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Found 11 results

  1. You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  2. Robinson gave the youngster a rest to save him for the Canadian Championship game against FC Edmonton. The Canadian was fired up to be playing for the 'Caps in the national cup but unfortunately that's where disaster struck for Adekugbe and he was forced off just 17 minutes in with an ankle injury. The severity of that injury to his right ankle soon became clear and Adekugbe hasn't kicked a ball in anger since that game on May 13th. But after a lot of work, a lot of rehab and what must have felt like the longest 11 weeks of his life, Adekugbe is back, raring to go and looking to regain that left-back role, no matter how late into the season it now might be. "It's been a while," Adekugbe told reporters at training on Tuesday. "It was disappointing. I was able to get into the team and getting a run of games. To be hit by such a big injury was obviously disappointing but I'm happy to be back. "It's never good to come back at the latest time possible but there's games coming up. I'm hoping to get back into the team by training well and just doing a lot of stuff to get back into the team." Adekugbe returned to full training last week. He's walking and running fine, and although he may be back in the mix with less than half of the season remaining, that freshness could yet give him an advantage in his quest to get back that starting left-back spot. "It does, but obviously it's harder to get back into the groove of things because the season's gone on for so long and people are almost playing at their prime and at their max fitness levels," Adekugbe said. "Now it's just for me to get back into that zone where I'm getting match fit, I'm getting up and down and I'm able to get that volume of fitness back. "It's disappointing, but there's nothing I can do. Everyone is going to get injured so I'd rather it be now than when I'm older and it's harder to recover from." Having joined the 'Caps Residency program in 2011, Adekugbe is now in his third MLS season with the club. He's worked hard, developed his game and impressed many watchers. But despite knocking on the door for first team minutes, the 20-year-old has had to play the waiting game for his chance to seriously challenge for the starter's job. Adekugbe made his MLS debut in the last game of the 2013 season under Martin Rennie, starting against Colorado for the suspended Harvey. He made a further four appearances last year, but only one of those was a start. This season, he already has seven to his name, all of them starts. But while he's been away the landscape has changed a little and he's perhaps not only battling Harvey for left-back minutes, but also Christian Dean. With Harvey suspended once more, the centre back came in at left-back and put in an excellent and assured performance in Sunday's win over San Jose, offering the Whitecaps more size and athleticism in the position. Dean has also looked good there in USL games, so Adekugbe could find himself with more of a battle to establish himself as a regular starter than he had at the start of the year. It's a battle he's aware of and ready for. "I have to crawl over a lot of people," Adekugbe admitted. "Dean played really well on the weekend. Jordan has been playing well ever since he got back into the line-up. It just makes me want to play harder and do things more positive and do things even better to get myself back into the team. Competition's all over the place, so it's not just me, it's everyone else as well." It's exactly what Robinson wants in his squad and how Adekugbe bounces back and battles back will tell the 'Caps coach a lot about his young player and the hunger and desire is already clear for all to see. But being back in training and being up to full match sharpness are two very different things, as fellow defender Diego Rodriguez has been showing of late. Rodriguez has been playing the last few USL games as he tries to fully recover from his own injury and Adekugbe is likely to follow suit and play some minutes for WFC2 in their game at Tulsa Roughnecks on Friday evening. So does Adekugbe feel he needs just one or a few of those USL games to get back into full match fitness and a return to MLS action? It's hard to really say until he gets out there. "Obviously you want to play a MLS game before a USL game in terms of quality," Adekugbe admits. "I've been working well with the fitness staff. I'm a pretty fit kid. Obviously it's been a while since I played a game, so I wouldn't say I wouldn't like to play in the USL game but I'd also like to play in the MLS games as well. "Games are games and I'd still be getting fitness in either or. I wouldn't expect myself to play 90 minutes straight away, unless I could and I feel great, but who knows?" From the Whitecaps point of view, Adekugbe's return couldn't have come at a better time. With eight games, over three competitions, coming up in August, Vancouver's squad rotation and depth will be tested to the max. Every player should see playing time, and Robinson already has his eight line-ups planned, selected and drawn up on a whiteboard in his office. That's all pending unforeseen circumstances, of course, but Adekugbe is very much part of those plans and fans are likely to see him again in first team action as early as next week's home Champions League tie with Seattle. Is that a realistic target game? "I think so," Adekugbe feels. "I think I could have been fit last week and I might have been pushing it. But we got a good result and Christian played very well. I think I could play the USL game coming up this Friday, the Seattle game coming up Saturday or the game on Wednesday. "I'm feeling pretty confident in my injury now. I've gone over it, now it's just about a matter of me getting more training. I was able to train all last week, training this week, so hopefully it's just around the corner now."
  3. 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
  4. Russell Teibert Teibert, sporting the Captain's armband with Pedro Morales suspended, returned to Vancouver's starting eleven for their 0-1 win in Salt Lake on Saturday night – it was his fifth start and sixth appearance of the season. Fielded in a more-advanced midfield position, atop a central triangle based by Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie, Teibert was a force on the night, giving an early indication of his intent with a thunderous challenge on Olmes Garcia inside the five five minutes of play. He would receive a booking for his trouble – his first of the season – and have to be careful for the remaining 85 minutes, lest he see another card from the official. He would go on to commit two further fouls, for three total by the final whistle. Playing as that first line of defense, a high-pressure destroyer, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native was clearly told to clog up that part of the pitch, disrupting Salt Lake's ability to build out of the midfield, long been a strength of theirs. Faced with his presence, the hosts attempted to escape it, operating in wider and wider positions, to which Teibert easily adapted, roaming out wide to snuff out any threat from such wide attacks. Misplacing just five of some fifty-plus passes on the night, Teibert's other numbers were modest: three recoveries, two clearances, an interception, and a tackle. His role was to apply pressure, not necessarily apply the stop himself. But, as it turned out, his most vital contribution to the night was a bursting run up the left as Vancouver took a short free-kick, dishing off to Sam Adekugbe and then hustling up the touchline to latch onto the banked 'pass' and fling a cross into the middle in the 80th minute. His delivery would be met sweetly by Darren Mattocks in the middle, rising up, virtually unchallenged, to direct his header on to the far-side of the net for the first goal of the night; it would turn out to be the winner. Vancouver stumbled last week, losing to San Jose, but with the help of Captain Teibert, they ended a two-match winless run, retained their spot atop the league, and nabbed their first-ever win away to Salt Lake. Post-match, he commented: “Great result for us. We talk about making history and we had the opportunity to do so tonight. We took a chance playing a different formation and we adapted well and showed how intelligent our squad is and how we are willing to work in whatever formation our manager puts us in. We have never won here before so not only is it a big win tonight but it is also a big win for our club." His full-interview can be viewed here – while some hi-jinx with his road-roommate, Adekugbe, can be seen .Marcel de Jong De Jong started his third-straight match for Sporting KC in their 2-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday night – it was his fifth appearance of the season, all of which have been starts. From his left-back position, de Jong was under pressure early, tasked with keeping a lid on the problematic Stefan Ishizaki, who twisted him up on occasion to get in crosses. He then had his MLS education continued, with Dan Gargan this time the guilty party, welcoming de Jong to the league with a heavy challenge that earned him a yellow card – and sent the Canadian airborne. It was one of two fouls he won that night. Despite a necessary defensive role, de Jong was able to get forward, twice getting off shots at goal – the first required an excellent save from Jamie Penedo; the second dribbled wide of the far-post. It is nice to see that kind of confidence and aim from a full-back; he will score a few goals this season. Solid on the ball – the Newmarket, Ontario-native completed 21 of his 28 attempts – de Jong put in a defensive shift, racking up six recoveries, two interceptions, two clearances, and a tackle, but it was going forward that he really impressed, once nicking the ball off of Gargan, only for Tommy Meyer to interrupt his route to goal. He would make way for Amadou Dia in the 75th minute with the game tied at ones – KC would concede the latest of winners in the 94th minute. Prior to the match, de Jong's progression was applauded by Peter Vermes. “He's getting there. He's slowly getting there. I thought last game was a really good game for him. That was his best game so far for us. I think one of his things is getting fitter, to play the way we play. He's also understanding some of the responsibilities that go along with playing that position in the way that we play. Every day, he gets a little closer to what we want to be.” Vermes continued, “He's a very good server of the ball. He also has a cannon from distance, which you haven't seen yet. He really does. I'm sure at some point, that'll come out in one of the games, because he can hit the ball.” And de Jong is enjoying his new abode: “It's amazing. The first time I stepped on the pitch, I got goosebumps all over my skin, because there was such a nice feeling when I stepped on the field – all the fireworks and everything. Not what I'm used to in Europe. But it's amazing.” Good to see he is settling in, hopefully he can carry his form into World Cup Qualification and the Gold Cup; with a little less travel to concern him, it can only be good for Canada. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe too returned to Vancouver's starting lineup on Saturday night, having sat out the second match of a double-game week last weekend, to make his sixth start of the season. In his familiar left-back position, a spot he has all but made his own of late, the London, England-born defender experienced some struggles, making a few rash clearances that allowed Salt Lake to build some pressure early. Most notable was a terrible sliced clearance that fell into a dangerous spot above the box, leading to an attempt at goal from Jordan Allen; fortunately David Ousted was alert to the threat, getting down well to spare any further embarrassment. Having survived that scare, Adekugbe would compose himself for the remainder of the match, showing his usual qualities on the left. His passing, 11 of some 35 incomplete, left a little to be desired, but he more than made up for any losses of possession with five interceptions, five clearances, four tackles, three recoveries, and a block; winning a pair of fouls, conceding only one. He showed that same willingness to get forward that has earned him praise, rampaging up that side. And though he probably did not mean to bank a pass off a Salt Lake defender to set-up Teibert's cross on the game-winning goal, it was a pretty solid bit of attacking intent – even if the execution was found wanting. Adekugbe showed a touch of veteran savvy – or youthful impetuousness, taking a yellow card for delay of game, for picking up the ball and walking away in the final ten minutes, eating up a precious bit of time with the lead in tow. And he kept his focus to help see out the narrow win. Salt Lake may have been down to nine men, but Demar Phillips refused to relent with Adekugbe his match, cutting out a pair of late crosses – though that same clearing problem, of putting live balls into potentially troublesome places, resurfaced. Steven Vitoria Vitoria, the CanCon Review's resident iron-man, continued his ever-presence with a pair of