Portland Timbers v FC Dallas

Drilling down on: at Chivas USA 1, FC Dallas 1

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Man of the Match: Dallas remains mathematically alive in the playoffs only because of Kevin Hartman. Among his seven saves was one absolute stunner on Juan Pablo Angel’s sharp half volley.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Dallas remains mathematically alive, but the odds are awfully long. Long story short, Vancouver just took a very big step toward its initial MLS playoff appearance. Dallas was without Brek Shea and Jackson, and George John was only fit enough for a second half appearance. That said, FCD simply does not look like a team right now that deserves to be in the playoffs.
  • Another match for Shalrie Joseph at center back, his second consecutively for Chivas USA, this time alongside Bobby Burling.
  • Ricardo Villar got his first start for Dallas since early in the season. Then he was a creator, the assigned replacement for David Ferreira. Sunday, Villar was stationed along the outside, filling in for the injured Shea.
  • The Chivas USA defense, shredded with regularity lately, was shredded immediately as Blas Perez put a sharp header on goal that Dan Kennedy did well to push wide. Right after, Perez got in behind the Goats back line, although nothing came of it. And immediately after, Ferreira timed a run in behind the back four and Chivas USA was behind within eight minutes on Perez’s tap-in off a rebound.
  • Forced so early out of the defensive bunker, Chivas began pressing the visitors. Only a tremendous, athletic goal-line clearance by center back Hernan Pertuz kept the game from going level just before the 20-minute mark.
  • After the goal, Dallas got the tactics all wrong. They sat back too defensively – and then went even more defensive in the second half. Thing is, that’s not how the team is built. The players are mostly technical, more comfortable in possession than in rugged defending.
  • Besides, perhaps someone needed to remind the men from Dallas that this was Chivas USA and not Barcelona FC. To keep pressing, to keep their foot on the home team’s throat and get that second goal was the way it had to be. Chivas is an absolute mess, probably in for the mother of all organizational and roster overhauls in the off-season, and is subsequently vulnerable to that kind of pressure. Rather, Dallas’ defensive crouch handed Chivas a way into the game.
  • Fabian Castillo, playing wide right for the injured Jackson, continues to be impressive in his ability to generally make the wrong decision with the ball on most occasions. More than a few attacks died with one of his turnovers.
  • Juan Pablo Angel’s second-half introduction changed things for Chivas USA, adding sophistication in the runs and the movement in Dallas’ back third. Two quality saves from Hartman kept Angel from scoring within 25 minutes of his entrance. Then, one of his well-timed runs helped create enough chaos and confusion around Dallas’ six-yard box that got the Goats their equalizer. That was just their second goal in more than a month.
  • Ferreira is playing OK, but he is not the arresting, peerless creator from two years ago before the injury. It could be the team around him, too; the pieces just aren’t assembled as well, the balance not nearly as useful. It’s also about familiarity of the pieces around him; Dallas’ injury situation hasn’t allowed anything close to a settled lineup around their DP playmaker.
  • And frankly, it would help if Dallas players made just a little more effort to find him with the ball. Too many times, the Colombian attacker is available, working the angles and spacing for players around him, but ultimately unused.

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.

Galaxy adds center mid from Portuguese top flight

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LA Galaxy’s roster reformation continues with the addition of Joao Pedro, a day after formalizing a deal with USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones.

The 23-year-old center midfielder was with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal’s top flight, and comes to the club as a “Special Discovery Player” with Targeted Allocation Money.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Pedro has a goal in 17 appearances this season, as Vitoria Guimaraes sits fifth in the Primeira Liga.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“Joao is an extremely talented midfielder who has experience playing at a high level in Portugal,” said Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas in a written statement released by the club.

“He is only 23 years old and has the best years of his career front of him. We identified him as a top target this offseason and we think he can immediately help strengthen our midfield. We look forward to welcoming Joao to Los Angeles as we continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pedro was a regular for Vitoria Guimaraes but is far from a certainty to star for the Galaxy. We do know that Vagenas has probably done his research as to whether Pedro fits with Jermaine Jones.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

Senegal's, Sadio Mane, right, is challenged by Zimbabwe's, Willard Katsande, left, during the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at, Stade de Franceville Stadium, in Franceville, Gabon Thursday Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 15:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match against Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 15, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China.

Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.

“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”

Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.

“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.

Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.

Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.