MLS

Bale, Arango put LAFC four points clear in Western Conference

By Sports Desk July 24, 2022

Los Angeles FC momentarily opened up a four-point gap atop the Western Conference in the MLS, defeating Sporting KC 2-0 on Saturday.

Gareth Bale came off the bench to score his first goal in the MLS and seal the three points for LAFC, after Cristian Arango's well-taken opener.

With Giorgio Chiellini also starting, Steve Cherundolo's side absorbed pressure after Arango scored in the 56th minute, firing past Tim Melia at his near post with a confident finish on the run.

Bale was able to settle the result in transition for LAFC in the 83rd minute, driving low into the corner after creating separation from Nicolas Isimat-Mirin.

The win puts LAFC four points ahead of second-placed Austin FC in the West, who are still to face New York RB on Sunday, while Nashville and Cincinatti played out a 1-1 draw.

FC Dallas kept their hopes of a top-four finish in the West alive meanwhile, emerging 1-0 victors away to Real Salt Lake, while Minnesota moved to third with their 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo.

The Seattle Sounders are now a point from the playoff spots, overcoming Kelyn Rowe's 47th-minute red card to defeat the Colorado Rapids 2-1, while the Portland Timbers beat the SJ Earthquakes with the same result.

Philadelphia Union hold a one-point lead atop the Eastern Conference, with Daniel Gazdag's 39th-minute goal handing them a critical 1-0 win away to Orlando City.

The stingiest defence in the MLS held out to maintain their gap to New York City, who beat Inter Miami 2-0 via goals from Maximiliano Moralez and Heber.

CF Montreal moved back to third, with a Romell Quioto brace handing them a 2-1 win over DC United, while Toronto FC claimed a shock 4-0 win over a ten-man Charlotte FC.

Chicago Fire took advantage to move two points from the playoff spots, with Xherdan Shaqiri helping them to a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, while Columbus Crew and New England Revolution played out a goal-less draw.

 

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    New York Red Bulls head coach Sandro Schwarz insisted he is not worried about his side's lack of firepower as they travel to the Stade Saputo on Thursday.

    The Red Bull Army failed to find the back of the net in their encounter against Nashville last time out, registering 14 shots with only six on target in front of their home supporters.

    Schwarz's side sit third in the Eastern Conference table, six points behind second-placed FC Cincinnati, but are hopeful of closing the gap with a win over their opponents.

    The Red Bulls head coach has said he will pass on his own experiences he went through as a player to try and combat their recent struggles in front of goal, but is confident his side can create those moments against Montreal.  

    "I am not worried about that," Schwarz said. "The only way, and this is my experience as a player and as a head coach, is to create every time in the next situation and to try it again in the next situation.

    "To come into the box position, this is what we have to do. I am sure, and I think this season we have scored a lot of goals, but against Nashville it was 0-0.

    "It is good that if you don’t score it is not necessary you didn’t concede a goal. Now, we have to create these moments against Montreal on Wednesday."

    Meanwhile, Montreal played out the same scoreline in their encounter with Real Salt Lake last time out but remained in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

    Laurent Courtois' side are now unbeaten in their last four matches (W1 D3) in all competitions for the first time since a six-match winning streak between April and May last year.

    Montreal had lost five of its previous six games (D1) and will be looking to continue their recent momentum in front of their home supporters.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Montreal – Joaquin Sosa

    Sosa won five of the nine tackles he attempted against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, which is the most tackles won in a match by a CF Montreal player this season.

    Sosa had won just 10 tackles in his first nine appearances for the club.

    New York Red Bulls – Elias Manoel

    With top scorer Lewis Morgan away with Scotland at Euro 2024, and Emil Forsberg out with a foot injury, it offers the chance for Elias Manoel to take centre stage.

    The Brazilian has scored three goals in 17 appearances this season, with his last coming in May against DC United.

    MATCH PREDICTION: NEW YORK RED BULLS WIN

    It looks set to be a tightly contested affair at the Stade Saputo on Thursday, but NYRB should have enough to edge the contest away from home.

    The Red Bulls' defensive rearguard was a big positive from their goalless draw with Nashville, not allowing their opponents a shot on target – the fourth time they have managed this since 2022.

