Johnson finally made his season debut, having recovered from that devastating broken leg at the end of last season, for the Timbers on Wednesday as they beat DC United 1-0 at home – it was his first MLS appearance in eight months.
Resuming his usual central midfield position, alongside ever-partner Diego Chara, Johnson barely missed a step, strapping back on the captain's armband to marshal his side to a vital win, ending a two-game losing slide.
Though still getting his full match-fitness back, Johnson was his usual self, scrapping and fighting for every inch, every loose ball. He looked fit and eager to get back into the hustle and bustle of the MLS game.
Alert, he nearly played in Dairon Asprilla with a leading, headed pass, and then picked out the same teammate with a lovely cross from the right, drawing a fine save from Bill Hamid on the headed effort. Johnson had a single shot himself, a strong, right-footer from distance, that blazed wide of the right-post.
There were a few indications that he was still getting up to speed. His corner kicks, though good, lacked a little of the usual oomph, while on one later play he struggled to track the machinations of Markus Halsti in the midfield, requiring an intervention from Chara, who saw a booking for his trip.
The Toronto-born midfielder would go 84 minutes in his debut, coming off for Jack Jewsbury and transferring the armband to Liam Ridgewell before being hailed with a rousing ovation from the Timbers' faithful.
Johnson completed all but eight of his thirty-odd passes, six of which were 'key', he added eight recoveries, a pair of tackles, an interception and a clearance, conceding just a single foul in his return to action.
Post-match he commented on a variety of subjects: how it felt to get back on the field - “That part was awesome, really good. From the minute I got here today it just felt like the same feeling again which I wasn’t always sure was going to happen, so definitely a special game.”; when he got to reflect on that - “Probably not until I was coming off there at the end. This was a big game for us and I tried to downplay it as much as I could but it was about winning and my leg. I guess I didn’t really get that feeling until I came off and then that ovation really got me at the end and it was special and something I’ll remember for a long time.” and on what the win meant - “Huge. The only thing that matters tonight is not about me, it’s about three points for this club. We needed it badly. We need to get going in the right direction quickly. We spoke a lot about urgency this week and I think that’s what you saw at the start of the game. The start of the second half we had some really good chances and I think on a different night we get a bigger number but hats off to Hamid, he’s a top-level goalkeeper. He won’t be in the league for very much longer. He’s special and he made some amazing saves tonight. It is what it is. We take the three points. I said after the game, you win four or five to zero, obviously everybody feels a little bit better but you still only get three points, so that’s the most important thing. We won the game tonight.”
Drawing the praise of coach Caleb Porter for his return - “I thought he played well. He’s a confident guy. So he brings an edge in the midfield. He’s good on the ball. Obviously at the end of the game his leg was a little sore so we had to get him out, but we are still going to go through that here for the next several weeks. So hopefully he recovers well and continues to be available for us next week, but it will probably be too quick a turnaround to get him in for Colorado.” - for his efforts.
As foretold, he would be rested on the weekend against Colorado as the Timbers won a second-straight – he was not in the eighteen.
Johnson answered a few further questions on the Timbers site a few days after having made his return to the first team.
Opare started his tenth-straight match for DC in their 1-0 loss away to Portland, marking the two-month point of his spell in the starting lineup – it was his eleventh appearance of the season.
Paired with Steve Birnbaum for the first time as Ben Olsen heavily rotated his lineup, Opare was a calming influence in a side that looked disjointed and out of sorts – it comes as no surprise that Portland scored what would be the game winner after just five minutes.
Opare shoulders some of the blame on Gaston Fernandez' goal, first taking the bait to step high when Fernandez was on the ball, then being a tad hesitant to get out wide to close down the crossing opportunity after Fernandez had raced to collect the loose ball when his pass to Dairon Asprilla broke free. Fernandez would flash a cross through the goalmouth that was tapped in by Max Urruti at the back-post.
Having grown more accustomed to his surroundings, the Niagara Falls-raised defender would barely concede another chance, doing his best to range out wide to snuff out an Asprilla half-chance when a Will Johnson headed pass was put into a dangerous area.
Later on, Opare would extinguish another fire as the Timbers tore down the left, cutting out another low ball that was bound for the lurking Urruti. Rinse and repeat; he showed both good defensive awareness and some speed to get back and nick the ball away from the surging Asprilla on a long pass late in the match, conceding a corner kick.
