Sydney Leroux, USWNT, Mexico v United States

Sydney Leroux scores four as US women rout Mexico 7-0 on a night of firsts


Sydney Leroux will steal the headlines from the U.S. women’s national team’s 7-0 win over Mexico. Four goals in the first half will do that. But it was a night of firsts for the U.S. that proved equally important for the long-term.

While Mexico started the match with a couple of encouraging forays forward, Abby Wambach’s 11th minute goal — increasing her world record to 161 — sunk the spirits of El Tri and Leroux stomped those into the ground with four consecutive goals before the break.

But in head coach Tom Sermanni’s starting lineup was National Women’s Soccer League rookie of the year Erika Tymrak, earning her first cap with the senior team. Leigh Ann Robinson, one of Tymrak’s five FC Kansas City teammates on the 18-player roster at RFK Stadium, also made her U.S. debut at age 27. And 20-year-old Morgan Brian stepped onto the field in front of dozens of family members, friends and University of Virginia teammates and scored two minutes later to complete the rout of a tired, unorganized, but young Mexico team.

The result is largely unimportant. What we learned from these five players still searching for more playing time or only just arriving on the U.S. scene is most interesting.

Sydney Leroux – Four goals speak for themselves, but this isn’t Leroux’s first pummeling of a team. Leroux scored five goals in a 13-0 demolishing of Guatemala during Olympic qualifying in January 2012, but much like Tuesday night’s game, the statistic must be weighed against the opponent. The Boston Breakers striker has scored against better opponents, including her birth country, Canada, but still seeks more playing time behind a pretty set Abby Wambach-Alex Morgan forward pairing. Morgan sat out Tuesday as part of left ACL recovery, while Christen Press, the other forward pushing for more playing time, stayed with her Swedish club, like most of the rest of European-based U.S. players.

Erika Tymrak – The rookie of the year is also the story of the year (or at least co-story of the year) from NWSL for going from relatively unknown rookie and second round draft pick in January to a U.S. call-up in September. There were some obvious nerves from Tyrmak in the first half but she was clearly comfortable combining with Kansas City teammates Kristie Mewis and Lauren Holiday. Tymrak settled in after halftime and took on defenders. All in all, it was a good debut for the crafty 22-year-old midfielder.

Leigh Ann Robinson – The right back hardly had much to deal with coming in off the bench in the second half but said before the game she would be happy with whatever came of her two days with the United States. Robinson was the best left back in the NWSL this season before a lineup change pushed her to the right side, where she was the best right back. She should get another shot to prove her stuff in upcoming fall friendlies.

Morgan Brian – A goal in her second senior cap, two minutes after checking into the game, in front of a whole crew of Brian supporters? Yea, Morgan Brian had a good night. At 20 years old, Brian is already cool and calm on the ball. Abby Wambach raved about Brian in June when the Virginia midfielder was in camp, and it’s very clear why. She’s good under pressure like a player well beyond her years.

Crystal Dunn – Not to be forgotten is the performance put in by right back Crystal Dunn, another top college prospect to have caught Sermanni’s eye. The 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy winner made things look easy on Tuesday (which, relative to some of the better competition of past games, they were) and displayed yet again that she is the fastest outside back option the U.S. has. She’s a senior at UNC and almost sure to be a part of the 2015 World Cup team.


MLS Cup Playoffs: FC Dallas 2-2 (3-5 agg.) Portland Timbers

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers FC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers are headed to their first MLS Cup in club history after defeating FC Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate, of the Western Conference finals (2-2 draw in the second leg). Fanendo Adi scored in Sunday’s second leg, giving Caleb Porter’s side a 4-1 aggregate lead before Ryan Hollingshead and Blas Perez scored inside the last 25 minutes to give Oscar Pareja’s bunch a late lifeline, but Lucas Melano’s spectacular tap-in sealed the Timbers’ trip to MLS Cup. The third seed heading into the playoffs, Portland bounced Sporting Kansas City in an epic penalty shootout in the knockout round and outlasted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals before knocking off the West’s top seed over two legs to advance to MLS Cup 2015. No matter who advances from the East finals later on Sunday, Portland will play away in MLS Cup, to either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

54′ — Adi fires past Gonzalez to make if 4-1 — Oscar Pareja elected to go with Walker Zimmerman at center back on Sunday, dropping regular starter Zach Loyd to the bench. On the game’s opening goal, it was Zimmerman who wound up on the ground as Adi received the ball, turned and fired a massive away goal past Jesse Gonzalez.