starts for Philadelphia this week, as they closed out a home-and-home series against New York City with a 1-1 draw on Thursday before falling 1-2 at home to New England on Sunday – he has now started each of the Union's eight league matches in 2015. Maintaining his left-sided centre-back position in each, Vitoria was paired with Maurice Edu in both matches. Against New York, he did a solid job of keeping a tight lid on both City strikers – David Villa barely managed a look and Adam Nemec threatened just once, from a corner kick, that saw Vitoria do just enough in his marking to put off the attacker, who guided his header off-target. Completing 21 of his 31 passes, Vitoria compiled some impressive figures – in both matches – making ten clearances, four interceptions, three recoveries, three blocks, and a tackle in New York. And was again a calming presence at the back, though Edu was displeased at times by the lack of support the back-line got from the midfield. And though he will not record an assist, he had a role in CJ Sapong's late equalizer, occupying Andrew Jacobson just enough to give the striker the space for the 86th minute goal. Three days later, the Toronto-born defender was back on Philadelphia's home pitch for another match, against an altogether more threatening foe. The short-rest showed a little, as Vitoria backed off a little too much early, allowing Andy Dorman a shot from the top of the box, but was a strong presence in the air – far more than either Charlie Davies or Juan Agudelo could handle. He was lucky to escape a booking for bundling over Lee Nguyen in the midfield as the defender rushed to recover with New England in transition – that lack of pace would be an issue later in the match. Vitoria exhibited his strength and awareness, shielding Davies away from one ball and making the executive decision to clear rather than await further help, before putting in a wonderful slide tackle in the box to nick the ball off the foot of Scott Caldwell, whose eyes had grown big with the path to goal and loose ball presenting itself before him. But he would be caught up-field in the 76th minute, stepping into the midfield only to expose gaps at the back that, in part, led to Teal Bunbury's game winner. There has been little word as to whether Benito Floro has whispered any sweet-nothings into the ear of the big defender of Portuguese extraction, but with a busy summer ahead and the lack of depth along Canada's back-line, it may not be a bad idea. Kofi Opare Opare started his third-straight match for DC as they tied Houston 1-1 on Saturday night – it was his fourth-consecutive appearance of the season since coming on for the injured Steve Birnbaum at the end of March. Paired with Bobby Boswell as the left-sided centre-back, Opare had a quiet match – it was a largely uneventful first half, aside from the Chris Rolfe goal that put DC ahead. The second half would see a little more action. The Niagara Falls-raised defender would miss his lunging challenge on Ricardo Clark, allowing Giles Barnes to get off a shot on the hour-mark that struck the base of the post. Opare would see his strong run forward ended by a shove in the back from Will Bruin. And he would suffered a pretty heavy tackle from Rob Lovejoy, crashing in late, after Opare had already released his pass. He was confident on the ball, completing 28 of his 37 attempts – an equal mix of forward and sideways – ending the match with one each of interceptions, recoveries, clearances, and tackles. Ashtone Morgan Morgan made a third-straight start for Toronto in their lightning-infringed 3-2 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday night – it was his fourth appearance of the season. Starting in his familiar left-back spot, with Justin Morrow against drafted into the middle, Morgan could only watch in horror as Fabian Castillo shredded the opposite flank to pieces, blowing up any game plans with a goal after 29 seconds and adding a second inside of ten minutes. Morgan, recognizing the danger (it was rather obvious) would even find himself tracking all the way over to the far-side of the pitch to cut out a potential Castillo counter after the ball was cleared following a TFC attack. The Toronto, Ontario-native was not without blame in the three first-half goals: the third was in part the result of his back-header off a Je-Vaughan Watson throw. Damien Perquis had plenty of time to deal with the ball, only to have Collen Warner get in his way, turning over the ball to Blas Perez, who made no mistake with his fortune. Despite the weather and the unfriendly start, Morgan got forward regularly, was solid in his passing – completing some 24 of roughly 30 attempts – and accumulated an impressive six interceptions, four recoveries, three clearances, and a pair of tackles, before making way for Robbie Findley in the 86th minute with TFC chasing the game by two goals. Tesho Akindele Akindele, who has made some waves since it was reported by Benito Floro that the Canadian head coach expected an answer on his availability shortly, was on the bench for Dallas against Toronto on Saturday, coming on, after the long delay, in the 66th minute for Michael Barrios. With the match all-but decided – or so it seemed at the time – the Calgary-born forward was only marginally involved, the game had slowed to a virtual crawl, but completed eleven of his fourteen passes, making one clearance; winning and conceding a foul. But the real news is that after Floro made his pronouncement, Akindele responded, stating: I’ve been in contact with [Canada] lately, so that’s about it. There’s a lot of big stuff coming up for everybody with the Gold Cup, so I think by then it will be finalized.” Adding, “I’ve talked to people that I value their opinion, people in my family, people who have coached me in the past, also people on this team that have been international players and got their opinion on what they think would be best for me.” Mysterious. Cyle Larin Larin, fresh off his first professional goal, remained in the starting lineup for Orlando City on Saturday, making a second-consecutive start and fourth appearance of the season. But, given the circumstances of Raphael Ramos' silly 34th minute red card, the Brampton, Ontario-native would be forced to make way two minutes later for Tyler Turner as Adrian Heath shuffled his formation, bringing on an extra defender. It was a brief outing, but Larin still showed his quality, leading the line himself away from home. His best chance of the match came from a Brek Shea goalmouth ball from the left that was just a little too far out of his reach. Larin's only true attempt at goal was blocked. He completed all six of his passes, which is cool. Jonathan Osorio Osorio started a fifth-straight match for Toronto on Saturday in Dallas, maintaining a minor iron-man streak of his own – has has been substituted in three of those matches, so is no threat to Vitoria's every-minute title. Swapping over to the left-side of midfield, with Jackson taking up the right, Osorio again looked out of sorts. His passing was excellent – completing all but three of some fifty-plus attempts – and he was active, making four recoveries, two tackles, winning a foul and conceding two. But something remains off for the Toronto, Ontario-native. He had one attempt at goal – it was blocked – and had a glorious chance to make something when Sebastian Giovinco's ball fell to him at the left-post, only for a horrendous first touch to almost ruin the opportunity. Osorio would recover possession and send a lot ball through the goalmouth, but it was handily cleared. Osorio would make way in the 68th minute, just as Toronto started to show signs of life, replaced by Luke Moore. It is difficult to be overly critical of Osorio, while he adjusts to an outside role; TFC has been a gong-show, a mishmash of styles and ideas, though their first five matches. But more is required of him if the club is to escape their funk and he is to retain his place in the starting position. The Rest Kyle Ouimette was again an unused substitute for Jesse Marsch as the New York Red Bulls rolled out 2-0 winners over San Jose on Saturday. Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league. He can be followed on twitter @grawsee and more of his writing is available at Partially Obstructed View
  5. Cyle Larin Larin started his first MLS match in Orlando City's 0-2 win at Portland on Sunday – it was his third appearance of the season and his longest spell on the pitch, with Orlando suffering an injury crunch at the top of their formation. Drafted into the first eleven after Pedro Ribeiro's injury last round, Larin did not look out of place, though he was tasked with a rather difficult path to goal, the only true forward, staring down a pair of grizzled (and rather hairy) veteran centre-backs in Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell, who minimized his looks at goal. The Brampton, Ontario-native would have two chances inside the first twenty minutes, both hurried shots that trailed wide under the watchful eyes of his experienced opponents. But he was finding positions, a skill that would come in handy on the half-hour mark, helping him get a modicum of space in front of Borchers and behind Ridgewell to attack the near-post. A weak headed touch from Borchers was collected by Kevin Molino, who scythed down the right-side of the area, picking out Larin at the near-side with a bullet cross into the middle. With no time or space to bring down the fast-moving pass, Larin adjusted his body to direct the service in with his chest. Not the prettiest of goals, it did exhibit an awareness and calmness that is worth noting. The best forwards care not how they go in, simply that they go. Through his previous two appearances Larin had looked eager, but perhaps overly so, snatching at half-chances, rushing his looks. This was a coolly dispatched opportunity, one that was easier to send off-target than on. No doubt it will be the first of many. He would not get the chance to add to his tally this night however, coming off for Carlos Rivas in the 82nd minute as Adrian Heath sought to inject some addition pace and fresh legs with Portland pressing forward leaving holes at the back. Larin would complete twelve of his eighteen passes, take three shots – the goal and two off-target, while contributing defensively as well, with three clearances, two recoveries, and, peculiarly-for-a-forward, two tackles, committing three fouls and winning one. Heath praised his rookie post-match: “As a young player starting to make a career in MLS, you always want to get that first one. We had chances last week, when I thought Cyle played really well, and he kept getting in the right place today. This time he got his reward and it was a really great finish, to have the foresight to direct it towards goal the way he did. He didn’t have time to try to try to pull the ball down from Kevin’s cross and it showed great presence of mind. He also matched up well against two very big, physical defenders. He can be very pleased with his day’s work.” Elaborating, 党The finish was fantastic because there was no way he was going to be able to control the ball and shoot in that tight of an area. It was a really good improvisation on his part and I think that will be the first of many for him in MLS.媒 Larin himself reacted in this post-match interview. Russell Teibert Teibert featured twice for Vancouver this round, starting Wednesday's 2-2 draw against Columbus at home and coming on from the bench in Saturday's 1-0 loss at San Jose ・his fourth start and fifth appearance, respectively. On Wednesday, from his usual deep-lying defensive midfield position, Teibert was everywhere, ending the match with two shots ・one off, one blocked, both from distance ・seven recoveries, four tackles, two clearances, one block, one interception, and a foul; completing all but six of his roughly seventy passes on the night. The evening got off to a concerning start, as there was a slight scare when he pulled up, appearing to tweak his hamstring in a footrace to pressure the ball carrier Ethan Finlay as Columbus countered. The Crew would open the scoring on the play, Kei Kamara netting in the 24th minute, and Teibert would require some treatment, but would soldier on. Unhampered, Teibert would resume his running, tracking another Finlay run to strip the dangerous opponent on one play and making repeated timely interventions to pin back Columbus as Vancouver tied the match shortly after the hour and looked for a winner as the match built to crescendo. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-native was precise on the ball, as usual, playing one especially pretty long pass to spring Darren Mattocks. His post-match interview can be seen here. On Saturday, Teibert would come on in the 68th minute, replacing Derby Flores. Taking up that central midfield role, Teibert would provide some fresh legs in the middle, pressuring the ball at every turn ・in his 22 minutes he racked up three fouls, indicative of his aggressive play (and of the referee's penchant for blowing his whistle). Completing thirteen of his fourteen passes, Teibert was again excellent on the ball, and suffered further injury troubles when a teammate stepped on his hand as he got tangled up in a challenge with Matias Perez Garcia; once more he ignored the concern. He also exhibited his growing leadership, holding back Pedro Morales who was infuriated at receiving a kick and a red card in the 88th minute, perhaps sparing his teammate any additional sanction from the disciplinary committee for voicing his frustrations. Teibert was very-much involved in the action on that play, making the initial challenge that brought Adam Jahn to the ground, spurring the fractious encounter. Teibert added an interception and a recovery to his defensive tallies on the night. Patrice Bernier Bernier started his first league match of the 2015 season in Montreal's 3-0 loss at Houston on Saturday ・it was his second-appearance, having come on as a substitute against Orlando in their last MLS match at the end of April. Stationed deep in the Montreal midfield, Bernier was a calming presence, regularly dropping very deep to get on the ball and moving it well, as per usual ・completing all but seven of his 45-odd passes. Sporting the captain's armband, he may have a few miles (sorry, kilometres) on the legs, but he can still pick his moments, playing a lovely ball over the top to spring Donny Toia down the left; were it not for a vital touch from Houston centre-back David Horst, the full-back may have been in clear on goal with a chance. And in the 58th minute, with the Impact trailing 1-0, Bernier stepped to a free-kick after Andres Romero was fouled, neatly bending his right-footer around wall, but skimming the top of the bar, too high by the slightest of margins ・it was his only shot of the night. With eight recoveries, one clearance, a tackle, and a foul each way, the Brossard, Quebec-native was instrumental ・it should be noted that once he made way for Nigel Reo-Coker in the 67th minute Houston sealed the night with two further goals, one within five minutes of his departure ・though he did concede possession sloppily on one occasion, allowing Giles Barnes a shot from distance. While Bernier may not feature regularly, he will undoubtedly play a role in any success Montreal finds this season. Kofi Opare Opare started a second-straight match for DC United in their 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday ・it was his third appearance of the season, all since Steve Birnbaum went down with an ankle injury. As the left-sided centre-back, Opare was forced into action early, exhibiting good speed to get back and pressure Bradley Wright-Phillips as he strode towards goal in the 9th minute, only to redirect the eventual cross, which struck off the base of the post, narrowly avoiding an own goal. It was the first of many plays in which Opare would play a critical role. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised defender would drag opposing centre-back Matt Miazga out of a central position in the 26th minute on a Taylor Kemp right-sided corner kick, , in off the underside of the bar.Opare would then get taken advantage of himself in the 68th minute, not even able to get up to challenge as .In between those specific plays, Opare continued his admirable play for DC, completing 17 of 26 passes, racking up six clearances, three interceptions, two recoveries, and a block. With Birnbaum out for four-to-six weeks, Opare will get further chances to prove his worth for United. Marcel De Jong De Jong started a second-consecutive match for Kansas City as they drew 0-0 at home against Real Salt Lake on Saturday night ・it was his fourth start of the season. Resuming his left-back position De Jong was active as usual, completing 20 of 32 passes ・including a lot of searching long passes or crosses from deep positions, an indication of his conservative positioning given the threat of Salt Lake in those wide spaces ・and collecting four tackles, one interception, a recovery, and a clearance by the end of the match. The Newmarket, Ontario-native played at least two balls of note, the first a lovely cross that picked out Servando Carrasco at the back-post early, only for Salt Lake centre-back Elias Vasquez to get the important headed touch out for a corner. And then dragging a low ball through the box, only for no Sporting attacker to be able to get the required touch on the back-end. And his education in the physicality of MLS continued, getting caught late by a Jordan Allen challenge, flipping De Jong up in the air ・more spectacular than dangerous. It was initially surprising that De Jong landed in Kansas City ・and that no Canadian side sought out his services ・but that he has managed to force long-time left-back Seth Sinovic into a secondary role is truly evidence that De Jong's style fits well with what Peter Vermes desired from his full-backs. Steven Vitoria Vitoria continued his iron-man streak for Philadelphia in their 2-1 win over New York City on Saturday ・it was his sixth start of the season, going the distance in each of the Union's matches this year. Once more as the left-sided centre-back, paired again with Maurice Edu, Vitoria was a solid defensive presence, keeping the potentially explosive City attack at bay for large stretches of the match ・he was, however, .The Toronto-born defender was caught stepping up to David Villa in midfield late, leading to an Edu foul and a dangerous free-kick in the 89th minute ・luckily Villa would launch his attempt well over the target. He even got his first attempt at goal, rising up to meet an early corner kick, only to send his effort wide under pressure from Jason Hernandez. His six recoveries, six clearances, interception, and tackle, while conceding three fouls were impressive figures, but it was his overall calming influence that was most helpful for Philadelphia. Vitoria regularly helped talk debutant keeper John McCarthy through the match and reminded Vincent Nogueira that, despite his winner, the match was not over, as the Union saw out the final few minutes to seal their first win of the season. Vitoria's passing, completing just 13 of 31, was of concern, but given the sheer number of long launches that were counted as 'passes' it should be considered more a measure of the pressure applied by City than of Vitoria's decision-making. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe started his fifth match of season for Vancouver on Wednesday against Columbus ・he has featured in all but two of the Whitecaps' matches this year. In his customary left-back position, Adekugbe continued to show exciting glimpses of the player he will become, making darting runs forward ・once drifting off-side, but still testing Steve Clark for the heck of it, and then having a touchline sprint ended by a necessary defensive touch ・and hitting a lovely curling ball from the left that sought out Octavio Rivero in the area ・his weak header was easily saved by Clark. Defensively he did well to get out wide and block a Hector Jimenez cross, but was beat twice on a play in the 84th minute with the game tied, first pinching high on Ethan Finlay only to be by-passed by a neat flick, and then lunging into a recovering challenge on Finlay at the edge of the box, missing the Kei Kamara pass entirely and allowing Finlay clear in on goal ・luckily David Ousted was off his line quick to deny the chance. Despite that one mistake, the English-born full-back tallied some solid numbers: five interceptions, two recoveries, two clearances, and a single foul ・misplacing just 8 of some 45-plus passes. Adekugbe was an unused substitute on Saturday in San Jose. Kyle Bekker Bekker made his third-appearance of the season for FC Dallas in their surprising 0-4 loss to Colorado on Friday night, coming on for Michel at half-time with his side already down a pair of goals. With Dallas chasing the game, Bekker took up a slightly more advanced position, getting himself involved in the build-up, in search of a much-needed goal. He played one particularly nice ball over the top for Tesho Akindele, and then collected the ensuing rebound at the top of the box, opting for the unselfish pass rather than take the shot himself ・a shot he should perhaps have taken. But Colorado were flying, unleashing all the pent up frustrations of long winless and goal-less spells, and that energy forced some poor passes out of Bekker, who completed just 15 of 26 in his 45 minutes of play. The Oakville, Ontario-native had one final chance to make an impact in the 83rd minute, standing over a free-kick. This time he opted to go at goal rather than curl a ball into the crowd at the back-post, hoping to catch Clint Irwin shading to the far-side, only for the keeper to be alert to the threat ・it was his only shot of the match. He would accumulate three recoveries and a pair of tackles throughout. It has been interesting to watch how Bekker has fit into his new side; some positive signs, but a lot of the same problems ・namely, easy turnovers ・that plagued his time in Toronto. Will he feature when his new side faces his old one next weekend? He is still awaiting his first MLS goal and there would be no sweeter time to score it. Tesho Akindele Akindele started a sixth-straight match for Dallas in their loss to Colorado ・factoring in the starting eleven for each of his side's games. Nominally playing as the withdrawn forward, off the shoulder of Blas Perez in the middle, Akindele would regularly swap with Ryan Hollingshead to take up the attacking right-sided position. But Dallas struggled to find the connections that saw them surge to the top of the standings, and the Calgary-born forward consequently suffered. His best look of the match came from the aforementioned Bekker pass, forcing a strong parry from Irwin in the 53rd minute, after getting the ball out of his feet ・one of his two shots on the night, both were on target. Akindele would exhibit that same ranging play he has all season, racing up the right to find space and get on the ball, but his low cross was easily cleared. His passing was very succinct, completing 27 of 32, while contributing defensively with a pair of tackles and a recovery. With the rest of his side, he was caught napping on a quickly-taken Rapids free-kick, turning his back on the ball to coordinate his teammates, as Marcelo Sarvas picked out Dillon Powers who sent a low drive into the far-corner of the goal in the 43rd minute to double the visitors advantage ・one needs to stay alert and focused at all times, a lesson he will have learned from this mishap. Post-match Akindele noted, 的t wasn稚 a good game for us・It just wasn稚 our day. We will figure it out this week・Figure out what we did wrong・We will do better next week.媒 Kianz Froese Froese made his third-appearance of the season from the bench for Vancouver in the waning minutes of their loss at San Jose, coming on for Matias Laba in the 80th minute. In need of an equalizer, Froese made one nice run, cutting into a good position to get off a right-footer from the top of the area, but the weak attempt was handled easily by David Bingham ・it was his only attempt at goal. The Cuban-born midfielder completed six of his eight passes and added a clearance in his ten-minute cameo. The Rest Karl Ouimette was an unused substitute on the bench for New York in DC. His former teammates, Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Maxim Tissot were similarly unused by Montreal in Houston. Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league. He can be followed on twitter @grawsee and more of his writing is available at Partially Obstructed View
