1. Robinson returns to his Red Bull roots.
Granted five days off last week by head coach Carl Robinson, Vancouver has traveled east to face the Red Bulls this weekend and New England a week from Saturday.
Those are the third and fourth games of a five-match run of road contests necessitated by the Women’s World Cup. Then will come the departures for national team duty for the Gold Cup, followed by a crunch of midweek matches in the Amway Canadian Championship and Concacaf Champions League. So getting away from the field for a few days made a lot of sense at the midpoint of the season.
“It’ll be a very special game for me,” Robinson said of his first trip to Red Bull Arena as a head coach to MLSsoccer.com. “I had two fantastic years at New York. It’s a fantastic organization with good people there. There has been quite a bit of change over the last period of time but I’ve still got very good friends there and the supporters are always good."
“He’s honest, he’s upfront, and he’s very detailed and disciplined,” Robinson said of Backe, the Red Bulls head coach from 2010 to 2012. “Watching him in action every day was very interesting to say the least … he taught me a hell of a lot.”
Robinson is pleased with the team’s energy and spirit in training sessions since they got back into action last Saturday. A solid away record (4-3-1) indicates the rest of the five-game road trip may be productive as well, yet he remembers a midseason collapse last year during which Vancouver won just one of 10 games.
“Defensively, on the road, we’re very sound and we are creating chances,” he said. “So if we continue this, keeping what happened last year in the back of our mind, I think we’ll be fine.”
2. RSL stronger up top, thinner in the back.
As the health of Real Salt Lake’s attacking corps improves, it is scrambling to keep its defensive slots filled.
Joao Plata marked his return to competitive action following a four-month recovery from a fractured foot by scoring the first goal in a 2-1 U.S. Open Cup triumph over Seattle Sounders 2 on Tuesday. Playmaker Javier Morales, who has been bothered this season by post-concussion issues and a groin injury, connected with a free kick to notch the winner.
But on the defensive front, head coach Jeff Cassar is desperately shorthanded at centerback. Chris Schuler has missed the last two months with a torn meniscus and is close to returning. Jamison Olave is recovering from a strained quad he suffered June 7 against Colorado. Academy product Justen Glad departed the Open Cup match late in the first half after a blow to the head left him with blurred vision. Delayed by travel problems, Elias Vasquez is stranded after playing the entirety of two Concacaf World Cup qualifying games for Guatemala in the past week.
“Hopefully that will get sorted out sooner than later,” Cassar told the Salt Lake Tribune.
As of Thursday, the only two healthy centerbacks available to face Sporting Kansas City Sunday in a rematch of the 2013 MLS Cup final are Aaron Maund and another academy product, Phanuel Kavita, 22, who signed as a Homegrown player in January and has yet to play in a league match.
3. Crew SC rolls out new formation.
Like just about every one of his MLS colleagues, Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter normally deploys his team with a four-man back line.
He changed it up Wednesday for a U.S. Open Cup match against USL foe Richmond and sent out a three-man rearguard consisting of Tyson Wahl, Emmanuel Pogatetz, and Chad Barson. He also gave a first start of the season to forward Adam Bedell, who responded by scoring twice in a 3-1 victory. Bedell played up top with Ethan Finlay in a formation labeled by Berhalter as a 3-2-3-2. A triangle of Kevan George, Tony Tchani, and Ben Speas served as the central pillar; Hector Jimenez and Kristinn Steindorsson manned the flanks.
Berhalter says many players take up positions on the field that are similar to their slots in their normal 4-2-3-1 alignment.
“I think it’s a derivative of our system, and that’s why it was easy for them to apply today,” he told MLSSoccer.com. “The basic setup is very simple. What you have in the defensive posture is a little different, and I think that could use some work. But I think given the opponent and how we thought they would play, it was a good opportunity to try it.”
Crew SC doesn’t play this weekend, so Berhalter has a bit more time to work with the system for possible use in league play. Columbus hosts New England Wednesday and plays at Real Salt Lake a week from Saturday.
4. Fagundez: His place in MLS history.
Last weekend marked a milestone for Revs attacker Diego Fagundez; he became the youngest player in league history to appear in his 100th league match. At 20 years, 119 days he pipped veteran Eddie Gaven (20 years, 164 days) by about seven and a half weeks.
Perhaps the most significant is that with his next goal he will be the youngest player to score 25 goals in league history. Unless he is blanked for the rest of the season, he will edge Gaven in that category as well; the former Crew and MetroStar player scored his 25th goal aged 20 years, 353 days in 2007.
5. Galloppa on trial in Toronto.
At least one of the trialists working out with Toronto FC is a face familiar to followers of the European game Midfielder Daniele Galloppa played with TFC star Sebastian Giovinco at Parma and is one of three players being evaluated by head coach Greg Vanney and his coaching staff.
“He was in town and we got him in training and took a look at him,” Vanney told MLSsoccer.com.
“The challenge with MLS is that we have a full roster and a full budget so anything we have to do is going to require some other move,” Vanney said. “We’re always looking to make our team better, but at the same time, nothing is imminent. In terms of what we’re trying to do, we’re doing our diligence and looking around at all possibilities.”
Since surviving a seven-game run of road games to accommodate renovations at BMO Field, TFC is 3-1-1. Starting Saturday against New York City FC it plays three home matches in eight days.