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.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET