Chicago Fire coach questions controversial red card against Wyatt Omsberg

Chicago Fire head coach Raphael Wicky has questioned the validity of an early red card that forced his side to face Philadelphia Union with 10 men for the much of the match.

The Fire were reduced to 10 in the 34th minute after VAR confirmed center back Wyatt Omsberg challenged Philadelphia forward Cory Burke and denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Chicago captain Francisco Calva complained in the moment that Omsberg’s actions did not merit a red card, while Wicky voiced his uncertainty at the call after the match.

“I cannot say much. I mean, look, we have VAR, we have VAR,” Wicky said. “If they review it on VAR with slow motion, with a lot of people and they think it’s a red card, then we need to trust them that it’s a red card. But it’s very, very soft. It is what it is. I have seen it once. I didn’t see in slow motion what they saw, but apparently Wyatt hit his knee or something.”

The foul enabled the Philadelphia Union to convert the awarded free kick into the equalizer, tying the match at 1-1. Despite the score and debated red card, Wicky spoke highly of his determined side.

“Great credit to the team, great effort and I’m proud of what they have done because it’s not easy, the situation where we are,” Wicky, who recently returned after an absence, said.

“Last week the results didn’t come and then you come here and then you’re winning 1-0 and then you go down a man. We immediately conceded the draw, the 1-1, so great reaction. It meant something and I think everyone showed a lot of character.”

The Chicago Fire currently sit in 13th place on the Eastern Conference table with 13 points in 16 matches. The team must improve dramatically to secure their spot in the fast approaching Major League Soccer playoffs.

MLS Week 16 best players – ranked

Week 16 of the 2021 Major League Soccer season has passed us by, but not without producing some stunning individual performances along the way.

From homegrowns to European imports, all manner of player have their say in this compelling, unpredictable league.

So, who were the best performers from the weekend? Let’s take a look.

Kai WagnerKai Wagner

Kai Wagner created five chances for the Union against Chicago Fire / Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Though they came from a goal behind, Philadelphia Union won’t be best pleased with their 1-1 draw against a Chicago Fire side with just nine away wins in MLS since 2014. Not least because the visitors had to cope with 10 men for 56 minutes after Wyatt Omsberg was dismissed.

It could have been much worse for the Union if not for the efforts of Kai Wagner. The German left-back was rock-solid defensively again, making three tackles and one interception, while ensuring not a single Fire player managed to dribble past him.

But it was his work in the final third that really caught the eye, with Wagner using his expertise from set-pieces to create no fewer than five chances on the day. Indeed, it was his free-kick – smartly drilled under the wall – which levelled the game in the 36th minute.

Gonzalo HiguaínGonzalo Higuaín

Gonzalo Higuain scored a brace in Inter Miami’s 2-1 comeback win over CF Montreal. / Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images

If we’re being polite, Gonzalo Higuain’s time in MLS so far has been a mixed bag. Fitness issues and wretched form from his teammates have combined to deny the Argentine his best form, but Saturday was definitely a night for him to cherish against CF Montreal.

Having gone 1-0 down to a first-half Joaquin Torres own goal, Higuain put Inter Miami on his back and dragged them to a first victory since May 16th with a second-half brace.

First, he helped older brother Federico win a penalty shortly after the break, feeding the ball the 36-year-old who was then clipped by Zorhan Bassong. Higuain made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick, sending James Pantemis the wrong way.

And just 20 minutes later, Higuain fired the Herons into the lead. Some relentless Miami pressing forced a mistake from Montreal’s Rudy Camacho and although Higauin’s left-footed effort was initially saved by Pantemis, its sheer power meant the goalkeeper could only temporarily keep it from going over the line.

Emanuel ReynosoEmanuel Reynoso

Emanuel Reynoso is back in form for Minnesota United. / Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/Getty Images

After blowing us all away with his creative exploits at the end of last season, Emanuel Reynoso has suffered an underwhelming start to the 2021 campaign with no assists and just one goal across his opening 12 appearances.

But those totals now stand at two apiece with Reynoso finding the net against LAFC, either side of assists against Portland Timbers and, most recently, Vancouver Whitecaps, slipping the ball through to Ethan Finlay who made it 1-1 in an eventual 2-2 draw.

