Marcelo Sarvas, Ned Grabavoy

Franklin blast all that separates LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake after leg one

1 Comment

It was one of the rare occasions went LA Galaxy’s superstars were kept off a postseason scoresheet, but that doesn’t mean the night was a successful one for Real Salt Lake. Despite containing Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, the West’s second seed lost Sunday night in Carson, a Sean Franklin goal just after halftime giving the two-time defending MLS champions a 1-0 win in the first of the teams’ two-legged conference semifinal.

The LA fullback found the right side of Nick Rimando’s goal in the 47th minute, a ball played from the byline rolling out of the RSL penalty area and beyond the arc . Franklin ran onto the ball and hit a one-timer from 24 yards out, the ball curling away from the RSL keeper as it spun into the nylon.

The result won’t necessarily be a disappointing one for the visitors, though. The teams meet again on Thursday in Sandy, Utah, for the second leg of their playoff series. Should LA defend their one-goal lead, they’ll move on to another Western Conference final. If RSL reverse their deficit, they’ll be the team who faces the winner of Portland versus Seattle.

Real Salt Lake began the night with a surprise, choosing a two defensive midfielder, one striker look we rarely see from Jason Kreis’s side. With normal starting forward Joao Plata unfit to play, Kreis elected to add Cuban destroy Yordany Alvarez to the base of midfield in lieu of veteran forward Robbie Findley.

The extent to which worked was unclear. Although RSL appeared to cut off LA’s ability to get at central defenders Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler, the Galaxy had prolonged success building wider, leading to chances on balls played across the six-yard box. Were it not for some timely interventions from Schuler, RSL would have conceded in the first half.

But the visitors made it to halftime unscathed, even if the stalemate wouldn’t last long. Two minutes into the second half, Keane got behind the defense down LA’s left. Near the byline, the Ireland international played a ball toward the spot, though his pass rolled through the area and out.

With Real Salt Lake’s two defensive midfielders having collapsed into the penalty area, Franklin was given plenty of time to come from deep and challenge Rimando. Cutting across the ball with his right foot, Franklin bent his shot from the middle of goal into to the back corner of Rimando’s net, the U.S. international unable to prevent the night’s only goal.

After the score, Los Angeles controlled play, but with the introduction of Sebastian Velasquez in the 61st minute, Real Salt Lake started to pose a bigger threat going forward. Unfortunately for RSL, sacrificing Alvarez (as they did in the 57th) exposed their defenders to counter attacks, with LA spending the rest of the night threatening a second goal in transition.

But Borchers and Schuler were up to the challenge, each providing multiple crucial stops to keep their team within one. When they weren’t outright winning the ball, RSL’s duo was slowing down Keane and Donovan enough to give midfielder Kyle Beckerman and fullbacks Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran time to track back. Though LA were able to get in on Rimando toward the end of the match, the Borchers-Schuler pair looked like a duo who had been working on those scenarios ever since RSL finished their season 10 days ago.

In the 80th minute, Real Salt Lake had their best chance to equalize when Chris Wingert, at the left of the area, chipped a ball over LA’s packed in defense, finding Luis Gil at the far post. The young midfielder’s attempt to hit substitute Devon Sandoval inside the six went through the box, Todd Dunivant helping to preserve Jaime Penedo’s clean sheet.

This wasn’t a case of RSL holding out for a 1-0, accepting that result ahead of their home leg. Through LA may have been the better side for much of the second half, the last quarter hour saw the visitors press for an equalizer, nearly giving up a second goal in the 85th when Keane was put behind the defense but failed to convert a one-on-one. Though neither side would add to Franklin’s opener, the final minutes maintained the spirit of a surprisingly open first 90 minutes.

Thursday’s rematch at Rio Tinto will decide it. If Sunday was any indication, this one’s not going to finish 1-0.

Goals

Los Angeles: 47′ Sean Franklin

Lineups

LOS ANGELES: Jaime Penedo; Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Kofi Opare, Todd Dunivant; Robbie Rogers (61′ Hector Jimenez), Juninho (90′ A.J. DeLaGarza, Marcelo Sarvas (82′ Rafael Garcia), Gyasi Zardes; Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane

Unused subs: Brian Rowe,  José Villarreal, Laurent Courtois, Leonardo

REAL SALT LAKE: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert; Yordany Alvarez (57′ Robbie Findley), Kyle Beckerman; Luis Gil, Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy (61′ Sebastian Velasquez); Álvaro Saborio (79′ Devon Sandoval)

Unused subs: Carlos Salcedo, Cole Grossman,  Jeff Attinella, Kenny Mansally

Too early for Guardiola to concede Premier League title?

Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola suffered his worst-ever league defeat as a manager on Sunday as Manchester City were hammered 4-0 at Everton in the Premier League.

Post-game he was understandably glum.

[ MORE: Klopp slams United ]

Guardiola even appeared to concede the Premier League title, as the preseason favorites for the crown have now fallen 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go.

When asked if City’s title hopes were over after a fifth defeat of the season, the Spaniard’s answer was emphatic.

“Yes. Ten is a lot of points,” Guardiola said. “The second one [Tottenham] is three points. We have to see. I spoke to my players the last three weeks or a month, forget about the table. Focus on the next game and try to do our best to win the games and after that at the end of the season we are going to evaluate how our level and performance was — how was the coach, how was the players and after we are going to decide.”

