TUKWILA, Wash. – The dream is still alive. Three-time defending champions, Seattle punched their ticket to Kansas City for a chance to claim a their record fourth-straight U.S. Open Cup title, downing Chivas USA 4-1 at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday.
Man of the Match: Osvaldo Alonso continues to make this tournament his own. His 31st minute through ball for Eddie Johnson set up the opening score, while his second half conversion of a penalty drawn by Fredy Montero punched Seattle’s ticket to Kansas City.
Two other Sounders have claims to this honor. Johnson’s run on the opening goal was more valuable than Alonso’s pass, and his finish portrayed a man who has put four confidence-draining years behind him. In addition to drawing the foul that set up the game-winning goal, Montero was the match’s hardest worker, constantly making himself available for passes from midfield. Whether it was a message or just a break in the routine, Sigi Schmid’s Saturday benching seems to have worked.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Both teams started strong teams, and although Seattle looked better from the start (particularly going down their right, with right back Zach Scott playing directly to Fredy Montero), Chivas USA had a number of things to build on:
- Raushawn McKenzie made up for a Jorge Villafana’s ineffectiveness at left back while also putting in some nice work to prevent the connections to Montero from generating chances.
- Ben Zemanski was giving one of his best performances of the season on the left midfield, proving Chivas’s best man on the ball.
- And on the small Starfire pitch, Oswaldo Minda proved particularly problematic in the middle. The Ecuadorian destroyer never had to range far from his spot at the base of midfield to disrupt play.
- That’s why it was surprising when the opening goal was generated through the middle. Alonso pounced on a turnover just inside Chivas’s half, at which point Eddie Johnson burst into a great run from the right flank, tearing open Chivas’s defense. EJ sprinted past Villafana, behind McKenzie (who came out to challenge Alonso), and was kept on by Danny Califf, caught four-to-five yards behind his central defense partner. A nice ball from Alonso, one touch from Johnson, and Dan Kennedy was set up. An easy finish gave Seattle the lead.
- Given Chivas USA had yet to show anything in attack, it was a particularly painful opening goal. There was nothing in Robin Fraser’s team that said they had a comeback in them. Finishing the first half without a shot (let alone a shot on goal), Chivas never seemed to adjust to the small field. Various attempts to switch the ball and change their angle of attack left them looking pensive and ill-prepared when the Sounders were able to quickly close them down.
- Two minutes into the second half, Montero drew the penalty that would provide Seattle’s game-winner. If Fraser had instilled a winning plan at half time, Chivas were never able to see it. Before the teams had even warmed up, Seattle had doubled their lead.
- Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. Seattle couldn’t just take control and close out the match, though they tried. For the next 25 minutes, it was all Chivas USA could do to keep Montero off the scoresheet, Seattle’s star attacker continuing to exploit the left side of the Chivas USA defense, turning Villafana’s night into a nightmare.
- The effort was enough to create a huge Man of the Match debate, one that goes to the heart of how to pick the honor. I sided with Alonso because, in addition to being his usual pesky self and doing a good job distributing from the middle, he was involved in each of the first two goals. For all the torment Montero caused the Chivas defense, wasn’t producing an end result.
- The missed chances looked like they might matter when Chivas USA substitute Cesar Romero bundled his way through Seattle’s defense in the 74th minute, eventually poking a ball past Bryan Meredith from seven yards out. Shockingly, Chivas USA was within one.
- Seattle restored their two-goal lead 10 minutes later, with Montero finally getting onto the scoresheet. A ball played from the left flank saw him 30 yards from goal with a chance to run at McKenzie and Califf. As the defenders backed off, it looked like Montero was lining up a shot from distance. The threat froze the defenders, allowing Brad Evans to get forward, into the right of the box, and onto a Montero ball for Seattle’s third goal.
- Four minutes later, Villafana’s inability to clear a ball allowed Sammy Ochoa, just off the bench, to come from behind, take the ball, turn and finish into the left of net. Kennedy didn’t even bother diving, disgusted at what had just transpired.
- Perhaps Seattle didn’t look three goals better, but it’s hard to argue with the result. Even when Chivas USA pulled to within one, the game never seemed in doubt. Chivas had no way to get at Seattle, and with the weakness down their left, there was no way they were going to contain the Sounders.
- Now, for the second time in their U.S. Open Cup run, Seattle has to go on the road to secure their title. Their fist of three titles was won at RFK Stadium against D.C. United. If they’re to take a record fourth-in-a-row, they’ll need to knock off Sporting at Livestrong.
It’s incredible that Karl Darlow is Newcastle United’s starting goalkeeper, let alone a member of the PL Team of the Week.
