Drilling down on: at Real Salt Lake 3, Portland 0

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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.
source:
RSL left back Chris Wingert’s first half passes versus Portland (35 successful)
  • 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.

CONCACAF: USMNT, Trinidad & Tobago seek first points of Hexagonal

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Through two rounds of play in the Hexagonal, everything has gone according to plan for Mexico and Costa Rica.

Not so much though for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

While Los Ticos and El Tri currently sit in the top two positions of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. is left at the bottom and faces a difficult match against Honduras when play resumes on Friday night.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras match ]

Mexico and Costa Rica will face off at the Estadio Azteca in the second of Friday’s three slated qualifiers, and while both nations surely expect to reach the World Cup in Russia, both CONCACAF heavyweights have the opportunity to put their stamp on the group.

For Costa Rica, a victory could potentially open up a five-point gap over El Tri, while a win for Mexico would bring Juan Carlos Osorio’s side the opportunity leap over their Central American foes.

Friday’s action will kick off at 7 p.m. though when third place Panama travels to Trinidad & Tobago, who seeks its first points of the Hex. Trinidad will be led by captain Kenwyne Jones of Atlanta United as well as Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, with the duo scoring a combined 39 international goals for the Soca Warriors.

Below is the schedule and current table ahead of Friday’s CONCACAF matches as the region turns its attention to Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal.


Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama — 7 p.m. ET

Mexico vs. Costa Rica — 9:50 p.m. ET

USMNT vs. Honduras — 10:30 p.m. ET (PREVIEW)


1. Costa Rica — 2-0-0 — 6 pts.
2. Mexico — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
3. Panama — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
4. Honduras — 1-0-1 — 3 pts.
5. Trinidad & Tobago — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.
6. USMNT — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.

Spurs allowed to play all home matches at Wembley next season

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Tottenham was granted the right to play all of its home matches at Wembley Stadium for the 2017/18 season, but the club must now make a decision whether or not to remain at White Hart Lane for another year.

[ MORE: Man City weighing massive offer for Milan’s Donnarumma ]

The club’s application was granted on Thursday by Brent Council’s planning committee, giving Spurs the option to move into Wembley next season for all 27 home Premier League fixtures.

Spurs must decide if it will go ahead with that move though by March 31.

Tottenham continues to play at White Hart Lane while its new stadium, located next door to its current venue, is being constructed. The current plan is that the new venue will be open ahead of the 2019/2020 campaign, but the club is said to be weighing all of its options in the event that it could be ready for the 2018/19 season.

Prosecutors question Beckenbauer in World Cup fraud case

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Swiss authorities say prosecutors have questioned Germany soccer great Franz Beckenbauer in their ongoing World Cup fraud case.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT looks to build momentum vs. Honduras ]

Criminal proceedings against Beckenbauer and three other German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee were opened in 2015. The four are suspected of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement, and misappropriation relating to a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) to FIFA in 2005.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras WCQ ]

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that federal prosecutors questioned Beckenbauer earlier in the day in Bern, adding that “Beckenbauer was cooperative.”

Beckenbauer’s home in Austria was raided last year for evidence on behalf of Swiss federal prosecutors investigating corruption linked to FIFA.

Report: Man City launching massive bid for AC Milan’s Donnarumma

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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly established himself as the best young goalkeeper in European soccer, and AC Milan won’t be letting the 18-year-old go without a pretty penny in return.

[ MORE: Schedule, preview for UEFA World Cup qualifying ]

According to Sky Sport Italia, Manchester City is preparing a massive bid in the range of $130 to $160 million to acquire the AC Milan shot-stopper as the English side’s goalkeeping situation is still unsettled.

The Citizens have failed to hunker down at the goalkeeper position this season despite spending big to bring in Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, who has underperformed. Willy Caballero has also been shaky at times for the English giants, while on-loan keeper Joe Hart will almost certainly move on from the club over the summer.

Donnarumma is currently second in Serie A in saves (110), trailing only Crotone’s Alex Cordaz, who has stopped two more shots.

Since turning professional in 2015, Donnarumma has quickly enjoyed his rise through Italian football for both AC Milan and with the national team. After previously featuring for the Under-15, U-17 and U-21 sides, Donnarumma has established himself as the surefire replacement for Gianluigi Buffon once he retires from the international game.