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.

Mourinho looks to pile title pressure on Chelsea

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A week ago, just before their 2017/18 Premier League season began, Antonio Conte declared Chelsea to be an underdog for the title. It’s right not to put Chelsea to be a favorite,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho disagrees.

Looking to deflect pressure away from his Manchester United squad, Mourinho declared Chelsea to not only be the favorites to win the Premier League this season and defend their title, but proclaimed it would be a massive disappointment if they didn’t.

[ MORE: Liverpool in an advantageous position regarding Coutinho ]

To Mourinho, the simple fact that Chelsea won last season means they should consider themselves the team to beat going forward. “For me the favorite is the champion,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United’s game against Swansea City on Saturday. “Always. Because for some reason [they were] the champion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win it – I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favorite.”

Chelsea seems to have a depth issue at the moment, with injuries plaguing the squad. New signing Tiemoue Bakayoko leaves a big hole in midfield, especially with Nemanja Matic sold to the Red Devils. In addition, Gary Cahill and Pedro will miss time in the near future with suspensions, while superstar Eden Hazard remains out as he recovers from a broken ankle.

Despite all the missing players, Mourinho believes that Chelsea always comes through in the transfer window, and that will solve their problems. “If they have [depth problems], in a couple of weeks the problems are over. They have very good teams, very good players and I don’t see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.”

Manchester United next meets Chelsea on November 5th in Premier League action at Stamford Bridge.

LA Galaxy offloads Jelle van Damme to native Belgium

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The 2017 season continues to punch LA Galaxy fans right in the gut.

With the club near the basement of the Western Conference standings, the LA Galaxy have officially announced the sale of defensive rock Jelle van Damme to Royal Antwerp of the Belgian top flight. The club confirmed a transfer fee of $235,000.

While van Damme is 33 years old, the sale of fan-favorite van Damme is still a blow both on and off the pitch. With the Galaxy in a period of transition, van Damme was a likeable personality who was known for leaving it all out on the field on gamedays.

The official news release of the transfer made it clear the club did not initiate the transfer with the intention to sell, but instead the player himself requested a return home as his career comes nearer to a close. Van Damme is from Lokeren, Belgium, a town between Antwerp and Ghent.

“Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children,” LA Galaxy General Manager Pete Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We worked closely with Jelle and Royal Antwerp so that we could make this move possible for Jelle and his family. Our top priority remains the success of the LA Galaxy. We thank him for his time with our club and wish him the best going forward.”

Van Damme joined the Galaxy in early 2016 on a free transfer from Belgian giants Standard Liege. He made 55 total appearances across all competitions, including 46 in league play and another three in the playoffs. The defender’s contract was set to expire in December.

The team has taken a total nosedive in the last two months. Without a league win since June 21st against Colorado, the Galaxy have collected just a single point in league play, and they currently sit just a point off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho saga

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In a time of heightening player control in a rapidly expanding transfer market, one club sticks out as grasping a clear understanding of the shifting business landscape and how to retain its grip on its most valuable assets.

Following the sudden departure of superstar playmaker Neymar, Barcelona is trying desperately to pry Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool. On Friday, numerous reports in England claimed that Barcelona had gone in with a third bid, one even more ridiculous than the previous two. But they’re fighting a losing battle.

For a number of reasons, the Reds hold complete control over Philippe Coutinho’s transfer saga, a saga that will likely end with no transfer having been completed.

First and foremost, Coutinho just recently signed a contract extension in January that runs through 2022. As far as we know, there is no release clause in the deal, meaning at the most basic of levels, Liverpool maintains contractual control. However, as we’ve seen the past few years, that alone hasn’t stopped a number of players forcing their way out.

Yet this time, Liverpool finds itself in an advantageous position outside of just the contract. With the 2018 World Cup right around the corner, the Reds know that should they force Coutinho to stay, he is obligated to play at his best, knowing that any less would see him miss out on a spot in the packed Brazil roster, or at the least a starting position. Thus, Liverpool can be sure that even if their denial of his departure renders him despondent, he will likely remain the quality player he has proven to be.

The money Barcelona is offering – a whopping $151 million according to the most recent reports – is indeed a ludicrous amount for a player who, while quality, does not have nearly the marketability of his countrymate now residing in Paris. On talent alone, Coutinho likely isn’t worth that total, meaning Liverpool should sell. And yet, even with that cash in hand, in this hyper-inflated market where more is less, could it really do justice in replacing his impact in the club? This late in the transfer window, there’s no chance they could replace the 25-year-old, meaning they’d likely be torpedoing their entire season – Champions League included – to feel the warmth of $151 million burning a hole in their pocket until January, or even next summer.

Liverpool has built its entire roster around Coutinho. The arrival of Salah, the use of Firmino, the wide deployment of Mane, the makeup of the midfield. He’s good enough and young enough to be considered a “franchise player.” In two games without Coutinho this season, they’ve scored five goals, but that is a poor metric to describe the 180 wild minutes. The money alone isn’t worth the cost of his departure.

It’s quite possible that Barcelona’s stubbornness, brought on by the sudden loss of a beloved player and the meteoric rise of their rivals to all-time greatness, could see the Catalans come back with an even more preposterous bid. It’s true every player has a value, and at some point, should Barcelona’s blind rage see them flail wildly into the transfer window, the Reds should sell, and will. But with Fenway Sports Group not in dire need of cash and in an advantageous position, in all likelihood they won’t. Barcelona can throw all the Neymar money at Liverpool their heart desires, but nothing will force the Reds to budge.

Top 25 moments in Premier League history: 19-21

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League we thought it would be great to count down our top 25 moments from a quarter of a century of action.

[ VIDEO: Top 25 moments in PL history ]

Each week we will release our best moments and you can keep track of the full list here.

Below are numbers 19-21 to as we continue our list.

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