Thursday's soccer news starts with a lengthy press release from Concacaf nominally about finally adding a draw to the Gold Cup. Instead of setting the field and separating the United States from Mexico, Concacaf is opting for a draw to determine the group stage. From the knockout round "teams on opposite sides of the bracket meet from the quarterfinals onwards.... This change will provide more unpredictability and excitement to the competition."
Concacaf is also adding Qatar to the group stage for the 2021 and 2023 Gold Cups as part of its partnership with the Qatar Football Association and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. "As the AFC Asian Champions, they will provide stern opposition for Concacaf teams," Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said. "The partnership we have entered into with the QFA and SC will be game-changing for the development of football at all levels in our region. It will also provide a great opportunity to share knowledge in a number of areas between the host of the FIFA World Cup 2022, and the region which will host the event in 2026."
As many were quick to point out, in an era when Concacaf is about creating opportunity for national teams across the region, it also takes a spot away. Concacaf is reserving three of the 16 spots in the expanded Gold Cup for a playoff. That happens in the United States shortly before the start of the tournament, adding competitive games for teams that will play as underdogs when the tournament begins. A team advancing through that route plays two games before beginning the group stage. With fatigue an issue for even the strongest teams in the region, how that 12-team preliminary round now scheduled for July 2 - 6 really helps weaker teams compete is an open question.
With fixture congestion in mind, we move to the packed MLS schedule with 24 teams in action last night. Atlanta and Inter Miami finished scoreless at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. United goalkeeper Brad Guzan made three saves to Luis Robles's one.
"We need to be realistic," Guzan said. "When the performance isn't to the standard we expect, we can't kid ourselves. The last 15-20 minutes we were holding on. We were certainly under a bit of pressure. We need to be able to manage the game better. I think you saw some guys with some tired legs in them. But at the same time, you can't make excuses. We need to be better with the ball. We need to still be able to dictate the tempo of the game, and especially late on tonight we weren't able to do that."
Cincinnati and Chicago also finished scoreless at Nippert Stadium. The Fire had the edge with three shots on goal to Cincinnati's one.
"It's not an easy place to play here as you guys all know," Chicago coach Raphael Wicky said. "No one really scores here much. No one really wins here. They are very tough to play in their 5-3-2, we knew that so we started a bit slow and then we actually had to fight into the game which was very, very positive and we actually fought ourselves into the game."
At MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus shutout Philadelphia 1-0. Lucas Zelarayan scored in the 55th minute with Eloy Room making three saves to keep the clean sheet.
DC United beat the Red Bulls 1-0 on the road. Erik Sorga scored eight minutes into stoppage time with Chris Seitz making four saves in the shutout. DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid missed the trip due to personal reasons.
The shutouts continued with Houston beating Minnesota 3-0 at home. Darwin Quintero opened the scoring in the 28th with Ariel Lassiter adding goals in the 65th and 70th minutes. Alberth Elis assisted on both of the Houston goals. Marko Maric kept the clean sheet with four saves.
In general, I’m happy with the team because I wanted to see how we’d react to getting a big win on the road, and I think the team reacted well," Houston coach Tab Ramos said. "We took almost 20 shots in the first-half, so we showed well overall. Obviously, I think the last ten minutes or so were a little bit sloppy, but I think with a three to zero win we can accept that a little bit.”
NYCFC shutout New England 2-0 at Gillette Stadium. An own-goal put NYCFC up in the 60th with Heber scoring in the 72nd. Sean Johnson made three saves to keep the clean sheet. Bruce Arena was back on the sidelines for the Revolution after serving his suspension from MLS is Back and wasn't happy with what he saw.
"I think on the night we were thoroughly outplayed," he said. "I think every player lost their matchup tonight. I don't have a high evaluation.... I think on the night, all the other positions on the field, we were outplayed. Give them a lot of credit. They were certainly the better team."
Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas drew 1-1 at Children's Mercy Park. Franco Jara put Dallas up in the 9th with Khiry Shelton equalizing in first-half stoppage time.
Nashville and Orlando finished 1-1 at Nissan Stadium. Benji Michel scored for Orlando in the 17th with Randall Leal equalizing in the 47th.
Real Salt Lake and Seattle drew 2-2 in front of a limited crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium. Nicolas Lodeiro converted a 29th minute penalty for Seattle with Justen Glad equalizing in the 50th. Yeimar Gomez returned the Seattle lead in the 69th with Pablo Ruiz equalizing in the 85th. Earlier in the day, Real Salt Lake announced that John Kimball was returning as interim president of Utah Soccer, the club's parent company.
The LA Galaxy won again, beating Portland 3-2 on the road. Efrain Alvarez put LA up in the 15th with Cristian Pavon doubling the lead in the 50th. Felipe Mora pulled a goal back for the Timbers in the 67th. Joe Corona made it 3-1 LA in the 71st with Portland's Diego Valeri scoring a minute into stoppage time.
LAFC held up at home, beating San Jose 5-1 to close out the midweek schedule. Diego Rossi opened the scoring in the 21st with Bradley Wright-Phillips making it 2-0 in the 49th. Jose Cifuentes scored in the 64th with Rossi adding another goal in the 69th. Danny Musokovi made it 5-0 in the 83rd with Danny Hoesen finally putting the Quakes on the board two minutes into stoppage time.
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