Attack, defense as advertised in Portland’s draw with New York

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PORTLAND, Ore. — We knew they’d score goals. And on Sunday, Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers did, putting three on the visiting New York Red Bulls.

We also knew they’d allow goals, and boy did they ever. A terrible debut from imported defender Mikael Silvestre contributed to three New York goals in the first 28 minutes.

As wild as the night was by Major League Soccer standards — six goals, including two during the Timbers’ second half comeback — we maybe in store for more. If the first 90 minutes of the Caleb Porter era are any indication, Portland fans could be in for a few more 3-3 results like the one they played out against New York.

In attack, Portland were as advertised. Newcomer Diego Valeri was a constant threat, the skill exhibited on his 14th minute goal sure to make the Timbers’ opener a Goal of the Week candidate. After a quiet start, Darlington Nagbe was the final hour’s best player, scoring the Timbers’ second before starting the play that led to the third. With two close calls late, Ryan Johnson nearly completed Portland’s comeback from 3-1 down. All the stars of Portland’s attack shined.

At the other end of the spectrum was their defense, with Silvestre playing a part in all three goals. Miscommunication between the former Manchester United defender and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts gifted Fabian Espindola a ninth minute opener. His misread of a bouncing ball in the 24th gave the former Real Salt Laker a second. His inability to cut out a ball across the six from Heath Pearce saw Jamison Olave put New York up 3-1 after 28 minutes.

The 35-year-old responded well, his play on the ball helping the Timbers’ second half siege. But it’s a debut he’ll want to forget.

Other notes from Sunday’s draw (mostly about New York):

  • Because of the Timbers’ ups and downs, it’s hard to draw any conclusions about New York. It was, however, noticeable how little influence the Juninho-Dax McCarty midfield had on the game.
  • It also appeared as if New York may have taken their 3-1 lead for granted. The intensity of their four advanced players (Espindola, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry, and Ruben Bover Izquierdo) dropped. Had the team kept going to him, Espindola could have kept taking advantage of Portland.
  • What a weird night for Jamison Olave. The New York defender was caught flat-footed on the Valeri goal. A late own goal credited to him bookended his night. In between, he was the game’s best defender, and he scored the team’s third goal. Strange stuff.
  • Thierry Henry started wide left but played most of the match through the middle, with his permanent shift to a central role coming after New York went up two.
  • Overall, it was a poor night for the Red Bulls’ star. He looked slow and rusty, his touch failing him a number of times.
  • After the game, Caleb Porter quoted a lot of Portland’s favorable statistics. They held 63 percent of the game’s possession. They out-passed New York 549-319. They put 10 shots on goal to New Yorks five, and their total shots advantage was 21-10.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”