MLS

Expansion team St Louis secure MLS history with fourth straight win, Montreal beat Union after VAR drama

By Sports Desk March 19, 2023

St Louis City extended their dream start to life in the MLS with a 3-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday making league history as the first expansion team to win its first four games.

The Missouri club powered past the Earthquakes with first-half goals from Nicholas Gioacchini and Joao Klauss, before Tomas Ostrak sealed the win in the 68th minute.

St Louis' fourth straight win surpassed the Seattle Sounders' three-win start in their debut MLS season in 2009.

The new franchise have scored 11 goals in four games, with Saturday's win marking their first clean sheet, having been forced to come from behind in all three other victories.

Argentinian midfielder Thiago Almada continued his stellar start to the new campaign with a  double in Atlanta United's 5-1 win over Portland Timbers.

The 21-year-old, who was called into Argentina's squad for the upcoming international window, netted a stunning free-kick in first-half stoppage time to make it 2-0.

Montreal upset 10-man Philadelphia Union with a comeback 3-2 win aided by a game-changing video review for Chinonso Offor's 90th-minute equaliser which split opinions.

The goal had initially been disallowed upon video review, only for that to be overturned when it was realised Union left back Kai Wagner, who was off screen from the initial angle, had actually played Offor onside.

Reigning MLS Cup winners LAFC were held to a goalless draw at Seattle, while last year's beaten conference finalists New York City got past DC United 3-2.

New England made it three wins from four games with Gustavo Bou netting the winner in a 1-0 triumph over Nashville, while New York Red Bulls came from behind to win 2-1 over Columbus Crew.

Chicago Fire remain winless after blowing a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Cincinnati, while LA Galaxy are also without a win after a 1-1 home draw with Vancouver Whitecaps.

Charlotte bounced back from their losing start to the season with a 2-1 home win over Orlando City, while Toronto beat Inter Miami 2-0, Dallas won 2-1 over Sporting KC, Houston Dynamo downed Austin 2-0 and Miguel Tapias scored late to earn Minnesota United a 2-1 win at Colorado Rapids.

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  • LA Galaxy v Houston Dynamo: Vanney hoping home run can build momentum LA Galaxy v Houston Dynamo: Vanney hoping home run can build momentum

    Greg Vanney is aiming to build some momentum for the LA Galaxy as they look to end a run of four draws against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.

    The Galaxy are on a five-match winless run in MLS, with another goalless draw against Charlotte last weekend seeing them drop to fourth in the Western Conference.

    After a run of four away games in their previous five outings, LA are now due to play four of their next five at Dignity Health Sports Park, which is also where they got their last win.

    "This is a big phase for us to really build some momentum in all ways, being in front of our fans and being at home for this next stretch," said Vanney, as quoted in The Galactic Tribune.

    "Obviously, we've got to go on the road once more, but hopefully build on the momentum and get some points."

    Houston Dynamo have won just one of their last six MLS matches and dropped more points in a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas last Saturday as they sit eighth in the West.

    Ben Olsen is upbeat about the Dynamo’s recent performances, though he admits they need to learn lessons from their recent results.

    "The reality is the performances aren't necessarily resembling the points that we're getting," he said.

    "We're actually in a nice rhythm of consistency. I know it's hard to say that when we're not maximising points, but the way we're going about the games is pretty good, and it's pretty consistent.

    "We'll keep working at it. That's all you can do. What else are you going to do, quit?"

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    LA Galaxy – Joseph Paintsil

    Paintsil has contributed to at least one goal in four straight home matches (two goals, three assists), including recording an assist in the last three.

    Only one Galaxy player in the last decade has recorded an assist in four straight home matches: Douglas Costa between June and August 2023.

    Houston Dynamo – Ibrahim Aliyu

    Amine Bassi scored his first goal of the season in Houston’s 1-1 draw with Dallas last weekend, becoming the ninth different Dynamo player to find the back of the net.

    However, only one player has netted more than a single goal for them this campaign, with Aliyu netting four.

    MATCH PREDICTION – LA GALAXY WIN

    The Galaxy’s 0-0 draw with Charlotte on Saturday was their fourth consecutive draw and they’ve shared the points a joint-league high seven times this year. LA have drawn five consecutive regular-season matches only once before, doing so in May 2009.

    The Dynamo have lost only one of their last six away matches against the Galaxy dating back to 2017 (two wins, three draws). Houston have kept clean sheets in each of their last two visits, and the only team to keep three straight clean sheets at the Galaxy in MLS play is the Columbus Crew, who did so between 2004 and 2006.

    However, the Dynamo have alternated between wins and losses on the road this season, including a 1-0 defeat to Austin in their last away match. Houston have won four away matches in a single regular season just once since 2014, winning four times away from home in 2022, including at the Galaxy.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    LA Galaxy – 42.4%

    Draw – 25.6%

    Houston Dynamo – 32%

  • Vancouver boss Sartini not worried about reception for 'artist' Messi Vancouver boss Sartini not worried about reception for 'artist' Messi

    Vanni Sartini has no problem with Vancouver Whitecaps fans who wish to cheer Lionel Messi when Inter Miami visit BC Place on Saturday, but he wants his players to ignore the Argentine's presence and focus on themselves.

    Miami are currently leading the way in the Eastern Conference and the Supporters' Shield race, with last week's 1-0 win over D.C. United lifting them to 31 points from 15 games. 

    Messi has contributed 10 goals and nine assists in MLS play this year, and he is expected to feature in Canada despite sustaining a knock in a training session earlier this week.

    Supporters' desire to see the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner play has led to some bizarre atmospheres since he arrived in MLS, but Sartini will not tell Vancouver's fans who to applaud.

