At this time of year, it usually takes two teams in the MLS playoff hunt to kick up a major media fuss.
A club led by someone chasing historic scoring records is an exception. (C’mon, Chris Wondolowski; You can do it!)
Oh! And you know what else draws out the high-profile types and creates a media ruckus? A night that draws 66,000 and change for a match between rivals, even if one has long, long since been eliminated from any playoff conversation.
That match, last night in Seattle, didn’t just draw the ESPN cameras, it drew the commissioner. And he was more or less just there to watch. What he told reporters at halftime, courtesy of The Seattle Times:
I’m not even here on official duties tonight. I’m here just to experience it. I knew this would be a historic event as it was leading into this weekend. I was in New York at the Red Bulls game last night. I spoke with (Sounders majority owner Joe Roth) and I said, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘We’re at 67,000,’ and I hopped on a plane this morning and I’m going home on a red-eye in about an hour. It’s just another one of these great moments. We’ve been saying that a lot lately, but it’s really true. To be out in that stadium walking around on the field and seeing the fans — also seeing the Portland fans, 1,200 of them come up the freeway — is a great moment for the sport. Very exciting.”
In today’s early Serie A game, Joe Hart and Torino held down Roma to win 3-1 at Stadio Olimpico to move into the top half of the table.
Roma dominated the stat sheets, holding 69% possession and out-passing Torino 466-174, but were wasteful in front of net, only able to put just five of their 21 their shots on target.
Andrea Belotti scored just eight minutes in to put Torino ahead, and Iago Falque bagged a brace with goals 13 minutes apart in the second half to seal it. For all its possession and movement in the attacking half, Roma could only manage a goal on a penalty, scored by Francesco Totti, his 250th career goal, all coming for one club.
Manchester City loanee Joe Hart commanded a solid performance by Torino’s back line, with the home side managing a whopping 22 tackles and 33 clearances. Roma actually out-performed Torino on the expected goals front, proving Hart’s influence.
The win, the club’s first since late August, pushes Torino up to eight in the Serie A table on eight points. They have conceded just a single goal – the Totti penalty – in their last three matches. It’s a far cry from the 2-1 loss to Atalanta in Hart’s debut, in which a mistake by the England international allowed Atalanta to score the winning goal.
On the other side, Arsenal loanee Wojciech Szczesny made a mistake to gift Torino their early goal. The result for Roma is a big blow to their hopes at challenging for the title, dropping them five points back of leaders Juventus and four behind Napoli.
On Saturday, Derby County fell at home to Blackburn 2-1, with all three goals scored in a furious four-minute span midway through the second half.
It’s been a nightmare start to the season for both clubs, with the clubs in 20th and 22nd on a combined three wins.
That, however, was not the most disturbing thing on display at Pride Park Stadium. The halftime show featured a show with a character from a child’s bad dream. A man in a fish suit swallowed a person whole then spit him back out sans clothing. But don’t take our word for it:
Have fun sleeping tonight.
It’s amazing how results go hand-in-hand with off the field mood for the top teams in the world.
There is no club where that seems to be more true than Real Madrid. The team has drawn two in a row, first a 1-1 finish against Villareal at the Bernabeu that saw Los Blancos pump out 23 shots, but put only six on target. Then, they drew 2-2 Saturday with this year’s darlings Las Palmas out on the Canary Islands, crumbling at the back by blowing a pair of leads.
All this still leaves them atop the La Liga table, a point above Barcelona, and yet the wheels appear to be coming loose.
Things always start with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, and that was the case on Saturday, when the superstar was withdrawn by head coach Zinedine Zidane in the 74th minute, and appeared to be visibly upset with the decision. Zidane told media after the game he was looking ahead to Tuesday’s Champions League matchup with Borussia Dortmund, saying, “He [Ronaldo] always wants to play and be out there on the pitch, but I’ve also got to think about the player and he needed to rest and think about Tuesday.”
Ronaldo did not speak to the media following the match.
Always in his teammate’s shadow is Gareth Bale, but things aren’t going well for him either. According to a report by The Sun, Bale has increased security after his fiance’s family has reportedly been targeted for arson attacks by a drug gang. In addition, Bale is reportedly unhappy after being substituted himself in the 70th minute of the draw with Villareal, according to reports in Spain. There have been reports for a while that his agent is shopping the Welshman to top clubs like Manchester United.
“We’re relaxed,” Zidane said after the Las Palmas draw. “We are working hard and focused on what we’re doing. We have to realize that you can’t always win, but we’re on the right track.”
The game in 100 words (or less): Too many teams qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. There, I said it. Because MLS rules are written as such, two of Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders will likely make it this year, and that’s two too many. On Saturday, the former most narrowly outplayed an even worse San Jose Earhthquakes side, to the tune of 2-1, to go fifth in the Western Conference and move eight points clear of the 7th-place Sounders. The worst part about the current playoff structure: one of the above mentioned sides will almost certainly get hot in the postseason, after doing very little over the course of 34 games to establish themselves as one of the league’s elite. You know, just like the Timbers did last year. Anyway, Dom Dwyer, Simon Dawkins and Kevin Ellis scored the goals on the night. Neither side is any good, nor should they be in the playoffs. That’s MLS.
[ MORE: Playoff Picture — 4 teams can clinch playoff berth this weekend ]
Three moments that mattered
7′ — Dwyer heads home for the early opener — The ball from Paulo Nagamura was inch-perfect, and the header by Dwyer was unstoppable.
42′ — Coelho whiffs, Dawkins makes it 1-1 — That’s just unlucky, if you’re Nuno Coelho.
81′ — Ellis bundles the corner kick home for 2-1 — A fitting winner to this game.
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Man of the match: Tim Melia
Goalscorers: Dwyer (7′), Dawkins (42′), Ellis (81′)