Drilling down on: at Seattle Sounders 3, Portland Timbers 0

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SEATTLE, Wash. — The second largest stand alone crowd in Major League Soccer history saw the Seattle Sounders end their three-match winless run, getting goals from Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero en route to a 3-0 Cascadia Cup victory over the Portland Timbers.

Man of the Match: Eddie Johnson celebrated his called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team with the night’s best goal, a half-volley of a Brad Evans cross flying inside Donovan Ricketts’ left post for Seattle’s second goal. It was Johnson’s team-leading 14th goal of the season, one short of a career high. Johnson played necessary parts in Seattle’s first and third goals, playing the pass back to Osvaldo Alonso ahead of the cross on the first, flicking a header across the Portland’s penalty area on the third. Just as they have all year, Johnson’s contributions went beyond the goal column.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Seattle provided 66,452 reasons why it is the best market in Major League Soccer, drawing the largest crowd in CenturyLink’s MLS history.
  • Prior to the game, the Emerald City Supporters unveiled a a tifo extending from field level to above the scoreboard sitting on top the the south end’s first level. The image: A Godfather-esque Sigi Schmid playing poker with Gavin Wilkinson, his chips in the middle as he reveals a royal flush. The title: Tonight we’re all in.
  • Schmid didn’t get a royal flush from his players, but he didn’t need it. Thanks to a late change to their normal starting lineup, Portland’s back line was a mess. If this was a poker game, the Timbers were playing rags.
  • As for the actual match, it took a while for the action to pick up, perhaps a biproduct of the atmosphere. For 25 minutes the teams were indistinguishable from each other: No good shots, no chances, just caginess.
  • That changed when Johnson found Adam Johansson streaking unmarked down the right flank. His cross targeted Fredy Montero but never found him. Instead, Futty Danso redirected the ball behind Donovan Ricketts, opening the scoring for Seattle.
  • It was the start of a terrible night for Danso, a late addition to the starting lineup after Hayner Mosquerawas scratched:
    • On the second goal (Johnson’s), Danso’s decision to come off his line left David Horst to chose between marking Johnson and Christian Tiffert. Horst chose poorly
    • On the final goal, Danso lost the aerial battle on a long throw from Brad Evans, allowing Johnson to flick a ball across Portland’s penalty area. The chaos that followed culminating in a goal when Montero blocked a Jack Jewsbury clearance into Ricketts’ net.
  • For Montero, it was his 13th goal of the season, a new career high. He also came close to scoring in the first half, a curling shot from 18 yards out pushed onto the far post.
  • It was all part of a relative offensive explosion from the Sounders. The team had only scored two goals in their last three games and were coming off being shut out last week in Vancouver.
  • A big part of the that turn around were the performances of Evans and Tiffert:
    • Evans’ contributions were easy to overlook, but his versatility proved invaluable. Not only did he fill the spaces in midfield vacated by Tiffert and Mauro Rosales, he also stepped into central defense when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Jeff Parke, in separate collisions with Bright Dike, required stitches.
    • Tiffert had a 180-degree turnaround from last week. In Vancouver, he was looked lifeless and worn down. Neither of those qualities were evident on Sunday. The midfielder’s little touches that secured possession on second balls helped Seattle control the match, keeping Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chará from having an impact.
  • The result gives Seattle a one point lead in the Cascadia Cup standings, but thanks to their advantage in goal difference, Portland needs a win in their upcoming trip to Vancouver to claim the trophy. Should they fail to do so, the Timbers will have wasted three chances to secure the Cup.

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.


Report: Whitecaps teen sensation Davies could have Man United trial

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The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup saw a lot of young faces in competition, and one name that really seemed to stick came from Canada’s national team.

[ MORE: Five players LA FC should consider selecting in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies has been doing it for both club and country since making his Major League Soccer debut in 2016, and now the young Canada international could be making a massive leap.

According to CTV Edmonton, the 17-year-old has been contacted by Premier League side Manchester United for a trial in January.

Davies would need clearance from the Whitecaps to join the Red Devils to train, however, with it being MLS’ offseason it’s hard to imagine the Cascadia club not allowing the former Edmonton Strikers player to seize the opportunity.

In 2017, Davies appeared in 26 matches for the Whitecaps and registered one assist for Carl Robinson’s side.

Davies has already become a regular with the Canada national team, after previously receiving call ups from the Under-15, U-18 and U-20 teams.