MLS News
MLS Team of the Week: Chicago Fire Trio Impress in Shortened Week 26
MLS News
Monday, 05 September 2016 08:53

Major League Soccer presented us with a limited slate of five matches on Saturday during the international break. 

FC Dallas were the biggest winners in the Western Conference as they moved eight points ahead of Real Salt Lake at the top of the West and in the Supporters' Shield race. 

Over in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Fire made a major leap in the direction of the playoffs with a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union. The Fire, who found themselves at the bottom of the East for most of the season, are all of a sudden six points back of sixth-place D.C. United. 

The New York Red Bulls also picked up a key victory as they were the only road team to earn three points during Week 26. 

We shaped our latest Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week in a 3-4-3 formation to suit the number of impressive performances in attack.

Continue reading to see who was named to our best XI from Week 26. 

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MLS Releases Video on Nigel De Jong After Transfer from LA Galaxy to Galatasaray
MLS News
Thursday, 01 September 2016 07:56

Nigel de Jong completed a move to Turkish side Galatasaray on Wednesday, and it's fair to say that Major League Soccer's official Twitter feed were not fans of the Dutchman, based on the video they released to mark his departure from the LA Galaxy.

Here is the video, which contains a series of digs at the midfielder's stats from his brief spell in the United States:

While goals and assists aren't what the midfield enforcer was brought in for, his lack of discipline will not come as a surprise to those familiar with him from his time in Europe.

MLS weren't the only ones to bid him farewell with a video—KICK shared a compilation of his typically robust challenges:

Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson also enjoyed a joke at the 31-year-old's expense:

Meanwhile, former United States international Alexi Lalas believes De Jong has been a little hard done by, but the Galaxy had to move him on to avoid the risk of him becoming a designated player:

Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star offered a different reason for Los Angeles to part with him:

Given his age, a move to MLS felt somewhat premature for De Jong anyway—he still has the potential to make an impact back in Europe.

It's clear many did not warm to his aggressive approach to the game, but Galatasaray will be well aware of his talents.

The Dutchman will be reunited with Netherlands team-mate Wesley Sneijder, and the Super Lig outfit will be hoping he can add steel to a side that shipped 49 goals last season.

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MLS Player Rankings: BWP Remains on Top; Finlay, Mullins Surge Up List
MLS News
Tuesday, 30 August 2016 11:00

In a league full of in-form strikers, Bradley Wright-Phillips has been able to fend off all challengers to his top spot in the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings. 

The New York Red Bulls forward has been on a tear in front of goal since the end of July, and he's showing few weaknesses as the stretch run of the regular season begins. 

Not only are players on potential playoff teams heating up, but a few on the other side of the red line are making noise as well, including Ethan Finlay of the Columbus Crew.

Since there were quite a few midweek games in Week 25, some players have a smaller sample size in terms of date range for our latest list, as we take into account the last four performances from each player. 

Continue reading to see who fell into place behind Wright-Phillips in the latest Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings. 

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Toronto FC Investigation Launched After Lewd Banner Unveiled vs. Montreal Impact
MLS News
Tuesday, 30 August 2016 05:11

Major League Soccer club Toronto FC have launched an investigation after a fan displayed a banner depicting a woman performing oral sex in their match with Montreal Impact on Saturday. 

According to the Mirror's Liam Corless, the banner—which included the caption "Montreal sucks"—was produced by a supporter during the game at BMO Field, and the club have appealed to any fans who have information that could identify the person responsible.

Here is the banner, courtesy of Twitter user blackbetty07:

Per Corless, Toronto released a statement after the game apologising for the banner, branding it "insulting to many including our opponent, the City of Montreal, and their fans."

The club further condemned those responsible:

It was an embarrassment to our club and to our supporters and will not be tolerated. We sincerely apologize to the Montreal Impact, the City of Montreal, and all fans for this disgraceful act.

We are currently investigating through all available security and social media footage and strongly encourage fans with any information to assist us in identifying those involved so that they can be held responsible.

The two sides met in the Eastern Conference, with the Impact claiming the 1-0 victory thanks to Ignacio Piatti's second-half winner.

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MLS Team of the Week: Mullins, Nyarko Shine in D.C.'s Blowout Win in Week 25
MLS News
Monday, 29 August 2016 08:10

The latest twists and turns of the always unexpected Major League Soccer regular season were created by some unlikely characters in Week 25. 

