Quick-hit review of Week 7 in Major League Soccer

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Not many goals, lots of draw, one bizarre incident, one awful choice of words and lots more in a quick look back at Round 7 in MLS:

Low goals and lots of draws: Week 7 wasn’t exactly a sizzler in terms of goals … or even results. Just 14 goals scored in nine matches (1.55 goals a game, about a full goal fewer than historic average) made for the lightest scoring round of play yet. Meanwhile, four of the nine matches were draws, with four others claimed by just one goal.

Only one match finished with more than two goals, Houston’s 2-1 result over Chicago in South Texas.

Record established: That very win inside Houston’s thus-far impenetrable BBVA Compass Stadium extended the Dynamo’s unbeaten streak at home in all competitions to 35 matches, surpassing Real Salt Lake’s previous MLS record.

Club with most trouble afoot: Let’s go with D.C. United, where the stunning lack of offense around RFK Stadium has Ben Olsen’s boys for RFK stuck in the mud. Something’s got to give here, because the numbers are awful: From six matches, the Black and Red have just four points, just two goals … and a place at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Center backs scoring: Strangely, even though there weren’t a ton of goals the center backs were providing their share of them. Jamison Olave recorded his third goal this year for the Red Bulls, adding to his team-leading total.  Yes, “team-leading” total! (And also helping to heap some of that above-mentioned misery on D.C. United.) And Dallas’ George John supplied the important, late game-winner as FC Dallas took down the champs in Texas. John is tied for FCD’s team-lead.

Most bizarre incident: Right after John nailed the critical game winner, he got nailed by a beer bottle. Thrown by one of Dallas’ supporters! John took the whole wacky thing in great humor.

Unfortunate incident: That one had a happy ending at least, with John bloodied but otherwise unhurt and the perpetrator arrested. (Yay, video evidence!) But Alan Gordon’s choice of homophobic words late last night in Portland won’t be so easily laughed off. The San Jose striker has apologized, and good on him – but a suspension will definitely be arriving soon form Major League Soccer.

Penalty kick blues: Saturday night’s match in Texas also featured the rare double penalty kick miss. FC Dallas’ Kenny Cooper and the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan each missed a spot shot. Ironically, these are two of Major League Soccer’s last three 18-goal scorers. (Chris Wondolowski is the other one.) Penalty kick shooters are 8-of-12 in converting spot shots in MLS this year. (Donovan is 34 of 37 in his MLS career, so failure from the 12-yard spot is rare indeed for the Galaxy star.)

Week’s big upset: I raise a right hand of honesty on this one: I told a fellow NBC Sports colleague before Saturday that I had a funny feeling about Chivas USA’s contest against injury depleted Colorado out in Los Angeles. Reason: it’s easier to perform when media and supporters don’t expect much out of you. Now everyone is aware that Chivas USA is no doormat. As such, the going will get a little tougher in Goats Valley, just as Colorado’s surprising 1-0 win in Southern California clearly demonstrates.

Rookie watch: Speaking of Colorado’s huge three points, Saturday’s penalty kick game winner came off the right foot of talented rookie Deshorn Brown. He and fellow first-year man Dillon Powers are among the beneficiaries of Colorado’s grim litany of injuries through the season’s first seven weeks. Keep an eye on this kid out of the University of Central Florida. He’s got something.

Best goal: Will Johnson’s precision free kick late, the game-winner in Portland’s 1-0 win Sunday over San Jose. Here ‘tis:

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Who’s to blame? A closer look at Chelsea’s blunder late vs. Barcelona

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As our very own Joe Prince-Wright explained yesterday in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, Antonio Conte could not have set his team up better for success at Stamford Bridge.

And yet, they walked away from the first leg with a disappointing result, one that could set up Barcelona with the advantage as they head to the Camp Nou in two weeks time.

So where did it all go wrong? That pass from Andreas Christensen, obviously – the one that gifted Lionel Messi a late goal. But is Christensen to blame? Or were there other culprits?

Clearly, the pass was ill-advised. Christensen sends the ball across his own box parallel to the goal mouth, which Andreas Iniesta easily pilfers and sends to Messi for his first goal against Chelsea. It was a pass they teach 7-year-olds not to make, one that even the youngest of dedicated soccer players knows to avoid.

Christensen makes an easy target, given that he is just 21 years old, has only just recently earned his way into the Blues starting lineup, and was the most obvious culprit having made the fateful pass.

However, upon closer inspection, it may not have even been meant to reach the far side of the field.

Christensen’s exasperated reaction suggests the pass was likely intended for Cesc Fabregas who sat at the top of the box under little pressure. Christensen was closed down on the far touchline with little room to operate, and his outlet to Fabregas in the middle of the field was a good option, even if the general idea of a pass in that direction is usually frowned upon. However, Christensen’s pass was just slightly behind Fabregas, and the Spaniard ultimately decided to let the ball go instead of chasing it down, leaving it for a less populated area of the field.