68′ — Diaz’s magical ball curled home by Hollingshead — Mauro Diaz is a wonderful magician capable of playing the kill through ball from anywhere on the field — this we’ve known for quite some time. His chipped through ball to set up Hollingshead’s goal was extraordinarily brilliant, even for him.

73′ — Perez heads home the free kick to pull within one — Would you be surprised to hear that it was Diaz who set up FCD’s second goal? His free kick was Perez-finding missile and found the head of the Panamanian striker at the top of the six-yard box, where 34-year-old headed home with ease.

90+5′ — Melano rounds Gonzalez, seals MLS Cup berth — Poor Jesse Gonzalez. Absolutely schooled and posterized by Lucas Melano. What a way to sew up a place in the championship final.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Mauro Diaz

Goalscorers: Adi (54′), Hollingshead (68′), Perez (73′), Melano (90+5′)

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid bounce back; Juventus on the charge

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid bounced back from back-to-back La Liga defeats with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar on Sunday. Gareth Bale (below video) and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty kick) provided the goals to keep Rafa Benitez‘s bunch (27 points) third in the league, two points behind Atletico Madrid and six behind leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Villarreal
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Valencia

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup ]

Roma 0-2 Atalanta

Losing at home to sides currently in a relegation battle — rarely a good idea, especially if you fancy yourselves title challengers, but that didn’t stop Roma from doing just that on Sunday. Alejandro Gomez and German Denis scored the goals to knock off a 10-man Roma side (Maicon – 81st minute) and keep Rudi Garcia’s bunch (27 points) from gaining ground on any of the three teams currently ahead of them — Inter Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina — all of whom play on Monday.

AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria

M’Baye Niang scored twice, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Luiz Adriano (below video) added single tallies for AC Milan (23 points) to keep pace with the top-five pack in Serie A. After 14 rounds of games, the Rossoneri sit sixth, a point outside fifth (UEFA Europa League) and five points out of third (UEFA Champions League).

Palermo 0-3 Juventus

Don’t look now, but here come Juventus. Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over Palermo makes it four straight wins in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s side — a run that pushes them all the way up to fifth in the league (24 points), just six points off the pace of leaders Inter, who play on Monday. Mario Mandzukic (below video), Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza scored the goals for the world’s most frightening fifth-place team.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-3 Udinese
Frosinone 3-2 Hellas Verona
Genoa 1-2 Carpi
Empoli 1-0 Lazio

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina (1 p.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Inter Milan (3 p.m. ET)

Arsenal’s injury crisis — add Sanchez, Cazorla, Koscielny to the list

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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From title challengers to just hoping to hold on to a top-four place while Arsene Wenger is forced to play reserves and academy players because half of his star players are currently out injured — the annual story of Arsenal.

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Oct. 27, when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both went down with injuries in the same game, marked the unofficial start of Arsenal’s 2015-16 injury crisis, but things didn’t really get going full bore until the last seven days, when five more players — four of them full-time starters — picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for anywhere between three weeks and three months.

Added to the list last weekend: Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks)

Added to the list on Sunday: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – MORE DETAILS), Santi Cazorla (knee), Laurent Koscielny (hip)

Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, Wenger said Koscielny “could not walk” due to the hip spasm that forced him out of the game after just 11 minutes. He also divulged that Cazorla, who could not be subbed off because Wenger had already used all three subs late on, played the second half “on one leg.” Sanchez came into Sunday injured after picking up a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Arsenal fans were up in arms during the summer transfer window — let’s be honest, the following is true of every transfer window the last five years — crying out, “We must buy, we must buy.” Have a look at Arsenal’s complete injury list at the moment, and try to say, “They didn’t need to buy in the summer.”

In chronological order: Danny Welbeck (knee – early 2016 return), Tomas Rosicky (knee – Christmas time return), Jack Wilshere (leg – Christmas time return), Theo Walcott (calf – December return), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks), Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Laurent Koscielny (hip – to be assessed), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – to be assessed), Santi Cazorla (knee – to be assessed)

WATCH: PL Download — Crystal Palace: South London and Proud

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Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.

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Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.

[ WATCH: Past episodes of PL Download ]