Drilling down on: at Real Salt Lake 2, Vancouver 1

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Man of the Match: Well, well, well … look who has 13 goals, tied for second in MLS. Yes, it’s Alvaro Saborio, who scored one in each half on Friday. One was from the 12-yard spot, but the other was a well-taken header, where he got just enough weight on Vancouver’s Martin Bonjour to keep the Vancouver center back from rising to meet the header, but not enough to incur the referee’s whistle. Saborio lost possession too many times, but two goals says a lot about almost any match.

(MORE: Should Jay DeMerit have played last night?)

Packaged for take-away:

  • I like Gershon Koffie a lot, but he’s young (20), still missing some of that veteran know-how to boost that ample bag of holding midfield tricks. Next to him is Jun Davidson, who falls into the crowded MLS stash of the “good-not-great.”  Is this enough in the middle of the park to give all those attackers enough midfield passing support? I’m just not sure. On a night like Friday, with the likes Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman on central duty, it’s not.
  • If not Saborio, Beckerman could have been Man of the Match for his steady work. He was best man in the midfield on either side, although Koffie had a strong night, too.
  • With Fabian Espindola preferring to work the left side, and fellow striker Saborio taking up his usual central spot, RSL’s attack was seriously tilted to the left.
  • RSL found shooting space about 20-25 yards out. Vancouver men got in quickly to close some of the shots, but not all. With the sun casting odd shadows near both goals, these could have been real trouble for ‘Caps ‘keeper Joe Cannon. They weren’t, however, because shots by Morales (twice), Luis Gil, Tony Beltran and Will Johnson flew harmlessly high or wide. RSL shooters needed to make an concerted effort to take just a little off those shots, to get balls on goal and force Cannon to contest the sun.
  • From one of those aforementioned spots just beyond the 18, Espindola aimed a cross toward the far post rather than shooting. Whitecaps center back Jay DeMerit, perhaps seeing it late, had to throw an arm toward the ball to keep Beckerman from heading toward goal. So, cue the “should DeMerit have started” debate in 3 … 2 … 1 …
  • Vancouver’s shape and spacing in the 4-2-3-1 looked good on both sides of the ball; the Whitecaps ability to get an extra body or two into the attack and their variety needed some work, however.
  • Darren Mattocks was left stranded most of the night, with insufficient connection Barry Robson at the top of ‘Caps midfield triangle. And yet, Mattocks eventually had influence.
  • Mattocks is a poor man’s Didier Drogba. He’s young and fast and can absolutely fly. Vancouver’s early second half equalizer was all about his speed. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando moved toward Camilo’s sneaky little pass into the penalty area but didn’t appreciate how quickly Mattocks would arrive, then paid the price when the Whitecaps’ forward got to the ball first.
  • RSL’s defense temporarily fell to pieces after the goal. Mattocks (And that speed!) created a chance for Davidson, which crashed hard off the left post. And Mattocks nearly dropped a header into the far post in another sequence of chances and half-chances. Saborio’s second goal soon shifted momentum back RSL’s way.
  • Jason Kreis removed left back Kenny Mansally, a converted attacker, in the 72nd in favor of Chris Wingert, who is a natural defender.
  • Kevin Stott’s decision to red card Cannon in the 76th minute was the right call. And it was probably the right decision for Cannon, too. You could say that Cannon erred by charging out of goal in attempting to claim DeMerit’s soft back pass, with Espindola bearing down. But what choice did he really have? And once the keeper was committed, he couldn’t give Espindola the easy goal, which would have put the game out of reach. This way, his team still had a chance, at least.
  • Kenny Miller got into his second game for Martin Rennie’s club. His open header from just outside the six-yard box with 10 minutes remaining is the very kind of ball he’ll need to bury with ruthless efficiency to have the impact officials at BC Place clearly believe he can.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.