MLS Real Salt Lake FC Dallas Soccer

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.

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.

EURO 2016: Who’s headed to France?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10: Volkan Sen of Turkey in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.

The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]

That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.

Group A

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Iceland
  3. Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)

Group B

  1. Belgium
  2. Wales
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)

Group C

  1. Spain
  2. Slovakia
  3. Ukraine (qualified for play-off)

Group D

  1. Germany
  2. Poland
  3. Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)

Group E

  1. England
  2. Switzerland
  3. Slovenia (qualified for play-off)

Group F

  1. Northern Ireland
  2. Romania
  3. Hungary (qualified for play-off)

Group G

  1. Austria
  2. Russia
  3. Sweden (qualified for play-off)

Group H

  1. Italy
  2. Croatia
  3. Norway (qualified for play-off)

Group I

  1. Portugal
  2. Albania
  3. Denmark (qualified for play-off)

EURO 2016: Dutch disaster as Netherlands fail to qualify

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Robin van Persie of the Netherlands (19) reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group A match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic

The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.

[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]

Italy 2-1 Norway

Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.

Malta 0-1 Croatia

With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group A

Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan

Group B

Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group H

Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan