Man of the Match: Darlington Nagbe has been moved all around Portland’s attack as John Spencer tries to find a balance between putting him in places to score goals and getting him on the ball as often as possible. Tonight Nagbe played at the tip of a midfield diamond, a position that served Portland well thanks to the return of Kalif Alhassan. With Alhassan’s threat wide, Nagbe was able to spark Portland’s to-date-dormant counter attack, connecting on 41 of 45 passes in the process.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Unfortunately for Portland, those counterattacks led to nothing. They still need to get their forwards (whichever ones they choose) working together to create chances. Right now, it’s a lot of get ball, shoot ball. Jorge Perlaza and Kris Boyd only combined to create one meaningful chance together.
- That’s how a team can control 84 minutes of the match and not get all three points. Portland was the better side but only generated one goal, a score gifted to them by some bad goalkeeping by Joe Cannon (who had an … adventurous night).
- The goal came after some good work near the line by Kalif Alhassan opened up space along the flank, giving Jack Jewsbury tons of room to cross for Boyd. Both Alhassan (for a great run in the second half) and Jewsbury (for a steadily above average night) had MotM shouts.
- This game was delayed 25 minutes coming out of halftime, with lightning flashes keeping the players off the field (while Timbers’ supporters taunted the elements).
- Vancouver went with more of a 4-3-3 variant, one which never worked. The midfield of Gershon Koffie, John Thorrington and Jun Marques Davidson pushed Koffie too high, too often. They trio had trouble getting the ball to their attackers – Sebastien Le Toux, Camilo Sanvezzo, and Davide Chiumiento.
- Vancouver’s midfield is so good with Davidson holding and Koffie shuttling. The demands of MLS require some flexibility, but Martin Renne should mess with that success as little as possible.
- Le Toux played as a number nine. I like the idea of not trying to muscle up with Portland’s defenders (Hayner Mosquera, Eric Brunner), maybe put a danger man there that could drop off the line, draw somebody out, allowing the wide men to fly into the space. Unfortunately, that never came off (see Whitecaps’ midfield issues).
- Vancouver’s winner came after getting another nine on. Eric Hassli’s flick for Darren Mattocks created the winner, one which may have took advantage of a change forced upon Portland. Brunner had to be brought off at halftime, with a first half clash of heads the suspected culprit. The Mosquera-David Horst duo couldn’t stop Hassli-Mattocks.
- Despite probably being second best, it was a good, well-earned point for Vancouver. Portland played well, but the Whitecaps still found a way to get a road point.
- For John Spencer, it’s another late capitulation, losing two points when his team was en route to three. Closing out matches continues to be a major issue.
T’s are crossed and i’s dotted on Neymar’s new contract, keeping him at the club through the 2020-21 season.
Neymar, 24, will make his 100th La Liga appearance with his next step onto the pitch.
Lionel Messi’s deal runs through 2017-18, and Luis Suarez’s goes through 2018-19.
[ MORE: Guardiola on Aguero omission ]
He’s scored 59 goals in league play, and has 91 total when you include all 150 of his matches in a Barca kit.
Neymar is on a similar scoring rate to last season, when he netted 31 times. The Brazilian also has 49 international goals in 73 caps.
Pep Guardiola is seething with reports that claim star striker Sergio Aguero is not in his plans for Manchester City’s future.
Aguero started on the bench for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League loss at Barcelona, inspiring talk that the Argentine star wasn’t long for the Emirates Stadium.
[ MORE: Conte on Mourinho, Pogba ]
Guardiola says that’s garbage, and that he simply needed more midfielders for his attack. Next time, just ask.
From the BBC:
“It was a tactical decision. I wanted one more midfielder, I tried to keep the ball in the Camp Nou and when you have the ball, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez don’t.
“I spoke with Sergio and he was understanding, I thought in the last 30 minutes, with the Barcelona centre-halves tiring, he could help a lot from the bench. When Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision. Next time before you (the media) decide he is not in my plans you can call me.”
Still, not using Aguero is risky business.
The striker believes, rightly, that he’s among the most dangerous players in the world. Guardiola has said as much, too.
While few would put him in the class of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s difficult to imagine either being sat for tactical reasons against one of the best teams in the world.
The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.
Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.
[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]
Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.
“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”
Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. Pogba is coming off a starring role in United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce, and Conte guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.
“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”
Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.
The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.
No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.
[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]
The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.
Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)
The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).
Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).