  6. Russell Teibert Teibert returned to Vancouver's starting eleven after a two-match absence, helping to guide his side to an impressive 2-0 win over defending champion LA Galaxy on Saturday night – it was his third start of the young season, having missed one match on international duty and been held out against Portland last week. Taking up his deep midfield position, alongside Matias Laba, Teibert was a force on the night, stifling LA attacks at every turn and helping to push Vancouver forward in the other direction. Robbie Keane, with whom Teibert has had several run-ins in the past, was not best pleased to see the Canadian, suffering the occasional extra bit of contact, as Teibert sought to get under the Irishman's skin – to great effect. And Gyasi Zardes regularly saw his advances quelled by Teibert's aggressive running, suffering a great tackle on one occasion that stripped possession, forcing a turnover and then seeing his cross into the box cut out by Teibert's tracking later. He would end the night with some impressive figures: ten recoveries, six interceptions, three tackles, and a clearance, committing two fouls throughout. But it was the interceptions, along with his excellent passing – misplacing just six of some sixty attempts – that proved crucial, , who sprung Kekuta Manneh down the left-channel, leading to Vancouver's opening goal.The Niagara Falls, Ontario-native earned plenty of plaudits, including shouts as Man of the Match – the official honour went to teammate Nicolas Mezquida – and a spot on MLSsoccer.com's Team of the Week. Tesho Akindele Akindele started his fifth-straight game for Dallas on Saturday night in their 3-1 loss at Portland – he has been in Oscar Pareja's first-choice eleven for every match so far this season. Beginning as the underneath striker, playing off the shoulder of David Texeira who led the line, Akindele was free to roam the pitch as he pleased – the freedom he is given under Pareja is rather astonishing for a second-year professional, exhibiting the level of faith that the coach has in his charge. He would drop into a right-sided midfield position once Blas Perez joined the fray shortly after the hour-mark. By then, the Calgary, Alberta-born forward had already left his impression on the match. As with last round against Seattle, one of Dallas' recurring attack patterns was for Fabian Castillo to rush at defenders, drawing attention to himself before poking a through-ball for Akindele to attempt to latch onto; as with last week, a quick-footed keeper was off his line fast to prevent the chance. His next look was perhaps even sweeter, again latching onto a pass from Castillo, as he made a diagonal sprint into space on the left, breaking in alone on goal, only to guide a left-footed effort harmlessly over the bar. Portland would not be so lucky in the 29th minute, when Akindele , spinning away from Rodney Wallace to get the crucial touch on Michel's left-sided corner kick. The delivery was helped on at the near-side by Atiba Harris, whose deflection allowed Akindele to get the decisive touch with he knee at the back, equalizing the match at ones – it was his second goal of the season.The goal came on one of his three shots on the night, one off and the other easily saved by the Portland keeper, Adam Larsen Kwarasey. The Dallas forward would complete 22 of his 29 passes, adding seven recoveries, an interception, and a clearance. Post-match he noted, ”I thought it was a decent first half. Obviously they came out with a lot of energy. I think we matched it, even after we got scored on we bounced back well. Just the second half didn’t go our way so it was kind of disappointing.” He continued, “We felt like we were going to score another goal. We really believed in it and it was just one of those days it just wasn’t going for us. The last ball wasn’t there.” Ashtone Morgan Morgan, despite the return of the suspended Justin Morrow, maintained his place in the starting lineup as Toronto lost 3-2 to Chicago on Saturday, making a second-straight appearance at left-back – it was his third appearance overall this season. The Toronto, Ontario-native exuded a confidence that he had not shown in years, contributing defensively – finding himself in position to clear a potentially dangerous ball from the goal-mouth early and showing some good speed to stay close to Chicago's fleet-footed David Accam in a chase. He was not able to fully catch the Ghanaian, but applied enough pressure to limit the options, allowing Joe Bendik to make the timely save. But it was going forward that Morgan truly excelled, getting up-field with ease – hitting in two crosses inside the first seven minutes, one of which nearly fell to the foot of Sebastian Giovinco, who was surprised by the fortune. At times in the past guilty of not lifting his head and flinging mindless balls in, Morgan showed a bit of nous in the 20th minute, by pulling back to Giovinco above the near-post, where his attempt kicked off the heels of Jeff Larentowicz to handcuff Jon Busch in the Chicago goal, leveling the match six minutes after Joevin Jones had given the hosts the lead.It was Morgan's first assist of the season and the first he had registered since April 13, 2013 – about a week shy of two years to the day between helpers for the resurgent left-back. With the Fire conceding a lot of space on his side, Morgan's passing was very good – completing 24 of 33 - as was his decision making on the ball, losing possession just once. Defensively he compiled six recoveries and three clearances, conceding a single foul on the night. He would make way for Daniel Lovitz in the 88th minute, as Greg Vanney piled on the attacking substitutes in search of an equalizer, TFC having conceded the advantage with a pair of second half goal through Shaun Maloney and Jeff Larentowicz after taking the lead when Benoit Cheyrou placed a Giovinco pull-back into the Fire goal. After a forgettable season in 2014, Morgan has shown that getting a few matches under the belt and a bit of confidence is the best medicine for a slump, and can do wonders for a player. For Toronto and Canada's sake, it will hopefully continue. Cyle Larin Larin made his second appearance of the season in Orlando on Friday night, coming on in the 22nd minute for the injured Pedro Ribeiro, as his Orlando City fell 0-1 to DC United – the 68 minutes he spent on the pitch quadrupled the amount of action he has seen thus far. Leading the line, chances fell fast and heavy for the rookie. Mere seconds after coming on he found a good chance for a look at goal, collecting a Kevin Molino drop-pass as he curled to the right, only for his effort to be blocked by Taylor Kemp. An offside flag would cancel out a left-footed attempt sent over the bar in the 24th minute, but the Brampton, Ontario-native could only blame himself in the 42nd minute, collecting a lovely scooped ball from Kaka on his chest, bringing it down calmly, but dragging his right-footer wide of the left-post. He would force a save out of DC keeper, Bill Hamid, in the 74th minute; the final of his four shots on the night – two on, one off, and one blocked – and was more than willing to get involved in the build-up as well, sliding a nice pass out wide left for Molino to find a chance. But, Larin may have been his face and into the Orlando net, a late winner in the 91st minute.A rookie mistake no doubt, and one Adrian Heath will likely address. Larin was solid on the ball, completing six of his ten passes, winning four fouls with his physical presence, and adding an interception and a recovery to his achievements. He was caught off-side of three occasions however, and, still adjusting to the pace and pressure of the professional game, he appeared to snatch at his chances, rushing his attempts rather than coolly dispatching them. That said, his movement, probing the opposition back-line, and positioning, finding those little gaps to craft half-chances, have been very encouraging. Surely his first goal is not far off and if Ribeiro is forced to stay on the sidelines for an extended absence – it appeared to be a hamstring strain at the time – Larin will get the time he needs to score that first MLS goal sooner rather than later. Kofi Opare Like it may for Larin, injury has provided Opare with the chance to force his way into the starting eleven, making his first start of the season for DC in Orlando, having debuted last weekend when Steve Birnbaum went down with an early ankle injury. Paired with Bobby Boswell as the left-sided centre-back, Opare was faced with another difficult opponent. Last round it was LA, this week he was confronted primarily with Kaka and Ribeiro, at least until fellow-Canadian Larin came on as an early replacement. The Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised Opare handled those threats well. Kaka barely got the chance to slice through the box, as he did so devastatingly against Montreal last time out, while Larin was in tough against a potential national teammate, closed down on the right by Opare on one occasion, blocking an attempted cross, and then welcomed to the league with a bit of physicality, as Opare ranged all the way to the touchline to put in a heavy sliding challenge, winning the ball and snuffing out the attack at the cost of a thrown-in. He would finish the match with seven clearances, three recoveries, a tackle and an interception, while completing 15 of his 21 passes. And became the second Canadian to suffer a heavy collision with Orlando keeper, Donovan Ricketts, getting flattened as he went up for an aerial ball in the box – he came off better than Sam Adekugbe did in his challenge however. Last summer when Opare joined DC from LA, he came at the expense of position in the allocation order and a second-round pick in the 2015 SuperDraft – that pick, 42nd overall, would become Dan Metzger, for those interested. Such moves are the kind that a good club makes, filling a possible need at a relatively low-cost so that quality is available when needed. Opare has been nothing but solid in his two outings, not putting a foot-wrong – the opponent has not scored a goal while he has been on the pitch. And DC is all the better for having him in the squad. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe made a fourth-consecutive start for Vancouver in their dominant win over LA on Saturday, maintaining the starting left-back position ahead of the veteran Jordan Harvey. Tasked with keeping a lid on Stefan Ishizaki, thrusting down LA's right-flank, Adekugbe was forced to tangle with one of the few Galaxy players to not be thoroughly outplayed on the night, troubling Adekugbe in one instance, before the Vancouver defender eventually snatched away possession. The English-born defender would see a yellow card, his second of the season, in the 59th minute for blocking off Ishizaki's run in midfield, ending a potentially troublesome LA transition – it was his only foul of the match. Adekugbe showed all the assets that have helped him keep Harvey out of the lineup: quickness, an ability to get forward, and a defensive tenacity, contributing seven recoveries, five clearances, and a tackle. But also seems to have grown in confidence on the ball, misplacing just seven of over fifty passes on the night; doing his part in an outstanding outing from the Whitecaps. Continuing his education in MLS, Adekugbe once more suffered physically, taking an awkward bit of contact from Alan Gordon and Kendall Waston as he went up for an aerial challenge. It was unclear exactly what happened, possibly an inadvertent head-butt from teammate Waston, but regardless, both Waston and Gordon are fearsome opponents in the air and Adekugbe's fearlessness, at the cost of a few moments prone on the pitch, is admirable. That said, he may want to avoid picking on the biggest people on the pitch in the future. Steven Vitoria Vitoria continued his iron-man run for Philadelphia as they dropped a heart-breaker in Kansas City on Sunday night, falling 3-2 on a pair of stoppage-time goals from Sporting that overturned what would have been the Union's first win of the season – Vitoria has played every minute for his club, the only Canadian to do so, as both Jonathan Osorio and Tesho Akindele have not completed all their starts. Once more the left-sided centre-back, paired this time with new partner, Maurice Edu, Vitoria was a calming presence for Philadelphia, but even he could not prevent the late crumbling. Though he could not be held directly responsible for any of the three goals against, he would liked to have done a better job of marshaling his teammates on set-pieces, from which all three were conceded. The Toronto-born defender did his part in the run of play, ending the match with five clearances, five recoveries, and four interceptions, conceding two fouls and winning one. His passing – completing just 10 of 23 – showed just how much pressure the Union were under, preferring to launch long passes rather than play out of the back on the road, hence the poor completion rate. He showed his ability to aid in attack, pointing for left-back Fabinho to make a run before playing a leading ball down the flank, a play that eventually led to Andrew Wenger forcing a good save out of Luis Marin. And was on the end of a nasty challenge from Krisztian Nemeth, but came off no worse for wear. Marcel De Jong De Jong returned to Kansas City's starting lineup after a one match absence for the win over Philadelphia on Sunday – it was his third appearance of the season, all as a starter. The Newmarket, Ontario-native's night would be all but cut short in the 18th minute when he was called for a foul on Erik Ayuk Mbu. It was no doubt a hard challenge, but both De Jong and Peter Vermes doubted it was even a foul – De Jong would receive a yellow card for it, his only foul of the match. As if that was not enough punishment, the ensuing free-kick would lead to Philadelphia's second goal, reinstating their lead in the 19th minute, the two sides having exchanged goals earlier. De Jong would seek to make amends, sending a long, hopeful free-kick into the Union box, seeking out the head of Jalil Anibaba, who had strayed offside. Getting into advanced positions, De Jong had two attempts at goal, both off-target, including one weak shot from distance when the ball fell to him in the middle of the pitch. He would go to ground again for another challenge on Ayuk, this time getting beat, and when he was replaced by Seth Sinovic for the second half, Vermes relayed to the broadcast team that the decision was based on the risk of another booking, already having seen one, in the midst of a physical game, and with concerns over 'soft' calls. De Jong completed 20 of his 24 passes, made three tackles, and two interceptions. Jonathan Osorio Osorio made his fourth-straight start for Toronto in their loss to Chicago on Saturday. Once more on the right-side of the midfield, sitting a little deeper as part of a three-man quasi-shield in front of the back-line, Osorio again struggled to make an impact on the match. His passing was excellent, as usual – completing all but 5 of some roughly 45 passes – but with Sebastian Giovinco again the focal point, Osorio has been forced into a supporting role out wide, which does not make best use of his talents. The Toronto, Ontario-native did have one good look at goal, when a Warren Creavalle ball from the left fell to him at the back-post, but Osorio dragged his right-footer wide – his only shot of the match, off-target. He would make way for Bright Dike in the 80th minute having amassed three recoveries and an interception, winning two fouls in the process. The Rest Only one additional Canadian was in the gameday eighteen this round: Kyle Bekker on the bench for FC Dallas in Portland. Though he did not see the pitch, he was involved, slightly, in the post-match confrontation that began with the offering of a tissue. Bekker was mostly trying to play peacekeeper, like a good Canadian should. Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league. He can be followed on twitter @grawsee and more of his writing is available at Partially Obstructed View
