Two goals in Seattle from Jermaine Defoe get new era off to winning start for Toronto

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Welcome to a new era of Toronto FC soccer, one in which the Reds are capable of going to places like CenturyLink Field and earning three points. Thanks to two first half goals from Jermain Defoe, a revamped TFC registered a  2-1 victory in Seattle, sending early notice to those left doubting the potential their offseason rebuild.

After Seattle controlled much of the ball over the match’s first quarter-hour, Toronto broke through in the 16th minute, with Jonathan Osario setting up Defoe. Eight minutes later, a poor back pass from Seattle’s Marco Pappa allowed Defoe to add his second from inside the arc, giving the Reds a lead two-goal lead they’d carry well past halftime.

Converting on a second half counter attack, Clint Dempsey cut Toronto’s lead to one, scoring his first of the season to make it 2-1 in the 68th minute. Awakened, Toronto was able to carry their one-goal edge to full-time, starting their 2014 season with a victory on the road.

(MORE: Defoe scores twice in first 23 minutes of his Major League Soccer debut.)

For Seattle, the result drops the team to 1-1-0, with the Sounders slipping after last week’s opening day win over visiting Sporting Kansas City. While that slip was defined by a poor performance over Saturday’s first 45 minutes, the Sounders will be able to take little consolation from a spirited response that left them one goal short.

source: APToronto’s initial break through came after Osorio, having done well to maintain control at the edge of the Reds’ attacking third, fed a ball into the left channel for Defoe. Taking advantage of the positioning of Chad Marshall and DeAndre Yedlin, Defoe beat former Red Stefan Frei into the right of goal, giving Toronto an early lead.

Eight minutes later, Defoe doubled his goal total, taking advantage of a poor back pass from Pappa to score the game’s winning goal. After retrieving the ball just outside the Seattle penalty area, Defoe dribbled onto his right foot inside the arch, giving him an open look at the right side of Frei’s goal. Beating the new Seattle number one for the second time in eight minutes, Defoe put his new team up, 2-0.

(MORE: Clint Dempsey takes out his frustrations on Mark Bloom.)

The second half saw a more aggressive Seattle team generate a couple of early chances for Obafemi Martins. In the 68th minute, however, it as the Nigerian’s part in building an attack that led to the Sounders’ break through.

Countering off a ball played wide right by Dempsey, Martins streaked down the flank, seeing no resistance before hitting the edge of Toronto’s penalty area. Once there, Martins laid off to his left for an oncoming Dempsey, who blasted home from just inside the box to reduce his team’s deficit to one.

Having relinquished control to Seattle for the half’s first 23 minutes, Toronto began putting up more of a fight after Dempsey’s goal. Whereas the Reds were too willing to collapse into the defensive third before conceding, Toronto started maintaining some possession once their lead was reduced. Though the team wasn’t able to generate any significant chances over the match’s final 22 minutes, they were able to stymie the control Seattle had exercised over the period’s opening moments.

With Marshall coming forward to threaten on the match’s late set pieces, Seattle maintained the threat of an equalizer against Nelsen’s conservative tactics. Once full-time was blown, however, Toronto had survived Seattle’s late pressure, giving them the first win of their new, higher profile era.

Lineups

Seattle Sounders: Stefan Frei; DeAndre Yedlin, Chad Marshall, Djimi Traore, Dylan Remick; Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso; Lamar Neagle, Clint Dempsey, Marco Pappa; Obafemi Martins

Goals: Dempsey (68)

Toronto FC: Júlio César; Mark Bloom, Steven Caldwell, Doneil Henry; Justin Morrow; Jackson, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Álvaro Rey; Jermain Defoe; Dwayne De Rosario

Goals Defoe (16, 24)

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.