Drilling down on: at Portland 2, Seattle 1

5 Comments

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.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

Photo by Pier Marco Tacca - Inter/Inter via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

5th-place San Jose parts ways with Kinnear after 2.5 seasons

Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dominic Kinnear is out after two and a half seasons as head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, despite leading the club to a hugely improved standing 17 games into the 2017 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The move comes 17 hours after San Jose put to bed a three-game winless skid with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, a result which propelled them into fifth place in the Western Conference, just two points off second place. After seventh- and ninth-place finishes in Kinnear’s first two seasons back in Northern California (he managed the club in 2004 and 2005 before the club was relocated to Houston, where he would remain for nine seasons, through the 2014 season), this year’s team seemed to be moving in a positive direction quicker than most had previously expected.

[ MORE: Accam scores a backheel (video) | Opara scores a CB bicycle ]

The club has named Chris Leitch head coach and Alex Covelo as assistant coach. Current assistant coach Steve Ralston and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley will remain in their current roles.

“First and foremost, we would like to thank Dominic for his hard work, professionalism and contributions to this club over the years,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said in a release. “He worked hard this year and was a first-class person all the way. This decision was made after a lot of thought and evaluation. We decided that we wanted to go in a different direction as we continue to build the identity of this club.”

Kinnear is the second MLS coach to be relieved of his duties this season, suffering the same fate as RSL’s Jeff Cassar, who lasted just three games before being fired in March.

FIFA’s video-review system under scrutiny again in Russia

Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
Leave a comment

OCHI, Russia (AP) FIFA’s new video review system is bringing turmoil to the Confederations Cup, with technology designed to deliver quick, clear decisions agitating players and leaving coaches and fans confused.

Perhaps even worse for FIFA, the latest controversy on Sunday – exactly one week after four goal reviews in that day’s two matches – made one of the world’s highest-rated referees look hesitant and wrong.

Wilmar Roldan sent off a Cameroon defender more than three minutes after a high tackle on a German opponent and only after his own case of mistaken identity.

The Colombian official arrived at what was arguably the correct decision following two visits to the touchline to consult video replays and first showing only a yellow card, then a red card, to the wrong Cameroon player.

“I think everyone is confused, including me,” Cameroon coach Hugo Broos said of referee Roldan after a 3-1 loss in Sochi that eliminated his team. “He and he alone can explain what happened there in that moment.”

Cameroon was also involved in two video decisions last Sunday, when possible Chile goals were reviewed for offside rulings. The first goal was disallowed, the second counted in Chile’s 2-0 victory.

Portugal had most to complain about one week ago when a potential opening goal in a 2-2 draw with Mexico was ruled out by an offside judged in an earlier phase of play.

FIFA stressed last week that all decisions proved ultimately correct, and the controversies were simply inevitable overreactions as world football gets used to a new system being put to its highest-profile tests.

Indeed, FIFA President Gianni Infantino felt confident to proclaim video review was “the future of football” and still on track to be approved by the guardians of the game’s laws before the 2018 World Cup.

Human error by Roldan seemed the biggest problem Sunday though it added to the perception that video review is capable of causing as much controversy as it solves.

FIFA has certainly pulled back from its prediction last year that game-changing decisions – goals scored, penalty kicks awarded, red cards, mistaken identity – could be reviewed and resolved in as few as six seconds.

Accuracy is more important than speed, has become the mantra in Russia.

Neither were in evidence Sunday in Sochi as Cameroon defender Ernest Mabouka eventually left the field around three minutes after his boot connected with Emre Can of Germany.

Mabouka’s teammate Sebastien Siani had sarcastically applauded the referee when he was wrongly sent from the field. Eventually Siani’s slate was wiped clean and he completed the match.

Still, the image of a top referee being openly disrespected will not please FIFA.

Roldan arrived at the Confederations Cup trying to rebuild a reputation that was damaged at the 2014 World Cup. There, he was chosen for the second game of the tournament, and incorrectly ruled out two Mexico goals. FIFA did not pick him for another refereeing duty in Brazil.

To further damage Roldan’s standing, Germany coach Joachim Loew said neither he nor Can believed the tackle merited even a yellow card.

“I didn’t have the impression that it was a mean foul with the intent to hurt the opponent. It was not intentional,” Loew said through a translator at the post-match news conference.

Loew, whose Germany team will defend its World Cup title next year, still thinks video review can benefit the game – with one condition.

“I think it can be fine-tuned over time so that decisions can be made more quickly,” the German coach said. “That would be great.”

Mario Balotelli signs new Nice contract

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Italian striker Mario Balotelli has found himself the owner of a new contract after a successful season in Ligue 1 with French club OGC Nice.

Balotelli’s one-year deal was set to expire at the end of June, but he found a career revival in what many believed would be his last chance in major European soccer. The club officially announced his new contract on Sunday, and while they did not release the length of the deal, they confirmed that Balotelli turned down deals from other clubs to stay in France.

The 26-year-old scored 15 goals in 23 league appearances last year, helping Nice to a fabulous third-place finish in Ligue 1, earning them a Champions League playoff spot.

For a player who saw trouble follow him wherever he went, the only trouble he faced last season at Nice was an erratic bout with injury issues including calf and adductor problems. However, the spells on the sidelines didn’t douse Balotelli’s form. The Italian had an incredible start and finish to the season, scoring six goals in his first five appearances of the season and bagging six goals in the last eight games of the year.

The official release by Nice said that Balotelli made “considerable financial sacrifices and chose the sporting aspect with his heart” in re-signing with the French club.