Late goal from FC Dallas earns draw in Kansas City; Sporting’s attack suffering while squad rotates

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Even as the defending champions were beaten last week in Seattle, Sporting Kansas City showed all the characteristics of their typical, Eastern Conference-dominating selves. They didn’t win the possession battle, but they were stingy in defense, rugged in the middle, and at least tried to keep the ball. That’s what we think of when Peter Vermes’ team comes to mind, so even as they lost 1-0 to the Sounders, the fact that a team without four regular starts could maintain its identity was an encouraging sign.

That sign was still there on Saturday as Sporting dropped points at home to FC Dallas, but giving up a late goal to Matt Hedges in a 1-1 draw, the champs were left to rue their inability to generate a second goal. Despite 64 percent possession and an 8-1 edge in shots on target (18-7, overall), Sporting couldn’t craft the quality opportunity they needed to get a second past Chris Seitz. With Aurélien Collin’s 81st minute opener coming off a Benny Feilhaber corner, a team that’s managing its regulars’ minutes has only scored from open play once in three games (counting CONCACAF Champions League).

source: Getty Images
Aurélien Collin converted a late Benny Feilhaber corner to give Sporting Kansas City’s its first goal of the MLS season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

The effect, however, has been a lack of good chances in the team’s two MLS games. In Seattle, a strong defensive performance from the Sounders and the absences of the team’s starting full backs left Sporting a shell of their former selves (albeit a dangerous one). Against Dallas, it was Graham Zusi’s turn to sit, meaning the team was without the man who pulls the strings in the final third. With Óscar Pareja content to see his team set back and play without the ball, Sporting couldn’t break through until a late corner, even if they saw a number of other close calls.

With Feilhaber’s set piece delivery and a target man like Collin, it’s not the worst situation for Sporting Kansas City, but it is an instructive one. Over the last two years, as players like Kei Kamara have left the team, Sporting has become more dependent on building play on the ground. That means not only more dependence on Zusi but also things like the runs Paolo Nagamura brings, the holding play of Oriol Rosell, and the space created as Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers bomb up the wings. Together, the mix forms a delicate balance MLS rosters might not be able to maintain when players have to be cycled out.

Tonight, the team’s key component was out. No Zusi? No open play goals. Without Nagamura and Myers, however, the team was also missing some important complementary components. We’ll see how many can return for this week’s trip to Cruz Azul.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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De Rossi admits desire to beat young teammates with bat

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Daniele De Rossi doesn’t like the modern world.

Okay, okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the Roma legend dropped a funny quote when discussing the differences between young players these days and those when he began his career.

A one-club man, the 33-year-old De Rossi has played in 556 matches for i Lupi and admits that he probably flummoxed veterans when he began his career because that’s the cyclical nature of adulthood.

From Italia Football:

“When we started out, it was all different, that was 20 years ago. Now a 20-year-old will get into the first team and have more Instagram followers than Messi. When I was young, the older players would say ‘it wasn’t like in my day’ – that’s life and it always will be.

“Mind you, some of them irritate me too. When I see them do live Instagram videos from inside the locker room before a game, I’d like to take a baseball bat to their teeth… But they’re 18 years old and in 20 years’ time they will find themselves complaining about the youth of today.”

Mmmm, tastes like ash and hickory.

It’s a safe bet that De Rossi isn’t wild about Stephan El Shaarawy’s hair, we imagine, but living legends generally get a little leeway with their comments in the media.

Plus, it sounds like he has the wisdom to understand the “why” and at least channel his angry into tackles.