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Found 5 results

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Cyle Larin Larin made his fifth-straight start for Orlando City in their come-from-behind 2-2 draw against New England on Friday night – adding in his two substitute appearances, Larin now has seven on the season. Leading the line for the Lions by his lonesome, Larin was constantly on the move, but not particularly involved in the build-up – attempting just eleven passes and completing only seven. The same could be said of the entire Orlando side, who fell behind 0-2 through seventy minutes, and could easily have trailed by more. But something clicked as Charlie Davies doubled the Revolution lead in the 71st minute and four minutes later, the Brampton, Ontario-native would draw one back for the home side. Moments before scoring, Larin nearly got on the end of a left-sided Brek Shea cross, getting in front of his marker at the near-post, but unable to stretch and get the required touch. When Rafael Ramos collected a ball on the right and shaped a wonderful cross to the edge of the six-yard box, Larin made no mistake, guiding his header to the left of Bobby Shuttleworth, having gotten goal-side on Jermaine Jones in the 75th minute – it was Larin's second goal of the season. He would make way shortly thereafter, in the 81st minute, for Bryan Rochez, just as the Lions were coming to life. It would fall to Aurelien Collin to grab the equalizer in the final minute of regulation with a header of his own. Aside from kick-starting the comeback, Larin had a numerically sparse night: his goal came from his only shot; passing was virtually non-existent; he was off-side on one occasion, and he suffered a single foul, one that saw Jones booked for his lunging challenge in the centre-circle. It can be tempting to desire a forward who gets himself more involved in the passage of play – which is not to say that Larin does not contribute on the opposite side of the ball – but pure strikers, those who constantly probe the opponent's back-line for weakness, seldom rack up the passing or defensive statistics. With Kaka playing behind him, Larin's role is not to get on the ball, but to do the running and make himself an option, something he has increasingly excellent at in his short time in MLS. Post-match, Larin reflected on his goal and the first few months of professional soccer: “I think I have learned a lot in recent weeks. I just waited for my chance and Rafa put in the right ball at the right time. I have been working hard in training to be ready for that moment, and I was very pleased to convert it tonight.” Kofi Opare Opare started his sixth-consecutive match for DC United as they drew 1-1 against Sporting KC on Saturday night – it was his seventh appearance of the season since coming on in the fifth minute against LA for the injured Steve Birnbaum. Birnbaum is now fit enough for the bench, but Opare's form is keeping him out of the starting lineup. Paired with Bobby Boswell as the left-sided centre-back, Opare again made his presence know, spending the entire match in a running-wrestling contest against the pesky Dom Dwyer, who is a constant menace. In an excellent physical battle throughout the match, Opare got the better of Dwyer, out-muscling him for position on one play in particular. But Dwyer would find his revenge in the 45th minute, catching Opare a touch flat-footed seconds away from half-time, peeling off the defender to meet a low Roger Espinoza ball at the near-post to level the match at ones three minutes after Jairo Arrieta had put the hosts in front. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised defender exhibited his excellent reading of the game, stepping up to easily intercept a defense-splitting ball bound for Jacob Peterson that would have carved open DC – one of two interceptions on the night - going on to pad his stat-line with seven recoveries, five clearances, and a pair of tackles, conceding just a single foul, despite the physical encounter. And his passing has definitely improved in recent weeks, completing all but six of some forty attempts. Opare would shake off a slight knock after an aerial collision with Erik Palmer-Brown to nearly get on the end of a potential game-winner, only for KC keeper, Tim Melia, to pluck the cross off his head before the needed contact could be made. Opare will score some goals this season – foreshadowing next week's review. Earlier in the month, Opare was interviewed by CSN's own Daniel Squizzato, on a range of topics, but most crucially on his efforts to represent Canada at the international level. Tesho Akindele Still riding the pine, Akindele would have to wait until half-time to enter the fray against Los Angeles on Saturday night – making his fourth-straight appearance from the bench. Dallas would fall behind on the hour, only to mount a rousing comeback in the final fifteen minutes of the match to win 1-2. Taking up the left-sided attacking midfield role from Ryan Hollingshead, Akindele showed his usual willingness, rampaging