Man of the Match: Where there was a whole bunch of good but not a lot great for Portland, Diego Chara may have been the “good-est” of them all. Steady throughout the night and positionally solid in defense, Chara provided a calm presence on the ball at the end of the match as the Timbers killed off Sporting Kansas City’s first loss of the season.
Packaged for takeaway:
- In truth, neither team was very good, but Portland didn’t have to be. They rode the luck of the first half own goal from Chance Myers to get some desperately needed momentum.
- The deciding play was a combination of bad luck and poor execution from Kansas City. A duel at midfield saw Matt Besler best Kris Boyd, but as the KC defender went up and headed a ball that unknowingly went to Chara, Boyd peeled off an made a run down the right flank. Chara hit him quickly, Boyd immediately got the ball in, and in the Sporting panic, Julio César collided with Myers, forcing an unfortunately strong finish into Jimmy Nielsen’s goal.
- The loss ruined Sporting’s perfect record and illustrated just how remarkable it is to string together any long streak. Chalk this up as one of those games that just happens, and in this sport, it happens quite often. Tonight KC drew the short straw.
- That said, although Kansas City perhaps had the better of play (particularly in the first half), they seemed to have trouble with the quickness of players like Chara, Lovel Palmer, Darlington Nagbe and Mike Chabala. They also didn’t have as much of a physical advantage as they would normally like, given a back line that started Steve Purdy, Hanyer Mosquera and Eric Brunner.
- The Purdy start was a small surprise and really highlights the Bobby Convey problem. We’ve talked about it before, but Bobby Convey just isn’t fitting in KC’s system. Peter Vermes is square pegging this one. As a result, John Spencer was able to start a 6’4″ right back, sacrificing foot speed for size, knowing that Convey was not going to be much of a threat. On set pieces, as Purdy picked up Kei Kamara, it mattered.
- That wasn’t the only tinkering coach Spencer did. Palmer started in defensive midfield, with him and Jack Jewsbury given the task of keeping up with Roger Espinoza and Graham Zusi. For the most part, it worked. Jewsbury and Palmer didn’t offer any creativity or punch going forward, but they were able to run with Kansas City’s duo – no small feat.
- Spencer’s tinkering in midfield has cost the team cohesion, though. On a number of counters, the midfield just wasn’t able to read each others’ movements. On one first half break Chara, then playing on the left of midfield, drifted toward the middle, closing the space between him and Nagbe. By the time he hit the Timbers’ dangerman with a pass, there was only five yards between them. Chara had drawn defenders to Nagbe and, after laying off, ran into the passing lane between Nagbe and Boyd. (The duo did seem to work better when Spencer switched them, putting Nagbe on the left.)
- Portland’s offense wasn’t able to generate many serious chances of their own, and while that is a common refrain from KC opponents this year, it begs the question of whether Nagbe should be playing in midfield or at forward. With Portland’s lack of midfield depth, Spencer may not have options.
- Two Disciplinary Committee notes. Lovel Palmer made a slightly desperate lunge at Kei Kamara in the first half. He was carded, tempers flared, though I bet the committee won’t all agree the tackle deserves further punishment. Aurelien Collin, however, is likely going to be suspended after he kicked Purdy with full force in the right inner thigh. Ostensibly trying to play a descending ball, it was a ridiculously reckless challenge. You don’t take a full swing when a defender is on your back.
- Sporting’s hot start is over. They’ll be disappointed with how things played out, but there’s no need for change. Portland, however, need to enjoy this result and get back to work on Monday. They won’t get a gift goal every week.
Kevin De Bruyne won’t be the main man at Old Trafford this time.
[ MORE: Rooney to leave? ]
De Bruyne, 25, starred in Manchester City’s 2-1 win at bitter rivals Manchester United last month in the Premier League but ahead of the EFL Cup last 16 clash between Manchester’s two clubs, Pep Guardiola confirmed that the Belgian international will play no part after picking up a calf injury in the draw with Southampton on Sunday.
