Man of the Match: Alvaro Saborio made this an easy choice, his two great headers and conversion from the spot, accounting for all of Real Salt Lake’s scoring. That’s not to say he didn’t get help, but given the quality of his finishes, RSL’s leading scorer deserves a lion’s share of the credit.
The first goal (breaking a scoreless, second half deadlock) saw Saborio beat the previously unbeatable Futty Danso, heading a ball into the lower right hand corner that barely eluded Troy Perkins. Taking advantage of some poor defending by Steve Smith, Saborio doubled RSL’s lead two minutes later (62′). Late, Saborio made sure Diego Chara’s red card-inducing save went for naught, scoring his 10th goal of the season – completing his hat trick.
Packaged for takeaway:
Real Salt Lake dominated throughout, with John Spencer’s 4-3-3 turned 4-5-1 aiding the cause. With only one forward (Danny Mwanga) providing no pressure on the defense, RSL spent the first half completing long balls down their left, bypassing the five-man midfield.
The formation switch saw new right back Kosuke Kimura make his Portland debut, with captain Jack Jewsbury moved back into midfield, designated player Kris Boyd given the night off. Don’t expect that to continue. Spencer has previously said his captain will be in his team, provoking two questions: (a) where, and (b) in place of whom? It’s unlikely Boyd will be to odd man out.
At the onset, however, Portland’s formation and selection were less of an issue than environment. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins was standing in the only sunny spot on the field, leaving shots at his goal coming literally out of the dark. Real Salt Lake tested him early and often, but despite some precarious results, Perkins was able to carry his clean sheet into half time.
Switching ends did no good. Real Salt Lake continued dominating the second, though instead of passing over the Portland midfield, they moved straight through them. By match’s end, Saborio had given the game an appropriate final score.
There was one point of concern for RSL: Midfielder Ned Grabavoy had to leave early in the first half after a sliding collision with a teammate saw his left leg injured. Luis Gil came on and completed the match.
Diego Chara, just returning from suspension, will get another, seeing straight red for an intentional hand ball that temporarily kept Saborio from his hat trick. Portland’s midfield holder may see additional sanction from the league office, with a late, yellow card-drawing tackle on Javier Morales dangerous enough for review.
For Portland, the match continued the team’s road woes, and while their new defender made his debut, the Timbers may have swapped one problem for another. Kimura addresses the team’s lack of width, but bringing uncertainty to a team that had clawed its way back into playoff contention, the trade may have rocked the boat.
For Real Salt Lake, there isn’t much to take from the match. Saborio had a strong night, and everybody else performed well, but against a feckless opponent with an uncertain selection and formation, it’s the least a title-contender could have done.
Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs
Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.
Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.
But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.
Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.
And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.
He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.
Voted “the best right back” in Europe between 1962-64, the former England and Blackpool captain also had a successful management and broadcasting career.
Armfield was a member of the 1962 and 1966 World Cup squads, though a toe injury kept him from his place in the starting lineup when England won the tournament.
He spent his entire playing career with Blackpool before managing Bolton Wanderers to promotion and Leeds United to the European Cup Final, righting the ship after Brian Clough’s infamous spell in charge of the club.
There’s a statue outside Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, and the club legend has a stand named after him inside the venue.
While Zach’s night was certainly a memorable one for many reasons, it was Julie that arguably had the better performance — which included a goal in the 19th minute off of a close-range volley.
The USWNT had trailed through 14 minutes, but a combination of goals from Alex Morgan and Ertz in a span of two minutes quickly erased the deficit.
For Morgan, it was her 80th goal for the Stars and Stripes.
Meanwhile, a second-half brace from teenage sensation Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn’s finish with nine minutes to play proved to be the icing on the cake for Jill Ellis’ side, who kicked off 2018 with a bang.