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The Ryan Hollingshead trade can be both justified and heartbreaking

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Crying is an okay thing for adults to do, and yet I came what I’ll call “embarrassingly” close to tears when I saw that FC Dallas announced they traded leftback Ryan Hollingshead to Western Conference rival LAFC in a straight swap for LB Marco Farfan*.

Before we get to his play on the field, it’s worth noting Hollingshead was a multi-time Humanitarian of the Year for the club, was commonly cited by young players as a great mentor, and basically served as unofficial vice-captain / team cheerleader for years. He was the second-longest tenured player on the roster and finished fourth in club history for appearances behind Bobby Rhine, Jason Kreis, and Matt Hedges. Personally, his work as a foster parent meant a lot to me. Clubs should want those types of guys to stick around.

On the field, he’s been easily a top five LB in MLS since becoming the full-time starter at that position in 2019, Luchi Gonzalez’ first year as coach. At times, he was the best, and that rested onbeing far and away the best attacking LB in the league over those seasons. His 13 goals and six assists in that timeframe nearly double the next-best’s (Ronald Matarrita’s 3 and 7). Beyond that, as recently profiled by MLS’ media team, he’s been a skeleton key in ball progression for FC Dallas. In the away game at Seattle last season, it seemed like the plan every possession was “get the ball to Ryan and he’ll get it across halfway” and that WORKED.

If you’re touting him as the no-doubt best LB of this era in MLS, you’re probably overlooking some real defensive inconsistencies to which Hollingshead is liable. It seems like two or three times a year he had some lapse of concentration that led directly to a concession, but focusing too much on that feels like harping on Trent Alexander-Arnold for his 1v1 defending. At some point, being far-and-away the best in the league at what you do when your team has the ball has to matter, and Hollingshead would probably be an upgrade for 24+ MLS teams.

So how do you justify trading away this guy, a club legend? I see a few reasons.

Hollingshead may have wanted to be back on the West Coast

Before any questions of the trade’s sporting merit come up, it’s important to remember that players are people and that FCD has been willing (even to a fault sometimes) to sell players when they want to go. Hollingshead is from CA and has family all over the state – it makes perfect sense he’d want to get closer to home as his kids get older. I’m glad FCD helped make that happen.

Hollingshead may not be the right player for FCD’s new scheme / roster

Despite his form in MLS, Hollingshead never got a shot with Berhalter’s national team, for which Estevez served as a key assistant. His age might have had something to do with that, but more likely he just wasn’t a comfortable positional fit for the side.

On any given possession, Berhalter/Estevez want certain positions filled, but the players that take those positions can rotate. In particular, they want three players stretching the opposing backline, two players in front of the backline, and another three one line further back with the CBs playing prevent near half-field. I’ve illustrated one really common rotation below: fullback overlaps wide, winger pinches into the pocket in front of the defense, and the midfielder pulls back to fill space on the right of the DM.

Hollingshead can absolutely work in this system. So many of his goals the last three seasons have come by attacking the box from that #8 spot as a target for crosses or a late-arriving shooter. The issue is that if he takes that spot then others can’t be there, and FCD just dropped ~$7 million on a hotshot, teenaged, Argentinian LW who wants to be in that space. They also just gave Jesus Ferreira a huge contract to be the type of ST that rotates back in front of the defense to pull players out. If I had my druthers, Paxton Pomykal would alternate into the #8 spot too. Rostering a premium attacking LB to either (a) stop your premium LW, ST, and LCM from taking up their best spots or (b) play outside of his best role/position is a bad use of resources.

Reports suggest Hollingshead didn’t start either of FCD’s first two friendlies of 2022. Rookie Isaiah Parker was preferred in both the game against the USA U20s and the game against Orlando City. Now, preseason matters very little, and the club wouldn’t want to invest their best developmental minutes in a player that was likely to leave. But still, a LB that wants to attack from high and wide is a much easier fit next to Pomykal and Alan Velasco on the left. It’s partly why Antonee Robinson is so valuable for the national team right now: he can cover the ground and hit the crosses needed to provide a credible threat down the left sideline while Pulisic slips inside. Farfan is a downgrade offensively from Hollingshead overall, but he may be just as good at doing the things that will help Velasco and Pomykal to flourish.

