His MLS debut had ended after 77 minutes, so the celebration that followed Ronald Zubar’s goal Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup triumph explained a lot.
Defenders don’t score many goals, anyway, yet the joy on his face after tapping home a rebound for NYRB’s second goal in a 3-0 defeat of Atlanta stemmed from months on the sideline. He was one of the first players to join the Red Bulls after they hired Jesse Marsch to replace Mike Petke as head coach.
U.S. Open Cup: Cosmos and Independence beat MLS teams
Acquired in January from French club Ajaccio, Zubar started the MLS opener against Sporting Kansas City but had to depart with an injury in the 77th minute. He sat out more than three months to recover from knee and hamstring problems as the Red Bulls fired out to a strong start and then labored through a stretch of just one win in eight games.
Against Atlanta, Zubar played a solid 45 minutes alongside Damien Perrinelle before giving way at halftime to Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
“I’ve been out for three months so it’s great to be in the lineup tonight and the plan was to play 45 minutes or maybe a little bit less,” he said. “I felt okay so I said to Jesse, “Let’s go to 45,” so [I] just go out there and enjoy. It was a great game for me because I like a game like that when you have a challenge and you have to fight to win.”
2. Honduras takes Boniek Garcia.
Of a possible four MLS players, Honduras has named Boniek Garcia of Houston to its 23-man Gold Cup roster.
Boniek Garcia, 30, played for Honduras at the 2014 World Cup, and this is his fourth selection to a Gold Cup roster. His next cap will be his 100th and could come at home when Honduras plays Mexico in a friendly July 1 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Three other MLS players -- Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas City), Luis Garrido (Houston), and Bryan Rochez (Orlando City SC) -- were named to the 35-man preliminary list and remain in contention to play in the competition. Gold Cup rules allow teams to make as many as six changes to the 23-man squads prior to the knockout phase that follows the first round.
Former MLS players Johnny Leveron, Andy Najar, Mario Martinez and Jorge Claros join Garcia on the roster. Honduras opens the Gold Cup against the USA July 7 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The USA beat Honduras, 3-1, in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinals.
The Sounders have supplemented their already potent attacking corps with a young Brazilian, Thomas, who got his first start last Saturday in a 3-0 defeat of FC Dallas.
Thomas, 22, signed as a free agent on June 1 and debuted as a sub against Sporting Kansas City a week later. In the FCD game, he drew applause from the fans at CenturyLink Field in the seventh minute by nutmegging a challenger and serving a decent cross that was cleared. He played 61 minutes before being replaced by Obafemi Martins, whose injury Tuesday in the Open Cup game with Portland might move him back into the starting lineup.
“Soccer played here in MLS is fast,” he said through a translator to MLSsoccer.com. “Lots of contact, very physical. But soccer is like that anywhere in the world. I have experience playing in different places in the world. I played for the [youth] national team as well so, in the end, it’s about soccer and I plan to very successful and help the team.”
Said head coach Sigi Schmid, “I thought he did alright. He still needs to learn. It’s different when you’re training and you’re playing more small-sided games. He needs to learn the team and the rhythm of the big game. At times, I think he dropped a little too deep. I’d like to see him stay high. You saw the play he made early in the game, where he megs one and gets behind the other. Those are the things he can do in the final third.”
4. Atlanta to announce name July 7.
On its Facebook page, the unnamed Atlanta MLS team that is projected to start play in 2017 has told its founding members to check their e-mail and to “#bringyourAgame on 7/7/15.”
Owner Arthur Blank said last month the team would unveil its name before the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals, which will be played July 22 in the Georgia Dome. He has chosen the date of the Gold Cup opening doubleheader to be played at Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas.
The team colors are expected to be some variation of the red-and-black motif sported by his other professional sports team, the NFL Falcons, but no “official” fan vote was held to guide the ownership group in its naming decision.
A vote was staged in January by the Terminus Legion supporters group and the top five selections were: 1. Black Harts; 2. Empire; 3. Firebirds; 4. Resurgents; 5. Terminus. (Obviously, a segment of Atlanta’s fan following has a sense of humor.)
MLS announced the expansion franchise in April of last year, and in a poll conducted shortly thereafter by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Atlanta Phoenix took first place with nearly 26 percent of the vote. Premier Atlanta came in second, Atlanta Blaze took third.
One of the league’s all-time goalscorers will join Peter Nowak, Chris Armas and Bob Bradley, among others, in the Ring of Fire.
Ante Razov is Chicago's all-time leading scorer with 76 goals and fourth on the career MLS list with 114. He will join seven other men in the Ring of Fire during a ceremony prior to the Fire’s game against New England Oct. 3.
“I am truly honored to be selected as one of the few men in the Ring of Fire,” said Razov in a team statement. “To be among the greats of the Fire is the most gratifying feeling. We had a very special group of people during my time and this feeling has never escaped me. This recognition brings back the best memories of my playing career.”
Razov played on the Fire team that won the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup double as an expansion team in 1998 and also the 2000 and 2003 teams that reached the MLS Cup final. In his 15 years as a professional, he also played for the LA Galaxy, Columbus, MetroStars and Chivas USA, as well as Spanish club Racing Ferrol.
He finished his playing career with Chivas USA in 2009 and earlier this year joined the Sounders staff as an assistant coach.