It seems like Guardiola has already decided that the title race is over for City, but has he thrown in the towel too early?

With just five points separating second-place Tottenham with sixth-place Manchester United, it appears City’s primary focus will now be to finish in the top four as a mammoth battle ensues in the final third of the season.

Yet, we have seen some miraculous comebacks from teams in the past to win the title. These stats could give Pep hope.

In the 1997-98 season, Arsenal were 12 points behind United after 21 games of the season (United had played a game more) but roared back to win the PL by one point. And of course, City’s two PL crowns came courtesy of stunning late surges in the season with thanks to Sergio Aguero’s magic on the final day in 2011-12 and then Liverpool’s collapse in the closing weeks of 2013-14.

Pep, don’t lost the faith. It can be done.

However, if City lose to Tottenham next weekend and Chelsea extend their lead over Pep’s boys to 13 points by beating Hull City, it is curtains.

Such is the dominance of the big boys this season, City pretty much have to go unbeaten for the rest of the season to have a shot at winning the PL. Given their recent defensive displays that seems unlikely.

We all know Pep is an idealist when it comes to how he wants his team to play but now we are seeing he is a realist too.

Conte urges players “money is not everything” amid Costa rumors

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on January 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
2 Comments

While new reports are suggesting that China will have to curb its massive spending, Antonio Conte has urged his players that they don’t have to be tempted by the Chinese Super League.

[ MORE: United, Liverpool finish level after late Ibrahimovic equalizer ]

Chelsea currently sits atop the Premier League — seven points clear of Tottenham and Liverpool — but the club has recently been at the center of controversy as star striker Diego Costa has been linked with a move away from the club.

[ MORE: CSL set to limit number of foreign players per team ]

Costa missed his side’s 3-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday after several outlets reported a rift between the Spaniard and Conte.

The Chelsea manager told reporters following the match that Costa wasn’t available due to a back injury he suffered in training, but there has been continued speculation that the 28-year-old could head to China.

Conte has made it clear to his squad though that the quality of competition in England supersedes the money offered abroad.

“The money is not everything,” Conte told reporters. “When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased.

“I think we are a great club and it is a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason I don’t see [China] as a threat for my players.

The Blues have lost a number of high-profile players over recent seasons to the high spending of Chinese football, including Brazilian duo Oscar and Ramires, as well as John Obi Mikel.

Oscar departed Chelsea this month to join Shanghai SIPG for a reported $72 million.

“I have to look at the past,” Conte said. “Oscar played with us, had a good offer from China and he went.

“But this league is really competitive and every player wants to come and play in this league.

“This league is the first in the world because of a lot of positive things, so I don’t think these offers from China are a threat for our league.”

Report: Ian Harkes expected to sign with DC United

@MacStLouis
Twitter/ @MacStLouis
Leave a comment

D.C. United didn’t have a top 10 selection in the MLS SuperDraft, but the club is likely to end up with one of the most talented collegiate players in the game.

[ MORE: Robinson, Ebobisse headline latest U.S. U-20 roster ]

According to the Washington Post, D.C. United is expected to sign Wake Forest attacker Ian Harkes to a multi-year contract.

[ MORE: Galaxy keeper Rowe replaces Frei with USMNT ]

Harkes, 21, came up through D.C.’s academy system before playing all four years for the Demon Deacons. The midfielder has gained significant notoriety over his college career, which concluded with Hermann Trophy honors following his senior senior.

As a former member of the D.C. academy, Harkes didn’t have to declare for the SuperDraft and is expected to sign a Homegrown contract with D.C. United in the coming days.

Harkes has also been considering his options abroad, which included second-division sides in England, where he was born. Ian is the son of former U.S. Men’s National Team star John Harkes, who played both in the United States and England over his professional career.

Bayern Munich signs Suele and Rudy from Hoffenheim

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 15:  Sebastian Rudy of Germany controls the ball during the International Friendly Match between Italy and Germany at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on November 15, 2016 in Milan, .  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MUNICH (AP) German champion Bayern Munich has signed center half Niklas Suele and central midfielder Sebastian Rudy from Hoffenheim, with both players due to complete the season with their current club before joining on July 1.

[ MORE: Ibrahimovic rescues draw for United against Liverpool ]

Bayern said Sunday on its website that Rudy – who is out of contract in the summer – has signed a three-year deal until 2020 while Suele has agreed a five-year deal until June 2022.

[ MORE: Morata to Chelsea? Dybala staying put? ]

“Signing two Germany internationals is an investment in FC Bayern’s future,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “Sebastian Rudy joins us on a free transfer. In the case of Niklas Suele we have reached a fair and serious agreement with Hoffenheim.”

The 26-year-old Rudy has played 177 league games for Hoffenheim since joining from Stuttgart in 2010, while the 21-year-old Suele is a homegrown talent and has made 90 league appearances with the club.

“In terms of it being a farewell I feel a little wistful,” Suele said on Bayern’s website, adding that the move gives him the chance of “maturing further with one of the best teams in the world.”

Suele’s signing appears to be linked to the form of long-serving Bayern defender Holger Badstuber, who has been sent on loan to Schalke to get more game time.

The long-serving center-back has struggled with injuries in recent years and is not in Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti’s plans, having played only three games this season, starting just once.