MLS

St Louis' perfect start ended by Minnesota, Bernardeschi nets Olimpico for Toronto

By Sports Desk April 02, 2023

Expansion franchise St Louis City's perfect start to their inaugural MLS season was ended by Minnesota United who triumphed 1-0 after Luis Amarilla's 78th-minute penalty on Saturday.

City had made MLS history by winning their first five games but that was ended by the Loons with Amarilla drilling home the spot kick after a needless challenge by Kyle Hiebert.

Hiebert brought down Amarilla just inside the box with a rash tackle when Jakob Nerwinski appeared to have Kervin Arriaga's wayward pass under control.

Substitute Samuel Adeniran came closest to equalising for St Louis, with a 95th-minute shot going over the bar after a great first touch from Klauss' right-wing cut back.

St Louis remain top of the table with 15 points from six games, but unbeaten Minnesota climb up to fourth in the Western Conference.

Cincinnati continued their impressive start to the season with a 1-0 home triumph over Inter Miami who slumped to their fourth straight defeat.

Yerson Mosquera scored the 45th-minute winner for Cincy, who are top of the Eastern Conference.

Giorgos Giakoumakis scored an early winner as Atlanta United moved up to second in the East with a 1-0 home win over New York Red Bulls, who are down in 12th in that conference.

Jordan Morris and Leo Chu scored first-half goals as Seattle Sounders stayed second in the West with a 2-1 victory at LA Galaxy, who are without a win and have only three points from five games.

LAFC remained unbeaten and third in the West despite a 0-0 draw at the winless Colorado Rapids, while SJ Earthquakes climbed to fifth with a 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo with all three goals coming from penalties.

Vancouver Whitecaps snapped a run of three straight draws with a resounding 5-0 win over 10-man Montreal with Simon Becher scoring a double. Becher is the fastest player (87 minutes) in MLS history to score his first four goals.

Franck Boli rescued a 1-1 draw for Portland Timbers at Dallas, Chicago Fire and DC United drew 0-0 and Nashville triumphed 2-0 at Orlando City.

Federico Bernardeschi netted another spectacular goal with a strike straight from a corner in Toronto's 2-2 home draw with Charlotte.

Sporting KC remained winless after a 0-0 draw at Philadelphia Union, New England drew 1-1 with New York City and Real Salt Lake suffered their fourth straight loss, going down 4-0 to Columbus Crew.

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  • Argentina v Canada: Messi braced for tough Copa America title defence despite favourites tag Argentina v Canada: Messi braced for tough Copa America title defence despite favourites tag

    Argentina are preparing to defend their Copa America title, but Lionel Messi is staying realistic ahead of their opening match against Canada on Thursday.

    The Albiceleste beat Brazil 1-0 in the final in 2021 to win the title for the first time since 1993 before going on to lift the World Cup just over a year later.

    Since their victory over France in December 2022, Argentina have remained in strong form, losing just one of their 14 matches in all competitions and winning the other 13.

    Messi, who will become the Copa America's all-time record appearance-maker when he next features in the tournament, says he expects to face a tough challenge to retain the trophy.

    "Argentina are always favourites," Messi said. "I think it is going to be a very eventful tournament because national teams are becoming better and better.

    "Today we are the best because we won the World Cup, but the Copa America is going to be difficult.

    "It will be even, and our team is aware that we are going to have to continue doing the same and more to win again.

    "We are going to try to win the Copa America again but let's remember that not everything is about winning."

    Meanwhile, Canada are making their first appearance at the Copa America after qualifying through the playoffs with a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.

    They failed to get out of the group stage on their return to the world stage in Qatar two years ago, but now under new coach Jesse Marsch they are looking to make an impression before co-hosting the World Cup in 2026.

    Canada had an encouraging 0-0 draw against France in their last warm-up match and will hope a squad containing Alphonso Davies, Stephen Eustaquio and Jonathan David can be competitive in a Group A that also contains Chile and Peru.

    Tests do not come much tougher than the reigning champions, but Marsch is confident they have a plan to deal with the danger Argentina, and Messi, pose.

    "We're excited for this tournament, we know it's a big challenge," said Marsch. "It won't be a shock to us when we encounter the quality and the level of play with Argentina.

    "We'll be preparing heavily for everything that Argentina will do and prepare for what they present. Certainly, Messi is still a massive part of their team and who they are."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Argentina – Lionel Messi

    Who else?

    His next appearance in the Copa America will be his 35th, overtaking Chile great Sergio Livingstone, and he has scored 13 goals for Argentina in the competition along the way.

    He has also provided nine Copa assists and has had more shots than any other player at the tournament since the start of the 2011 edition (102).

    Canada – Cyle Larin

    Larin is Canada's all-time top scorer, netting 29 times for his country in 68 appearances including a key strike in the win over Trinidad and Tobago.

    Despite struggling for goals in LaLiga with Real Mallorca in 2023-24, netting just seven times in all competitions, Larin will be looking to further improve his international record at the tournament, with Lille's David (26) fast closing in on his tally.

    MATCH PREDICTION: ARGENTINA WIN

    Unsurprisingly, Argentina are the overwhelming favourites to start their title defence with a win and they go in with a 74.3% chance of finishing the game with three points.

    Canada, meanwhile, are given just an 11% chance of claiming an upset in their Copa America debut, with the draw slightly more likely at 14.7%.

    The Albiceleste have only lost once since the start of 2023, and in that run of 14 matches, they have conceded just four goals and impressively kept 11 clean sheets.