But the assist was just the tip of the iceberg for Reynoso’s performance, with the 25-year-old creating six of Minnesota’s 11 chances on the night, while he also completed a match-high five dribbles, helping the Loons drive forward with the ball.

The most striking thing about Reynoso is, despite all his creativity, he’s also a willing defender and, indeed, the Argentine ended the night with four tackles, perfectly illustrating that work rate.

FC Dallas v Los Angeles FCFC Dallas v Los Angeles FC

Pomykal opened the scoring for FC Dallas within three minutes at the weekend. / Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Paxton Pomykal says he’s getting back to his best and if his performance during FC Dallas’ 2-1 win away at Sporting Kansas City at the weekend is anything to go by, he’s quite right.

The 21-year-old opened the scoring inside three minutes with a wonderful effort from the edge of the box, opening up his body to create space before drilling a powerful shot beyond Jimmy Maurer.

But Pomykal didn’t stop there. During his 77 minutes on the pitch, the one-capped U.S international showed both sides of his game, creating two chances while also making five tackles, two clearances and one interception.

Pomykal never at simply playing the odd nice pass here and there. He brings 100% for his team every single time and it’s no surprise to see Dallas picking up form just as he gets back to his best.

Julian AraujoJulian Araujo

Julian Araujo notched two assists against the Timbers. / Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images

There’s a logjam at right-back for the United States right now, which is likely why Julian Araujo keeping his options open and refusing to rule out Mexico.

The 19-year-old was absolutely sensational for the Galaxy during their 4-1 win over Portland Timbers at the weekend, using his attacking thrust to provide two assists from three chances created while completing three of his four attempted dribbles.

Of course, Araujo kept things on lock defensively, too, and with form like this, Gregg Berhalter and Tata Martino might well end up fighting over the youngster in the near future.

NaniNani

Nani was the match-winner for Orlando City against rivals Atlanta United. / Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Arguably more than any European import in MLS right now, Nani gets it. The Portuguese veteran would run through a brick wall for Orlando City if he could, such is his obvious commitment to the cause.

Of course, trying hard is nothing without talent, but Nani has plenty of that as well, and he showed it in Orlando’s 3-2 comeback win over fierce rivals Atlanta United.

Having already provided the corner that allowed Antonio Carlos to make it 1-1 in the first half, Nani finished the game in style with a diving header in the 87th minute, smart movement allowing the 34-year-old to get between the Atlanta centre-backs.

Nani now has eight goals and five assists in 2021 and is once again Orlando City’s talisman.

Carles GilCarles Gil

Carles Gil bagged two assists against the Red Bulls to continue his fine 2021 form. / Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Is there a better MVP candidate than Carles Gil in MLS right now? If so, we’d like to know about him!

The Spaniard provided his 10th and 11th assists of the season as New England Revolution came from behind to beat New York Red Bulls 3-2 at the weekend, creating a further three chances in what was yet another sensational creative display.

Gil forced the issue all game, completing a match-high three dribbles and attempting three shots of his own, while his ability to drive the ball forward from deep meant the Red Bulls simply could not overcommit.

The Revs might well go on to seal the Supporters’ Shield come the end of the season and if they do, there’s no end to the credit Gil will deserve.

Honourable mentions: Valentin Castellanos, Keaton Parks, Gustavo Bou, Cristian Dajome, Thiago Andrade, Alec Kann

Vancouver Whitecaps acquire SC Farense midfielder Ryan Gauld

Vancouver Whitecaps have signed attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld from Portuguese Primeira Liga side SC Farense on a Designated Player contract through 2024. Per Major League Soccer policy, the amount paid for the player will remain disclosed.

Gauld played an integral role in the Portuguese league, ranking first in key passes and sixth in assist while leading Farense in goals last season. The 25-year old player recorded nine goals and seven assists during the 2020/21 season, ranking ninth in the league for his scoring efforts.

“We are very pleased to welcome Ryan to our club,” Whitecaps sporting director and CEO Axel Schuster said in a statement. “We identified Ryan at the attacking midfield position early in the offseason and began our formal pursuit at the start of January.”

“It was a complicated process due to several factors, but as he was our top target, we never gave up. He is a difference-maker, brings experience, as well as an exceptional work rate, all qualities we identified as being key characteristics that we need in this position. Ryan and his representatives have been a pleasure to work with and we are thrilled that he is committed for the next three-plus years to not only this club but the city and people of Vancouver.”