forward and tracking back, covering lots of ground, eager to demonstrate what he is capable of contributing. With LA's stamina fading, Dallas would begin their push with a glorious chance, or possibly two, to respond coming Akindele's way in the 73rd minute. The first look came when Fabian Castillo whistled a low cross through the area from the right, but it was just beyond the reach of the forward. Blas Perez would collect on the left, squaring a set-up Akindele's way, but he was unable to turn on the attempt, sending his snatched left-footer rocketing high and wide into the night sky. Perez would equalize four minutes later in the 77th minute and the Calgary-born Akindele would make amends for his earlier miss(es) when next an opportunity presented itself. In the 86th minute, Akindele, on the left, collected a raking cross-field ball from Mauro Diaz. Finding himself one-on-one against Dan Gargan, who kindly backed off, Akindele settled the ball and made a slight inside-move onto his right-foot before looping a dipping shot to the far, side-netting, beating Jaime Penedo to put his side in the driver's seat with the lead – it was his third goal of the season; the first in five matches, stretching back to the beginning of April (the fourth, to be exact). With two shots – one on (the goal) and one off (the miss), four recoveries, an interception, and two offside flags, while completing 18 of his 24 passes, the second-year forward made the most of his 45-plus minutes in the pitch. Whether he did enough to fight back into a competitive Dallas starting lineup remains to be seen. Post-match, Akindele was asked about 'coming out of the sophomore slump': “I guess… It’s the media’s job to write about the things that are happening and I had not scored in a while but it’s my job to stay focused and score goals. Everybody is doing their job.” Before moving on to discuss his goal: “ It was a fast break for us. They were playing a bit cautious – probably trying to delay until help could arrive. We work on that in training every day. People only see the one in the game, but I did that 200 times this week. That is what comes of it. It was an amazing feeling. Mauro [Diaz] had the ball on the opposite side of the field. Everyone was concentrating on him. I just tried to stay open. I know he can pick people out on a pass. When I received the pass, I had a one-on-one in the box, which is always a good situation to be in for a forward.” Akindele also discussed those perceived 'struggles' prior to the match with MLSsoccer.com. Jonathan Osorio Osorio was on the bench for Toronto FC in their 1-2 loss to Houston on Sunday, coming on in the 58th minute for Robbie Findley with the Dynamo already leading 0-2 – it was his seventh appearance of the season; his second from the bench. Taking up the left-sided midfield position, Osorio was lively, more so than he had been in any of his previous appearances, linking up well with Sebastian Giovinco immediately. The Toronto, Ontario-native would nearly set up Michael Bradley, picking out his teammate with a chipped ball from the left – Bradley would hammer the volley over the target. But it was his cross in the 77th minute that proved most substantial. Advancing towards Raul Rodriguez on the left, Osorio backed off the defender before cutting in-field to send in a cross that picked out Jozy Altidore at the back-post, sneaking in-between DaMarcus Beasley and Jermaine Taylor to head in a consolation goal – it was Osorio's first assist and first point of the season. Having completed sixteen of his twenty passes, Osorio added four recoveries, and won a single foul, signaling in his 32 minutes that perhaps he was ready to be reinserted into the starting lineup. His post-match interview can be seen here. Russell Teibert Teibert started a fourth-straight match for Vancouver as they strolled to a 3-0 win over the struggling Philadelphia Union on Saturday night – it was his eighth start and ninth appearance of the season. Continuing he deep-lying defensive role, alongside Matias Laba in front of the back-four, Teibert was largely responsible for keeping track of the Union's most troublesome attacker, Cristian Maidana, which he did with aplomb. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-native has been very good this season, there is no denying his value to the club, but it has been difficult to pick out specific moments that exhibit his worth. With Vancouver largely playing on the counter, utilizing their intense speed, Teibert rarely ventures over the midway line; his most influential passages involve collecting loose balls, picking off passes, and providing much-needed defensive cover, whenever potential trouble looms. Teibert is often the first line of defense, confronting the ball-carrier as soon as he crosses into the Vancouver half, and it is his knack for spotting impending doom that is most useful – though hardly highlight-reel stuff. Consider this one play from Saturday. Ray Gaddis, Philadelphia's left-back, beats Kekuta Manneh to get into a good crossing position, but