Columbus and Toronto FC are among the mystery teams in Major League Soccer’s ongoing preseason. We’ll define “mystery teams” loosely as clubs with significant roster turnover, several holes to fill or stocked with intriguing players and plans still in evolution.
Here’s what we can cull from Saturday’s match in the 2013 Disney Pro Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Columbus prevailed in the first match of the two-week preseason tournament, 1-0.
Obviously, coaches use preseason matches for experimentation and to study combinations in tandem and in groups. But it’s still fodder for conversation.
- Brazilian center back Gláuber, new to Columbus from Romania’s Rapid Bucuresti, made his first appearance, partnering with longtime Crew Stadium incumbent Chad Marshall.
- Dominic Oduro played along the right. In previous MLS stops, Oduro has more often been stationed closer to opposition goal as a striker, but he has lined up at different times as a flank midfielder.
- Danny O’Rourke, a utility knife for Robert Warzycha through the years, took over at center back for the second half.
- Debuting Crew midfielder Matias Sanchez got 58 minutes as a center midfielder (ahead of Tony Tchani, who played the final 32 minutes).
- For Toronto and new manager Ryan Nelsen, Jeremy Hall lined up as a central midfielder, an interesting choice for a guy who has always been on the outside. (He started ahead of Torsten Frings; that clearly won’t last, surely just a choice to best reflect preseason conditioning and such.)
- Heralded rookie Kyle Bekker, a Canadian international and the third player picked in last month’s MLS draft, played the final 26 minutes at forward.
The Starting lineups looked like this:
Columbus: Andy Gruenebaum; Josh Williams, Chad Marshall, Gláuber, Tyson Wahl; Dominic Oduro, Agustín Viana, Matías Sánchez, Ben Speas; Federico Higuaín, Ryan Finley.
Toronto FC: Stefan Frei; Richard Eckersley, Gale Agbossoumonde, Darren O’Dea, Ashtone Morgan; Reggie Lambe, Jonathan Osorio, Jeremy Hall, Emery Welshman; Luis Silva, Justin Braun.
The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.
[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]
Three moments that mattered
16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.
33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.
43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.
Man of the match: Luke Mulholland
Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)
Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]
United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.
All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]
Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.
You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.
[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.
[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.
The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.
Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.