Drilling down on: at Sporting Kansas City 1, LA Galaxy 0

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Man of the match: Kei Kamara was again a handful, but in a match where Kansas City had 60 percent of the possession and out-passed LA 474-309 (with 77 percent accuracy), Roger Espinoza deserves a nod. Against an LA defense that was too willing to sit back, Espinoza made sure Kansas City’s play kept moving, switching the attack from his deep-lying role. When not in possession, Espinoza make it an easy day for central defenders Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin. Matched against a midfield missing David Beckham, the match was there to be controlled by Espinoza. He took advantage.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Juninho and Michael Stephens didn’t do much to challenge Espinoza. This match may go down as a learning experience for the young Brazilian. When he fully matures, this is the type of game where he’ll be expected to assert himself as the best player in the middle of the park. Today, he let Espinoza do so.
  • The lack of quality in the Galaxy side was obvious from the get-go. The team had nobody in the middle with the skill on the ball to deal with a hard-working, pressing Kansas City team. Conversely, when LA tried to rush Sporting, KC was able to easily get the ball into the final third.
  • LA was clearly missed David Beckham, but Landon Donovan also didn’t look 100 percent healthy. When Edson Buddle passed a ball wide mid-way through the first, it looked as if Donovan was unable to stretch a leg out to play it. With Donovan coing back from an injured quadriceps, the play made you wonder if Bruce Arena was just out of options. Later in the half, a pass forward from KC that could have been intercepted was allowed to reach its target, Donovan seemingly unable to reach for the ball.
  • Buddle also looked hampered. Color commentator Taylor Twellman, when the LA forward was taken off in the second half, mentioned Buddle had received treatment for something Friday during practice. If Buddle is injured, that would explain why he looked so out-of-sync on Saturday.
  • LA’s defense only allowed one goal, but they didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. On dead balls – a place where Kansas City seemed to deliberately try to exploit a perceived advantage – LA was fine, Josh Saunders making a couple of confident decisions to help A.J. DeLaGarza and Tommy Meyer; however, you got the feeling that had Kansas City pressed the physical advantages they had with Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong, LA would have given up more than one.
  • And in that sense, this match was more about what LA didn’t do than what KC did. Go down the team sheet for Sporting, and there were only a couple of players who had above average days. LA, however, looked like a limited, injured, tired team at the end of a long season. Too bad it’s only April.
  • Bobby Convey had a nice assist on the only goal, but again he didn’t have much of a presence for Kansas City and was the first player subbed off. Still, the contribution on Kamara’s goal hints better days may be ahead. While it’s still unclear if he’s a good fit, a 5-0-0 Kansas City has time to figure it out.
  • Credit to Taylor Twellman for his contributions when Todd Dunivant went to ground in the first half, the Los Angeles left back having gotten the worst of a head-to-head collision with Kei Kamara. Twellman, who had his All-Star caliber career cut short because of concussion-related problems, offered that the trainers needed to get Dunivant off the field so he could be assessed before being allowed to continue. Unfortunately, Dunivant was allowed to come straight back on after he made his way to the sidelines. Still, Twellman provided a reminder that head injuries need to be taken more seriously.
  • And finally, here are the passing chalkboards for Espinoza and Juninho. Juninho’s passing percentage was much better, but look at the sure difference in activity rates:
    Espinoza
    Juninho

    Espinoza’s 124 “events” (things Opta tracks) was 20 more than any other player.

Pardew, Allardyce react to gruesome McCarthy injury

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West Brom forward Salomon Rondon had a fine match with a fearful moment in the Baggies’ 1-1 draw at Everton on Saturday, days after trailblazing club legend Cyrille Regis passed away at 59.

“He was the outstanding player on the pitch today and big Cyrille Regis would’ve been proud of him out there today,” Pardew said. “It was a fitting tribute and a great performance from Salomon.”

The Venezuelan nearly scored a few times and deserved an assist, too, but it was his fierce shot attempt that caused a double leg break for would-be shot blocker James McCarthy. The injured player was stretchered off and given oxygen during an extended pause in play.

Toffees boss Sam Allardyce said it’s a double fracture for McCarthy, blaming his players for the injury (“It was our own fault and our own stupid play in that area, James recovered brilliantly to stop a goal but suffered because of it,” he said).

West Brom manager Alan Pardew was left to comfort a tearful Rondon after the injury, and said the striker experienced the gruesome injury with multiple senses. From the BBC:

“I saw his reaction [to McCarthy’s injury] straight away, he must’ve heard something, sometimes it does really affect you and it did it take us a while to get him round and focused again. It took him a little while, but he got there in the end and almost won it for us. Our thoughts go with James and we wish a speedy recovery to him.”

Wenger hails Arsenal; update on Aubameyang deal

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Arsene Wenger has hailed Arsenal as they surged into a 4-0 lead after just 22 minutes against Crystal Palace on Saturday and won in the Premier League for the first time since December.

