Seattle ends losing streak in LA draw, but not without controversy

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It was Seattle’s best performance since their slide began on Oct. 5, but it wasn’t enough to get them full points or jump Los Angeles for third in the West. After Sunday’s season-ending 1-1 draw with the Galaxy, the Sounders stay fourth in their conference, relegating them to a mid-week playoff game with Colorado for the right to join the West’s semifinalists.

Seattle got on the board early thanks to LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo’s mistake, though you may hear it referred to as Clint Dempsey’s first Seattle goal. Both descriptions are correct, but if the Panamanian international hadn’t grossly misjudged a Lamar Neagle cross, the U.S. captain wouldn’t have been given an empty net to open his Cascadia account. After 30 minutes, Dempsey finished from just inside the six-yard box to put Seattle up, 1-0.

They’d take that lead into halftime, though by all indications, they were lucky to do so. That’s because an Omar Gonzalez header late in the half failed to get LA on the board, even though replays clearly showed the ball had crossed the line. From 12 yards out, Gonzalez headed down toward the middle of Michael Gspurning goal, with Osvaldo Alonso attempting to clear the would be equalizer. The shot, however, bounced one foot inside the Seattle goal before the Sounder midfielder cleared it. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the lineman saw things differently and kept the score at 1-0.

The second half resumed where the first had left off, with Seattle largely controlling possession while the teams shared shots on goal. As the half bled on, Los Angeles began to assume more control as they pursued an equalizing goal. By the 75 minute mark, the Galaxy were full control of the match, a control Seattle was complicit in as they tried to preserve their lead.

That gave Robbie Keane’s equalizer the feeling of being preordained. With Seattle unable to do anything significant going forward — seemingly more and more willing to try and get the game to full time — it was only a matter of time before a goal like Keane’s. The Irish international volleyed an attempted clearance into the turf from 18 yards out, the ball hitting just inside the Seattle are before flying into Gspurning’s right side netting. Ending the pressure that’d built since halftime, LA pulled even with Seattle, 1-1.

Seattle leveled play over the match’s final quarter hour, earning a series of corner kicks that stressed Los Angeles over the match’s final moments, but Penedo was never seriously threatened before the match’s final whistle. Having recoiled to preserve their lead, Seattle gave back their chance to avoid the playoff’s first round, relegating themselves to a rematch with the Colorado team that started all of Seattle’s troubles.

Those troubles include a seven–match winless run they’ll carry into the playoffs, though Seattle’s silver-lining sees their four-match losing streak come to an end. Dempsey got his first goal, Michael Gspurning performed well in his return – there are a number of seasons to think this a step forward. Unfortunately, that step wasn’t enough to avoid a fourth place finish.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, can look at this as a point well won, particularly given the misfortunate on Gonzalez’s non-goal. But without the services of Juninho, Todd Dunivant, and A.J. DeLaGaza (still), the Galaxy still got a resultson the road, one that will ensure their potential run to a third-straight MLS Cup will be one match shorter than last year’s.

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.