Wake up call: Real Salt Lake sends Toronto to 3-0 loss (video)

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Real Salt Lake beating Toronto wasn’t the surprise. It was the ease be which they did so. Putting pressure on the visiting Reds from the opening kickoff, the defending Western Conference champions forced a penalty kick within 10 minutes, giving them an early lead. Luis Gil doubled that advantage before halftime, with Álvaro Saborío adding his second 10 minutes after intermission. Before the hour mark, the match was over, making the first loss of Toronto’s new era was a lopsided one. TFC fell, 3-0.

The Reds had a couple of excuses. Against a team that’s so talented through the midfield, Toronto was without two of their midfield starters. Right-sider Jackson was suspended, while central midfielder Jonathan Osorio was held out with an injury. Against the likes of Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy and Gil, TFC’s absences came in the wrong part of the park.

It didn’t help that Ryan Nelsen didn’t appear to adjust for this. On the right, Mark Bloom was moved up from his right back position to take Jackson’s place in midfield. Jeremy Hall, a starter last season, stepped into Osorio’s boots in the middle. The end result was a defensive, passive team that would either stop Real Salt Lake in its tracks or get run over. Toronto wasn’t going to try and play with their hosts.

(ELSEWHERE: Late Mauro Díaz goal keeps Dallas undefeated, Portland winless after 10-on-10 battle (video))

Unfortunately for TFC’s undefeated record, RSL was never slowed. Within minutes of kickoff, Jeff Cassar’s team proved able to pass their way through the Toronto midfield, backing the Reds into their own penalty area. By the 10th minute, that advantage had forced a penalty on Doniel Henry.

RSL’s second goal required a bit of fortune, apparently deflecting off Henry before it beat Julio Cesar, but given the pressure Real Salt Lake was exerting, Toronto was always susceptible to conceding that type of goal. It’s hard for the breaks to go your way when you don’t have the ball.

The Reds did see Jermain Defore and Michael Bradley find the woodwork, but after Saborío scored his second early in the second half, the game was decided. With the match in doubt for only 55 minutes, the teams would combine for just eight shots on target. Real Salt Lake kept 61 percent of the ball.

(ELSEWHERE: Whitecaps are back in the win column, but Houston impresses in Vancouver (video))

For a Toronto team that’s had it relatively easy over is first two games, the result was a rude awakening. While it would have been wishful to predict a win at Real Salt Lake, few could have foreseen such a lopsided game. And as Henry tossed aside Saborío, Justin Morrow leapt through the back of Javier Morales, and Steven Caldwell put a brutal tackle on Grabavoy in the first half, you could see the frustration grow.

It was a sign of immaturity – a team that hasn’t been through “the wars” together. Faced with its first adversity of the season, Toronto elected to “get stuck in,” letting frustration get the better of them. Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, kept to the same approach it’s used for years, confident in its likely results.

Eventually, Toronto should get there, too, but on Saturday in Sandy, we saw why some are skeptical of this super team’s ability to be so super, so soon. They need to take some knocks to learn how to respond. In the face of their first test, the Reds showed they have a long way to go.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

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Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

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Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

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Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.