Drilling down on: Real Salt Lake 0, Chivas USA 1

3 Comments

Operator: 911. What’s your emergency?
Caller: I just witnessed a robbery.


Man of the Match:
With apologies to Dan Kennedy, I can’t help but be sentimental. Casey Townsend had been quiet through most of the match. That’s the way things go when you’re up top, by yourself, and your opponent’s got two-thirds of the possession. The one time he was called upon, the former Terrapin delivered, rising above Chris Schuler and Nick Rimando to win a what seemed like Chivas USA’s only cross of the match. Putting his right foot to Rimando’s spilled ball, Townshend fired home his first MLS goal. I suspect it’s the first of many.

Packaged for take away:

  • No excuses for RSL – they should have won the match. They had the better players, better tactics (more on this, below), and they played better soccer. But RSL left this game to be taken from them. Credit to Chivas USA, they snatched it.
  • The Townsend goal was one of only two decent chances Chivas USA generated, the other on a first half corner were Luis Gil’s apathetic mark of Pete Vagenas forced some Rimando heroics. Chivas was decidedly second best but take three from Rio Tinto.
  • Robin Fraser’s tactics were off. His selection looked like it would play like a 4-5-1, but with wingers Laurent Courtois and Ryan Smith playing at a higher level than central midfielder Nick LaBrocca, Fraser’s team played more of a 4-3-3 that left them out-manned (three against four) in midfield. RSL’s possession would hover in the mid-60s (percent) throughout the first half, finishing at 60.6 come full time.
  • Had Chivas’ wingers pinned back RSL full backs Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran, Fraser’s approach could have worked, leaving a narrow RSL without wide options. While Smith did a fine job on the right flank, Courtois offered nothing defensively down the left. Beltran was not only allowed to bound forward throughout much of the match, he was allowed to come in and augment RSL’s midfield advantage.
  • Part of the reason Chivas couldn’t pin Wingert and Beltran: Fraser’d taken his best player on the ball (Nick LaBrocca) and moved him farther from goal. As a result, Chivas had nothing going forward, they weren’t able to make any of their attackers into credible threats, and except for about eight seconds in the second half, RSL was able to control the entire match.
  • What saved Chivas? Missed chances by RSL (I’m looking at you, Schuler and Alvaro Saborio) as well as good execution by their defenders. In the second half, their line forced four crucial offside calls, neutralizing some nice passing from Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy.
  • Speaking of Morales, he and Saborio came on at half time as Jason Kreis stuck with the same starting lineup for the third straight week. If it’s not broken, why fix it, right? Well tonight, it hurt, as RSL couldn’t make full use of their first half tactical advantage without their big guns.
  • This is a huge win for Chivas USA, but Robin Fraser needs to see it for what it is. The team was lucky Rimando dropped that cross and lucky Saborio didn’t convert a number of second half chances. Wipe your brow, take your three points, and exhale a sigh of relief, Robin, because there’s still a lot of work to do.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia