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.

Barcelona, Neymar make it formal: Signed into 2021

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: Neymar of Barcelona holds off pressure from Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City FC at Camp Nou on October 19, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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T’s are crossed and i’s dotted on Neymar’s new contract, keeping him at the club through the 2020-21 season.

Neymar, 24, will make his 100th La Liga appearance with his next step onto the pitch.

Lionel Messi’s deal runs through 2017-18, and Luis Suarez’s goes through 2018-19.

[ MORE: Guardiola on Aguero omission ]

He’s scored 59 goals in league play, and has 91 total when you include all 150 of his matches in a Barca kit.

Neymar is on a similar scoring rate to last season, when he netted 31 times. The Brazilian also has 49 international goals in 73 caps.

Guardiola seethes at reports Aguero unwanted at Man City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is congratulated by Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City FC and VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach at Etihad Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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Pep Guardiola is seething with reports that claim star striker Sergio Aguero is not in his plans for Manchester City’s future.

Aguero started on the bench for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League loss at Barcelona, inspiring talk that the Argentine star wasn’t long for the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Conte on Mourinho, Pogba ]

Guardiola says that’s garbage, and that he simply needed more midfielders for his attack. Next time, just ask.

From the BBC:

“It was a tactical decision. I wanted one more midfielder, I tried to keep the ball in the Camp Nou and when you have the ball, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez don’t.

“I spoke with Sergio and he was understanding, I thought in the last 30 minutes, with the Barcelona centre-halves tiring, he could help a lot from the bench. When Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision. Next time before you (the media) decide he is not in my plans you can call me.”

Still, not using Aguero is risky business.

The striker believes, rightly, that he’s among the most dangerous players in the world. Guardiola has said as much, too.

While few would put him in the class of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s difficult to imagine either being sat for tactical reasons against one of the best teams in the world.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. Pogba is coming off a starring role in United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce, and Conte guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).