2013 MLS Cup - Real Salt Lake v Sporting Kansas City

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.

Conte not going to sell Matic, enjoys quality midfield headache

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20: Nemanja Matic of Chelsea reacts during the friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Velden, Austria. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images
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Antonio Conte feels he has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in his midfield, not that it’s a problem outside of deciding who hits the pitch.

The Chelsea boss does not plan on selling Nemanja Matic despite the acquisition of N'Golo Kante — in fact Conte thinks Matic can be one of the best in the world.

[ MORE: New club for Pato ]

That’s not surprising, given that Matic was one of the keys to Chelsea’s 2014-15 PL title run.

Conte says he has some tricky selections to make in the coming days, as Chelsea prepares to open its Premier League season Aug. 15 at West Ham United.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Kante is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club took this player, it’s fantastic,” said the 46-year-old. “The players in a great team like Chelsea must know there are many players that can play. It’s important for me to have a good choice to try the best solution game by game. It’s important for me to see always the right attitude and behaviour from the players.

“When I have players like N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc, Oscar and Chalobah, and Mikel who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”

For a manager who loves to keep it tight in the midfield, it would be far from shocking to see Matic and Kante behind two attacking mids (Willian and Hazard?) or even three.

Regardless, Chelsea’s match day tactics will be one of the more fascinating subplots of 2016, especially when Conte matches up against the Blues’ former boss Jose Mourinho (Oct. 22 at Stamford Bridge and April 15 at Old Trafford).

Spain’s Villarreal signs Brazilian striker Pato

SWANSEA, WALES - APRIL 09:  Alexandre Pato of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on April 9, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Brazilian club Corinthians says it has agreed to transfer striker Alexandre Pato to Villarreal in Spain.

Corinthians says on its club website that it has “agreed to the final administrative details of the negotiation” for Pato’s move to Villarreal.

[ MORE: MLS All Star Game preview ]

It adds that both clubs have agreed to not release the financial details of the transfer.

The 26-year-old Pato played for AC Milan from 2007 to 2013, before returning to his native Brazil with Corinthians. He played the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea in the English Premier League.

Roberto Martinez linked to Atlanta United gig by Taylor Twellman

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Roberto Martinez, manager of Everton gives instructions during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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When news of Sigi Schmid’s departure from Seattle broke, there were plenty of folks wondering who could be the second coach in the Sounders’ MLS history.

One of those doing so publicly was ESPN writer Marc Connolly, who asked whether former Wigan and Everton boss Roberto Martinez could be interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]

Fellow media member Taylor Twellman is obviously well-connected, and his reply raised some eyebrows, especially given the news that technical director Carlos Bocanegra is closing in on selecting the first manager in Atlanta United history.

Ryan is the quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, for those unaware. Martinez and Twellman worked together for ESPN this summer.

Is Martinez to MLS really a thing? He’s also been linked to the vacant Hull City job, and would be one of the highest profile coaches to make the switch in the history of the league.

Premier League preseason: Everton, Burnley win; Spurs fall to Juventus

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JULY 26:  Muhamed Besic of Everton celebrates after scoring the third goal during the pre-season friendly match between MK Dons and Everton at Stadium mk on July 26, 2016 in Milton Keynes, England.  (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
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Four Premier League teams were in action on Tuesday, with two picking up wins and not a clean sheet in the joint.

[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]

MK Dons 1-3 Everton

Ronald Koeman‘s men got goals from Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Muhamed Besic, but wasn’t entirely pleased with every facet of their game.

From EvertonFC.com:

“The team, the players, we need to press better. The pitch in some stages of the game was too long. If you press up front, it means the midfielders they need to push up as well and it’s the same for the defenders.”

Bolton 1-2 Burnley

Andre Gray will likely be a well-known Premier League entity when his career is done, and the way he’s playing it could be by the time this season is complete. The Burnley man scored for the fifth time in four preseason games, and Josh Ginnelly also scored for the Clarets.

Barnsley 2-2 Hull City

Adama Diomande and Jarrod Bowen scored as the Tigers stayed unbeaten in preseason play.

Spurs 1-2 Juventus — RECAP