  7. Kofi Opare Having been rooted to the bench after a mid-season trade from Los Angeles in 2014, Opare finally got on the pitch for DC in Saturday's 1-0 win over his former side, making his first appearance of the season. And it almost wasn't to be. Once more amongst the substitutes, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-raised Opare was only called into action due to an ankle injury suffered by standout sophomore Steve Birnbaum, who landed awkwardly after going up for a header, prompting Ben Olsen to bring the Canadian onto the pitch in the fifth minute. The defender did not do anything particularly spectacular, one does not require spectacular from a defender, but what he did contribute was a solid outing, not putting a foot wrong in his 85 minutes of play, quelling the threat of a dangerous LA attack comprised of Alan Gordon and Jose Villarreal, with Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes away on international duty. Taking up Birnbaum's left-sided centre-back slot, alongside Bobby Boswell, Opare was immense, exhibiting his excellent reading of the match by getting in position to cut out a potentially troublesome Robbie Rogers cross in one instance and proving that despite his extended absence from the pitch – he last saw action in July of last season – his aerial presence, especially against a foe as troublesome as Gordon, was as close to perfection as possible. Completing 22 of 27 passes, Opare racked up some good numbers, including seven recoveries, six clearances, five interceptions, a block and a tackle, winning one foul throughout. A hearty outing for his thirteenth all-time appearance in MLS. Opare earned the praise of both his coach and his teammates, Olsen stating, "Kofi is a big story line today. He hasn’t had a lot of minutes for us or in the League, but from what I’ve seen of Kofi, he’s a gamer. He has a mentality that he can step in and do the job, and tonight I thought he was great. It was a good match-up for him tonight." While Chris Pontius, who scored the game-winner, gave credit to, “Our defenders, especially Kofi stepping in for Birnbaum early, that’s not easy to step into a game that early on and I thought he was fantastic.” He even earned MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honours for his outing, one that will undoubtedly have reassured Olsen that should Birnbaum's injury require a spell on the sidelines, Opare is more than capable of filling that gap on the back-line. Wandrille Lefevre Like Opare, Lefevre made his first appearance of the season, lining up in the left-sided centre-back position for Montreal in their 2-2 draw against Orlando City on Saturday. Having made a career-high fifteen appearances last season – thirteen as a starter – Lefevre was more than ready to stand in for the absent Laurent Ciman, away with Belgium on national team duty. That said, it was a bit of a mixed night for Lefevre, individually solid, his side collapsed, conceding two goals in just over a minute having strolled out to a two-goal lead inside the first 27 minutes of the match. Mere moments after Jack McInerney's stunning chip gave Montreal their second, Pedro Ribeiro drew one back for the visitors. Though , it would be harsh to put him at fault. The same could be said of the second goal just 82 seconds later. Neither Lefevre, nor his centre-back partner Bakary Soumare challenged Ribeiro to impede his progress towards goal, – Lefevre was not best pleased.Aside from those two blemishes, the French-born defender was impressive, compiling figures that challenge Opare's, including nine recoveries, seven interceptions, six clearances, and a tackle, winning and conceding a foul each way. Perhaps his best intervention of the game was a sliding challenge on Eric Avila, timed to perfection, sliding in to stop the attacker's progress with a strong tackle, deflecting the ball of Avila himself and out for a goal-kick. Orlando cried for a penalty, but there was absolutely no grounds for one. Lefevre had to be prepared for the physical side of the game as well, getting flattened in the box by Sean St Ledger early on a corner kick – which may have been worthy of drawing a penalty itself – later getting leveled by his own keeper, Eric Kronberg, as he rushed out to collect a high cross, and then Lefevre himself put a heavy body-check into Kaka in midfield to attempt to break up an attack – for which he was lucky to escape a booking. And his passing, long an impressive feature of his game, was once more excellent, completing all but eight of some forty-plus attempts. Another impressive debut from a fringe-Canadian. Ashtone Morgan Following a suspect outing in Columbus two weeks ago, where Morgan could be blamed – at least in part – for both Columbus goals and was nearly directly responsible for a third, he resumed his left-back role for TFC in their 2-1 loss in Salt Lake on Sunday. Deputizing for the suspended Justin Morrow, Morgan, making his first start of the season, looked an all-together more comfortable player, even showing glimpses of the attacking impetus that earned him such plaudits as he broke onto the scene in 2011 and 2012. Having learned the lesson of being slow to close down a potential cross, Morgan was out quick to slow Sebastian Jaime early and then held the off-side line well to force the Salt Lake attacker off in a later attempt – Jaime would find the back of the net, but the raised flag denied any celebration. The Toronto, Ontario-native would end the night with three interceptions, two tackles, a clearance and a recovery. Going forward Morgan was a more confident threat, taking on Tony Beltran to win an early corner kick and then forcing a turnover out of the Salt Lake full-back before sending in a lovely ball from the left that was just beyond the reach of a stretching Luke Moore. At first glance, Morgan could be blamed for Salt Lake's opener – it was his side down which Luke Mulholland made his unmarked run to nod a Javier Morales cross from the left in at the back-post – but Morgan was preoccupied in the middle, already covering his mark and the responsibility to track that run lay with the recovering midfielder sauntering into frame late. Toronto should have been more aware that the three-man front-line of Salt Lake would occupy the defenses and it was necessary for the midfield to track other runners – or, don't let Morales get on the ball to pick those crosses. Lessons hopefully learned, though too late for this match. Morgan would make way for Dan Lovitz in the 77th minute, with Greg Vanney throwing caution to the wind in search of an equalizer. It would come, but Morales again would punish poor marking from TFC, once more breaking the tie, a minute after TFC leveled. On the ball Morgan was equally confident, completing fourteen of nineteen passes, but his cross rate is of some concern, flinging eight unsuccessful balls into the area. Crossing is a low-percentage method at the best of times, but perhaps a touch more patience and interplay on that flank would be advantageous. On a side note, given that Morgan saw extended minutes with TFC2 during Toronto's bye-week, could this be the first tangible sign of Canadian MLS clubs using the USL affiliation to get minutes for squad players, which then translates into better performances with the first team? Tesho Akindele Akindele started a fourth-consecutive match for FC Dallas on Saturday night, as they drew 0-0 against Seattle at home, maintaining their unbeaten start to the season, but relinquishing their winning streak with the draw. Initially taking up a secondary striker's position, playing centrally underneath David Texeira who led the line, Akindele was forced into a more defensive role after eighteen minutes, when Kelyn Acosta was dismissed for a high boot on Andy Rose, catching the Seattle midfielder with an errant foot to the midsection and seeing a red card for his effort. As Dallas reconfigured, the attacker dropped into a wide right midfielder role, running his socks off to put in a defensive shift – one of his three tackles on the night came just a few yards away from defensive corner flag, indicative of his tracking efforts. Despite being forced on the back-foot, the Calgary, Alberta-native was still able to get forward, twice making the runs to get on the end of Fabian Castillo through-balls. The first was slightly over-hit, running to Seattle keeper, Stefan Frei, though Akindele nearly got a touch at the last second. The next time, his progress was impeded just enough by Zach Scott to prevent Akindele from curling onto the ball with his run, allowing Frei to collect once more. The first attempt was perhaps the more impressive, as Akindele recognized Castillo was on the ball and made a long, diagonal run from the right touch-line to burst past the Seattle defenses and put himself in place to challenge for the chance at the left-post. His hustle in those aspects of the game is indeed admirable, once chasing down a long Victor Ulloa ball, sprayed into the corner, only for Scott to recover and block his attempted cross into the middle. Defensively, there are certain aspects the forward could work on – he was made to look a little foolish as Leo Gonzalez squirmed past him to get a ball to the near-post for Seattle's best, early chance at the end of the first half – but with four recoveries, three clearances, three tackles, and two interceptions to his name, it was a solid shift from Akindele. His passing, completing 12 of 21 on the night, was once more erratic, but given that Dallas were short-handed for the majority of the match, that is understandable, albeit if he were to be a touch more conservative and careful with the ball it could be useful. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe recovered from his rib injury in time to start a third-consecutive match for Vancouver as they stole another win at the death, beating Portland 2-1 on a 90th-minute winner from Robert Earnshaw. Lining up once more at left-back, the English-born defender was a force on that side, factoring in attack - hugging the touch-line going forward – and contributing defensively as Vancouver held a dominant Timbers side at bay. He showed little effect from the injury concerns, galloping up the left with a good burst on one occasion, going down a little easy, it must be said, to win a free-kick. And, as will be noted below, he made one potentially threatening ball, finding Kianz Froese inside the Portland box, only for time to run out on his fellow Canadian before a shot could be had. Adekugbe showed some of that competitive spirits so required in MLS, getting in the face of Liam Ridgewell as the two battled prior to a corner kick – the veteran flung him to the ground as they waited and Adekugbe refused to play the shrinking violet. But his rough introduction to the perils of MLS continued, as he took an Alvas Powell cross in a very sensitive spot – it shall be called the midriff for cleanliness' sake – that saw him crumpled to the floor once more. No doubt lessons, such as don't get into a sliding tackle with a behemoth of a keeper and get those sensitive bits out of the way of crosses, have been learned. His passing was impressive, completing all but one of his fifteen attempts, while racking up nine clearances, six recoveries, and four interceptions on the night; winning and conceding a foul each way. Steven Vitoria Vitoria's iron-man run continued, as he started a fourth match for Philadelphia on Sunday, losing 1-0 in Chicago – Vitoria has featured in every single minute played by the club this season. Despite the Union's struggles – they are winless through four matches and have not scored in three of those games – the Toronto-born centre-back has barely put a foot wrong in his first 360 minutes of MLS action. And should Philadelphia's scoring woes continue, one can expect him to get a goal or two as the season plays out, being a sizable aerial threat on set-pieces. Back to Sunday, he made one vital intervention to prevent Quincy Amarikwa's touch from finding a streaking Kennedy Igboananike inside the area, cutting out what would have otherwise been a glorious goal-scoring chance. But Vitoria could be found partially at fault for letting centre-back Adailton get free on what turned out to be the game-winner in the 37th minute. Vitoria covered Eric Gehrig as he moved towards the near-post, leaving