Major League Soccer returned for it’s 22nd season after what felt like the shortest off-season in history. There was a tangible buzz that seemed to engulf the entire slate of teams raring to go whether at home or away. We’re all very happy soccer is back!
In keeping with the new tradition we started at the tail end of last season, we’ll be naming an offensive and defensive player of the week so we can spread the love around a bit and give credit to all who deserve it...or at least one more person than usual.
The Portland Timbers welcomed expansion side Minnesota United to Providence Park on Friday night, and it was a rude awakening for the Loons. It took Offensive Player of the Week Diego Valeri just under 47 minutes to link up with his childhood friend Sebastian Blanco and give Portland a 2-0 lead, picking up right where he left off just a season ago. With Blanco picking up the ball outside the 18 yard box, an in-swinging cross found Valeri’s forehead, redirecting it past Loons goalkeeper John Alvbage.
The Timbers designated player and star added a PK goal in the 82nd minute to all but ice it for Portland, giving them a 3-1 lead en route to an eventual 5-1 victory. Minnesota defender Vadim Demidov was whistled for a foul in the box on Timbers striker Fanendo Adi under 10 minutes from time and just 3 minutes after Christian Ramirez pulled the Loons to within one. Valeri stepped up and drilled the penalty kick into the left corner, and the Timbers never looked back.
Fun fact: this was the largest victory for the Portland Timbers at home since joining MLS. When DPs start clicking, this sort of thing will happen. In addition to his help on the score sheet, Diego made 32 successful passes out of 39 total and pitched in with 1 interception and 4 recoveries on the defensive side. Happy little trees indeed.
Orlando City Soccer Club opened up their beautiful new home on Sunday evening against 2015 expansion partner New York City FC, against whom they have had plenty of success. With Canadian Messi (that’s Cyle Larin by the way) doing his thing at one end, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory for the Lions, it was our Defensive Player of the Week, Joe Bendik, who made sure 1 goal was enough.
Bendik’s 6 saves, which included stone walling Alexander Ring on a 1v1 opportunity, followed by robbing Jack Harrison who had a clear look from the top of the 6 yard box, made him look to be in mid-season form. Joe also made 17 recoveries in addition to earning a clean sheet, cementing his domination of NYCFC forwards. It was certainly a memorable evening in Orlando.