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  • Canadian Content MLS Rounds 08 & 09 – How did the Canadians in MLS do this week?


    Kofi Opare

    Opare made his fourth and fifth-consecutive starts over the two rounds as DC United surged into a tie atop the Eastern Conference with a pair of wins – they are part of a four-way tie for first-overall in the league. Opare has appeared in every match since Steve Birnbaum went down with an ankle injury, admirably deputizing as the left-sided centre-back, alongside Bobby Boswell.

    In Vancouver, as DC won 1-2, Opare was instrumental in helping to shut down the high-scoring Octavio Rivero. Constantly hassling the Whitecaps forward, Opare shielded him away from a through-ball to allow his goalkeeper to collect on one occasion. then ranged out wide right to cut out a later move from the forward, and finally pressured him relentlessly to prevent Rivero from turning to face goal after collecting a ball in the area.

    Opare would continue to mark Rivero out of the match to the bitter end, doing just enough to put off the striker after Boswell had slipped on the turf, helping to see out the solid result on the road.

    The Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised defender would end the match with five clearances, five tackles, three recoveries, and an interception; conceding a pair of fouls throughout.

    He was too easily by-passed by a Mauro Rosales cut move on one play, only for the Argentine's effort to strike to post, sparing any blushes from the defender.

    And he was called for a back-pass late in the match, saving a corner kick, but conceding a potentially dangerous indirect free-kick. Opare would make amends, heading out the ensuing Pedro Morales chip at the back-post, conceding the corner kick he had originally sought to prevent.

    On the attacking end, Opare was a presence, getting himself into a good position on the play that led to DC's opening goal. Boswell would get the final headed touch, but Opare was close to getting on the end of the service himself. He also got involved in DC's passing, completing all but one of his some 24 attempts.

    The following weekend back home against Columbus, Opare would play an even more vibrant role in the 2-0 win.

    Once more as the left-sided centre-back, he was an active defender, roaming all over the pitch to mop up any potential trouble before it came to fruition. There is some concern when a defender gets pulled out of position too often, but Opare handled that well, for the most part, though he was nearly taken advantage of, sliding over from left to right, when Kei Kamara broke into the attacking left-side of the area to send a ball to the back-post, only for Ethan Finlay to be unable to get the needed touch on the stretch.

    Opare would put in one crucial intervention, getting a huge block on a Kamara effort in the box with a sliding clearance, as the forward wiggled in the box, trying to get free for a shot – the ball sailed out for a throw-in. It was his only block of the night, though he made eight clearances, five recoveries, and four interceptions, while conceding just a single foul. Completing all but three of his twenty pass attempts.

    He was also able and willing to get forward when the chance presented itself, galloping forward on occasion, but it was from a set-piece that he perhaps made his most important contribution, occupying both Kamara and Columbus' goalkeeper, Steve Clark, on a Fabian Espindola corner kick from the right, preventing the keeper from getting the touch he wanted. The ball would fall to Sean Franklin at the back-side for a simple right-footed touch; DC's second goal of the evening.

    Opare has impressed in his run of matches; one wonders whether Birnbaum will walk back into the starting eleven when fit, or if the young centre-back has done enough to make the spot his own, for the time being at least.

    Sam Adekugbe

    Adekugbe made a second-straight start on April 25th as Vancouver fell 1-2 to visiting DC United - it was his seventh start of the season.

    Continuing his strong play from the left-back position, Adekugbe got himself involved in the fracas after just minutes, lunging into an open legged challenge on Perry Kitchen in the ninth minute. Kitchen did not appreciate the tenacity at all, giving Adekugbe a little kick, but Kendall Waston was over quick to back up his young teammate, diffusing the situation as only an imposing presence such as his can. Adekugbe would see a yellow card for his enthusiasm – it was his fourth booking of the season, one away from a suspension.

    That aggressive play would not serve him well on DC's equalizing goal in the ninth minute, when Bobby Boswell was able to free himself from Agekugbe's marking to get on the end of a Michael Farfan cross.

    His passing was solid, completing 22 of 29, while defensively he racked up four clearances, three recoveries, and three interceptions; winning a pair of fouls and conceding only the one that led to his yellow card.

    Vancouver would fall behind when Chris Rolfe added a second in the 64th minute, but in search of a goal, the London-born defender would continue to press forward, finding a glorious chance to level the match deep in stoppage-time when a Pedro Morales free-kick fell to him in the left-side of the area. His weak right-footed effort was off-target, Adekugbe kicking his own leg in the attempt – it was his only shot of the night.