the big Brazilian to Andrew Wenger, who did not bother to track, leading to a virtually free-header on the end of Harrison Shipp's corner kick. While not directly his responsibility, one of his tasks with the Union this season will be to organize and coordinate those situations – something that broke down on Sunday. That aside, Vitoria was once more as solid as they come, racking up some impressive figures: ten recoveries, six clearances, three interceptions, a block and a tackle, winning one foul and conceding two, while misplacing just eight of his 45-plus passes. Jonathan Osorio Osorio resumed his midfield position for a third match on Sunday, as TFC fell in Salt Lake – he has started each of Toronto's three matches this season. Taking up his familiar right-sided midfield position, Osorio was energetic, but with Toronto chasing large sections of the game and opting to by-pass the midfield build in lieu of long balls, he was not able to get on the ball as much as one would like. Still he completed all but eight of his over-forty passes on the night. Somewhat isolated, the Toronto, Ontario-native would regularly cut in-field to get involved. He even made a sneaky back-post run on a corner kick, nearly getting on the end of Sebastian Giovinco's service, only for his connection to falter, slicing the attempt off target. It was a physical night for Osorio, he cut his hand early, requiring a moment on the sidelines for repairs, and was later flattened by Abdoulie Mansally, winning one of his two fouls of the match. Osorio has been a little quiet thus far this season, still adjusting to his new supplementary role as Giovinco takes centre-stage, the majority of the time on the ball, and responsibility for driving the side forward, a role that once fell largely on Osorio's shoulders. Kianz Froese Froese made a second-straight appearance from the bench for Vancouver against Portland, coming on for Nicolas Mezquida in the 58th minute. The Cuban-born midfielder/attacker was lively once more, making a couple of nice touches on the run to spur an attack – it would eventually fizzle out. He had one good chance, getting into an advanced position just inside the box to receive a pass from Sam Adekugbe, only to run out of time before getting off a shot, closed down by several defenders before the ball would settle. In his half-hour on the pitch, Froese completed fourteen of fifteen passes, made one clearance, and won a foul. Patrice Bernier Bernier finally made his first league appearance of the season for Montreal on Saturday, coming on in the 76th minute for Nigel Reo-Coker, who respectfully handed over the armband to the club captain as they traded positions. Having received a hearty applause from the home fans, the Brossard, Quebec-native showed that he still had a role to play with the club, even if he has lost a step, contributing a solid, if brief, outing that saw him complete eleven of thirteen passes, making two recoveries, one interception, and a tackle in the process. Bernier even got a shot from distance towards goal, though it was blocked. After Montreal's Champions League match two weeks ago, Bernier took to twitter to thank the fans for their support. While his time on the pitch may be coming to an end, there is no doubt that Bernier's leadership and calming influence will be an asset to Frank Klopas behind the scenes. Klopas has a history of keeping veterans in place, who despite few minutes on the pitch, play vital roles – as Logan Pause did for him in Chicago. The Rest Jay Chapman and Jordan Hamilton were unused substitutes on the bench for TFC in Salt Lake, called up from TFC2 to pad the squad with international absences, injury, and suspension mounting. Vancouver announced their list of first team players that would be going on loan to WFC2 for the upcoming USL season. Of the five players spending time between the two clubs, two were Canadians: Ben McKendry and Caleb Clarke – they are available to move between the two clubs as required. The rest of the roster can be seen here. Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league. He can be followed on twitter @grawsee and more of his writing is available at Partially Obstructed View
  8. Tesho Akindele Akindele started a third-straight match for FC Dallas in their 0-2 win in Philadelphia on Saturday, opening the scoring in the second half as Dallas maintained their perfect record, the only club in MLS to do so, sitting atop the league with nine points from three matches. Once more nominally stationed on the right-side of the midfield, Akindele was a constant pain to Philadelphia, popping up all over the pitch and willing his side forward in droves. His first chance to get on the score-sheet came after just thirteen minutes when Fabian Castillo blew past Sheanon Williams on the attacking-left before sending a low ball through the goal-mouth, Despite his best efforts at a stretch, Akindele could not get the vital touch at the back-post. A little under a half hour later, the Calgary-born attacker would instead attempt to play provider, offering a tidy layoff for Mauro Diaz, who couldn't keep his shot on target. Akindele would have to wait until the second half, with the Union reduced to ten-men after Zach Pfeffer's ridiculous elbow on Diaz, to find the breakthrough. It would come in the 49th minute. Akindele began the play himself, pressuring a half-hearted, hurried ball out of Fabinho, blocking the attempt, then racing towards goal to collect the liberated ball. Shading slightly to the right, . M'Bolhi would get a touch, but was helpless as the Canadian bore down on goal – it was his only shot of the afternoon.Having collected his first assist last weekend, Akindele added his first goal of 2015, getting off on the right foot as he attempts to better the marks he set in his rookie season – he finished 2014 with seven goals and three assists through 26 appearances. Goal aside, Akindele had a nice physical battle running with Philadelphia's Steven Vitoria, each taking turns winning and conceding fouls – Akindele would have two of each come the match's end. Seven recoveries, three interceptions, and a clearance rounded out his raw defensive numbers. Last week this very review questioned Akindele's poor passing mark. Well, he more than responded to that concern, completing an impressive 28 of 33 attempts on Saturday, including this clever inside ball that sprung Diaz late in the match. Though, it should be noted, he still conceded possession five times. And his quote post-match - “When a team goes down, you’re always looking to capitalize on that situation” - left a little to be desired. Marcel De Jong De Jong refrained his left-back role for Sporting KC in their score-less draw against Portland on Saturday, marking his second outing in the league with a cracking performance that earned him MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honours. Having impressed in his debut last week in Dallas, De Jong was back in the starting eleven for coach Peter Vermes against the Timbers, exemplifying that same aggressive desire to overlap that undoubtedly helped him earn his place with a club that requires such output from its full-backs. But what first caught the eye from this outing was his quality service on set-pieces. Canadian's will long remember his recent free-kick against Jamaica in a friendly, but it was his delivery on corner kicks, whipping a fierce in-swinging ball from the right that led to two solid chances mere seconds apart in the first half, as first Jalil Anibaba and then Ike Opara got on the end of the offerings, each sending the chances wide at the back-post, Opara's attempt closer than Anibaba's. Not content to solely craft chances for others, De Jong unabashedly had a crack of his own from distance when offered, sending a good effort just over the target – it was his only shot of the match, off-target. And as the match wore down, the Newmarket, Ontario-native would shape yet another lovely ball, this time a cross, from the left, picking out Opara once more at the back-post, only for his header to sail high this time, rather than wide. While it may not have provided the solution this round, De Jong's capabilities provide yet another tool to an already formidable KC arsenal, and his precision on the ball, completing 18 of his 23 passes on the night, will make him a valued member of Sporting's possession game. It was not all attacking for the Canadian however, who continued his education in the physicality of MLS by first clashing heads in a fearless challenge with Dairon Asprilla in the centre-circle that left him with a bloodied nose, before taking a flailing arm from that same opponent in the face later in the match, earning one of his two fouls suffered on the night. Added to all that forward emphasis, De Jong contributed defensively as well, racking up six recoveries, four tackles, and three clearances on the night, showing a certain calmness under pressure on one specific play, effortlessly stripping a ball off the boot of Darlington Nagbe as the Timbers' danger-man strode towards goal – a feat easier said than done. Two matches into his MLS career, De Jong already looks like a wise pickup from Vermes, who regularly unearths talent that others may have overlooked, posing the question, why did no Canadian teams seek out the defender's services? Maxim Tissot Tissot made his first appearance of the season on Saturday in Montreal's 0-0 draw at New England, marking the 22-year old's third season in the league. Signed to a homegrown contract prior to the start of 2013, Tissot had accumulated slightly more than one thousand minutes in MLS through his first two campaigns, making a total of eleven starts and a further sixteen appearances from the bench, in the process coming into his own with a move from left-back to left-midfield, where his attacking instincts have flourished, as witnessed by the pair of goals he scored in 2014. With Justin Mapp suffering that horrendous injury on opening day and Dilly Duka picking up a hamstring strain midweek in the CONCACAF Champions League victory over Costa Rican-side LD Alajuelense (the Impact would take a 2-0 advantage in the two-legged series), Tissot was drafted into the starting lineup, resuming that left-sided attacker's role against New England. He was ready. Early indications that he would be heavily involved came when the Gatineau, Quebec-native raced to get in a cross from the end-line, only to be hacked down by Diego Fagundez with a late challenge, drawing a talking-to from the referee and the first of three fouls Tissot would win throughout. Tissot himself would take the ensuing free-kick, his service met by Laurent Ciman in the middle, only for a tame header to be gobbled up by Bobby Shuttleworth. He next tried a chance of his own, sending a good hit from distance towards goal when a half-cleared corner kick fell to him atop the Revolution box – the attempt dipped, but still carried over the bar. The physical play would continue as Tissot drove the Impact forward, drawing successive interventions from Andrew Farrell, Scott Caldwell, and Jeremy Hall before half-time, an indication of the amount of time Tissot spent on the ball. And he would perhaps have Montreal's best chance of the match, stinging the palms of Shuttleworth with a low drive in the 60th minute – the only of his three shot to be on target. Even come the final minute of regulation, Tissot was still full of running, winning a ball deep and embarking on a slicing forray towards goal before running out of space in the 89th minute. Not too shabby for a first league run out of the year, after going 45 minutes just days earlier. Tissot completed 17 of his 29 passes, adding four recoveries, two clearances, and a pair of tackles to his tally. Post-match he heralded the road point, despite playing down a man for thirty-plus minutes: “In this league, playing on the road especially down to 10 men,” – Hassoun Camara was sent off two a pair of bookable offenses - “getting a point is fantastic, we’ll take it any day. For sure, we would have liked three but we’ll be satisfied with one.” Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe started a second-consecutive match for Vancouver as they nabbed the full points with a last-minute winner in Orlando, but the end would come early for the young defender. Continuing from his blazing left-back performance last weekend, Adekugbe picked up where he left off, beginning the match with a crunching shoulder challenge on Kevin Molino in the third minute, earning a foul for his troubles – the first of four he collected before exiting early. The fleet-footed Molino is a handful and the young English-born Canadian would collect a yellow card – his first of the season – in the 36th minute for a late tackle on the Lions' attacker. He would also be called for a handball, leading to a potentially troublesome free-kick, when a cross deflected off his foot and caught his trailing arm; Orlando would fail to take advantage of that refereeing decision. Defensive foibles aside, Adekugbe showed glimpses of that same attacking verve that earned him rave reviews in Chicago, making a strong run up the left to interplay with fellow Canadian Kianz Froese, only for the final pass to elude the duo. But his outing would come to a premature end with he bravely went into a challenge with Orlando keeper Donovan Ricketts, stretching to get a touch on a ball as the big Jamaican slid out to collect. Adekugbe would take the brunt of Ricketts' large knee in the chest, forcing him out of the match with what was surmised to be a rib injury. It was an unpleasant sight to see him stretchered off the pitch in need of oxygen, replaced by Jordan Harvey in the 75th minute. He was however credited with a shot in the process. Whitecaps' coach Carl Robinson quipped afterwards, "Well it's not a good idea to slide into a 6-foot-4 goalkeeper, I can tell you that," before continuing, "It doesn't look good if I'm honest. He's gone to hospital now. He was on the oxygen as they took him off. I'm worried that it might be a fracture. We're just going to check that his lung is ok. But it doesn't look good." There has been no official update on the extent of his injuries as of yet, though the club did provide further insights post-match, noting “severely bruised ribs” on twitter and stating he “will receive further evaluation” over the coming days. Prior to leaving the match, Adekugbe had completed 22 of 28 passes, racking up three recoveries, a clearance, and an interception in his 70-odd minutes on the pitch, putting his side in the position to collect the late 0-1 win. Adekugbe and the next Canadian in the review, Cyle Larin, were featured in a recent edition of the AFTN Podcast prior to Saturday's match. Cyle Larin Larin made his much-anticipated MLS debut on Saturday as Orlando fell 0-1 to a late Vancouver strike. Entering the fray in the 72nd minute, replacing Pedro Ribeiro atop the City formation, the first-overall draft pick was energetic, but looked a little off the pace of the game; comfort will come with further experience. That said, he was still a force to be reckoned with, hauled down by Kendall Waston on the edge of the area almost immediately, he repeatedly popped up in great positions, finding a pocket of space to collect a Kaka pass at the top of the area, only to send his right-footer wide as he could not quite wrap his foot around the ball to guide the effort inside the right-post in the 89th minute. Three minutes later, deep into stoppage-time, a glorious chance for a winner fell to the Brampton, Ontario-native after muscling in behind centre-back Diego Rodriguez with a diagonal run to get on the end of a Kaka through-ball, only for David Ousted to rush out and swat the potential-goal off his foot. One shot, off-target, one clearance, one foul committed, and two of four in pass completion, not bad for a debut performance, but with that out of the way, more is expected of the rookie who promises much. It will be very interesting to watch how he makes his way in the professional game. Steven Vitoria Vitoria continued the ironman start to his MLS career, lining up for a third-straight start as Philadelphia fell 0-2 to Dallas on Saturday. Once more as the left-sided of the centre-back duo, paired again with Ethan White, Vitoria was solid, providing that measure of stability exuded through his first two outings. And the Toronto-born defender would come close, sort of, to collecting his first goal of the season, lunging in with an early challenge to a loose ball after Chris Seitz parried a shot off a corner kick in the opening minutes. He had a good physical battle brewing with Akindele, conceding an early foul for one wrestling session, but it was his wise positioning that really stood out, showing some good recovery speed to at least force Akindele wide on his goal after that dreadful turnover and later doing well to usher the ever-dangerous Castillo wide. Vitoria was involved in an ugly collision in midfield, smashing into teammate Mo Edu, leaving each prone for a spell – both would stay in the game. And, with the Union trailing, Vitoria bit hard on an Akindele ball to Diaz, sucked high up-field and bypassed by a deft touch from the Argentine in a desperate attempt to cut out a pass and spur a much-needed counter, leading to a Dallas break in the other direction. Thankfully, Castillo would send his effort sailing high over the bar (the play in question can be seen above in Akindele's section). He would collect five recoveries, three clearances, and three fouls, completing 14 of 22 passes in a losing effort. Kianz Froese Froese made his first appearance of the season for Vancouver in Orlando, coming on in the 67th minute in place of Nicolas Mezquida. Taking up the left-sided midfielder's role, Froese was lively, making a good run up that flank, only to play the crucial pass behind Octavio Rivero. He combined well with Adekugbe on that side and put in some defensive graft as well, tracking back to, momentarily, delay Kaka's route to goal, and putting a hearty shove into the back of Raphael Ramos out wide, showing he was equal to the physical demands of the professional game in MLS. The Cuban-born midfielder completed five of his eight pass attempts, adding one recovery to his second ever appearance in the league, having signed last September and featured in just one match last season. Kyle Bekker Bekker made a second substitute's appearance on Saturday afternoon for FC Dallas as they rolled out to a 0-2 win. Coming on in the 79th minute for Blas Perez, Bekker manned a deeper central-midfield position, lining up alongside Victor Ulloa in front of the centre-backs to see out the result. The Oakville, Ontario-native twice helped his side preserve the result, killing a few seconds by cheekily kicking the ball away from a restart and then being in a good position to intercept an errant Philadelphia pass across the top of the box, thus relieving pressure. He completed all four of his passes – extending his season-long passing perfection to a total of six passes – and provided a pair of recoveries. Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare Gagnon-Lapare made his debut for Montreal in New England, coming on in the 84th minute to replace Eric Alexander as Frank Klopas sought fresh legs to see out the score-less draw with the Impact defending with ten-men. The 20-year old, who signed with the club midway through 2014, made a total of five appearances that year, three as starter. Taking up Alexander's central role, Gagnon-Lapare helped preserve the road point, completing both his passes and recording one recovery in the process. The Rest Patrice Bernier and Wandrille Lefevre were unused substitutes as Montreal drew in New England, though Bernier, still recognized as the club captain, did see some limited action midweek in the Champions League. Russell Teibert's run of starts came to a halt at two with Gershon Koffie taking his place in Orlando, where Teibert remained unused on the sidelines. Karl Ouimette was seconds away from getting onto the field for his new side, the New York Red Bulls, standing on the sidelines ready to be introduced, only for the final whistle to come too soon for his liking, while Kofi Opare was on the bench for DC United. TFC announced several first team players – including Canadians Quillan Roberts, Ashtone Morgan, Manuel Aparicio, Jay Chapman, Chris Mannella, and Jordan Hamilton - were loaned to their USL side ahead of their opening day loss in Charleston, 3-2 to the Battery. Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league. He can be followed on twitter @grawsee and more of his writing is available at Partially Obstructed View
  9. Have a listen! You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  10. Sam Adekugbe Adekugbe made his first start of the season, having spent the opener on the bench, taking over Jordan Harvey's left-back position for Vancouver in their 0-1 win over Chicago on Saturday. It was a glittering performance from the 20-year old English-born defender, combining his prowess in both the offensive and defensive roles. He was first called into action to block a hopeful Quincy Amarikwa drive, forcing the attacker wide, before conceding a foul, then prevented Chicago from taking the lead with a crucial defensive header that forced a Shaun Maloney effort over the bar. In whole, it was a balanced performance that showed he had both the speed and the physicality necessary to compete at this level, as well as the willingness to get stuck in, as shown by a fierce sliding tackle on Eric Gehrig along the touchline. By the end of the afternoon, Adekugbe had racked up five recoveries, three clearances, three blocks, an interception, and a tackle, conceding three fouls throughout and winning one. Gehrig had his hands full with the young Canadian, who showed excellent speed down the flank, tiptoeing the line past the Chicago right-back on out occasion. On another, he cut in-field to attack, causing some trouble before running into a dead end. His inexperience was taken advantage of one occasion, where Michael Stephens threaded a neat pass through his legs to pick out Harrison Shipp on a near-post run, but goalkeeper David Ousted was on hand sharply to prevent any additional blushes. At times, his passing – having completed roughly 24 of 35 – left a little to be desired, but a strong performance from the third-year player, who made just five previous appearances in MLS, has no doubt earned him more time in the future and given Carl Robinson another option at left-back. Tesho Akindele Akindele reprized his right-sided midfielder's role in Dallas' 3-1 win over Sporting KC on Saturday night – his second start of the season for Oscar Pareja in that position. Having been kept off the score-sheet in game one, it took just seventeen minutes for Akindele to notch his first point of the season, picking up . Fabian Castillo sprung the attack, running down the left-channel before slotting a through-ball to the right for the streaking Akindele, breaking away from the KC defenders.Under pressure from the recovering run of Marcel De Jong, Akindele turned to hold up play before squaring a set-up pass to Perez in space on the right-side of the area, with which the Panamanian made no mistake, beating Sporting keeper, Luis Marin. Nominally on the right, the Calgary, Alberta-native was once more free to roam the pitch as he pleased, using his speed – outracing De Jong on an earlier play to win a corner kick - and size to prod KC. It is that unpredictability that is both a benefit and a curse; good in that it catches opponents off-guard, but bad in that he cannot always get involved in the build up, hence his pass completion – just six of thirteen on the night – suffers, not that that should be a goal in and of itself. Buoyed by the assist, the second-year forward nearly provided another before half-time, whisking a low ball through the goalmouth after once more beating De Jong for pace, but no teammate could get on the end of the skipping service – it was recorded as a shot, off-target. And he had a solid look to score his first of the second twenty minutes into the second half, only to stray offside before the pass came that poked him through on goal. Akindele would be replaced by Michael Barrios in the 76th minute, having added two recoveries and the winning of a foul to his crucial, early assist. Steven Vitoria Vitoria started a second-straight match in the centre of the Union's back-line as they fought Salt Lake to an entertaining, if bizarre, 3-3 draw in Sandy, Utah on Saturday night. Paired once more with Ethan White, as the left-sided of the duo, the Toronto-born defender was a calming presence at the back for the Union, racking up six clearances, six recoveries, a pair of interceptions, and committing two fouls, while winning one. For a second time in two matches, he would see a yellow card, this one in the 23rd minute when he was caught stepping into Javier Morales as the Salt Lake midfielder corralled a ball in the centre-circle, clattering into his opponent to draw the ire of the referee and the opposition coaching staff. Earlier he nearly paid for a hands-off approach in the opening minutes, leaving a Olmes Garcia ball through the area at the near-post, possibly in fear of an own-goal, only to see it nearly put in at the back-side by a late arriving Luis Gil. Listed at six-foot, five, Vitoria required every inch of his stature in defending set-pieces, as he was tasked with keeping a lid on the aggressive Chris Schuler in such situations, managing to match the Salt Lake defender on all accounts, though one of the home team's goals would come from such a play – Vitoria had his mark, but Jamison Olave and Garcia broke free, the latter kneeing the ball into the head of the former to find the back of the net – such a peculiar goal. Calm, poised, physical, Vitoria looks to be an excellent pickup for a Philadelphia side that has struggled to have a consistent presence in place, often drafting midfielders – either Maurice Edu or Amobi Okugo – into that role in the past. He will lock down that position and is an early shout for the only Canadian to feature in each of his side's matches. Marcel De Jong De Jong made his debut for Sporting KC in their loss at FC Dallas on Saturday night, having had to sit out the opening match of the season, awaiting a visa. Stationed at his customary left-back position, De Jong looked a touch off the pace, struggling to contain the fast and physical styling of Akindele down that side – losing out in the aforementioned