Drilling down on: at Seattle 0, Real Salt Lake 0

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SEATTLE — How high does early sending off rank on the list of things you never want to see in a big match? Probably depends on the nature of the dismissal. What you think of Wednesday’s sending off likely determines how you feel about referee Ricardo Salazar.

Man of the Match: Seattle’s team effort was so balanced that it took over 90 minutes for a Sounder to distinguish himself, but when Real Salt Lake’s two best chances came in second half stoppage time, it was Michael Gspurning that preserved the point. A lunging stop on a late Chris Schuler drive coupled with some drama denying Jonny Steele saw Gspurning take the night’s honors.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • To Seattle fans, Salazar has become a pantomime villain, a role he carried into tonight’s came thanks to (among other incidents) his sending off of Patrick Ianni in this year’s U.S. Open Cup final. A collective social media moan could be heard when his appointment was announced earlier this week. It’s as if Sounders’ fans knew he would have a part in Wednesday’s result.
  • That part came in the 30th minute when Zach Scott took down Javier Morales just outside the of the Seattle area. It was a clumsy challenge that ended with Scott falling on top of Morales, more harmless, poorly-executed wrestling move than malicious tackle. In light of Scott’s 10th minute yellow card, the play was reckless. Scott put himself in position to be sent off, a result Salazar confirmed with a second booking.
  • The broader question: How often do you see that foul result in a dismissal? It wasn’t the harshest call you’ll see this season, but most referees would have kept the card in their pocket. While Salazar’s entitled to his decision, was it a fair call? Considering what players expect from a typical MLS match?
  • “Lord help us if we get Salazar in the playoffs,” Schmid said post-game. His halftime comments will likely earn him a fine, describing Salazar as Real Salt Lake’s 12th man.
  • Until the sending off, it had been a relatively even match. Seattle, as they’ve done previously against RSL, tried to beat Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers with long balls targeting Fredy Montero. RSL responded by patiently building through the middle, trying to pass their way through Seattle’s midfield.
  • After the red card, little changed except Seattle’s defense, which naturally became more compact and less aggressive. Brad Evans, who was forced into a start at right back, had to play the rest of the night in the middle, Schmid sacrificing Sammy Ochoa to bring Mike Seamon on at right.
  • Despite the changes, the Sounders still had success targeting Montero, while RSL was unable to tap their way through Seattle’s defense.
  • The final part of the match saw the game fall into a familiar, redundant pattern. RSL would pass their way to the edge of the Sounders’ defensive third, try to make their way through the middle only to see a Seattle player break up play before Osvaldo Alonso vacuumed up the ball.
  • In that way, it was a very impressive performance from Seattle, even if Real Salt Lake made the obligatory late go of it. Up until that 92nd minute, there was little doubt Seattle would take at least a point.
  • Given the circumstances, the result is a good one for Seattle, even if the bigger picture sees it as a missed opportunity for both teams. The difference between second and third in either conference isn’t a big deal, so while the Sounders improved their chances of passing RSL in the West, the draw delivers a blow to each team’s chances of catching Sporting Kansas City for second in the overall standings.

Ballack acknowledges difficult decision ahead for John Terry

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For the better part of 19 years John Terry has been a staple of Chelsea’s backline.

[ WATCH: Zaha nets first international goal for Ivory Coast ]

With his future at Stamford Bridge becoming more and more in doubt though, it appears it’s time for the 36-year-old to move on from his longtime club, and that’s a decision that another former Chelsea player doesn’t envy.

[ MORE: Everton’s Coleman breaks leg on Ireland duty ]

Ex-Blues midfielder Michael Ballack knows that Terry has options, whether it be in Major League Soccer, the Chinese Super League or even with another Premier League club, but the German says it’s difficult because of what the centerback has meant to Chelsea.

“He is a player with that history and charisma,” Ballack, who spent four years with Chelsea during his playing days, told Sky Sports. “He’s such a Chelsea boy and they love him there.

“I know what it means if your career comes to an end and you’re getting older. You don’t know whether you extend your contract, play for another club or go abroad to America.

“I’m sure he has some options but if you think long-term, you have to feel comfortable with the decision.

For the first time in years, Terry has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular largely due to Antonio Conte‘s three-back system. The 36-year-old has appeared in just five PL matches this campaign, while making 10 appearances overall for the Blues, who currently sit atop England’s top flight and are in position to go for the double with the FA Cup semifinals lurking.

