New York’s second half surge helps Red Bulls claim first major honor, end Chicago’s season

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Mike Petke’s team was even going into halftime, but the New York head coach was far from happy. One of the keys he’d tried to emphasis this week — the need to keep track of Chicago star Mike Magee — had failed to set in, with the Fire forward opening the game’s scoring with his league-leading 21st goal. Thierry Henry had pulled New York even before the break, but the intensity Petke took into the locker room made it clear. His team was about to get an attitude adjustment.

Four minutes into the second half, Ibrahim Sekagya gave New York the lead. Then came Lloyd Sam’s goal. Erik Alexander got behind the defense in the 77th minute, and Jonny Steele piled on six minutes from time, before Quincy Amarikwa consolation.. In the span of 45 minutes, a 1-1 game that was set to cost New York the Supporters’ Shield had turned into a rout, the Red Bulls’ 5-2 victory not only ending the Fire’s season but giving the New York club their first major honor.

The team had made it to one MLS Cup final, losing in 2008. They’d won the East two other times (2000, 2010) but failed to claim silverware. In 2003, they made it to the U.S. Open Cup final. Before Sunday, the most significant honors New York had ever won were regional (Atlantic Cups) or exhibitions (Emirates Cup). Yet after running Chicago out of Red Bull Arena in today’s second half, New York has claimed the 2013 Supporters’ Shield.

With that honor comes home field advantage throughout the playoffs, an achievement that’s particularly noteworthy when you consider the field New York’s had to hold off. Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake would all be worthy winners under other circumstances, and late in the season, the two-time defending champions (LA Galaxy) made a late push. But unbeaten in eight to close their campaign, New York surged to this honor, outscoring their opponents 8-2 over the season’s final eight days.

Petke deserves a huge amount of credit, and given the authority with which New York’s closed the season, expect the first-year boss to garner a lot of votes for Coach of the Year. Although he seems to be an underdog in that race (to Caleb Porter), the changes he’s instilled deserve just as much attention. Whereas in the Henry era New York has been a consistently good team that’s failed to reach its potential, Petke has the Red Bulls performing best when the results matter most, whether you’re looking at last month’s hamstrung draw in Seattle or today’s Shield-clinching performance. The young coach’s focus, passion, and intensity are evident throughout this team.

Jamison Olave’s come in to marshall the defense, Dax McCarty continues to be a rock in midfield, while Thierry Henry still reminds us that he’s the best player in Major League Soccer on those occasions that he wants to be. It will be Petke’s job to make sure Henry’s sees this year’s playoffs as his chance to cement his MLS legacy.

But more and more, Tim Cahill seems like the heartbeat of this team, with the Australia international playing a crucial role on the Sekagya goal that claimed today’s lead for good. At midseason, while Petke was working through issues with Henry, Cahill started producing, tossing aside concerns about his lack of production. The 34-year-old finished the season with 11 goals. Like his coach, Cahill will get some late consideration for postseason honors.

But after today, the honor that matters most to New York is MLS Cup, their dreams of claiming silverware having been fulfilled with today’s rout in Harrison. After 17 years with an empty trophy case, New York has finally claimed their first major honor, and while some time to enjoy the achievement has been earned, the quest for trophy number two starts next weekend. The Red Bulls will be the top seed in MLS’s playoffs.

Malta captain mutes goal celebration after journalist slain

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Malta captain Andre Schembri says the car bomb slaying of a Maltese investigative journalist prompted him not to exult after scoring an historic goal.

Schembri’s temporary equalizer for Cypriot club Apollon in a 3-1 loss to Italian side Atalanta in the Europa League on Thursday made him the first Maltese player to score in proper European competition – excluding qualifying.

[ PL PREVIEW: Saints vs. West Brom ]

But instead of pumping his fist or leaping in joy over the achievement, Schembri hung his head as teammates mobbed him.

Schembri wrote on Facebook on Friday, “Celebrating my goal didn’t feel right after what happened in Malta this week.”

Malta has been stunned since Monday by the slaying of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption reporter whose targets included Malta’s leading politicians.

“When they killed Daphne I wasn’t able to sleep for three nights,” Schembri told the ANSA news agency. “Malta is Europe, it’s not the third world. We need to be united when faced with grief like this, to say that we’re better than all of this.

“I love my country and with that goal it came naturally to me to think about a reporter’s freedom and the life of a mother of three children.”

