Offshore drilling, England: at Chelsea 1, Liverpool 1

Leave a comment

When Roberto Di Matteo talks about Liverpool being a bogey team, he’s alluding to days like these. Chelsea dominated play for most of the match, but unable to generate enough quality chances, the home side left the game to be drawn late. When Luis Suárez headed home a Jamie Carragher flick on in the 73rd minute, Chelsea was left with one win in seven versus Liverpool, the Blues drawn 1-1 at Stamford Bridge.

The result, however, will be overshadowed by the health of John Terry. The Chelsea captain, who opened the game’s scoring in the 20th minute with his 50th career goal, left the match in the 40th minute with a major injury to his right leg. Ramires, in pursuit of Suárez, shoved the Liverpool attacker from behind, the Uruguayan falling into the front of Terry’s lower leg. Foot planted, Terry had no choice but to absorb Suárez’s weight. He immediately called for help and was eventually stretchered from the field.

Man of the Match: It’s a Liverpool match, they didn’t lose, and they scored. Odds are Luis Suárez was the game’s best player.

It wasn’t quite as obvious today as usual, but Suárez was still the Reds’ only real scoring threat. The focus of Chelsea’s defense all day, Suárez was his typical relentless self. His efforts were rewarded in the 73rd minute, Carragher’s header leaving his teammate with an open goal.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Rodgers makes the right changes with his formation.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers started with a three-man defense, bringing Jamie Carragher into the team to play between Andre Wisdom and Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson pushed to wing back positions. The formation had the benefit of getting Liverpool’s best players on the field (the team’s struggled all season trying to find an attacker to join Suárez and Raheem Sterling), but with Chelsea dominating, Rodgers switched after 60 minutes.

It was worth a try, though. Based on the names on the team sheet, it was worth seeing if Johnson and Enrique could do enough to justify sacrificing an attacker and flipping the midfield (inverting its triangle). When it didn’t work, Rodgers switched, and Liverpool eventually scored.

Liverpool’s midfield needs to create more chances.

No matter the formation — 4-3-3 or 3-4-2-1 — Liverpool’s three-man midfield must generate more chances. With the team regularly dominating possession, there’s no reason not to. While the team is short of strikers (Suárez the only man on the team capable of leading the attack), the Steven Gerrard-Joe Allen-Nuri Sahin midfield is not even generating chances for the Reds’ wide attackers, let alone themselves.

On Sunday, Liverpool crafted only two through balls for Suárez and Sterling, only one of which came from the midfield (Gerrard). Despite most of the possession and 507 completed passes, Liverpool’s attack remained dormant.

Chelsea’s swoon continues.

Be talked about it mid-week after Chelsea’s performance against Shakhtar. This run has all the hallmarks from Chelsea’s annual swoon. Liverpool may be a bogey team, but Chelsea has enough talent to break that duck. Instead, they dropped to third in the Premier League.

Packaged for takeaway

  • Pepe Reina is still out, injured. After his understudy, Brad Jones, put in another decent day, there’ll be increased talk about whether the Spanish international should be sold.
  • A strong day from Eden Hazard meant the attacking trio of Hazard, Oscar, and Juan Mata performed to their normal level. Unfortunately, Chelsea got little from the other three players who could contribute to the attack. Deep midfielders Ramires and John Obi Mikel failed to contribute, while Fernando Torres continues to underperform against his former club.
  • David Luiz missed today’s game with a tonsillitis. When he returns, Chelsea will be facing a surprising depth issue in central defense. While the trio of Luiz, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic is as good as any in the league, Ivanovic is the first choice right back. Expect Cesar Azpilicueta (who started on Sunday) to become a more permanent part of the back line’s rotation.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

Photo by Stephen Pond - The FA/The FA via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
Leave a comment

Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.