Dallas is on top of the West, but let’s reserve judgment (for now)

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Everybody’s missing players, but it seemed like Real Salt Lake was hit harder than most. Their leading scorer (Alvaro Saborío), midfield linchpin (Kyle Beckerman), and starting goalkeeper (Nick Rimando) were out. So was their first choice right back (Tony Beltran) and their current starting left back (Abdoulie “Kenny” Mansally). Javier Morales was out, and their best defender (Nat Borchers) was getting his action of the season.

I believe they call that patchwork, but FC Dallas didn’t care. After all, you don’t get docked points because your opponent’s short-handed.

Instead, it’s incumbent on you to take advantage of situations, which is what FC Dallas did in their 2-0 win over RSL in Frisco. Check out the highlights, then meet me below for the discussion.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew2kdjEAYE4]

Dallas were missing players of their own, but not in critical spots. Forward Blas Pérez was absent from a position of strength, his international duty with Panama leaving Dallas to start their a comfortable five-midfielder formation. Raul Fernandez was away with Peru, but Chris Seitz provides an enviable option in reserve. Dallas got the better of the international week trade offs.

Those trade offs paid dividends in the second half, when Fabian Castillo broke through in the 70th minute with a left-footed blast into the top of Josh Saunders’ goal. Attacking through the left side of the box, Castillo appeared to be at a sharp enough angle for Saunders to handle the shot, but when the placement gave the former Galaxy keeper little chance to keep things even, Dallas had the only goal they’d need.

But just in case there was any doubt, Saunders gave them another goal. Lovel Palmer, being harassed by Jackson, played a short backpass to his keeper. It put Saunders in a bad place, and when he elected to take a touch to try and get the ball onto his left foot, Saunders only made things worse. Jackson eventually used a hook slide to poke the ball away from Saunders and into the RSL net, adding a goal to his assist on Castillo’s goal.

The 2-0 result leaves Dallas with nine points through four games, but we still need to see more from Schellas Hyndman’s crew. Their wins have been over a depleted RSL, a gift-giving Colorado, and a Houston team left wondering where the ref’s whistle was on the game winning goal. In the middle, they lost 3-1 to Chivas USA.

You can only win the games they give you, so Dallas certainly deserve their place atop the Western Conference, but given their March schedule and the lingering question of whether they can integrate all their striking talent, let’s take a wait-and-see before re-assessing Dallas’ place in the pecking order.

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

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The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

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Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”