Let’s recap 10 absurd minutes of mayhem at RFK Stadium

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No need for a big set-up here, other than to say the final 10 minutes of D.C. United’s 1-1 draw Sunday with Philadelphia was one capital-sized mess. With the score even at 1-1, here’s what happened:

(MORE: analysis of the other 80 minutes from Sunday’s 1-1 draw is here)

  • With about five minutes remaining and the teams level at 1-1, Philadelphia’s Roger Torres fouled Chris Pontius to give D.C. United a potential go-ahead penalty kick. That was interesting on its own, because the recently injured Torres had just entered the match, without much time on the field lately. Sure enough, he looked sluggish, and his late tackle on Pontius was more evidence of it.
  • Dwayne De Rosario kissed the ball and set it on the 12-yard spot, still looking for landmark goal No. 100. He has been stuck frustratingly on 98 goals since May 19. Yes, May 19. So it was a big moment for a bunch of reasons – not the least of which could be seen in the standings. United, beginning the day in 6th place in a race where only five spots pay, needs every possible point. So …
  • De Rosario nailed the spot shot. But wait! …Referee Mark Geiger ordered a re-kick for encroachment; United striker Hamdi Salahi was the guilty party, false-starting his way about two steps inside the penalty arch.
  • In the messy in-between of De Rosario’s efforts from the penalty spot, Branko Boskovic did something unseen by the cameras, apparently bundling over Torres or shoving him or something. So Geiger – in his 100th MLS match, interestingly – showed United’s playmaker a red card. That made it 10-on-11.
  • Pushing and shoving ensued.
  • Arlo White: “Oh, it’s all happening here at RFK Stadium!”
  • Boskovic had changed the game, by the way, for United upon his 61st minute entrance. His ejection probably wouldn’t have mattered much had United taken the late, 2-1 lead. But …
  • De Rosario’s second effort went high. Ooof! No. 100 is out there, somewhere. Right?
  • With a man advantage, Philly pressed for the points. On one attack United center back Emiliano Dudar was shown a straight red for a nasty tackle in a situation that didn’t call for such a nasty tackle.
  • Fair verdict from Geiger? Yes. A reckless lunge from behind with the studs exposed (on Antoine Hoppenot) is the textbook definition of a red card. So, now Philly was up two men now, although with only a couple of minutes remaining.
  • Pushing and shoving ensued. And harsh words – but between teammates! Pontius was clearly annoyed at Dudar for the boneheaded lunge.
  • Minutes later, as United broke on a counter, Philly defender Sheanon Williams tackled Pontius from behind. Williams appeared to get the ball on a pretty skillful tackle. Geiger didn’t see it that way, however, issuing the Philly right back a second yellow. So, it was 9 on 10.
  • Pushing and shoving ensued. Some arguing, too.
  • Williams complained vehemently of the decision (and correctly so). He might have a fine coming for not leaving the field in a timely manner. Meanwhile, somehow, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid decided it was a good idea to roam well out of goal to get involved. He was shown a yellow card for this idea.
  • Arlo White: “It will be dark at RFK before this game is done.”
  • Final whistle. Mercifully so for the NBC team of White and Kyle Martino, who deserve combat pay for trying to untangle this one. Truly, there was no time to ‘splain, only time to sum up.
  • More pushing and shoving ensued – this time between teammates! United’s Chris Korb and Brandon McDonald had to be separated as they left the field. Manager Ben Olsen needs to be sure to sort that out.
  • Final totals: 2 goals, 7 yellows, 3 reds

About Geiger’s performance: The re-kick was probably unnecessary, although not an egregiously poor decision. Salihi, a DP bust at RFK, managed to find a way to take two points off the board by scooting in too early. With De Rosario at the penalty kick spot, that’s just not something that needed to be done. No, that’s not a decision we see very often, but that’s beside the point. Salihi simply did not need to be in early.

The second yellow to Williams was incorrect, but tackling from behind in that situation is an invitation to trouble. Presumably, Geiger had a bad angle.

Overall, the man in the middle probably let too much go over the first 80 minutes. For everyone who likes to say “Let them play!” … well, this is what happens when you “Let them play.”  You arrange a situation where things can spiral out of control – and then referees have no choice but to issue cards.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.