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Will Johnson-TFC Conference Call
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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
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
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