    Canada failed to score in either of their warm-up friendlies against the Netherlands (4-0) and France (0-0) in the build-up to the tournament, last hitting the back of the net in March.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Argentina – 74.3%

    Draw – 14.7%

    Canada – 11%

  • FC Dallas v Minnesota United: Luccin hoping to build on maiden win with focus on freedom for his players FC Dallas v Minnesota United: Luccin hoping to build on maiden win with focus on freedom for his players

    FC Dallas interim head coach Peter Luccin will continue to give his players freedom as they welcome Minnesota United to the Toyota Stadium on Thursday.

    The Frenchman earned a victory in his first game in charge of the Toros over St. Louis City last Sunday, ending a run of five games without a win.  

    Dallas occupy 12th in the Western Conference table and will be looking to win consecutive matches within a single league season in over a year on home turf.

    Luccin was pleased with his new side returning to winning ways, and insists that allowing his players freedom on the pitch is equally as important as the tactics he implements.

    "In the end, I think that is the only way," Luccin said. “I think you saw that the best way is to give them the freedom to play.

    "We are talking so much about tactics, and tactics are very important, but the freedom, I will say sometimes, with the ball, is even more important.

    "We have some players who are very creative. I am not going to tell them how to pass a ball, but the only thing I can help them with is to read moments and what phase we are in."

    Meanwhile, Minnesota suffered just their fourth defeat of the season in a 2-0 defeat away to Seattle Sounders, leaving them in fourth place and two points behind LA Galaxy with a game in hand.

    The Loons travel to Dallas unbeaten in their last five visits to North Texas, winning twice and drawing three times and will be looking to continue that run this time around.

    But an uncharacteristic part of their most recent defeat was their failure to find the back of the net. It was just the fifth time in Minnesota's last 40 league matches that they did not score.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    FC Dallas – Petar Musa

    The Croatian is Dallas' top scorer this season with five goals, but has failed to find the back of the net since their draw with Houston in May. However, he will be hopeful of returning to the scoresheet in front of his home supporters.

    Minnesota United – Robin Lod

    Lod has continued to impress for Minnesota, not only in the wide positions but centrally too. The 31-year-old has five goals and eight assists this season for Ramsay's side.

    MATCH PREDICTION: DALLAS WIN

    Having gone five games without a win, Dallas halted their winless run with a victory over St. Louis last time out but have failed to win consecutive matches in a single season in over a year against Austin and Vancouver, but are well-placed to buck that trend.

    Nkosi Tafari's headed goal against St. Louis was the sixth time Dallas have scored from a corner this season, tied for the second most in the MLS and two behind San Jose Earthquakes.

    But Minnesota will be confident of returning to winning ways against their opponents, having lost one of their last 11 games against Dallas. The Loons are also unbeaten in their last five visits to Dallas (W2 D3), the club’s longest road unbeaten run against a team in the MLS.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Dallas – 41%

    Draw – 26.7%

    Minnesota – 32.3%

  • FC Cincinnati v Philadelphia Union: Noonan not ready to write off former side despite recent league struggles FC Cincinnati v Philadelphia Union: Noonan not ready to write off former side despite recent league struggles

    FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan expects a tough test against the Philadelphia Union despite their recent form, as he faces his former side this Thursday.

    The Orange and Blue come into the contest as the overwhelming favourites having won eight of their last nine matches, the latest coming in a 4-2 win over San Jose Earthquakes last time out.

    Noonan's side are just two points behind the Eastern Conference league leaders, Inter Miami, but have played two games less than the side directly above them.

    However, Noonan was quick to look past the two sides' differing recent form, insisting the game will be a tougher encounter than many will expect.

    “They've been stable for a long time, and when you're stable and at the top of the league for so long, anytime there's a stretch where you're not winning games, you're not getting results, there's going to be criticism,” Noonan said.

    “That's a part of what we're all dealing with. So I think the compliment there is it's been so long since we've seen them have struggles. But I can tell you, with Jim (Curtin) and with some of those leaders, they're going to be fine.”

    “That's my view of it, and it doesn't make me any more comfortable about Wednesday. If there's anything that you know, anytime their backs are against the wall, these guys step up. Jim knows how to lead that group, so we have to be very cautious about an opponent that, while they might be struggling with results, has been in these situations before and come out on top.”

    The Union come into the encounter at the TQL Stadium having won one of their last 11 league matches, leaving them in eighth place in the East table following their 2-1 defeat to Inter Miami last Saturday.

    Their recent meetings with their opponents have also ended on the wrong end of the scoreline, losing their last three meetings.

    Prior to this run, the Union were unbeaten in their first seven meetings with Cincinnati (W5 D2) and they will be hopeful of gaining a much-needed triumph to gain some belief back into their squad.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

    Acosta's creative spark shone in Cincinatti's win victory over San Jose, recording three assists for the second time in his MLS career, last coming in September 2018 with DC United.

    The Argentine became the 13th player in MLS history to have two such games, something no player has done three times, hoping to add to 19 goal contributions from 17 league games this season.

    Philadelphia Union – Mikael Uhre

    Uhre netted his sixth goal of the season on Saturday, becoming the third different Union player with six or more goals (Daniel Gazdag – 10, Julian Carranza – six).

    The only other team with three players with six or more goals this season are Portland (Felipe Mora, Evander, Jonathan Rodriguez).

    MATCH PREDICTION: FC CINCINNATI WIN

    FC Cincinnati have won three of their last five matches against the Union (D1 L1), including eliminating Philadelphia from last season's playoffs.

    FC Cincinnati have won eight of their last nine matches (L1), and are looking to become just the fourth team in the post-shootout era (since 2000) to win nine times in a span of 10 league matches.

    Meanwhile, The Union have won one of their last 11 league matches (D5 L5) following their loss to Inter Miami on Saturday. The eight points Philadelphia have collected over that span are their fewest in any 11-game stretch of league play since 2015.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Cincinnati – 50.8%

    Draw – 25%

    Philadelphia – 24.3%

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