New England Revolution v Sporting Kansas City

Drilling down on: at New England 1, Portland 0

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Man of the match: Winless in two games, the Revolution badly needed some early success to blow up their balloon of confidence. New Revs’ striker Saer Sène provided the very antidote around Gillette Stadium, striking on a glancing header just 28 seconds in Saturday. Portland had plenty of chances, but couldn’t do what Sene did so early and efficiently for the home side.

Packaged for take away:

  • A crowd of 13,000-plus for a home opener? Things aren’t getting any better for the Revs’ front office, which is still running “MLS 1.0” in too many areas.
  • The supporters who did show for Saturday’s 1-0 win saw some very encouraging signs. Midfielder Kelyn Rowe, the first-round draft pick out of UCLA, is starting to follow up on a promising preseason with bright nights in the regular season. And Lee Nguyen showed some of his nifty dribbling moves along the left. He can be a real factor in the league if he adjusts his game (which sometimes looks like soccer’s version of hoops’ street-ball) to the extra-physical MLS defending.
  • What club wouldn’t love to have Shalrie Joseph? Even if the longtime midfield enforcer around Gillette was a little slow to get going in 2012, he’s still one of the league’s top utility knifes. Playing as an emergency center back on Saturday, he was big and strong all evening on Kris Boyd, the Timbers’ DP striker. In fact, the two locked up in some great battles. Remember, this is a guy who can and has played at striker for the Revs … and surely remains one of the league’s premier holding midfielders, his natural spot.
  • On a couple of instances inside the Revolution penalty area, Joseph did no less than Geoff Cameron did last night to Patrick Ianni on the instance that earned a Sounders’ penalty kick. Still, “you play the game you’re in,” as coaches like to tell players, and in this one it wasn’t a penalty kick.
  • Portland’s attack will get goals this year, but there are still problems along the outside in defense. Most preseason assessments called left back Rodney Wallace and right back Lovel Palmer the weak links going into 2012, and neither has done much to change anyone’s mind. Neither will remember a Saturday as Gillette Stadium as anything shout about.
  • Jay Heaps, the second-youngest MLS coach (and not by much), recorded his first win as man in charge. That’s gotta mean a lot to the longtime Revolution defender, who took the top spot this year with full knowledge that a learning curve would be ahead. In fact, everyone can see that. But patience runs out fast, and nobody wants to hear about learning curves when it starts getting really hot in the kitchen. And 0-3 (where the Revs would have been if they had lost Saturday) would already be a mighty hot kitchen. Bottom line: it doesn’t matter that it was a close one, with some steady goalkeeping required of Matt Reis at the end. The Revs had to have this one.

Here’s the Rev’s early goal.

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Messi returns ahead of schedule, sporting golden hair (photo)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina looks on against Chile during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Lionel Messi is back with Barcelona a week earlier than expected, as the Camp Nou set prepares to defend another La Liga title.

That means Messi will be on the roster for the International Champions Cup, as Barcelona is slated to play Celtic, Leicester City, and Liverpool.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby in China on Monday ]

That’s not the only surprise from the 29-year-old, who has pulled an Aaron Ramsey and dramatically altered his ‘do.

Glad to have him back on our screens a bit earlier than planned, and — although I’m far from a style icon — I’ll be just as glad when the blonde grows/washes out of his head.

Ronaldo seeking new contract, says he’ll miss UEFA Super Cup

FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL - JULY 22: Dionisio Pestana, Cristiano Ronaldo and Miguel Albuquerque (President of the Regional Government of Madeira) during the opening of the new 'Pestana CR7 Funchal' Hotel owned by Cristiano Ronaldo on July 22, 2016 in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images
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Cristiano Ronaldo’s long summer has earned him an extended vacation, but the knee injury he suffered in the EURO 2016 Final would’ve kept him from this season’s first big club match anyway.

The 31-year-old star will not be available for the Aug. 9 UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla, saying he’ll be back in the mix just one day later.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

Ronaldo also said he’s going to speak with the club about extending his contract, which runs through the 2017-18 season. He’s very been vocal about his desire to finish his career at the Bernabeu, and will put pen to paper in order to prove it.

From Sky Sports:

“I spoke to the president on the phone and when I get to Madrid, we will talk about it.

“Obviously it’s something I want, I have mentioned it many times, and the club also wants it. But we only spoke briefly, and there will be more concrete things to come.”

No surprises here, though it would’ve been nice to have Ronaldo on our screens for the match-up between his Champions League winners and the Europa League champions.

Guardiola, Mourinho prepare for derby in China, shake off personal rivalry

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 16: Barcelona manager (L) Josep Guardiola shakes hands with head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid before the start of the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 16, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Preseason matches rarely have legitimate hype, let alone live up to it.

Yet Monday will see Manchester United and Manchester City tangle outside of England for the first time in history, and there are a lot of fans looking forward to the early morning match in China.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

A lot of that has to do with it being the first match-up between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as bosses of City and United, to the extent where journalists asked whether the longtime rivals would shake hands (admittedly a weird question, as if to say, “Are you a grown-up?”).

They essentially issued the same answer, and here are Mourinho’s comments, from ManUtd.com:

“Of course I will shake his hand – why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand the question to him or to me. We were opponents for three years [in Spain] but we are professionals. I don’t see why I wouldn’t shake his hand.”

Both managers also talked, understandably, about fitness and health being their No. 1 goal of the match, and there are concerns about the pitch in China due to heavy rains.

Guardiola also gave insight into Vincent Kompany‘s continued struggles with recovery from the injury that hampered him for much of last season, refusing to give a timetable for the captain’s return.

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-1 FC Dallas (video)

COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 23: Marlon Hairston #94 of Colorado Rapids celebrates after scoring a first half goal past Chris Seitz #18 of FC Dallas during a game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 23, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
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The game in 100 words (or less): In keeping with the the theme of “we never really learn anything in MLS, it just kind of happens,” both the Colorado Rapids or FC Dallas had the chance to make a massive statement in the two sides’ ongoing race for the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield (FCD entered Saturday’s clash at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a three-point lead), but they ultimately settled for a 1-1 draw, and we settle for “wait until next week, maybe we’ll actually learn something then.” At least the goals were great, though — Marlon Hairston opened the scoring by rounding the goalkeeper with traffic in all directions, and Victor Ulloa unleashed a rocket from well outside the penalty area to equalize late on. In that sense, the 90 minutes were befitting a first-versus-second matchup. The draw means the Rapids are unbeaten in their last 15 league games, but the LA Galaxy, who won away to the Portland Timbers and inched two points closer to the league’s elites, are ultimately the day’s biggest winners.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

26′ — Akindele goes inches wide of the far post — Quick, decisive movement around the penalty area is the only way to create that half-yard of space needed to fire a shot off.

33′ — Hairston breaks out, Zimmerman makes the dramatic block — Hairston was thisclose to having a one-on-one chance on goal, but Walker Zimmerman made a spectacular recovery run and an even better last-second sliding tackle to deflect Hairston’s shot narrowly wide of the post.

44′ — Hairston rounds Seitz to make it 1-0 — Composure, quickness, finesse. Hairston displayed it all on this goal, his second in as many games.

82′ — Ulloa unleashes a blast from 25 yards out f0r 1-1 — If not for the net on the goal, Ulloa’s strike might still be traveling at an ever-so-slightly upward trajectory for the rest of time.

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Man of the match: Sam Cronin

Goalscorers: Hairston (44′), Ulloa (82′)