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Found 13 results

  1. Cyle Larin Larin made his second-straight start for Orlando City as they beat Colorado 2-0 midweek in Round 17, adding another goal to his impressive rookie campaign – it was his tenth start and thirteenth appearance of the season. Following a quiet first half, Larin came to life in the second, making a good near-post run towards a cross from Carlos Rivas on the left. Similar movement allowed him to direct a right-sided Rafael Ramos cross on goal, but it was easily saved. Having gotten his aim set, Larin would score in the 62nd minute, getting on the end of another Rivas ball as the speedy wide attacker beat Joseph Greenspan down the left to hit a curling ball behind the Colorado back-line. Larin arrived perfectly to guide a right-footed touch past Clint Irwin to give the hosts the lead - it was his sixth goal for Orlando this year. The Brampton, Ontario-native contributed defensively as well, covering the dangerous Drew Moor on a Rapids free-kick, marking him all the way back to the Lions six-yard box. Larin had three shots – two on and one off, completed seven of eight passes, and added a clearance to his name before making way for Pedro Ribeiro in the 69th minute. Prior to departing for the Canada camp, Larin discussed the result post-match. Jonathan Osorio Osorio started both of TFC's Round 17 matches, beating Montreal 3-1 on Wednesday and drawing 0-0 against a steadfast DC United on Saturday – they were his eleventh and twelfth starts of the season. Against Montreal in a thrilling Toronto night, Osorio was excellent in the build-up, completing all but four of his some-35 passes, making seven recoveries, two tackles, and an interception; getting a little dirty with a pair of fouls. As he has in recent weeks, the Toronto, Ontario-native looked more and more comfortable with his role in a midfield dominated by Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco's need to get on the ball. Drifting wide, Osorio would receive a ball from deep and look to feed either of his higher profile teammates, alternative wide and central movements in search of the ball and space. He showed some excellent footwork out wide, skipping over a tackle to set up Giovinco, who saw his attempt blocked. And nearly stole in on goal himself, making an overlapping run down the left to get on the end of a Jozy Altidore pass. The ball was a tad underhit, allowing Bakary Soumare to get in the required blocking tackle – Osorio's only attempt at goal, blocked. Come Saturday, he reprised his left-sided midfield role with another sublime passing display, completing all but four of his 37 attempts. His aim was still a little off, that first goal of the season still proving elusive, dragging a low shot from the top of the box after Giovinco found him atop the arc. Osorio stepped around the sliding Nick DeLeon, but his effort was wide of the right-post. Osorio showed further good vision to lay a ball down the left-side of the area, picking out the run of Giovinco with a through-ball, but Bill Hamid was equal to the threat. He added four recoveries and a foul to his afternoon. Jay Chapman Chapman featured in both of TFC's Round 17 matches, coming on as a sub in each, before getting his first MLS start the following week in LA – bring his season appearance total up to five. Against Montreal, he came on in the 78th minute for Marky Delgado with Toronto already in a 2-1 lead – a third would seal up the result shortly. Chapman contributed some strong work down the right side, both offensively and defensively, sending in a good cross that won a corner kick and helping to see out the victory. He completed seven of his ten passes, adding two recoveries and a tackle, committing one foul. In DC on Saturday, the Brampton, Ontario-native again came on in the 78th minute, this time for Osorio, once more putting in a solid, if brief, shift. He completed eight of ten passes, made two tackles and a recovery, committing another single foul. There was one play in particular that showed a glimpse of what Chapman can be: a tenacious and versatile central midfielder with good range. He drifted out wide to confront Chris Korb on the ball, muscling him off it, then deftly plucking away the now-loosened ball to initiate a Toronto move – very well done. The rookie would get his first start in LA a week later, manning the left-side of the midfield. Despite the tough outing for Toronto – they lost 4-0 – Chapman showed well, intercepting a Baggio Husidic ball and laying a pass down the left for Giovinco that was a little too far ahead of the Italian phenom. A Justin Morrow ball was played a touch beyond his reach and a cross into the area from Chapman was cut out by Leonardo. Defensively he was solid, intercepting a Robbie Keane ball played across the top of the box and clearing the danger, tracking back to hurry Keane on a later chance, preventing the hat-trick scorer from getting a clean shot off from the top of the arc, and hacking down Robbie Rogers in the middle, escaping a booking for his zealotry. He would make way for Dan Lovitz in the 70th minute – his longest outing of the season – having completed 27 of 35 passes, making four recoveries and a clearance, conceding just a single foul. He was back on the bench in Round 19 when Toronto played in New York. Kofi Opare Opare returned to the starting lineup following a two-match absence for DC's Round 17 midweek match in Chicago, taking up his left-sided centre-back role alongside Bobby Boswell. Opare barely missed a beat, rising up with the Chicago keeper to guide a header wide from a left-sided Luis Silva corner kick and showing a stellar burst of pace to get back and pressure Kennedy Igboananike on a break, forced a rushed shot that hit the outside of the post. That same recovery ability was on display again when Mike Magee was able to ghost in behind the DC back-line, receiving a long pass from Guly do Prado. Opare made up the ground quickly, preventing Magee from making the most of his fortune. Having completed 24 of 30 passes, while racking up seven clearances, five recoveries, four interceptions, and two tackles on the night, Opare was a massive presence in the air as Chicago flung ball in late, looking for an equalizer, helping his side see out the 0-1 win away from home. Despite that impressive contribution, the Niagara Falls-raised Opare was an unused substitute on the weekend in Toronto and again the following round when DC travelled to Seattle. Ashtone Morgan Having missed the midweek round, Morgan returned to the Toronto starting eleven on Saturday to make one final appearance before joining Canada – it was his twelfth start of the season. From his familiar left-back role, Morgan was able to find acres of space up that flank with DC laying off and staying compact. His best play of the match was a sneaky throw-in combination with Giovinco that nearly allowed the Italian maestro to steal in down the left-side of the area. The Toronto, Ontario-native would be scythed down by Facundo Coria in the 89th minute, the DC sub seeing a yellow card for his action, and Morgan would have a go at goal himself from distance following a half-cleared corner kick, but it was blocked. He completed just seventeen of his 32 passes, but made five recoveries, four tackles, three clearances, and an interception, winning a trio of fouls in the process. Maxim Tissot Tissot got the nod when Montreal visited Toronto for a midweek Round 17 encounter, making his fourth start of the season. On the left-side of the midfield, the Gatineau, Quebec-native had a rather quiet match. He had one good passage, making a strong inside run that led to a chance for Jack McInerney. That attempt was blocked and Andres Romero's follow-up went wide. Tissot contributed at the back on occasion, tracking deep to help contain and pester Giovinco. He completed fifteen of 23 passes, made two recoveries, one clearance, and one tackle, before being replaced by Duka in the 57th minute. He was on the bench come the weekend when Montreal travelled to Philadelphia. Tesho Akindele Akindele began Dallas' Texas derby against Houston on the bench, coming on in the 60th minute for David Texeira, to make his final appearance before the Gold Cup – it was his fifteenth appearance of the season and sixth from the bench. With his side already ahead by two goals, Akindele injected some energy into seeing out the result, beating DaMarcus Beasley to whip a low ball through the box and getting past the full-back once more to pick out Mauro Diaz with a pull-back – it was cut out before reaching it's target. Akindele too chipped in defensively, winning a corner kick in his own area. The Calgary, Alberta-native completed 19 of his 22 passes, made three recoveries and a clearance in his half-hour, winning a pair of foul and conceding one. One day earlier, it was announced that he had extended his tenure with Dallas, signing a new, multi-year deal that will see him with the club through 2018. Patrice Bernier Bernier featured in both of Montreal's Round 17 matches, coming on as a sub in Toronto before starting way to Philadelphia on the weekend. Against Toronto, the Brossard, Quebec-native entered the fray in the 77th minute for Ignacio Piatti, completing ten of his twelve passing, adding three recoveries, an interception, and a clearance in his brief cameo. Inserted into the starting eleven in Philly, sitting deep in the midfield alongside Callum Mallace, Bernier had a difficult evening against a rampant Union attack, hitting their stride, though Montreal scrapped to a 2-2 draw. He would see a yellow card in the 22nd minute – his first of the season – for blocking off a Cristian Maidana run, ending a potential counterattack. Bernier would come up with a key block in the area against Maidana who attempted an end-line run. Having cut back on Laurent Ciman, Maidana looked to play into the area, but Bernier stayed with him, ending the threat. With Philadelphia on the front foot, Bernier was forced to do a lot of deep tracking. He would pick up a second yellow card in the 67th minute for a rash sliding challenge on Vincent Nogueira, who attempted to initiate another counter. The ensuing red card was Bernier's first in MLS in his 95th appearance for the Impact. It was very uncharacteristic of the veteran midfielder, who has seen just thirteen bookings in his four seasons with Montreal, though it was his fourth foul of the match. Bernier's passing was again supreme, missing just one of some thirty attempts, adding five recoveries, two clearances, two tackles, and an interception prior to departing. He owned up to his error post-match. Having served his one-match suspension, Bernier was on the bench against Columbus in Round 19. Marcel de Jong de Jong made his eighth start of the season for Kansas City as they beat Colorado 2-0 on the Saturday night of Round 17 – it was his ninth and final appearance before a Gold Cup enforced hiatus. Ostensibly manning the left-back position, de Jong was an attacking force, winning a corner kick with an early cross that greatly troubled Clint Irwin and ballooning a later effort well over the bar. His flair in attack is admirable – he made a dashing inside run in the 41st minute to collect a knockdown from Krisztian Nemeth and laying a ball down the side of the area for Dom Dwyer, it skipped just beyond the striker's reach – but when committed forward, it leaves him capable of being exposed at the back – his positioning was found faulty when Luis Solignac was sent in down the attacking-right, but Tim Melia bailed out his teammate, making the save and holding the rebound. The Newmarket, Ontario-native would complete twelve of his 23 passes, compiling five clearances, four interceptions, three recoveries, and three tackles before making way for Saad Abdul-Salaam in the 78th minute. Will Johnson Johnson started his fourth and fifth matches of the season for Portland over Rounds 17 and 18, helping to guide his side to a pair of wins over Western Conference opponents, Seattle and San Jose. In the 4-1 win over Seattle, Johnson was strong, but still looked like a man still finding his feet after the long injury lay-off. Sitting deep for most of the match, the Toronto-born midfielder was not involved in much of the attack, though he did make his impact felt. Fanendo Adi was able to collect the rebound from a weak Johnson shot from distance, testing Stefan Frei with an effort, and Johnson played a secondary role in forcing the turnover that led to Adi's second goal, playing an early pass in the build-up as well. His only shot was blocked, but Johnson completed 37 of his 42 passes, ending the match with two recoveries and two clearances, committing and winning a pair of fouls each way. The following weekend against San Jose, Johnson was again conservatively influential, once more sitting deep, orchestrating and supporting from there. This time however, he had four shots, some good, some not so much. He horribly screwed a right-footer wide from the top of the box after Darlington Nagbe pulled back to him, but he nearly made amends for that minutes before half-time with another attempt from distance – some thirty yards – that bent agonizingly wide of the top right-corner of the goal. Another attempt in the second half, this time from an Adi layoff, was blocked, and his final attempt at goal was a supreme example of his iron will (get it?), fighting off a pair of defenders to get on the end of an Alvas Powell cross from the right at the back-post, directing his header towards goal, requiring a block and winning a corner. There was one comical moment when Gaston Fernandez thought he had scored a late-winner, only to be denied by the off-side flag. Johnson recovered his discarded shirt and pointed out the assistant referee, somehow helping to avoid a booking for his frustrated teammate. Portland would find the eventual winner. Johnson completed 35 of 42 passes, adding seven recoveries and four tackles, committing a single foul. Anthony Jackson-Hamel Jackson-Hamel came on in the 83rd minute for Dilly Duka in Montreal's 1-2 home loss to New York City in Round 18 – it was his fourth such appearance of the season. With the Impact having fallen behind to a second David Villa strike, Jackson-Hamel joined Jack McInerney up top in search of a late equalizer. The Quebec City, Quebec-native nearly proved the hero, but just could not stretch enough to get on the end of a Marco Donadel free-kick. His stat-line for the brief cameo was all zeros. He was an unused substitute in Round 19 when Montreal hosted Columbus. Jordan Hamilton Hamilton entered Toronto's heavy loss in Los Angeles in the 86th minute, replacing Robbie Findley with the score already three goals in the Galaxy's favour – it was his first run-out of the season. The Scarborough, Ontario-native was energetic, but could not make headway against a tough LA defense, though he did complete all three of his passes. He was an unused substitute the following round in New York. The Rest Kianz Froese was on the bench for all three of Vancouver's matches over this spell, but failed to see any playing time following the opening of his account last round. He was however the subject of a feature at MLSsoccer.com, expressing his thoughts on scoring his first MLS goal. Wandrille Lefevre was an unused substitute for Montreal in Rounds 17 and 18. There was some huge news for the French-born defender on July 2nd, as he became a Canadian citizen in a ceremony held at Stade Saputo – mmm, Maple crème cookies. Russell Teibert was on the bench for Vancouver in New England in Round 17, but was not used, departing for Canada and the Gold Cup shortly thereafter. Chris Mannella was an unused substitute for Toronto in LA. Each week (ideally) 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
