Offshore drilling, Spain: at Barcelona 2, Real Madrid 2

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Man of the match: It’s hard to separate the match’s two biggest stars, each posting braces, but Cristiano Ronaldo got his goals on the road, helping his team to a valuable point at their arch rivals.

In the 23rd minute, Ronaldo blasted a left-footed shot into the small, near-post window he was generously given at Victor Valdes, staking Real and early lead. Then, with his team down 2-1 in the second half, a burst from the left wing sent him past Martin Montoya and behind Barcelona’s defense, where he put a Mesut Özil pass behind Victor Valdes for the point-winning goal.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Real Madrid played as well as they have at the Nou Camp during the post-Frank Rijkaard era. They were clearly the better side for over the first half hour. Although Barcelona was still controlling the ball, the decisiveness of Real’s play left the Catalans looking less confident than normal.
  • And perhaps they had reason to worry, given who Tito Vilanova was forced to start at the back. Carles Puyol was out. So was Gerard Piqué, which make the decision to start Alex Song on the bench even more surprising. Instead, Vilanova dropped Sergio Busquets into central defense to play along side Javier Mascherano.
  • Well, kinda. In the defensive phase, Busquets would drop into a back four. In transition and attack, Barcelona’s normal defensive midfielder was playing in front of the line, even occasionally venturing into attack. When Barcelona scored their equalizer in the 31st minute, it was Busquets’ presence in the box that helped create chaos.
  • By the second half, Busquets was staying out of the defense. Adriano (on the left) and Montoya (right) were flanking Mascherano in a back three.
  • Its hard to say whether Barcelona’s defensive tactics contributed to the first goal. Daniel Alves (who started at right back but quickly came off) was playing far more narrow than we’re used to seeing him, perhaps trying to maintain a narrow back three until Busquets made up the numbers. Alves came into the middle to help on Karim Benzema, leaving Ronaldo alone after Benzema fed a ball into the left of the box.
  • Real’s second goal could have also been a product of the makeshift defense. Was Montoya’s slow reaction and Mascherano’s inability to cover a product of the ad hoc tactics?
  • When you dominate possession, you can take more chances in defense. The opposition’s going to have less time to exploit you. Today, Real Madrid only had 30 percent of the ball.
  • That would have ben enough if José Mourinho’s team was executing their counters with their usual efficiency. Something was off today, though. They lacked their usual sharpness. None of their attackers were getting the ball in dangerous spots. Ángel Di María had a very quiet day.
  • Benzema, however, did not. Real’s No. 9 had two very good chances in the first half, one of which went off the post. Given Real’s strong start and Benzema;s opportunities, Los Merengues should have been up two when Messi equalized.
  • That equalizer came in the 31st minute, when poor defending on a Pedro Rodríguez cross left Lionel Messi with an easy finish from inside the six-yard box. The most notable gaff: Pepe elevating only to lose his balance and fall to the ground as the deflected cross dropped right to Messi.
  • Early in the second half, Messi completed Barcelona’s turnaround, drawing a foul just above the arc before beating Iker Casillas with a beautiful dipping shot.
  • The culprit on the play was Xabi Alonso, who never seems to have an impact in these matches. His lunging tackle on Messi was always destined to draw a whistle.
  • Alonso lacks the foot speed to keep up with Messi and Andres Iniesta (who had a great game, also). In the game for his passing, Alonso’s only contributions seem to be bad fouls and yellow cards. Mourinho would have been better served by Michael Essien or Luka Modric.
  • Even though Ronaldo would find an equalizer, Barcelona controlled the second half. They were finally able to bring Messi into the match, building trough him throughout the match’s final 35 minutes. This led to numerous chances where Messi’s dribbling would push back the defense before he played it left to Iniesta, who would then go wide to Jordi Alba (playing as a left winger) for try to hit a runner through Real’s line.
  • After bringing Essien on for Di María late, Real’s defense was able to hold out, the big moment of danger coming when Pedro tested the cross bar.
  • Overall it was a great Clasico, with only a late winner keeping it from being one of the series’ best.
  • As it concerns the standings, the draw may serve Barcelona well, having carried an eight-point lead on Real Madrid into this match. With only seven rounds gone, however, it’s too early to tell the significance of Barça’s lead. If Real Madrid wins at the Bernabeu, today’s result will look like points lost.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images
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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”

MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker: Rounds 3 & 4

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Newcomers Los Angeles FC made some serious waves during the opening rounds of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and other clubs will be looking to follow in their footsteps on Day 2.

