Drilling down on: at Portland 1, San Jose 1

1 Comment

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 The teams played near-identical 4-4-2 formations (Wondolowski’s falling into a withdrawn role more often than Danny Mwanga).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”.

Francesco Totti on bench for final Roma match

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday marks Francesco Totti’s final match with Roma after a stellar 24-year career, but the striker won’t be starting at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Reus could miss at least six months after suffering knee damage ]

The 40-year-old was named to the bench for his club’s 2016/17 Serie A finale against Cagliari, with Roma needing a victory to capture second position in Italy’s top flight.

Napoli currently sits just one point behind the Giallorossi and hold a slight two-goal edge in goal differential, which could be a decisive factor in which side finishes second.

It would be quite odd for Roma to not give Totti playing time in his final outing, after a career that featured over 300 goals across all competitions for his hometown club.

Transfer rumor roundup: PL clubs losing ground for Dembele and more

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With all the major leagues across Europe either closing or already have finished it’s the season of transfer rumors once again.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s FA Cup win vs. Chelsea ]

Here are several of the juiciest pieces from Sunday:

Three London sides could potentially miss out on Celtic star Moussa Dembele as AC Milan has emerged as a favorite to sign the top-rated Frenchman. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have all expressed great interest in the promising attacker, who scored 17 goals this season for the Scottish champions.

After struggling at times this season to keep goals out, Liverpool could turn to France as a potential outlet to fix the cracks in their back line. AS Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy already has significant PL interest from Manchester United and Manchester City, but Jurgen Klopp‘s side could also put up a fight.

West Ham is looking to bolster its attack this summer, and with Pep Guardiola likely making significant changes at the Etihad Stadium, Kelechi Iheanacho could be on his way to the Hammers ahead of the 2017/18 PL season.

Manchester City higher ups are keen on having Guardiola bring back goalkeeper Joe Hart from Torino this summer. Hart spent last season on loan with the Italian club after Guardiola sent him away from England early in his managing tenure at the club.

Luis Enrique leaves with feeling of mission accomplished

David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique leaves Barcelona with no regrets and the feeling of mission accomplished.

[ MORE: Arsenal edges Chelsea to earn FA Cup crown ]

The coach capped his three-year stint with the Catalan club by winning the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

Now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time off after three “intense” seasons, and let the club move on under fresh leadership.

“There is no sadness at all, just happiness,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the one who decided to stop, and I think that it was a wonderful decision for me, for the players and for the team as well. The intensity of this profession demands maximum dedication every single day and there is a natural wear out.”

He said players always need new challenges and will benefit from a change in leadership, and the club will certainly keep winning despite his departure.

After missing out on the league this season, the Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s second title of the campaign to go along with the Spanish Super Cup, but Luis Enrique has won nearly everything since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014. The former midfielder led Barcelona to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2015. He also managed the league-Copa double in 2016, and also won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2015.

He said he was “proud” to have helped Barcelona fans celebrate so many accomplishments during his time at the helm.

“If someone had told me when I arrived that I would have the opportunity to help my team win nine titles out of 13 that we played, I’d say that these would be good numbers,” he said. “It would have been nice to have won La Liga and contended for the Champions League title this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe that the fans recognized the effort and the sacrifice of all the players throughout the season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make them happy.”

Luis Enrique said he was also lucky to have had the chance to coach a player like Lionel Messi.

“He is extraordinary, extraterrestrial,” Luis Enrique said about the Argentina forward, who scored the team’s first goal on Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Messi at his best, performing at the highest level. He is the very best, without a doubt.”

Neymar and Paco Alcacer also scored at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to help Barcelona win its third straight Copa del Rey title, and 29th all-time.

Luis Enrique celebrated with his seven-year-old daughter by his side, waving his winner’s trophy and singing the club’s anthem in front of the Barcelona fans who traveled to Madrid.

Barcelona is expected to announce this week that its new coach will be Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao a few days ago.

Luis Enrique’s future remains up in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, really. I’m open to every possibility, including changing sports,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said, with a smile on his face. “I do know that I’m very competitive and it’s been like this since I was born. Right now I’m looking forward to the opportunity of enjoying my friends and my family.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Report: Reus could miss six months after sustaining knee damage

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marco Reus missed much of the 2016/17 season with injuries, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker had that unfortunate spell continue on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U-20 World Cup ]

The 27-year-old exited the club’s DFB Pokal final win against Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime after suffering a knee injury.

According to German outlet Bild, Reus will miss at least six months as he rehabs and prepares to make a comeback.

Despite the bad news for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s men captured the title behind goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.