The 25-year-old Northampton-born backstop is the Magpies’ third-choice keeper, having arrived from Nottingham Forest last summer to learn under Tim Krul and Rob Elliot.
[ VIDEO: Leicester fans react to title ]
But injuries to both of his international superiors thrust Darlow into the spotlight, and it took him some time to acclimate to the Premier League.
He looked just fine in Newcastle’s potentially massive 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, stopping a penalty amongst several other stops as the Magpies moved out of the drop zone for the first time since February.
Premier League Team of the Week — Week 36
Goalkeeper: Karl Darlow (Newcastle United)
Defenders: Wes Morgan (Leicester City), Leighton Baines (Everton), Winston Reid (West Ham United)
Midfielders: Mark Noble (West Ham United), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Andros Townsend (Newcastle United)
Forwards: Troy Deeney (Watford), Sadio Mane (Southampton), Andre Ayew (Swansea City)
Claudio Ranieri is everyone’s favorite manager.
And not just because “Dilly-ding, dilly-dong” will be added to the English dictionary very soon.
The Italian boss, 64, has guided Leicester City to the 2015-16 Premier League title — the first top-flight trophy in their 132-year history — in just his first season in charge at the King Power Stadium.
[ VIDEO: Leicester players celebrate ]
He has guided the 5000-1 shots at the start of the season to an incredible title win. At the start of the campaign he was the favorite to be the first manager to be fired this season.
After spending four years at Chelsea from 2000-04 where he was ruthlessly sacked by Russian owner Roman Abramovich who didn’t believe he could win trophies, Ranieri has won the biggest one of them all in his first season back in England. Remarkable.
[ MORE: Latest Leicester news after PL win ]
The veteran boss has now won his first-ever league title in his long and distinguished managerial career against all the odds. He is, without doubt, the mastermind behind Leicester’s remarkable title win. There are calls for Ranieri to be knighted by the Queen of England and given what his team has achieved, why not?
Despite his obviously skill as a manager, he is also a genuinely nice bloke when it comes to interacting with fans and the media.
The video below looks at some of the most memorable moments this season from the lovable Italian.
When Joe Hart looks to his left, he might expect to see a Sadio Mane shot going past him.
That’s how lethal the Southampton attacker was this weekend, recording a hat trick in Saints’ 4-2 win over Manchester City.
[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]
Mane becomes the third Southampton player to snare Premier League Player of the Week honors this season, joining Graziano Pelle and Fraser Forster.
Just two more honors to go this PL season.
Premier League Players of the Week – Round 36
Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth
Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City
Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton
Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United
Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton
Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United
Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United
Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford
Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City
Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton
Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa
Week 26: Pedro, Chelsea
Week 27: Marcus Rashford, Manchester United
Week 28: Connor Wickham, Crystal Palace
Week 29: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 30: Graziano Pelle, Southampton
Week 31: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 32: Alex Iwobi, Arsenal
Week 33: Andy Carroll, West Ham United
Week 34: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 35: Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Week 36: Sadio Mane, Southampton
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini does not regret fielding a weakened side at Southampton over the weekend as he prepares for City’s Champions League semifinal at Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Pellegrini chose to rest many of his top players at St. Mary’s, including Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, and Vincent Kompany. City were smashed 4-2 in one of their worst performances of the season.
[ RECAP: Saints 4-2 Man City ]
Pellegrini defended his lineup decisions after the match, saying he is willing to risk results in the Premier League to reach the Champions League final.
We knew before the game it was a risk to put so many players without football against a difficult team but we have to take those risks. If we had played on Saturday we could put more players out. I was disappointed with the team. It’s my responsibility for the starting 11.
I would do exactly the same again because we have an important game.
We play for the final in the Champions League. We continue in the Premier League what we are going to do in the next two games to be in the top four so that was a risk but one we had to take.
While you would expect a drop-off when the likes of Aguero and de Bruyne are not on the pitch, City’s poor performance was much more than just a team selection issue. With Raheem Sterling ($75 million) and Wilfried Bony ($45 million) in the starting XI, it was 19-year-old academy product Kelechi Iheanacho who was one of the few players to show any type of effort against Saints.
Pellegrini may be overlooking the end of the Premier League season, but his side still needs points to secure a top-four spot and berth in the Champions League next year. City currently sit four points ahead of Manchester United, but United have a game in-hand.
[ MORE: Burnley become first Championship side to clinch PL promotion ]
City travel to Spain for the second leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup against Real Madrid on Wednesday. After settling for a 0-0 draw in the first leg, City must put the Southampton debacle behind them and turn things around before the one of the biggest matches in club history.