Gauld is a product of the Dundee United youth system after working the ranks before his professional debut in 2016 at the age of 16. The midfielder spent two years in the Scottish Premiership before signing for Portugal’s Sporting CP in 2014.

During that time, he completed loan spells with Vitória FC, CD Aves, and Hibernian FC before making a permanent move to Farense.

“Ryan is a player that we have been following for a long time,” Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said.

“He’s an attacking midfielder who can provide us with a lot of options between lines. He has very good delivery and is very dynamic without the ball. He also brings leadership qualities and experience to the group, which will help our young players next to him grow and become better. We are very glad to have him joining our club.”

Gauld has recorded 40 goals in 233 appearances across all competitions, and is excited to get started with the Whitecaps.

“I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to play for Vancouver Whitecaps FC,” Gauld said.

“From day one they have made me feel very wanted and that means a lot. I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates, getting on the training pitch, and coming to play at BC Place in front of the passionate supporters.”

Tottenham to hit Harry Kane with ‘significant fine’ after missing training

Tottenham are preparing to hit Harry Kane with a ‘significant fine’ after the striker failed to report to training on Monday in an effort to force a transfer to Manchester City.

Kane made clear to Spurs his desire to leave this summer in the final week of last season. The England captain is determined to win trophies and has been left frustrated by his boyhood team’s inability to match those ambitions.

City have been leading the chase for Kane in their hunt for a new striker, but Spurs have been refusing to entertain selling him, let alone to another Premier League side.

Following a delayed summer holiday after Euro 2020, Kane was expected to report for pre-season on Monday. Yet seemingly feeling he had no choice other than to take matters into his own hands in order to progress his transfer hopes, the player was a no-show.

Harry KaneHarry Kane

Kane is ready to leave Spurs and is wanted by Man City / Visionhaus/Getty Images

The Evening Standard now writes that Spurs were left ‘disappointed’ by his decision not to turn up and feel they have little option but to issue him with a fine for breach of contract.

It is not clear how big that fine will be as it may further depend on how the situation continues to unfold. However, it is said that it is not clear if or when Kane will actually agree to return to training.

Kane could also yet be left disappointed as there is no guarantee Manchester City will be able to make an approach, even in the unlikely event that Spurs are willing to listen to offers.

City’s finances are stretched enough to ensure that they would likely have to shelve their interest in Kane if a deal for Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish is successful, unless there are significant player sales to fund a second marquee deal of the summer.

90min recently revealed that City are ‘confident’ of signing Grealish and that Villa’s owners will not stand in his way should he confirm to them a desire to leave, although a new contract could be in the offing for him at Villa Park if he doesn’t choose to go.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

Dean Henderson ruled out of Man Utd training camp due to COVID-19

Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson has been ruled out of this week’s training camp in Scotland as a result of lasting effects from contracting COVID-19 earlier in the summer.

Henderson initially tested positive for the virus a few weeks ago but is still continuing to recover and the club has confirmed he is suffering from ‘prolonged fatigue’ as a result of the illness.

The 24-year-old was forced to miss Euro 2020 with England as a result of a hip injury sustained a few days into the tournament. But while he has fully recovered from that setback, the ongoing fatigue comes as a significant blow ahead of what could have been a defining season for him.

His absence for now makes him a doubt to be fit in time for the start of the season, although a club statement explained that Henderson is ‘expected to be training again soon’,

With United’s final pre-season friendly of the summer against Everton coming up on Saturday and the opening game of the Premier League season against Leeds less than two weeks away, it puts David de Gea in pole position to start the campaign as number one.

Until now, De Gea has been on holiday following international duty with Spain at Euro 2020 and summer signing Tom Heaton had been getting the nod in goal for United’s friendlies so far following his return to the club as a free agent.

Dean HendersonDean Henderson

Man Utd hope Henderson will be able to start training again soon / Stu Forster/Getty Images

De Gea, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof all reported for duty on Monday in time for the training camp in Scotland. Luke Shaw and Fred will also soon return, while Jadon Sancho will link up with his new teammates for the first time since his £73m transfer from Borussia Dortmund.

Phil Jones has made the trip to Scotland, but Marcus Rashford has not after deciding to undergo shoulder surgery to try to correct a longstanding problem.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!