Perfect through two: Columbus answers opening day questions with win over Philadelphia

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It’s going to be easy for some dismiss the significance of this result. After all, neither Columbus nor Philadelphia made the playoffs last season. When most see the Crew got a 2-1 win over the Union on Saturday, they’ll think “par for the course.”

The important details are in the Crew’s bigger picture – the 2-0-0 record they’ve put up under Gregg Berhalter. Over 180 minutes with its new coach, Columbus has never trailed, outscoring its opponents 5-1 during a perfect start.

More impressive: The Crew outscored their opponents 4-0 in their two first halves. Where Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuaín got the season off to a strong start two weeks ago in D.C., a part of Bernardo Anor goals have Columbus cruising into halftime on Saturday. By the time the Union got back to their game in Saturday’s second half, Columbus was playing out of the more conservative posture we say last week at RFK, Berhalter’s plans having produced another decisive halftime lead.

That they didn’t start in that same, compact pose against Philadelphia makes Saturday’s performance that much more impressive. Against D.C., Berhalter seemed to set up to play off the counter, relying on his back eight to find Higuaín, who could then turn and push the Crew forward. Against the Union, Columbus dominated first half possession, winning balls in its opponents’ half as Anor staked them to a 2-0 lead. Snaring two wins with two different plans, Berhalter’s team has joined Houston and Toronto as the only clubs to get six points from their first two results.

And consider this week’s opposition. Through two weeks, Philadelphia looked like one of the best teams in the league, taking a point out of Portland before starving New England of the ball in 1-0 win last week. A revamped midfield built around Maurice Edu had John Hackworth’s team playing a completely different style, one that gave the Union an appearance of playoff contenders.

Columbus painted Philadelphia in a completely different light. Philadelphia came out and played their worst half of the season, with the return of Brian Carroll doing nothing to maintain the midfield dominance the Union had against New England. While they ultimately outshot their hosts (19-9, 4-2 on target), most of their quality was concentrated in a 15-minute span of the second half. That period may have produced Leonardo Fernandes’s goal, but it wasn’t enough to cancel out a full half Columbus control.

Two weeks ago, the Crew left RFK Stadium with three points but a series of unanswered questions after it routed a poor D.C. United. After its second game of the season, however, some of those questions are closer to answers.

Whether Columbus are for real or not, we’ll need more than 180 minutes to know, but given what we’ve seen from Gregg Berhalter through two rounds, there’s reason to believe the 2014 Crew have something the 2013 team did not. They have a man capable of capable of, week-to-week, developing a new plan, preparing his team, and implementing it on match day.

It sounds simple enough, but with only two other teams off to 2-0-0 starts, the standings show how valuable that is. Berhalter’s off to a perfect start.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
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Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

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France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
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Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.