Teibert, having recognized the frailty of the situation, had already made his way into the area, and was thus on hand to block the cross at the source, preventing Gaddis from sending the ball into the area. That is valuable play, and should be recognized as such, but is not the sort of contribution that grabs the headlines. That said, his passing was again excellent, completing all but five of some 45-plus attempts, while racking up five recoveries, three clearances, and an interception, conceding a pair of fouls in the process. Karl Ouimette Ouimette made his second appearance of the season for the New York Red Bulls, coming on in the 38th minute for Mike Grella, sacrificed after Matt Miazga picked up a pair of bookings inside the first 36 minutes to be dismissed from the inaugural New York derby between the Red Bulls and City on Sunday evening. Eight days after making his season debut, Ouimette was thrust into an electric encounter, though with City's lack of attacking success, he was rarely tested. The Terrebonne, Quebec-native did very well positionally, not giving the opponent a foot of space, and was on the receiving end of a talking-to after wrestling with Andrew Jacobson prior to an attacking free-kick. His most notable play of the match was a timely intervention on Kwadwo Poku, blocking off the forward's run and clearing any potential danger with a strong boot. A measure of how feeble the expansion side's attack was can be seen in Ouimette's numbers, required to make just five clearances, two interceptions, a pair of tackles, and a recovery. Of some concern, he completed just one of his four pass attempts; all long, hopeful punts up-field. After a somewhat shaky outing against New England last weekend, Ouimette showed, as he helped see out a 2-1 win over in-town rivals with a calm performance, that with Miazga set to join the US U20 side in this summer's World Cup, which begins at the end of this month, he is ready to step into that starting position if called upon. Ashtone Morgan Morgan was in the starting eleven for a sixth-straight match on Sunday as TFC fell to Houston – all seven of Morgan's appearances have come in the last seven matches, starting the last six after coming on against Columbus following Justin Morrow's red card. From his left-back position, Morgan did well to track a bursting Ricardo Clark run down the right-side of the box – Clark would wrongly be awarded a corner kick after his attempted cross found the side-netting. The Toronto, Ontario-native was more than willing to get forward, racing onto a slipped Altidore ball down the left to pop in a cross that came to nothing. Morgan would end the match having completed 27 of 43 passes, adding four recoveries, three clearances, two tackles, and an interception. That pass completion ratio is not great, but Morgan was constantly looking to spring Giovinco into space, so they are perhaps understandable. His post-match interview can be seen here. Kyle Bekker Bekker made his fourth appearance of the season for FC Dallas in their come-from-behind victory over Los Angeles on Saturday night – it was his first game-time in over a month. Coming on for Kelyn Acosta in the 60th minute, Bekker took up the deep-lying central midfield position, pairing up with Victor Ulloa in front of the Dallas back-line. The Oakville, Ontario-native would complete all but two of his 21 passes, while making two recoveries and an interception, but failed to really get involved in the Dallas comeback to a significant degree. There was one cringe-worthy play, as Bekker was easily by-passed by Gyazi Zardes in midfield, his pace, or more correctly lack thereof, proving a liability against an explosive attacker. Bekker has been in tough to find minutes in a competitive Dallas midfield, should he hope to win more playing time, he will have to do better to impress and earn that spot. The Rest Patrice Bernier, Wandrille Lefevre, and Maxim Tissot were all unused substitutes for Montreal in their 1-2 loss to Portland on Saturday night. Sam Adekugbe was on the bench for Vancouver on Saturday against Philadelphia. And Quillan Roberts backed-up Chris Konopka for Toronto FC on Sunday. 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 fourth and fifth-consecutive starts over the two rounds as DC United surged into a tie atop the Eastern Conference with a pair of wins – they are part of a four-way tie for first-overall in the league. Opare has appeared in every match since Steve Birnbaum went down with an ankle injury, admirably deputizing as the left-sided centre-back, alongside Bobby Boswell. In Vancouver, as DC won 1-2, Opare was instrumental in helping to shut down the high-scoring Octavio Rivero. Constantly hassling the Whitecaps forward, Opare shielded him away from a through-ball to allow his goalkeeper to collect on one occasion. then ranged out wide right to cut out a later move from the forward, and finally pressured him relentlessly to prevent Rivero from turning to face goal after collecting a ball in the area. Opare would continue to mark Rivero out of the match to the bitter end, doing just enough to put off the striker after Boswell had slipped on the turf, helping to see out the solid result on the road. