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.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.