Drilling down on: at Vancouver 2, San Jose 1

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Man of the Match: No question that Barry Robson lost some energy after about 20-25 minutes, but his hustling and bustling start helped the Whitecaps dominate early and contributed to the home team taking an initial lead. Later, Robson confidently converted a penalty kick and then helped his team see out an important win over the league’s top club.

Packaged for take-away:

  • San Jose right back Justin Morrow was having a miserable time early Sunday attempting to contain Dane Richards, who is eager to make an impression in his early days at BC Place.
  • San Jose had no solutions early for Robson and Camilo in the midfield, as the home team pressed and pressed. Camilo stared wide left in the Whitecaps’ 4-3-3, but moved inside a lot. Richards stretches the field on the right side, and Alain Rochat gets up the left flank reliably, so Camilo’s propensity to lean inside doesn’t really make the ‘Caps  attack too narrow.
  • Scottish veteran Robson made himself look silly. Twice. First by charging forward four yards out of the wall to block a first-half San Jose free kick. Then he complained bitterly about being booked. Presumably, the rules in Scotland haven’t changed on encroachment; he should know better.
  • About 20-25 minutes in, Gershon Koffie got too high up the field and Robson lost some of his energy. That’s about when San Jose got hold of the match.
  • As that happened, Vancouver sometimes got caught defending with just six (the back line plus defensive midfielders); when Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour started feeling comfortable enough to move down the flanks, creating the numerical niceties, San Jose started looking for dangerous.
  • Nice shout-out from the home fans to just-traded striker Eric Hassli; they chanted his name in the 30th minute.
  • If you allow Earthquakes players to set up on the wing and take their sweet time, lining up something in the air for Chris Wondolowski or Alan Gordon (or Steven Lenhart when he’s healthy), you deserve whatever you get. Case in point: Marvin Chavez’s uncontested cross, which Gordon turned into a 38th minute equalizer.
  • That was the Earthquakes’ 17th goal this year off a header, easily best in MLS.
  • San Jose is the league’s top team for a lot of reasons. Among them: the Earthquakes are good at problem solving, and the good, old-fashioned art of “figuring it out.”
  • Camilo had an outstanding match, but he was absolutely looking for the contact as he drew a controversial 62nd-minute penalty kick. Then again, Sam Cronin slid in from a bad position, so he was asking for trouble.
  • Vancouver center back Jay DeMerit wasn’t the best with the ball Sunday, but the former U.S. international was sure hard to beat, on the ground or in the air.
  • As Darren Mattocks went up for an early cross, I had this realization: how can any of us see him climb for a ball now and NOT think of that physics-defying moment two weeks back against Toronto?
  • Mattocks didn’t score Sunday, but holy heck was that young man a bundle of high-energy ordinance over 78 minutes. His raw, athletic ability already looks among the best in MLS. His soccer brain seems to function at a high level, too. Now he just needs some polish and, well, look out …
  • Mattocks’ replacement was newly signed Scottish international Kenny Miller; the Caps’ new DP was making his debut.
  • The Whitecaps did hang on – but just barely. The Earthquakes have stunned teams late so many times this year, they always believe they can turn up the late winner or equalizer. They pressed the home team hard in this one but couldn’t quite get there.

Breaking: Chelsea sells Diego Costa to Atleti, will re-join club in January

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We all suspected this would happen, and it finally occurred on Thursday.

[ MORE: Tammy Abraham expected to call Nigeria his national team ]

Chelsea has announced the transfer of Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid for roughly $68 million after spending  seasons with the Premier League side.

The 28-year-old will re-join Atleti in January during the winter transfer window. Atletico was banned from making transfers over the summer, which kept the move on hold.

Costa played for the La Liga side on two separate stints, first from 2007-2009 and then 2010-2014 after a brief move to Real Valladolid in between.

In his time with the Blues, the Spanish international scored 59 goals in all competitions for the Londoners, and helped the club to two Premier League titles.

The sale of Costa isn’t unexpected after the striker’s falling out with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte towards the latter half of the 2016/17 PL season.

The Italian boss revealed to Costa via text at the conclusion of the team’s PL-winning campaign that the goalscorer would no longer be needed at Stamford Bridge, prior to Chelsea acquiring striker Alvaro Morata over the summer.