    He was not in the gameday eighteen in Portland the following week.

    Karl Ouimette

    Ouimette, after spending the season stapled to the bench, finally made his season debut as the New York Red Bulls fell 2-1 in New England this past Saturday – it was their first defeat of the season.

    Taking to the pitch as the left-sided centre-back, alongside Matt Miazga, Ouimette was solid, but showed moments of rust; only natural given it had been seven months since his last MLS appearance.

    He lost his mark on Charlie Davies in the ninth minute, allowing the forward to get on the end of a London Woodberry cross from the right for New England's opening goal. And was pulled over all the pitch by the Revolution's use of width. Teal Bunbury in particular caused him all sorts of troubling, dragging him wide to the right on far too many occasions for comfort. Ouimette would receive a yellow card in the 52nd minute on just such a play, cutting out a run from Bunbury way out near the touch-line – it was his only foul of the match.

    And later, Ouimette, along with the rest of the Red Bulls back-line, would be exposed again on the hour-mark, falling to keep track of a sweeping Revolution move across the top of the area, leading to Bunbury's eventual game-winner.

    Those shortcomings aside, the Terrebonne, Quebec-native was solid, especially in the air, where he was more than a match for Davies on any aerial threats. And he did very well to recover to the attacking right to get a much-needed block on a Lee Nguyen attempt, after the midfielder had squirmed away from the attentions of teammates Dax McCarty and Kemar Lawrence on the edge of the box with some sneaky footwork.

    Ouimette would take his chances to get forward, bursting up-field on one play, eating up some territory before being betrayed by a poor pass selection, getting his wires crossed with Dane Richard – his passing all told left a little to be desired, completing just 21 of 37.

    And with the clock counting down, he would nearly get on the end of a long throw, his headed effort drifting wide of the target.

    The former Montreal homegrown defender would collect some decent defensive numbers, including five clearances, four interceptions, two recoveries, and a tackle.

    Whether he did enough to warrant more playing time under Jesse Marsch remains to be seen. New York were playing their third match in less than a week, prompting Ouimette's inclusion in the starting lineup. He was an unused substitute in 1-1 draws against Los Angeles and Colorado, on the previous Sunday and Wednesday, respecively.

    Russell Teibert

    Teibert started both of Vancouver's matches over the past two weeks, as they fell 1-2 to DC at home and drew 0-0 in Portland most recently – he has now started the last three matches, bringing his season totals to seven starts and eight appearances.

    In both matches, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native would reprise his left-sided, defensively-oriented role, alongside first Matias Laba, then Gershon Koffie.

    Against DC, Teibert was guilty of being a touch slow to get out wide and challenge Michael Farfan, whose cross into the middle was met by Bobby Boswell, canceling out Pedro Morales' second minute goal in the ninth minute.

    Despite staying deep and providing a lot of defensive cover, arriving wherever trouble began to flare to double up pressure on the ball, Teibert was found wanting on DC's second goal in the 64th minute, unable to track the scything run of Chris Rolfe, who skipped past a last-ditch Teibert tackle to stab a finish past David Ousted.

    His passing on the night was excellent, completing all but four of some fifty attempts, and with eight recoveries, three tackles, two interceptions, and a clearance, he was definitely involved in the match, but still he would make way for Kekuta Manneh in the 70th minute, as Carl Robinson sought to inject some more attacking impetus into his side after going down a goal.

    The following week in Portland, Teibert was against tasked with a defensive-minded approach, specifically almost man-marking the ever-dangerous Darlington Nagbe out of the match.

    The derby between the Cascadian rivals would end scoreless, as neither was willing, nor able, to risk or find a way through the opponent.

    The Canadian would finish the match having completed 18 of 27 passes, while making four clearances, four recoveries, and one each of an interception, a block, and a tackle; conceding a single foul in the process.

    Ashtone Morgan

    Morgan continued his run of fine form in a pair of outings for Toronto FC, who embarked on a two-game winning streak with a 0-2 result in Orlando followed by a 0-1 victory against struggling Philadelphia. Morgan has started the last five TFC matches, appearing in the last six since subbing in when Justin Morrow was sent off in Columbus.

    Against Orlando, the Toronto, Ontario-native was conservative in attack, picking his spots to get forward – he completed thirteen of nineteen passes on the left-side.

    His confidence soaring after a year and a half in the wilderness, Morgan resumed his nasty left-back ways, suffering for his efforts. He would take a heavy knock in the back from Tyler Turner as he rose up to clear a cross, getting flattened from behind by the opponent, leaving him prone for a moment. It was a vital intervention despite the consequences, cutting out a Kaka ball that searched for space on the back side.

    Later he would catch a hard shoulder in the face from Kevin Molino, who saw a yellow card for his overly-strong challenge.

    Accumulating four clearances, three recoveries, and an interception through ninety minutes, Morgan would concede a pair of fouls, while winning one. His only mistake of the night came when he was very isolated against Kaka, who was able to get behind him on the inside as a leading pass was sent around the outside. Fortunately, nothing came from the chance.

    The following round in Philadelphia, Morgan was tasked with keeping a lid on the lively and tricky Erik Ayuk, which he managed well. Though he was a little slow to get out and pressure a crossing opportunity from Ray Gaddis, who whipped in the service unencumbered.

    He would also deal with threats from Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux, getting tangled with the imposing target man on a play that saw the Union hope to claim a penalty – it was not awarded, nor should it have been – and then did very well to block off the Frenchman's route to goal, stripping him of possession, before playing his way out of a dangerous part of the pitch with ease.

    Morgan would close the match with eight clearances, four recoveries, four tackles, and two interceptions.

    In attack he was once more a subtle presence, setting up a Jackson chance early with a ball in from the left, then picking his moment to press forward, collecting a loose ball before sending in a good cross that was cut out by Ethan White. He would complete just eleven of a mere nineteen passes though, as TFC focused on defending after Sebastian Giovinco's devastating free-kick gave them a lead in the 34th minute.

    Cyle Larin

    Larin started a third-straight match for Orlando City as they fell 0-2 to Toronto two weeks ago – it was his fifth appearance of the season.

    Taking to the pitch as the lone centre-forward, Larin was again on a bit of an island by himself, doing his best to factor in the match for a side that has struggled to find the needed goals.

    Focusing his efforts on exposing Nick Hagglund, the Brampton, Ontario-native showed his assets, using his strength to hold off the defender as he sought to get on the end of a Molino through-ball, resulting in a collision with Joe Bendik, who rushed off his line to collect.

    With Toronto largely focused on shutting down Kaka through the middle, Orlando sought to utilize the width allowed. Brek Shea in particular would repeatedly try and pick out Larin. The first attempt was met by the forward as he was sandwiched by a pair of defenders, forcing his header wide, while a later attempt arrived with a little too much energy; Larin was unable to bring down the quickly incoming service.

    He would make way for Bryan Rochez in the 67th minute, having had two attempts at goal, both off, and completing five of his seven passes. Larin strayed offside four times.

    Tesho Akindele

    Akindele was back on the bench for Dallas as they played a pair of road matches, drawing 1-1 in Colorado and then winning 1-4 in the Texas derby away to Houston. Akindele has been held out of the starting eleven in Dallas' last three matches, entering from the bench in the second half in each.

    In Colorado, Akindele would come on in the 64th minute, replacing goal-scorer Mauro Diaz, who had given the visitors the lead in the 31st minute. A 59th minute red card to Blas Perez meant that Dallas were down to ten men, so Akindele was largely tasked with seeing out the result.

    As it happened, Nick LaBrocca would equalize with an amazing strike in the 79th minute – nothing to be done about that – but the Calgary-born forward would nearly respond in kind, though his effort could only find the outside-netting following a long, rangy run up the right. It was his only attempt of the match.

    Akindele would complete six of eight passes, adding three recoveries, two clearances, and an interception to his stat-line that night.

    The following week on Friday night, Akindele would again replaced Diaz, this time in the 74th minute, with the match all but decided.

    Dallas had taken a two-goal lead in the first 21 minutes through Ryan Hollingshead and David Texeira. Houston would respond through Giles Barnes in the 32nd minute, but goals three minutes apart from Diaz and Fabian Castillo starting in the 52nd minute, gave the visitors an insurmountable 1-4 advantage.

    In his sixteen minutes, Akindele would help ensure Houston could find no way back, completing ten of thirteen passes, making two clearances, one interception, and a recovering, winning a single foul, as the match wound down.

    Prior to the matches, there was an interesting interview with Teal Bunbury that tangentially involved Akindele, as Bunbury spoke about his own decision-making process when faced with the option of representing either Canada or the US, as he indeed decided. In a manner, it even contained an apology for any 'mistruths' he represented to the Canadian media, perhaps a reference to an infamous interview with It's Called Football. It is worth a read for Canadian footy fans.

    Steven Vitoria

    Vitoria had a bit of a nightmare in his ninth-consecutive start for Philadelphia as they fell 4-1 to Columbus on April 25th, possibly guilty of not doing enough on any of the four Crew goals. The match would herald the end of his ironman run, as he was not included in the squad that lost to Toronto FC the following week.

    Once more as the left-sided centre-back, alongside the out of position Maurice Edu, Vitoria was under severe pressure, as the struggling Union failed to quell a rampant Crew attack at every turn.

    The Toronto-born defender was slow to get out and pressure Ethan Finlay wide on the first goal in the 21st minute, caught in two minds with Federico Higuain making a run off his shoulder, allowing a free cross to the back-side, which Kei Kamara easily brought down before finishing calmly.

    He was then unable to get up to mount a challenge or clear out Waylon Francis' left-sided cross in the 32nd minute, a cross which fell to Finlay, who touched in for a simple finish of his own.

    Then, before Philadelphia could regroup at half-time, Justin Meram would add a third, Vitoria again partially at fault as he was slow to step up to the ball-carrier, who burst away from Edu and Ray Gaddis to get off a shot that handcuffed keeper John McCarthy, who got a touch, only to watch as the ball dribbled over the line.

    And then the big defender was helpless to cut out the Kamara through-ball in the 73rd minute that led to Finlay's second and Columbus' fourth of the afternoon.

    It was a rough night for the Union.

    Despite that, it could have been worse were it not for Vitoria's contributions, making an impressive nine recoveries, nine clearances, two interceptions, a block and a tackle, all without conceding a single foul. He even completed 23 of his 27 passing attempts in Columbus.

    Whether he was simply rested against Toronto after a busy few months, or actually benched, is a matter for debate. Philadelphia's struggles have hardly been his fault, and would likely have been worse without his calming influence through the first two months of the season.

    Marcel de Jong

    de Jong started a fourth-straight match for Kansas City on April 25th in a wild 4-4 draw in Houston against the Dynamo – it was his sixth appearance of the season, all as a starter.

    From his left-back position, de Jong had disjointed outing.

    He collected an assist inside of two minutes – his first in MLS – pressuring a turnover out of Kofi Sarkodie high on the left-touch-line, before bumping the loose ball towards Krisztian Nemeth, who did the rest – running forty-yards towards goal before beating Tyler Deric with a dipping shot to the far-side. He would nearly add a second later when his overhit cross fell to Jalil Anibaba, who pulled back to Servando Carrasco at the top of the area, only for his effort to sail over the bar.

    de Jong showed excellent awareness and hustle on a later play, recovering deep to block a Sarkodie cross after he was exposed by a slipped ball down that side for the full-back to chase.

    The Newmarket, Ontario-native would complete 16 of 21 passes, make three interceptions, two recoveries, two clearances, and a tackle, before making way for Amadou Dia in the 63rd minute with Sporting trailing 3-1 at the time.

    It was a largely ineffective outing for de Jong, as KC struggled to string together passes for large swathes of the match. After he left however, they would score three more goals in the final sixteen minutes (plus five minutes of stoppage-time), as well as conceding another, resulting in the high-scoring draw.

    de Jong would find himself out of the squad the following round when KC return home to beat Chicago 1-0, losing his place to Seth Sinovic. A potentially worrying sign for Canadian fans with the Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying on the horizon.

    Jonathan Osorio

    Osorio saw his run of five-straight starts end in Orlando, as he was replaced by Jackson in the lineup – he would come on in the 66th minute to replace the ineffectual Robbie Findley, to make his first substitute appearance of the season.

    Taking up the left-side of midfield, Osorio was anonymous, as he has been for much of the season. His only real intervention in the match was a shove in the back of Kevin Molino that drew a yellow card – his first booking of the season and one of two fouls he committed in his 24 minutes on the pitch.

    The Toronto, Ontario-native did however complete all eight of his pass attempts, while making a single recovery.

    He would be an unused substitute in TFC's match in Philadelphia the following week.

    The Rest

    The big news outside of league play was that Will Johnson returned to the pitch for the first time since that horrible double-leg break suffered last September in Toronto.

    The Timbers Captain played 63 minutes for Portland's USL T2 side against Arizona United on April 25th, leading the side to a 0-2 win. And then went the full ninety the following week in a 0-2 loss at home to the Orange County Blues. Reports indicate Johnson took a total of six shots through the two matches, an encouraging sign of his impeding return to MLS play. Just in time to get up to match fitness before the international commitments start to come around this summer.

    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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