Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Juventus 3, Chelsea 0

Leave a comment

It was Juventus’s best performance of the season, enough to not only vault the Italian champions to second place in Group E but leave the defending champions on Champions League’s precipice after defeating Chelsea 3-0 win in Turin.

Controlling the match from the opening whistle, Juventus converted their advantage into a lead in the 38th minute when Fabio Quagliarella deflected a Andrea Pirlo shot past Petr Cech. Second half goals from Arturo Vidal and substitute Sebastian Giovinco gave Juventus a deservedly decisive win, their second in a row after starting the tournament with three straight draws.

Chelsea, three points behind already-qualified Shakhtar Donetsk and two behind Juventus, need a Juve loss on matchday six to have a chance at advancing to the knockout round.

Man of the Match: Arturo Vidal probably deserved more credit than he’d received coming into the match (as James Horncastle noted). Tuesday’s performance might put the Chilean international on more English-language radars, even if his most valuable contributions were subtle. Scoring Juventus’s second goal, Vidal will get plenty of credit for his attacking contribution, but at the right apex of Juventus’s midfield triangle, the 25-year-old provided needed support to disrupt play Chelsea’s attacking midfielders use to break down opposing defenses. On the ball, Vidal completed a team-leading 64 passes at 94 percent of his passes (also a team high).

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Juventus has woken up.

It took four rounds of group play before Juventus recorded their first victory of Champions League. Even then, it was at home to lightly-regarded Nordsjaelland, a result that did little to dispel the notion that something was wrong. For all the success the Old Lady’s had domestically, they’d been unable to replicate that form in Europe.

That changed today. Not only did Juventus beat reigning the European champions, they controlled the match. True, they needed fortunate bounces to beat Petr Cech on two of their goals, but Juventus was playing well enough to generate other goals had they not been bless was a little luck (and on Fabio Quagliarella’s goal, the luck was their own doing). It was, by far, Juventus’s best performance of the tournament.

Perhaps they needed the wakeup call of being drawn in Denmark. Or maybe this improvement would have come on its own. Regardless, Juventus lived up to their billing on Tuesday.

With Torres, without – it’s all the same.

Roberto Di Matteo made the change many predicted, benching striker Fernando Torres. What made the choice more compelling was the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea’s other (and as it turned out, injured) striking option. That pushed Eden Hazard in from the left, the Belgian resuming a role he often played last year with Lille.

Torres’ absence wasn’t noticed. With defender Cesar Azpilicueta starting as a right winger, Chelsea’s attacking threat remained the same – Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata, and little else.

At West Brom? That’s good for a goal. In Turin, you’re probably going get shut out.

It’s an area Chelsea needs to improve, but three months into the season (and 23 months into his Chelsea career), we know Torres is unlikely to supply that improvement.

Chelsea’s swoon continues.

We’ve talked about it before. Chelsea’s hit a rough patch, just as they’ve done each of the last two autumns. There’s little to add to the story other than note (a) the slide continues, (b) Roberto Di Matteo needs to find a solution, because (c) it would be a mistake to assume the club’s early-season form is more informative than last year’s results (results that left them outside of England’s top four).

Oh, and (d) Roman Abramovich.

Packaged for takeaway

  • Juventus outshot Chelsea 13-2 in terms of tries on frame. Overall shots: 25-11.
  • Ramires is a fine player. So is John Obi Mikel. Together at the base of midfield, it’s an adequate but (for Chelsea’s standards) not good enough solution, hence Chelsea’s recent defensive record: 21 goals allowed in 10 games. Injuries are forcing Di Matteo to use the duo, though it would have been nice to have somebody like Raul Miereles around.
  • Juventus got a strong day from their three central defenders — Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini — though Chelsea helped. Juan Mata, starting on the left, spent much of his night playing closer to the middle, while Azpilicueta never provided a credible threat.

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.