Drilling down on: at Portland 1, San Jose 1

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Roy Lassiter has company in the Major League Soccer record book, but it’s not without controversy. A disputed, first half penalty led to Chris Wondolowski’s record-tying 27th goal of the season as San Jose drew in Portland, 1-1

Man of the Match: He drew the goal, and he’ll come under criticism for the exaggerated way he did it, but Steven Lenhart created his team’s only score of the match. He was also the most active Earthquakes player, constantly going to battle with David Horst when he wasn’t providing the hold up play San Jose needed to mount their attack. After he went off in the second (as San Jose tried to protect their 1-0 lead), the Earthquakes never threatened, a Timber defense that had held Lenhart at bay having no trouble keeping his teammates in check.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • In time, people will forget the details of Wondolowski’s record-tying goal – as it should be. Today’s record is the culmination of  a season-long effort. Wondolowski’s earned his place as the joint-record holder.
  • It’s just unfortunate the record had to come this way. In the 23rd minute, a long ball out of San Jose’s end exploited some poor Timbers defending, sending Lenhart in alone on Donovan Ricketts. Ricketts read the play and came out to meet Lenhart, but didn’t get to the ball in time, the San Jose forward touching the bouncing ball beyond the Timbers keeper with his right thigh.
  • Lenhart beat Ricketts to the resulting ball 16 yards from goal in the left of Portland’s area. Ricketts went to ground attempting a tackle, cueing Lenhart to go airborne. Referee Mark Geiger immediately pointed to the spot. For his share of the record, Wondolowski converted low and into the left of Ricketts’ goal, putting San Jose up one in the 24th minute.
  • Until that point, the Timbers had played San Jose even, not surprising given the venue. At Jeld-Wen, Portland’s a league-average team, posting a +3 goal difference. On the road, the Timbers become Toronto FC’s second string (-25 difference).
  • Part of that even-footing was due to the formations and weather. The teams played near-identical 4-4-2 formations (Wondolowski’s falling into a withdrawn role more often than Danny Mwanga). Combined with a windy, wet, grey day in Portland, there wan’t much separating the two teams.
  • Toward the end of the first half, San Jose started obviously playing to Wondolowski, looking for the record-setting 28th goal. Three low-percentage crosses were delivered right to Timbers players, hinting what San Jose’s approach would be in the second half.
  • That plan never materialized. The Timbers played one of their best halves of the season over the last 45. Moving Darlington Nagbe in from the left, Portland used a three-man midfield to help lock down the middle of the park.
  • Portland also zealously went down their left, deploying Mwanga on the flank to use as a target, moving Nagbe and midfielder Eric Alexander to that side when establishing possession.
  • The tactic helped Portland control the half, but it failed to yield a goal. Instead, it was hard work by Alexander, taking the ball off Steven Beitashour’s foot just outside the Earthquakes’ penalty area, that led to tying goal. Bright Dike’s resulting shot was saved by Jon Busch, but the resulting rebound was pushed to the center of the area for an easy Dike put-back.
  • Wondolowski’s best chance of a record-breaker came in the 65th minute when a shot from the left of the area drew a save from Ricketts.
  • Portland had the best chance to claim full points, a header from David Horst off a set piece going wide of goal after he’d out-jumped Busch.
  • As time wound down, San Jose’s reputation for late goals loomed larger, but Wondo’s 28th goal never came. The Earthquakes close their season with a draw in Portland, their Saturday captain having earned his piece of history.
  • Portland concludes a tumultuous season with one of their best efforts, taking their fifth point of the season from the Supporters’ Shield winners.
  • At the end of the match, Portland players walked around Jeld-Wen displaying a sign that read “TO THE LEAGUE’S BEST FANS: WE WILL REPAY YOU”.

Heynckes squashes Lewandowski rumors after Premier League rumors

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The English media – mainly the tabloids – has had a field day over the last 24 hours with rumors of a Robert Lewandowski move to the Premier League claiming, but the Bayern Munich manager is having none of it.

Jupp Heynckes told the German press during his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the club’s Saturday match against Hertha Berlin, “I can’t imagine there is a chance [the club executives] will sell Lewandowski.”

“Bayern is not a selling club,” Heynckes went on to proclaim. “They want to, and always will want to, keep their top players.”

The reports stated that Lewandowski was “flirting” with a move to the Premier League, and that while Manchester City and Chelsea were the more logical destination, Liverpool was actually the preferred landing spot as the Polish international was open to a reunification with former boss Jurgen Klopp, whom he worked with at Borussia Dortmund before his switch to Allianz Arena. Lewandowski’s contract at Bayern Munich currently runs through 2021, leaving the player with little say over his future.