Unfortunately, with his back turned to the eventual destination of the pass, Fabregas was unaware that Iniesta had anticipated its flight path and was already making a run to steal the ball. When the veteran Barcelona midfielder reached the ball, he was challenged by a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta, who completely whiffed. While Christensen and Fabregas were culpable of putting the team in a dangerous situation, Azpilicueta’s tackle was an abomination. Azpilicueta actually reached the ball first, but inexplicably failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Iniesta to easily evade the slide and still take charge of the ball.

Andreas Christensen is the clear perpetrator, but Fabregas and Azpilicueta both contributed negatively to the situation, leaving Chelsea at a slight disadvantage heading into a hostile environment despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts. Sadly, Conte will be the one to shoulder the accountability at the end of the season if Chelsea goes out of the Champions League, even though he received top marks for the match, and his players let him down.

Mata seems to confirm Champions League is Man United’s priority

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With the Premier League title all but wrapped up, English top flight teams are beginning to put their true focus onto competitions they still have a realistic shot of winning.

Manchester United sits in second place in the Premier League table, but they are a full 18 points back of rivals Manchester City, as so with a Champions League match against Sevilla on Wednesday afternoon, Juan Mata all but confirmed that the Red Devils are putting their main efforts into Europe’s largest competition.

[ MORE: Messi pegs back Chelsea despite winning tactics ]

“If we had less of a gap with respect to the Premier League leaders and we had a chance to fight for it, it wouldn’t be so tough to be eliminated from the Champions League, but now our aim is to progress from every round,” Mata said to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser. “It would be a big blow to be eliminated in the last 16.”

Last season, a similar story played out. Manchester United was out of reach of a top four finish in the league, so manager Jose Mourinho publicly admitted they were putting their main focus on the Europa League due to the automatic berth the competition’s winner received into next year’s Champions League. The gamble paid off, as Manchester United won the competition and earned their spot in the Champions League this season.

Sevilla has not progressed past the Round of 16 since 1958. Manchester United, meanwhile, has not made it past the Champions League quarterfinals since their runners-up finish in 2011, when they lost to Barcelona in the finals at Wembley Stadium.

Wenger confirms Ospina will start pair while Ozil, Ramsey miss out

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Arsene Wenger confirmed in his pre-match press conference that goalkeeper Petr Cech will get an extended rest with a pair of Cup games on the horizon for Arsenal.

In his place, David Ospina will start both Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 match against Ostersund and Sunday’s EFL Cup Final against Manchester City. Ospina is no stranger to this type of rotation, with the Colombian owning just 30 starts over the last three seasons in national and international Cup competitions compared to just seven Premier League appearances.

In addition, Wenger also confirmed that Mesut Ozil will miss out for Thursday’s match due to illness, but is expected back for Sunday’s EFL Cup final. Arsenal has a 3-0 lead over Swedish club Ostersund after the first leg, with the second leg to be played at the Emirates.

Wenger said Aaron Ramsey is back in training, and while he will not be risked in the Europa League match in his return from a groin injury that saw him miss the North London derby loss, he could be in contention to play against Manchester City. [Ramsey] is not in the squad tomorrow, he had a good training session. We will see how his evolution goes between now and Sunday. I don’t rule him out.”

Ramsey scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Everton in early February, but has played just 181 minutes since picking up a hamstring injury in mid-December.

Finally, Wenger said that Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will both receive starting spots against Ostersund, as will some unnamed youth products. Welbeck has been out of Premier League action since mid-January, stuck behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he received four minutes off the bench in the North London derby and will get another opportunity in the Europa League to prove his worth.

Conte admits job security speculation will always exist at Chelsea

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Antonio Conte admits that he will always face speculation about his tenure as manager while he is employed at Chelsea, but dismissed it as “no problem for me.”

There is a general acceptance that Conte will part ways with Chelsea at the end of the season given the tough times the club has seen this campaign. The Blues are hanging on to a Champions League place by a thread, and struggled through a January that included just two wins across all competitions in six matches.

“I’ve said it very clearly: I’ve got a contract until 2019 and I intend to respect this, but you know anything can happen in football,” Conte told Italian publication Mediaset. “It takes two to be happy and continue a marriage. Our work is unique because we’ve always got our suitcase in our hands.”

Conte did issue somewhat of a warning to Chelsea, however, that if he were to be fired, it could come back to haunt the club, as he would have no shortage of offers. “My intention is to respect my contract, but if something were to happen, it would open up different scenarios.” Big clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid could have job openings this summer if their lofty goals aren’t met, and those places would be attractive destinations for Conte, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea just last year.

“It’s a bit the history of Chelsea and inevitable when, in the past, in 14 years, 10 coaches have been changed,” he said. “Clearly when there is this habit, let’s say, the press play on it and as soon as there is a result or two which don’t go your way, they try to put the pressure on.

“But it’s no problem for me. I hope that this pressure doesn’t harm the players, not me, because I go looking for pressure.”