  2. Kianz Froese Froese made his sixth appearance of the season for Vancouver in their 1-2 win away to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, coming on for Kekuta Manneh in the 71st minute. Taking up a right-sided midfield position, the Cuban-born attacker was very active down that side, making a nuisance of himself with his energy. That ability would prove useful on a quick Vancouver break, racing to give Octavio Rivero an option to the right, receiving a slip pass and beating Luis Robles with a low right-footer across to the left-side of goal. Froese began the play himself, intercepting an under-hit New York ball in the centre-circle before rushing forward to score his first MLS goal. Having celebrated that moment, Froese would retain his composure, tracking all the way back to pressure Manolo Sanchez after Pa Modou Kah whiffed on a header. That effort took a little off the shot, allowing David Ousted to make the needed save and preserve the victory. He scored on his only shot of the night, completing five of his six passes, adding two interceptions and a recovery, while winning a foul. Froese was interviewed post-match. Jonathan Osorio Osorio started his tenth match of the season for Toronto FC's 0-2 loss to New York City this round – it was his fifth-straight start having recovered from an injury and lack of form that saw him miss out on three matches. Stationed on the left-side of the midfield, Osorio was a force all match long, showing some of that excellent footwork in tight spaces to play away from pressure and keep the ball moving. Over the past few weeks, Osorio has been looking more and more comfortable in the renovated TFC midfield. There were times earlier in the year when he looked a little lost for ideas, unsure of how to get involved after ceding dominance to the likes of Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco; that is no longer a concern. Tucking in a little from that left-flank, Osorio was regularly on the ball, misplaying just six of some thirty-plus attempts, and his picking of passes have taken on an interesting shape. Consider the ball that he played to Bradley that led to a Luke Moore chance: Osorio shapes as though he is going to play a cross-field ball, instead he cuts the follow-through, stabbing a ball forward. That sort of disguise on a through-ball helped Toronto work through a dense New York midfield regularly, though it did not result in any goals. The Toronto, Ontario-native may have won a penalty call on another day, taking a hefty shove in the back from defender RJ Allen on one play. He was caught a little flat-footed on an Eriq Zavaleta that led to New York's second goal, the pass was intercepted by Mix Diskerud and worked over to David Villa, who notched his second of the afternoon. Osorio would show some more good footwork at the edge of the area late to find Giovinco, but his effort was blocked. The midfielder added three recoveries, two tackles, and an interception to his stat-line, conceding a foul and winning two in a combative match. Ashtone Morgan Morgan made his eleventh start of the season for Toronto in their loss to New York City, picking up a slight knock in the process that would keep him out of TFC's midweek clash with Montreal the following round. Manning the left-back spot, Morgan was forceful all night, repeatedly sending crosses in and linking up or providing an option in attack. One cross fell to Justin Morrow at the back-post, but he could not settle it for a shot, while another ball in, after Giovinco had played him down the left, was met by Bradley, only for Josh Saunders to come up with a huge save on the TFC skipper. The Toronto, Ontario-native was harshly shown a yellow card in first half stoppage-time for a challenge on Mehdi Ballouchy, when the midfielder recklessly slid into Morgan, who pulled out of the tackle. It was his second booking of the season. He would hang one more ball up to the back-post for Moore, forcing a defensive-header out of Chris Wingert, who nearly beat his own keeper in the process. Like Osorio, Morgan was caught a little slow on New York's second goal, allowing Tommy McNamara to get goal-side in the build-up that eventually found Villa on the attacking-left in space. He would come off in the 83rd minute for Robbie Findley, having completed 26 of his 41 passes, racking up four recoveries and three tackles, committing two fouls and winning another. Cyle Larin Larin made his ninth start of the season for Orlando City as the fell 2-0 away to Montreal on Saturday – it was his twelfth appearance of his rookie season. Through the opening passages, Larin had a flurry of chances, getting on the end of a Rafael Ramos cross with his head, touching it wide as he was clattered by Montreal keeper, Evan Bush. Shortly thereafter, he would make a neat delayed run to get ball-side on the experience Laurent Ciman, deflecting a Brek Shea cross over the bar. The chances would continue in the second half, turning on a ball in the area and sending a left-footer wide – he could not quite wrap his foot around it, before chesting down a long ball from Luke Boden that he was unable to get on the end of under pressure from Ciman. A ball would run away from him in the 84th minute as he tangled with Bakary Soumare, and a chance was nicked off his boot by Ciman sixty-seconds later. The Brampton, Ontario-native would end the night with three shots, all off, having completed ten of his twelve passes, and made one clearance. He was offside twice and won a single foul. Will Johnson Johnson continued to work his way back into the Portland lineup, making a second-straight and third-overall start for the Timbers when they met Houston on Saturday night. Once more alongside Diego Chara at the base of the midfield, the Toronto-born Johnson showed glimpses of his old self, while also the occasional moment that he was still not fully up to pace. With both sides ostensibly playing five-man midfields, the match was a little muddled, the middle of the pitch clogged with bodies. And once Portland took the lead in the 34th minute through Max Urruti, Johnson tended to sit deep, protecting a lead at home. He completed all but eight of some forty-plus passes, adding eight recoveries, five interceptions, and a tackle to his night, winning a single foul as well. Johnson spoke about the team's mentality post-match: “Confidence is high, guys are playing well. The defense is getting shutouts and the attackers are finding enough goals for us to win games. It’s good. When you have that feeling, that confidence, it’s a nice thing but we’ve all got to understand it takes grinding and hard work. We are not just going to walk on the field because we have won a few games in a row and get a result. For me the biggest part mentally is we’ve stayed focused and we’ve taken it one game at a time to just get those three points.” Kyle Bekker Bekker made his eighth appearance of the season for FC Dallas in their Friday night 1-1 draw at Colorado. Coming on at half-time for Michel, Bekker took up a central position, picking up the first assist of his career with the most simple of passes, playing a short pass to Fabian Castillo on the left-corner of the box for the Colombian to do the rest. The Oakville, Ontario-native had one shot at goal himself a week after being denied his first goal by Stefan Frei, but his attempt was straight at the keeper after Michael Barrios had pulled back to him following a goal-kick that was flicked on by Blas Perez. He completed 17 of 23 passes, while making eight recoveries, a clearance, and a tackle. Patrice Bernier Bernier made his ninth appearance of the season for Montreal in their win over Orlando City, coming on in the 72nd minute for Marco Donadel. The Brossard, Quebec-native completed all but one of his twelve passes, sending a cross to the left-post for Maxim Tissot, who sent his header agonizingly wide, and then played one of his signature long balls to spring Dominic Oduro, leading to his goal in the 93rd minute. Bernier was denied an assist by Oduro's initial cross being cutout, before he beat the Orlando keeper. The veteran added a recovery and a tackle to his cameo performance. Maxim Tissot Tissot made his third start of the season for Montreal against Orlando. On the left-side of the midfield, Tissot was hammered in a challenge from Cristian Higuita through the early goings, and played a nice leading ball for Ignacio Piatti down the middle that just skittered away from him. The Gatineau, Quebec-native found himself wide open on another attack, but was overlooked by Piatti, who opted for a weak shot instead. He then failed to direct a header on target after Bernier found him attacking the back-post – his only attempt of the match. He completed 28 of his 37 passes, making six recoveries and a pair of tackles; winning and conceding a foul each way. Russell Teibert Teibert came on for Vancouver in the 88th minute for Nicolas Mezquida to make his fourth substitute's appearance of the season, bringing his season appearance total to fourteen ahead of the Gold Cup. With the Whitecaps having relinquished half of their two-goal lead, Teibert was tasked with closing out the few remaining minutes. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-native completed both his passes, suceeding in keeping New York from equalizing. The Rest Tesho Akindele, Jay Chapman, Kofi Opare, and Marcel de Jong were all available this round, unused substitutes on the bench for their respective sides. Each week (normally) 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
  3. Cyle Larin Larin may have began Orlando City's match in Chicago on the bench, but with his side trailing 2-1, he made his way on in the 66th minute, replacing Pedro Ribeiro - his third-appearance from the bench and his eleventh-overall this season. He immediately set about pestering the Fire defenses, getting into a wrestling match for position with centre-back Adailton, but his most important contribution came in the 82nd minute when he scored the fifth goal of his rookie campaign. Larin was dispossessed by Adailton, but stuck with the play, winning it back and finding a pocket of space to unleash a right-footed blast from some 25 yards, beating Jon Busch low to the left-post, his shot banking in off the woodwork. Having leveled the match at twos, the Brampton, Ontario-native would not rest on his laurels, continuing his hard work in the 86th minute when Orlando took the lead courtesy an Adailton own-goal. Carlos Rivas was sprung down the left-channel by a Kaka ball, attempting to pick out the run of Larin in the middle, only for his delivery to bank in off the Chicago centre-back. Initially, Larin had motored into position to be an option, but upon realizing the situation, he wisely used his stature to prevent the recovering Joevin Jones from getting to the trickling ball, not allowing him to make the required goal-line clearance. That goal would prove the winner, as Orlando City picked up a solid 2-3 road victory, Though his stat-line was unimpressive – he scored on his only shot, did not complete his only pass, while adding a pair of clearances and a tackle, as well as straying offside twice – Larin was the crucial factor in both of Orlando's late goals, steering the side to victory. Post-match he spoke of the importance of winning on the road: "I think it's important that we move up in the table. I think we fought back and were on them the whole game, we needed to get the ball then, then you saw it when we came back, we started playing, and we started scoring." And of turning around the match from a losing position: "I think when we really believe in each other, we'll come back. We're a really good team, and I think once we believe in each other, and play with a sense of urgency, we'll be fine." A very modest and team-based attitude from the young Canadian. He also spoke about getting ready for the Canadian National Team with World Cup Qualifying and the Gold Cup ahead. Maxim Tissot Tissot featured in two of Montreal's three fixtures over this time period, coming on against Vancouver, and starting at Columbus – he was rested in New York against City in Round Fifteen. In Wednesday's 2-1 win over Vancouver, Tissot came on for Andres Romero in the 63rd minute, taking up the right-side midfield position. He was not particularly involved in the Impact's attack down that flank, spending more of his time tracking the movement of Cristian Techera down his side. He did manage one shot – it was off-target, while completing nine of his ten passes, adding an interception and a recovery. Come Saturday and a trip to Columbus, Tissot was in the starting eleven, returning to his more familiar left-sided midfield role. Aside from playing an early ball into the box that was just a little too far ahead of Jack McInerney – Crew keeper, Steve Clark, collected it easily – the Gatineau, Quebec-native would have to wait until the 55th minute to make his mark on the match. Romero scooped a ball into the area for McInerney, who saw his sliding chance denied by Clark, but Tissot was on hand to tap in a right-footer from close range, scoring his first goal of the season. Minutes later, Tissot nearly added a second from very similar circumstances, on hand once more to pounce on the rebound from a McInerney header, only for Clark to pull-off an epic double-save – Tissot may have been offside anyways. The third-year player was at his most dangerous with his late, unmarked runs into attacking positions – he received a ball from Romero on one such occasion when the Argentine worked in from the left, only to horribly miss-hit his attempt, skewing it well wide. He would make way for Victor Cabrera in the 82nd minute with Montreal protecting a 0-2 lead, en route to a 1-2 win – Federico Higuain would score in stoppage-time. Tissot ended the match with two shots – one on (his goal) and one off, completing 14 of 23 passes, making two recoveries and an interception, committing a single foul. Post-match he noted, “It’s been a lot of time talking about getting that first win on the road, so we are really pleased. We stayed focused the entire game and stuck to the game plan tonight.” Wandrille Lefevre Lefevre started all three of Montreal's matches, bringing his season total up to four. Against Vancouver as the right-sided centre-back, he was immense defensively, racking up eight clearances, six recoveries, five blocks, two interceptions, and two tackles, all while conceding just a single foul. He showed his mobility, tracking Darren Mattocks all the way to end-line to cut out a cross, conceding a corner kick, and then moved out wide quickly to pressure Kekuta Manneh, later he did the same to Octavio Rivero, snuffing out an attack with good horizontal defending. And he was fearless in the wall, getting his head on a Pedro Morales free-kick, again directing it out for a corner. The French-born defender completed all but eight of his 35-odd passes in a winning effort. In Columbus on the weekend, he was similarly active in the face of the threat posed by Kei Kamara, one of the hottest goal-scorers in MLS. Lefevre tracked Kamara to the near-post on one chance, limiting the result to a corner kick, and then making up for a poor clearing header of his own, which fell to Kristinn Steindorsson, following up to get in a needed clearance. He did have one miscommunication with his keeper, Evan Bush, touching out for a corner when the keeper wanted to collect, but that did not prevent Montreal from seeing out the road victory. Lefever was again influential, contributing eleven clearances, two tackles, two recoveries, and an interception; again, committing just a single foul. The following weekend, a match in New York against City, was an eventful one for Lefevre, culpable on two of New York's goals, but scoring one himself in the 3-1 loss. He was dragged out wide in his pursuit of Ned Grabavoy, leading to David Villa's 31st minute strike, failing to cut out the pass that picked out Villa and was horribly isolated on New York's second, pressured into a slip and a turnover by the hard-charging of Kwadko Poku and the cunning positioning of Villa, who prevented Lefevre from playing by to his keeper by lurking, ready to intercept. Poku capitalized on the slip, stealing possession and finding Mix Diskerud, who beat Bush with a low shot. He needed his teammates to come back and provide options to play out of that dead-end. Despite those two setbacks, Lefevre would still compile seven recoveries, six clearances, two tackles, and an interception, though his passing was a bit off, completing less than half of his some 25 attempts – Montreal looked a little tired, diminishing the options. But come the 88th minute, he wiped away the frustration, scoring his first MLS goal when he arrived completely unmarked at the back-post to power a header from a deep Laurent Ciman free-kick on the left past Josh Saunders in the New York goal – it was his only 'shot' of the night. Post-match he commented on playing on a narrow pitch: “It was hard at the beginning to find our marks on this pitch. We were trying to play long balls in the first half, but we played much better in the second half. And scoring his first: “It was a great delivery by Laurent to score my first goal, but I can’t be happy because we were losing 2-0 and we still lost that game.” Lefevre was featured in an MLSsoccer.com piece around that period as well. Will Johnson Having been rested for the trip to Colorado, Johnson returned to the Portland midfield for their 2-0 win over New England, lining up alongside Diego Chara at the base of the formation – it was his second start of the season. The Toronto-born Johnson showed glimpses of his former self – putting in a strong tackle on Scott Caldwell that spurred a Timbers counter, Max Urruti would sent the chance wide, and then ripping a low right-footed shot from distance wide of the left-post having collected a lay-off from Sebastian Fernandez. His passing was succinct as ever, completing all but four of his 45-plus attempts, including one nice ball down the right for Dairon Asprilla – he would drags his shot wide of the far-post. But a woeful free-kick in the 64th minute from long-range that drifted horribly wide showed that he still has a few things to work on before it can be said he is the same ol' Will Johnson. Blushes aside, Johnson did play a role in the build-up that led to Fanendo Adi's second of the night, making one of the early passes in midfield that led to the goal, securing the 2-0 win for the Timbers. Johnson took two shots – both off-target, adding two interceptions and a recovery to his credit, conceding a single foul. He spoke about a possible return to the Canadian National Team in a feature, noting