Red Bulls must rally quickly, turn attention back to MLS playoff race

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For any Red Bulls supporter, Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final was a grim reminder of how devastating any cup final can be for a team.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

The New York Red Bulls fell short against Sporting KC — who captured its fourth Open Cup victory in its club’s history — but Jesse Marsch’s side cannot dwell on the result because there is another big task at hand over the final weeks of the MLS regular season.

While that may be easier said than done, especially after the “heartbreaking” nature of Wednesday’s loss, Marsch believes that his side exhibits the qualities you’d want in any good team.

“The outcome is obviously heartbreaking, but the performance is what I think we’ll carry with us. In the moment, there’s no consolation prize,” Marsch said when asked about if there would be any hang over from the loss. “But the confidence that this group has, they way that they played and the way that they played for each other, this will continue to make us good.”

The biggest concern for the Red Bulls though isn’t necessarily even their current form, but instead the form of other clubs around them in the Eastern Conference. With six matches remaining, Marsch and Co. sit just three points above the Montreal Impact for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United has surged up the table and still holds at least a game in hand over most of the field, making them quite the danger in addition leaders Toronto FC and second-place New York City FC.

The Red Bulls haven’t won a match since their 3-2 Open Cup semifinal victory against FC Cincinnati, which came over a month ago.

Marsch and his side do have the benefit of facing bottom-dwellers D.C. United twice over the last five weeks of the regular season, but also packed into into the Red Bulls schedule are matches against four current playoff teams, including Toronto and Atlanta.

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stressed the importance of his side maintaining its focus, particularly after the Impact and Atlanta each picked up three points on Wednesday night.

“Yeah, that’s the thing, (our upcoming games) will make us move on from this,” Meara said. “We’ve got a big game in Columbus, we know the teams around us have been winning, Montreal won tonight and Atlanta won tonight, so I guess feel sorry for ourselves tonight, get up and dust ourselves off tomorrow and start looking forward to Saturday and Wednesday with D.C. United at home. The games are coming thick and fast and we’ve got to be ready for it.”

Tammy Abraham expected to make international switch to Nigeria

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Tammy Abraham has a bright future in the Premier League, but the on-loan Chelsea striker appears that he won’t be playing his international soccer for the country in which he currently plays.

[ MORE: Spurs land Hammers in League Cup draw; Chelsea faces Everton ]

The 19-year-old is expected to announce that he’ll play for Nigeria — the country of his father’s birth — after having represented England at various youth levels since 2014.

Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick has made it clear that he believes Abraham will represent the Super Eagles at next summer’s World Cup in Russia, assuming Nigeria qualifies for the competition.

“I had a very honest and productive discussion with Tammy and his father last week,” said Pinnick.

“It’s been a long process but I can tell you authoritatively that he has agreed to play for Nigeria and not England. He and his parents have started the necessary documents to effect the switch.

“Clearly he understands he stands a better chance playing for the Super Eagles. With his talent he has the ability to fight for a place in the Nigeria squad, by God’s grace we make it to Russia, then he would contest for a chance to represent his fatherland.”

Nigeria currently leads its CAF World Cup qualifying group in the final round of African qualification, and a victory over Zambia on October 7 would ensure the country’s place in Russia next summer.

[ MORE: Pulisic stars, scores a goal in BVB’s latest Bundesliga win ]

The Super Eagles have a number of players Abraham is familiar with, given their connection to Chelsea, including Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel, youngster Ola Aina and current Blues wing back Victor Moses.

Weekend soccer games called off after Mexico earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexico’s soccer federation has canceled all first-division games this weekend as stadiums are being used as relief centers after the country’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup crown ]

The federation announced Wednesday that there would be no games in the 10th round of the Apertura tournament or any other professional competition, including the women’s league.

“All the clubs are doing their bit,” Mexican league president Enrique Bonilla said in an interview on Fox Sports before the decision to cancel all matches was announced. “We would like to bring people a moment of joy, but it is a more complex decision, and we need to have all the information from authorities.”

The postponed league games will be played in mid-October, including the derby between Chivas and America.