Hector Mejia, Brian Rowe, Tommy Meyer

Bruce Arena’s gamble pays off as LA Galaxy defeat Metapán 1-0 in CCL action

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Wednesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League match between LA Galaxy and El Salvador’s Isidro Metapán was hardly a classic but last year’s MLS champions will take the 1-0 victory as they inch closer to the knockout stage of the tournament.

A sixth minute strike by Laurent Courtois gave LA the lead and Bruce Arena’s squad, comprised largely of backups and reserves, dug deep defensively to preserve the clean sheet in front of 6,211 at the StubHub Center.

The loss eliminated Metapán from the competition and leaves the Galaxy in charge of Group 8, needing only a single point in next week’s clash with Costa Rican side Cartaginés to go through to the knockout stage.

Los Angeles took the early lead when Greg Cochrane’s thow-in from the left side of the pitch found Jose Villarreal, who found Courtois and his first time effort swerved just inside the far post for his first goal of the season.

Poor defending led to opportunities for both teams. Courtois nearly had his brace with a strong effort from outside in the 19th minute that was well saved while Chandler Hoffman, who led the Galaxy’s three man attack alongside Villareal and Jack McBean, saw his 32nd minute header fizz over the bar.

In the 53rd minute, Villareal nearly doubled LA’s lead when he latched on to a low cross from right back Rafael Garcia that forced Metapán goalkeeper Henry Hernández into a fine save. Hernández was up to the task again three minutes from time when Gyasi Zardes, a 68th minute substitute for Villareal, was unable to convert from close range.

Employing a route one style of play, the visitors predominantly threatened down the right side of the through Nicolás Muñoz. The forward managed to get off four shots but only one was on target, which goalkeeper Brian Rowe was quick to cover up. Trouble also came from Metapán’s marauding right back, Jose Peraza, who let three shots fly on the night, the most dangerous of which Rowe did well to save on the dive.

At the end of the night, LA’s performance was exactly what one would expect from a MLS side that included just six starters in the 18-man roster – some shaky moments defensively balanced out by an impassioned performance of young, eager players looking to make an impression.

For Bruce Arena, the move proved quite shrewd as players like McBean earned valuable minutes while Courtois bossed the midfield, impressing with his eye for goal and knack for playing the dangerous cross. What’s more, the Galaxy will now be well rested heading into Saturday’s crunch match with the Seattle Sounders.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Pardew saves his job, says Palace owners “don’t know a lot about football”

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Alan Pardew, Manager of Crystal Palace thumbs up prior to the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 3, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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While some may advise that keeping a low profile would best suit Alan Pardew right now, Crystal Palace’s embattled manager is of a totally different mindset.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Southampton, in which Pardew’s side saved his job (for the time being), the 55-year-old Eagles boss and former player chose the first bright moment, Palace’s first Premier League win since Sept. 24, to hit out at the club’s new American owners with a scathing assessment of the footballing prowess, or perhaps lack thereof — quotes from the Guardian:

“The chairman got a bit edgy this week, as you’d expect. We have a lot of serious investors at the club who perhaps don’t know a lot about football so the chairman has been defending me.

“I always think as a manager at any level, particularly in the modern era, expect the sack. Just expect it; it’s coming at some stage, so just do your job as best you can. Every week, that’s what I try to do.

“Sometimes it’s hard to dress up six defeats when you’re the owner of the club and you have investors. Obviously there are things he’s got no control over but he’s tried to offer me all the assistance that he could. He’s been brilliant for me and I just want to say thank you to him really.”

With various reports linking Sam Allardyce and Roberto Mancini to a job which he still holds, it’s understandable that Pardew would be slightly on edge, quick to thump his chest and restake his claim as the right man for the job, but perhaps alienating and borderline embarrassing the new investors, who are now responsible for signing your paychecks, wouldn’t have been my go-to move.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

On the other hand, as Pardew rightly stated in the above quotes, his day of reckoning will eventually arrive, so what’s he really got to lose?