Driling down on: Chivas USA 2, at Portland 1

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Man of the Match: Ryan Smith didn’t start. Why? You can’t blame Robin Fraser for continuing to toy with his selection, though Smith (after coming on at halftime) immediately showed why he shouldn’t be sacrificed to accommodate experimentation. Smith torched Lovel Palmer in the 48th minute to get the cross in for Alejandro Moreno’s equalizer, and in the 82nd minute, another sharp cross put home by the previously quiet Nick LaBrocca gave Chivas USA another valuable road win.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • As so many games are, this one was a match of two halves. The first saw a slightly better Portland score somewhat early and show themselves to be the superior side over 45 minutes. The second saw a better Chivas USA score very early and show themselves to be the superior side over the second 45. With a second goal, Chivas’s half trumped their hosts’. While they offered very little in the first half, they ultimately snagged a deserved win.
  • Chivas started the same 4-1-3-2 they played against Kansas City but came out of half in a 4-1-4-1, moving Ben Zemanski to the middle when Smith replaced Blair Gavin. The extra width payed off on both goals, while the midfield of Zemanski, Nick LaBrocca and Oswaldo Minda was able to level the scaled after a Portland-controlled first half.
  • After shading right in midfield last week for John Spencer, Diego Chara played was the ‘1’ in Portland’s 4-1-3-2, a deployment that proved beneficial in the first half as Portland used the their regista to dictate play. Once Chivas USA made their halftime adjustment, Chara’s most valuable contribution was running backward, be it to mark runners through the midfield or to make tackles in front of Eric Brunner and Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
  • One player with a surprisingly quiet night was Darlington Nagbe, though it would have been difficult for him to rekindle last week’s fireworks. Still, it was clear what effect Nagbe can have playing behind Kris Boyd if given license to move freely into the spaces in front of the defense. There’s also a scary element to Nagbe being the man turning on passes out of Portland’s third, leading the Timbers into the counter. On Saturday, none of that really came off, but that may only be a matter of time.
  • The odd man out in that scenario, though? Jorge Perlaza, who started the night on the bench before coming on in the 76th minute. If that selection continues, Spencer has got to get more out of Eric Alexander and Frank Songo’o (or whomever starts on the opposite flank). Alexander was solid but also bogged down a few early attacks down Chivas USA’s right. Songo’o didn’t have much of an effect.
  • Chivas USA now has two valuable road wins, their three at Jeld-Wen coming two weeks after their smash and grab at Rio Tinto. For Portland, it’s two heartbreaking home losses in a row, results that have to leave Spencer questioning what he’s got to do to get his team to the final whistle without capitulating.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.