Series of troubling Saturday results for MLS contenders

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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.

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

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The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

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Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”