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised defender would end the match with five clearances, five tackles, three recoveries, and an interception; conceding a pair of fouls throughout. He was too easily by-passed by a Mauro Rosales cut move on one play, only for the Argentine's effort to strike to post, sparing any blushes from the defender. And he was called for a back-pass late in the match, saving a corner kick, but conceding a potentially dangerous indirect free-kick. Opare would make amends, heading out the ensuing Pedro Morales chip at the back-post, conceding the corner kick he had originally sought to prevent. On the attacking end, Opare was a presence, getting himself into a good position on the play that led to DC's opening goal. Boswell would get the final headed touch, but Opare was close to getting on the end of the service himself. He also got involved in DC's passing, completing all but one of his some 24 attempts. The following weekend back home against Columbus, Opare would play an even more vibrant role in the 2-0 win. Once more as the left-sided centre-back, he was an active defender, roaming all over the pitch to mop up any potential trouble before it came to fruition. There is some concern when a defender gets pulled out of position too often, but Opare handled that well, for the most part, though he was nearly taken advantage of, sliding over from left to right, when Kei Kamara broke into the attacking left-side of the area to send a ball to the back-post, only for Ethan Finlay to be unable to get the needed touch on the stretch. Opare would put in one crucial intervention, getting a huge block on a Kamara effort in the box with a sliding clearance, as the forward wiggled in the box, trying to get free for a shot – the ball sailed out for a throw-in. It was his only block of the night, though he made eight clearances, five recoveries, and four interceptions, while conceding just a single foul. Completing all but three of his twenty pass attempts. He was also able and willing to get forward when the chance presented itself, galloping forward on occasion, but it was from a set-piece that he perhaps made his most important contribution, occupying both Kamara and Columbus' goalkeeper, Steve Clark, on a Fabian Espindola corner kick from the right, preventing the keeper from getting the touch he wanted. The ball would fall to Sean Franklin at the back-side for a simple right-footed touch; DC's second goal of the evening. Opare has impressed in his run of matches; one wonders whether Birnbaum will walk back into the starting eleven when fit, or if the young centre-back has done enough to make the spot his own, for the time being at least. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe made a second-straight start on April 25th as Vancouver fell 1-2 to visiting DC United - it was his seventh start of the season. Continuing his strong play from the left-back position, Adekugbe got himself involved in the fracas after just minutes, lunging into an open legged challenge on Perry Kitchen in the ninth minute. Kitchen did not appreciate the tenacity at all, giving Adekugbe a little kick, but Kendall Waston was over quick to back up his young teammate, diffusing the situation as only an imposing presence such as his can. Adekugbe would see a yellow card for his enthusiasm – it was his fourth booking of the season, one away from a suspension. That aggressive play would not serve him well on DC's equalizing goal in the ninth minute, when Bobby Boswell was able to free himself from Agekugbe's marking to get on the end of a Michael Farfan cross. His passing was solid, completing 22 of 29, while defensively he racked up four clearances, three recoveries, and three interceptions; winning a pair of fouls and conceding only the one that led to his yellow card. Vancouver would fall behind when Chris Rolfe added a second in the 64th minute, but in search of a goal, the London-born defender would continue to press forward, finding a glorious chance to level the match deep in stoppage-time when a Pedro Morales free-kick fell to him in the left-side of the area. His weak right-footed effort was off-target, Adekugbe kicking his own leg in the attempt – it was his only shot of the night. He was not in the gameday eighteen in Portland the following week. Karl Ouimette Ouimette, after spending the season stapled to the bench, finally made his season debut as the New York Red Bulls fell 2-1 in New England this past Saturday – it was their first defeat of the season. Taking to the pitch as the left-sided centre-back, alongside Matt Miazga, Ouimette was solid, but showed moments of rust; only natural given it had been seven months since his last MLS appearance. He lost his mark on Charlie Davies in the ninth minute, allowing the forward to get on the end of a London Woodberry cross from the right for New England's opening goal. And was