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.
While the expectations of a quick transition from life in Europe to MLS were surely massive, the 26-year-old midfielder has failed to live up to the billing of not only being one of the NYCFC’s highest-paid players but also as a potential U.S. Men’s National Team candidate.
Diskerud saw his playing time dwindle down from 23 starts in 2015 to nine this past season under new manager Patrick Vieira, and it doesn’t appear that the Norwegian-American will see an influx of opportunities during the upcoming 2017 season.
Rumors have surfaced throughout the offseason about NYCFC potentially buying out Diskerud’s contract, however, the midfielder’s cryptic post to social media on Sunday afternoon suggests that he may not be in New York for much longer.
It has been suggested that Diskerud would possibly consider a return to Europe in the event that his contract was in fact bought out, however, the difference in salaries would likely be drastic.
According to figures released by the MLS Players’ Union, Diskerud made $761,250 in 2016, which was the fourth-highest salary on NYCFC books behind only David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, each of whom were classified as Designated Players.
Gabriel Jesus was a revelation for Manchester City before suffering an injury, but even with a spot in the lineup for the time being Sergio Aguero may not be coming back to Manchester City next season.
According to the Sun, Spanish giants Real Madrid are eyeing up a move for Aguero in the hopes that the Argentine striker will join the club at the conclusion of the Premier League season.
Prior to joining City back in 2011, Aguero played five seasons in La Liga with Atletico Madrid, where he scored 101 goals in all competitions for the Rojiblancos.
While Aguero is likely to hold his starting spot for some time due to Jesus’ injured metatarsal, manager Pep Guardiola had heavily favored the young forward over Aguero since officially joining the club in January.
While the back-and-forth final between Southampton and Manchester United presented a tremendous matchup, the Saints had every right to be furious with the officiating in the early going after Gabbiadini’s 11th minute finish was called off for offsides.
“I would like, of course, video in the future for these situations,” said Puel. “It’s very hard when we see this game to lose. It was cruel.”
Gabbiadini went on to score a pair of goals at the tail end of the first half and early in the second stanza, but Puel was pleased with his side’s resilience after going down 2-0 inside the opening 38 minutes.
“We kept the good attitude and spirit to stay in the game after going 2-0 down,” said the Southampton boss. “We played since the beginning of the season every two or three days. We played to a strong and fantastic level. It’s important now to continue this work, to put away this disappointment and come back in the Premier League with this strength and this quality.”
Video replay has been a common discussion for some time now, but more leagues are beginning to examine the possibility. FIFA is prepared to introduce new experimental trials over the coming months and could present a form of replay at next summer’s World Cup in Russia.