Building preseason knowledge: New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake

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TUCSON, Ariz. – A ridiculously quick 2-0 lead – “Quick” as in three minutes! – may not have been surprising considering the starting lineups in Wednesday’s second contest in the Desert Diamond Cup.

Real Salt Lake’s B team was up against Thierry Henry and the rest of the Red Bulls top choices, after all. But how about this for a preseason kick in the head: it was the reservists from RSL who took that jaw-dropping early margin.

By the end the Red Bulls had made up, controlling the game as you would expect after those early wobbles and seeing out a 2-2 draw. But who cares about results? Here is what we can take away from Wednesday’s match in the surprising cold desert:

  • Jason Kreis wants to begin building the team’s weekly routine. Hence the choice to roll out a second-choice lineup. Saturday’s contest against Seattle will see the first-teamers start.
  • Red Bulls manager Mike Petke (pictured) wants to play in a 4-2-3-1 this year. New York’s starting lineup looked like this: Santiago Castano. Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Jamison Olave, Connor Lade, Dax McCarty, Juninho; Lloyd Sam, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry; Fabian Espindola.
  • Thierry Henry played alongside the left, which was interesting to watch. He was more or less having his way against RSL young defense; things will surely be harder when the real shin-kicking starts. Still, having Henry operate in space, more or less as a left-sided playmaker has something interesting about it. It looked just a little like his old Arsenal days, when the fab Frenchman tended to drift left in Arsene Wenger’s alignment.
  • Petke has one conundrum, it seems: Where to play Juninho, the team’s veteran (let’s call him veteran-plus) Brazilian midfielder. He was next to Dax McCarty on Wednesday and paled him comparison to his ginger central midfield mate. While McCarty was his usual busy self, winning balls, linking the play, always involved, etc., Juninho was rarely involved. At all.
  • Clearly, a 38-year-old midfielder doesn’t want to waste too much energy in a preseason exhibition. Still, Juninho’s ability to cover ground and willingness to tackle and otherwise be involved seemed alarmingly sluggish.
  • Cahill played behind Fabian Espindola in the 4-2-3-1. I’ll know more when I talk to Petke today or tomorrow at a training, but it looks like the formation gives RBNY’s new manager a lot of flexibility. Espindola could play wider (he tended to drift wide in his RSL years anyway). Tim Cahill can play closer to goal. Henry is smart enough to play any of the positions. Which leaves Juninho …
  • More match details are here from the Red Bulls side.
  • Rich Balchan, formerly of Columbus and recently released from Chicago, is now in RSL camp. Balchan had some good matches in Columbus; not sure what the issue is, but the 24-year-old Indiana University man always seemed to have potential.
  • Know how you can tell it’s preseason? Kreis, usually impeccably dressed along the sideline, was in jeans and an RSL jacket. I had to look twice to make sure it was him.
  • As for the two early goals? Considering the Red Bulls top two goalkeepers (Luis Robles and Ryan Meara) were unavailable, it’s hard to be too concerned. The first goal, just seconds into the match, could possibly be linked to information being provided to Conor Lade on a back pass gone wrong.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

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