MLS Weekend in Review – Round 25

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The Galaxy looks ready to gallop

Statements you want? How about a 4-2 romp-and-stomp over the Western Conference leaders, Real Salt Lake.  Following last week’s draw in Dallas, the Galaxy looks like it might be past its roller coaster summer, about to make another playoff assault. Listen to what RSL manager Jason Kreis said about Los Angeles: “What can I say? I think they’re extremely effective in what they do, and if they’re on their game, sometimes you’re just gonna have to say they are the better team and I think that’s what we have to say tonight.”

Related to the Galaxy’s showy display …

The week’s top performance

Robbie Keane hit this point in the calendar last year and absolutely carried the Galaxy attack … carried it right to the MLS Cup. Keane put three past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, his second hat trick this year. Don’t forget, teammate Landon Donovan was the hat trick hero last week. The Galaxy pair is the first to record hat tricks in consecutive games since Donovan and Dewayne De Rosario did so 10 seasons back.

Getting hot in the coaching kitchen

Not one, not two, but three managers were excused from the building in Round 25. Tsk, tsk, fellows.

Montreal’s Marco Schallibaum – of course he is going to be part of this list – was sent off along with D.C. United’s Ben Olsen. In New England, a very upset Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas was thrown out. That was part of a larger melee; Chicago center back Bakary Soumare was in the middle of that one, but he didn’t seem to believe it was such a big deal.

By the way, notice that these are all Eastern Conference sides, where a mere six points separates the conference winner from a team that will not make the playoffs. (Not that it’s any better in the West, where the gap is just seven points.)

It appears some folks may be not handling the pressure as well they should

Talking rookies and Rapids

Rookie Deshorn Brown found goal yet again, providing one in the Colorado Rapids’ 2-0 win over Vancouver, no small feat considering how well Martin Rennie’s team from Canada has performed lately. Brown has seven goals and four assists, which has “Rookie of the Year” written all over it – assuming he can hold off teammate Dillon Powers. More important to the club, the Rapids matched a club record with their ninth consecutive match without a loss. Oscar Pareja’s team is 5-0-4 in that time,

The Rapids, a team few had circled this year as an MLS contender, are two points out of the Supporters Shield leadership.

The week’s big off-field news:

Omar Gonzalez signed on for three more years with the Galaxy, and his DP contract is highly significant for two reasons. First, he’s the first true defender to gain a DP deal, a sign of the league’s growing sophistication; it’s not just the flashy forwards getting DP dough anymore. He’s also the fourth American to gain DP designation, following Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski.

Clint Dempsey watch

The Sounders’ new DP forward went all 90 minutes, creating some chances and coming close on a couple others, in his new team’s 3-1 loss in Houston (not far from Dempsey’s hometown in East Texas). That’s two matches without a goal or assist, nothing to worry about just yet; he had his moments as the visitors matched Houston in opportunities, but just didn’t finish as clinically.

His assessment: “You gotta play games to get fitness. So far I’ve only played two competitive games since I was off with the national team [in June]. It’s good to get my first 90 minutes, and fitness is getting there and still working on that sharpness. That final shot in front of goal was lacking a little bit tonight. I like to think that I could have put at least one of those opportunities away.”

The Weeks’ best goals

Ordinarily, lining up a shot from 35 yards and placing that bad boy in the upper right corner is a lead-pipe lock for Goal of the Week around here. So, atta boy, Houston Dynamo forward Giles Barnes. But, too bad you did so on a night when Juan Agudelo did the following …

Here is Barnes’ goal first, followed by Agudelo’s.

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Klopp hails players in blowout, downplays squad rotation

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t bothered by Jurgen Klopp‘s squad rotation at Liverpool.

“The front four have been on fire, they are not bad,” he said after the Reds battered Bournemouth 4-0 on Sunday.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

“Everyone’s a quality player and the rest of us have to sneak our noses in there. Squad rotation is important, keeps us fresh.”

Klopp was a little more critical of his squad, saying the changes had more to do with how the Reds performed against West Brom than a need to keep players fresh.

“I like them but against West Brom they didn’t hit the target. I don’t change my mind in three minutes, but we have to be consistently good because we are Liverpool.”

The manager especially loved how well Liverpool started, as Bournemouth didn’t have a chance to get moving. Klopp gets plenty of criticism, but he almost always has his finger on the pulse of his club. Sunday was a big win for the manager and his club, even if it was somewhat expected.

Making sense of the table in a Man City world

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There are natural advantages to being atop the table deep into a Premier League season, the most evident being the ability to enter into any match against a challenger knowing a draw will likely be fine.

But what about being ahead of the field by double digits?

Perspective is a major challenge when a team is as doing as well as Manchester City. Pep Guardiola‘s men have drawn just once in 18 matches, and hold a 11-point lead on Manchester United, 14 points better than third place Chelsea.

Speaking of the Blues, manager Antonio Conte raised an interesting point after Chelsea beat Southampton on Saturday. Conte says City’s crazy run has colored over his team’s fine results, as last season’s champions are 8-1-1 since losing two-straight in October.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

Four losses is four losses — United has three — but it’s an interesting notion. Both sides have lost to City at home, but otherwise will finish the weekend boasting multiple match leads on the field when it comes to second- and third-place.

Is this much different from recent years? Consider the following seasons after 18 weeks.

Remember: Manchester United has 41 points, and Chelsea 38 (And United has been missing its World XI class player for all but eight games. Some of his doing, some not).

2016-17

Chelsea led the table with 46 points, six better than Liverpool and seven ahead of Man City. Spurs, who would finish second, had 33 points with a match-in-hand. That 13-point gap closed to seven.

2015-16

Leicester was atop the table with 38 points, just two better than Arsenal and three ahead of Man City. They’d finish 10 points better than Arsenal’s 71.

2014-15

Chelsea (45 points) held a three-point advantage on Man City and 10 on third place Manchester United. The Blues would finish eight points ahead of City.

2013-14

Liverpool and Arsenal were dead even with 36 points, one better than eventual champions Man City. The title winners finished two ahead of Liverpool, four free of Chelsea, and six past Arsenal.

So… both United and Chelsea would be leading the Premier League in two of the past four seasons, which is certainly notable.

I don’t want to belabor the Pogba point too much, especially since the most recent absence comes from a red card suspension, but what if United had him for all those matches? Do they find a goal in the 0-0 at Liverpool? Get a point from the 1-0 loss at Chelsea? Flip the script on the 2-1 loss at Huddersfield Town?

Let alone the City loss.

But again, seasons like this one from City remind us of the challenges of framing seasons when one campaign is oh-so-dominant.

Liverpool mashes Cherries

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  • Coutinho, Salah score beauties (video)
  • Cherries winless in six
  • Reds unbeaten in nine
  • Robertson key on left side

Liverpool ran a red-hot first half to an easy 4-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.

Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho scored highlight reel goals, with Dejan Lovren and Roberto Firmino pitching in flying headers, as the Reds moved into the Top Four with 34 points.

Bournemouth sits 16th, a point ahead of the relegation zone, and witnessed a match much different than last season’s 4-3 win over Liverpool at the same venue.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Joe Gomez curled a shot wide of the goal in the fourth minute. A Nathan Ake foul six minutes later gave Liverpool a free kick just outside the 18, and Philippe Coutinho struck a sweet effort off the inside of the post… and out.

Coutinho nearly put a chance home moments later, so it was not surprise when he scored the match’s first goal. A mazy dribbled past two Cherries ended with a shot across his body and inside the near post. Wonderful stuff. 1-0.

Lovren had 2-0 within six minutes, hitting the deck with a diving header goal after Roberto Firmino saved a corner kick on the line at the back post.

Jermain Defoe timed his run well for a 1v1 with Simon Mignolet, but his shot caromed off the far post.

It would’ve been 3-0 were it not for an outstanding reaction save from Asmir Begovic as Mohamed Salah attempted to cap off a terrific team play in the 43rd minute.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Salah got his goal in stunning fashion, bodying off a defender before dribbling past two more to finish with an off-balance belt past Begovic.

Substitute Ryan Fraser had a chance to pull one back in the 56th minute, but rang it wide of the near post.

The Reds raised their advantage to four on another Robertson started move, with Firmino heading a Coutinho cross beyond Begovic.

Mourinho on muted celebrations from Lukaku, himself

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There’s a lot of buzz about celebrating, and not celebrating, when it comes to Manchester United.

Star striker Romelu Lukaku‘s post-goal actions were muted for a second-straight week, and manager Jose Mourinho appeared nonchalant on the bench.

[ RECAP: WBA 1-2 Man Utd ]

For Lukaku, that could be down to his status as a former West Brom player (and to be sure he was quite energetic in support of Jesse Lingard‘s insurance goal).

As for Mourinho, this is a man who was quite critical of Man City’s celebrations after winning a derby at Old Trafford. And Jose isn’t one to let a story line die unnecessarily.

Here’s Mourinho when asked about Lukaku’s non-celebration, from the BBC:

“Maybe he looks to the bench and sees his manager doesn’t celebrate. Maybe he loves West Brom. Maybe he remembers the team that helped him early in his career.

“I will celebrate if my team scores a winning goal in the last minute. But you have to have more maturity and keep your feet on the ground. If some guys want to be kids until the last day of their careers or if they want to act to the cameras then they can. But if we score an important goal then I can do anything.”

On one hand, I get it. On the other hand (and a third if I can find one), be okay with having a bit of fun, Jose.

United is back to within 11 points of leaders Man City, and it’s a massive mountain to climb for the Red Devils. Yet Ander Herrera, who was terrific again on Sunday, said the directive is simple: control what you can.

“We won three titles last season, which was very good. It is true that the top of the table is difficult to reach right now but this is Premier League, you never know. Our aim is just to keep winning games.”

The side’s 41 points through 18 matches would’ve been enough to lead the Premier League in two of the previous four seasons. No one’s going to tell United to be content with where they stand, but it’s been a fine season for Mourinho’s men so far.