Robson of the Vancouver Whitecaps celebrates his goal against the L.A Galaxy during the first half of their MLS soccer game in Vancouver.

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.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.