Sporting KC v DC United

Searching, searching, searching for D.C. United’s offense

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It is getting hot in the RFK Stadium kitchen. Supporter and media axes are being sharpened after the latest Black and Red black eye, this one a 2-0 loss at RFK Stadium.

With four points and just two goals scored in six matches, Ben Olsen’s team is last in the East … and the RFK faithful are anything but happy. Among the pressure points getting more and more of a squeeze these days, two names are coming up a lot.

One is a veteran of the beatings around here, Lionard Pajoy. (When it comes to whipping on this poor guy at ProSoccerTalk, we just usually call that a “Sunday.”)

Specifically, the questions continue to be asked about his ongoing ability to maintain starter status, never mind that he continues to underwhelm near goal. The Colombian striker has just one goal and just two shots on goal in six starts this year. Since the trade that brought Pajoy from Philly late last year, he has 4 goals and 11 shots on goal in 18 D.C. United matches.

The other central figure in all this, a newer one, is young Brazilian attacker Rafael. There seems to more debate on this one. He was removed at halftime Saturday despite finding himself in a few promising positions against the Red Bulls. On came veteran Dwayne De Rosario, but to marginal effect. “De Ro” has yet to look anything like the 2011 league MVP this season.

Tactically, defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen seems to be playing ahead of Rafeal, who was thought to be the more attack-minded of the midfield pair. Perhaps that helps explain the disconnect; we don’t really know about Rafael’s instructions.

Either way, Martin Shatzer, a wise Black and Red blogger who has seen more than his share of DCU contests, thought Rafael’s removal was 100 percent the right call. (Shatzer’s opinion is in the comments section … a very bitter comments section, at that.)

Since we’ve spent so much time over the last 8 months hating Pajoy, I think it’s fair that we call attention to how poorly Rafael played tonight too. He lost the ball several occasions, wasn’t physically strong, and frequently cut the ball back instead of moving forward. I don’t think he won a single header against Olave, while meanwhile a much shorter Cahill was dominating our center backs in the air. I think Rafael’s lone positive contribution to this match was drawing a foul on Holgersson as the ball was rolling out of bounds. Subbing out Rafael for De Rosario at halftime was the right call and exactly what I would have done too.

Sounds like the young Brazilian is going to be sort of a hit-or-miss player for us.

(which might still be an upgrade over Pajoy, who is more of an all-miss player)”

Whoever is most to blame, and how much of this is on the still-young Olsen, the bottom line is this: United simply must gin up an attack that generated just three shots on goal Saturday, while losing their third in a row and second consecutive match at home.

Here’s what Olsen said following last night’s setback:

Look, there’s a lot of things we can try. But again, you get into that balance of whether you work with what you have or you start making crazy substitutions, and then you start working on it form there. At this point, we have to fix something. I don’t know if we have to look within the League; I don’t know if we have to make a trade. That’s just stuff we have figure out. It’s a little early, 10 minutes after the game, for me to put my finger on it.”

Report: Chelsea making first waves in $88m Bernardo chase

MONACO - NOVEMBER 22:  Bernardo Silva of Monaco  during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Monaco FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC  at Louis II Stadium on November 22, 2016 in Monaco, .  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Monaco has slapped a massive price tag on Bernardo Silva, and The Times says that isn’t stopping Chelsea.

Antonio Conte is trying to land the 22-year-old Portuguese attacker according to the report, which says that the Blues are already chatting up the Ligue 1 outfit.

[ MORE: Wenger’s Sutton pitch worry ]

Silva has six goals and seven assists in France’s top flight this season, adding another three in the UEFA Champions League. He did not appear at EURO 2016 thanks to a hamstring injury, as Portugal won the Henri Delaunay Trophy.

Chelsea is ready to spend $88 million on the right winger, who can also play in a attacking center mid role. From The Times:

Monaco would like to secure a minimum of €80m (£68.4m) for Bernardo, who is comfortable operating on either the left or right wing or as a number 10. With Barcelona, Real Madrid and both Manchester clubs also expressing their interest Monaco, who play Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday, believe a money-spinning auction may develop.

Transfer prices can be hard to predict, but is Silva the sort of talent that will tempt nine figures? We’ve been surprised before, and at his age it’s possible, but color us skeptical.

AEK Athens beats Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]

Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.

Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.

Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.

PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.

PSG drops points against Toulouse days after massive UCL win

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 14:  Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2017 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]

PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.

[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]

Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.

PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.

Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.

Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.

Wenger worried over Sutton’s pitch heading Monday’s clash

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 16:  Pundits Paul Merson (4L) and Matt Le Tissier (2L) take part in a training session alongside Paul Doswell manager of Sutton United (L) and players during a Sutton United FA Cup media day on February 16, 2017 at the Borough Sports Ground in Sutton, Greater London. Sutton United are due to face Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth round on 20 February.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.

[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]

However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.

Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.

“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.

In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.

“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”