of the upcoming summer: “It’s an interesting situation. It’s a big summer for us. Obviously this is the last competitive camp before the Gold Cup, so I think it kind of makes sense to see where I’m at and see if I fit into Benito’s plans for the Gold Cup. So I’m thankful they’re giving me the opportunity to at least showcase myself.” He continued: “Obviously the timing is not great coming off a long injury, but I’m starting to feel good about where I am and think I can compete even on the international level.” As readers will know, Johnson will not be participating in the Gold Cup. Kofi Opare Opare started both of DC United's matches in Round Fourteen before spending Fifteen's match in Orlando on the bench – bringing his season start total up to twelve; it will be interesting to see how the battle for a starting position between him and Steve Birnbaum for a spot in the DC eleven. Midweek against Chicago, Opare was solid at both ends of the pitch, though he could not prevent David Accam from getting on the end of a Quincy Amarikwa ball leading to the game's opening goal in the 28th minute. He would make up for that short-coming later in the match, when despite getting beat in a battle with Amarikwa, Opare flung himself at the ground, doing just enough to put off the attack – last-ditch defending indeed. At the attacking end, he was a presence in the box, getting on the end of successive corner kicks, both directed off-target under heavy pressure – he would end the night with three attempts at goal – two off and one blocked. Opare completed all but five of some 35-passes, making six recoveries, three clearances, two interceptions, a block, and a tackle throughout. Post-match he disgusted the game of two halves – DC fell behind in the first before responding with three in the second for the 3-1 home win: “Obviously the first half started a little slow. It looked a little lethargic I thought. The second half we, at half time, had time to regroup and adjust some things tactically and I think we made some minor changes that in the second half we implemented. Obviously with the addition of Fabi definitely helped us. Him, Davy, they definitely made a difference when they came on. Also, Facundo as well.” On Saturday against Toronto FC, the Ghana-born, Niagara Falls-raised defender had his hands full with the machinations of Sebastian Giovinco. Giovinco got the better of him from a Luke Moore through-ball - Andrew Dykstra rushed out to force the attacker wide – but Opare made amends in their next meeting, getting out wide left to close down Giovinco, forcing a rushed-shot that was off-target. Giovinco would win the next one, Opare unable to keep pace with his dash across the top of the box, but nothing came of the move. And Opare nearly scored himself, robbed of his second goal of the season by an off-side flag after he swept in a free-kick that TFC keeper Chris Konopka failed to collect. Replays showed the decision may have been a harsh one. Back to his running battle with Giovinco, Opare would lose once more, allowing the attacker to spin away, but Opare recovered, rushing back to prevent Giovinco slicing towards goal. However, come the 83rd minute Giovinco would have the last laugh, scoring his second of the night when Opare held off applying pressure, allowing Giovinco to beat Dykstra with aplomb from distance. Opare would pick up a yellow card in the 88th minute for bundling over Jackson on the edge of the area after conceding possession – it was his first booking of the season; another measure of how solid he has been since stepping into the lineup. He completed all but eight of his 25-odd passes, make four recoveries, one interception, and one clearance; his booking was his only foul of the match, against Giovinco, rather impressive, though the Italian did score two goals. Marcel de Jong Having returned from a lengthy injury lay-off last round, de Jong was in the starting lineup for Kansas City as they dispatched with Seattle 1-0 on Saturday – it was his seventh start and eighth appearance of the season. Taking up a left-sided midfield role, de Jong was full of energy early, at times, nearly leading the line, swapping positions with Graham Zusi, for Sporting as they took the match to the Sounders. He had one left-footer from range whisk just over the crossbar and another in short order that was deflected wide for a corner kick. And third attempt at goal was straight at Stefan Frei, who handled the effort easily. The attacking wide player also showed his ability to link up with teammates, exhibiting some neat interplay with full-back Amadou Dia down the left and pulling back to the top of the area twice – the first was met by Connor Hallisey, sending his effort over, and the other was into a crowd of defenders. The Newmarket, Ontario-native added a bit of defensive work, tracking all the way to his own corner to win a throw-in, and a bit of physicality, catching Chad Marshall in the midsection with a stray boot, before making way for Dom Dwyer in the 58th minute having run his socks off. de Jong had five shots – three off and one blocked, completing eight of his sixteen pass attempts, and adding two clearances and a recovery in his hour on the pitch. Jonathan Osorio With Michael Bradley away with the US National Team in Europe, Osorio was handed the keys to the attacking midfield in Toronto's 1-2 win in DC – it was Osorio's fourth-straight start bringing his season tally up to nine at the time. From that central role, Osorio looked very good, showing that after a slow start to the season he has grown accustomed to his new surroundings. He looked strong, holding off the attentions of Davy Arnaud to turn and initiate an attack, and made the run into the box to get on the end of the rebound from a saved Giovinco shot, but was unable to get the needed touch. The Toronto, Ontario-native showed a measure of coolness in attack, calmly waiting for the window to open before sliding a ball inside to Luke Moore, who in turn set-up Giovinco's first goal of the match. Like the earlier rebound, Osorio was unable to get on the end of a one-two flick from Giovinco, but the idea was there, which is half the battle. He would get in position for a popped cross from the Italian at the back-post, only for a covering Sean Franklin to deflect the chance wide – nearly banking it into his own net. Osorio's passing was impressive, misplacing just six of over 35 attempts, while adding two interceptions, two recoveries, and a clearance to his performance, winning a pair of fouls in the process. Post-match he commented on taking up the central reins: “I think I did pretty well. I think I helped the team a lot in possession, keeping the ball and trying to maintain it while they were pressing a lot. I thought I did a good job at holding it up and creating chances for the team.” His interview can be viewed here. Patrice Bernier Bernier appeared in all three of Montreal's matches – starting midweek against Vancouver before coming on as a sub in both weekend matches. Captaining the side against fellow Canadian club, Vancouver, Bernier was involved in an all-Canadian handshake, as both he and Russell Teibert took part in the prematch sportsmanship. It was just his second start of the year. The Brossard, Quebec-native would make a near-immediate impact, heading a Nicolas Mezquida flick at the near-post off the goal-line, behind for another corner kick, sparing an early deficit. And he showed glimpses of the old Bernier, giving Teibert a lesson in defensive-midfieldery with a textbook tackle that halted his younger counterpart's run and winning the ball, spurring a counter in the other direction. Bernier would come off in the 81st minute with the scores tied at one, to be replaced by Anthony Jackson-Hamel. He had one shot – a free-kick into the wall – completed all but eight of his forty-odd passes, while making ten recoveries, four clearances, three tackles, two blocks, and two interceptions in a classic performance. With that exertion and having helped beat a domestic rival, Bernier would be on the bench come the weekend, entering for Marco Donadel in the 80th minute to help see out the result. And again the following weekend, waiting until the 70th minute to replace Callum Mallace against New York City. He was lucky to escape a booking when he hauled Grabavoy to the ground and was partially responsible for Poku's late goal, City's third, when a cross squeezed under his foot, falling to the attacker on the right-side of the box. Russell Teibert Teibert appeared in both of Vancouver's matches, captaining and starting against Montreal before coming on as a late sub on the weekend in Los Angeles. In Montreal as a central midfielder, he was tasked largely with tracking the movements of Piatti, providing cover to his defenders and matching the runs from the Impact midfield. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-native would contribute to the attack, sending a long ball into the box for Mattocks, who would hit the post, and playing in a cross after a short corner kick that picked out the head of Kendall Waston for a weak header. Like Bernier, he was lucky to escape a booking when he bundled over Piatti on a run at the edge of the area, though the foul was conceded – one of two he committed. Teibert completed all but six of his some thirty attempts, making four recoveries, three interceptions, two clearances, and a tackle. Come the weekend, Teibert was on the bench as Vancouver won their first-ever match at LA by a 0-1 scoreline with Manneh scoring in the 32nd minute. Teibert came on in the 75th minute for Matias Laba, helping to see out the result, completing three of five passes and three recoveries. Kyle Bekker Bekker went unused on the bench in San Jose in Round Fourteen, but was in the starting eleven for a Round Fifteen match in Seattle – just his second start of the season. From his central midfield position, Bekker was allowed to press forward; his partner, Victor Ulloa, playing more the holding role, and the Oakville, Ontario-native did surprisingly well given his intermittent playing time this season. He won a ball in midfield, leaving it to Blas Perez, who set up Fabian Castillo to blast over the bar early. And then made a run into the area himself, drawing a Save of the Week-calibre stop from Frei. Mauro Diaz played out wide to Perez on the left, who fed the streaking Bekker. The Canadian had to dig the pass out of his feet, it was a little behind him, but got off a left-footer that nearly beat the Seattle keeper. He then played a good ball in from the right for Perez, who touched to Castillo, only for a Zach Scott tackle to end the play. Events turned against Bekker at the other end of the pitch, when he was stripped of possession by Thomas in the 55th minute, leading to Lamar Neagle's goal. And was then helpless to defend against the might of Obafemi Martins at the low-post, where the Nigerian effortlessly turned Bekker and scored from a tight-angle in the 73rd minute. Bekker would be replaced in the 74th minute by Rolando Escobar having taken two shots – one on, one off, completed more than two-thirds of his thirty-plus passes, while making seven recoveries, three interceptions, and a tackle. Karl Ouimette Ouimette made his fourth-straight start for New York in their Friday night encounter in Houston – it was his fifth start and sixth appearance of the season. Lining up alongside Roy Miller as the right centre-back, Ouimette had a tough night as his side fell 4-2. The Terrebonne, Quebec-native managed to keep both Will Bruin and Giles Barnes quiet for the first half, but come the 59th minute his attempted block on an Oscar Boniek Garcia shot caused the effort to loop up, over Luis Robles, and into the New York goal, equalizing the score at one. Somehow that was not considered an own-goal – MLS is very generous in such situations. He would nearly be involved in a second own-goal, when Kemar Lawrence's clearance went straight into Ouimette, the rebound dribbling just wide of the post in the 72nd minute. Ricardo Clark would score Houston's second from the ensuing corner kick. A threat in the opponent's box, Ouimette would try to get up on a Felipe free-kick, only to be dumped to the ground by David Horst, while his attempt to reach a long ball from Chris Duvall when New York were trailing and in search of an equalizer would go wanting. He completed twelve of his eighteen passes, contributing eight clearances, three interceptions, and two recoveries; his only foul of the match came when colliding with Tyler Deric on that long ball from Duvall. Ashtone Morgan Morgan started a tenth-straight match for Toronto in a winning effort, away to DC United. From his left-back position, Morgan was solid defensively, getting out quick to shutdown an early Conor Doyle chance, conceding a corner in the process. And he showed the awareness that has seen him take his game to a higher level, his head on swivel with Nick DeLeon lurking wide, constantly refreshing his knowledge of where the attacker was off his back-shoulder on a DC attack down the opposite flank. His signature tenacity was on display as well, absolutely crunching Fabian Espindola with a clean sliding challenge. In attack, the Toronto, Ontario-native was a factor too, sending in a good cross from the left that went untouched through a dangerous area, and then setting up Jackson with a pass that resulted in a horrendous shot. His passing was a bit off, completing just fifteen of his 25 attempts, but with four recoveries, three clearances, two tackles, an interception, and a block, he more than made up for that short-coming. Tesho Akindele Akindele made a second-straight start for Dallas in their 0-0 draw in San Jose – it was his ninth of the season. Nominally the wide right-sided attacker, Akindele was free to roam as usual, popping up all over the pitch, once dropping deep to collect a loose-ball in the midfield, dishing off to Diaz, who sent his effort over the bar. The Calgary-born forward could not get enough power on a header from a corner kick and had a right-footed crack from distance that went straight into Earthquake centre-back, Clarence Goodson. It was a frustrating game for Dallas and Tesho, he did a lot of good running to get into positions, but his teammates were a touch too individualistic to made the most of his movement. His only shot of the match was blocked, though he completed twenty of his 25 passes, a good rate for him, adding three recoveries, a tackle, and a clearance to his mark. Anthony Jackson-Hamel Jackson-Hamel featured in two of Montreal's three matches, coming on as a substitute against Vancouver and New York; he was unused on the bench against Columbus. Coming on in the 81st minute for Bernier against Vancouver, Jackson-Hamel played a minor role in the game-winner, rolling a ball to Romero, who in turn set up Piatti for the strike. After playing the pass, his strong run was enough to distract the defense, opening up space centrally for Piatti to run into. A few minutes later he nearly added one of his own, touching a Romero pull-back at the near-post just wide with his left-foot after a neat paused-run to get onto the service at the last minute. His only shot was off-target, but he completed nine of ten passes, adding an interception and a recovery. In New York a week and a half later, the Quebec City, Quebec-native would come on at half-time for Victor Cabrera, moving up top alongside McInerney to give Montreal more of an attacking presence for the second half. He struggled to gain a foothold with Montreal disjointed and too widely-spaced. He did manage to corral a bouncing long ball away from Jason Hernandez, only for Saunders to come rushing out to collect the half-chance. Jackson-Hamel completed half his ten passes, making one tackle and a recovery in his half of play – his longest run-out of the season. Jay Chapman Chapman entered TFC's match in DC in the 73rd minute, replacing Warren Creavalle – it was his second appearance of the season. Taking up the right-sided midfield role, the Brampton, Ontario-native nearly got on the end of a Jackson cross and was on hand to clear a DC corner kick away from Toronto's near-post as the clock ticked down. He completed four of his six passes, adding a recovery and a clearance in the process. Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare Gagnon-Lapare made his second appearance of the season against New York City, coming on in the 78th minute for Piatti with New York holding a two-goal lead. Sitting deep, alongside Bernier, Gagnon-Lapare was tasked with preventing any further damage. He had one rather enjoyable moment, getting into a tangle with Villa, who did not appreciate the attention, kicking out a little at the Sherbrooke, Quebec-native after a bit of contact. He completed six of his ten passes, making two recoveries, and an interception. The Rest Chris Mannella was on the bench for Toronto FC away to DC United. Note: As far as catching up with the reviews goes, the plan is to compile Round 16 this week, and then get to Round 17 for early next week. Rounds 18 & 19 will be combined – most of the Canadians will be away at the Gold Cup anyways – and so by the time they rejoin their clubs, everything will be back in sync. Apologies again for the absence and thanks for reading. Each week (normally) 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
