San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers

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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“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.