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MLS roundup: Dallas moves top; Toronto, Columbus stay perfect

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The 2014 Major League Soccer season has barely started, but the desire to connect dots is irresistible. Though each team has only played between five and nine percent of their seasons’ games, we want to see this weekend’s results as part of a bigger story, one which builds on the season’s first two weekends. We want these games to be more significant than they are.

For example, Toronto got its second win in as many games, marking the first time in franchise history the team has started 2-0-0. But does a 1-0 win at home against D.C. United tell us anything about Ryan Nelsen’s team? When the result slides into the bigger story of Toronto’s revival, it becomes more meaningful than it should.

What about Sporting Kansas City’s win over San Jose? With Champions League behind the defending champions, it’s tempting to see their first win of the season as turning a corner. Through three games, however, the team still hasn’t scored an open play goal.

And then there’s the league’s running joke: Chivas USA. Wilmer Cabrera’s team lost 3-1 in Frisco, Tex., on Saturday, a result that fits nicely with the idea that the league-owned club will be the circuit’s obligatory doormat. In reality, Chivas USA looked more like the team that took four points through two rounds than the squad that finished last year at the bottom of the Western Conference.

It’s too early to tell where this weekend’s games fit in the bigger picture. After three weeks, we have no clue what that picture will look like. Right now, all we have are the results.

Here’s what happened on the third Saturday of the 2014 MLS season:

New England 0, Vancouver 0

With Kelyn Rowe and Saer Sene back in Jay Heaps’ starting lineup, the Revolution looked like their 2013 selves for the first time this season. Unfortunately for New England, that produced neither a win nor a goal, leaving the Revolution without either through three games this season.

(MORE: Everything there but the end product for New England against Vancouver)

Real Salt Lake 1, LA Galaxy 1

The Galaxy’s defensive problems persisted, giving up an early goal to Álvaro Saborío after leaving the Costa Rican unmarked on a set piece. Robbie Keane responded by finishing a trademark LA counterattack, sending the teams into halftime at 1-1. A lack of second half chances meant the two teams that opened the season with an RSL win in Carson, Calif., shared points at Rio Tinto.

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

Toronto 1, D.C. United 0

Jermain Defoe’s third goal of the season gave Toronto a lead on the hour, and advantage Ryan Nelsen’s team would ride to their second win in as many games. While D.C. United improved on their opening day loss to Columbus, Ben Olsen’s team remains at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

(MORE: Bloodied Michael Bradley earning Toronto’s praise after staple-requiring win)

Columbus 2, Philadelphia 1

Bernardo Anor scored twice in the first half as Gregg Berhalter’s team built their second straight two-goal lead. Rather than building on it (as they did week one in D.C.), the Crew saw Leonardo Fernandes pull one back. Columbus eventually steadied the ship and held out for their second win in as many games.

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

Colorado 2, Portland 0

Donovan Ricketts’ 68th minute red card broke open the game for Colorado, who saw Vicente Sanchez convert the first of two penalties kicks in three minutes. Deshorn Brown put home the rebound of his 73rd minute attempt to give the Rapids their first win of the season, sending the Timbers to their first loss.

(MORE: Two goalkeepers, two penalties conceded as Portland falls in Colorado)

Sporting Kansas City 1, San Jose 0

A first half sequence that saw Sal Zizzo and Ike Opara hit Jon Busch’s right post left the teams even a halftime, a stalemate that was broken early in the second half. After Steven Lenhart was called for a hand ball in the box, Dom Dwyer converted from the spot for his third MLS goal and Sporting’s first win of the season.

(MORE: Defending champions get first win of the season, but scoring, chances still a question for Sporting Kansas City)

FC Dallas 3, Chivas USA 1

Goals from Fabian Castillo, Je-Vaughn Watson, and Michel turned a match that was even in the 70th minute into a decisive win for Dallas, with only Erick Torres’s third goal of the season providing consolation for Chivas. The win left Óscar Pareja’s team two points clear at the top of the Western Conference.

(MORE: Óscar Pareja’s still defying expectations, but who’s going to play defensive midfield next week for Dallas?)

Watch Live: West Ham vs. Southampton (Lineups & Live Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21:  Manager of West Ham United, Slaven Bilic look on during the  EFL Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Accrington Stanley at the London Stadium on September 21, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The Hammers are in a bad spot. Five matches into the season, they have just three points – one third their haul at this point last season. They host Southampton at the Olympic Stadium at 11am E.T. live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Southampton isn’t in much better shape. They own just five points thus far and sit in 14th, and manager Claude Puel has slotted  in-form striker Charlie Austin into the starting lineup looking to build on a pair of wins over the last week.

WATCH LIVE: West Ham vs. Southampton live online at NBCSports.com

Austin scored the only goal in Saints’ 1-0 win over Swansea last weekend, their first of the league season, and then scored again in the 2-0 win over Swansea in the EFL Cup midweek. That gives Austin four goals in his last three games following a Europa League brace two weeks ago.