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion

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  • West Bromwich Albion hope to choose from goalkeepers Ben Foster (back) and Boaz Myhill (hamstring) for the trip to St Mary’s. Hal Robson-Kanu (strain), James Morrison (calf) and Oliver Burke (hamstring) will all be absent for the Baggies.
  • Southampton are again without Jeremy Pied but have no other injury concerns.
  • Of all teams to have met in at least seven different Premier League campaigns, Southampton v West Brom has the lowest goals-per-match ratio in the competition (21 in 14 matches, 1.5 per match). 
  • Dusan Tadic has been directly involved in a goal in each of his last three PL appearances against the Baggies (one goal, two assists).

Two mid-table sides meet up in the south of England as Southampton hosts West Bromwich Albion at 13:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams are struggling for form heading into the match. West Brom is winless in its last seven games while Southampton has just one win in its last five, coughing up a chance to defeat Newcastle a week ago.

It’s a big boost for Southampton though that Manolo Gabbiadini is back on the scoresheet after scoring twice against Newcastle. It was Gabbiadini’s first goal since the second week of the Premier League season.

At the other end, West Brom have a worry with both of its top two goalkeepers, Ben Forster and Boaz Myhill. recovering from injuries.

What they’re saying

Southampton manager Manuel Pellegrino on his team: “The reaction of the team was really good, but we have to start from the beginning with this spirit. Sometimes you have to be patient, because at the beginning teams have more energy, they are fresher and they can press you better. I think we feel comfortable with the ball. If we are precise with the ball and with our tempo, we can create more problems – it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We know that West Brom are really strong physically, and dangerous from set plays and on the counter-attack. That’s something we’ve been working on this week. Every single week we are learning from our last few games, and I feel that my players are better prepared.”

West Bromwich manager Tony Pulis on facing Southampton: “They’re a good footballing team. Pellegrino has come in with his own ideas and the way he wants to play. From watching them in a couple of games away from St Mary’s they seem a little more relaxed. They look a little more uptight at home. But I’m sure they’ll become the team everyone knows they can be.”

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Prediction

West Bromwich doesn’t look closer to stopping its slide down the table, especially on the road. Even with Jay Rodriguez returning to his former club, Southampton should find the offense to put Tony Pulis and West Brom away. Southampton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

Watch Live: West Ham vs. Brighton and Hove Albion

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West Ham and Brighton kick off the weekend’s Premier League action at the London Stadium on Friday afternoon. (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN an online via NBCSports.com).

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Both teams have just eight points from eight games, and are looking to move up in the table with a win.

Manuel Lanzini makes his second consecutive start, playing behind Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in West Ham’s 4-2-3-1 formation. On the other side, Tomer Hemed sits his final match of his three-match suspension, with Glen Murray playing atop the 4-4-1-1 Brighton formation.

LINEUPS

West Ham United: Hart; Zabaleta, Fonte, Reid, Masuaku; Kouate, Obiang; Antonio, Lanzini, Arnautovic; Chicharito Hernandez. Subs: Adrian, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Byram, Ayew, Noble, Fernandes

Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan; Bong, Duffy, Dunk, Saltor; Izquierdo, Propper, Stephens, Knockaert; Gross; Murray. Subs: Krul, Goldson, Suttner, Schelotto, Molumby, March, Brown.

Report: FIFA considering updating international rules

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Under current FIFA rules, once a player plays a senior international competitive match, they’re cap-tied permanently to that nation. But that rule could be changing.

That’s according to a report from Reuters, which quotes CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani that FIFA could look into updating some of its nationality laws. Montagliani is the head of FIFA’s stakeholders committee.

“There are so many issues that have popped up over the years because the world is changing, immigration is changing,” Montagliani said. “There are nationality issues that pop up all over the world, in Africa, there are issues in Asia and CONCACAF, so its a good time to have a look at this and see if there are solutions, without hurting the integrity of the game.”

Changing the rules would have a big impact on nations with diverse populations or nationalities with large diasporas.

The report states the Cape Verdean FA requested relaxing the rule of cap-tying a player after playing a competitive game, if that player drops out of the player pool and likely wouldn’t be called up again. Cape Verde relies on a lot of Portugal-based and raised players with Cape Verdean heritage.

A relaxation of the rules could have an affect on U.S. Men’s National Team players as well. In theory, if Kenny Saief decided he wanted to play for Israel again, under a relaxation of the rules, and some sort of proof that a new USMNT coach wouldn’t call him up, Israel could potentially use him. In addition, players such as Cristian Roldan or Jesse Gonzalez could in theory be lost should they fall down the depth chart and other countries they’re eligible for.