    Schwarz's side reached the 30-point mark on Sunday with their draw at home to Nashville, reaching that total in fewer games just twice in the club's history, which came in the 2012 and 2018 campaigns, taking just 16 games to achieve.

    The two sides have alternated wins over the last eight meetings, with New York winning the last match 2-1 in May 2023. None of the last 17 regular-season meetings between the sides have ended in a draw.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Montreal – 31.6%

    Draw – 25.3%

    NYRB – 43.1%

  • Duggan to leave Everton after second spell at club Duggan to leave Everton after second spell at club

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    The forward is departing after her second spell at the club, having started her career at Everton in 2007-08 before rejoining in July 2021.

    She appeared in all but one of Everton's matches during her return season but missed the entirety of the second after going on maternity leave, but returned to action last October.

    The 32-year-old initially broke into the first team at 16 years old and scored an extra-time winner against Watford to send Everton into the Premier League Cup final.

    In her first spell, she was named FA Women’s Young Player of the Year in 2009 and went on to lift the FA Women's Cup the following year.

    Duggan played 92 games for the Toffees over her two spells, scoring 29 goals.

    Alan McTavish, Everton Women's Chief Executive Officer, said: "Everyone at Everton thanks Toni for her service and commitment to the club.

    "From breaking into the senior team as a 16-year-old to winning the FA Cup, she can be very proud of her contribution to Everton.

    "We wish Toni all the best for the future."

    Duggan has also played for Manchester City, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid while earning 79 England caps to date.

  • Charlotte FC vs Orlando City: Smith hoping for Orso insight against struggling former club Charlotte FC vs Orlando City: Smith hoping for Orso insight against struggling former club

    Dean Smith will hope to utilise the experience of former Orlando City midfielder Junior Orso when his new team Charlotte FC host them in MLS on Thursday.

    Charlotte head coach Smith says the influence of Orso, who spent four seasons with Orlando, could benefit the home side at Bank of America Stadium.

    "It helps," Smith said of Orso's knowledge. "Little insights of information that can help.

    "The fact that Junior will know a lot about them will certainly help us as well."

    The Crown are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, too, owing to their remarkable defence that has helped them to ninth in the Supporter's Shield rankings.

    "Defense wins championships,” said Brandt Bronico, reflecting on the team's success this season. "If you can get the defense right, you can [then] start creating and having fun on the offensive end.

    "The collective defense-first mindset is probably the most important thing in the locker room."

    Orlando are struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, sitting just one point ahead of New England Revolution, who still have a game in hand.

    Oscar Pareja's side were beaten 3-1 by Los Angeles FC last time out, extending their winless streak to four games.

    The Orlando head coach acknowledged improvements are needed.

    "We need to have a deeper analysis about what's happening on the pitch," Pareja said.

    "But once again, it's not enough at this point. We need to win games and that's not happening."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Charlotte FC – Kristijan Kahlina

    Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five straight home matches for the first time in club history, thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.

    With a shutout against Orlando, Charlotte would become the sixth team in MLS history to keep six straight home clean sheets within a single season, equaling the second-longest run in league history.

    Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

    Nicolas Lodeiro completed 107 of 115 pass attempts on Saturday against LAFC, a new career high in his 208th regular-season match after never completing more than 88 passes in a match before.

    It was the most passes ever completed by an Orlando player in an MLS match, though Lodeiro may not have as much control for this meeting.

    MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE FC WIN

    The pre-match predictions fall in the favour of the home side as Charlotte appear the most likely victors on Thursday.

    Charlotte FC went unbeaten in all three meetings with Orlando in all competitions last season (W2 D1), after Orlando won both matches in 2022.

    Expect another nervy encounter, however, as all five matches between this pair have been decided by one goal or drawn.

    Yet the hosts will be confident as Charlotte have lost only one of their last 19 regular-season home matches, dating back to the beginning of June 2023 (W9 D9).

    Only last season's MLS Cup finalists Los Angeles FC (40) and Columbus Crew (38) have earned more points at home than Charlotte (36) over that span, and Orlando are struggling heading into this one.

    The visitors have lost eight matches in the 2024 season, one more than they had all of last year.

    Yet not all hope is lost given the Lions have lost only one of their last six away from home (W3 D2).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Charlotte FC – 42.8%

    Orlando City – 30.5%

    Draw – 26.7%

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