DC United v New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls, DC United finish scoreless

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HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls and DC United played to a 0-0 draw at Red Bull Arena on Saturday in a game the home side dominated everywhere but the scoreboard.

New York dictated large stretches of the match, out-shooting DC 24-4 and controlling 57 percent of the game’s possession. Fabian Espindola hit the bar twice and DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid scooped the ball of the line in stoppage time to keep the Red Bulls off the board, but New York never found a breakthrough.

“I think we deserved to win, no disrespect to DC,” Red Bulls coach Mike Petke said. “I think they fought hard for that point. Like I said, if we were playing a game of statistics we got three points today. Unfortunately it’s not a game of statistics and the ball didn’t fall in the net for us.”

The Red Bulls looked like they had won the game in stoppage time, but Hamid saved Brandon Barklage’s header off the line as he fell into the goal. After the game Hamid insisted the ball never crossed the line; replays proved inconclusive.

It was a frantic ending to a match that took a while to get going. A contentious opening few minutes gave way to a tame first half. New York forward Thierry Henry exchanged off-ball fouls with DC forward Lionard Pajoy, but there was little heat to follow in the opening 45 minutes.

Espindola’s 27th minute header hit the crossbar from 12 yards out, but that was the main chance for a Red Bulls team that played well in the middle third but offered little finishing quality around the net. Espindola was effective drifting wide and providing service from the left wing, where most of New York’s efforts came from in the first half.

For its part, United stayed compact and thwarted off New York’s forays forward. DC mustered up next to nothing offensively, though, even with the return of attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who made his season debut after serving a two-game suspension for a preseason altercation.

“We pissed the ball away so many times when we didn’t need to,” DC United coach Ben Olsen said. “We are missing that in our game right now. We know that, I know that, the players know. We’ll continue to work on it; we’ll continue to do better with the ball.”

DC produced even less after halftime, outside a 59th minute chance that Chris Pontius had denied by goalkeeper Luis Robles. New York’s pressure increased throughout the second half, but so too did the Red Bulls’ frustrations.

Hamid denied Tim Cahill on a tap-in from three yards out and Eric Alexander’s header two minutes later was cleared off the line by Chris Korb.

“I came in and told the boys I should have stuck it in the back of the net,” Cahill said. “But that’s what you do – you’ve got to pick yourself up and go again.”

Cahill thought Barklage’s stoppage time header crossed the line, but admitted nobody — including him — had a good angle to see it.

“It looked like it went over – it looked – it’s hard for the referee’s and officials to see it,” he said. “Sometimes they give it, sometimes they don’t. We felt it was in, but you’re always going to when you’re shooting on their goal.”

(MORE: Further analysis on the Red Bulls-DCU match)

Coming away with no goals and one point in such a lopsided affair, Red Bulls players were surprisingly upbeat about the match. The finish was an upgrade from New York’s first two games of the year, a 3-3 draw in the opener in Portland and a 2-1 loss at San Jose last weekend. In both those games, the Red Bulls watched leads evaporate in the final minutes.

Jamison Olave’s own goal in the 83rd minute of the March 3 opener gave Portland a share of the points and New York followed that up by conceding another 83rd minute equalizer to San Jose on March 10, followed by a stoppage time game-winning penalty kick from Chris Wondolowski (which he got a second chance on thanks to Roy Miller, remember).

So while Saturday’s result left points on the table yet again, Red Bulls players, including midfielder Dax McCarty, were pleased with the effort.

“It’s disappointing but at the same time you can see the confidence that we played with today,” McCarty said. “Mike [Petke] instilled that in us before the game and we were ready. I think they had absolutely nothing. That was a complete performance; we haven’t had many since I’ve been here. That was a complete 90-minute performance top to bottom.”

New York (0-1-2, 2 pts.) heads north to face Montreal next Saturday in search of its first win, while DC United (1-1-1, 4 pts.) hosts Columbus next Saturday.

Match highlights:

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“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.