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)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.