Hollingshead was in the last year of his deal and passing age 30

2022 will be the final year of the three-year contract Hollingshead signed in late 2019. He was making $350k annually as part of that contract, a little more than double Farfan’s number. Considering he would be eligible for free agency after that deal expired and might have expressed an interest in absconding to CA from Dallas, trading him now was likely the path to the highest return.

As mentioned above, Hollingshead was awesome playing for Luchi, but probably would have had to adapt to a new, less optimal role under Estevez. Fullbacks peak as early as any other position and only wingers struggle more to maintain their level as they age. Those two factors probably meant that Hollingshead had already played his best soccer for FCD, maybe by some margin. In many ways, this feels like the Barrios trade from last winter: sell a still-starter-level player for what you can before their first contract of their 30s comes up. Err on the side of getting out too early rather than too late.**

Barrios made FCD fans miss him last year, and I expect Hollingshead will do the same this year. Still, it’s probably the right move as a club to do these deals.

FC Dallas aren’t building for 2022 – they’re building for 2023

Sometime early in the 2021 season, it became clear that Franco Jara wasn’t going to come close to justifying his DP tag and salary. As long as Jara is on his deal (which expires after the 2022 season), it may be tough for FCD to put together a roster that can seriously challenge for a title. It’s not completely prohibitive, but spending ~15% of your club’s (already modest) salary budget on a backup ST is a real handicap.

At about the same time, it became clear that FCD was going to have a transformative amount of money available to bring in new players this offseason. It’s doubly tough to compete when some of the most important members of your roster are new to the club or the league. If we assume FCD planned to put the DP tag on Ferreira going into this offseason, then they had three premium roster designations to use: one DP slot and two U22 Initiative slots. If you want players that can help you immediately, you should go get mid-20s domestic veterans.

FCD can’t do that with their U22 spots, and they spent their DP slot on a 19-year-old who will be playing outside his home country for the first time in his life. That’s not the action of a club that wants to maximize their chances of winning silverware in 2022. Most likely, FCD wants to add two new U22 Initiative players somewhere between now and the end of the summer window and go into 2023 with a DP slot open but the rest of a young playoff team intact.

FCD will probably be worse in 2022 without Ryan Hollingshead, but look forward to 2023 and that’s far from clear(see above). If performance in 2023 has increased in importance for FCD relative to performance in 2022, then getting Hollingshead’s just-entering-his-career prime replacement in the door a year early can make sense all of a sudden.

*If you want to know more about Farfan, here’s a piece on his first full season as a starter in MLS: he’s highly active defensively but, in an LAFC team that otherwise moved the ball sinuously, he did basically nothing when his team had the ball. Honestly, he’s like John Nelson except he doesn’t have a meaningful injury history and he defends on the front foot a little more often, which may make him a better fit in a higher pressing team. He’s probably the 15th-25th best LB in the league.

**If the pattern here is selling high-salary, productive vets going into the last season of their contracts, then prepare yourself for FCD to trade Matt Hedges next offseason to someone who’s desperate to stop leaking goals. Maybe Charlotte.





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Match Recap & Highlights: Portland Timbers 0 – 2 Philadelphia Union

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After a defensive collapse midweek against the San Jose Earthquakes, the Portland Timbers drop a second game in five days with a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union. Philadelphia opened the scoring in the fifth-minute via a Daniel Gazdag overhead kick that caught Aljaz Ivacic flat-footed on his goal line. The Timbers would then have to replace an injured Eryk Williamson in the 14th minute with Santiago Moreno.

