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.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.