Drilling down on: at New York 1, Chivas USA 1

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Man of the Match: There were load of capable nights from the Red Bulls, who had far more of the ball and more chances. Everyone along the Red Bulls back line looked good. Same for the midfield; even Rafa Marquez looked comfortable after intermission, following a tame first 45. But Dane Richards made the difference with a good run and a sharp, precise pass for the second-half equalizer. And he was generally well-positioned and energetic along the Red Bulls right side, making life tough on Chivas USA veteran left back Ante Jazic.

Packaged for take-away:

  • The Red Bulls five-game winning streak is now a six-game unbeaten streak. Still not too bad. Chivas USA, meanwhile, has a remarkable 3-1-2 record on the road.
  • Rafa Marquez was back in the Red Bulls lineup, more or less occupying the role Dax McCarty was filling so efficiently during the five-game winning streak. McCarty was still central in the Red Bulls’ 4-4-2, but was designated to push into forward support during Red Bull possession while Marquez usually held the area in front of New York’s back line.
  • With Thierry Henry healthy (giving manager Hans Backe two quality forwards for selection), the Red Bulls opted out of the 4-1-4-1 that had worked over the five-game run.
  • Henry, back in the Red Bulls starting lineup after missing three games with a hamstring injury, is clearly missing some timing. He was a yard offside several times and hardly well-synched with teammates.
  • For all the good stuff we can say about Henry this year — and there is so much to praise — his body language whenever he doesn’t get the ball can really be pouty and lame. And perhaps he was being cautious due to that gimpy hamstring, but the longtime French international sure tended to be static when teammates had the ball in the attacking third.
  • Chivas USA didn’t generate a ton of quality chances. But Juan Pablo Angel, with just one goal in five matches before Wednesday and surely desperate for more, did hit the post in the 25th minute.
  • And then his strike to give the visitors an early second-half lead? A real “striker’s goal.” That is, only a striker would have the quick-reaction to know just where he was in relation to the goal and steer it, somehow, athletically, instinctively into the net.
  • Brandon Barklage, an emergency replacement along the Red Bulls back line, has held back the right back spot more than adequately. He’s not exactly zipping up and down the wing, but that’s OK. Playing within himself, knowing what he can and can’t do, and performing that stuff well, is plenty.
  • Barklage’s entry pass into Richards was weighted perfectly, put in the best spot possible. From there, Richards did what he has failed to do so often through the years: make the early, quick and correct decision, a first-time ball over to Kenny Cooper for the 56th minute equalizer.
  • Cooper joins San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski in the MLS scoring leadership with 11 goals.
  • New York left back Roy Miller, about to join Costa Rica for friendlies and World Cup qualifiers, was a spry presence along the flank for a second consecutive contest.
  • The Red Bulls’ Mehdi Ballouchy? Anyone seen that man lately? Witness protection program, perhaps?
  • Heath Pearce has been Red Bull for six days, and already has played all 90 minutes of two matches. So much for “get acquainted” time.
  • If Backe keeps Pearce in the middle along the back line, then he has a passer at that position every bit as good as Tim Ream was during the last two years at Red Bull Arena.
  • Robin Fraser, riverboat gambler? The Chivas USA manager used his third and final sub by the 70th minute. His changes were mostly offensive minded.
  • McCarty’s 83rd minute header had Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy beaten, but Ante Jazic was well positioned to clear off the goal line.
  • Kennedy was otherwise steady as a Big Apple skyscraper, just like all year.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.