Terry himself has acknowledged that his career is nearing its end, but knowing the competitive drive that has made the Englishman great throughout his almost 20-year career, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll just give up his playing days without a fight.

Gabriel Jesus confident he’ll return for Man City this season

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Gabriel Jesus bursted onto the Manchester City scene upon arrival, but an injury back in February has left the talented Brazilian sidelined ever since.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty ]

The lively attacker suffered a broken metatarsal last month against Bournemouth, which required surgery, but the 19-year-old remains confident that he’ll be able to feature again this season for the Citizens.

“I don’t know, I have no return prediction,” Jesus told SporTV. “But I hope I can still play some games this season.”

Initial thoughts were that Jesus would miss around three months, all but ending his first Premier League season. Now, Jesus is hoping that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off prior to the devastating injury.

“It’s good,” Jesus said on his road to recovery. “Thank God, the effort, not just mine, but from all the physiotherapists in Manchester, doctors and everyone. It was not easy for me.

“It’s my first injury. Not muscle injury, but it’s the first time something happens that leaves me out of games. So it was not easy.

“But I saw that, of course, no one wants this to happen, but it could be worse. So we operated soon, I decided to operate and give it time.”

In just his first four matches with Pep Guardiola‘s side, the young Brazilian netted three goals and even dethroned Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup.

CONCACAF chief Montagliani seeks World Cup entry for all co-hosts

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A joint-bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is looking more and more possible, and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani believes that if that does happen then all co-hosts should be granted a spot in the tournament.

[ MORE: Making sense of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras ]

With FIFA president Gianni Infantino looking to finalize World Cup expansion plans from 32 to 48 teams over the coming weeks, it seems as though Montagliani’s hopes could become a reality for CONCACAF and other regions planning on creating multi-nation bids.

“I don’t think we should be dictating how a confederation allocates their slots from a hosting standpoint. That’s up to them,” Montagliani said.

FIFA will conduct its next meeting on Thursday when Infantino and all six confederation presidents meet in Zurich, Switzerland to decide on World Cup expansion, which Infantino has been adamant about since taking the reigns of soccer’s governing body.

2026 could play an important role for the United States, as it is seen as a critical piece in a joint-bid with Mexico and Canada to host the World Cup.

Additionally, Montagliani has hopes of making a combined Copa America with North and South America a permanent fixture after recently holding discussions with South America’s FIFA vice president Alejandro Dominguez.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Friday night’s massive USMNT victory ]

However, one area that would be left uncertain is the future of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is currently held every two years.

“If that is the case and we get that done, then we have to have a serious look — is it really tenable to have a Gold Cup?” said Montagliani, whose FIFA stakeholders panel faces tough talks on adding and subtracting dates when clubs must release players on international dates.

“Do we really need it [the Gold Cup]?” he suggested. “Is it just clogging the calendar for the players?”

Lukaku coy on Everton future, says “decision has already been made”

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Romelu Lukaku has made it no secret that he hopes to play Champions League football, and reality may be setting in that the opportunity to do so won’t come at Everton.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break during Ireland match ]

While the Belgium international hasn’t dealt his hand in regards to his future at Goodison Park, it seems as though the Toffees could be losing out on keeping their star striker.

[ MORE: UEFA qualifying roundup — Wales in trouble, Buffon hits 1000 ]

Last month, agent Mino Raiola claimed that Lukaku’s deal with the English side was 99.9 percent complete, however, the 23-year-old has still yet to ink a new contract.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s UEFA World Cup qualifier against Greece, Lukaku says that his future plans are already made up.

“The decision has already been made so I can’t talk about that,” Lukaku said of his future at Everton.

The former Anderlecht standout has had nothing but success since joining Everton, first on loan and then making a permanent transfer from Chelsea in 2014. Over the combined stints, Lukaku has bagged 83 goals in all competitions for the Toffees, but the young attacker says there’s nothing wrong with having “ambition.”

“There is nothing wrong with ambition. You have to embrace it and where you are as a footballer,” Lukaku said. “I’ve made a long way until now but the road is still long and I know I have to improve and get better. I want to help Everton as much as I can, as well as the national team. I think a lot of stuff can be achieved.

“Sometimes people will mistake things that I say but it’s just ambition that I have; I want to win titles and trophies and I don’t think people should take that as arrogance — people should embrace it.

“This is what footballers need to achieve if they want to become the best, and I think young kids need to learn that too.”