Nemanja Vukovic, Jack Jewsbury

Drilling down on: at Portland 0, Columbus 0

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Man of the match: Andy Greunebaum had six saves (including two layouts on Rodney Wallace efforts) and was commanding coming off his line during a particularly tenuous stretch just shy of the 40-minute mark. He continues to be one of the Crew’s bright spots.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • File this one under “For MLS diehards only”. Within the context of each team’s season, there were some interesting story lines playing out. As a stand alone game, Saturday’s offering wasn’t the ideal display of MLS’s product.
  • John Spencer made a number of changes to the starting XI that lost in Montreal, with Jack Jewsbury moving to right back (as Steve Purdy recovers from a concussion). With Rodney Wallace, Frank Songo’o coming in to midfield while Futty Danso (returning to health) was slotted into central defense, the lineup had an experimental feel.
  • Danso impressed on his return, combining with Mike Chabala to lock down the left side (not that Columbus was knocking). Eric Brunner, who dressed but did not play against his former club, may now be the odd man out.
  • Jewsbury was strong when the play was in front of him, but he was obviously rusty positioning himself when not engaging a player in possession. Still, as a pseudo-emergency fill in, he acquitted himself well.
  • One person not changed from last week was Troy Perkins, though he did play with a face mask protecting the nose laceration sufferd last week at the boot of Sanna Nyassi.
  • But all notes about Portland’s defense come with a huge caveat. Although Columbus had an aberrational first half sequence that saw two balls cleared off the line, the Crew offered very little going forward. Emilio Renteria was a non-factor, as was his replacement, Justin Meram. There was no push from the midfield, and with Chad Marshall on the bench, Columbus had now threat from dead balls. Put it all together, and Troy Perkins was only credited with one save on the night.
  • Against a Portland midfield that’s not exactly thought of as the league’s best, Columbus needed somebody to step up. Eddie Gaven, Tony Tchani, and Milovan Mirosevic were all pretty transparent, while Danny O’Rourke may as well have been a defender. There was nothing in this Crew side at said “this team can get the goal.”
  • As the match wore on, a series of like-for-like substitutions implied both coaches felt their sides were going in the right direction. The only meaningful change saw Spencer debut Mike Fucito and drop Darlington Nagbe back to left midfield, though Portland’s approach stayed the same. It was as if neither team was aware wins are worth three, draws are worth one.
  • While both struggling teams got a point, neither should be happy with the result.
    • Portland was just drawn at home by one of the East’s struggling sides, and without Marshall in the lineup, they should have expected a better result.
    • For the Crew, they failed to take advantage of a back line that made three changes from a week ago. Potentially worse, they never seemed too worried about it.
  • Portland now gets a bye while Columbus returns home to face FC Dallas next weekend. Both teams have a lot of work to do before they’re ready to face the rest of the league again.

Bremen beats Wolfsburg to leave Bundesliga relegation zone

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Serge Gnabry of Germany reacts during the Men's First Round Football Group C match between Germany and Fiji at Mineirao Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.

Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.

It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.

Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.

Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.

Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.

Mancini reportedly not interested in Leicester City, De Boer says no

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 20:  Head Coach of FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini looks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 20, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.

Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”

However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.

That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.

“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”

Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.

Win over Las Palmas again has La Real on edge of CL spot

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11:  Xavi Prieto of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on December 11, 2015 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.

La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.

[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]

That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.

The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.

Conte pulling from prior experience as title race pushes on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.

In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]

“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”

The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.