Drilling down on: at Colorado 1, Real Salt Lake 0

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Man of the Match: For most of the season, Joseph Nane has been the guy who’s not Pablo Mastroeni, the Rapids’ captain out while dealing with concussion-related issues. Tonight, Nane threatened early, rattling the crossbar after ghosting onto a ball coming out of the box. In the 39th minute, he tried the trick again, this scoring as the ball bounced in off the bottom of the bar.

Perhaps only slightly less important than the goal, Nane was part of a deep midfield pair that kept Real Salt Lake playmaker Javi Morales in check all night. With Jeff Larentowicz on one side and Nane on the other, Morales had one of his least effective matches since regaining most of his pre-injury form.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Nane had to leave in the 70th minute with a right leg injury, the Rapids’ trainer almost immediately motioning for a substitute after some cursory examinations of Nane’s ankle-area.
  • It was Nane’s first career MLS goal, the former Toronto FC player becoming the 14th Colorado Rapid to score this season (an MLS high, h/t to the Rapids’ broadcast team for the factoids).
  • It was one of the more flat performances RSL’s given all season. Is this an early symptom of CONCACAF Champions League fatigue, with Jason Kreis’s team playing mid-week in Costa Rica? The only serious threat RSL mustered all night was a first half header by Justin Braun off a Jonny Steele cross.
  • Braun got the start in place of Fabian Espindola. RSL missed the Argentine’s energy, his constant pursuit of opposing defenders one of RSL’s strengths in July.
  • Braun had a so-so night, looking like a man who’s yet to sync up with his new teammates. He came off just after the hour mark, Jason Kreis introducing Emiliano Bonfigli (Espindola had come on for Alvaro Saborio at halftime).
  • Go through RSL’s team and you see only two players who had above-average nights: Nat Borchers and (perhaps) Nick Rimando. Everybody else played like they were having a hard time getting up for their third match in a week, one pplayed against a team near the bottom of the West. The Rapids are rivals, but the Rocky Mountain Cup had already been won.
  • Colorado had the right team in place to take advantage of scoring the first goal. In addition to their strong, deep midfield, the Rapids got good nights from Marvell Wynne and Drew Moor (at right back) in defense. Brian Mullan and Jaime Castrillon put forth good efforts wide, while Omar Cummings had a strong night holding up play up top.
  • But this wasn’t a performance that usually beats RSL. Colorado played well, but they didn’t do anything remarkable. They didn’t take the game as much as it fell to them, RSL offering little opposition.
  • Style points aside, it’s a huge win for Colorado. They may have wanted full points, but against a team they’d lost to twice to this season, they shouldn’t have expected a win. But with the victory, they move within five points of LA for fifth place. While the Galaxy still have a match in hand, the Rapids are moving into position to take advantage of any LA downturns.
  • For RSL, each point dropped hurts when the Supporters’ Shield means so much, especially when you’re not forcing your opponents to give their best performance to beat you. Colorado’s announcers lauded the team’s effort, but RSL’s beaten teams that gave better performances. Tonight, RSL just didn’t play as well as they could.

Reports: LA Galaxy trades Gyasi Zardes to Columbus for Ola Kamara

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According to a reports by the LA Times and by ESPN, the LA Galaxy have traded US international Gyasi Zardes along with allocation money to the Columbus Crew for striker Ola Kamara.

Both reports state that Columbus will receive $400,000 in guaranteed allocation money in the deal, plus another $100,000 should Kamara score 12 goals next season to trigger the incentive.

Zardes was once a force along the wing for Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, but the 26-year-old has declined heavily in the last two seasons as injuries and poor form have held him to just eight goals over the last two seasons, including just two last campaign. Meanwhile, Kamara has been a star for Columbus in his first two years in Major League Soccer, scoring 16 goals in 2016 before netting another 18 last season, leaving him third in the league in goals scored over those two seasons.

The LA Times report states that Kamara will earn a new contract after the trade, giving him a raise over his current $482,500 yearly salary.

Zardes is an interesting case who shouldn’t be given up on just yet. A homegrown player for the Galaxy, he scored 17 goals in the 2014 season, including on in the MLS Cup Finals as the Galaxy won it all. He earned a seemingly permanent place on the USMNT as a result, and has 37 caps to this date. However, his goalscoring form has since evaporated, leaving him with no more than six goals in an MLS season since, and has just six goals in those 37 caps for the national team.

The Galaxy will need to acquire an additional international roster spot in order to activate Kamara for the season opener on March 4th against Portland, as they have filled up their seven spots as of now.

Bruce Arena opens up about USMNT World Cup failure

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Former US Men’s National Team manager Bruce Arena has opened up about the failure of the team to reach the 2018 World Cup, culminating in an embarrassing and humbling 2-1 defeat at Trinidad & Tobago that left the USA on the outside looking in.

During a Q&A session in Philadelphia, Arena takes some blame but also dishes out a lot more, throwing everything from team chemistry, a weak player pool, weak mentality on the field, and even the national team’s communications department for the nightmare scenario that came to fruition in Couva.

“There are a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day you find a way to get off that field with a point,” Arena said to Straus, before laying out all those excuses he referred to. First up? The team chemistry, which was laid bare after injuries to John Brooks, Jordan Morris, and Sebastian Lletget.

“It wasn’t the same team with the right chemistry. It just didn’t seem like everyone was on the same page with the right mentality and the same understanding of what everything was about,” Arena said Friday. “The chemistry of the group wasn’t right. It wasn’t the character you see out of a U.S. team. And the second part, realistically, was that we didn’t have the most talented players and when we had injuries, it hurt us.”

Arena said there were signs of life in June after a win over Trinidad followed by a quality point against Mexico. However, it all came crashing down during a brutal week in early September that ultimately doomed the United States. After a stunning 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, Arena made a whopping seven changes to the starting lineup, none of which worked as a listless USMNT had to scrap and claw for a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Honduras. While Arena said the leaders on the team like Michael Bradley and Tim Howard were there when they were needed, “there were a couple of bad eggs like you have on every team. We were well aware of it.”

The 66-year-old blamed the pre-match buildup to the Trinidad & Tobago team as part of the issue, throwing the communications department under the bus for energizing the home side. “Behind the scenes there were mistakes on our part, probably,” Arena said in what began sounding like an admission of guilt. “Our social media, our communications department, sent out everything humiliating the Trinidad federation on the training facility, which was the game field for that day. It got them all fired up and when we kicked off on that day, it was a battle.”

Arena then railed against those who questioned his tactics or player choices after the disaster, saying, “You got some answers for me the day before the game? During the game? I’m listening. Everyone the day after, you’re a bunch of phonies. I don’t want to hear about it the day after. We’re all the best coaches the day after.”

It took everything Arena had to admit he may have played a part in the failure to qualify, and even then, he did so with plenty of restraint. “I accept that responsibility,” Arena said. “That’s why I resigned so quickly. I accepted my responsibility. That’s the way it goes. I don’t feel good about it, but that’s life.”

Michael Carrick to retire after the season, join Man United coaching staff

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho announced Friday night that 36-year-old midfielder Michael Carrick will retire after this season and join the Red Devils’ coaching staff.

Carrick has made just one appearance for Manchester United this season, back on September 20th in an EFL Cup match against Burton Albion. He has been on the sidelines recovering since an irregular heartbeat was discovered after he felt “strange” in the second half of that game. However, Carrick has been training with the team since November and Mourinho confirmed he could finish out his career on the pitch.

“[He had] a few months without even training so now he is in his second week of training with the team,” Mourinho said to the media ahead of Manchester United’s match against Burnley on Saturday morning. “He is a very important player for us. I think it is a good decision for the team and a good decision for him to finish playing football and not injured or with some problem.”

Mourinho confirmed that the club has offered him a position on the team’s coaching staff, and that he expects Carrick to accept.

“We are all happy and in the end of the season I expect him to join,” Mourinho said, “unless he changes his mind, but the club would be very happy for him to do that. I would be very happy also for him to do that.”

Carrick has spent his entire career in the city of London. He began his career in the West Ham youth system, making his professional debut in 2005 and spending five years with the Hammers before moving to Tottenham in 2004. He spent two seasons at White Hart Lane before joining Manchester United in the summer of 2006, where he would go on to 460 appearances across all competitions, scoring 23 goals and assisting 36 others. He has won five Premier League titles with Manchester United, as well as a Champions League, an FA Cup, and three League Cups.

Brighton nabs club record signing Jurgen Locadia

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Brighton & Hove Albion have secured a new striker for the stretch run of the Premier League season, signing Jurgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven for a club record fee.

Locadia cost Brighton $19.3 million, breaking their old transfer record, set just last August when they brought Jose Izqueirdo from Club Brugge, by about $500,000.

The 24-year-old Dutchman has nine goals and six assists this season in 15 Eredivisie appearances for PSV, although he’s missed their last three games reportedly with a hamstring injury. He scored four goals in one game against FC Utretcht back in late September.

“We are delighted to have signed Jurgen, and pleased to welcome him to the club,” said Brighton manager Chris Hughton in the official club release. “He is a player we have been aware of for sometime, and it’s been no secret we have wanted to add a striker of his type. He is a strong, powerful and quick center-forward, with a real eye for goal and will increase our attacking options in the second half of the season.”

Locadia made his Eredivisie debut with PSV in style back in 2012, scoring a hat-trick against VVV Venlo in a 6-0 win. He would go on to score a career-high 13 goals in his first full season in 2013/14, eventually racking up 62 goals for PSV across all competitions in 176 appearances.

A PSV youth product, Locadia has been in the national team picture, riding the bench for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in October, but has not received a cap for the Netherlands. He was in the national youth setup as well, making appearances for the U-17 and U-21 sides.