Dallas in their 0-2 win in Philadelphia on Saturday, opening the scoring in the second half as Dallas maintained their perfect record, the only club in MLS to do so, sitting atop the league with nine points from three matches.

    Once more nominally stationed on the right-side of the midfield, Akindele was a constant pain to Philadelphia, popping up all over the pitch and willing his side forward in droves.

    His first chance to get on the score-sheet came after just thirteen minutes when Fabian Castillo blew past Sheanon Williams on the attacking-left before sending a low ball through the goal-mouth, Despite his best efforts at a stretch, Akindele could not get the vital touch at the back-post.

    A little under a half hour later, the Calgary-born attacker would instead attempt to play provider, offering a tidy layoff for Mauro Diaz, who couldn't keep his shot on target.

    Akindele would have to wait until the second half, with the Union reduced to ten-men after Zach Pfeffer's ridiculous elbow on Diaz, to find the breakthrough. It would come in the 49th minute.

    Akindele began the play himself, pressuring a half-hearted, hurried ball out of Fabinho, blocking the attempt, then racing towards goal to collect the liberated ball. Shading slightly to the right,

    . M'Bolhi would get a touch, but was helpless as the Canadian bore down on goal – it was his only shot of the afternoon.

    Having collected his first assist last weekend, Akindele added his first goal of 2015, getting off on the right foot as he attempts to better the marks he set in his rookie season – he finished 2014 with seven goals and three assists through 26 appearances.

    Goal aside, Akindele had a nice physical battle running with Philadelphia's Steven Vitoria, each taking turns winning and conceding fouls – Akindele would have two of each come the match's end. Seven recoveries, three interceptions, and a clearance rounded out his raw defensive numbers.

    Last week this very review questioned Akindele's poor passing mark. Well, he more than responded to that concern, completing an impressive 28 of 33 attempts on Saturday, including this clever inside ball that sprung Diaz late in the match. Though, it should be noted, he still conceded possession five times.

    And his quote post-match - “When a team goes down, you’re always looking to capitalize on that situation” - left a little to be desired.

    Marcel De Jong

    De Jong refrained his left-back role for Sporting KC in their score-less draw against Portland on Saturday, marking his second outing in the league with a cracking performance that earned him MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honours.

    Having impressed in his debut last week in Dallas, De Jong was back in the starting eleven for coach Peter Vermes against the Timbers, exemplifying that same aggressive desire to overlap that undoubtedly helped him earn his place with a club that requires such output from its full-backs.

    But what first caught the eye from this outing was his quality service on set-pieces. Canadian's will long remember his recent free-kick against Jamaica in a friendly, but it was his delivery on corner kicks, whipping a fierce in-swinging ball from the right that led to two solid chances mere seconds apart in the first half, as first Jalil Anibaba and then Ike Opara got on the end of the offerings, each sending the chances wide at the back-post, Opara's attempt closer than Anibaba's.

    Not content to solely craft chances for others, De Jong unabashedly had a crack of his own from distance when offered, sending a good effort just over the target – it was his only shot of the match, off-target.

    And as the match wore down, the Newmarket, Ontario-native would shape yet another lovely ball, this time a cross, from the left, picking out Opara once more at the back-post, only for his header to sail high this time, rather than wide.

    While it may not have provided the solution this round, De Jong's capabilities provide yet another tool to an already formidable KC arsenal, and his precision on the ball, completing 18 of his 23 passes on the night, will make him a valued member of Sporting's possession game.

    It was not all attacking for the Canadian however, who continued his education in the physicality of MLS by first clashing heads in a fearless challenge with Dairon Asprilla in the centre-circle that left him with a bloodied nose, before taking a flailing arm from that same opponent in the face later in the match, earning one of his two fouls suffered on the night.

    Added to all that forward emphasis, De Jong contributed defensively as well, racking up six recoveries, four tackles, and three clearances on the night, showing a certain calmness under pressure on one specific play, effortlessly stripping a ball off the boot of Darlington Nagbe as the Timbers' danger-man strode towards goal – a feat easier said than done.

    Two matches into his MLS career, De Jong already looks like a wise pickup from Vermes, who regularly unearths talent that others may have overlooked, posing the question, why did no Canadian teams seek out the defender's services?

    Maxim Tissot

    Tissot made his first appearance of the season on Saturday in Montreal's 0-0 draw at New England, marking the 22-year old's third season in the league.

    Signed to a homegrown contract prior to the start of 2013, Tissot had accumulated slightly more than one thousand minutes in MLS through his first two campaigns, making a total of eleven starts and a further sixteen appearances from the bench, in the process coming into his own with a move from left-back to left-midfield, where his attacking instincts have flourished, as witnessed by the pair of goals he scored in 2014.

