Pérez’s late goal gives FC Dallas 2-1 win over Toronto FC (video)

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When Issey Nakajima-Farran scored early in Frisco, Tex., the Reds’ visit to Toyota Stadium was shaping up to be another Ryan Nelsen Special: Score first; slowly retreat, destroying anything that approaches; bunker late and hold on for dear life. Thanks to Dallas’s continued mastery of set pieces, however, Óscar Pereja’s team was able to comeback, lengthening its lead at the top of the Western Conference. With a 2-1 win on Saturday night, FCD handed Toronto its third loss of the season, extending its lead over second place Colorado to five in the process.

Toronto went up in the 21st minute through some set piece magic of its own, the chaos off the second ball into the box giving Nakajima-Farran two cracks from the left of the area. Chris Seitz did well no the first, his save punched wide of the crowd in the middle. Unfortunately, the ball went back to Nakajima-Farran, whose second crack got help from a deflection at the edge of the six-yard box.

Eight minutes before halftime, Dallas was back even, with Matt Hedges’ finish off a near-post corner cueing the home side’s second half control. With the exception of the second half’s opening moments, Dallas dictated the rest of the game, building up a 61-39 possession advantage in the process. But chances for Fabian Castillo and David Texeira couldn’t capitalize on that advantage, with Toronto nearly claiming its own lead against the run of play through Jackson in the 54th minute.

As the game approached full-time, the Nelsen Plan was about to earn a point, yet the same type of set piece chaos that helped Toronto take an early lead eventually led to their downfall. After a restart from just inside the Reds’ half was lofted into the area by Michel, headers from Stephen Keel and Hedges eventually found Blas Pérez, whose lunging poke at a ball in the six-yard box beat César for the game’s final goal.

Though Toronto is still without Jermain Defoe and Doneil Henry, this may have been Dallas’s best performance of the season – overcoming a strong team after conceding an early goal. The team seems a bit too dependent on set piece execution (only five of the team’s 17 goals have come from open play), but there’s a resourcefulness to its play that’s encouraging. Though Seattle showed lifting Dallas to the heights of the league’s 2014 elite is premature, they continue to win games a variety of days. Tonight, after Toronto went full Nelsen, they proved capable of beating a team they couldn’t run through.

Toronto, however, has got to start getting a little less risk averse. On a night where teams are reminding us how tenuous a one-goal lead can be (here, here), Nelsen was far too content to relying on the slimmest of margins. TFC wasn’t ahead when it conceded int he 88th minute, but the team was close to a road point that would have satisfied Nelsen.

While beating Seattle and Columbus, the Reds showed they’re not only able to play with some of the league’s better sides but capable of getting a second goal. Against D.C. United and Dallas, however, they’ve proved less willing to leverage their talent. At home, against an inferior opponent, they got a 1-0 win last month. On the road, against a team that’s shown some vulnerabilities at the back, they could have used a more balanced approach.

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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  • Reds clobbered Swans on Boxing Day
  • Swans six points adrift
  • Reds go third with three-goal win
  • Liverpool leads all-time 23W-8D-11L

Liverpool looks to avoid a letdown when it visits Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Swansea City has managed a win over the Reds in each of the previous two seasons, but was simply crushed by Jurgen Klopp‘s men in a 5-0 defeat at Anfield last month.

WATCH ON NBCSN AND ONLINE HERE AT 3 P.M. ET

The hosts badly need to pick up points, though few expect them to do so on Monday. Skeptics, however, will note that Liverpool under Klopp has been giants against the top teams and often lackluster against the other sides.

What they’re saying

Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal on springing an upset“I would prefer to be Goliath, I would rather be in his position. But during my career most of the time has been spent in the position of David, and we have been able to do some surprises as David. We have done it often, we are working to make more of them. I was kind of the Goliath when I was with Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon, but during those moments Goliath was a little ill.”

Liverpool’s Klopp on goalkeeper Loris KariusMy favourite solution, always, is that we do it with our boys. They step up, they deliver, they improve. The problem they have is that everyone is watching them (through a magnifying glass) and saying ‘still not good enough!’ I will only mention one name. Everyone talks about him with us and that is Butland. I only saw the game (against Manchester United). Fantastic goalkeeper but was he perfect? No. He wasn’t in that game. But everyone says ‘still better than our boys!'”

Prediction

It’s hard to see this going in Swans favor at all, though we’ll peg them to keep it close on the score board: 2-0 to Liverpool.

Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs

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A new name has emerged on the loan market, as Borussia Dortmund forward Andre Schurrle is reportedly being made available for the second half of the Premier League season.

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Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.

Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.

But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.

Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.

And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.

He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.

World Cup winner, England legend Armfield passes away at 82

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1966 World Cup champion Jimmy Armfield has died at the age of 82.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Voted “the best right back” in Europe between 1962-64, the former England and Blackpool captain also had a successful management and broadcasting career.

Armfield was a member of the 1962 and 1966 World Cup squads, though a toe injury kept him from his place in the starting lineup when England won the tournament.

He spent his entire playing career with Blackpool before managing Bolton Wanderers to promotion and Leeds United to the European Cup Final, righting the ship after Brian Clough’s infamous spell in charge of the club.

There’s a statue outside Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, and the club legend has a stand named after him inside the venue.

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Julie Ertz scores in USWNT win, discovers good Eagles news after

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Whoever scheduled the U.S. Women’s National Team’s friendly against Denmark at the same time as the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night should really consider the Ertz family in the future.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup — Auba to Arsenal, Man City tracking Evans, Fred ]

While noted USWNT defender Julie Ertz and her team cruised past the Danes in a 5-1 victory, her husband, Zach, was playing a hand in the Philadelphia Eagles’ progression to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

With Julie not knowing what to expect following her team’s match, find out how she took the news of her husband’s triumph in the video below.

While Zach’s night was certainly a memorable one for many reasons, it was Julie that arguably had the better performance — which included a goal in the 19th minute off of a close-range volley.

The USWNT had trailed through 14 minutes, but a combination of goals from Alex Morgan and Ertz in a span of two minutes quickly erased the deficit.

For Morgan, it was her 80th goal for the Stars and Stripes.

Meanwhile, a second-half brace from teenage sensation Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn’s finish with nine minutes to play proved to be the icing on the cake for Jill Ellis’ side, who kicked off 2018 with a bang.