pulled over all the pitch by the Revolution's use of width. Teal Bunbury in particular caused him all sorts of troubling, dragging him wide to the right on far too many occasions for comfort. Ouimette would receive a yellow card in the 52nd minute on just such a play, cutting out a run from Bunbury way out near the touch-line – it was his only foul of the match. And later, Ouimette, along with the rest of the Red Bulls back-line, would be exposed again on the hour-mark, falling to keep track of a sweeping Revolution move across the top of the area, leading to Bunbury's eventual game-winner. Those shortcomings aside, the Terrebonne, Quebec-native was solid, especially in the air, where he was more than a match for Davies on any aerial threats. And he did very well to recover to the attacking right to get a much-needed block on a Lee Nguyen attempt, after the midfielder had squirmed away from the attentions of teammates Dax McCarty and Kemar Lawrence on the edge of the box with some sneaky footwork. Ouimette would take his chances to get forward, bursting up-field on one play, eating up some territory before being betrayed by a poor pass selection, getting his wires crossed with Dane Richard – his passing all told left a little to be desired, completing just 21 of 37. And with the clock counting down, he would nearly get on the end of a long throw, his headed effort drifting wide of the target. The former Montreal homegrown defender would collect some decent defensive numbers, including five clearances, four interceptions, two recoveries, and a tackle. Whether he did enough to warrant more playing time under Jesse Marsch remains to be seen. New York were playing their third match in less than a week, prompting Ouimette's inclusion in the starting lineup. He was an unused substitute in 1-1 draws against Los Angeles and Colorado, on the previous Sunday and Wednesday, respecively. Russell Teibert Teibert started both of Vancouver's matches over the past two weeks, as they fell 1-2 to DC at home and drew 0-0 in Portland most recently – he has now started the last three matches, bringing his season totals to seven starts and eight appearances. In both matches, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native would reprise his left-sided, defensively-oriented role, alongside first Matias Laba, then Gershon Koffie. Against DC, Teibert was guilty of being a touch slow to get out wide and challenge Michael Farfan, whose cross into the middle was met by Bobby Boswell, canceling out Pedro Morales' second minute goal in the ninth minute. Despite staying deep and providing a lot of defensive cover, arriving wherever trouble began to flare to double up pressure on the ball, Teibert was found wanting on DC's second goal in the 64th minute, unable to track the scything run of Chris Rolfe, who skipped past a last-ditch Teibert tackle to stab a finish past David Ousted. His passing on the night was excellent, completing all but four of some fifty attempts, and with eight recoveries, three tackles, two interceptions, and a clearance, he was definitely involved in the match, but still he would make way for Kekuta Manneh in the 70th minute, as Carl Robinson sought to inject some more attacking impetus into his side after going down a goal. The following week in Portland, Teibert was against tasked with a defensive-minded approach, specifically almost man-marking the ever-dangerous Darlington Nagbe out of the match. The derby between the Cascadian rivals would end scoreless, as neither was willing, nor able, to risk or find a way through the opponent. The Canadian would finish the match having completed 18 of 27 passes, while making four clearances, four recoveries, and one each of an interception, a block, and a tackle; conceding a single foul in the process. Ashtone Morgan Morgan continued his run of fine form in a pair of outings for Toronto FC, who embarked on a two-game winning streak with a 0-2 result in Orlando followed by a 0-1 victory against struggling Philadelphia. Morgan has started the last five TFC matches, appearing in the last six since subbing in when Justin Morrow was sent off in Columbus. Against Orlando, the Toronto, Ontario-native was conservative in attack, picking his spots to get forward – he completed thirteen of nineteen passes on the left-side. His confidence soaring after a year and a half in the wilderness, Morgan resumed his nasty left-back ways, suffering for his efforts. He would take a heavy knock in the back from Tyler Turner as he rose up to clear a cross, getting flattened from behind by the opponent, leaving him prone for a moment. It was a vital intervention despite the consequences, cutting out a Kaka ball that searched for space on the back side. Later he would catch a hard shoulder in the face from Kevin Molino, who saw a yellow card for his overly-strong challenge. Accumulating four clearances, three recoveries, and an interception through ninety minutes, Morgan would concede a pair of fouls, while winning one. His only mistake of the night came when he was very isolated