Keane

First half goals, lack of second half chances leave Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy drawn at Rio Tinto (video)

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Two Western Conference contenders looking decided out of sync were left on even footing after 90 minutes at Rio Tinto, with two first half mistakes splitting the day’s goals between Real Salt Lake and the visiting LA Galaxy. A breakdown on an early set piece allowed Álvaro Saborío to score his first goal of the season, while a counter attack 15 minutes later saw Robbie Keane earn a 1-1 result for the Galaxy, giving Bruce Arena’s team its first point of the season.

Saborío opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Joao Plata found him unmarked at the far post for the day’s opening goal. In the 34th minute, Chris Schuler’s inability to deal with Keane in transition allowed the Republic of Ireland international to beat Nick Rimando from just inside the 18-yard box. After a second half that saw both teams struggle to create quality chances, the Galaxy had a small measure of redemption for the teams’ result two weeks ago, one that saw RSL take full points out of StubHub Center.

For Real Salt Lake, the result leaves Jeff Cassar’s team undefeated (1-0-2), but after an opening day win in Los Angeles followed by last week’s draw in San Jose, the performance was also the team’s least convincing of the season. Though LA’s late counter attacks failed to replicate Keane’s first half danger, the Galaxy still had multiple chances to exploit RSL late. Unable to convert those threats into shots, LA was forced to settle for a the draw.

While those counters left the host’s defense tested last, it was LA’s back line that was in the spotlight early. In the game’s opening minutes, an error in possession by Omar Gonzalez allowed Plata to go in alone on goal. Los Angeles were lucky to see the Ecuadorian push his shot wide of Brian Perk’s left post, missing out on his third goal of the season.

In the 19th minute, Plata made up for his miss, severing a perfect ball to Saborío after he was left unmarked short on a restart. Saborío was equally unmarked 12 yards from goal, even with the far post. After taking a touch and drawing Park off his line, the Costa Rican international fished into the far side of goal to make it 1-0, RSL.

With few opportunities over the next quarter-hour, the Galaxy appeared on track to their second loss of the season to RSL. Two weeks ago in Carson, Calif., a Plata goal helped Real Salt Lake open the season with a 1-0 win at Home Depot Center. Just after the half-hour mark, however, a trademark Galaxy counter ensured Saturday’s result would be different.

After winning a ball along the right flank, LA burst into a counterattack led by Keane. The Galaxy captain never saw Schuler, playing his first game of the season, stop his advances. After subtly steering Schuler to the middle of the park, Keane quickly moved back onto his right foot and finished inside Rimando’s left post, giving the U.S. international no chance to stop the equalizer.

Though Nick Grabavoy would go close in the second half, forcing Perk into a diving save to defend his right post, the game’s final 45 minutes were defined by a lack of chances. With Plata having left in the first half with an apparent leg injury, RSL was missing an important, linking piece. And while the Galaxy improved on the performance they gave in Tijuana on Tuesday, Bruce Arena’s team continued to look flawed at the back, something their periodic success going forward could not overshadow.

Through two games, LA remains winless, though the away result gave the team their first point of the season. For Real Salt Lake, it’s a second straight game were the team couldn’t defend an early lead. While Chris Schuler’s return from ankle surgery should allow the team to start addressing that concern, the slips have allowed the team’s last two opponents to come back and claim points that could have been preserved.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • United 6 points outside the top four
  • Sunderland winless in four
  • MUFC has one loss in 27 vs. SAFC (W20, D6, L1)

Manchester United’s uphill battle for a top-four finish continues on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

United won this fixture in September 3-0 behind goals from Memphis, Wayne Rooney, and Juan Mata.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Sunderland sit 19th on the table four points from safety as the time has come for Sam Allardyce‘s side to start getting results. Without a win in their last four matches, the Black Cats must turn things around if they want to stay up in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored last time out in a draw at Liverpool, and he’ll once again be tasked with finding the back of the net if Sunderland are to win.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks for Week 26 ]

For Manchester United, the pressure is still on Louis Van Gaal as rumors and reports circle linking Jose Mourinho to the job. Fifth on the table and six points behind Manchester City, a top-four finish is slipping away from United if they don’t rattle off a few wins. A late goal at Chelsea last weekend cost the Red Devils all three points, but they’ll look at this matchup against Sunderland as a good opportunity to get a positive result.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce: “Providing chances for Jermain Defoe is critical for us. But our first major problem is that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches. We need to start putting a zero against us in games and if we start doing that we’ll win more matches. If we win more matches, we’ll get out of trouble.”

United manager Louis van Gaal: “We had lost four matches in a row in December and you see us now. You can only say that we are mentally very strong and that we can cope with the pressure. That is not enough as we have to improve our results and consistency to win a lot of matches in a row. We have to minimize the gap to our competitors.”

Prediction

Sunderland need all the points they can get to try and stay up, but United always seem to cause the Black Cats problems. Jermain Defoe is kept off the board as Louis van Gaal takes the win. Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United.

Costa breaks nose, will be fit to play for “Zorro team” vs. Newcastle

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Diego Costa of Chelsea reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 7, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea striker Diego Costa broke his nose in training after a clash of heads, but should be fit to play in Saturday’s match against Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Costa has six goals in his past seven Premier League games as Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

Manager Guus Hiddink spoke about the injury in his press conference on Friday, saying Costa collided with an Academy player in training. Hiddink said he believes Costa will be ready to play this weekend for his “Zorro team” as Costa joins Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea players to wear a mask this season.

It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the Academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky.

They are putting a mask on Diego as well, we are the team with a lot of masks, a Zorro team, and he will come back do some light training this afternoon as he must experience how he is dealing with the form and the fitting of the mask.

Costa scored a stoppage-time equalizer against Manchester United last weekend as Chelsea continue to get results under Guus Hiddink. The Blues are up to 13th on the table, just three points outside the top half.

[ RELATED: Frank Lampard urges Chelsea to sign John Terry ]

Chelsea will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches on Saturday against a Newcastle side that is just one point above the drop and in need of a result.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]