Drilling down on: Columbus 2, at Seattle 0

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Man of the Match: You can go two ways on this one, and just so I don’t cop-out (again), I’ll let you know which way I leaned. Andy Greunebaum came up with big saves when Columbus needed them, stifling two very good Seattle chances early in the second half. You can go with him, or you can be an arrogant, elitist snob like me and argue the number of times Sebastian Miranda was tested and passed in the first half deserves the recognition. Miranda, in truth, wasn’t exceptional, but the pure number of times he deterred Seattle gets my nod.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Individual breakdowns. Sigi Schmid harped on individual breakdowns after the match, and he had every right to. Whether we’re talking about the two goals or the open chance Alvaro Fernandez missed right before half time, Seattle’s players didn’t step up when given the chance to do so.
  • But take nothing away form Columbus. Every time they get a surprise result, people moan about their perceived quality and claim the other team played down to the Crew’s level. Guess what? Columbus is now 4-4-3. Columbus is now fifth in the East. Columbus is now a decent team.
  • And that decent team executed. On the first goal, Dilly Duka played a left-footed cross in from the right flank to hit Justin Meram, who got a surprise start at left wing. Low and behold the matchup of a forward against a full back on a cross went the way of the bigger man.
  • And on the second goal, yes, Bryan Meredith was off his line, but Emilio Renteria also had to hit a 24-yard ball that got over him but under the bar. Blame where blame’s due, but credit where credit’s due, too.
  • It really is interesting to see how much of Seattle build up goes through Osvaldo Alonso in the first two-thirds.
  • Eddie Johnson had another mixed night. He always seemed to find a way to get on the ball, but he never did anything with it.
  • Watch David Estrada work. He tracks back much deeper than his opposite winger, and as Alonso and Brad Evans go forward (or, in Evans’ case, wide), he’s more than willing to sit in the middle of the park. There may be no harder working wide player in the league, right now. The question, though, is whether it’s good for him to have to jump into so many holes.
  • Renteria had a goal, and he was also credited with one of those fun MLS second assists, but the moment that jumped out to me was the counter attack he slowed down late in the first half. Columbus often plays nine of their 10 out-field players behind the midfield’s last man, leaving their forward all alone. Renteria doesn’t have the speed to get the Crew into counterattacks, a tactic they need to utilize if they’re going to play so deep. Then again, what do I know? Dude had a goal and an assist.
  • One other note on Columbus’s deployment. Eddie Gaven and Dilly Duka played very close to each other, and when Danny O’Rourke (before he left with an ankle injury) or Cole Grossman jumped into the play, it created a quick bursts of short passes in an overloaded area. For a brief spell in the first half, the Crew opened a number of eyes by playing some very un-Crew soccer.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia