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.

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

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Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Air Lines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle teams picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match and even sign one-day contracts. Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP
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Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.

Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

@WHUFC
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A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.