Offshore drilling, England: Tottenham 3, at Manchester United 2

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Man of the Match: There are days when Gareth Bale looks like the best wide player in the world. He was almost at that level on Saturday, involved in all three Tottenham goals as Spurs got an early, defining victory for the André Villas-Boas era.

In the second minute, Bale came back and showed for a pass he immediately played back to Jan Vertonghen, the Belgian defender streaking on goal from 35 yards out before beating Anders Lindegaard for the opener. In the 32nd minute, it was Bale’s turn to carry the ball through the final third, cutting across the defense from the middle of United’s half before beating Lindegaard far post from the right of the box. In the second half, Bale’s shot on goal led to the rebound that Clint Dempsey converted for the game-winning goal.

Packaged for takeaway: 

  • It’s hard to exaggerate what this win will do for André Villas-Boas’s profile in England. The former Chelsea manager has been a press whipping boy since flaming out last year at Stamford Bridge. Now the 34-year-old Portuguese has a signature win, one that started with a goal that could have been drawn up on the team’s whiteboard.
  • And for the first time since 1989, Tottenham has won at Manchester United, though to do so, Spurs had to survive a second half siege that rarely saw them in possession in United’s half of the pitch.
  • It was like a reenactment of the Helm’s Deep scenes from The Two Towers. Perhaps my mind is blitzed from the early morning West Coast wake up, but I can’t remember ever seeing that level of sustained pressure for so long. It was 49 minutes of Spurs packed into their own end waiting for Gandalf to ride over the hill.
  • At full time, the Red Devils had 74 percent of the possession, a ratio amassed after the teams had split possession for most of the first half. Aside from the Dempsey goal, Spurs did nothing on United’s half of the center line.
  • That United dominance (and the change from the first half) was brought about by two things. First, the team obviously played better. Second, Wayne Rooney came off the bench, replacing Ryan Giggs and pushing Shinji Kagawa out wide.
  • Rooney made a near-immediate impact, putting a cross in for Nani that led to the Red Devils’ first goal. He was miles better than he’s otherwise been this season. It’s been so long since we saw this type of play from Wayne Rooney, we were beginning to wonder whether he still had it in him.
  • Two minutes later, Kagawa was beating Brad Friedel with a perfectly placed shot from the left. With Dempsey’s goal coming in between, United goals had the home side within one, the teams having combined for three goals in less than three minutes of clock time.
  • An equalizer looked inevitable. Rooney hit the post on a direct kick and had another shot from the right go just wide. Robin van Persie had multiple chances, while Nani and Kagawa came close to getting a second.
  • After going into halftime having registered only one shot, United finished the match with 17, seven on target.
  • And while United were probably the better team for slightly more than 50 percent of this game, their terrible defending, particularly in the first half, cost them. Spurs executed from the opening kickoff, were far more energetic for the first half hour, and somehow managed to fend off a final, equalizing goal from United.
  • If Chelsea’s win at Arsenal made them a title contender, what does this result make Spurs? It makes them capable. The start of the Villas-Boas era at White Hate Lane had been filled with mixed signals. Today was the first unmitigated sign Spurs could replicate last year’s fourth place finish.
  • As for United, it was a bad half hour, going down 2-0 before coming into the game. They got burned badly, and their defense (having allowed nine goals in six games) looks very vulnerable. They could have used Nemanja Vidic on each of the goals.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

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An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.