Man of the Match: Sporting Kansas City’s Aurelien Collin is a top-level MLS center back when he plays in control. Saturday, we saw the “under control” Collin, timing his challenges and entrances into passing lanes to claim almost everything near him. His work in the first half was especially flawless, and then he turned up with the game-winning header to keep his team’s record perfect through six matches.
Packaged for take-away:
- Collin was 100 percent unchallenged on the game-winner; It was RSL’s Alvaro Saborio who lost Collin on the restart.
- A contest between the best of each conference played out very tactically. RSL was fairly conservative, which isn’t really the RSL way. Fullbacks Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert mostly declined to join the attack, and midfielders were slow to arrive in support of their strikers. The result was quality soccer, but “tactically” quality soccer, and not necessarily explosive attacking stuff.
- Sporting Kansas City’s high-pressure ways, so expertly coordinated in terms of when to press as a unit, made things tough on Real Salt Lake. The visitors never found the passing rhythm for which Jason Kreis’ teams are known.
- The early corner kicks by Graham Zusi and Bobby Convey were brutal. Surprisingly so. But Zusi began finding the sweet spot on his deliveries, including the game-winning assist to Collin.
- That assist matched Thierry Henry’s in New York, which means Zusi still leads the league (and Henry) by one.
- Speaking of corner kicks, it’s awful tough to see where the foul was on C.J. Sapong’s disallowed first-half goal.
- If you watch the impact Kei Kamara continually has on matches, including a lot of laudable help on SKC’s defensive end, and then compare it to the impact-Lite that Convey is supplying on the opposite wing, it’s not even close.
- The only sore point Saturday for Sporting Kansas City: Peter Vermes’ team did, finally, allow a shot on goal. So the streak was snapped at a remarkable 335 minutes.
- That shot on goal? By the end, RSL center back Nat Borchers was playing as another forward, as RSL resorted the old faithful of late, playing-from-behind tactics, pushing long balls hopefully into the penalty area. Borchers got onto one to direct a header on goal, which Jimmy Neilsen handled comfortably.
- Last shot on goal against Sporting Kansas City before Borchers’ header: March 25.
- Real Salt Lake went to a 4-3-3 for the last 15 minutes and did find space not previously available, mostly out on the right wing, where Fabian Espindola gave left back Seth Sinovic some trouble.
- Roger Espinoza had another busy, effective night as the left-sided man in SKC’s midfield triangle. Like Collin, he’s a highly useful and skillful individual when he plays under control.
Miguel Almiron’s future is going to be a big part of the story for as long as he’s in Atlanta United, but his past is in focus following another cool post in The Players’ Tribune.
It’s a cool read, for sure, to examine Almiron’s rise from “too skinny” kid without a club to one of the top prospects this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but the story of why he came to Atlanta is an argument for the “big name” manager (Tata Martino in this case).
[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]
Before the Paraguayan youngster was the talk of the transfer market, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the No. 1 jersey sale in the league, he was being recruited to the Georgian expansion outlet.
“I didn’t know much about MLS. I didn’t know where Atlanta was. I didn’t know anything. But Tata was manager, and that was all I needed to know.”
Given that Martino arrived not too long before Almiron, the following Tweet makes the point I’ve been trying to make as well as anyone:
When it comes to locker room tales, few compare to this one.
Any big comeback, especially one as high profile as Sevilla’s stunning second half against Liverpool, inspires the question, “What was said in the team room at halftime?!?”
Down 3-0 at halftime and in danger of bowing out of the UEFA Champions League, Sevilla manager Eduardo Berizzo gave his team some very serious news.
[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]
According to Spanish reports relayed by The Telegraph, Berizzo informed his players of his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Sevilla confirmed that Berizzo is battling adenocarcinoma, saying, “Future medical tests will determine a course of treatment. Sevilla FC wants to show maximum support to its manager in these moments and wishes him a prompt recovery.”
It adds extra weight to Ever Banega’s postgame comments:
“We have to go out there with that attitude, for the fans that always back us and for the coach who has turned this around. He is the most important of all of us, he has us on the right path and we are with him to the hilt.”
Our best to Berizzo, and — sorry Reds supporters — it’s pretty cool Sevilla was able to rally after such stunning news.
Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.
Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.
[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]
Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.
The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:
Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.
Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.
As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.
The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.
Three moments that mattered
11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.
28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.
42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.
Man of the Match: Joevin Jones