Bob Bradley‘s side came up with a pair of defensive picks inside the top 3 on Friday, nabbing Joao Moutinho and Tristan Blackmon to help solidify a growing roster for the Western Conference side.

[ SOURCES: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison likely to join PL side Stoke City ]

Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire were active early and often, which benefitted Veljko Paunovic’s club in a big way. The playoff side from a season ago managed to get two of the draft’s most talented attacking players in Wake Forest forward Jon Bakero and Syracuse product Mo Adams.

Which players slipped through the cracks on Day 1 and will help provide relief to MLS rosters on Day 2?

Follow along on PST as we track the day’s transactions, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Third round

47. Los Angeles FC — Jordan Jones — Forward (Oregon State)
48. LA Galaxy — Nate Schultz — Defender (Akron)
49. D.C. United (traded to Fire) — Elliot Collier — Forward (Loyola)
50. Colorado Rapids — Thomas Olsen — Goalkeeper (San Diego)
51. Real Salt Lake — Pass
52. New York City FC — Alex Bumpus — Defender (Kentucky)
53. Montreal Impact — Ken Krolicki — Midfielder (Michigan State)
54. Philadelphia Union — Mike Catalano — Midfielder (Wisconsin)
55. Philadelphia Union — Aidan Apodaca — (Cal Baptist)
56. Real Salt Lake — Pass
57. FC Dallas — Amer Sasivarevic — Midfielder (Grand Canyon)
58. San Jose Earthquakes — Kevin Partida — (UNLV)
59. Houston Dynamo — Pablo Aguilar — Midfielder (Virginia)
60. Montreal Impact — Pass
61. Portland Timbers — Caleb Duvernay — Defender (NC State)
62. Vancouver Whitecaps — Cory Brown — Defender (Xavier)
63. Portland Timbers — Timmy Mueller — Forward (Oregon State)
64. Portland Timbers  — Stuart Holthusen — Forward (Akron)
65. New York City FC — Pass
66. Houston Dynamo —  Sheldon Sullivan — Defender (Virginia)
67. Columbus Crew — Luis Argudo — Midfielder (Wake Forest)
68. Seattle Sounders — Chris Bared — Defender (Villanova)
69. Toronto FC — Andre Morrison — Defender (Hartford)

——

Fourth round

70. Atlanta United — Paul Christensen — Goalkeeper (Portland)
71. D.C. United — Afonso Pinheiro — Forward (Albany)
72. Colorado Rapids –Brian Iloski — (UCLA)
73. Colorado Rapids — Niki Jackson — Forward (Grand Canyon)
74. D.C. United — Rafael Andrade Santos — Midfielder (VCU)
75. Sporting KC — Will Bagrou — Forward (Mercer)
76. Montreal Impact — Pass
77. Philadelphia Union –Matt Danilack — Midfielder (Dartmouth)
78. New England Revolution — Nicolas Samayoa — Defender (Florida Gulf Coast)
79. Real Salt Lake — Pass
80. FC Dallas — Noah Franke — Defender (Creighton)
81. San Jose Earthquakes — Pass
82. Sporting KC –Wilfred Williams — Defender (Oakland)
83. New York Red Bulls — Jared Stroud — (Colgate)
84. Chicago Fire — Josh Morton — Defender (California)
85. New York Red Bulls — Jose Aguinaga — (Rider)
86. Vancouver Whitecaps — Pass
87. Portland Timbers — Mamadou Guirassy — Forward (NJIT)
88. New York City FC — Pass
89. Houston Dynamo — Manny Padilla — Defender (San Francisco)
90. LA Galaxy — Pass
91. D.C. United — Pass
92. Toronto FC — Ben White — Defender (Gonzaga)

Below is a recap of the action from Day 1, which featured the first two rounds of the draft on Friday.