Having completed 17 of his 24 pass attempts, Opare added nine clearances, three recoveries, and an interception to his performance, conceding just a single foul, despite a busy night.
He would be relegated to the bench for DC's 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday, losing his place to the fit-again Birnbaum, who partnered Bobby Boswell – it remains to be seen if Opare was simply rested in the midst of a three-game week or if Birnbaum will displace him in the starting eleven on a permanent basis. Either way, he has proved his quality over the past two months of stellar play, and Olsen will know that when needed, Opare will be ready and able to step in seamlessly.
Osorio started a third-straight match for Toronto FC in their rampant 3-1 win over San Jose on Saturday – it was his eighth start and tenth appearance of the season.
From his left-sided midfield position, Osorio was heavily involved in the Toronto attacking play, getting forward regularly, as evidenced by an early run into the box, only for Benoit Cheyrou's over-hit ball to skid away inside the first ten minutes.
Moments later, he would pull a low cross through the goal-mouth after Ashtone Morgan laid him down the left, but no one was able to get on the end of the service. The next chance however would not go wanting.
In the 22nd minute, after initially playing wide to Morgan before receiving a return ball deeper on the left, Osorio would slip a pass down the left-side of the area for Sebastian Giovinco, who flung an inch-perfect cross towards the back-post for Justin Morrow to get on the end with a diving header – Osorio would collect an assist on the play, his second of the season, both of which have come in the past four matches; signs of life indeed.
The Toronto, Ontario-native would find a chance of his own, straight from the kickoff after the Earthquakes leveled from the penalty spot, with a strong run up the middle followed by a right-footed volley that drew a good save out of David Bingham.
Unfortunately, when offered a glorious chance to score his first of the season, played in by a visionary ball from Giovinco, Osorio would shoot wide under heavy defensive pressure – his second of two shots.
Coming off in the 84th minute for Nick Hagglund, Osorio would leave the field having completed 23 of 32 passes, while making six recoveries and conceding a single foul.
Morgan too was in the starting eleven for Toronto on Saturday as they handily dispatched with San Jose, making his ninth-consecutive start for the club – adding in his one substitute's appearance, he now has ten appearances on the season.
From his left-back position, had a bit of a mixed outing: excellent in attack, but stung at the back on one particular play that handed San Jose a chance to equalize.
Going forward the Toronto, Ontario-native was again impressive, playing a rather lovely poked-ball for Seba Giovinco on one play, the Italian could not collect it and turn, before chipping another nice pass forward for Jonathan Osorio, clipping a ball over the back-line – a calibre of pass not often seen from Morgan.
Morgan would then flash a dangerous ball into the box after Giovinco found him in plenty of space on the left and then played a role in Justin Morrow's opening goal, receiving and returning passes from Osorio in the build-up.
But then, disaster struck, as Morgan ranged across the box in hope of covering Chris Wondolowski, who was looking to get on the end of a Shea Salinas cross. Wondolowski would get the headed contact, directing an attempt towards goal that caught Morgan's outstretched arm, prompting the official to point to the spot. The striker would convert the chance, equalizing two minutes after TFC had taken the lead.
Having been stung on that play, Morgan was keenly aware of the movements of Wondolowski thereafter, doing very well to track the sneaky forward's movements to the back-side the next time Salinas shaped up for a cross from the attacking left.
Never shy of engaging in the physical side of the game, Morgan took a Marvell Wynne-clearance straight in the face, shaking off the shake up, quickly. And then put in one of his trademark nasty, left-back tackles on Cordell Cato – he was perhaps lucky to not seen yellow for the crunching challenge that left Cato down for a moment or two.
Morgan completed just ten of his twenty pass attempts – not great, but added six clearances, a pair of tackles, and two recoveries to his stat-line. He conceded a pair of fouls, including the penalty kick, and also lost possession on four occasions, which can be an issue, especially if that frailty catches his teammates pressed forward.
Ouimette made a third-straight start for New York in their 2-1 loss to Seattle on Sunday – it was his fifth appearance of the season, all in the last five matches, having finally been thrust onto the field due to the combination of injury and Matt Miazga's red card/suspension/international duty.
As the right-sided centre-back, alongside Damien Perrinelle, Ouimette had another fine outing, but was again victimized on a decisive goal.
The match began well, the Terrebonne, Quebec-native showed good strength to shield a rolling ball out for a goal-kick under pressure from Andy Rose, and was then alert to move across field to cut out a ball bound for the troublesome Obafemi Martins.