While the rumors seem like a long shot, what does make sense is that, at 29 years old, Lewandowski doesn’t a ton of time left to convince a Premier League club he’s worth a heavy investment for the next couple of years. Many top teams – most notably Arsenal – are hesitant to sign players over 30 years old, and would be even less inclined to pay a hefty transfer fee for a player without a long future ahead of them. Manchester United just paid a cut-rate price for Alexis Sanchez, and while that was largely due to Arsenal’s position of weakness regarding the expiry of Sanchez’s contract, Sanchez’s age also partially contributed to that knocked down transfer rate.

Nonetheless, Bayern’s sale history is minimal, having only offloaded surplus players, such as defender Medhi Benatia this past summer, Mario Gotze back to Borussia Dortmund the summer before, and Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City in 2015.

Recently retired Ryan Mason receives standing ovation at Hull match

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Midfielder Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after suffering a fractured skull over a year ago, received a warm ovation at KCOM Stadium before Hull City’s match on Friday against Sheffield United.

Mason, just 26 years old, announced his retirement last week on the advice of medical professionals after over a year of rehabilitation from his injury in an attempt to return to playing. The Tottenham youth product was injured in an aerial clash with Chelsea defender Gary Cahill in January of 2017, and did not return to action.

“Ryan has sought the guidance of numerous world-renowned neurologists and neuro surgeons who have all advised that a return to competitive football is not advised,” Hull City said in a release after Mason’s retirement was announced. “Ryan would like to put on record his thanks to all at the club who have aided his recovery to this point and he his is indebted to them for their support and compassion over the past 12 months.”

Before Hull City’s match against Sheffield, an important one with Hull battling relegation, Mason was brought out on the pitch and received a warm reception from the patchy crowd.

As the club did after his injury, they put a message on the screen with the Twitter hashtag #OneRyanMason.

Mason picked up his first job since retirement over the weekend, commentating on Sky Sports in studio for a Championship match between Aston Villa and Preston North End, which ended in a 1-1 draw. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind – it’s been crazy. I’ve had a lot of messages and it’s been a lot to take in,” Mason said on the broadcast. “I’ve been quite positive throughout and I’m looking to the next chapter now.”It’s difficult [to accept]. For the last year I’ve been working as hard as I can to get back on a football pitch. But when you’re long-term health comes into it then it’s a lot easier. There is more to life than football.

Wigan boss defends fans after pitch-storming

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Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook is defending his supporters following a memorable upset of Manchester City in the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Latics fans stormed the pitch at the DW Stadium, a celebratory but dangerous scene which included “disturbances” between supporters of both clubs and a confronration between fans and Sergio Aguero.

But it takes just a look at the above photo to see both sides of the issues, as the photographer at right catches fans and players celebrating together… while Aguero rages behind him.

From Sky Sports:

“You’ve got to remember the pure emotions of the night for Wigan fans,” he said.

“They didn’t really turn up to see us win – that’s the truth of it. I’ve got a picture of my son in the directors’ box – he’s only 12 – with his head in his hands looking at the floor because he couldn’t watch.

“We certainly don’t want to see fans engaging with players. The players’ protection is absolutely paramount. But also the supporters enjoying that moment is a good thing for me.”

There is, also, this photo to show the other side of the scenario. Ultimately in our era, this type should sadly be prevented to defy the potential for the latter. That’s sad, but it’s a litigious world.

Dan Burn of Wigan Athletic celebrates. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Everton

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  • Watford has two wins in last 14 PL matches
  • Toffees won 3-2 at Goodison on Nov. 5
  • Watford leads all-time 19W-3D-3L

Two top half hopefuls meet at Vicarage Road in a reprise of an early season thriller when Watford hosts Everton on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Everton is in a battle for seventh with Burnley and Leicester City, and could finish the weekend there with a win and help.

Watford has to chance to finish in the top half. It’d be there already had it not coughed up a 2-0 lead to then-caretaker manager David Unsworth‘s Everton in a 3-2 loss on Nov. 5.

What they’re saying

Watford’s Jose Holebas on the match“We have to do something in this game. When we played there, we were 2-0 up and gave the game away in that way – it is unacceptable for me. I was a little bit emotional because I know that this season we have lost some points [from winning positions].”

Everton’s Sam Allardyce on his style critics“The type of football we’ve produced isn’t rubbish, we’ve produced proper football in terms of what we’ve tried to achieve. The past reputation is not the reality if you ask the players, so you look at the football we’ve played since I’ve been here.”

Prediction