against Kaka, who was able to get behind him on the inside as a leading pass was sent around the outside. Fortunately, nothing came from the chance. The following round in Philadelphia, Morgan was tasked with keeping a lid on the lively and tricky Erik Ayuk, which he managed well. Though he was a little slow to get out and pressure a crossing opportunity from Ray Gaddis, who whipped in the service unencumbered. He would also deal with threats from Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux, getting tangled with the imposing target man on a play that saw the Union hope to claim a penalty – it was not awarded, nor should it have been – and then did very well to block off the Frenchman's route to goal, stripping him of possession, before playing his way out of a dangerous part of the pitch with ease. Morgan would close the match with eight clearances, four recoveries, four tackles, and two interceptions. In attack he was once more a subtle presence, setting up a Jackson chance early with a ball in from the left, then picking his moment to press forward, collecting a loose ball before sending in a good cross that was cut out by Ethan White. He would complete just eleven of a mere nineteen passes though, as TFC focused on defending after Sebastian Giovinco's devastating free-kick gave them a lead in the 34th minute. Cyle Larin Larin started a third-straight match for Orlando City as they fell 0-2 to Toronto two weeks ago – it was his fifth appearance of the season. Taking to the pitch as the lone centre-forward, Larin was again on a bit of an island by himself, doing his best to factor in the match for a side that has struggled to find the needed goals. Focusing his efforts on exposing Nick Hagglund, the Brampton, Ontario-native showed his assets, using his strength to hold off the defender as he sought to get on the end of a Molino through-ball, resulting in a collision with Joe Bendik, who rushed off his line to collect. With Toronto largely focused on shutting down Kaka through the middle, Orlando sought to utilize the width allowed. Brek Shea in particular would repeatedly try and pick out Larin. The first attempt was met by the forward as he was sandwiched by a pair of defenders, forcing his header wide, while a later attempt arrived with a little too much energy; Larin was unable to bring down the quickly incoming service. He would make way for Bryan Rochez in the 67th minute, having had two attempts at goal, both off, and completing five of his seven passes. Larin strayed offside four times. Tesho Akindele Akindele was back on the bench for Dallas as they played a pair of road matches, drawing 1-1 in Colorado and then winning 1-4 in the Texas derby away to Houston. Akindele has been held out of the starting eleven in Dallas' last three matches, entering from the bench in the second half in each. In Colorado, Akindele would come on in the 64th minute, replacing goal-scorer Mauro Diaz, who had given the visitors the lead in the 31st minute. A 59th minute red card to Blas Perez meant that Dallas were down to ten men, so Akindele was largely tasked with seeing out the result. As it happened, Nick LaBrocca would equalize with an amazing strike in the 79th minute – nothing to be done about that – but the Calgary-born forward would nearly respond in kind, though his effort could only find the outside-netting following a long, rangy run up the right. It was his only attempt of the match. Akindele would complete six of eight passes, adding three recoveries, two clearances, and an interception to his stat-line that night. The following week on Friday night, Akindele would again replaced Diaz, this time in the 74th minute, with the match all but decided. Dallas had taken a two-goal lead in the first 21 minutes through Ryan Hollingshead and David Texeira. Houston would respond through Giles Barnes in the 32nd minute, but goals three minutes apart from Diaz and Fabian Castillo starting in the 52nd minute, gave the visitors an insurmountable 1-4 advantage. In his sixteen minutes, Akindele would help ensure Houston could find no way back, completing ten of thirteen passes, making two clearances, one interception, and a recovering, winning a single foul, as the match wound down. Prior to the matches, there was an interesting interview with Teal Bunbury that tangentially involved Akindele, as Bunbury spoke about his own decision-making process when faced with the option of representing either Canada or the US, as he indeed decided. In a manner, it even contained an apology for any 'mistruths' he represented to the Canadian media, perhaps a reference to an infamous interview with It's Called Football. It is worth a read for Canadian footy fans. Steven Vitoria Vitoria had a bit of a nightmare in his ninth-consecutive start for Philadelphia as they fell 4-1 to Columbus on April 25th, possibly guilty of not doing enough on any of the four Crew goals. The match would herald the end of his ironman run, as he was not included in the squad that lost to Toronto FC the following week. Once more as the left-sided