He then played another unwise ball in midfield, much like the one that drew him criticism against Philadelphia last week, that led to a Seattle counter. Ouimette tracked back to cut out the final cross that evolved of that play however, conceding a corner kick with his interrupting header.
Come the second half, Ouimette was unable to provide such cover when Marco Pappa twisted up Chris Duvall to blast an equalizer in the 69th minute, the shot rocketing past the ear of a scrambling Ouimette.
That goal was hardly his fault, but come stoppage-time he was partially to blame on the play that allowed Clint Dempsey and Chad Barrett to find the late winner. Ouimette was in position near the back-post, but neither recognized, nor tracked the Dempsey run after the American dished a ball out wide right before darting to get on the end of the incoming Tyrone Mears cross. Barrett would ensure the ball made its way across the line, stealing the goal from his teammate.
Ouimette completed just 12 of his 22 passes, an indication of New York's reluctance to play out of the back rather than hit long passes, making seven clearances, five recoveries, four interceptions, and a single tackle in the losing effort.
Akindele was in the starting eleven for FC Dallas as they were humbled 4-0 away to Kansas City on Friday night – it was his thirteenth appearance of the season and fifth from the bench. Akindele has featured in each of Dallas' matches this season, but has only made two starts in the last seven matches.
Lining up on the left-side of the midfield, Akindele was his usual effervescent self, ranging all over the pitch in attack and tracking deep to contribute defensively – not that it helped all that much.
The Calgary-born, now Canadian International, Akindele made a good early end-line run, cutting in-field from the right, only for his pull-back to be deflected away from its intended target, Mauro Diaz. His own best and only look of the match was taken off his boot by the sliding Tim Melia after a ball in from Ryan Hollingshead on the right allowed for a sliding chance at goal. Akindele would get off the effort, Melia making the crucial save.
With Dallas already trailing by a pair, the young Canadian would slip on a corner kick, allowing Kevin Ellis to break away from his coverage and get a free header on the end of a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 57th minute for Sporting's third goal of the evening.
Akindele would be replaced by David Texeira in the 74th minute. Aside from his one shot on goal, Akindele completed eight of ten passes, adding a recovery, a block, and a tackle to his name.
Bekker made his first start for FC Dallas as they fell in Kansas City – it was his sixth appearance of the season, three of which have come in the last four minutes.
Paired in the middle with Victor Ulloa, Bekker was decent, but given the lop-sided nature of the game it was difficult to find much positive that could be saved from the dire result.
The Oakville, Ontario-native looked good on a few plays, laying a fine first-time ball out wide for Diaz on one occasion, it was unfortunately just beyond his reach. He would later pick out Hollingshead with an excellent cross from the left, but the first-year winger would get his headed attempt all wrong, wasting the chance. Bekker himself would have a look at goal, arriving late at the top of the area as he did last week against Montreal, only for his effort to again be blocked.
Given how sparse his playing time has been – he has accumulated just 194 minutes thus far – his ability to communicate, or lack thereof, was on show on more than one occasion – he completed just about 20 of some 35 attempted passes – most notably when Diaz instructed him to make an incisive run down the left-channel only for Bekker to drift too wide, the leading pass skittering away in the direction Diaz wanted him to go.
Bekker would take two shots – the other off-target, and make six recoveries, two interceptions – reading the opponent's intent was always a strong suit – and a single tackle.
Larin made his eighth-consecutive start for Orlando City in their 2-2 draw against Columbus on Saturday night – adding his two substitute appearances, he now has ten on the season.
Once more the lone centre-forward, Larin again led the line for Orlando, finding numerous chances – he had five shots throughout, three on goal and two off.
His first attempt was a weak one, easily held by Steve Clark in goal for the Crew. His next chance was nearly a reprise of his first goal in MLS, meeting a Rafael Ramos cross from the right at the near-post with an attempted chested-finish, which went just wide.
Shortly thereafter a turnover in midfield from Tony Tchani allowed Darwin Ceren to set up Larin. Clark was came up with a big face save on the initial attempt. The rebound spilled towards the goal-line, but a sliding challenge from Emanuel Pogatetz nicked the follow up on an open net away from the boot of the Canadian rookie.