  4. Will Johnson 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. Kofi Opare 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. Jonathan Osorio 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. Ashtone Morgan 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. Karl Ouimette 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. Tesho Akindele 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. Kyle Bekker 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. Cyle Larin 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. Anthony Jackson-Hamel 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. Jay Chapman 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. Patrice Bernier 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. Russell Teibert 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. The Rest 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
  5. Kofi Opare Opare made his ninth-straight start for DC in their 1-1 draw against New England on Saturday – it was his ninth start and tenth appearance of the season. Lining up alongside Bobby Boswell once more, featuring as the left centre-back, Opare was instrumental at helping limit the chances that fell the way of attack-minded Revolution. He did well to cut out a Juan Agudelo pull-back in the early going, preventing it from finding its desired target – the streaking Lee Nguyen – and then came up with a huge block to deny Nguyen later in the match. Both examples of his general alertness at spotting building trouble and snuffing it out – a feat he would achieve again, bailing out Boswell after he was by-passed by Teal Bunbury, drifting out wide to block the attacker's effort. The Niagara Falls-raised defender was also a factor at the other end, nearly getting on the end of a Davy Arnaud cross – a shove in the back from Bunbury prevented him from making good contact – and then committing forward with regularity late in the match as DC looked to turn a two-man advantage to their favour through the last half hour. Completing all but eleven of some forty passes, Opare was ended the match with impressive numbers, accounting for eight recoveries, five clearances, two tackles, two blocks, and an interception. Since coming into the lineup for the injured Steve Birnbaum, Opare has not missed a step, keeping his now-fit teammate out of action having locked down a position on the pitch. Jonathan Osorio Osorio made a second-consecutive start for Toronto FC in their 1-0 win over Portland on Saturday – it was his seventh start and ninth appearance of the season. From the left-side of the midfield, Osorio inserted himself into TFC's buildup play, contributing a small role in Sebastian Giovinco's opening rip in the fifth minute. Having aided in that play, Osorio would cost his teammate a second when Giovinco's strike beat Portland keeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey, only to strike Osorio squarely in the back. While that particular passage was unfortunate, it is his budding understanding of how to play with Giovinco that has seen Osorio shirk the slump that carried him through the opening months of the season. It was always going to be difficult to subsume his natural inclination to get on the ball to the Italian maestro, but the past two rounds have seen Osorio grow accustomed to adapting his game to the needs of Giovinco. On several occasions, the young Canadian alertly made runs to provide options and his willingness to get into the box – such as on the play above, or a later run that saw Nat Borchers scoop a low Giovinco cross over the bar – both provides a target for combination and occupies defenders, thus granting space to be exploited. Osorio would find one shot of his own, settling a ball in the area to get off an attempt, only for Borchers to get in a necessary block. He would make a later charging run on the counter up the left, leading to another Giovinco chance, this time saved. The Toronto, Ontario-native completed all but six of his 35-odd pass attempts, making seven recoveries and a tackle throughout, conceding and winning a foul each way, before coming off for Nick Hagglund in the 83rd minute as Toronto sought to see out the one-goal victory. It will be interesting to see if Osorio can carry this strong run of form into further production – he has just a single assist this season. Both Toronto, considering the absence of Jozy Altidore and an over-reliance on Giovinco, and Canada, with upcoming World Cup Qualifiers and a Gold Cup this summer, could use some contributions on the score-sheet from Osorio. Karl Ouimette Ouimette made a second-straight start for New York in their 0-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday – it was his fourth-straight appearance, encompassing his entire output for the Red Bulls this season. As the right-sided centre-back, Ouimette was put in an awkward position as the lone true defender on the back-line. He would take to the pitch alongside Roy Miller, a left-back, in the middle for New York, with injuries to Ronald Zubar and Damien Perrinelle and Matt Miazga's international absences leaving the defensive-cabinet threadbare. Through the first half, Ouimette and company were able to fend off Philadelphia attacks, the Canadian showing good hustle and alertness to track and cut out the run of Cristian Maidana in the box. But with the second-half introduction of CJ Sapong, New York began to struggle. Vincent Nogueira scored the first in the 57th minute, redirecting a Maidana shot after Andrew Wenger moved in from the left. Ouimette was faced with attempting to mark two attackers, occupied by Sapong as Nogueira found the space to get the final touch. Five minutes later, Ouimette would suffered the recriminations for his loose pass that was picked off by Fabinho, leading to a Union counter and their second goal, but it was neither a terrible pass, nor was what came after entirely his fault. Yes his ball did lead to the turnover, but in response he tracked the run of the Philadelphia left-back, pressuring him every step of the way; others were responsible for tracking the run of Sapong, who eventually turned in the cross after jogging unmarked to the edge of the six-yard box. The Terrebonne, Quebec-native would continue to have his hands full with Sapong, suffering a knee knock in one challenge and then caught a bloody nose in an aerial challenge with the rough attacker, which saw the Philadelphia forward receive a yellow card for launching himself into an unwinnable ball. Ouimette would engage in the mischief himself, seeing a yellow in the 84th minute for hauling down Sapong on the turn in the centre-circle – his second booking of the season. The defender completed all but ten of his near-forty pass attempts, accumulating some impressive numbers: eight interceptions, five clearances, four recoveries, and four tackles, committing just a single foul, while winning two. Hopefully that giveaway will not overshadow some strong performances; Jesse Marsch, who brought him in after getting to know Ouimette in Montreal no doubt has faith, but do the New York fans? Cyle Larin Larin started up top for Orlando City in their 1-1 draw at San Jose on Sunday for a seventh match running – it was his ninth appearance of the season. Again tasked as the lone striker leading the line, Larin faced the unenviable task of engaging both San Jose centre-backs, Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson. His aerial battles with Bernardez were especially intriguing, the rookie not shying away from one of the league's dominant presences, and Larin nearly crafted a chance, pressuring a turnover out of the usually-impeccable Goodson, staying strong on his feet, but unable to find the space required. Not shying away from the physicality, Larin was hacked down by Marvell Wynne in midfield on one occasion, and then took a knock in a collision with a teammate, getting clipped by Eric Avila, spending a moment down on the pitch thereafter. But his major contribution to the match was winning the penalty kick that put Orlando into the lead, albeit briefly. Racing onto a ball in the area, Larin was flattened by San Jose keeper, David Bingham, who caught the forward with an errant arm across the chest, bringing him down in the process. Kaka would step up to the spot and convert the chance – taking over the team goal-scoring lead in the process – only for a San Jose penalty minutes later to quash the advantage. The Brampton, Ontario-native would come off in the 84th minute for Martin Paterson, seeing his goal-scoring run end at three matches. Larin completed eleven of thirteen passes, made two recoveries and a tackle, conceding four fouls and winning three, including the crucial penalty kick. Tesho Akindele Akindele began Dallas' 2-1 loss at Montreal on the bench, coming on in the 53rd minute for Michel with the visitors in need of goals having fallen behind by two. Taking up the right-side of midfield, Akindele played a role in Dallas' 77th minute goal, making a nice turn in the box to get off a right-footed shot after Je-Vaughan Watson corralled a loose ball at the top of the area. Evan Bush would make the save, but the rebound fell to Matt Hedges, who thumped it into the gaping goal. The shot was the only one for the Calgary, Alberta-native, who completed just three of his ten passes, but added an interception and a tackle to his stat-line, winning and conceding a foul in the process. Despite having made just one start in Dallas' last six matches, Akindele is still very much in the plans of Oscar Pareja, who has plenty of attacking options at his disposal. Akindele has appeared in each of those games, bringing his season total up to twelve appearances, seven of which have been starts. Kyle Bekker Bekker made a brief cameo for Dallas in Montreal on Saturday, coming on in the 73rd minute for Ryan Hollinghead – it was his fifth appearance of the season, all from the bench. Taking up a deep central role alongside the more defensive-minded Victor Ulloa, Bekker was very good in his seventeen minutes of play, completing nine of ten passes – three of which were 'key', and getting off a shot. The only incomplete attempt was a ball over the top down the right-channel for Watson, but the full-back had slowed his run prematurely and it ran out of play. The Oakville, Ontario-native played a role in Dallas mounting pressure as the clock ticked down. His corner kick was met by Walker Zimmerman, but caught by Bush in the Montreal goal, and it was Bekker's lovely ball into the area from deep that picked out Blas Perez on the left, drawing a game-saving stop out of Bush to rescue to result. Not done there, Bekker would alertly pick a ball off the boot of Eric Alexander inside the area before driving a shot towards goal – it was blocked by Callum Mallace, leading to an almighty scramble, but Dallas could not find the equalizer. Though hardly the best of testing grounds – Montreal were bunkering with the score already in their favour – it was perhaps Bekker's best outing of the season, which can only be encouraging. Kianz Froese Froese made his first-ever MLS start for Vancouver in their 1-0 loss at Colorado on Saturday – it was his fifth appearance of the season and second straight. On the right-side of the Whitecaps midfield, the Cuban-Born Froese was active, but unable to make much of an impression on the match. He would pick up a strange booking in the 24th minute, recorded as a 'dive', when he challenge Clint Irwin on a ball near the end-line. Colorado were not pleased with his effort, drawing a crowd; replays showed it was Irwin who caught the attacker and not vice versa, and Froese had every right to go for the loose ball anyways. Shouts for a penalty were non-existent, while the booking, his first of the season (and his career), was evidence of some over-zealous refereeing. The penalty-dive debate is not an either-or proposition. Froese would find one good look at goal when the ball fell to him on the right-side of the area, but under pressure from the hulking frame of Axel Sjoberg, his right-footer would drift wide of the post. And his energetic young legs would allowing him to break free of the tracking of Marc Burch on a curling run, busting into the middle of the field, but it came to naught. He would be replaced by Cristian Techera in the 62nd minute; the longest output of his nascent career. Ashtone Morgan Morgan started an eight-straight match for Toronto in their win over Portland – all nine of his appearances have come in the past nine matches, retaining his left-back position with Justin Morrow swapping over to the right-side. It was a bit of a mixed performance from Morgan. The Toronto, Ontario-native was a touch over-aggressive on one play, getting sucked into Alvas Powell out wide, allowing Diego Chara to burst into the space behind him and send it a cross, but Fanendo Adi could not settle the service, the chance dissolving in the process. He then made a vital intervention in the area, getting a needed flick on a cross, nicking the ball away from the waiting Borchers at the back-post. Morgan would then strip the ball away from his opposite, Powell, to spur a Toronto counter, before taking a poor touch as he cut out a low Jorge Villafana ball into the TFC box. The ball would fall precipitously to Rodney Wallace, who could not do anything fruitful with the chance. Undaunted, the left-back thundered into a late challenge on Dairon Asprilla in the final minutes, desperate to prevent a Portland counter, catching the attacker with a sliding tackle – he would be booked for his troubles, collecting his first yellow card of the season. With Mark Bloom now fit, it will be interesting to see if Morgan can maintain his spot in the starting lineup. Regardless, it has been very encouraging to see him take this chance and run with it, while addressing the frailty of his game that was highlighted by his struggles: a difficulty in striking the balance between when to burst forward and when to play the more conservative, defensive-role. Patrice Bernier Bernier made his fourth appearance of the season on Saturday against Dallas, coming on in the 83rd minute for Andres Romero as Montreal sought to see out their 2-1 lead and kickoff a winning streak. Completing four of six passes and contributing a single clearance, the Brossard, Quebec-native would show some of that calmness on the ball in the midfield for which he is known, evading the attentions of Kyle Bekker to prevent Dallas from completely dominating possession through the final moments of play. As a senior statesman of Canadian players, especially with Dwayne De Rosario set to officially announce his retirement, it was encouraging to see Bernier and Bekker share a lengthy chat after the final whistle. The Rest Jordan Hamilton, Jay Chapman, and Quillan Roberts were unused substitutes for Toronto against Portland, while Will Johnson was in the matchday eighteen for the Timbers: his return to MLS play would have to wait until the following week. Maxim Tissot, Anthony Jackson-Hamel, and Wandrille Lefevre were unsused subs for Montreal against FC Dallas. 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
