Man of the Match: United desperately needs men to fill the Dwayne De Rosario gap. Chris Pontius keeps doing his part. Against the Union he played three positions, starting on the left in a 4-2-3-1, then playing as a second forward and finally moving to the right in a 4-4-2. He was United’s most dangerous man and did some of the heavy lifting on the contest’s only goal.
Packaged for take-away:
- United went from sixth (out of the playoffs) to fourth (in the playoffs, with one spot to spare).
- How big was Lionard Pajoy’s 67th minute goal? First goal in more than 300 minutes on the road for D.C. United. First win on the road since June. Yeah, this was a huge three points for Ben Olsen’s team.
- Pajoy had just one goal in six starts coming into PPL Park. His solid hold-up work Thursday finally turned into something more concrete with a goal that will go far in boosting United’s playoffs hope – not to mention the wonders it will work for United’s confidence playing away from RFK.
- ESPN voice Glenn Davis summed this one up nicely for the home side when he said the home team was “Playing for pride, playing for jobs, playing for futures.”
- In that regard, the Union did not do enough. There’s something to be said for managing a match, obviously. But perhaps Philadelphia could play with just a little more abandon? There are times when John Hackworth’s men could add some pressure by slipping just a couple more men forward, seizing the initiative with a little more verve.
- Most of the problem was Michael Farfan’s absence (due to yellow card suspension). The Union just struggles to turn up many fresh ideas without their playmaker, so the attack looks labored and tentative. Too much possession without real purpose.
- Of course, there is a creative type around PPL Park. His name is Freddy Adu. But he must be burrowing pretty good in Hackworth’s doghouse; Adu wasn’t introduced until the 77th minute. From there? Meh.
- I wish I could boycott games refereed by Baldomero Toledo. Clearly cynical fouls that deserve yellow cards go unpunished. Sometimes awful and potentially injurious fouls, too. It drags down the quality and watchability of the contests.
- D.C. United will continue to be under pressure through the remainder of the season. So, players will either rise to the moment or sink beneath the weight of it. After watching United’s Bill Hamid struggle with three fairly routine situations in the first 30 minutes of this one, you can ask some questions about which way the young goalkeeper might go. He can clearly make the big saves; Hamid rescued two points last time out with splendid stops in the final 10 minutes of a close win over New England. But he’s got to manage all the simple stuff, too.
- Andy Najar, once again stationed at right back, certainly adds some push up D.C. United’s right side. But his one-on-one defending isn’t a strong point, and clubs will begin to take advantage. Danny Cruz, playing along the left — presumably so he could do just that — got around Najar too easily a couple of times. So they’ll need to tilt the defensive structure slightly in his direction, getting one of the holding midfielders over or the right-sided attacker back in assistance.
- Then again, sometimes United’s center backs seem stretched as it is. So, maybe Najar will just need to be on his own out there.
- When Branko Boskovic gets the ball in space, he’s dangerous, highly capable of making the pass that opens up defenses. But he wants it to be easy. He just doesn’t move enough to create that space. And he always seems to be in the wrong spot, too high up the field when he needs to drop and too far behind the play when United needs an extra attacker. So, his first half was pretty much a big bag of nothing.
- Looking for more, Ben Olsen moved his team out of the 4-2-3-1 and into a 4-4-2, relocating Pontius from the left to a forward spot alongside Pajoy. Boskovic went out to the right.
- And that last about 11 minutes. Boskovic was off in the 56th. Meanwhile, Maicon Santos’ energy helped change the game once he was in for Boskovic.
- Brandon McDonald struggled early, but as Philadelphia pressed forward and became more aggressive about pushing balls into the penalty area, United’s center back was a beast in winning everything around him in the air.
The Colorado Rapids have hired Ena Patel as their new director of player personnel. She becomes Major League Soccer highest ranking female executive, according to the Denver Post.
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According to the Rapids, she’ll report to club GM Padraig Smith and “oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols.”
The move comes about a month-and-a-half after Sporting KC hired Megan Cameron as an assistant director of player personnel, the first woman hired to an MLS team’s technical staff.