D.C. United made a statement, or as much as a team can make against the lowly Chicago Fire, with a four-goal rout at RFK Stadium to keep them above the red line in the Eastern Conference. 

One week after losing to rival Seattle, the Portland Timbers used a four-goal outburst in the first half to bring a little bit of sanity to the ever-changing cast of teams near the red line in the Western Conference. 

Week 25 also proved just how hard it is to win on the road in MLS. Toronto and Philadelphia earned wins on their travels on Wednesday, while only Montreal and FC Dallas earned three points on the road during Saturday's action.

Since there were a handful of midweek matches, we took those performances into account along with the weekend ones for the latest Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week. 

Due to the bevy of strong attacking showings over the last seven days, we shaped our latest best XI in a 3-5-2 formation.

Continue reading to see who was named to the Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week for Week 25. 

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Jozy Altidore's Recovery Helps Spark Toronto FC's March Up Standings
MLS News
Friday, 26 August 2016 07:53

Toronto FC was always going to be one of the main players in the race for the Supporters' Shield and Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer, but the club has elevated its status in those competitions lately with the reintroduction of Jozy Altidore to the starting XI. 

The United States men's national team forward has been plagued by hamstring injuries at the worst times on the international level as he has missed parts of three major tournaments in the last three years. He also missed a good chunk of time for Toronto this season. 

Since returning to the pitch as a substitute on July 23, the 26-year-old designated player has shown how much of an impact player he can be in the stretch run for the Reds. 

Altidore has found the back of the net in five of his last six games, including one in each of his last four contests. All of that success is coming as he still works his way back to full fitness. 

"It’s just getting the minutes and the legs under you," Altidore told reporters after Toronto's win on Saturday against Philadelphia. "I think cardio-wise I’m OK. It’s just getting the legs in the humidity and keeping them turning. It’s a tough time to come back in the summer. It’s not easy on the legs, but I’m feeling good." 

Altidore's physical hold-up play brings a different element to the Toronto attack that also contains Sebastian Giovinco, who is tied for the lead in the Golden Boot race alongside David Villa of New York City FC. 

Marking Giovinco's speed and ability on the ball was already a tough task for opponents. Now they have to deal with Altidore's bruising style of play in the final two months of the regular season. 

The return of Altidore only helps how manager Greg Vanney sets up his squad and tactically works his way through matches. 

It’s huge for us.  Jozy’s a big part of our team and you know he provides us with a outlet. He’s obviously a guy in front of goal who can create opportunities for himself when he plays big.

He’s also our target if we get out wide and we have to serve because of the size in front of goal.   And I think he draws attention that allows Sebastian to find a little bit of extra space on the field and I think they’re doing a great job of finding each other and combining with each other.

He’s massive and he’s probably underrated in terms of the amount of defensive work he gives.  As a striker, he does a lot of work and he’s responsible. He’s always looking for ways he can help the team. 

The chemistry with Giovinco that was there before Altidore's injury absence is coming back quickly as Toronto continues to surge up the Eastern Conference table. 

"Even before, I thought the best moments we had was our first season together when we first started," Altidore said. "I thought that was when we were at our best. But we’re getting back to it. And Seba’s Seba. He’s gonna be great. It’s easy to play with a great player like him." 

With their win against Orlando City on Wednesday, the Reds are now on top of the Eastern Conference with 43 points, two points ahead of second-place NYCFC. Toronto's last two victories have come on the road, which the club sees as key despite a good amount of home games on the back end of the schedule. 

"For us, we know we have the home games, but it’s important that we don’t rely on the home games at the end," Vanney said. 

Six of Toronto's final eight contests will be played at home. The Reds started their season on the road for eight games as construction finished at BMO Field. 

Now that they have an advantage during the closing stages of the regular season, the Reds have postseason home games in mind. They also could challenge for the Supporters' Shield if they pick up enough points. They are only two points behind FC Dallas in that competition. 

"We want to give our fans a home playoff game that they can attend, many of them if possible," Vanney said. "But our regular-season priority is to get into a home playoff position and obviously winning the East would be our No. 1 goal." 

