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.

Klopp: Liverpool “not 500 miles away” from Man City’s standard

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Jurgen Klopp remains bullish on his Liverpool’s credentials as one of the Premier League’s top-four sides title challengers this season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

While everyone else might be writing off the Reds due to their propensity for defensive disasters on an every-game basis, Klopp refuses to concede that a gap of “500 miles” exists between his side and Manchester City, the early-days runaway leaders of the 2017-18 season — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t compare City with us, but I think everyone can see we are not 500 miles away. But they fly. It was a very decisive day when we lost 5-0. Dealing with a 5-0 defeat is not the easiest thing. We didn’t lose confidence but we were not that fluent afterwards and it was not like we could close our eyes and finish [thinking about it]. They did exactly the opposite. I saw the Stoke goals, you see the shot from Fernandinho and you think, ‘If it works, it works even like this.’ They are a fantastic team and we don’t have to compare, but it starts so early again with us having to apologize for the season so far because one team is flying.”

“Their way of football I would say is not something we are too far away from but to be as clinical as they have been so far? We weren’t.

“That’s the thing. We are still in the race, not with City in the moment because they have I don’t how many points, and I don’t say already that we should only fight for a top-four place. Performance-wise we are a team that should be there but now we have to get the results.”

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

All due respect to Klopp and Liverpool, the league table says City currently have 25 points (having played one game more), while Liverpool have 13. That’s not a difference of 500 points, but taking into account not only results but performances, it might as well be.

Ligue 1: Falcao, Balde score to keep Monaco close to PSG

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PARIS (AP) French champion Monaco got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against Caen on Saturday.

Monaco lost three and drew one of its previous four games in all competitions. But coach Leonardo Jardim’s side was largely in control against a Caen side that started brightly and faded after Keita Balde’s opening goal and first for Monaco.

“It was important to win, to get a bit of confidence back,” Jardim said. “We’ve been working hard and the players were very serious today.”

Captain Radamel Falcao scored his league-leading 13th from the penalty spot in the 59th, confidently sending goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way.

The win moved second-place Monaco within three points of Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more. Unbeaten PSG is away at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Falcao’s partnership with teen star Kylian Mbappe was crucial to Monaco’s charge to the league title and the Champions League semifinals last season. Mbappe left to join PSG in a high-profile move — as did several other key players — but Falcao’s new partnership with the unselfish Balde looks a promising one.

“We’ve lost a few players and we need a bit of time, it’s been a bit difficult for us,” Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic said. “I hope we can stay at the top of the table and that the young players can shine. We have a lot of quality here.”

Balde has been sharp in his handful of appearances since joining from Lazio in the offseason, but mainly as a link player and a provider.

This time, the Senegal forward finished off the move as he ran onto Thomas Lemar’s perfectly weighted pass into his path, cut across a defender on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

Lemar almost created another goal when his corner was headed against the crossbar by Brazilian defender Jemerson late in the first half.

Falcao put the game beyond doubt from the spot after Slovenian midfielder Jan Repas fouled attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.


After a tricky start to his tenure at Nantes, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has turned things around.

Nantes beat Guingamp 2-1 at home to move up to third place, extending Ranieri’s unbeaten run to eight matches after losing the first two.

Nantes, which scored through defender Chidozie Awaziem and midfielder Abdoulaye Toure, is just two points behind Monaco.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.