Matt Hedges, Olmes Garcia

Series of troubling Saturday results for MLS contenders


Methodically, Real Salt Lake has opened up a four-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, and while that’s a testament to the quality Jason Kreis has forged within a rebuilt squad, standing in a race is always relative to those around you. While RSL has continued to post impressive results, the rest of the league is failing to keep up.

Among those falling behind, four teams’ Saturday results are going to force them to take another look at the drawing board. In some cases, that drawing board had already seen new plans drawn up. With others, Saturday’s results will force new perspective on their ongoing problems:

FC Dallas – Nobody expected Schellas Hyndman’s team to compete for the West, but for much of the season, they sat at the top of the conference. But after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, Dallas have dropped to third, with last weekend’s 2-0 loss to the Galaxy serving as further notice Dallas isn’t  on the same level as the West’s best. Now the question is to accept that and consolidate around a more-modest vision or to strive for a standard which, while achieved over the season’s first two months, may be unrealistic. Hyndman’s already hinted at changes.

LA Galaxy – Some how, some way, the Galaxy need to stop giving away points at the end of matches. Andrew Jean-Baptiste’s 94th minute goal in Portland left the defending champions with nothing from a match they could have won, a result that conjured memories of their collapse in Stanford as well as a number of other capitulations. After Saturday’s game, player acknowledged the problem and were clearly frustrated with this inverse Goonie-ism they’ve developed. Unfortunately, they also had no solutions. At key points of games, the Galaxy are just being outplayed. They need to be better.

Montréal Impact – Like Dallas, they may have been playing over their head through the season’s first two-to-three months, but now having fallen out of first in the East, the Impact need to address that defense, one that was blitzed in a 4-0 loss at New York. They’re old, at times slow, and lack athleticism, and by now, teams have figured out how to get at them. Right now, Montréal doesn’t look like a team that can keep its place near the top of the Eastern Conference. They need a new plan, not just better performances.

Seattle Sounders – Again with Seattle, it’s not that they lost. It’s how they loss. The attack didn’t register a shot on goal until the 83rd minute, and while head coach Sigi Schmid spent time post-match pointing to San Jose’s style of play, at some point, his underperforming team has to develop a sense of urgency. With 17 games played, they still have a number of matched in hand on all of their conference competition. The more worrisome thing, after being shut out in three of their last four road games: The team just doesn’t look playoff caliber.

“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.