Offshore drilling, England: at Manchester City 3, Queens Park Rangers 2

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Man of the Match: Giving this honor to the player who scores the winning goal is often a cop-out, but when it’s a title-winning goal that completes one of the most memorable comebacks in Premier League history, there’s a bit more justification. Besides, the work Sergio Agüero put in on the final goal went beyond the final strike. He made his way along the edge of defense until he retrieved the ball, moved around Taye Taiwo, and won City their first Premier League title.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It’s hard to overstate the drama. Manchester City scored twice in second half stoppage time after a disastrous second half that saw them give up their 1-0 lead and carry the title to Manchester United’s doorstep.
  • It looked good early, with City breaking through before halftime against a QPR side that played 10 behind the ball from the opening kickoff.
  • That goal was a gift, though. Pablo Zabaleta blasted a shot from 12 yards, but it was right at Paddy Kenny, who let the ball get through his hands and, after going off the far post, into goal. Kenny otherwise had a great game, but his first goal allowed was one put over the bar almost every other time you see it.
  • On the same play, City lost Yaya Touré, an absence that seemed huge as City chased in the second half. Touré had seemingly pulled a right hamstring half-way through the first, but he persisted, contributing on the opening goal. As his team celebrated, Touré sat on the turf, to be immediately replaced by Nigel de Jong.
  • With QPR playing so conservatively in the first, there was little reason to think they’d make a game of it in the second. City, however, condescended to help, with a erroneous header by Joleon Lescott off a looping ball by Shaun Wright-Phillips putting Djibil Cissé alone on goal. Equalizing only three minutes into the half, QPR barely had to come out of their shell.
  • And that stance persisted even after Joey Barton played the fool once again. Responding to some mild jostling from Carlos Tévez after cutting off his run, Barton swung a right elbow at the City attacker, connecting just under the jaw. It wasn’t a hard elbow, so Tevez was fine, but it was an obvious red card. As he was leaving the field, Barton kneed Agüero from behind and otherwise tried to fight any City player who confronted him (including Mario Balotelli, who tried to come off the bench to escalate affairs).
  • Twelve minutes later, Jamie Mackie put QPR on top, an unbelievable turn of events. Barton’s sending off almost seemed an appropriate end to an unimpressive Rangers’ campaign, but with 24 minutes left in their season, they were about to survive, hand City their first home loss of the season, snatch the title from City and hand it to Manchester United.
  • And until the end of the 90 minutes, QPR looked like they would hold out. City had their chances, but they were always through narrow channels easily blocked by Kenny. As stoppage time came, you’d convinced yourself that Manchester United would again, almost unimaginably, be champions. How could this possibly be happening? City, when all they had to do was beat QPR – a 10-man QPR – gives away the title?
  • After Edin Dzeko put home David Silva’s corner early in added time, you wanted the comeback to come true. Though they stumbled their way into an embarrassing spot (and brought tears to their fans’ eyes while doing so), a two-goal comeback in stoppage time is irresistable.
  • And ultimately, the title could not resist City. Their Sunday comeback completes a rebound that started weeks ago, when the Citizens were eight points back of a Manchester United side that need only close out a 4-2 home lead against Everton to start planning their victory celebrations. Instead, Manchester City claims their first Premier League title – the first time they’ve stood atop the first division since 1966.
  • Just as Manchester United’s comeback against Bayern Munich in 1999 will be remembered as a (possibly the) quintessential Champions League moment, City’s comeback to dethrone United may eventually be recalled as the title-clincher to shame all title-clinchers. It is extremely rare the the excitement of a knockout competition manifests in league, but for City, it was do-or-day come the 94th minute. And do, they did.

Reports: LA Galaxy trades Gyasi Zardes to Columbus for Ola Kamara

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According to a reports by the LA Times and by ESPN, the LA Galaxy have traded US international Gyasi Zardes along with allocation money to the Columbus Crew for striker Ola Kamara.

Both reports state that Columbus will receive $400,000 in guaranteed allocation money in the deal, plus another $100,000 should Kamara score 12 goals next season to trigger the incentive.

Zardes was once a force along the wing for Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, but the 26-year-old has declined heavily in the last two seasons as injuries and poor form have held him to just eight goals over the last two seasons, including just two last campaign. Meanwhile, Kamara has been a star for Columbus in his first two years in Major League Soccer, scoring 16 goals in 2016 before netting another 18 last season, leaving him third in the league in goals scored over those two seasons.

The LA Times report states that Kamara will earn a new contract after the trade, giving him a raise over his current $482,500 yearly salary.

Zardes is an interesting case who shouldn’t be given up on just yet. A homegrown player for the Galaxy, he scored 17 goals in the 2014 season, including on in the MLS Cup Finals as the Galaxy won it all. He earned a seemingly permanent place on the USMNT as a result, and has 37 caps to this date. However, his goalscoring form has since evaporated, leaving him with no more than six goals in an MLS season since, and has just six goals in those 37 caps for the national team.

The Galaxy will need to acquire an additional international roster spot in order to activate Kamara for the season opener on March 4th against Portland, as they have filled up their seven spots as of now.

