Individually, you could probably argue that Robbie Keane was fouled in stoppage time Thursday, as Columbus’ one-goal lead in Southern California evaporated behind two late spot shots from the Galaxy’s Irish international striker. The Galaxy won, 2-1.
But in all honesty, most referees are not going to make that call. Not seven minutes after awarding an equalizing penalty kick. Generally speaking, the standard for what constitutes a penalty kick is elevated for a team once the first one is whistled.
So when referee Sorin Stoica pointed to the spot for Los Angeles in the 85th minute, you might have felt a little badly for Columbus. But Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum did trip Jose Villarreal, so the call was correct.
But the “foul” that felled Keane two minutes into stoppage time? No … the Galaxy were absolutely handed a lifeline on that one.
As he waited and watched for Colin Clark’s cross, Keane crumbled when he felt contact from Crew defender Bernardo Anor. “If someone runs into the back of you, the fact is you’re going to fall over,” he said afterward.
Even if you disagree that the standard should rise a bit after a referee awards one penalty kick – and it’s a good argument to make, that a foul is a foul is a foul … I’m just saying that generally speaking, that’s what happens – the second PK should never have been blown. Stoica simply has to be better there. He must recognize the difference between a legitimate foul that prevents a goal scoring opportunity and a wise old hand gambling that a pretty lousy bit of embellishment will fool the referee. In this case, it certainly did.
“He’s smart,” Anor said, referring to Keane. “He was waiting for a tiny touch for him to go down. He was fortunate to get the call. It’s the referee’s call, and we can do nothing about that.”
Here are the two instances, both toward the end of the highlight pack:
Bayern Munich activates clause to make Coman permanent
“Kingsley Coman is a crucial player for the future of our team, so we’ve decided to exercise the option,” commented Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: “Kingsley is a promising player with great potential. We’re convinced he’ll help us in the coming years.”
Coman, Renato Sanches, and Joshua Kimmich are all under the age of 22.
The betting market says Man City is more than even money to beat Manchester United, and wagering on the latter to win Thursday’s derby match is a longer shot than the Red Devils finishing in the Top Four (an achievement to be sure).
The worth of those metrics is debatable, but allows a sincere thought: Given their thin depth and the road challenge, a win for Jose Mourinho would be as impressive as almost anything Manchester United has accomplished this season.
Maybe that’s obvious to many of us, but a twirl through the spheres of United supporter social media shows something different. Many Red Devils are confident of their teams’ fortunes in Thursday’s Manchester Derby, with one even predicting a 3-1 win in a comment on the NBC Sports Soccer Facebook page.
That could be an outlier, sure, but shows the demands Manchester United supporters place on their big spending club. United won’t have Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two of the best players in the world, and it’s not as if the club has had time to adjust to their absences. No one has played more minutes for United than Pogba and Ibrahimovic this season.
How Mourinho attacks — or doesn’t attack — City, and how Guardiola sets up his XI, will be interesting leading into the match, because parking the bus lacks its usual luster given the center back carnage. Will Mourinho trot out Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera in a bid to clog the midfield? Will he run Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford as a strike pair?
The answers to these questions and the unlikely event of a United road win may end up shining all over Thursday. And while that win would wind up being overshadowed by United’s finish on the Premier League table and UEFA Europa League, there’s little doubt it would stake a serious claim for Mourinho’s time at United being on the rise.
One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.
Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.
At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.
That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:
HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.
AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.
I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.
In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”
HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.
I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.