    "It's like going to the Louve and saying, 'don't cheer for the Mona Lisa'. Messi is an Opera artist," Sartini said in his pre-match press conference.

    "I'm going to be more excited to see David Beckham than Messi… it's a generational thing. I hope Beckham comes, even my wife will be more happy if Beckham comes!"

    Changing tone, Sartini said: "We cannot limit the danger of Messi and Luis Suarez. 

    "We must prevent the ball from being passed towards them and we need to be in the right state of mind. Let's forget about Messi and focus on our own performance."

    Vancouver currently occupy the final automatic playoff spot in the West, taking 19 points from their first 13 matches of 2024.

    Messi's Miami team-mate Robert Taylor believes the World Cup winner has made the rest of Gerardo Martino's squad better this year, saying: "Everyone knows what he

    brings on the field; he scores, he assists, he does amazing things on the field, he brings us results. 

    "Then in training, there's this energy around the team, he makes everyone better.

    "That's because of his personality, he wants to win every game – even in training – and I think that's been lifting everyone up a lot recently."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

    Gauld scored a stoppage-time penalty to earn Vancouver a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders last time out, and the Whitecaps' last five goals in MLS play have now been scored either by the Scot (two) or Brian White (three).

    Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

    Messi has failed to record a goal contribution on two successive starts for just the second time since joining Miami last year. 

    The last time Messi went three or more straight starts in league play without contributing to a goal was on his first four starts for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, between September and October 2021.

    MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

    Despite progressing in the Canadian Championship on away goals in midweek, the Whitecaps are winless in their last four matches across all competitions (one draw, three losses).

    Miami, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last nine, winning six and drawing three, though they were held to a goalless draw in their last road game against Orlando City.

    Messi missed that Florida derby, though, and the Herons have won their last seven league matches when he has been named in their starting lineup, boasting an overall record of 10 wins, two draws and one defeat in 13 league games with Messi starting.

    The Whitecaps, however, are unbeaten in their last nine regular-season games against Eastern Conference opponents dating back to the start of last season, winning four and drawing five.

    The only team from the East to win in Vancouver since the start of 2021 was the Chicago Fire in July 2022. With that in mind, a draw could be on the cards on Saturday.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Vancouver Whitecaps – 38.5% 

    Inter Miami – 31.7%

    Draw – 29.8%

  • Gilbert targeting continued success with Arnett Gardens as CFU Caribbean Shield awaits Gilbert targeting continued success with Arnett Gardens as CFU Caribbean Shield awaits

    Despite his extensive experience and success coaching female teams, Xavier Gilbert’s introduction to the Jamaica Premier League (JPL) was expected to be tough, especially guiding a team such as Arnett Gardens.

    Well aware of how most felt about his chances in the nation’s top-flight, Gilbert was determined to overcome the challenges of gaining experience at that level, and also prove his doubters wrong, and he did just that, for the most part. Though he didn’t lead Arnett Gardens to a long-awaited title –dating to the 2016-17 triumph –Gilbert, who is an assistant to senior Reggae Girlz Head coach Hubert Busby, believes a third-place finish was an achievement of sorts.

    This, as it not only follows a similar outcome from last season but, more importantly, earned them a spot in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Caribbean Shield where they will challenge for one of two spots to the more prestigious Concacaf Caribbean Cup.

    The “Junglists”, who placed fifth in the preliminary round on 49 points, hammered Waterhouse 5-1 in the third-place encounter to finish behind Champions Cavalier FC and beaten finalist Mount Pleasant FA.

    “Pressure is natural, and it helps us focus on meeting our objectives. So, I saw that pressure as a positive motivator for us to attain our goals. We didn't win the title or make it to the finals, but finishing third and getting a spot in the CFU Caribbean Shield is definitely an achievement.

    “The season was very competitive, especially between the teams in the top six, and then there were those teams that improved throughout the season. We prepared for all our opponents and gave our best each time we touched the field and it is just unfortunate that we couldn’t go all the way,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

    “I want to applaud the players, my support staff, management, and everybody, who played a part in ensuring the players were healthy and fed, the community and the fans. I want to thank them for their support and commitment, and as we look forward to the CFU Caribbean Shield, we just want to do well to ensure that we make it to the CONCACAF level to join Mount Pleasant and Cavalier,” he added.

    Gilbert knew his decision to take the reins at Arnett Gardens would prove a sound one, as he made astute changes to their tactical approach along the way that contributed to his fairly successful debut season.  Still, the tactician credited the players led by veteran Fabian Reid and rising star Keheim Dixon for delivering at very high standards, so that he could realise his ambitions of keeping the team competitive.

    “Every team offers a different level of competition and you have to adjust accordingly based on what is happening on the day. Sometimes you plan to play a particular way, but based on how things are unfolding on the day, you just have to change and make that adjustment and adapt as quickly as possible. That is among some of the things that I learned through the season,” Gilbert revealed.

     “Also working with the players was a major high point, the level of respect and professionalism that they showed throughout the campaign was great and that was a rewarding experience. Technically we played well, but the results didn’t always match our performances. So going forward we’re trying to learn from the mistakes of the season and hope to perform better in the CFU Shield and hopefully, the Concacaf Club Championships,” he shared.

    Every coach has a unique philosophy, and for Gilbert dedication to hard work and giving people what they deserve are crucial factors for success. In fact, he was quick to point out that belief in teamwork and harnessing individual potential for the collective good are just as important and that is the inspiration they are taking into the Caribbean Shield set to unfold from July 25 to August 4, at a venue to be announced.

    “Our expectation is to build on what we have achieved so far and finish in the top two and advance. We know it is not going to be easy, but the players are excited, they are looking forward to it and it is just for them to go out and make themselves, the club and the community proud. It is also a good way for them to market themselves, so I know they want to make the most of it,” Gilbert ended.

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