footrace and getting exposed on Dallas' opener. The Newmarket, Ontario-native made an excellent recovering run to prevent Akindele from bearing down on goal himself, but could do nothing once the pass was played wide to Perez to finish the attack. His introduction was not without actual bumps as well, Dallas' Atiba Harris welcoming him to MLS with a solid clattering, earning a yellow card in the 35th minute for his body check on the Canadian – one of two fouls De Jong won that night. Come the end of the night, De Jong had compiled decent numbers – five clearances, three interceptions, and a pair of recoveries, while completing 20 of 29 passes – enough to give Peter Vermes a decision to make and Seth Sinovic some competition for that left-back position. The night was not without its troubles though, as De Jong was called for a foul throw at one point, caught in two minds as to where to unload, much to the amusement of the announcers. He was the subject of a feature interview on MLSsoccer.com with CSN's own Daniel Squizzato. Russell Teibert Teibert retained his position on the field to make his second-straight start of the season, once more lined up alongside Matias Laba at the base of the Vancouver midfield, as the Whitecaps got their first win of 2015, away to Chicago. From that deep-lying position, the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native once more contributed that sort of disciplined positional play that has earned him a place in Robinson's first eleven, mopping up trouble and keeping a close eye on Frank Yallop's two-headed attacking midfield, with Maloney and Shipp both lined up in the centre. Fans who saw the young Canadian's promising attacking output in 2013 – where he scored a pair of goals and added nine assists – may decry that he has abandoned those dashing runs for an altogether more subtle role, but such is what is necessary at the professional level. And his ability to link the play, thrusting forward while being savvy enough to be in place when danger builds in the other direction, is the sign of a maturing, if not quite as exciting, a player. Amassing five recoveries, two interceptions, a pair of clearances, a block, and a tackle, while committing three fouls is hardly the sort of performance that garners headlines, but make no mistake, it is his running that helped Vancouver manage the potential troublesome central duo of Chicago. One final note on Teibert, as he grew into the league, the main setbacks could be summed up in two statistics: his incomplete passes and his giveaways, all too often getting stripped out wide or hitting hopeful/wasteful crosses. Now in his fifth season, Teibert, through 154 minutes of play, has misplaced just seven of nearly sixty passes (he went 20 for 27 in Chicago) and conceded possession just twice, both against Toronto on opening day – a mark of a more confident and purposeful player. But, he was a little more fun and exciting to watch in those heady days. Jonathan Osorio Osorio was the fourth and final Canadian to feature in both of his club's two matches, resuming his right-side of midfield role for Toronto FC in their 2-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday. Sitting slightly deeper than he had against Vancouver – coach Greg Vanney looked to close down those dangerous wide areas with a three-man shield in front of the back-line – the Toronto, Ontario-native combined a defensive effort with some quality ball-movement to keep TFC's attack on the front foot for most of the first half. It was a physical outing for Osorio, putting a nice shoulder barge in on Wil Trapp early, only to be bundled over by Justin Meram in turn later in the half – resulting in Osorio winning a foul. He moved the ball very well, completing 22 of 24 passes, linking up nicely with Toronto's high trio, once slotting a ball for Sebastian Giovinco that the diminutive Italian shot over the bar. But with Toronto down to ten men, he was sacrificed at half-time, replaced by fellow Canadian Ashtone Morgan, putting a premature end to his night having made two recoveries and an interception in 45 minutes of play. Ashtone Morgan Coming on for Osorio at half-time, Morgan made his first appearance of the season, taking over the dismissed Justin Morrow's left-back spot for the second half of play in Columbus. It was not a great night for Morgan. Once a shining light of the TFC Academy and a ray of hope for the future of the Canadian game, Morgan, sadly, has stagnated over the past season, making just three appearances for a total of 168 minutes in 2013. And he looks every bit as rusty as that lack of playing time indicates. Prior to last season he had accumulated more than 5000 minutes of first team action, holding down the starting position for large patches of 2012 and 2013, but since Ryan Nelsen took charge of the club, requiring more defensive acumen from the 24-year old, his confidence has waned. To be fair, he has not had it easy in his limited minutes – coming on down a man against a side as eager as Columbus were, having been swept in the Trillium Cup the previous year and denied in Houston during First Kick; neither fate, nor has luck been his friend. Recall his first appearance last year, having to wait until September to make his debut under new boss Vanney, only to be sent off for a hauling down Sebastian Le Toux who had broken clear on goal after Doneil Henry was caught up field. Already short-handed and with TFC on the back foot, Morgan did not cover himself in glory. Columbus' first goal in the 57th minute, scored by Justin Meram, saw , allowing the lively Crew SC attacker to swing a cross towards the back-post where Meram guided his header into the goal.While on the second goal, just four minutes later, Morgan was helpless to mark two men at the back-post as from the left, Outnumbered, the Toronto, Ontario-native had no chance, but that he provided such little cover to foil either attacker is not good enough.Morgan did however learn the lesson of the first, getting out in a more timely-manner to block the next dangerous cross from his side, before repeating the feat again, recovering well to put a Hernan Grana cross out for a corner kick. The nightmare would continue as he was nearly culpable for a third Columbus goal when he whiffed on a loose-ball challenge with Grana, allowing the defender a clear path to goal, which he courteously whisked over the goal, sparing further embarassment. He did however have one moment that exhibited his quality, whipping a perfect cross of his own to the near-post from out wide that bamboozled the Crew defenders and nearly fell to the feet of Giovinco for a spot of consolation in the 82nd minute – but the match was in truth already gone. In his 45 minutes, Morgan made three clearances, one interception and a recovery, while completing six of his nine passes, but it was all the other stuff that will keep him down the pecking order. Unless, of course, Morrow's controversial red card stands and Morgan is drafted into duty again in two weeks time – he needs the playing time to find his feet. Kyle Bekker Bekker made his first appearance of the season for FC Dallas in their 3-1 win over Sporting KC on Saturday night, coming on in the 89th minute in place of Fabian Castillo. Just seconds into his match, he would get into a tussle with Kevin Ellis, putting a late foot in on the defender that drew the ire, leading to a slight scuffle, Bekker throwing Ellis to the ground, and yellow cards to each – not wasting any time in getting his first booking of the season out of the way. Worth noting is that Bekker took up a very advanced position in the Dallas midfield in this briefest of cameos, perhaps indicative of where Oscar Pareja sees him contributing, though further evidence will be required before that can really be determined. His passing was perfect – a stunning two for two – while he collected a recovery, an interception, and a clearance in his barely four minutes of play; quite a busy four minutes indeed. The Rest Cyle Larin made his first appearance in the gameday eighteen for Orlando City as they won 0-1 in Houston. Continuing the drizzling of off-season news, this review lost one of its potential-stars in the off-season, as LA Galaxy striker, Rob Friend, retired from professional soccer, ending his eleven-year career after just one year in MLS. The 34-year old Friend's season was cut short after ten appearances through the first four months play due a concussion and subsequent lingering-symptoms, registering a single assist. Announcing his retirement on December 10, Friend said, ““I’m extremely grateful to have played the game I love for a living. I have been fortunate enough to work with some outstanding teammates, coaches and clubs who have helped shape me on and off the field over the past 10 years. I will always be thankful for the experiences, relationships and opportunities the game itself has given me and am honored to finish my career as an MLS champion with the Galaxy.” Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league and the league as a whole. You can follow James on twitter @grawsee or read more of his writing at Partially Obstructed View
  11. Sam Adekugbe has been in the Vancouver residency system since September 2011. Time and time again he has excelled at the U16 and U18 levels and after he signed his MLS homegrown contract, he has stepped up to the next level, knowing that the road to becoming a full time MLS starter will be full of obstacles and challenges. In the long run they will only make him a more well rounded and more complete professional footballer because of it. Last weekend during the game versus the Fire there were signs that he has plenty to work on to become the most complete left-back he can be. He isn't always in the perfect defensive position, he can maybe be too aggressive from time to time, but what he lacks in his technicalities he makes up for it with his raw speed, pace and his gifted abilities. Numerous times he showed off that unsuspecting speed to blow past countless Fire players and run right around them down the left side of the pitch. He showed great footballing smarts by jumping into the play when he was open to do so. Now the pass wasn't always sent to him by his teammate, and there were a few wasted 50 to 60 yard runs, but at least he knew when he had an opportunity to make them. He also knew once he didn't get the ball to hustle back and get into sound defensive positions just in case there was a quick turnover and a counter attack. Just as well, as watching the game there was plenty of them by both teams. Moving forward, Carl Robinson has a difficult decision to make now every game. Does he go with the football intelligent, experienced and great team leader that is Jordan Harvey or is the future now and should he start the uptempo and faster Adekugbe? As of now, there appears to be no limit on Adekugbe's potential as a player. What to do with him and how to get the best continued development out of him are now the questions facing the Whitecaps management. USL and the new WFC2 team are still an option for Adekugbe this season. That would be a great chance for him to get quality, competitive minutes on a pitch. But there is the potential of him not benefiting enough from the quality of play in USL. Adekugbe has shown he is capable of holding his own and excelling at the MLS level. Sure he will learn from his mistakes at either level, but it might be better for his continued footballing development to make the mistakes around players like Mauro Roslaes, Pa-Madou Kah and Steven Beitashour than players like Brett Levis, Tyler Rosenlund and Jackson Farmer. And I mean that as no slight or with no offence to the USL players I named, but they don't have years and years of experience at the highest level of football in North America, and in Rosales' case in South America. Another option thrown around by Whitecaps supporters on Twitter these past few days caught my eye. Could we have Harvey start at right-back for the struggling Steven Beitashour, thus allowing Adekugbe to continue to start and gain quality MLS minutes and experience as the left-back? Other than the assist to Octavio Rivero to set-up the game winning goal (which we have to give him kudos for), Beitashour has struggled this preseason and the two games so far in the regular season. Just like last season he has been beaten too many times by being sucked in too far into the middle of the pitch, then having the opposing team's defender run right past him giving them an easy shot or too much space to make a decent cross into the defensive box. Harvey has filled in nicely at the right-back position a few times over his career, he has the experience to be able to not look completely out of place on the pitch in that spot. Ethen Sampson is currently the first choice back-up to Beitashour, and although Tim Parker may also be an option there going forward, the cupboard is somewhat bare for the Whitecaps in that position, and not for the first time. Adekugbe's performance on Saturday earned him a place in Major League Soccer's "Team of the Week". That display, along with the 'Caps keeping their first clean sheet of the new season, make him hard to now drop. Tough decisions ahead for Robinson.
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