Bruce Arena opens up about USMNT World Cup failure

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Former US Men’s National Team manager Bruce Arena has opened up about the failure of the team to reach the 2018 World Cup, culminating in an embarrassing and humbling 2-1 defeat at Trinidad & Tobago that left the USA on the outside looking in.

During a Q&A session in Philadelphia, Arena takes some blame but also dishes out a lot more, throwing everything from team chemistry, a weak player pool, weak mentality on the field, and even the national team’s communications department for the nightmare scenario that came to fruition in Couva.

“There are a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day you find a way to get off that field with a point,” Arena said to Straus, before laying out all those excuses he referred to. First up? The team chemistry, which was laid bare after injuries to John Brooks, Jordan Morris, and Sebastian Lletget.

“It wasn’t the same team with the right chemistry. It just didn’t seem like everyone was on the same page with the right mentality and the same understanding of what everything was about,” Arena said Friday. “The chemistry of the group wasn’t right. It wasn’t the character you see out of a U.S. team. And the second part, realistically, was that we didn’t have the most talented players and when we had injuries, it hurt us.”

Arena said there were signs of life in June after a win over Trinidad followed by a quality point against Mexico. However, it all came crashing down during a brutal week in early September that ultimately doomed the United States. After a stunning 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, Arena made a whopping seven changes to the starting lineup, none of which worked as a listless USMNT had to scrap and claw for a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Honduras. While Arena said the leaders on the team like Michael Bradley and Tim Howard were there when they were needed, “there were a couple of bad eggs like you have on every team. We were well aware of it.”

The 66-year-old blamed the pre-match buildup to the Trinidad & Tobago team as part of the issue, throwing the communications department under the bus for energizing the home side. “Behind the scenes there were mistakes on our part, probably,” Arena said in what began sounding like an admission of guilt. “Our social media, our communications department, sent out everything humiliating the Trinidad federation on the training facility, which was the game field for that day. It got them all fired up and when we kicked off on that day, it was a battle.”

Arena then railed against those who questioned his tactics or player choices after the disaster, saying, “You got some answers for me the day before the game? During the game? I’m listening. Everyone the day after, you’re a bunch of phonies. I don’t want to hear about it the day after. We’re all the best coaches the day after.”

It took everything Arena had to admit he may have played a part in the failure to qualify, and even then, he did so with plenty of restraint. “I accept that responsibility,” Arena said. “That’s why I resigned so quickly. I accepted my responsibility. That’s the way it goes. I don’t feel good about it, but that’s life.”

Michael Carrick to retire after the season, join Man United coaching staff

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho announced Friday night that 36-year-old midfielder Michael Carrick will retire after this season and join the Red Devils’ coaching staff.

Carrick has made just one appearance for Manchester United this season, back on September 20th in an EFL Cup match against Burton Albion. He has been on the sidelines recovering since an irregular heartbeat was discovered after he felt “strange” in the second half of that game. However, Carrick has been training with the team since November and Mourinho confirmed he could finish out his career on the pitch.

“[He had] a few months without even training so now he is in his second week of training with the team,” Mourinho said to the media ahead of Manchester United’s match against Burnley on Saturday morning. “He is a very important player for us. I think it is a good decision for the team and a good decision for him to finish playing football and not injured or with some problem.”

Mourinho confirmed that the club has offered him a position on the team’s coaching staff, and that he expects Carrick to accept.

“We are all happy and in the end of the season I expect him to join,” Mourinho said, “unless he changes his mind, but the club would be very happy for him to do that. I would be very happy also for him to do that.”

Carrick has spent his entire career in the city of London. He began his career in the West Ham youth system, making his professional debut in 2005 and spending five years with the Hammers before moving to Tottenham in 2004. He spent two seasons at White Hart Lane before joining Manchester United in the summer of 2006, where he would go on to 460 appearances across all competitions, scoring 23 goals and assisting 36 others. He has won five Premier League titles with Manchester United, as well as a Champions League, an FA Cup, and three League Cups.

Brighton nabs club record signing Jurgen Locadia

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Brighton & Hove Albion have secured a new striker for the stretch run of the Premier League season, signing Jurgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven for a club record fee.

Locadia cost Brighton $19.3 million, breaking their old transfer record, set just last August when they brought Jose Izqueirdo from Club Brugge, by about $500,000.

The 24-year-old Dutchman has nine goals and six assists this season in 15 Eredivisie appearances for PSV, although he’s missed their last three games reportedly with a hamstring injury. He scored four goals in one game against FC Utretcht back in late September.

“We are delighted to have signed Jurgen, and pleased to welcome him to the club,” said Brighton manager Chris Hughton in the official club release. “He is a player we have been aware of for sometime, and it’s been no secret we have wanted to add a striker of his type. He is a strong, powerful and quick center-forward, with a real eye for goal and will increase our attacking options in the second half of the season.”

Locadia made his Eredivisie debut with PSV in style back in 2012, scoring a hat-trick against VVV Venlo in a 6-0 win. He would go on to score a career-high 13 goals in his first full season in 2013/14, eventually racking up 62 goals for PSV across all competitions in 176 appearances.

A PSV youth product, Locadia has been in the national team picture, riding the bench for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in October, but has not received a cap for the Netherlands. He was in the national youth setup as well, making appearances for the U-17 and U-21 sides.