  6. Cyle Larin Larin made his fifth and sixth-straight starts for Orlando City as they experienced a mixed week, undone by a pair of late goals against DC United on Wednesday and only to hand a 4-0 thrashing to the defending champions, the LA Galaxy, on Sunday. Larin now has eight appearances this season, having come on twice from the bench prior to the current six-game run. On Wednesday, Orlando took the lead in the eleventh minute, Larin scoring in a second-consecutive match – the first scoring streak of his young MLS career – only to concede twice in nine minutes in the closing third of the match. The goal, his third of the season, was a cracker, beating Bill Hamid with a blazing right-footer from just inside the eighteen-yard box. A partially cleared corner kick fell to Harrison Heath, who tried to play up to Larin in a crowd at the top of the area. That pass was touched away from the striker, falling to Darwin Ceren, who attempted a shot on goal. His effort was blocked, but Larin was on hand to find an inch of space and blast his finish high to the left-side of goal – it was his only shot of the match. Aside from the goal, Larin had a quiet night, though his running battles with centre-back and fellow Canadian (at least for the purposes of this review; for now), Kofi Opare. The two went toe-to-toe on several occasions, Larin giving as good as he got, committing a foul on one occasion where he ended a touch-line run from the DC defender with a desperate tug. For his troubles, the Brampton, Ontario-native would spend a moment on the touch-line and sourcing out a new shirt, after a cut on his arm drew blood. He would make way for Bryan Rochez in the 77th minute having scored from his only shot, completed five of eight passes, while making two clearances, two recoveries, a tackle, and an interception; winning and conceding a foul each way. Back in the starting lineup on Sunday, Larin, again leading the line by himself, would play a crucial role in guiding his side to an impressive win over LA – ending a hex that had been a thorn in the expansion side's paw. The win was their first at home; it only took six matches. His first looks at goal were mere half-chances, doing well to get on the end of a Brek Shea cross, but unable to bring it down cleanly under pressure from LA defender Leonardo, and breaking into space on the right from a long, searching ball, only for his pull-back to not find a teammate. LA were struggling with a makeshift lineup, that much was clear. Eric Avila gave the hosts the lead after just twelve minutes and Larin sought to add to that margin with a cheeky attempt from distance after a poor back-pass from Leonardo that caught Jaime Penedo off his line, but sailed high. It was a chance that strikers will risk, but Larin would be advised by Kaka that given he had a runner, a pass may have been a better option. Larin would make amends for that waste in the 34th minute, Kaka showing how setting up a teammate can be just as rewarding. The play began when Larin held up a Shea ball momentarily in the centre-circle, before playing down the left for the charging Kaka. The Brazilian maestro would back off the defenders, gliding past a half-hearted slipping-challenge from Tommy Meyer before squaring a ball to the right for Larin, who tucked his right-footer past Penedo at the short-side. It was his fourth-goal of the season, stretching his scoring-streak to three-straight matches in the process. Not done there, Larin would continue his tireless running. As noted by commentator Taylor Twellman, the most influential evolution witnessed so far in the rookie's game has been the increasing intelligence in the runs he chooses to make. There was another Shea cross from the left, taking advantage of just such a back-shoulder run from Larin, that he was again unable to stretch enough to touch. If those two ever get in sync, that could be a combination that is oft-repeated. Making way for Carlos Rivas in the 78th minute, Larin would exit the match having taken four shots – only one of which was on target, completing eight of sixteen passes, while making three recoveries. He was offside once and won three fouls, conceding one. Larin spoke post-match about his form and the first home win and earned the praise of his teammate, Martin Paterson: “I’ve been really pleased with the way that Cyle has played. I mean, for a forward we look for young players, and you look for attributes that they have, and he works a lot for his attributes and he is getting his rewards. If he continues to work hard, he is going to be some player, and now that everyone is fit, people can push him and try to get him space, and that will bring him on again. At the end of the day, he has four goals and he should be pleased with that, and he should have in his mind that he can go and get more.” If he can continue his scoring form, he should retain his starting position and will be a candidate for rookie of the year honours. Kofi Opare Opare also made two starts this week, for DC, his seventh and eight-straight, as DC beat Larin's Orlando City 2-1 on Wednesday, only to fall to Philadelphia 1-0 on Sunday. Against Orlando, Opare was largely tasked with keeping track of the machinations of Larin, engaging in an entertaining battle, once matching the forward stride for stride in a touch-line run. It was the Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised defender who kick-started DC's comeback in the 70th minute, rising up at the back-post over Sean St Ledger to head down and across to the right-side of goal on a deep Taylor Kemp free-kick from the right. It was Opare's first goal for DC and his second in MLS, having registered one as a rookie back in 2013 for Los Angeles. Opare would complete all but three of some-thirty passes, racking up four recoveries, three interceptions, one clearance and a tackle; winning two fouls and conceding one on the night. He earned the regard of manager Ben Olsen afterward: “Set pieces have been big … it’s certainly got us to where we are right now. And Kofi is a handful on set pieces because he gets his head on a lot of things. It’s good to see him get on the score-sheet and get rewarded for such a good six weeks that he’s been in. He’s been fantastic. The way he’s stepped in to this center back role with such few games has been impressive.” Come Sunday, Opare was again in the starting lineup, bringing his season total to eight starts and nine appearances, now keeping the fit-again Steve Birnbaum out of the lineup with his fine form. Alongside Bobby Boswell once more, Opare was again a consistent obstacle to a desperate Philadelphia side, facing down the hulking frame of Conor Casey – quick to track the forward on the ball, blocking an attempt pull-back on one play, while keeping a lid on the ever-dangerous Cristian Maidana - giving no space to the attacking midfielder, tracking him out wide and constantly pestering. With the match scoreless deep into the second half, Opare would step up to block a Zach Pfeffer shot, a feat he was unable to reprise in stoppage-time as Pfeffer found space above the left-post to score the late 1-0 winner for the hosts – it was not Opare's flank that provided that space, however. He would end the match having compiled eight clearances, four interceptions, two blocks, two recoveries, and a tackle, conceding just a single foul, while misplacing just 6 of some 25 passes. Jonathan Osorio Following a lively appearance from the bench last weekend and a dangerous midweek performance in the Voyageurs Cup, Osorio returned to the Toronto starting lineup for the first time in four matches in Saturday's 1-1 draw at New England – it was his sixth start and eighth appearance of the season. Taking up the left-sided midfield position, Osorio showed some real moments of quality, though was perhaps a little too unselfish on one occasion, attempting to set-up Michael Bradley rather than take a shot himself after receiving a ball from Sebastian Giovinco on the left-side of the area. He then similarly helped craft a shooting chance for Giovinco, finding his teammate in space on the left with a neat back-roller of a pass, helping on a ball for the back-side run of Giovinco – his effort was saved by Bobby Shuttleworth. Given the threat New England's attack width posed, the Toronto, Ontario-native was required to put in a defensive shift as well, tracking all the way back to his own-goal line on several plays, though he could be found guilty of not closing down London Woodberry's cross quickly enough, as the Revolution full-back picked out Juan Agudelo's run to open the scoring in the 32nd minute. He was in a difficult position on that play, Osorio and Ashtone Morgan were at a numerical disadvantage, as a trio of New England attackers played around the TFC duo patiently before sending in the cross. Osorio would make way for Warren Creavalle in the 83rd minute as Greg Vanney sought to inject fresh legs to see out the draw. He completed all but five of some forty passes, adding five recoveries, two clearances, and an interception, conceding two fouls in the process. After a difficult opening few months, a reinvigourated Osorio will provide Toronto with a much-needed additional threat, especially given the news of Jozy Altidore's injury. Karl Ouimette Ouimette made a third-straight appearance for the New York Red Bulls on Friday night, helping quell the variety of Dallas threats in a score-less draw. Following his solid contributions, including the emergency role after Matt Miazga's red card in the New York derby, Ouimette earned some recognition from head coach, Jesse Marsch: “Karl did come off the bench and in a game like that and being a man down, not be afraid and compete and make almost no mistakes for a young center back that was a very good performance... We've seen that a lot of our center backs have stepped into tough moments and done well.” Taking up the right-sided centre-back position, paired with Damien Perrinelle, the Terrebonne, Quebec-native did not miss a step in a stalemate of a match. That is not to say it was a game without challenge; Ouimette was primarily threatened down the attacking left by the speedy trickster Fabian Castillo, who has made more experienced defenders than Ouimette quake at the knees. The Canadian did very well to limit the Colombian's chances, keeping him wide on several plays, including this one, and preventing any half-chances from coming to fruition. Though it was a relatively uneventful match, Ouimette contributed six clearances, four recoveries, and an interception, completely roughly half of some forty passes – again mostly long balls. With Miazga away on international duty, Ouimette may see some more playing time, at least until Ronald Zubar gets up to full fitness. Tesho Akindele Akindele returned to the Dallas starting lineup for the first time in five matches, lining up on the right-side of the Dallas midfield in their 0-0 draw against New York on Friday night – it was his seventh start and eleventh appearance of the season. It was a relatively quiet match from the wide-forward/midfielder, his only real chance of the game came minutes into the second half, sent in by a Blas Perez ball only to shoot wide – the play was wiped out by an offside flag anyways. The Calgary, Alberta-born forward would complete fifteen of twenty passes, adding four recoveries, two tackles, and a clearance to his stat-line before making way for Michael Barrios in the 59th minute. Russell Teibert Teibert made a fifth-straight start for Vancouver in their disappointing 0-2 loss to Chad Barrett, er, Seattle, on Saturday night – it was his ninth start and tenth appearance of the season. Lining up alongside Matias Laba once more at the base of the midfield, Teibert was his effervescent self, but was unable to prevent a pair of first-half Barrett strikes from determining the outcome. With Vancouver stung by two quick moves, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native was allowed a more attacking role, by-passing the attentions of Gonzalo Pineda with a bursting run to slip a ball for Kekuta Manneh – his shot from distance was easily saved and held by Stefan Frei. And a later cross from the right appeared bound for the head of Kendall Waston, only for the towering form of Chad Marshall to nod it away for a corner kick. Teibert would make way for Gershon Koffie in the 64th minute having completed all but three of roughly forty passes, adding five interceptions, three recoveries, and a tackle, while registering a single foul. Ashtone Morgan Morgan made a seventh-consecutive start for Toronto in their 1-1 draw at New England – it was his seventh start and eighth appearance of the season. Taking up the familiar left-back slot, Morgan was faced with a difficult challenge, stifling the combined attacking talents of Teal Bunbury, London Woodberry, and Lee Nguyen, when he drifted wide into that part of the field. The Toronto, Ontario-native did rather well considering, aside from that slight hesitation that allowed Woodberry to get in the cross that led to Agudelo's goal. Early in the match, Morgan was alert at the back-post to head a cross away from the lurking Bunbury, and he was on the receiving end of an aggressive challenge from Jermaine Jones that perhaps warranted a booking. He completed 17 of his 26 passing attempts, making three clearances, two recoveries, one interception, and one tackle, conceding a single foul and winning two on the night. With the return to fitness of right-back Mark Bloom and Justin Morrow the recognized starting left-back, Morgan's run of matches may be coming to an end; at least he has taken this chance to regain his footing and prove himself a valuable member of the squad. Patrice Bernier Bernier made his third appearance of the season in Montreal's 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Coming on in the 76th minute for Marco Donadel, the Brossard, Quebec-native completed each of his seven passes and committed one foul. Kianz Froese Froese similarly came on in the 76th minute, replacing Kekuta Manneh with Vancouver chasing Seattle's 0-2 lead on Saturday – it was his fourth appearance of the season. The Cuban-born midfielder was lively, completing seven of eight passes and winning one tackle, but was unable to spur his side to a comeback against Cascadia rivals. The Rest Wandrille Lefevre and Jeremie Gagnon-Lapare were unused substitutes for Montreal on Saturday against Salt Lake, as too were Toronto FC's Quillan Roberts and Jay Chapman in New England. Will Johnson continued his convalescence, picking up an assist, his first, with Portland's USL side as they drew 1-1 against Salt Lake's Monarchs. Two semi-regular review participants were out with injury, as Vancouver's Sam Adekugbe is dealing with a right ankle injury, while Philadelphia's Steven Vitoria is apparently dealing with a left knee sprain – his has not featured in the Union's last three matches. 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
  7. 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
  8. Russell Teibert Teibert, sporting the Captain's armband with Pedro Morales suspended, returned to Vancouver's starting eleven for their 0-1 win in Salt Lake on Saturday night – it was his fifth start and sixth appearance of the season. Fielded in a more-advanced midfield position, atop a central triangle based by Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie, Teibert was a force on the night, giving an early indication of his intent with a thunderous challenge on Olmes Garcia inside the five five minutes of play. He would receive a booking for his trouble – his first of the season – and have to be careful for the remaining 85 minutes, lest he see another card from the official. He would go on to commit two further fouls, for three total by the final whistle. Playing as that first line of defense, a high-pressure destroyer, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native was clearly told to clog up that part of the pitch, disrupting Salt Lake's ability to build out of the midfield, long been a strength of theirs. Faced with his presence, the hosts attempted to escape it, operating in wider and wider positions, to which Teibert easily adapted, roaming out wide to snuff out any threat from such wide attacks. Misplacing just five of some fifty-plus passes on the night, Teibert's other numbers were modest: three recoveries, two clearances, an interception, and a tackle. His role was to apply pressure, not necessarily apply the stop himself. But, as it turned out, his most vital contribution to the night was a bursting run up the left as Vancouver took a short free-kick, dishing off to Sam Adekugbe and then hustling up the touchline to latch onto the banked 'pass' and fling a cross into the middle in the 80th minute. His delivery would be met sweetly by Darren Mattocks in the middle, rising up, virtually unchallenged, to direct his header on to the far-side of the net for the first goal of the night; it would turn out to be the winner. Vancouver stumbled last week, losing to San Jose, but with the help of Captain Teibert, they ended a two-match winless run, retained their spot atop the league, and nabbed their first-ever win away to Salt Lake. Post-match, he commented: “Great result for us. We talk about making history and we had the opportunity to do so tonight. We took a chance playing a different formation and we adapted well and showed how intelligent our squad is and how we are willing to work in whatever formation our manager puts us in. We have never won here before so not only is it a big win tonight but it is also a big win for our club." His full-interview can be viewed here – while some hi-jinx with his road-roommate, Adekugbe, can be seen .Marcel de Jong De Jong started his third-straight match for Sporting KC in their 2-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday night – it was his fifth appearance of the season, all of which have been starts. From his left-back position, de Jong was under pressure early, tasked with keeping a lid on the problematic Stefan Ishizaki, who twisted him up on occasion to get in crosses. He then had his MLS education continued, with Dan Gargan this time the guilty party, welcoming de Jong to the league with a heavy challenge that earned him a yellow card – and sent the Canadian airborne. It was one of two fouls he won that night. Despite a necessary defensive role, de Jong was able to get forward, twice getting off shots at goal – the first required an excellent save from Jamie Penedo; the second dribbled wide of the far-post. It is nice to see that kind of confidence and aim from a full-back; he will score a few goals this season. Solid on the ball – the Newmarket, Ontario-native completed 21 of his 28 attempts – de Jong put in a defensive shift, racking up six recoveries, two interceptions, two clearances, and a tackle, but it was going forward that he really impressed, once nicking the ball off of Gargan, only for Tommy Meyer to interrupt his route to goal. He would make way for Amadou Dia in the 75th minute with the game tied at ones – KC would concede the latest of winners in the 94th minute. Prior to the match, de Jong's progression was applauded by Peter Vermes. “He's getting there. He's slowly getting there. I thought last game was a really good game for him. That was his best game so far for us. I think one of his things is getting fitter, to play the way we play. He's also understanding some of the responsibilities that go along with playing that position in the way that we play. Every day, he gets a little closer to what we want to be.” Vermes continued, “He's a very good server of the ball. He also has a cannon from distance, which you haven't seen yet. He really does. I'm sure at some point, that'll come out in one of the games, because he can hit the ball.” And de Jong is enjoying his new abode: “It's amazing. The first time I stepped on the pitch, I got goosebumps all over my skin, because there was such a nice feeling when I stepped on the field – all the fireworks and everything. Not what I'm used to in Europe. But it's amazing.” Good to see he is settling in, hopefully he can carry his form into World Cup Qualification and the Gold Cup; with a little less travel to concern him, it can only be good for Canada. