Sporting Kansas City defeat Philadelphia Union 3-1 in MLS season opener

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Chester, Penn. – Sporting Kansas City opened the 2013 season with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union, but it wasn’t as smooth a match as the visitors would have liked.

An early goal for Philadelphia rattled Kansas City, but the Union’s second half breakdowns — “the little things,” as Union coach John Hackworth called them — led to three points in the opener for a Sporting team expected to again contend for the Eastern Conference crown.

“We felt like we had the chances, we were dictating the game and it was just a couple tiny plays that seem so inconsequential, yet they lead to something,” Hackworth said. “Credit to Sporting Kansas City because they take advantage of those little things. They believed in that and felt they could come back. And that happened.”

The first half was a case of something old, something new for the Union. Philadelphia came out inspired – perhaps in part by an unorganized Kansas City back line – and got on the board in the 17th minute when Sebastien Le Toux finished a perfectly-weighted Keon Daniel cross from the left wing.

Two ball-watching Sporting KC defenders, Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic, left Le Toux unmarked and the Frenchman celebrated his return to the club he leads in all-time goals, assists and points by putting the Union on the board. Le Toux calmly settled the ball with his right foot and slotted it into the back of the net from six yards out, scoring in his first game of the season, just as he did in his first stint with the club in 2010.

Le Toux and Daniel easily found space in the pockets in front of Sporting’s back line in the opening 30 minutes to give Philadelphia a new, confident look that it lacked last season.

It was a fitting return for Le Toux, who scored a hat trick in the team’s first-ever home game on April 10, 2010.

But Philadelphia’s seemingly fresh look of confidence was shaken just before halftime, when winger Graham Zusi punished the Union’s collective mental lapse to equalize.

Bobby Convey sent in a floated left-footed cross that forward Claudio Bieler knocked down into the path of an unmarked Benny Feilhaber. His shot from point-blank range was saved by Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but Zusi pounced on the rebound to make it 1-1 in the 41st minute.

(MORE: What a match from Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi)

Sporting returned from the break with more aggression than they had in the first half and managed to deflate much of Philadelphia’s early energy. The visitors were rewarded in the 66th minute, courtesy of an Oriol Rosell header off Zusi’s in-swinging free kick.

Philadelphia left Rosell unmarked just outside the 6-yard box for the go-ahead goal.

For the 2012 Eastern Conference regular season champions, order was restored – for now.

(MORE: Video of the first goal for MLS 2013)

Rust was present throughout the unconvincing win for Sporting Kansas City, however. Philadelphia nearly tied the match in the 77th minute when Besler chested the ball back to Nielsen inside the 6-yard box, forcing the unsuspecting goalkeeper to scramble for a save.

Bieler buried all hope of a season-opening win for Philadelphia when he easily slotted home a Chance Myers pass from 15 yards out to give Sporting Kansas City a 3-1 win.

“It gives us confidence on the road that we could come back from a deficit,” Zusi said. “The statistics in this league are not very high for teams that get scored on first on the road. You don’t usually see them come back and win the game, so that’s a good sign for us. Just the fact that we can dig deep in not an ideal environment, grind out the game — it wasn’t the prettiest game either — to know that we can grind those games out is a positive thing.”

Sporting faces another Eastern Conference road match on Saturday, March 9, at Toronto FC before playing its home opener March 16 against the Chicago Fire.

Match highlights are here:

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Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

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Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

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We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.

Report: Bayern Munich scouted Walker, Alexis this weekend

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German publication Kicker says Bayern Munich technical director Michael Reschke attended both of this weekend’s FA Cup semifinals and had his eye on two players in particular.

Reschke apparently wants to bring players from both North London Derby rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s Top Four plight ]

In the case of Spurs, that man is right back Kyle Walker. The 26-year-old has also played right mid in 8 of his 35 matches for Tottenham this season, and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. It’s hard to believe Spurs would have interest in selling Walker, who would help fill the role of retiring Philipp Lahm.

On the other side is Alexis Sanchez, the embattled but electric Arsenal attacker who Arsene Wenger described as an “animal” and “always ready to kill the opponent” this weekend. Wenger says Sanchez isn’t going anywhere, but Bayern does boast Chilean teammate Arturo Vidal and former Barca mate Thiago Alcantara.

Walker is signed at Spurs through 2021, while Sanchez’s contract ends after next season.

Roma lands sporting director Monchi, a reported Arsenal target

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AS Roma has found its new sporting director, and it’s a man with a keen eye for talent.

Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez Verdejo, 48, has spent the last 18 years as the sporting director at Sevilla, which won five UEFA Europa League titles under his watch.

Monchi was discussed in the media as a target for the same job at Arsenal and was a target for other Premier League clubs, but Roma sealed the deal with the former goalkeeper.

[ JPW: Oriol Romeu — The Perfectly Poised Destroyer ]

He is considered to have a big role in discovering and developing Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas, and Dani Alves.

Read more from ASRoma.com.