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)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”