Back to earth again for Toronto after loss to Colorado (video)

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If we wanted to see Toronto’s season as a step forward-step back process, it wouldn’t be difficult to find support in the Reds’ results. Ryan Nelsen’s team opened the season with a convincing win at CenturyLink before staying the source with a home win over D.C. United. They were given a lesson in Sandy, Utah, before providing a teaching moment of their own at Columbus. It hasn’t been purely up and down, but it has been inconsistent – the type of run you’d expect from a team still learning how to play with each other.

That inconsistency manifested as a lack of drive on Saturday, where a stalwart Colorado held a Michael Bradley-less Toronto at bay for 77 minutes. Then, scattering the Reds’ defense after playing from right-or-left, Colorado went up through Edson Buddle, the veteran striker’s score holding up for a 1-0 win in Ontario.

It was the third time this year Colorado had come back on the road to get a result, but with Toronto again missing a slew of starters, it’s tempting to play what if. What if Bradley wasn’t rested? Or Jermain Defoe wasn’t still out with hamstring problems? What if Doneil Henry, Alvaro Rey, or Jonathan Osorio had been in the team?

Given how tight Saturday’s game was, it’s easy to say the result could have gone Toronto’s way. But it’s also easy to see this as another learning experience for a developing squad. Not only do players like Kyle Bekker (who was good, again), Jeremy Hall, and Issey Nakajima-Farran need to get accustomed to the expectations of a contending club, but the squad needs to take advantage of the opportunities presented. Over the first hour of this match, shorthanded or not, Toronto had a chance to take control.

Instead, much as Vancouver did against the Rapids, the Reds allowed their guests to stay close enough to steal it, but whereas last week it took a red card and two José Mari blasts to put Colorado on top, Saturday required only one piece of execution. Thanks to the effort of Dillon Serna, a nice cutback from Dillon Powers, and the poaching of Buddle, Colorado claimed its second straight road result.

That’s a testament to the talent Colorado has in its squad. Though the first hours of its trips to Vancouver and Toronto didn’t look like potential wins, the number of options in Pablo Mastroeni’s squad came through. Last week, it was Mari with two bombs from distance. This week, it was Serna, Powers, and Buddle sending Toronto’s defense spinning for the winner.

For Toronto, the result is just part of the process. Though games like those against Seattle and Columbus hint everything can happen at once, there will be setbacks. The absence of Michael Bradley proved a significant one on Saturday.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.