Man of the Match
Was Sherjill MacDonald offside on the second goal? Yeah, probably. But they counted it. And the Dutch target man certainly wasn’t offside on his first strike, a calm and technical finish that will go a long, long way to getting the Fire into better playoff positioning. Around his two goals, MacDonald also worked his blue socks off, harassing defenders and holding the ball in high positions.
Packaged for take-away:
- Some very good performances could be found around the park for Chicago, including Chris Rolfe, center back Arne Friedrich and right-sided attacker Patrick Nyarko.
- Frank Klopas drew up a good plan. The Fire are better when they keep things tight in the back and let Rolfe run the counter attack, which is exactly how it worked Saturday. The key, of course, is MacDonald’s steady hold-up work, which brings Rolfe and others into the play.
- New York needed about 10 minutes to match the visitor’s intensity, and to work out Chicago’s early high pressure.
- Ricardo Salazar reached for the yellow card 13 minutes in as Red Bulls left back Wilman Conde hooked Nyarko from behind. It was the kind of tactical, cynical foul that frequently goes without a booking. So, good for Salazar; the games are better to watch for everyone when players assess and understand early that tactical fouling will be dealt with.
- Nyarko continued to trouble Conde. Remember, Conde is really a center back
- Last two matches, Kenny Cooper has simplified his game. It’s working for him, although …
- On the other hand, Cooper doesn’t always read situations as well as he should. Case in point, a 19th-minute opportunity that Tim Cahill teed up wonderfully for him — only Cooper cut his run short and the opportunity died without an attempt on goal.
- Dax McCarty’s passing lacked a little zip at times, and a bit of precision at other times. He wasn’t bad, and had plenty of energy, as usual. But passing to the wrong foot, or slowing the attack with something that takes a teammate off stride, those little things matter in the tight matches.
- Just as last week, Thierry Henry was “in the mood,” as they say in the first half. The Red Bull’s primary attacking threat, playing a free role behind Cooper, was active and finding good spaces. On the ball … And he did a fair amount of running, providing early pressure in high areas and occasional cover when Cahill or someone else was drawn out of position.
- Henry may have burned up too much fuel in those first 45, however. He played higher up the field after the break, less dutiful in working into those spots and making himself available, and the Red Bulls’ midfield suffered for it. Henry saw much less of the ball, which limited the Red Bulls possession and reduced their dangerous moments. Meanwhile, more comfortable in the central third, Chicago slowly took hold.
- Rolfe had some wonderfully creative moments, early as the home team had a little trouble sorting its midfield and determining how to deal with his movement into the “hole” between the back line and the line of New York midfielders. Later, Rolfe did more damage off those counter-attack chances.
- Clearly concerned about the yellow card, and about his left back’s ability to contain the speedy Nyarko, Red Bulls manager Hans Backe removed Conde at halftime. That provided young defender Connor Lade with his next chance to impress. The Red Bulls instantly added more push up the left side, but his inexperience dented the home side in a couple of places.
- About twice a match, Fire center back Friedrich decides to have a quick stroll forward, and he’s quite foxy about it. He put himself in just the right spot in the 52nd minute, guiding the attack initially and then getting on the end of a short cross to force a credible save from Luis Robles.
- The Red Bulls got caught being too slow in organizing defensively after losing a ball in midfield. Rolfe took advantage as center back Heath Pearce dropped off and Lade remained up a little too high. MacDonald recognized the lack of shape and shot into the space just as Rolfe took a good first touch and played his striker through to goal.
Tottenham Hotspur will be seeded in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 32. What do Manchester United and Southampton need to do Thursday to join them?
Both the Red Devils and Saints enter the final group stage match day in their respective groups’ second place, but only United can claim a seeded place in the Round of 32.
[ UCL: Scenarios for Premier League sides ]
United can still win Group A, and would need to better Fenerbahce’s result on Thursday. Jose Mourinho’s men are in Ukraine against bottom-dwelling Zorya Luhansk, while Fener are away at Feyenoord.
