Drilling down on: at D.C. United 1, Montreal 1

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Man of the Match: Bernardo Corradi’s big effort helped set the pace for Montreal, as the busy Impact forward had the will near goal to help his club collect its first road Major League Soccer road points. The former Italian international won headers early, nearly scored on a hard near post run and then found the goal on a cross to the back post. Just after the important strike, he nicely set up Collen Warner, who missed just to the right.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Lots of hot-button talk about United Designated Player Branko Boskovic in 3 .. 2 … 1 …
  • It would be easy to say Maicon Santos’ introduction in the 61st minute changed things for D.C. United’s rudderless attack; his will and energy certainly helped add some pep. But it was so much more than that. When Santos came on he partnered with Chris Pontius at forward while Dwayne De Rosario dropped into the midfield in place of the drifting and ineffective Boskovic. That was the change that mattered even more.
  • De Rosario’s willingness to insert himself sharply into attacking positions created the chaos in Montreal’s defense that opened scoring chances that just weren’t there before.
  • Consider that D.C. United didn’t even have a shot on goal until Santos’ 65th minute effort. A few minutes later, the home team was on the board.
  • Further, Boskovic’s movement is so sluggish and undefined, he’s often crowding the midfield. Once he left and De Rosario took the central midfield position next to Perry Kitchen, Kitchen’s distribution from the holding areas became less cluttered, more purposeful.
  • Bottom line here, I am trying really, really hard to see what Boskovic is adding to this team. I could go on and on about what the man doesn’t do; I just don’t see what his base contribution might be. We are seven weeks into the MLS season. He should be fit. He should be making a difference.
  • So, totaling up the DP tally around RFK: They have three of them. De Rosario has yet to score, but he’s doing fine, making things happen. Boskovic just made his second start, and manager Ben Olsen needs to think long and hard about whether a third is best for the team. Hamdi Salihi, the team’s third DP, didn’t play at all Wednesday. Any way you slice it, there’s a whole bunch there to sort out — especially with players like Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon and Andy Najar looking hungry and up for the job. They just need a playmaker around them who is more involved.
  • Early for Montreal, Sanna Nyassi looked like the most dangerous man, troubling United left back Daniel Woolard. Later, Lamar Neagle came in for the tiring Nyassi, and he added some punch to Montreal’s attack.
  • Justin Mapp had two glistening opportunities for the Impact but failed to turn either into something on goal, mostly because he didn’t have confidence in his right foot. One was a pass that needed to be better for Davey Arnaud, and one was a shot he passed up from point blank range. It’s OK to be better with one foot, but at this point in his career he needs to be competent enough with either at the moment of truth.

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.