His final two chances likewise came to nothing: the first was a blast from distance that drifted harmlessly wide and finally the Brampton, Ontario-native would bring down a Luke Boden cross, but was unable to get any power on the shot, which turned into a set-up for Carlos Rivas.
Larin completed just three of nine passes, made one clearance, and committed two fouls, straying offside once.
Plenty of looks fell his way, none of which he was able to take advantage of – a bit of that rookie over-anxiousness rearing its head two weeks removed from his three-game goal-scoring streak. With the club's other strikers approaching fitness, it will be interesting to see if Larin has done enough to hold onto the starting position in the eyes of manager Adrian Heath.
Jackson-Hamel made his first appearance of the season for Montreal in their woeful 3-0 loss to Chicago on Saturday – it was the second-year homegrown player's fifth appearance all-time.
Having come on for Ignacio Piatti in the 60th minute with Montreal down a pair, Jackson-Hamel took up the striking position – Jack McInerney was taken off at half-time, so the Impact were without a true forward for the start of the second half.
The Quebec City, Quebec-native was very isolated up top, spending much of his half-hour playing with his back to goal, eventually dropping deeper and deeper into the midfield in order to get touches on the ball and involve himself in the fray.
There was one comical moment where one of the few balls that came his way was help up in the water-logged pitch; symbolic – it was a tough night for Montreal.
Jackson-Hamel would end the match having completed seven of his eight pass attempts, making an interception and a tackle, conceding one foul in his thirty minutes.
Despite the lop-sided scoreline, it was a good chance for the second-year forward to see some minutes; here's hoping he did enough to impress Frank Klopas into giving him more time in the future.
Chapman saw the first MLS minutes of his rookie season on Saturday, coming on in the 84th minute of TFC's win over San Jose for Luke Moore.
Taking up Osorio's left-sided midfield position, Chapman, who did very well against Manchester City last week, did not look out of place, completed half of his four passes and collecting the first recovery – woohoo! - of his young career.
The Brampton, Ontario-native who was signed as a homegrown player just days before this year's SuperDraft will undoubtedly see further playing time, despite his position being the only one at which Toronto has any depth.
Marcel de Jong
de Jong returned to the pitch for Kansas City as they ran roughshod over Dallas on Friday night, seeing his first minutes in over a month – it was his seventh appearance of the season, but first as a substitute.
Coming on for Connor Hallisey in the 65th minute with the match all but decided – KC were already leading 4-0 at the time – the Newmarket, Ontario-native put in a solid cameo, completing three of seven passes, a pair of recoveries, and a tackle.
Left-back has been a troublesome position for Kansas City, who luckily have plenty of depth there; none of de Jong, Seth Sinovic, or Amadou Dia, have been able to lock down the position.
His transition to MLS has been very stop-start, as injury and competition have interrupted his form.
Bernier made an appearance from the bench for the third-straight match as Montreal fell in Chicago on Saturday night – it was his fifth appearance of the season, all but one from the bench.
Bernier was called into action in the 76th minute when the Impact were already three behind. With the match already decided, he was left to merely clog up the middle of the pack and see the misery to its end.
The Brossard, Quebec-native would complete six of nine passes and make a single interception in his fifteen minutes on the pitch.
Teibert was a last-minute substitute for Vancouver in their 2-1 win over Salt Lake on Saturday, coming on in the 93rd minute for Pedro Morales, helping to seal the result – it was his eleventh appearance of the season and second from the bench.
He achieved no stats.
Chris Mannella and Jordan Hamilton were unused substitutes for Toronto in their win over San Jose.
Maxim Tissot and Wandrille Lefevre were on the bench for Montreal in their loss to Chicago.
Eight MLS players were called the Canadian National Team for the two-legged series against Dominica in the coming weeks, including Tesho Akindele, who had previously not declared his allegiances with interest emanating from the US camp.
Akindele declared his intentions and indicated to the FC Dallas site that Bekker was helpful in the process, stating “First of all, it’s just a great honor to represent my country - you know something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid. I asked my family, friends and even the people I was playing with [in Dallas] and weighed everyone’s opinion with my own thoughts and I think that helped me come to the right decision.” Adding, “He’s [bekker] had nothing but great things to say about the guys. I’m just hoping to come in and meet everybody and just do the best that I can. If I get some playing time, that’s great, if not, just work hard at the camp and hope to be called up to the next one.”
Jonathan Osorio and Ashtone Morgan, the left-side of TFC's formation, reacted in a separate piece.
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