After a disjointed opening 25 minutes to the half the Timbers grew into the game decently, bolstered by the lively play of Moreno. But despite the Timbers working their way back into the match, the Union doubled their lead in the 48th minute through a Sergio Santos header. Sebastian Blanco thought he had pulled a goal back for the Timbers in the 69th minute, but after a lengthy VAR review, the goal was disallowed for an offside in the buildup.

In the end, the two goals were enough for the Union to leave Providence Park with all three points.

  • 5’ The Timbers started the game in the worst possible way when Daniel Gazdag scored an overhead kick within five minutes of the game’s start.
  • The next 10 minutes were one-way Philly traffic, and the Timbers were lucky not to concede another in that span. To make matters worse, Eryk Williamson went down with an injury in the 14th minute and had to be replaced by Santiago Moreno.
  • 18’ Nathan Harriel was shown the first yellow card of the match for the Union for a poor foul on Sebastian Blanco.
  • 21’ The Union should have made it 2-0 when Julian Carranza got a free-header onto a floated cross into the box. Fortunately for Portland, the chance went sailing over the bar.
  • 27’ The Timbers’ best chance of the first half came from Bill Tuiloma just before the half-hour mark. A poor corner from Yimmi Chara hit the first man, but possession was regained by Moreno who then floated a wonderful cross to the center back, but the Timbers’ top-scorer couldn’t direct his header on target.
  • 42’ The Timbers again went close to scoring just before halftime and again the creative spark was Santiago Moreno. The forward received the ball on the edge of the box after a well-worked team move, but couldn’t keep his curling shot under the bar.
  • 43’ Diego Chara received a yellow card for a foul on Jose Martinez.
  • 45+5’ Justin Rasmussen received the ball on his left and un-corked a strike from outside the box, but couldn’t get the placement right and the shot sailed out for a goal kick.
  • The first half ended Timbers 0 – Union 1, with Philadelphia out-shooting the Timbers 10-3 despite Portland controlling just-shy of 66 percent of the possession.
  • 48’ The Union began the second half just as they started the match and doubled their lead through a Sergio Santos header to make the score 2-0 in favor of the visitors.
  • 66’ Justin Rasmussen and Cristhian Paredes were replaced by Larrys Mabiala and Marvin Loria. The Timbers switched to three at the back after the changes, with Josecarlos Van Rankin and Marvin Loria playing as the wing backs.
  • 69’ Just when it looked like another night where the Timbers failed to find the back of the net, Sebastian Blanco pulled a goal back for the Timbers after a shot from Moreno rebounded directly into his path. However, upon VAR review, the goal was disallowed for offside in the buildup.
  • 80’ David Ayala entered the match for Van Rankin.
  • 90’ The Timbers’ top-scorer Bill Tuiloma nearly made it 2-1 in the final minute of regular time, but Union ‘keeper Andre Blake pulled out a massive stop to keep his clean sheet in-tact.
  • Six minutes of stoppage time were added to the end of the second half after the lengthy VAR review for Blanco’s disallowed goal.
  • 90+6’ Zac McGraw replaced Dario Zuparic deep into stoppage time.
  • The game finished 2-0 in favor of the Union.

The Timbers travel across the country for their next fixture against Inter Miami on Saturday, May 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00.



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Portland Timbers shut down by Philadelphia Union in 2-0 home defeat; coach Giovanni Savarese rumored to be joining Venezia

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In a showcase of one of Major League Soccer’s top defensive sides, the Philadelphia Union locked down the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Sunday night at Providence Park.

“A frustrating result,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “What differentiated this game from one team to the other is Philadelphia scored two goals, and we couldn’t find the net. We have created chances, but at the end of the day, they took advantage of the two or three moments that they had. Philly is a difficult team to play against. If you don’t have a constant energy, they never stop. Credit to them to the fact they found two goals that was the decisive separation for them.”

The Union (6-1-6, 24 points) dominated the shorthanded Timbers (3-5-6, 15 points) in the first half, displaying why they are the leading team in the Eastern Conference with stifling defensive play all night. Philadelphia opened the scoring early, too, in a spectacular moment.

