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

Leave a comment

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.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Liverpool rejects Barca bid for Coutinho, Roma offer for Mahrez turned down

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool isn’t planning on cashing in on one of the Premier League’s stars this summer.

Jurgen Klopp and Co. gave Barcelona a resolute “no” after Barcelona submitted a transfer bid of more than $93 million for Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the club in January.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“The main thing I think about is how we can make the next step with the players we had last season,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong earlier this week. “The good news is that actually we didn’t lose – and we will not lose – a player we want to keep this summer. That’s the best news actually and then we’ll see who can bring into the squad.”

Coutinho signed for Liverpool in 2013 but had a breakout year in 2015-2016, earning the PFA Young Player of the Year. Last year Coutinho became an even more consistent goal-scorer and playmaker, scoring 13 goals with seven assists in 34 Premier League appearances.

Keeping Coutinho is of supreme importance for Liverpool, which is back in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

(more…)

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

Getty Images
Leave a comment

At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.