You could be reading anywhere right now during your Monday morning (insert routine) but you’re here with us and we really appreciate you for it. So, buckle up and stay tuned as I take you through all the notable happenings this weekend across MLS and around the World.
The Houston Dynamo took on the Portland Timbers this weekend in another home match. This was an excellent litmus test to see where the team is at so far and it certainly kept us all on the edge of our seats. The first half saw several quality chances and most of them coming from the Dynamo but they were unable to capitalize forcing a 0-0 draw. Goalkeeper Steve Clark, playing against his former team, was fantastic in this one helping Houston collect that vital point against a very solid Portland Timbers team. In the 75th minute Teenage Hadebe received his 2nd yellow of the match giving him a red card and an early exit from the contest. The call was certainly unwarranted as it appeared the contact was created by Yimmi Chara before he went down. Dynamo players were pleading their case for Teenage but the red card remained, much to the dismay of the fans and Dynamo players. Teenage will serve his 1 game suspension this weekend in Frisco, following that booking. Coach Nagamura made his changes and we saw it come in to action on the field as the defense was able to hold off the Charas and the rest of the Timbers in the final 15 minutes of the match. The draw does keep the Dynamo’s unbeaten streak intact and now sits at 5 games since their last defeat.
The Dynamo have adjusted defensively early in the season and that is a welcome sign of good things to come. Coach Nagamura has these guys believing in the process and they are starting to find their identity as a team. The Dynamo are hard to play against at home and they protect the box very well accompanied with their pace on the counter attacks and it is going to make life difficult for opposing teams as this season churns along. Especially after Hector Herrera gets here, that will allow coach Nagamura to really maximize the potential of this squad. This is only the beginning and the new regime’s plans for elevating the level of expectations for the Houston Dynamo is great to see. We should be really excited about the future here and the sky is the limit. The Dynamo truly are getting better every week. Trust the process. It’s a short week as the Dynamo are back in action at PNC Stadium this Tuesday April 19, 2022 when they take on Rio Grande Valley FC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The Challenge Cup woes continue for the Houston Dash as the fell on Friday night to the Kansas City Current 2-1, officially eliminating the Dash from advancing to the next round. Kristen Hamilton opened the scoring in the 4th minute for KC, setting the pace early on. They would hold on to that lead until the 59th minute, where Shea Groom would get one back and tie the game up with a technically sound header on the end of a beautiful cross from Maria Sanchez. Unfortunately for the Dash, the Current would ultimately find the winner in the 80th minute following a set piece where Victoria Pickett was able to find and strike a true ball in the center of the box to put it to bed.
The Houston Dash are a team that is packed full of quality and class so we should see all that come together here sooner rather than later. They will go back and evaluate their progress and find the positives to build on so they can prepare for the NWSL regular season opener against San Diego Wave FC on May 1, 2022. When you get a chance go out and see the Dash play, they are a lot of fun. Dash games are always an enjoyable time to bring out the friends and family to the stadium.
The Smash Brothers were back at it again! Houston Dynamo 2 made it look easy Saturday night as they crushed Portland Timbers 2 by a score of 4-1, for their 4th win in a row to remain undefeated on the season. The only goal they have given up so far came in this one from a penalty kick, so they still have not allowed a goal from open play. Coach Kenny Bundy has these guys firing on all cylinders and they are the early front runners who are currently dominating the MLS NEXT Pro league. This game saw goals from Marcelo Palomino (The Truth), Papa N’Doye (feared by all, caught by none), Beto Avila (hotter than fire) and 18-year-old substitute D’Alessandro Herrera to seal the deal in the 88th minute. It really can’t be stressed enough how good of a job they are doing over there from the top to the bottom, they have elevated every level for Houston Dynamo 2.
The performances by Papa N’Doye, Palomino and Beto Avila are a real treat to watch and in poetic form because these guys really smash! With that being said, I also want to talk about homegrown Juan Castilla. At just 17 years old he displays ball knowledge far beyond his years. He has a calming presence from his holding midfield position and had over 91% pass completion rate in this weekend’s match while also winning over 75% of his duels. When you watch him play you can see there is no panic or hurried nature to his game, he just calmly does his job while helping direct traffic in the midfield accurately and efficiently. He is another one of the many players to watch on this exciting Houston Dynamo 2 team. Thiago Fernandes got his first minutes for the organization this weekend as well so we will keep an ear to the ground to find out how he fits in the plans going forward. You aren’t going to want to miss these youngsters going forward with loads of talent all over the lineup and constant action.
I think it’s safe to say that Taty Castellanos is a sure thing to get the player of the week award. He went ahead and had himself a party and scored 4 total goals against RSL, two of them being via penalty kick, as Castellanos and New York City FC eviscerated Real Salt Lake 6-0
Atlanta United suffered another major injury blow as their captain and goalkeeper Brad Guzan was injured in the 71st minute with what appears to be an Achilles injury. No reports confirmed on testing as of the time of this writing, but it is feared to be extensive.
Austin FC looked to be on the way to a loss on Saturday night losing 0-2 in the 79th minute to DC United. Ola Kamara scored a brace for DC United before receiving his 2nd yellow which gave him a red card just before the end of the 1st half. DC United gave all they had but the 10-man side began to tire tremendously as a wild onslaught by Austin FC would see 3 goals scored between the 80th minute and the final whistle, giving Austin FC the win 3-2.