Speaking to the media, Guardiola also confirmed that Pablo Zabaleta will be out, plus Vincent Kompany will likely play a part.
“Kevin, no way, he cannot play,” Guardiola said. “Pablo I think cannot. Vincent I think he can but I don’t know today. I need to see training and regeneration [before making a decision].”
Guardiola also confirmed that he expects to give some of his squad players a chance to play despite the desire to win the big derby game.
“We are going to rotate. Some are going to play. I need to see the players today in training and after we will decide the team,” Guardiola added.
City’s squad is still ridiculously strong with the likes of Nolito, Fabian Delph, Kelechi Iheanacho and Aleix Garcia all set to play a big part in the cup tie.
The Daily Telegraph has struck again.
A few weeks after it’s investigation into corruption in English soccer unveiled plenty of wrongdoing, some of which led to Sam Allardyce stepping down as England manager, The Daily Telegraph has some more damaging evidence.
This time Watford Football Club is at the center of the allegations.
According to a report on Tuesday, Watford submitted forged bank documents back in 2014 when Gino Pozzo became the sole owner of the club from his father, Giampaolo, at the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign which saw them win promotion to the Premier League. The bank documents via HSBC (the Telegraph claims that Watford did not bank with that company at the time) were used to show proof of funding that Pozzo could bankroll Watford.
The English Football League has opened an investigation into the matter, along with an internal one from Watford, and if any wrongdoing is found then the Hornets could be subject to a fine and a points deduction.
An EFL spokesman told the Telegraph:
“We can confirm, following receipt of information from The Telegraph, that we immediately commenced a disciplinary investigation into serious allegations made against Watford Football Club. The club has been formally contacted by the EFL and is now required to provide a full and detailed response to the allegations. Once that response is received, it will be fully considered by the EFL and appropriate action will be taken under our rules and regulations.”
Watford has until next week to respond to the EFL.
The Telegraph also reports that just before the HSBC letter was accepted by the EFL as proof of funds, an earlier letter from Credit Suisse (a bank the Pozzo family and the parent company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment, did use) was rejected by the EFL and that would have put a hold up in the sale of the club.
Wayne Rooney‘s future at Manchester United seems increasingly uncertain.
[ MORE: Tight title race? ]
A report in the Sun newspaper states that United’s captain and talisman, 31, has been told by manager Jose Mourinho that he can leave if it’s regular game time he wants.
Rooney hasn’t started any of United’s last four Premier League games and was left out of their squad for the 4-0 thumping at Chelsea last weekend with a small injury.
Per the report, Mourinho has spoken to Rooney’s advisers and has told them he can not guarantee the England national team captain a starting role.
There’s no doubting Rooney’s huge impact at United over the past 12 years since he arrived at Old Trafford. He’s won five Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League title, two League Cups and an FA Cup.
Rooney is also just three goals shy of breaking the all-time club record for number of goals scored — he has scored 246 times for United in all competitions — which Sir Bobby Charlton has held for over 40 years and although he has this season plus two more on his huge contract, it seems like he’s reaching a major crossroads in his career.
Even if he is willing to stick around for the final years of his playing days and get stuck into a bit-par role a la Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, you know that Rooney will still make an impact.
The Englishman is stuck in a rut but so are United.
If fit, it would be very surprising to not see him feature heavily in the next few days as United host bitter rivals Manchester City in the EFL last 16 on Wednesday and then Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports).
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann has won the best player award in the Spanish league for last season.
The Atletico Madrid forward was announced as the winner in a ceremony organized by La Liga in Valencia on Monday. The Frenchman was not at the ceremony.
[ MORE: Ballon d’Or omissions ]
Atletico also had Diego Simeone win the best coach award, Diego Godin earn the best defender award, and Jan Oblak clinch best goalkeeper.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was selected as the best forward, and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as the best midfielder.
Team captains voted for the top players in each position, while a data-analysis system generated the best player award.
Barcelona won the Spanish league last season, ahead of Real Madrid and Atletico.