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe too returned to Vancouver's starting lineup on Saturday night, having sat out the second match of a double-game week last weekend, to make his sixth start of the season. In his familiar left-back position, a spot he has all but made his own of late, the London, England-born defender experienced some struggles, making a few rash clearances that allowed Salt Lake to build some pressure early. Most notable was a terrible sliced clearance that fell into a dangerous spot above the box, leading to an attempt at goal from Jordan Allen; fortunately David Ousted was alert to the threat, getting down well to spare any further embarrassment. Having survived that scare, Adekugbe would compose himself for the remainder of the match, showing his usual qualities on the left. His passing, 11 of some 35 incomplete, left a little to be desired, but he more than made up for any losses of possession with five interceptions, five clearances, four tackles, three recoveries, and a block; winning a pair of fouls, conceding only one. He showed that same willingness to get forward that has earned him praise, rampaging up that side. And though he probably did not mean to bank a pass off a Salt Lake defender to set-up Teibert's cross on the game-winning goal, it was a pretty solid bit of attacking intent – even if the execution was found wanting. Adekugbe showed a touch of veteran savvy – or youthful impetuousness, taking a yellow card for delay of game, for picking up the ball and walking away in the final ten minutes, eating up a precious bit of time with the lead in tow. And he kept his focus to help see out the narrow win. Salt Lake may have been down to nine men, but Demar Phillips refused to relent with Adekugbe his match, cutting out a pair of late crosses – though that same clearing problem, of putting live balls into potentially troublesome places, resurfaced. Steven Vitoria Vitoria, the CanCon Review's resident iron-man, continued his ever-presence with a pair of starts for Philadelphia this week, as they closed out a home-and-home series against New York City with a 1-1 draw on Thursday before falling 1-2 at home to New England on Sunday – he has now started each of the Union's eight league matches in 2015. Maintaining his left-sided centre-back position in each, Vitoria was paired with Maurice Edu in both matches. Against New York, he did a solid job of keeping a tight lid on both City strikers – David Villa barely managed a look and Adam Nemec threatened just once, from a corner kick, that saw Vitoria do just enough in his marking to put off the attacker, who guided his header off-target. Completing 21 of his 31 passes, Vitoria compiled some impressive figures – in both matches – making ten clearances, four interceptions, three recoveries, three blocks, and a tackle in New York. And was again a calming presence at the back, though Edu was displeased at times by the lack of support the back-line got from the midfield. And though he will not record an assist, he had a role in CJ Sapong's late equalizer, occupying Andrew Jacobson just enough to give the striker the space for the 86th minute goal. Three days later, the Toronto-born defender was back on Philadelphia's home pitch for another match, against an altogether more threatening foe. The short-rest showed a little, as Vitoria backed off a little too much early, allowing Andy Dorman a shot from the top of the box, but was a strong presence in the air – far more than either Charlie Davies or Juan Agudelo could handle. He was lucky to escape a booking for bundling over Lee Nguyen in the midfield as the defender rushed to recover with New England in transition – that lack of pace would be an issue later in the match. Vitoria exhibited his strength and awareness, shielding Davies away from one ball and making the executive decision to clear rather than await further help, before putting in a wonderful slide tackle in the box to nick the ball off the foot of Scott Caldwell, whose eyes had grown big with the path to goal and loose ball presenting itself before him. But he would be caught up-field in the 76th minute, stepping into the midfield only to expose gaps at the back that, in part, led to Teal Bunbury's game winner. There has been little word as to whether Benito Floro has whispered any sweet-nothings into the ear of the big defender of Portuguese extraction, but with a busy summer ahead and the lack of depth along Canada's back-line, it may not be a bad idea. Kofi Opare Opare started his third-straight match for DC as they tied Houston 1-1 on Saturday night – it was his fourth-consecutive appearance of the season since coming on for the injured Steve Birnbaum at the end of March. Paired with Bobby Boswell as the left-sided centre-back, Opare had a quiet match – it was a largely uneventful first half, aside from the Chris Rolfe goal that put DC ahead. The second half would see a little more action. The Niagara Falls-raised defender would miss his lunging challenge on Ricardo Clark, allowing Giles Barnes to get off a shot on the hour-mark that struck the base of the post. Opare would see his strong run forward ended by a shove in the back from Will Bruin. And he would suffered a pretty heavy tackle from Rob Lovejoy, crashing in late, after Opare had already released his pass. He was confident on the ball, completing 28 of his 37 attempts – an equal mix of forward and sideways – ending the match with one each of interceptions, recoveries, clearances, and tackles. Ashtone Morgan Morgan made a third-straight start for Toronto in their lightning-infringed 3-2 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday night – it was his fourth appearance of the season. Starting in his familiar left-back spot, with Justin Morrow against drafted into the middle, Morgan could only watch in horror as Fabian Castillo shredded the opposite flank to pieces, blowing up any game plans with a goal after 29 seconds and adding a second inside of ten minutes. Morgan, recognizing the danger (it was rather obvious) would even find himself tracking all the way over to the far-side of the pitch to cut out a potential Castillo counter after the ball was cleared following a TFC attack. The Toronto, Ontario-native was not without blame in the three first-half goals: the third was in part the result of his back-header off a Je-Vaughan Watson throw. Damien Perquis had plenty of time to deal with the ball, only to have Collen Warner get in his way, turning over the ball to Blas Perez, who made no mistake with his fortune. Despite the weather and the unfriendly start, Morgan got forward regularly, was solid in his passing – completing some 24 of roughly 30 attempts – and accumulated an impressive six interceptions, four recoveries, three clearances, and a pair of tackles, before making way for Robbie Findley in the 86th minute with TFC chasing the game by two goals. Tesho Akindele Akindele, who has made some waves since it was reported by Benito Floro that the Canadian head coach expected an answer on his availability shortly, was on the bench for Dallas against Toronto on Saturday, coming on, after the long delay, in the 66th minute for Michael Barrios. With the match all-but decided – or so it seemed at the time – the Calgary-born forward was only marginally involved, the game had slowed to a virtual crawl, but completed eleven of his fourteen passes, making one clearance; winning and conceding a foul. But the real news is that after Floro made his pronouncement, Akindele responded, stating: I’ve been in contact with [Canada] lately, so that’s about it. There’s a lot of big stuff coming up for everybody with the Gold Cup, so I think by then it will be finalized.” Adding, “I’ve talked to people that I value their opinion, people in my family, people who have coached me in the past, also people on this team that have been international players and got their opinion on what they think would be best for me.” Mysterious. Cyle Larin Larin, fresh off his first professional goal, remained in the starting lineup for Orlando City on Saturday, making a second-consecutive start and fourth appearance of the season. But, given the circumstances of Raphael Ramos' silly 34th minute red card, the Brampton, Ontario-native would be forced to make way two minutes later for Tyler Turner as Adrian Heath shuffled his formation, bringing on an extra defender. It was a brief outing, but Larin still showed his quality, leading the line himself away from home. His best chance of the match came from a Brek Shea goalmouth ball from the left that was just a little too far out of his reach. Larin's only true attempt at goal was blocked. He completed all six of his passes, which is cool. Jonathan Osorio Osorio started a fifth-straight match for Toronto on Saturday in Dallas, maintaining a minor iron-man streak of his own – has has been substituted in three of those matches, so is no threat to Vitoria's every-minute title. Swapping over to the left-side of midfield, with Jackson taking up the right, Osorio again looked out of sorts. His passing was excellent – completing all but three of some fifty-plus attempts – and he was active, making four recoveries, two tackles, winning a foul and conceding two. But something remains off for the Toronto, Ontario-native. He had one attempt at goal – it was blocked – and had a glorious chance to make something when Sebastian Giovinco's ball fell to him at the left-post, only for a horrendous first touch to almost ruin the opportunity. Osorio would recover possession and send a lot ball through the goalmouth, but it was handily cleared. Osorio would make way in the 68th minute, just as Toronto started to show signs of life, replaced by Luke Moore. It is difficult to be overly critical of Osorio, while he adjusts to an outside role; TFC has been a gong-show, a mishmash of styles and ideas, though their first five matches. But more is required of him if the club is to escape their funk and he is to retain his place in the starting position. The Rest Kyle Ouimette was again an unused substitute for Jesse Marsch as the New York Red Bulls rolled out 2-0 winners over San Jose on Saturday. 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
  9. Russell Teibert Teibert returned to Vancouver's starting eleven after a two-match absence, helping to guide his side to an impressive 2-0 win over defending champion LA Galaxy on Saturday night – it was his third start of the young season, having missed one match on international duty and been held out against Portland last week. Taking up his deep midfield position, alongside Matias Laba, Teibert was a force on the night, stifling LA attacks at every turn and helping to push Vancouver forward in the other direction. Robbie Keane, with whom Teibert has had several run-ins in the past, was not best pleased to see the Canadian, suffering the occasional extra bit of contact, as Teibert sought to get under the Irishman's skin – to great effect. And Gyasi Zardes regularly saw his advances quelled by Teibert's aggressive running, suffering a great tackle on one occasion that stripped possession, forcing a turnover and then seeing his cross into the box cut out by Teibert's tracking later. He would end the night with some impressive figures: ten recoveries, six interceptions, three tackles, and a clearance, committing two fouls throughout. But it was the interceptions, along with his excellent passing – misplacing just six of some sixty attempts – that proved crucial, , who sprung Kekuta Manneh down the left-channel, leading to Vancouver's opening goal.The Niagara Falls, Ontario-native earned plenty of plaudits, including shouts as Man of the Match – the official honour went to teammate Nicolas Mezquida – and a spot on MLSsoccer.com's Team of the Week. Tesho Akindele Akindele started his fifth-straight game for Dallas on Saturday night in their 3-1 loss at Portland – he has been in Oscar Pareja's first-choice eleven for every match so far this season. Beginning as the underneath striker, playing off the shoulder of David Texeira who led the line, Akindele was free to roam the pitch as he pleased – the freedom he is given under Pareja is rather astonishing for a second-year professional, exhibiting the level of faith that the coach has in his charge. He would drop into a right-sided midfield position once Blas Perez joined the fray shortly after the hour-mark. By then, the Calgary, Alberta-born forward had already left his impression on the match. As with last round against Seattle, one of Dallas' recurring attack patterns was for Fabian Castillo to rush at defenders, drawing attention to himself before poking a through-ball for Akindele to attempt to latch onto; as with last week, a quick-footed keeper was off his line fast to prevent the chance. His next look was perhaps even sweeter, again latching onto a pass from Castillo, as he made a diagonal sprint into space on the left, breaking in alone on goal, only to guide a left-footed effort harmlessly over the bar. Portland would not be so lucky in the 29th minute, when Akindele , spinning away from Rodney Wallace to get the crucial touch on Michel's left-sided corner kick. The delivery was helped on at the near-side by Atiba Harris, whose deflection allowed Akindele to get the decisive touch with he knee at the back, equalizing the match at ones – it was his second goal of the season.The goal came on one of his three shots on the night, one off and the other easily saved by the Portland keeper, Adam Larsen Kwarasey. The Dallas forward would complete 22 of his 29 passes, adding seven recoveries, an interception, and a clearance. Post-match he noted, ”I thought it was a decent first half. Obviously they came out with a lot of energy. I think we matched it, even after we got scored on we bounced back well. Just the second half didn’t go our way so it was kind of disappointing.” He continued, “We felt like we were going to score another goal. We really believed in it and it was just one of those days it just wasn’t going for us. The last ball wasn’t there.” Ashtone Morgan Morgan, despite the return of the suspended Justin Morrow, maintained his place in the starting lineup as Toronto lost 3-2 to Chicago on Saturday, making a second-straight appearance at left-back – it was his third appearance overall this season. The Toronto, Ontario-native exuded a confidence that he had not shown in years, contributing defensively – finding himself in position to clear a potentially dangerous ball from the goal-mouth early and showing some good speed to stay close to Chicago's fleet-footed David Accam in a chase. He was not able to fully catch the Ghanaian, but applied enough pressure to limit the options, allowing Joe Bendik to make the timely save. But it was going forward that Morgan truly excelled, getting up-field with ease – hitting in two crosses inside the first seven minutes, one of which nearly fell to the foot of Sebastian Giovinco, who was surprised by the fortune. At times in the past guilty of not lifting his head and flinging mindless balls in, Morgan showed a bit of nous in the 20th minute, by pulling back to Giovinco above the near-post, where his attempt kicked off the heels of Jeff Larentowicz to handcuff Jon Busch in the Chicago goal, leveling the match six minutes after Joevin Jones had given the hosts the lead.It was Morgan's first assist of the season and the first he had registered since April 13, 2013 – about a week shy of two years to the day between helpers for the resurgent left-back. With the Fire conceding a lot of space on his side, Morgan's passing was very good – completing 24 of 33 - as was his decision making on the ball, losing possession just once. Defensively he compiled six recoveries and three clearances, conceding a single foul on the night. He would make way for Daniel Lovitz in the 88th minute, as Greg Vanney piled on the attacking substitutes in search of an equalizer, TFC having conceded the advantage with a pair of second half goal through Shaun Maloney and Jeff Larentowicz after taking the lead when Benoit Cheyrou placed a Giovinco pull-back into the Fire goal. After a forgettable season in 2014, Morgan has shown that getting a few matches under the belt and a bit of confidence is the best medicine for a slump, and can do wonders for a player. For Toronto and Canada's sake, it will hopefully continue. Cyle Larin Larin made his second appearance of the season in Orlando on Friday night, coming on in the 22nd minute for the injured Pedro Ribeiro, as his Orlando City fell 0-1 to DC United – the 68 minutes he spent on the pitch quadrupled the amount of action he has seen thus far. Leading the line, chances fell fast and heavy for the rookie. Mere seconds after coming on he found a good chance for a look at goal, collecting a Kevin Molino drop-pass as he curled to the right, only for his effort to be blocked by Taylor Kemp. An offside flag would cancel out a left-footed attempt sent over the bar in the 24th minute, but the Brampton, Ontario-native could only blame himself in the 42nd minute, collecting a lovely scooped ball from Kaka on his chest, bringing it down calmly, but dragging his right-footer wide of the left-post. He would force a save out of DC keeper, Bill Hamid, in the 74th minute; the final of his four shots on the night – two on, one off, and one blocked – and was more than willing to get involved in the build-up as well, sliding a nice pass out wide left for Molino to find a chance. But, Larin may have been his face and into the Orlando net, a late winner in the 91st minute.A rookie mistake no doubt, and one Adrian Heath will likely address. Larin was solid on the ball, completing six of his ten passes, winning four fouls with his physical presence, and adding an interception and a recovery to his achievements. He was caught off-side of three occasions however, and, still adjusting to the pace and pressure of the professional game, he appeared to snatch at his chances, rushing his attempts rather than coolly dispatching them. That said, his movement, probing the opposition back-line, and positioning, finding those little gaps to craft half-chances, have been very encouraging. Surely his first goal is not far off and if Ribeiro is forced to stay on the sidelines for an extended absence – it appeared to be a hamstring strain at the time – Larin will get the time he needs to score that first MLS goal sooner rather than later. Kofi Opare Like it may for Larin, injury has provided Opare with the chance to force his way into the starting eleven, making his first start of the season for DC in Orlando, having debuted last weekend when Steve Birnbaum went down with an early ankle injury. Paired with Bobby Boswell as the left-sided centre-back, Opare was faced with another difficult opponent. Last round it was LA, this week he was confronted primarily with Kaka and Ribeiro, at least until fellow-Canadian Larin came on as an early replacement. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised Opare handled those threats well. Kaka barely got the chance to slice through the box, as he did so devastatingly against Montreal last time out, while Larin was in tough against a potential national teammate, closed down on the right by Opare on one occasion, blocking an attempted cross, and then welcomed to the league with a bit of physicality, as Opare ranged all the way to the touchline to put in a heavy sliding challenge, winning the ball and snuffing out the attack at the cost of a thrown-in. He would finish the match with seven clearances, three recoveries, a tackle and an interception, while completing 15 of his 21 passes. And became the second Canadian to suffer a heavy collision with Orlando keeper, Donovan Ricketts, getting flattened as he went up for an aerial ball in the box – he came off better than Sam Adekugbe did in his challenge however. Last summer when Opare joined DC from LA, he came at the expense of position in the allocation order and a second-round pick in the 2015 SuperDraft – that pick, 42nd overall, would become Dan Metzger, for those interested. Such moves are the kind that a good club makes, filling a possible need at a relatively low-cost so that quality is available when needed. Opare has been nothing but solid in his two outings, not putting a foot-wrong – the opponent has not scored a goal while he has been on the pitch. And DC is all the better for having him in the squad. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe made a fourth-consecutive start for Vancouver in their dominant win over LA on Saturday, maintaining the starting left-back position ahead of the veteran Jordan Harvey. Tasked with keeping a lid on Stefan Ishizaki, thrusting down LA's right-flank, Adekugbe was forced to tangle with one of the few Galaxy players to not be thoroughly outplayed on the night, troubling Adekugbe in one instance, before the Vancouver defender eventually snatched away possession. The English-born defender would see a yellow card, his second of the season, in the 59th minute for blocking off Ishizaki's run in midfield, ending a potentially troublesome LA transition – it was his only foul of the match. Adekugbe showed all the assets that have helped him keep Harvey out of the lineup: quickness, an ability to get forward, and a defensive tenacity, contributing seven recoveries, five clearances, and a tackle. But also seems to have grown in confidence on the ball, misplacing just seven of over fifty passes on the night; doing his part in an outstanding outing from the Whitecaps. Continuing his education in MLS, Adekugbe once more suffered physically, taking an awkward bit of contact from Alan Gordon and Kendall Waston as he went up for an aerial challenge. It was unclear exactly what happened, possibly an inadvertent head-butt from teammate Waston, but regardless, both Waston and Gordon are fearsome opponents in the air and Adekugbe's fearlessness, at the cost of a few moments prone on the pitch, is admirable. That said, he may want to avoid picking on the biggest people on the pitch in the future. Steven Vitoria Vitoria continued his iron-man run for Philadelphia as they dropped a heart-breaker in Kansas City on Sunday night, falling 3-2 on a pair of stoppage-time goals from Sporting that overturned what would have been the Union's first win of the season – Vitoria has played every minute for his club, the only Canadian to do so, as both Jonathan Osorio and Tesho Akindele have not completed all their starts. Once more the left-sided centre-back, paired this time with new partner, Maurice Edu, Vitoria was a calming presence for Philadelphia, but even he could not prevent the late crumbling. Though he could not be held directly responsible for any of the three goals against, he would liked to have done a better job of marshaling his teammates on set-pieces, from which all three were conceded. The Toronto-born defender did his part in the run of play, ending the match with five clearances, five recoveries, and four interceptions, conceding two fouls and winning one. His passing – completing just 10 of 23 – showed just how much pressure the Union were under, preferring to launch long passes rather than play out of the back on the road, hence the poor completion rate. He showed his ability to aid in attack, pointing for left-back Fabinho to make a run before playing a leading ball down the flank, a play that eventually led to Andrew Wenger forcing a good save out of Luis Marin. And was on the end of a nasty challenge from Krisztian Nemeth, but came off no worse for wear. Marcel De Jong De Jong returned to Kansas City's starting lineup after a one match absence for the win over Philadelphia on Sunday – it was his third appearance of the season, all as a starter. The Newmarket, Ontario-native's night would be all but cut short in the 18th minute when he was called for a foul on Erik Ayuk Mbu. It was no doubt a hard challenge, but both De Jong and Peter Vermes doubted it was even a foul – De Jong would receive a yellow card for it, his only foul of the match. As if that was not enough punishment, the ensuing free-kick would lead to Philadelphia's second goal, reinstating their lead in the 19th minute, the two sides having exchanged goals earlier. De Jong would seek to make amends, sending a long, hopeful free-kick into the Union box, seeking out the head of Jalil Anibaba, who had strayed offside. Getting into advanced positions, De Jong had two attempts at goal, both off-target, including one weak shot from distance when the ball fell to him in the middle of the pitch. He would go to ground again for another challenge on Ayuk, this time getting beat, and when he was replaced by Seth Sinovic for the second half, Vermes relayed to the broadcast team that the decision was based on the risk of another booking, already having seen one, in the midst of a physical game, and with concerns over 'soft' calls. De Jong completed 20 of his 24 passes, made three tackles, and two interceptions. Jonathan Osorio Osorio made his fourth-straight start for Toronto in their loss to Chicago on Saturday. Once more on the right-side of the midfield, sitting a little deeper as part of a three-man quasi-shield in front of the back-line, Osorio again struggled to make an impact on the match. His passing was excellent, as usual – completing all but 5 of some roughly 45 passes – but with Sebastian Giovinco again the focal point, Osorio has been forced into a supporting role out wide, which does not make best use of his talents. The Toronto, Ontario-native did have one good look at goal, when a Warren Creavalle ball from the left fell to him at the back-post, but Osorio dragged his right-footer wide – his only shot of the match, off-target. He would make way for Bright Dike in the 80th minute having amassed three recoveries and an interception, winning two fouls in the process. The Rest Only one additional Canadian was in the gameday eighteen this round: Kyle Bekker on the bench for FC Dallas in Portland. Though he did not see the pitch, he was involved, slightly, in the post-match confrontation that began with the offering of a tissue. Bekker was mostly trying to play peacekeeper, like a good Canadian should. 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
  10. Kofi Opare Having been rooted to the bench after a mid-season trade from Los Angeles in 2014, Opare finally got on the pitch for DC in Saturday's 1-0 win over his former side, making his first appearance of the season. And it almost wasn't to be. Once more amongst the substitutes, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised Opare was only called into action due to an ankle injury suffered by standout sophomore Steve Birnbaum, who landed awkwardly after going up for a header, prompting Ben Olsen to bring the Canadian onto the pitch in the fifth minute. The defender did not do anything particularly spectacular, one does not require spectacular from a defender, but what he did contribute was a solid outing, not putting a foot wrong in his 85 minutes of play, quelling the threat of a dangerous LA attack comprised of Alan Gordon and Jose Villarreal, with Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes away on international duty. Taking up Birnbaum's left-sided centre-back slot, alongside Bobby Boswell, Opare was immense, exhibiting his excellent reading of the match by getting in position to cut out a potentially troublesome Robbie Rogers cross in one instance and proving that despite his extended absence from the pitch – he last saw action in July of last season – his aerial presence, especially against a foe as troublesome as Gordon, was as close to perfection as possible. Completing 22 of 27 passes, Opare racked up some good numbers, including seven recoveries, six clearances, five interceptions, a block and a tackle, winning one foul throughout. A hearty outing for his thirteenth all-time appearance in MLS. Opare earned the praise of both his coach and his teammates, Olsen stating, "Kofi is a big story line today. He hasn’t had a lot of minutes for us or in the League, but from what I’ve seen of Kofi, he’s a gamer. He has a mentality that he can step in and do the job, and tonight I thought he was great. It was a good match-up for him tonight." While Chris Pontius, who scored the game-winner, gave credit to, “Our defenders, especially Kofi stepping in for Birnbaum early, that’s not easy to step into a game that early on and I thought he was fantastic.” He even earned MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honours for his outing, one that will undoubtedly have reassured Olsen that should Birnbaum's injury require a spell on the sidelines, Opare is more than capable of filling that gap on the back-line. Wandrille Lefevre Like Opare, Lefevre made his first appearance of the season, lining up in the left-sided centre-back position for Montreal in their 2-2 draw against Orlando City on Saturday. Having made a career-high fifteen appearances last season – thirteen as a starter – Lefevre was more than ready to stand in for the absent Laurent Ciman, away with Belgium on national team duty. That said, it was a bit of a mixed night for Lefevre, individually solid, his side collapsed, conceding two goals in just over a minute having strolled out to a two-goal lead inside the first 27 minutes of the match. Mere moments after Jack McInerney's stunning chip gave Montreal their second, Pedro Ribeiro drew one back for the visitors. Though , it would be harsh to put him at fault. The same could be said of the second goal just 82 seconds later. Neither Lefevre, nor his centre-back partner Bakary Soumare challenged Ribeiro to impede his progress towards goal, – Lefevre was not best pleased.Aside from those two blemishes, the French-born defender was impressive, compiling figures that challenge Opare's, including nine recoveries, seven interceptions, six clearances, and a tackle, winning and conceding a foul each way. Perhaps his best intervention of the game was a sliding challenge on Eric Avila, timed to perfection, sliding in to stop the attacker's progress with a strong tackle, deflecting the ball of Avila himself and out for a goal-kick. Orlando cried for a penalty, but there was absolutely no grounds for one. Lefevre had to be prepared for the physical side of the game as well, getting flattened in the box by Sean St Ledger early on a corner kick – which may have been worthy of drawing a penalty itself – later getting leveled by his own keeper, Eric Kronberg, as he rushed out to collect a high cross, and then Lefevre himself put a heavy body-check into Kaka in midfield to attempt to break up an attack – for which he was lucky to escape a booking. And his passing, long an impressive feature of his game, was once more excellent, completing all but eight of some forty-plus attempts. Another impressive debut from a fringe-Canadian. Ashtone Morgan Following a suspect outing in Columbus two weeks ago, where Morgan could be blamed – at least in part – for both Columbus goals and was nearly directly responsible for a third, he resumed his left-back role for TFC in their 2-1 loss in Salt Lake on Sunday. Deputizing for the suspended Justin Morrow, Morgan, making his first start of the season, looked an all-together more comfortable player, even showing glimpses of the attacking impetus that earned him such plaudits as he broke onto the scene in 2011 and 2012. Having learned the lesson of being slow to close down a potential cross, Morgan was out quick to slow Sebastian Jaime early and then held the off-side line well to force the Salt Lake attacker off in a later attempt – Jaime would find the back of the net, but the raised flag denied any celebration. The Toronto, Ontario-native would end the night with three interceptions, two tackles, a clearance and a recovery. Going forward Morgan was a more confident threat, taking on Tony Beltran to win an early corner kick and then forcing a turnover out of the Salt Lake full-back before sending in a lovely ball from the left that was just beyond the reach of a stretching Luke Moore. At first glance, Morgan could be blamed for Salt Lake's opener – it was his side down which Luke Mulholland made his unmarked run to nod a Javier Morales cross from the left in at the back-post – but Morgan was preoccupied in the middle, already covering his mark and the responsibility to track that run lay with the recovering midfielder sauntering into frame late. Toronto should have been more aware that the three-man front-line of Salt Lake would occupy the defenses and it was necessary for the midfield to track other runners – or, don't let Morales get on the ball to pick those crosses. Lessons hopefully learned, though too late for this match. Morgan would make way for Dan Lovitz in the 77th minute, with Greg Vanney throwing caution to the wind in search of an equalizer. It would come, but Morales again would punish poor marking from TFC, once more breaking the tie, a minute after TFC leveled. On the ball Morgan was equally confident, completing fourteen of nineteen passes, but his cross rate is of some concern, flinging eight unsuccessful balls into the area. Crossing is a low-percentage method at the best of times, but perhaps a touch more patience and interplay on that flank would be advantageous. On a side note, given that Morgan saw extended minutes with TFC2 during Toronto's bye-week, could this be the first tangible sign of Canadian MLS clubs using the USL affiliation to get minutes for squad players, which then translates into better performances with the first team? Tesho Akindele Akindele started a fourth-consecutive match for FC Dallas on Saturday night, as they drew 0-0 against Seattle at home, maintaining their unbeaten start to the season, but relinquishing their winning streak with the draw. Initially taking up a secondary striker's position, playing centrally underneath David Texeira who led the line, Akindele was forced into a more defensive role after eighteen minutes, when Kelyn Acosta was dismissed for a high boot on Andy Rose, catching the Seattle midfielder with an errant foot to the midsection and seeing a red card for his effort. As Dallas reconfigured, the attacker dropped into a wide right midfielder role, running his socks off to put in a defensive shift – one of his three tackles on the night came just a few yards away from defensive corner flag, indicative of his tracking efforts. Despite being forced on the back-foot, the Calgary, Alberta-native was still able to get forward, twice making the runs to get on the end of Fabian Castillo through-balls. The first was slightly over-hit, running to Seattle keeper, Stefan Frei, though Akindele nearly got a touch at the last second. The next time, his progress was impeded just enough by Zach Scott to prevent Akindele from curling onto the ball with his run, allowing Frei to collect once more. The first attempt was perhaps the more impressive, as Akindele recognized Castillo was on the ball and made a long, diagonal run from the right touch-line to burst past the Seattle defenses and put himself in place to challenge for the chance at the left-post. His hustle in those aspects of the game is indeed admirable, once chasing down a long Victor Ulloa ball, sprayed into the corner, only for Scott to recover and block his attempted cross into the middle. Defensively, there are certain aspects the forward could work on – he was made to look a little foolish as Leo Gonzalez squirmed past him to get a ball to the near-post for Seattle's best, early chance at the end of the first half – but with four recoveries, three clearances, three tackles, and two interceptions to his name, it was a solid shift from Akindele. His passing, completing 12 of 21 on the night, was once more erratic, but given that Dallas were short-handed for the majority of the match, that is understandable, albeit if he were to be a touch more conservative and careful with the ball it could be useful. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe recovered from his rib injury in time to start a third-consecutive match for Vancouver as they stole another win at the death, beating Portland 2-1 on a 90th-minute winner from Robert Earnshaw. Lining up once more at left-back, the English-born defender was a force on that side, factoring in attack - hugging the touch-line going forward – and contributing defensively as Vancouver held a dominant Timbers side at bay. He showed little effect from the injury concerns, galloping up the left with a good burst on one occasion, going down a little easy, it must be said, to win a free-kick. And, as will be noted below, he made one potentially threatening ball, finding Kianz Froese inside the Portland box, only for time to run out on his fellow Canadian before a shot could be had. Adekugbe showed some of that competitive spirits so required in MLS, getting in the face of Liam Ridgewell as the two battled prior to a corner kick – the veteran flung him to the ground as they waited and Adekugbe refused to play the shrinking violet. But his rough introduction to the perils of MLS continued, as he took an Alvas Powell cross in a very sensitive spot – it shall be called the midriff for cleanliness' sake – that saw him crumpled to the floor once more. No doubt lessons, such as don't get into a sliding tackle with a behemoth of a keeper and get those sensitive bits out of the way of crosses, have been learned. His passing was impressive, completing all but one of his fifteen attempts, while racking up nine clearances, six recoveries, and four interceptions on the night; winning and conceding a foul each way. Steven Vitoria Vitoria's iron-man run continued, as he started a fourth match for Philadelphia on Sunday, losing 1-0 in Chicago – Vitoria has featured in every single minute played by the club this season. Despite the Union's struggles – they are winless through four matches and have not scored in three of those games – the Toronto-born centre-back has barely put a foot wrong in his first 360 minutes of MLS action. And should Philadelphia's scoring woes continue, one can expect him to get a goal or two as the season plays out, being a sizable aerial threat on set-pieces. Back to Sunday, he made one vital intervention to prevent Quincy Amarikwa's touch from finding a streaking Kennedy Igboananike inside the area, cutting out what would have otherwise been a glorious goal-scoring chance. But Vitoria could be found partially at fault for letting centre-back Adailton get free on what turned out to be the game-winner in the 37th minute. Vitoria covered Eric Gehrig as he moved towards the near-post, leaving the big Brazilian to Andrew Wenger, who did not bother to track, leading to a virtually free-header on the end of Harrison Shipp's corner kick. While not directly his responsibility, one of his tasks with the Union this season will be to organize and coordinate those situations – something that broke down on Sunday. That aside, Vitoria was once more as solid as they come, racking up some impressive figures: ten recoveries, six clearances, three interceptions, a block and a tackle, winning one foul and conceding two, while misplacing just eight of his 45-plus passes. Jonathan Osorio Osorio resumed his midfield position for a third match on Sunday, as TFC fell in Salt Lake – he has started each of Toronto's three matches this season. Taking up his familiar right-sided midfield position, Osorio was energetic, but with Toronto chasing large sections of the game and opting to by-pass the midfield build in lieu of long balls, he was not able to get on the ball as much as one would like. Still he completed all but eight of his over-forty passes on the night. Somewhat isolated, the Toronto, Ontario-native would regularly cut in-field to get involved. He even made a sneaky back-post run on a corner kick, nearly getting on the end of Sebastian Giovinco's service, only for his connection to falter, slicing the attempt off target. It was a physical night for Osorio, he cut his hand early, requiring a moment on the sidelines for repairs, and was later flattened by Abdoulie Mansally, winning one of his two fouls of the match. Osorio has been a little quiet thus far this season, still adjusting to his new supplementary role as Giovinco takes centre-stage, the majority of the time on the ball, and responsibility for driving the side forward, a role that once fell largely on Osorio's shoulders. Kianz Froese Froese made a second-straight appearance from the bench for Vancouver against Portland, coming on for Nicolas Mezquida in the 58th minute. The Cuban-born midfielder/attacker was lively once more, making a couple of nice touches on the run to spur an attack – it would eventually fizzle out. He had one good chance, getting into an advanced position just inside the box to receive a pass from Sam Adekugbe, only to run out of time before getting off a shot, closed down by several defenders before the ball would settle. In his half-hour on the pitch, Froese completed fourteen of fifteen passes, made one clearance, and won a foul. Patrice Bernier Bernier finally made his first league appearance of the season for Montreal on Saturday, coming on in the 76th minute for Nigel Reo-Coker, who respectfully handed over the armband to the club captain as they traded positions. Having received a hearty applause from the home fans, the Brossard, Quebec-native showed that he still had a role to play with the club, even if he has lost a step, contributing a solid, if brief, outing that saw him complete eleven of thirteen passes, making two recoveries, one interception, and a tackle in the process. Bernier even got a shot from distance towards goal, though it was blocked. After Montreal's Champions League match two weeks ago, Bernier took to twitter to thank the fans for their support. While his time on the pitch may be coming to an end, there is no doubt that Bernier's leadership and calming influence will be an asset to Frank Klopas behind the scenes. Klopas has a history of keeping veterans in place, who despite few minutes on the pitch, play vital roles – as Logan Pause did for him in Chicago. The Rest Jay Chapman and Jordan Hamilton were unused substitutes on the bench for TFC in Salt Lake, called up from TFC2 to pad the squad with international absences, injury, and suspension mounting. Vancouver announced their list of first team players that would be going on loan to WFC2 for the upcoming USL season. Of the five players spending time between the two clubs, two were Canadians: Ben McKendry and Caleb Clarke – they are available to move between the two clubs as required. The rest of the roster can be seen here. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. Russell Teibert Teibert made his first start of the MLS season in Vancouver's 1-3 loss to Toronto on Saturday. Having started 22 matches in 2014 – a career high, Teibert was back in the first eleven, beating out Gershon Koffe and lining up alongside Matias Laba at the base of the Vancouver midfield. From his left-sided position, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native was influential in a dominant first half performance from the Whitecaps, helping to maintain possession – he completed some 30 of his 31 passes on the night – and marauding up the left-channel, repeatedly troubling the TFC defenses. After just eight minutes, he, by all rights, should have registered up his first assist of the season, picking out striker Octavio Rivero running in behind the Toronto back-line, but the designated player could not corral the ball on the turf, registering what could be the miss of the season in the first round of play. The fifth-year midfielder would have two good looks of his own, testing Joe Bendik with a fierce strike in the 28th minute, having found a pocket of space for a left-footed effort from the top left-corner of the box – Bendik would parry the blast, and sending his other attempt off target. Full of running, as usual, Teibert would contribute on the defensive side of the ball as well, racking up seven recoveries, two interceptions – including a vital headed intervention that prevented Michael Bradley from picking out Sebastian Giovinco in the Whitecaps area, one block, and a tackle; conceding one foul and losing possesion just once, a marked improvement over what has been a weakness in his game in seasons past. He was however given the runaround by Jonathan Osorio en route to Toronto's opening goal in the 32nd minute of play – clip below. The 22-year old Canadian would be replaced in the 64th minute by Koffie with Vancouver having fallen behind and attempting to regain control of the middle of the park with the more imposing Ghananian. Jonathan Osorio Osorio too made his season debut in Saturday's match between Toronto and Vancouver, helping his side on to a 1-3 victory in their first of seven roads matches to open the 2015 campaign. Coming off a career year, in terms of starts, minutes, and assist, if not goals, Osorio won a position in a congested and star-studded TFC midfield, taking up the right-sided midfield slot. Overrun on that flank through the opening twenty minutes, with Kekuta Manneh menacing, Osorio was crucial to the few chances that fell Toronto's way through the opening half. It was his intelligent layoff to Bradley that led to a deflected attempt, which fell into the path of Giovinco, who dragged his shot wide of the left-post and it was his vital running that led to Jozy Altidore's goal in the 32nd minute, collecting a ball from the defenders high on the right, rushing to the outside to gain some ground before peeling away from Teibert to find Giovino, who made a neat curl of his own to evade Laba and find the big American with a poked through-ball. His passing all night was integral to TFC's second half domination, misplacing just five of some 45-odd passes, while collecting seven recoveries, two interceptions, and a tackle, winning a foul as well. The Toronto, Ontario-native had a solid look of his own in the 91st minute when the ball fell to him on the left-side of the area, but his attempt on goal was blocked – it was his only shot of the match. In his third season in MLS, the 22-year old midfielder is expected to carry the flag for a Toronto side that lost the likes of Doneil Henry and Dwayne De Rosario in the off-season. Steven Vitoria Toronto-born, but Portuguese-bred – in the footballing sense – Vitoria made his introduction to MLS on Saturday as Philadelphia played out a scoreless draw against Colorado at PPL Park in Chester, PA. Signed on a one-season loan from SL Benfica on February 9, the centre-back lined up alongside Ethan White in the heart of the Union back-line, helping them register their first clean-sheet of the season. Playing as the left-sided of the duo, Vitoria was solid, if unspectacular – not that one wants spectacular defenders – contributing a clean match, while showing a certain amount of skill on the ball, seeing just five of his fifty-plus passes go astray. That said, he did have a penchant for the long ball, which plays well into the Union's pace in wide positions. Without being overly tested by a still-evolving Rapids attack, the 28-year old Vitoria compiled five clearances, three tackles, and two each of interceptions and recoveries. He also picked up his first booking of the season in the 25th minute, chopping down the speedy Dominique Badji when drawn out wide and beaten for pace – it was one of three fouls he conceded on the night, winning two for his side in the process. The big centre-back showed some of his experience in a second half play, first preventing Badji from going to the outside, then wisely getting out of the way of his hurried shot, thereby eliminating any risk of a costly deflection. All told, an impressive debut for the Canadian-born defender in first first MLS appearance. Tesho Akindele Akindele, who was awarded last season's Rookie of the Year trophy, resumed his starting role for Dallas in their 1-0 win over San Jose on Saturday. Having made eighteen starts in his first campaign, the Calgary-born forward, took up a position on the left-side of a rampant and fluid Dallas attack, who struggled to beat San Jose keeper David Bingham. As usual, Akindele roamed all over the pitch, popping up deep in defense – amassing seven recoveries, three interceptions, and three clearances throughout - and ranging forward in attack; he once nearly beat the equally-active Bingham to a long ball, only for the keeper to get the vital touch at the last second. He had two solid attempts at goal, scuffing a clean, left-footed look wide of the right-post on the turn in the 61st minute when a bouncing ball fell to him in space on the left – and then seeing his point-blank redirection of a Michael Barrios cross from the right denied and smothered by Bingham in the 84th. His passing was typically erratic, completing 21 of thirty attempts – a feature of his constant low-percentage prodding of the Earthquake defenses (not necessarily a bad thing) – and lost possession twice through ninety minutes, while straying offside on one occasion. Well known by now – and roundly commentated upon, Akindele's international future is still up in the air, as he took part in the US National Team's January camp. The Rest Kofi Opare, Maxim Tissot, and Patrice Bernier were on the benches for DC and Montreal, respectively, as United rolled out 1-0 winners over the Impact. Sam Adekugbe, Ashtone Morgan, and new homegrown-signing Jay Chapman were in the squads for Vancouver and Toronto on Saturday. Kyle Bekker, who was traded from Toronto to Dallas in January, was an unused substitute in Dallas' late 1-0 win over San Jose on Saturday night. News & Notes Though the opening round featured little Canadian content, there was one addition during the off-season that should prove interesting, as Sporting KC signed oft-national team left-back/midfielder Marcel de Jong, who saw his contract with German side FC Augsburg terminated in January (by mutual consent). Similarly, Karl Ouimette, who was stunningly released by the Montreal Impact back in February, has impressed in a trial with former manager, Jesse Marsch, now in charge of the New York Red Bulls, earning a spot with the New Jersey-based club. On final new face made his first appearance of the season, as former Canadian international Marc Bircham joined Frank Yallop on the Chicago Fire bench as they lost in the opening match of the round on Friday, 2-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy in LA. Bircham left QPR, where he had spent the last five season, at the start of February to join the Chicago coaching staff As the season continues, more of the news from the off-season will be sprinkled in to augment the coverage. 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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