Manchester United will advance with a draw, and could also go through if they lose and Feyenoord doesn’t defeat Fenerbahce.
As for Saints, Claude Puel‘s men are level with Hapoel Be’er Sheva and welcome the Israel side to St. Mary’s after drawing 0-0 in the reverse fixture.
Southampton needs to beat Hapoel or hold them to a scoreless draw. A scoring draw would push HBS through via road goals.
Full UEL schedule
11 a.m. EDT
Konyarspor vs. Gent
Qarabag vs. Fiorentina
Osmanlispor vs. Zurich
Braga vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Villarreal vs. Steaua Bucuresti
PAOK vs. Liberece
1 p.m. EDT
Vikrotia Plzen vs. Austria Wien
Apoel Nicosia vs. Olympiacos
Sassuolo vs. Genk
Anderlecht vs. Saint-Etienne
Zorya Luhansk vs. Manchester United
Rapid Wien vs. Athletic Bilbao
Young Boys vs. Astana
AZ Alkmaar vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Feyenoord vs. Fenerbahce
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Dundalk
Mainz vs. Gabala
Astra Giurgiu vs. Roma
3:05 p.m. EDT
Panathinaikos vs. Celta Vigo
Standard Liege vs. Ajax
Inter Milan vs. Sparta Prague
Southampton vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva
RB Salzburg vs. Schalke
Nice vs. Krasnodar
A report confirms speculation that USMNT goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is moving from Norway to Belgium.
The promising Molde keeper is set to become the promising Club Brugge keeper after the two sides agreed to a transfer fee, according to Goal.com.
[ MORE: Examining Leicester, Man City ]
Horvath, who won’t turn 22 until June, has been capped in a 2-0 win over Cuba by the USMNT after starring for the U-23 side.
If terms are agreed to, Horvath will join a Brugge side that is second in Belgium — a point off the top spot. The Belgian club was in the Champions League this season, but was eliminated in the group stage. He will have to compete with 33-year-old Frenchman Ludovic Butelle, who has started all 17 of Brugge’s league games this season.
It’s a step up for the youngster, provided he’s able to play. Well-traveled French ‘keep Ludovic Butelle is between the sticks for Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League match against Copenhagen today, with a pair of Belgians as Nos. 2 and 3.
The only bummer here: Would Club Brugge allow Horvath to head into the USMNT’s January camp, where the youngster has a good chance to impress Bruce Arena?
It took a while, but Tottenham Hotspur found its home form at Wembley Stadium in the UEFA Champions League.
Now it will have to take that to the Europa League after finishing third in its group to Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco; Spurs will be seeded in the UEL’s Round of 32.
[ UCL: Scenarios for Premier League sides ]
Spurs striker Harry Kane and playmaker Dele Alli were the stars of the show, and both were pleased to give their fans a 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow after previous home matches yielded just one goal in losses to Bayer and Monaco.
Here’s Kane, from the BBC:
“We’ve learned to be better at home. You have to win your home games – you can’t rely on away results.
“We’ve finished the campaign well, there’s a bit of pride to send the fans home happy.”
Spurs finish three points back of Bayer and four back of Monaco, meaning a home win over either would’ve put them into the knockout rounds. That’s a lot to dwell on as Spurs consider Wembley versus White Hart Lane.
We have to wait until Monday for the draw, but the field is set for the UEFA Champions League’s knockout rounds.
[ MORE: Examining Leicester, Man City ]
Premier League scenarios
Who can the three remaining clubs from England’s top flight face in the first knockout round?
Arsenal: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Porto, Sevilla, Real Madrid.
Leicester City: Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Sevilla, Real Madrid.
Manchester City: Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Monaco, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund
As for Tottenham Hotspur, they are set to be seeded in the Europa League’s Round of 32.