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.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.