    With Justin Mapp suffering that horrendous injury on opening day and Dilly Duka picking up a hamstring strain midweek in the CONCACAF Champions League victory over Costa Rican-side LD Alajuelense (the Impact would take a 2-0 advantage in the two-legged series), Tissot was drafted into the starting lineup, resuming that left-sided attacker's role against New England.

    He was ready.

    Early indications that he would be heavily involved came when the Gatineau, Quebec-native raced to get in a cross from the end-line, only to be hacked down by Diego Fagundez with a late challenge, drawing a talking-to from the referee and the first of three fouls Tissot would win throughout. Tissot himself would take the ensuing free-kick, his service met by Laurent Ciman in the middle, only for a tame header to be gobbled up by Bobby Shuttleworth.

    He next tried a chance of his own, sending a good hit from distance towards goal when a half-cleared corner kick fell to him atop the Revolution box – the attempt dipped, but still carried over the bar.

    The physical play would continue as Tissot drove the Impact forward, drawing successive interventions from Andrew Farrell, Scott Caldwell, and Jeremy Hall before half-time, an indication of the amount of time Tissot spent on the ball.

    And he would perhaps have Montreal's best chance of the match, stinging the palms of Shuttleworth with a low drive in the 60th minute – the only of his three shot to be on target.

    Even come the final minute of regulation, Tissot was still full of running, winning a ball deep and embarking on a slicing forray towards goal before running out of space in the 89th minute.

    Not too shabby for a first league run out of the year, after going 45 minutes just days earlier.

    Tissot completed 17 of his 29 passes, adding four recoveries, two clearances, and a pair of tackles to his

    tally.

    Post-match he heralded the road point, despite playing down a man for thirty-plus minutes: “In this league, playing on the road especially down to 10 men,” – Hassoun Camara was sent off two a pair of bookable offenses - “getting a point is fantastic, we’ll take it any day. For sure, we would have liked three but we’ll be satisfied with one.”

    Sam Adekugbe

    Adekugbe started a second-consecutive match for Vancouver as they nabbed the full points with a last-minute winner in Orlando, but the end would come early for the young defender.

    Continuing from his blazing left-back performance last weekend, Adekugbe picked up where he left off, beginning the match with a crunching shoulder challenge on Kevin Molino in the third minute, earning a foul for his troubles – the first of four he collected before exiting early.

    The fleet-footed Molino is a handful and the young English-born Canadian would collect a yellow card – his first of the season – in the 36th minute for a late tackle on the Lions' attacker.

    He would also be called for a handball, leading to a potentially troublesome free-kick, when a cross deflected off his foot and caught his trailing arm; Orlando would fail to take advantage of that refereeing decision.

    Defensive foibles aside, Adekugbe showed glimpses of that same attacking verve that earned him rave reviews in Chicago, making a strong run up the left to interplay with fellow Canadian Kianz Froese, only for the final pass to elude the duo.

    But his outing would come to a premature end with he bravely went into a challenge with Orlando keeper Donovan Ricketts, stretching to get a touch on a ball as the big Jamaican slid out to collect. Adekugbe would take the brunt of Ricketts' large knee in the chest, forcing him out of the match with what was surmised to be a rib injury. It was an unpleasant sight to see him stretchered off the pitch in need of oxygen, replaced by Jordan Harvey in the 75th minute.

    He was however credited with a shot in the process.

    Whitecaps' coach Carl Robinson quipped afterwards, "Well it's not a good idea to slide into a 6-foot-4 goalkeeper, I can tell you that," before continuing, "It doesn't look good if I'm honest. He's gone to hospital now. He was on the oxygen as they took him off. I'm worried that it might be a fracture. We're just going to check that his lung is ok. But it doesn't look good."

    There has been no official update on the extent of his injuries as of yet, though the club did provide further insights post-match, noting “severely bruised ribs” on twitter and stating he “will receive further evaluation” over the coming days.

    Prior to leaving the match, Adekugbe had completed 22 of 28 passes, racking up three recoveries, a clearance, and an interception in his 70-odd minutes on the pitch, putting his side in the position to collect the late 0-1 win.

    Adekugbe and the next Canadian in the review, Cyle Larin, were featured in a recent edition of the AFTN Podcast prior to Saturday's match.

    Cyle Larin

    Larin made his much-anticipated MLS debut on Saturday as Orlando fell 0-1 to a late Vancouver strike.

    Entering the fray in the 72nd minute, replacing Pedro Ribeiro atop the City formation, the first-overall draft pick was energetic, but looked a little off the pace of the game; comfort will come with further experience.

    That said, he was still a force to be reckoned with, hauled down by Kendall Waston on the edge of the area almost immediately, he repeatedly popped up in great positions, finding a pocket of space to collect a Kaka pass at the top of the area, only to send his right-footer wide as he could not quite wrap his foot around the ball to guide the effort inside the right-post in the 89th minute.

    Three minutes later, deep into stoppage-time, a glorious chance for a winner fell to the Brampton, Ontario-native after muscling in behind centre-back Diego Rodriguez with a diagonal run to get on the end of a Kaka through-ball, only for David Ousted to rush out and swat the potential-goal off his foot.

    One shot, off-target, one clearance, one foul committed, and two of four in pass completion, not bad for a debut performance, but with that out of the way, more is expected of the rookie who promises much.

    It will be very interesting to watch how he makes his way in the professional game.

    Steven Vitoria

    Vitoria continued the ironman start to his MLS career, lining up for a third-straight start as Philadelphia fell 0-2 to Dallas on Saturday.

    Once more as the left-sided of the centre-back duo, paired again with Ethan White, Vitoria was solid, providing that measure of stability exuded through his first two outings.

    And the Toronto-born defender would come close, sort of, to collecting his first goal of the season, lunging in with an early challenge to a loose ball after Chris Seitz parried a shot off a corner kick in the opening minutes.

    He had a good physical battle brewing with Akindele, conceding an early foul for one wrestling session, but it was his wise positioning that really stood out, showing some good recovery speed to at least force Akindele wide on his goal after that dreadful turnover and later doing well to usher the ever-dangerous Castillo wide.

    Vitoria was involved in an ugly collision in midfield, smashing into teammate Mo Edu, leaving each prone for a spell – both would stay in the game.

    And, with the Union trailing, Vitoria bit hard on an Akindele ball to Diaz, sucked high up-field and bypassed by a deft touch from the Argentine in a desperate attempt to cut out a pass and spur a much-needed counter, leading to a Dallas break in the other direction. Thankfully, Castillo would send his effort sailing high over the bar (the play in question can be seen above in Akindele's section).

    He would collect five recoveries, three clearances, and three fouls, completing 14 of 22 passes in a losing effort.

    Kianz Froese

    Froese made his first appearance of the season for Vancouver in Orlando, coming on in the 67th minute in place of Nicolas Mezquida.

    Taking up the left-sided midfielder's role, Froese was lively, making a good run up that flank, only to play the crucial pass behind Octavio Rivero. He combined well with Adekugbe on that side and put in some defensive graft as well, tracking back to, momentarily, delay Kaka's route to goal, and putting a hearty shove into the back of Raphael Ramos out wide, showing he was equal to the physical demands of the professional game in MLS.

    The Cuban-born midfielder completed five of his eight pass attempts, adding one recovery to his second ever appearance in the league, having signed last September and featured in just one match last season.

    Kyle Bekker

    Bekker made a second substitute's appearance on Saturday afternoon for FC Dallas as they rolled out to a 0-2 win.

    Coming on in the 79th minute for Blas Perez, Bekker manned a deeper central-midfield position, lining up alongside Victor Ulloa in front of the centre-backs to see out the result.

    The Oakville, Ontario-native twice helped his side preserve the result, killing a few seconds by cheekily kicking the ball away from a restart and then being in a good position to intercept an errant Philadelphia pass across the top of the box, thus relieving pressure.

    He completed all four of his passes – extending his season-long passing perfection to a total of six passes – and provided a pair of recoveries.

    Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare

    Gagnon-Lapare made his debut for Montreal in New England, coming on in the 84th minute to replace Eric Alexander as Frank Klopas sought fresh legs to see out the score-less draw with the Impact defending with ten-men.

    The 20-year old, who signed with the club midway through 2014, made a total of five appearances that year, three as starter.

    Taking up Alexander's central role, Gagnon-Lapare helped preserve the road point, completing both his passes and recording one recovery in the process.

    The Rest

    Patrice Bernier and Wandrille Lefevre were unused substitutes as Montreal drew in New England, though Bernier, still recognized as the club captain, did see some limited action midweek in the Champions League.

    Russell Teibert's run of starts came to a halt at two with Gershon Koffie taking his place in Orlando, where Teibert remained unused on the sidelines.

    Karl Ouimette was seconds away from getting onto the field for his new side, the New York Red Bulls, standing on the sidelines ready to be introduced, only for the final whistle to come too soon for his liking, while Kofi Opare was on the bench for DC United.

    TFC announced several first team players – including Canadians Quillan Roberts, Ashtone Morgan, Manuel Aparicio, Jay Chapman, Chris Mannella, and Jordan Hamilton - were loaned to their USL side ahead of their opening day loss in Charleston, 3-2 to the Battery.

    Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league. He can be followed on twitter @grawsee and more of his writing is available at Partially Obstructed View



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