[ MORE: Mourinho update on Sanchez

Arsenal beat Palace 4-1 to move five points off the top four, despite all of their issues, as we were reminded how good they can be on their day when everything clicks.

With plenty of negativity around the Gunners heading into this game, plus Alexis Sanchez heading on his way to Manchester United amid growing criticism, Arsenal were fired up and delivered after five games without a win in all competitions.

Speaking after the game, Wenger was delighted with their first half display as several veterans returned to the starting lineup.

“We played our real game in the first half, good pace and good combination, created good chances” Wenger said. “In the second half the challenge was to keep the same drive and we didn’t manage to do that. Happy that we won the game. The speed of our game at the start was good. We are the only team to beat Palace in their last 12 games…. We know the challenge in front of us is very difficult, exciting as well but it will demand from us that we push ourselves in every single game. For 45 minutes our fans have seen some great football.”

Arsenal’s fans are growing increasingly excited that they will see some great finishing this season too.

Borussia Dortmund have announced that they’ve received a “first enquiry” from Arsenal for their star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Wenger was asked about a bid for the striker, which is reported to be around $61 million.

“No comment on that. They are responsible for their own statements. I can’t stand up for what they say. If we sign someone we will announce it,” Wenger said. “I half announce today Sanchez/Mkhitaryan because it’s likely to happen. The rest, we are not close at all to anything.”

Wenger was criticized by Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc earlier this week for not saying well, no too much on the pursuit of Aubameyang, who will presumably be a direct replacement for Sanchez, who didn’t play against Palace and is “heading up north” to seal his move to Man United with Henrik Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction.

“I don’t know what I said, I said nothing happens and I can’t comment on it, so I am quite surprised,” Wenger added. “It looks to be a tactical reaction rather than anything else because I didn’t say anything.”

Aubameyang has scored 13 goals in 15 games this season for Dortmund, but he has been left out of Dortmund’s last two squads for disciplinary reasons. On Friday, while his team drew 1-1 at Hertha Berlin, he played five-a-side with friends and wore a Dortmund shirt with Ousmane Dembele’s name on the back. Dembele was suspended in the summer by Dortmund after trying to push through a $130 million move to Barcelona, which eventually happened.

It seems like Aubameyang’s move is eventually going to happen too with Arsenal chasing the reigning Bundesliga top goalscorer who had 31 goals in 32 games last season, plus 141 in 212 total games for Dortmund over the past five seasons.

If Wenger can bring in Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan this January, plus keep hold of Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil, you’d have to say that is very good business for the Gunners as they aim to get the fans back on their side and push for a top four finish, the League Cup and a Europa League trophy in the final months of the season.

We all know Arsenal can blitz anyone when they’re on top of their game and Saturday gave us a timely reminder that despite all of the unrest around Wenger and his team, they’ve still got it. Big name arrivals may just save their season, too.

Mourinho reacts to win, thinks Alexis is coming to Man Utd

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
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Manchester United kept a fifth-straight clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Burnley, and Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho thinks he has a major reinforcement coming for his attack: Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.

[ RECAP: Burnley 0-1 Man Utd ]

“If you ask me if I think he is coming, I think so, but I have no confirmation,” Mourinho said after the win.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said the move will happen if Henrikh Mkhitaryan goes back the other way, and Mourinho would have a good idea whether the Armenian is ready for that: They share the same agent.

United’s goal wasn’t too different from a Sanchez special, as Anthony Martial scored for his third-straight Premier League match with a bullet off the bottom of the cross bar.

“Of course we are happy with him,” Mourinho said. “We just want consistency. We know he has the talent.”

As for the match, Mourinho was happy to see his side go nine points back of Man City before the leaders faced Newcastle United in the late game. From the BBC:

 “If you don’t score you are in trouble, they go direct, they are consistent in their approach it is really difficult. We defended very well, and it is fair to say Mike Dean and his team were very good. There was a lot of first ball, second ball and the physicality.”

Speaking of consistency, Mourinho is quite regular in how he compliments referees in post-match pressers as if to justify when he finds it time to rip into the men with the whistles and flags.

Burnley 0-1 Manchester United: Martial leads the way

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  • United up to 53 points
  • Martial scores in third-straight
  • Burnley down to eighth
  • Shots even at 12

Anthony Martial scored and Manchester United kept its fifth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions as Manchester United beat Burnley 1-0 on Saturday at Turf Moor.

United moves nine points shy of Man City before the leaders host Newcastle on Saturday.

Burnley was game, but is now winless in eight league matches to slip eighth on the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A first half which provided nearly nothing was mercifully changed almost 10 minutes into the second half, when Martial fooled Nick Pope with a laser shot from the edge of the 18.

Burnley had plenty of chances to level it, in particular when no one could get on the end of Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s inviting ball through the 18.

Jesse Lingard saw a late chance to pad the lead stymied by a Ben Mee block, and Pope denied Martial in the 88th.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

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