Daniel Gazdag’s bicycle kick made it 1-0 Union early, silencing the Providence Park crowd.

Philadelphia continued to lurk in the attacking third, but nothing came of their immediate chances. In the 15th minute, the Timbers suffered what could be a serious loss as midfielder Eryk Williamson came off the field due to injury, shaking his head in frustration. He was replaced by Santiago Moreno.

“Sometimes, you come to a moment when it hits you,” Savarese said. “All of the sudden you have injuries, you have health situations that prevent you from having a full roster. It’s frustrating not to have everybody available. Eryk I don’t think will be available for this weekend (against Miami). He was very smart to come out of the game before he suffered something more difficult to handle. I think it will be something that won’t be too long.”

At 23 minutes in, the Union led 8-0 in shots. Portland’s first shot of the night came on a Bill Tuiloma header in the 27th minute on the feed from Moreno, but it went wide left.

In the 41st minute, Moreno had an ambitious take of his own from just outside the box, and it ended up just high of goal.

A moment of intense disagreement arrived in the 44th minute as Diego Chara was given a yellow card for a challenge in which he led with his head, and multiple players from both teams jawed at one another (and the officials) in the aftermath.

“I feel frustrated in that moment,” Diego Chara said. “In my opinion, it was a 50-50 ball, and we crashed. I don’t know why I got that. It’s a target always from the referees when they give me a yellow card. I didn’t deserve that yellow card, but it’s nothing to do.”

The match officials described Chara’s card as a “reckless challenge.”

Portland went into halftime looking outmatched on every level. That trend continued in the opening minutes of the second half.

Philadelphia doubled its lead in the 48th minute on a header from Sergio Santos, making it 2-0 Union as the road side’s defense continued to limit anything Portland tried to put together.

In the 65th minute, Portland brought on Larrys Mabiala and Marvin Loría to replace Justin Rasmussen and Cristhian Paredes. The Timbers’ attack soon found renewed life as Loría pushed the ball ahead to Moreno, whose shot was saved.

Unfortunately for the Union, the ball fell right to the feet of Sebastian Blanco, who put it in the back of the net in the 69th minute. It was called a goal initially and Philadelphia’s lead appeared halved, but after further review by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), it was disallowed due to offsides.

“Santiago Moreno was in an offside position when his teammate Josecarlos Van Rankin heads the ball to him,” the match officials said postgame. “The VAR was trying to establish if indeed, there was a touch by Josecarlos Van Rankin. Once the VAR found an angle which allowed him to confirm this touch, he recommended a review for an offside offence (sic) in the build up to the goal.”

In the 80th minute, Portland brought on youngster David Ayala for Josecarlos Van Rankin, adding another attacking talent as it desperately sought to break through for a goal.

Yimmi Chara had a chance from close range in the 86th minute, and Tuiloma had one of his own in the 90th minute, but both were saved. Beyond that, Portland had little to offer in the way of dangerous comeback scoring attempts. Philadelphia simply parked the bus in the second half, and the Timbers couldn’t often see past it, despite 12 shots and 11 corners. Philadelphia had the same number of shots and just five corners.

“Difficult match,” Diego Chara said. “We tried to win the game, but it was going in the wrong way. Philly did a good job. For us, it was difficult when we conceded that goal in the (5th) minute, and that changed our plans.”

Portland’s next match is Saturday on the road at Miami. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. PT (TV on Fox 12 Plus).

Savarese to Venezia?

Before kickoff Sunday night, Italian journalist Nicolò Schira reported that Italian club Venezia has selected Savarese as its new manager. The Timbers, in response to this report, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that “Gio (Savarese) is under contract for 1.5 more years and we have not been contacted by Venezia.”

After the match against Philadelphia, Savarese didn’t provide a clear yes or no answer to The Oregonian/OregonLive’s question about the report.

“I’d rather talk about the game today,” Savarese said. “This is the most important thing. I am the coach of the Portland Timbers, and this was a tough game to digest.”

To a follow-up question asking if he’d been in contact with Venezia, Savarese replied, “I’d rather stay on the game. I think that’s the most important part for today.”

— Ryan Clarke, rclarke@oregonian.com





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Pride Make Late Rally But Fall To Chicago Red Stars, 4-2

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ORLANDO, Fla. (May 22, 2022) – Orlando Pride (2-2-1, 5 points) fell by a score of 4-2 to the Chicago Red Stars (2-1-0, 6 points) on Sunday night at Exploria Stadium, in what served as the side’s third game in eight days. 

The Pride scored two goals in the second half, first from the head of defender Amy Turner and then the foot of forward Leah Pruitt, both notching their first goals as a member of the Pride. Orlando had an opportunity to add another in the 81st-minute, but Sydney Leroux’s penalty attempt was stopped by Alyssa Naeher. 

Goalkeeper Erin McLeod finished with five saves on the night. 

Orlando Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell:

“Obviously, we had tired legs. We had three games this week and they did not. There is still no excuse for that. We rested players [at the midweek] so we would be ready for this game. We had multiple players get minutes on the Wednesday game. The lack of energy is inexcusable. I really want to apologize to our home crowd because they deserve better when they come out to see us. You saw some of that energy at the end when we get two goals and also had a penalty. Their penalty, I don’t know, I was too far away to see really what happened. Even with all that, it is a penalty or a non-penalty away from being three-three, which is crazy.”

11’ – Sarah Griffith (Vanessa DiBernardo) – CHI 1, ORL 0

The Red Stars opened the scoring early after the ball was played through to Vanessa DiBernardo who took it to the end line and cut it across the face of the goal. Sarah Griffith was there and had her initial shot blocked up in the air, but Griffith was able to get her head to the ball and knock it over the line. 

54’ – Bianca St-Georges (Mallory Pugh) – CHI 2, ORL 0

Chicago doubled their lead in the second half after Mallory Pugh played a ball in behind the Pride’s backline finding Bianca St-Georges who fired it into the side net from a tight angle. 

64’ – Mallory Pugh (Ava Cook) – CHI 3, ORL 0

The Red Stars extended its lead after Pugh received the pass from Ava Cook and dribbled it to the top of the box, striking it with her right foot into the bottom right corner of the goal. 

83’ – Amy Turner (Courtney Petersen) – CHI 3, ORL 1

The Pride pulled one back after Sydney Leroux was fouled just outside the box after a nice run of play. Courtney Petersen took the free kick and sent it to the back post where it found Amy Turner who was able to head the ball past a diving Chicago goalkeeper. 

86’ – Mallory Pugh (Penalty Kick) – CHI 4, ORL 1

Chicago was awarded a penalty kick late in the second half and Pugh stepped up to take it. Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod saved the initial penalty shot but the rebound fell right in front of Pugh and she was able to tap in the rebound. 

87’ – Leah Pruitt (Abi Kim) – CHI 4, ORL 2

Orlando found the back of the net for the second time of the night after Abi Kim took on two defenders from the wing and put the ball to the feet of Leah Pruitt who was able to turn and send a rocket with her right foot to the inside of the opposite goal post and into the net. 

  • Amy Turner’s goal marked her first goal in the NWSL
  • Leah Pruitt’s was her first in Pride uniform, and fifth across all NWSL competitions
  • Courtney Petersen recorded her third assist in regular season play with the service on Turner’s goal
  • With the helper on Pruitt’s score, Abi Kim recorded her first assist of the year and second in regular season play
  • After earning her first start on the road at the midweek, midfielder Viviana Villacorta made her first career start at Exploria Stadium on Sunday night. 
  • Head Coach Amanda Cromwell made five changes to her starting lineup from the midweek, with Courtney Petersen, Toni Pressley, Gunny Jónsdóttir, Darian Jenkins and Leah Pruitt all getting back in the Starting XI. 

Next Match: The Pride go up against the Washington Spirit on Friday, May 27. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET at Exploria Stadium, with the match aired nationally on CBS Sports Network.





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