Drilling down on: at Portland 2, Seattle 1

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Man of the Match

Portland center back David Horst (pictured, after his goal) nearly nailed an early opportunity and he wouldn’t miss a second time, escaping his mark to double the Timbers’ early lead. On defense, he was rock solid, especially in the air (with one notable exception, when he failed to deal properly with Eddie Johnson on the Sounders’ goal). Still, he was a bother on offensive set pieces and did his part on the back line as Portland won a biggie.

Packaged for take-away

  • David Horst could be spending his Sunday night in Portland in pain, ruing his missed 11th minute effort, a free header off a corner kick that cracked the crossbar. He got loose from Jeff Parke but couldn’t pull off the early goal. He could be, except …
  • When Portland is finding room to serve from the wings, Portland will always be dangerous. It was happening early Sunday, and Kris Boyd was the beneficiary, opening the scoring in the 17th off a feed from Steven Smith on the left wing.
  • Smith got the start at left back for Portland. Since he spent so much time early in his career with Rangers, having participated in those famous Celtic-Rangers rivalry matches, safe to say he wasn’t too undone by his first Cascadia Cup fixture.
  • A few minutes after his goal, Boyd had a free header from six. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Jeff Parke were having a devil of a time keeping track of Boyd, whose open header shot in the 25th turned into a corner kick. Horst doubled the home team’s lead on the ensuing corner kick, escaping Parke yet again.
  • Parke was taken off in favor of Patrick Ianni at halftime.
  • With a 2-0 lead the Timbers dropped their lines slightly and nearly paid the price. Seattle came out of the back with greater ease and established a toehold on the game. With more chances in the final third, Brad Evans clunked an uncontested header from close-range just before the half; which could have chanced the game, obviously.
  • Troy Perkins needed to be alert on two Osvaldo Alonso shots from long range, both on target.
  • More of the same to open the second half. Portland tried to pressure in higher areas, but Eddie Johnson’s 58th minute goal seemed to unnerve a young-ish Timbers’ lineup, and the game became lopsided. Seattle pressed and Portland countered. Right up to the end, Portland looked nervous and naive, unable to more easily nurse home the result.
  • Darlington Nagbe played ahead of Diego Chara in the Timbers’ diamond midfield but had very little to say about the game. He was caught in possession too often, unable to solve the little problems for which an attacking midfielder needs to plot and plan.
  • Chara, on the other hand, was a presence on offense and defense for his team.
  • Mike Fucito was handed his first start for Portland, coming against his old team, which was probably a good thing for team psyche and for creating the kind of bite and energy a rivalry contest deserves. On the other hand, there wasn’t a lot of chemistry with fellow forward Boyd. Or, perhaps it was just rust for Fucito, who doesn’t play much for John Spencer.
  • Ricardo Salazar did a credible job of keeping a lid on such a potentially volatile match. On the other hand, when Salazar ordered a free kick retaken after Fredy Montero encroached in the 76th minute, blocking a free kick from inside the 10-yard radius, why didn’t he book the Sounders’ striker?
  • Sal Zizzo’s introduction for Portland along the right side in the second half gave Seattle something to think about, dealing with the speedy Timbers’ attacker.
  • Near the end, Fredy Montero and Lovel Palmer were both shown reds for their parts in a fracas that Montero appeared to start.

Cologne’s Hector extends contract despite likely relegation

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.

Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”

Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”

Klopp talks politics: “Brexit makes no sense”

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.

Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.

The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.

It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.

Take it away, Jurgen…

“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.

“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”

“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.


Preview: Everton v. Newcastle

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  • Everton have won seven of their last eight games v Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won four PL games in a row
  • Wayne Rooney has more goals (15) against Newcastle than any other PL team

Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both setting pretty in midtable.

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The Toffees sit in ninth, with Newcastle in 10th and just one point behind Everton with a game in hand. Rafael Benitez has been lauded for taking his newly-promoted side into the top 10 with defensive solidity, while Sam Allardyce has been lambasted for a defensive style of play despite getting Everton out of a relegation fight following his appointment back in November.

In team news Everton have Mason Holgate and Gylfi Sigurdsson out injured, while Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu but Islam Slimani could make his first start.


What they’re saying 

Sam Allardyce on the job Rafael Benitez has done at Newcastle: “From a difficult period they have managed to recover and get in the Premier League and they have turned it around. They have put together a run of games and we’ll see a better Newcastle than we saw up there [when Everton won 1-0 in December]. Rafa has progressed very well. He has always expressed his disappointment with not enough funds – we can all say we don’t have enough funds. What he has managed with the funds he has, particularly in the January months, has been excellent.”

Rafael Benitez on his Newcastle future: “I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time. I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.”

Prediction
Two teams who are very similar in terms of their style of play should see a bit of a stalemate take place at Goodison. 1-1 draw, which is a much better result for Newcastle and will pile more pressure on Big Sam.