First round

1. Los Angeles FC — Joao Moutinho — Defender (Akron)*
2.LA Galaxy — Tomas Hilliard-Arce — Defender (Stanford)*
3.DC United (traded to LAFC) — Tristan Blackmon — Defender (Pacific University)
4. Montreal Impact (traded to FC Dallas) — Francis Atuahene — Forward (Michigan)
5. Minnesota United (traded to Fire) — Jon Bakero — Forward (Wake Forest)
6. Orlando City — Chris Mueller — Forward (Wisconsin)
7. Montreal Impact (traded to Minnesota) — Mason Toye — Forward (Indiana)*
8. New England Revolution — Brandon Bye — Defender (Western Michigan)
9. New England Revolution — Mark Segbers — Defender (Wisconsin)
10. Real Salt Lake (traded to Fire) — Mo Adams — Midfielder (Syracuse)*
11. FC Dallas — Ema Twumasi — Midfielder (Wake Forest)*
12. San Jose Earthquakes — Paul Marie — Midfielder/Defender (FIU)
13. Sporting KC — Eric Dick — Goalkeeper (Butler)
14. Atlanta United — Jon Gallagher — Forward (Notre Dame)
15. Chicago Fire (traded to Minnesota) — Wyatt Omsberg — Defender (Dartmouth)
16. New York Red Bulls — Brian White — Forward (Duke)
17. Vancouver Whitecaps — Justin Fiddes — Defender (Washingt0n)
18. Sporting KC — Graham Smith — Defender (Denver)
19. New York City FC — Jeff Caldwell — Goalkeeper (Virginia)
20. Houston Dynamo — Michael Nelson — Goalkeeper (SMU)
21. Columbus Crew — Ben Lungaard — Goalkeeper (Virginia Tech)
22. Seattle Sounders — Alex Roldan — Midfielder (Univ. of Seattle)
23. Toronto FC (traded to Minnesota) — Carter Manley — Defender (Duke)

——

Second round

24. LAFC — Pol Calvet Planellas — Midfielder (Pittsburgh)
25. Colorado Rapids — Alan Winn — Forward (North Carolina)
26. Vancouver Whitecaps — Lucas Stauffer — Defender (Creighton)
27. Colorado Rapids — Frantzdy Pierrot — Forward (Coastal Carolina)
28. Minnesota United (traded to Toronto FC) — Tim Kubel — Defender (Louisville)
29. FC Dallas — Mauro Cichero — Forward (SMU)
30. San Jose Earthquakes — Danny Musovski — Forward (UNLV)
31. New York Red Bulls — Niko De Vera — Defender (Akron)
32. Columbus Crew — Edward Opoku — Forward (Virginia)
33. Real Salt Lake — Ricky Lopez-Espin — Midfielder (Creighton)
34. FC Dallas — Chris Lema — Midfield (Georgetown)
35. San Jose Earthquakes — Mohamed Thiaw — Forward (Louisville)
36. Atlanta United — Oliver Shannon — Midfielder (Clemson)
37. Atlanta United — Gordon Wild — Forward (Maryland)*
38. Chicago Fire — Diego Campos — Midfielder (Clemson)
39. New York Red Bulls — Tom Barlow — Forward (Wisconsin)
40. LA Galaxy — Drew Skundrich — Midfielder (Stanford)
41. Minnesota United — Xavier Gomez — Midfielder (Nebraska-Omaha)
42. New York City FC — AJ Paterson — Defender (Wright St.)
43. Houston Dynamo — Mac Steeves — Forward (Providence)
44. Columbus Crew — Jake Rozhansky — Midfielder (Maryland)
45. Seattle Sounders — Markus Fjortoft — Defender (Duke)
46. Toronto FC — Drew Shepherd — Goalkeeper (Western Michigan)

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