centre-back, alongside the out of position Maurice Edu, Vitoria was under severe pressure, as the struggling Union failed to quell a rampant Crew attack at every turn. The Toronto-born defender was slow to get out and pressure Ethan Finlay wide on the first goal in the 21st minute, caught in two minds with Federico Higuain making a run off his shoulder, allowing a free cross to the back-side, which Kei Kamara easily brought down before finishing calmly. He was then unable to get up to mount a challenge or clear out Waylon Francis' left-sided cross in the 32nd minute, a cross which fell to Finlay, who touched in for a simple finish of his own. Then, before Philadelphia could regroup at half-time, Justin Meram would add a third, Vitoria again partially at fault as he was slow to step up to the ball-carrier, who burst away from Edu and Ray Gaddis to get off a shot that handcuffed keeper John McCarthy, who got a touch, only to watch as the ball dribbled over the line. And then the big defender was helpless to cut out the Kamara through-ball in the 73rd minute that led to Finlay's second and Columbus' fourth of the afternoon. It was a rough night for the Union. Despite that, it could have been worse were it not for Vitoria's contributions, making an impressive nine recoveries, nine clearances, two interceptions, a block and a tackle, all without conceding a single foul. He even completed 23 of his 27 passing attempts in Columbus. Whether he was simply rested against Toronto after a busy few months, or actually benched, is a matter for debate. Philadelphia's struggles have hardly been his fault, and would likely have been worse without his calming influence through the first two months of the season. Marcel de Jong de Jong started a fourth-straight match for Kansas City on April 25th in a wild 4-4 draw in Houston against the Dynamo – it was his sixth appearance of the season, all as a starter. From his left-back position, de Jong had disjointed outing. He collected an assist inside of two minutes – his first in MLS – pressuring a turnover out of Kofi Sarkodie high on the left-touch-line, before bumping the loose ball towards Krisztian Nemeth, who did the rest – running forty-yards towards goal before beating Tyler Deric with a dipping shot to the far-side. He would nearly add a second later when his overhit cross fell to Jalil Anibaba, who pulled back to Servando Carrasco at the top of the area, only for his effort to sail over the bar. de Jong showed excellent awareness and hustle on a later play, recovering deep to block a Sarkodie cross after he was exposed by a slipped ball down that side for the full-back to chase. The Newmarket, Ontario-native would complete 16 of 21 passes, make three interceptions, two recoveries, two clearances, and a tackle, before making way for Amadou Dia in the 63rd minute with Sporting trailing 3-1 at the time. It was a largely ineffective outing for de Jong, as KC struggled to string together passes for large swathes of the match. After he left however, they would score three more goals in the final sixteen minutes (plus five minutes of stoppage-time), as well as conceding another, resulting in the high-scoring draw. de Jong would find himself out of the squad the following round when KC return home to beat Chicago 1-0, losing his place to Seth Sinovic. A potentially worrying sign for Canadian fans with the Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying on the horizon. Jonathan Osorio Osorio saw his run of five-straight starts end in Orlando, as he was replaced by Jackson in the lineup – he would come on in the 66th minute to replace the ineffectual Robbie Findley, to make his first substitute appearance of the season. Taking up the left-side of midfield, Osorio was anonymous, as he has been for much of the season. His only real intervention in the match was a shove in the back of Kevin Molino that drew a yellow card – his first booking of the season and one of two fouls he committed in his 24 minutes on the pitch. The Toronto, Ontario-native did however complete all eight of his pass attempts, while making a single recovery. He would be an unused substitute in TFC's match in Philadelphia the following week. The Rest The big news outside of league play was that Will Johnson returned to the pitch for the first time since that horrible double-leg break suffered last September in Toronto. The Timbers Captain played 63 minutes for Portland's USL T2 side against Arizona United on April 25th, leading the side to a 0-2 win. And then went the full ninety the following week in a 0-2 loss at home to the Orange County Blues. Reports indicate Johnson took a total of six shots through the two matches, an encouraging sign of his impeding return to MLS play. Just in time to get up to match fitness before the international commitments start to come around this summer. Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league. He can be followed on twitter @grawsee and more of his writing is available at Partially Obstructed View
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