Drilling down on: New York 3, at Philadelphia 0

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Man of the Match: How much does Dax McCarty’s energy bring to the Red Bulls? His work throughout the midfield is immeasurable. McCarty’s starting positions were nominally on the right of New York’s 4-4-2, but he was all over the place, poking away balls and adding pressure in the right spots on defense, and then always motoring into good positions in the final third when the Red Bulls took possession. He had a big part in two New York goals.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Mission accomplished for New York, who temporarily moved into second place in the East pending today’s result from Chicago. In all likelihood, the Red Bulls have moved out of that opening round, 4th-vs.-5th match, which was the day’s primary objective.
  • The Red Bulls keep talking about high pressure and the need for more of it. It took 32 games, but they’ve finally gotten it right. Last week against Kansas City and then Saturday at PPL Park, they pressed high and as a unit.
  • The net effect is that New York players are already in good, advanced positions when they take possession in midfield.  That makes Thierry Henry more effective, since he receives the ball in higher positions rather than drifting back and then acting more often as a linking man.
  • Henry had a strong afternoon, contributing on both sides of the ball. He looks like a man on a mission.
  • A pretty shockingly poor afternoon from the usually steady Carlos Valdes. The Union’s Colombian international center back lost the plot in this one. He gave away one penalty kick, probably should have been whistled for another when he wrestled with and then threw Kenny Cooper to the ground, and he looked fairly inept as Thierry Henry maneuvered around him with ease for the visitor’s second goal.
  • The Red Bulls back line wasn’t perfect, although Rafa Marquez had a nice match, almost always in the right spot and helping himself a lot with shrewd reads on the unfolding sequences. On the other hand, Jack McInerney was finding too many gaps along a back line that sometimes wasn’t as compact as it needed to be. Speaking of McInerney …
  • At the top and bottom of his lineup, John Hackworth has reason to like what he has. Young goalkeeper Zac MacMath, 21 years old, started 2012 with stumbles aplenty. But the back half has been fairly smooth, and he will remember Saturday’s season finale as a good afternoon of sure-handed, composed work. And at the other end of the field, McInerney, just 20, finished with a flourish.
  • He constantly troubled Red Bulls center back Markus Holgersson, and found good spots near New York’s goal. Finishing with four goals in the Union’s final six matches should send the young striker into 2013 awash in confidence.
  • With a tactical switch and more energy from the home team, lots of it supplied by halftime replacement Antoine Hoppenot, the Union began finding playmaker Michael Farfan and taking control in midfield, putting the Red Bulls under real pressure for the first time all afternoon. For 20 minutes after the break, the Red Bulls ability to take all three points seemed suddenly in doubt. But Cooper’s second goal of the afternoon took all the air out of the game.
  • Freddy Adu? Not in the 18 for Philadelphia. Again.
  • Philadelphia average starting age Saturday: 24.7.

(MORE: Time running out for Freddy Adu)

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.