If we scored the middle of the park like a prize fight, this was a KO for Real Salt Lake pair Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.
The LA Galaxy’s talented central pairing, Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, never got a good foothold on Thursday’s big game at Rio Tinto Stadium. But the Beckerman-Morales duo were in control, as the home team claimed most of the possession and kept their opposition parts in check.
All four members of RSL’s midfield were relentless in their pressure and the resolve not to let L.A. develop any rhthym. (Not that the game had much of it; as windy conditions limited much of the pretty stuff from either side.)
Morales did something else, too: The veteran playmaker made the difference in the moments that mattered. It was Morales who swung a ball over to Chris Wingert in the first half, a sequence that eventually turned into the critical, aggregate goals equalizer.
But Morales’ bigger mark on the game came on two second half restarts, both from similar positioning along the left side.
(MORE: Match report as Real Salt Lake eliminates the LA Galaxy)
His perfectly delivered 85th-minute free kick bounded directly into goal – only to be nullified when referee Baldomero Toledo called a foul or perhaps offside. It was never exactly clear. Either way, that was the right ball given the swirling wind inside Rio Tinto, which was giving player on both sides trouble and adding so much adventure to every restart.
Never mind the controversy, which won’t be quite such the talker now. Because Morales had another free kick special just like it. Chris Schuler lost his marker with a big, looping run around to the far post and stuck out his long right leg to get on the end of Morales’ sharp delivery. That was the series winner.
According to Opta, Morales created eight chances for Real Salt Lake — double what any other player on the field created.
A busy midweek for Premier League teams in Europe sees some high-profile match-ups when league play resumes this weekend.
Chelsea is hosting former manager Jose Mourinho, Arsenal looks to keep up its red-hot play, and Manchester City is hoping an extra day’s rest on Southampton makes a difference to its recent dry spell.
[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]
Below you will find video previews of all 10 games coming up this weekend in the PL.
Manchester City vs. Southampton — Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Burnley vs. Everton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Swansea City vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Hull City vs. Stoke City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Chelsea vs. Manchester United — Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
West Ham United vs. Sunderland — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports
After Thursday’s thumping of Fenerbahce, Manchester United’s focus turns to Chelsea.
You can bet Jose Mourinho has been daydreaming of this day from the moment he started jockeying for a new Premier League job; leading a team onto the Stamford Bridge pitch to face his former club.
[ MORE: Mourinho says Pogba needs time ]
Two years ago, Mourinho was leading Chelsea to the Premier League title. He didn’t last the next season, as a run of shocking results motivated Chelsea to cut ties with its “Special One”.
Joe Prince-Wright is here with another PST Extra, breaking down Sunday’s big match between Mourinho’s Red Devils and Antonio Conte‘s Blues at 11 a.m. ET.
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba scored a pair of goals in Thursday’s big Europa League win over Fenerbahce, but the first was up for discussion.
Wayne Rooney started the game and has handled plenty of penalty kicks in his day, but the captain bowed to Pogba’s request to break the deadlock.
[ WATCH: Pogba’s fantastic goal ]
Pogba would later score a much better looking goal, but many debated the PK duties for much of the game (ad nauseam). Anthony Martial converted United’s second penalty of the night in a 4-1 win, but it was Pogba’s that was at the center of discussion.
From the BBC:
“I told Wayne (Rooney) I wanted to take the penalty and he let me. I am very happy to score that penalty and from a player like him to let me it is big respect so I am very glad.
“I feel comfortable with all of the team. It is just at the start of the season and there is still a long way to go and we want to go up and do our best and be top of the league.”
Pogba certainly knows the right way to turn a phrase, proffering plenty of praise for Rooney. Pogba had a very good game aside from a few early misplaced passes, and this performance could put his form in a fine place for Sunday’s match against Chelsea.
Paul Pogba had a very good match for Manchester United in the Europa League on Thursday, but manager Jose Mourinho still wants supporters to pump the brakes as the French midfielder continues adjusting to life in the Premier League.
Pogba, 23, has been under the microscope since returning to Old Trafford after a tremendous stint with Juventus. That scrutiny tends to come with a world record transfer fee.
[ MORE: UEFA Europa League roundup ]
On Thursday, he scored a pair of goals in United’s 4-1 defeat of Fenerbahce, a win that boosted the Red Devils back atop their Europa League group.
Mourinho was obviously asked about his midfielder’s starring performance.
“Paul Pogba needs time. I was in Italy, I know Italian football. To be in Italy for four or five years and come back I was not expecting it to be a click of the fingers for intensity. He needs time.”