Fulham v Stoke City - Premier League

Brek Shea makes a rare Stoke City appearance

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To say that Brek Shea has had a rough start to his days abroad is like saying the American newspaper industry is having a bit of a gloomy spell. It’s a pretty thick on understatement.

Today comes a little sprig of hope, perhaps: Shea actually got on the field for Mark Hughes’ Stoke City.

It wasn’t a Premier League match, but it was a Capital One Cup contest, one where Hughes did feature several first-choice men. (There were five changes to the starting lineup that made PL champs Manchester United work so hard for the weekend win at Old Trafford.)

The former FC Dallas man entered for Jermaine Pennant in the 76th minute. You could probably read the success of this news in one of two ways, however. See, Shea did get on the field. But as he entered Stoke held a 3-1 lead. When 90 minutes were up the lead was gone – to 10-man Birmingham, no less.

Stoke advanced in penalties, securing a spot in the tournament’s final eight. Still, Hughes was pretty unhappy about the unfolding of it all.

This is what we know about Shea as it concerns Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team: Klinsmann wasn’t happy about Shea’s move to England. This piece, which talks about a possible loan deal that might get Shea more minutes somewhere, says Klinsmann told the player this move would damage his World Cup chances.

Closer to the truth, I think, is that Shea or no one in Shea’s camp ever asked Klinsmann for his opinion before the fact. And it seems clear now that Klinsmann would have told the young player to avoid this particular move.

But we also know that Klinsmann’s team is pretty short on quality width. Landon Donovan can possibly get the job done, but he prefers an underneath-the-striker role, and it better suits his skills set these days.

Graham Zusi can do the job, but he’s always better working inside rather than truly stretching the field horizontally. Fabian Johnson can get the job done – but he may have to play in defense, depending on a bunch of other moving pieces. So you get the idea; lots of plug-in types, but no real wingers.

Bottom line, the team lacks width. If Shea can get some minutes, stay healthy and generally get his playing act together, he is likely to find a spot on the World Cup roster – if only out of team necessity.

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

SANDY UT - MARCH 14: Olmes Garcia #13 of Real Salt Lake celebrates his goal during their game against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 14, 2015 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.

[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.

33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.

43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.

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

Man of the match: Luke Mulholland

Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)

Wenger lauds team spirit following Arsenal’s big win

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Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]

United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.

All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]

Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.

You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.

[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.

[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.

The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.

Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.