To the surprise of few, it has been reported that the San Jose Earthquakes are to part ways with head coach Matias Almeyda bringing his rocky tenure as their manager to an end. He had previously told the team he was done several times after difficult losses, and this time appears to be authentic as the team announce the two are parting ways.
Chicago Fire FC goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina continues his extremely impressive run as he kept his 5th clean sheet on the season out of 7 games and has only given up 1 goal in the last 3 games. The 17-year-old is making a lot of noise, even on a global scale, as scouts for Premier League team Southampton have been said to be inquiring about the youngster, so he is one to watch going forward.
After the weekend of games Austin, Dallas and Houston are at 2nd ,4th and 5th in the Western Conference standings, respectively.
Around the World
I wanted to take a minute and talk about one of my favorite tournaments, and for those who don’t know, this is the 141st year of the Emirates FA Cup which makes it the oldest tournament in the World! 124 battle ready teams, including 32 non-League Teams, take part in this prestigious knockout competition. Over its history there have been 44 different teams who’ve had the honor of winning this elite cup. Arsenal have won 14 times, which is the most by any team, and Manchester United follow closely with 12 of their own. From the non-league to the lower leagues to the PL, they battle it out in one of the most exciting and beautiful tournaments the game has to offer. You can feel the passion and see as the masses come out in droves to support their teams. The non-league and lower league teams go toe to toe with the giants of the football world and it produces must-watch runs against all odds by teams like Middlesborough and Nottingham Forest this year and teams in the past like Wigan Athletic, who won the FA Cup in 2013.
This year Middlesborough beat Manchester United in PKs in the 4th round and went on to beat Tottenham in the 5th round with a classic and dramatic extra time winner leaving the fans wanting more. Ultimately Middlesborough found defeat at hands of Chelsea 2-0 in the quarter-finals on March 19. Also well worth mentioning, Nottingham Forest and their admirably entertaining run were an absolute pleasure to watch. They defeated PL giants Arsenal, 1-0 in the 3rd round and justifiably obliterated the 2021 FA Cup winners Leicester City 4-1 in the 4th round before ultimately being narrowly defeated by Liverpool 1-0 in the quarter-finals. The FA Cup is that tournament where dreams and aspirations are steeped in age-old traditions and the quality difference between sides becomes masked as it comes down to a 90-minute battle for the rights to move on. Regardless of current club records, absolutely anything can happen. That’s the beauty behind the FA Cup, the love and passion for the game by all of those involved and what it means to them to be a part of it. All with the common goal of being able to hoist that piece of silverware at the Final in Wembley stadium on Saturday May 14, 2022.
Having just recently played each other in one of the most anticipated EPL matches of the season, Manchester City and Liverpool were back at it this time in the FA Cup semifinal as the two clashed at Wembley Stadium on Saturday morning. Liverpool came out flying and dominated early scoring 3 goals before halftime. Manchester City would climb back in and most certainly make a game of it as Jack Grealish pulled one back right after the second half began in the 47th minute. Liverpool tightened up after that and kept City at bay until the 91st min where Bernardo Silva buried it from close range to make it 3-2 ,but that’s exactly how this one would finish. Liverpool will move on to the FA Cup final and will be looking to win the Cup for the 8th time in the club’s history.
Chelsea and Cystal Palace met in their FA Cup semifinal this Sunday April 17th. Crystal Palace were looking to make their 3rd ever appearance in the Final but Chelsea were able to mount a solid approach and take this one 2-0. Mateo Kovacic was injured in the 26th minute, making way for Rueben Loftus-Cheek to come on just before the half hour mark. Both teams struggled to find a way to break through these defensive fronts. In the 65th minute the scoring did finally open as Kai Havertz had his attempted cross take a deflection toward the top of the box to a waiting Loftus-Cheek and he smashed through the ball with the outside of his foot, bending it into the upper 90. Mason Mount would add on to the lead in the 76th minute with a beautiful first touch from a class delivery by Timo Werner to punch it into the bottom corner to give Chelsea the 2-0 lead. There would be some late pressure by Crystal Palace but Edouard Mendy, one of the greatest keepers on the planet, would have his say helping keep the clean sheet as these two saw the semifinal come to a close at 2-0. Chelsea have been to the FA Cup final 3 years in a row and 5 out of the last 6 years so they will be looking to add to their extraordinary and successful history. Chelsea have won this prestigious tournament 8 times which is 3rd all time. Chelsea and Liverpool will be the 2022 FA Cup Final and it will be played on May 14, 2022. Both sides will no doubt be weary from the lengthy season and tournaments endured so they will need to manage their squads accordingly. This is where the depth of these clubs really adds an advantage with that extra layer of protection when players go down with injuries.
Southampton were on a streak of 6 winless games that came to an end this weekend. Fresh off the back of an embarrassing 6-0 loss to Chelsea last time out, the fans were promised a response by coach Ralph Hasenhuttl. This turned out to be a promise that he and the club delivered on without delay by defeating Arsenal this weekend. Despite having majority of possession (76%) Arsenal were unable to crack the Southampton defense. This was much to the credit of keeper Fraser Forster who was the player of the match, keeping Arsenal out of the net even though they registered a 1.58 xG. (Love me some Big Fras.) Southampton played well overall as a team this weekend and are always a pleasure to watch. That win has them at 39 pts on the season in that 12th spot, comfortably over the relegation zone. Fans will be excited to head into the first summer transfer window under new majority owner Dragan Solak. There is a massive amount to be excited about for Ralph Hasenhuttl and his Red and White Army looking forward.