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Major League Soccer

Will FC Dallas Claim Cup? Can Jozy Altidore Stay Hot?

It was business as usual in MLS this past weekend, as the New York Red Bulls choked, Jozy Altidore and Chris Wondolowski scored, and Columbus looked awful. Oh, and Landon Donovan returned to action.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 13, 2016
3:30 AM

New England, Dallas in Open Cup final

FC Dallas hosts the New England Revolution tonight in the final of the 2016 U.S. Open Cup (10pm ET ESPN2).

It's safe to say that FC Dallas should be the favorite in this game as it currently boasts the best record in MLS while New England faces an uphill climb just to make the playoffs. But as is the case in many countries, league form doesn’t always translate over to cup competitions.

The Revolution has looked strong in this tournament although its path has been relatively easy. It faced two NASL teams before knocking off the Philadelphia Union followed by a win over the Chicago Fire in the semifinals.

Meanwhile FC Dallas is coming off an epic semifinal win over the Los Angeles Galaxy during which it equalized in the 116th minute on a header from Matt Hedges and won it on the last touch of the game thanks to homegrown player Victor Ulloa.

To win, the Revolution will need its struggling backline to rise to the occasion against an FC Dallas team that boasts tremendous attacking talent. Fresh after returning from international duty with the U.S. national team, midfielder Kellyn Acosta is eager to lift the first hardware of his young career and he would be the first FC Dallas homegrown product to do so.

"We've had goals since the beginning of the year to lift trophies. We have a great opportunity tomorrow to do so and I know the guys are excited and motivated to go there," said Acosta. "For me personally, as a homegrown player to lift up the trophy, I'd be very excited to do so. The coaching staff has been preparing us all year and hopefully we can reward it tomorrow."

New England will have momentum heading into Tuesday night following its surprising 3-1 win over New York City FC on Saturday night. In that game, forward Juan Agudelo had his best game of 2016 and reminded everyone why at one point he was one of the top young American players.

“We're expecting to have fun. It's going to be the first opportunity for a lot of us to be in a final,” Agudelo said. “We need to understand that when we look back at it, we're not going to get too many opportunities like this in the future so I know personally I am going to go out there and do the best that I can and my teammates are going to do the best the can to come out and get a win.”

FC Dallas has one of the best central defense pairings in the American duo of team captain Hedges and Georgia native Walker Zimmerman. The most interesting battle of the night will pit those two can contain New England’s forward duo of Agudelo and Kei Kamara. If Hedges and Zimmerman can keep New England's forwards off the scoreboard and win the aerial game, it should be a good night for Dallas.

"It is the goal,” Pareja said. “The objectives that we've had from the beginning. We have a model here that we work every morning to get prepared but at the end of the day, it's just fantastic for us [to have the chance] to give trophies to this franchise and club. This is the commitment what we have this is what we work for."

Donovan returns to the field

The biggest story in MLS this past weekend arguably had the least impact on any game. It came on Sunday, in the 83rd minute, as the L.A. Galaxy nursed a comfortable 4-1 lead over Orlando City. It was at that moment that Bruce Arena sent Landon Donovan into the game for his first professional action in nearly two years.

Donovan's time on the field was uneventful and Orlando scored a meaningless consolation goal in stoppage time. Following the game Donovan even admitted that he “has a long way to go” and that he was the “slowest person on the field.”

But the impact of Donovan’s return is aimed for the playoffs, not now. If he can get back up to speed, the Galaxy have a real shot in the West.

For now, it was just good to see him back.

Red Bulls continue to bleed points

The late game management of the Red Bulls has been nothing short of atrocious this year.  

“Listen, I'm gutted for our guys,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “I think in all ways they established themselves in this game as a good team. Could have been three. Could have obviously helped ourselves by getting a third goal. It's been frustrating how many points we've given away late in games. When you add them all up and you look at it, you shake your head and go, 'How in the world does that happen?'"

If Marsch can somehow fix the Red Bulls’ problems, the team could very well be a force in the playoffs. It has the most complete midfield in the league and a very solid finisher in Bradley Wright-Phillips. But a team that chokes late in games is not likely to go on a deep run in the playoffs.

 “I'm still very 'glass half full',” Marsch added. “This is a good team. I know what I'm looking at. The frustration of giving some late leads away, we'll continue to reinforce certain things with the mentality, look tactically at what we do, personnel choices, the whole bit. But this is a good team. We're making it hard on ourselves and we're going to get there the hard way, but we're going to get to where we need to go. We're going to get there.”

Altidore continues strong form

Right now Toronto FC looks like a strong favorite to win MLS Cup, and a big part of its recent success has been Jozy Altidore’s run of form. He came into the international break playing his best soccer since 2013 and was stellar against Trinidad & Tobago. His form continued on Saturday as Toronto defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1.

Altidore scored the first goal and “assisted” on the second when he intercepted a horrible pass from Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

As both New York teams have been inconsistent, Toronto has kept winning and sits firmly atop the Eastern Conference.

Berhalter Apologizes for performance

Despite winning the Eastern Conference in 2015, Columbus Crew SC has been a disaster in 2016. Following Saturday’s 3-1 home loss to Vancouver, the club now has the worst record in the league and head coach Gregg Berhalter actually apologized to the fans for a lack of effort.

Berhalter’s job is likely safe despite the awful year but the team's terrible display reflects poorly on him. Columbus could return to the elite ranks of the league soon but Berhalter will have to improve himself as a technical director and as a coach. His team is playing well below the sum of its parts.

“First of all, I want to apologize to all the people who stayed along and watched that because I don’t think we gave a good enough performance,” Berhalter said. “We didn’t give them enough. I didn’t see enough out there tonight.”

“Soccer is a strange game,” he added. “Soccer is a funny game. I’m not gonna give up, the players aren’t going to give up. Any fans that paid money to watch us play this year, it wouldn’t be right to give up.”

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