For West Ham, Slaven Bilic has a problem at left-back yet again after Arthur Makuasu, Aaron Cresswell‘s replacement, went down with a knee injury. Newly-arrived Alvaro Arbeloa will move from his usual right side to deputize. Defensive issues have plagued the Hammers thus far, having conceded 11 goals in their last three league games.

LINEUPS

West Ham: Adrian; Nordtveit, Reid, Ogbonna, Arbeloa; Noble; Antonio, Kouyate, Lanzini, Payet; Zaza.
Subs: Randolph, Byram, Oxford, Obiang, Fernandes, Feghouli, Fletcher.

Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Fonte, Van Dijk, Bertrand; Romeu, Højbjerg; Davis, Tadić, Redmond; Austin.
Subs: McCarthy, Yoshida, Clasie, Long, Martina, Ward-Prowse, Hesketh.

Joe Hart, Torino down Roma 3-1 in early Serie A game

BERGAMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 11:  Goalkeeper of FC Torino Joe Hart gestures during the Serie a match between Atalanta BC and FC Torino at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on September 11, 2016 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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In today’s early Serie A game, Joe Hart and Torino held down Roma to win 3-1 at Stadio Olimpico to move into the top half of the table.

Roma dominated the stat sheets, holding 69% possession and out-passing Torino 466-174, but were wasteful in front of net, only able to put just five of their 21 their shots on target.

Andrea Belotti scored just eight minutes in to put Torino ahead, and Iago Falque bagged a brace with goals 13 minutes apart in the second half to seal it. For all its possession and movement in the attacking half, Roma could only manage a goal on a penalty, scored by Francesco Totti, his 250th career goal, all coming for one club.

Manchester City loanee Joe Hart commanded a solid performance by Torino’s back line, with the home side managing a whopping 22 tackles and 33 clearances. Roma actually out-performed Torino on the expected goals front, proving Hart’s influence.

The win, the club’s first since late August, pushes Torino up to eight in the Serie A table on eight points. They have conceded just a single goal – the Totti penalty – in their last three matches. It’s a far cry from the 2-1 loss to Atalanta in Hart’s debut, in which a mistake by the England international allowed Atalanta to score the winning goal.

On the other side, Arsenal loanee Wojciech Szczesny made a mistake to gift Torino their early goal. The result for Roma is a big blow to their hopes at challenging for the title, dropping them five points back of leaders Juventus and four behind Napoli.

Championship match features nightmarish halftime shenanigans

DERBY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Nigel Pearson, manager of Derby County looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Blackburn Rovers at iPro Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Derby, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
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On Saturday, Derby County fell at home to Blackburn 2-1, with all three goals scored in a furious four-minute span midway through the second half.

It’s been a nightmare start to the season for both clubs, with the clubs in 20th and 22nd on a combined three wins.

That, however, was not the most disturbing thing on display at Pride Park Stadium. The halftime show featured a show with a character from a child’s bad dream. A man in a fish suit swallowed a person whole then spit him back out sans clothing. But don’t take our word for it:

Have fun sleeping tonight.

After a pair of La Liga draws, all is not well at Real Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 21: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF grimaces in pain during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Villarreal CF at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on September 21, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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It’s amazing how results go hand-in-hand with off the field mood for the top teams in the world.

There is no club where that seems to be more true than Real Madrid. The team has drawn two in a row, first a 1-1 finish against Villareal at the Bernabeu that saw Los Blancos pump out 23 shots, but put only six on target. Then, they drew 2-2 Saturday with this year’s darlings Las Palmas out on the Canary Islands, crumbling at the back by blowing a pair of leads.

All this still leaves them atop the La Liga table, a point above Barcelona, and yet the wheels appear to be coming loose.

Things always start with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, and that was the case on Saturday, when the superstar was withdrawn by head coach Zinedine Zidane in the 74th minute, and appeared to be visibly upset with the decision. Zidane told media after the game he was looking ahead to Tuesday’s Champions League matchup with Borussia Dortmund, saying, “He [Ronaldo] always wants to play and be out there on the pitch, but I’ve also got to think about the player and he needed to rest and think about Tuesday.”

Ronaldo did not speak to the media following the match.

Always in his teammate’s shadow is Gareth Bale, but things aren’t going well for him either. According to a report by The Sun, Bale has increased security after his fiance’s family has reportedly been targeted for arson attacks by a drug gang. In addition, Bale is reportedly unhappy after being substituted himself in the 70th minute of the draw with Villareal, according to reports in Spain. There have been reports for a while that his agent is shopping the Welshman to top clubs like Manchester United.

“We’re relaxed,” Zidane said after the Las Palmas draw. “We are working hard and focused on what we’re doing. We have to realize that you can’t always win, but we’re on the right track.”