Patel’s resume is outlandishly strong, though this is her first foray into the sports world. Here are some words from Smith, from ColoradoRapids.com:
“Ena’s hiring is the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side,” Smith, the Rapids executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement released by the club. “Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team. We can’t wait for her to get started.”
Bristol City made its interesting late with a pair of goals, but Manchester City’s League Cup destiny was never in jeopardy in a 3-2 second leg win at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.
[ RECAP: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]
That sent the club into the Feb. 25 final with a 5-3 aggregate win, and it’s very difficult not to leap to the story line that is Pep Guardiola‘s chance at a first significant title in his reign at Man City.
The closest City came to hardware last season was being bounced by Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinal. This time, City is the favorite to win at least three of its four entered competitions: the Premier League, the League Cup, and the FA Cup.
But to hear Pep say it, for now the club is just happy to have earned one final berth. From the BBC:
“We are so happy to be there, to reach this final. We played an amazing game until 2-0 and then we lost control, these type of games never end until the end. This is a lesson for next weekend in Cardiff in the FA Cup and especially for the Champions League.
“It’s not for me, it’s for Manchester City, a club who are trying to reach another level. … I know that we will be judged by trophies we win but we are so happy. Nobody can take away what we have done, but Chelsea or Arsenal are strong teams.”
Guardiola was serious about not overlooking the Robins, as he rolled out a very similar lineup to the full-strength bunch that beat Newcastle United 3-1 at the weekend. That may have cost City late, but it had already built a 4-1 aggregate lead with two superior away goals.
Yes, Guardiola is a man who measures himself by the way his club plays but also by winning in that attractive fashion. Expect a determined club to stride into Wembley late next month.
Chelsea and Arsenal square off Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium for the right to match up with Man City, who won the tournament in 2014 and 2016. Even year dominance?
- City outshoots Bristol 28-5
- Sane, Aguero put MCFC up 2-0
- Pack, Kent pulls two back for Bristol
- De Bruyne answers in stoppage
- City wins 5-3 on aggregate
A pair of late goals put a scare into Man City, but the Premier League leaders scored just before and right after halftime to insure its first leg lead en route to a 3-2 win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.
City wins 5-3 on aggregate in the League Cup semifinal, with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, and Kevin De Bruyne scoring in the second leg.
Pep Guardiola moves to within 90 minutes of his first significant title as Man City boss, and will face either Chelsea or Arsenal on Feb. 25 at Wembley Stadium.
Marlon Pack and Aden Flint scored for Bristol City.
[ MORE: Full stats, box score ]
Sane scored in the 43rd minute and Sergio Aguero struck less than four minutes after the teams returned from the halftime break.
An errant John Stones clearance helped Bristol to the scoreboard in the 64th minute, with Pack scoring the goal.
Flint then nodded home in stoppage time to give the Robins hope for a miracle win, but new contract hero De Bruyne scored within a minute to burn those hopes to the ground.
Bristol would be in the Football League Championship playoffs if the season ended now, sitting in fifth place.
PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain has made its first signing of the winter transfer window by hiring midfielder Lassana Diarra on a short-term deal until June 2019.
The 32-year-old holding midfielder will once again try to revive his career in the French league after a successful stint at PSG’s bitter rival, Marseille, that ended last year.
The much-traveled Diarra, who was born in Paris, then played for a few months with United Arab Emirates club Al Jazira.
[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]
Diarra, a former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid player, won English and Spanish league titles in 2006 and 2012. He has 34 caps for France and featured at the European Championship in 2008.
His strong performances with Marseille earned him a recall from France, but he eventually pulled out of Didier Deschamps’ squad for Euro 2016 because of a left knee injury.
“I am very happy to have signed for my hometown club,” Diarra said. “Paris Saint-Germain represents a lot to me and, with the international dimension the club has taken in recent seasons, it is every player’s dream to play here. I am lucky enough to make this dream come true.”
Diarra joined on a free transfer and his signing won’t affect PSG’s bank accounts, which are under UEFA’s scrutiny.
PSG is under pressure to sell players to balance the books after splashing out 402 million euros ($473 million) on forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last year. That led to Qatari-owned PSG being placed under investigation by UEFA for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.