Altidore and the entire Toronto squad have motivation driving them to reach the top spot in the league. Toronto made the playoffs for the first time in 2015, but the trip into the postseason didn't last long as Montreal eliminated the club at Stade Saputo in the opening round. 

"That’s our motivation, to take steps each year we’re here," Altidore said. "Last year we made the playoffs. This year the goal is obviously to win a championship but we gotta get a playoff game at home and got to get fans to buy into what we’re doing here. That’s key to us." 

If Altidore continues to find the back of the net and Giovinco keeps up at his current scoring pace, Toronto has a great chance of hoisting the MLS Cup in December. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

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MLS Player Rankings: BWP Takes Top Spot; Altidore, Dempsey Move into Top 10
MLS News
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 09:03

It's a great time to be a top scorer in Major League Soccer.

As the race for the Golden Boot heats up, some of the league's best in front of goal are stringing together terrific performances entering the stretch run of the regular season. 

Few players have been as hot in the final third as Bradley Wright-Phillips has over the last month. Thanks to his goal-scoring prowess, the New York Red Bulls forward is the latest No. 1 in our weekly MLS Player Rankings. 

Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, who have surged up the scoring charts of late, make their return to the list of the top 20 in-form players in MLS this week as well. 

Our player rankings take into account the last four performances from a certain player, with the most recent one holding more stock. 

Continue reading to see who joined some of the league's top strikers in our Week 24 edition of the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings. 

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MLS Team of the Week: Dempsey, Roldan Shine for Surging Sounders
MLS News
Monday, 22 August 2016 09:34

The last three days of play in Major League Soccer produced a plethora of unexpected results that set up the league's playoff races for more drama than expected. 

After wins by Seattle, Chicago, Columbus and Houston, the biggest gap between sixth and 10th place in the league is eight points between Portland and Houston in the Western Conference. 

The Sounders stole the headlines for their victory over rival Portland to close out the weekend. The two sides meet in a week's time and another win could land Seattle a spot above the red line, which is something no one expected to see when Sigi Schmid was fired. 

Chicago and Columbus also added intrigue to the Eastern Conference race. The Fire, who were already written off by many, are not out of the postseason race by any stretch of the imagination as they sit six points back of sixth-place D.C., while the once-struggling Crew are all of a sudden five points back.

All three of the biggest winners from Week 24 in MLS have a pair of players in our latest Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week.

Continue reading to see who joined the likes of Clint Dempsey and David Accam in our best XI from the weekend. 

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Healthy Frank Lampard Revelling in Life Under Patrick Vieira at NYCFC
MLS News
Friday, 19 August 2016 08:08

Frank Lampard had to wait longer than expected to show off his talents in a New York City FC shirt. 

But ever since moving back to full fitness, the 38-year-old midfielder has been one of the best players in Major League Soccer. 

The former Chelsea and West Ham United man admitted his long injury break, which came with plenty of criticism that he was one of the worst signings in league history because of his inactivity, was frustrating to sit through because he wanted to please the fans of the second-year club. 

“It was frustrating," Lampard told Bleacher Report. "I’m not the only player to get frustrated when being injured. It was tough and it was a difficult injury that probably wasn’t as well-documented out loud than what it was behind the scenes and I knew I was going to be out for a while.

"It didn’t come across, so it was probably frustrating that I couldn’t get out and do my thing on the pitch to show people what I could do.  I just tried to keep a calm head so when I did get fully fit, I could help the team. I wouldn’t call it a relief to be back, it was just something I really wanted to show what I came here for." 

Since returning to the starting lineup on June 18, Lampard has scored nine goals, including a hat-trick on July 30 against the Colorado Rapids.

Lampard's form in front of the net isn't the only thing he's attributed to NYCFC's spot atop the Eastern Conference standings entering Saturday's home clash with the LA Galaxy. 

"I think more than anything it’s a combination of hard work from preseason," Lampard said. "We obviously had a tough first year. From the first day of Patrick (Vieira) and his staff coming in, they’ve worked really hard with the squad every day.

"Results don’t come overnight and in the last couple months there’s been a bit of click in the way we play and as a team the way we’re moving the ball and we’re playing some really good football, scoring goals, winning games and getting the consistency is a combination of what we’ve been putting through since January."

