Drilling down on: at Portland 1, Vancouver 1

Leave a comment

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.

Ligue 1: Depay’s goal streak hits 5 games; Lyon reeling in Monaco

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MONACO (AP) Lyon won at Dijon 5-2 and moved within one point of second-place Monaco in the French league on Friday.

Lyon’s sixth straight league win kept them level on points with fourth-place Marseille.

The team finishing second qualifies automatically for next season’s Champions League, while the team in third goes into the playoffs. After this weekend, there will be four rounds remaining.

Memphis Depay has scored or created 12 of Lyon’s 16 last goals.

The Netherlands forward opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a close-range volley, and set up the fourth goal for winger Bertrand Traore in the 77th.

Depay almost scored another, just failing to reach right back Rafael‘s cross in the 50th. Midfielder Houssem Aouar followed up and his strike was turned into his own net by defender Valentin Rosier.

Lyon’s other goals came from forwards Nabil Fekir in the 53rd and Maxwell Cornet in the 82nd.


MONACO (AP) — After losing the French title last weekend, Monaco is in danger of throwing away second place after losing at Guingamp 3-1 on Saturday.

The defeat leaves Monaco just one point ahead of Lyon and Marseille as the three sides chase an automatic place in the Champions League with four games left.

Monaco was thrashed by champion Paris Saint-Germain 7-1 last Sunday and the defense leaked easily again, albeit with a little help from one of its defenders.

A makeshift Monaco fell behind midway through the first half after Brazilian defender Jemerson was given a red card for stopping a shot on the line. He was sent off and veteran forward Jimmy Briand netted from the penalty spot for mid-table Guingamp.

Monaco capitulated and trailed 3-0 after 47 minutes. Defender Almamy Toure replied in vain with a consolation goal midway through the second half.


Marseille crushed Lille 5-1 to join Lyon on 69 points. Lyon, which won at Dijon 5-2 on Friday for a sixth straight win, has a better goal difference.

Marseille also has the Europa League and plays the first leg of its semifinal at home to Austrian side Salzburg next Thursday. But Lyon has only Ligue 1 to think about.

Still, Marseille is also brimming with confidence these days, especially winger Florian Thauvin.

He scored twice against Lille to extend his career-best league tally to 19. Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou also netted twice, and forward Lucas Ocampos completed the rout against 19th-place Lille.

In other matches: Amiens won against Strasbourg 3-1; struggling Toulouse beat Angers 2-0, and last-place Metz drew at home to Caen 1-1.

PSG is at Bordeaux on Sunday. Also, Nice is at home to Montpellier, and Saint-Etienne takes on Troyes.

UEFA says Europa League trophy not damaged after being stolen

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA says the Europa League trophy was not damaged after being stolen in Mexico.

The silverware was at a promotional event in the central city of Leon when it was reported by authorities to have been taken from a vehicle.

The theft came ahead of the semifinals of Europe’s second-tier club competition.

UEFA says the “Europa League trophy was in Mexico for a partner event and got briefly stolen. It was quickly recovered and has suffered no damages.”

In the semifinal first legs next week, Arsenal plays Atletico Madrid and Marseille takes on Salzburg.

Serie A: Roma prep for Liverpool by beating SPAL; Benevento win at Milan

Elisabetta Baracchi/ANSA via AP
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Premier League preview ]

SPAL 2013 0-3 Roma

A few hours after a reserves-heavy Liverpool side played last-place West Bromwich Albion to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League, Roma, the Reds’ UEFA Champions League semifinal foes beginning Tuesday, hammered 17th-place SPAL on the back of goals scored by Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick.

Roma shocked the world — and Barcelona — to reach the semifinals, but still have a battle on their hands to finish inside Serie A’s top-four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Following Saturday’s victory, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side is three and four points clear of fourth- and fifth-place Lazio and Inter Milan, respectively, though both of the chasing sides play on Sunday.

AC Milan 0-1 Benevento

The 2017-18 season has treated AC Milan, who spent massively last summer, far worse than Roma. Following Sunday’s home defeat to first-year top-flight (and last-place) side Benevento, Gennaro Gattuso’s side sits sixth (final automatic Europa League place) and lead seventh-place Atalanta, who play on Sunday, by just two points.

Pietro Iemmello scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-0 Fiorentina

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Cagliari vs. Bologna — 6:30 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Crotone — 9 a.m. ET
Juventus vs. Napoli — 2:45 p.m. ET

Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.