Lampard's relationship with first-year manager Patrick Vieira has been important to his success at the club. Vieira took over in the offseason for Jason Kreis, who led City to an eighth-place finish with 37 points. NYCFC already have eclipsed that total as they lead the East with 38 points, one point ahead of the star-studded Toronto FC. 

"To me, he’s been a revelation to the club," Lampard said of Vieira. "We had a tough year last year for so many reasons and unfortunately the manager changed, but with Patrick coming in and what he’s brought to us in terms of his personality and experience, I know he’s an inexperienced manager, but his experience with being a player has set himself up for that." 

Vieira was supportive throughout the difficult process Lampard went through in recovering from his injury. Due to the positive manner in which the manager approached the situation, Lampard feels that his strong play on the pitch is repaying Vieira for his faith early in the season. 

"I’ve found Patrick to be a brilliant person with me," Lampard said. "He’s always been speaking with me, keeping me calm when I was frustrated. I’m very thankful for Patrick, and I want to thank him for my recent form. I want to thank him back by producing on the pitch." 

Not only is Lampard impressed with his new manager, he's thrilled that the play in MLS has lived up to his expectations. 

"I think I had a good understanding of MLS before I came here," Lampard said. "I knew it was a tough league to play in, and it hasn’t disappointed. Teams are very well prepared. There’s a lot of good attacking teams out there. They’re always trying to play positive football so the hard things that have come along are things I completely expected, and the league has been nothing but impressive to me." 

One of Lampard's first matches back was the New York derby with rival New York Red Bulls. The rivalry is becoming one of the fiercest in MLS and eventually it may take over the Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers clash as the best in the league. 

Despite NYCFC's rough record in the derby, Lampard believes the competitive culture between the two sides is only growing the stature of the sport in one of the biggest cities in the world. 

“I think it’s a healthy rivalry," Lampard said. "We all enjoy rivalries in sport and I think our premise was when we were formed to be the club of the city within the five boroughs and we are that. Of course you have the Red Bulls that are very close. Maybe they’re fighting for fan base. That’s normal. We’re used to that."

"Then it comes down to the club and how you work on and off the pitch in the community," Lampard said. "Even more than that, you have to get results on the field because winning games is always going to grow your fan base. That’s our challenge.

"Red Bulls have been around a while and haven’t been able to win MLS Cup, and we want to within our short-term history really challenge for that.  It’ll be really interesting to see how the rivalry develops over the next few years." 

Lampard arrived in MLS following a stellar Premier League career with West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City.

During his 13-year stint at Chelsea, which was sandwiched between spells at West Ham and Manchester City, Lampard played alongside plenty of world-class talents. He identified players like Eden Hazard, William Gallas and Ashley Cole as the best he played alongside in west London

Lampard also mentioned the high-quality stars who he took the pitch with at Manchester City, NYCFC and on the international stage with England, including the likes of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand.

As for his current superstar teammates, Pirlo and David Villa, Lampard has enjoyed playing with them, but although the three former European stars are in the spotlight constantly, the rest of the squad has put in a massive amount of work as well to make 2016 a successful season. 

"It’s great playing with (Pirlo and Villa)," Lampard said. "They’re obviously world-class players and have had fantastic careers and that speaks for itself. I think with David as a striker, it’s great playing with someone who scores goals out of nothing because they win you games. He’s always making the right runs, in the right areas and can finish."

"Pirlo’s very easy to play with because his awareness on the ball is so good. I think we have a nice link on those terms and we understand each other. What we’re doing and how everybody’s performing as a group has been really impressive to me, not just us three but everybody." 

Given the recent form of the player and the club, 2016 could go down as an historic season for NYCFC, and it could give Lampard a chance to leave a legacy in a short time at a club that carries an incredibly high standard for success. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

 

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MLS Player Rankings: Dominant Red Bulls Duo Work Their Way to the Top
MLS News
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 08:22

One of the best attacking duos in Major League Soccer features Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls.

In recent weeks, the midfielder and forward have dazzled with their skills in the final third and climbed up the league goal and assist charts, respectively. Thanks to their recent displays for Jesse Marsch's side, both players are high up in the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings after Week 23.

Our player rankings take into account the last four performances, with the most recent carrying the most importance.

Continue reading to see which players landed where in our latest MLS Player Rankings. 

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