Felipe's 14th minute goal held up as the Impact claimed its first victory of the 2014 season. (Photo: AP Photos.)

Montréal downs Philadelphia, leaves the ranks of the MLS’s winless

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Thank Philadelphia, thank Zac MacMath, or just thank probability and time. Maybe even give Felipe Martins and the defense some credit, too. Whatever the reason, the Impact no longer have to count themselves among Major League Soccer’s winless. With a first half goal from Felipe, Frank Klops’s team claimed a 1-0 win over Philadelphia at Stade Saputo, ending the seven-match winless run that had relegated the team to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

With the win, however, Montréal temporarily climbs to ninth, passing Chicago thanks to some help from MacMath. On a long shot from midfielder Patrice Bernier in the 14th minute, the Philadelphia keeper failed to either catch the ball or push it beyond his left post. Giving up a rebound in the six-yard box, MacMath set up Felipe’s easy put back, giving Montréal an early game-winner.

source: AP
Felipe’s 14th minute goal held up as the Impact claimed its first victory of the 2014 season. (Photo: AP Photos.)

From there, a match of fews scoring chances gave Philadelphia little opportunity to even the score. While the Union held 61 percent of the ball and put five shots on target, Montréal had four shots on goal of their own. Even though Andrew Wenger had two early chances to pull his new team even, the Union continued to have trouble converting control into goals.

In that sense, today’s performance was more of the same from the 2014 Union, albeit with a worse result. Even during a strong, mildly eye-opening start to the season, the team’s quality in midfield couldn’t overcome Jack McInerney’s lack of influence near goal. Though McInerney’s since been flipped for Wenger, the team’s problems remain. There’s no deterrent to letting John Hackworth’s team keep the ball.

It made for a somewhat predictable second half, even if McInerney had a chance to double Montréal’s lead shortly after half time. After MacMath denied his former teammate, Philadelphia was allowed to play out a controlling if inept final half. Over the match’s final hour, the Union failed to put a shot on goal from within Montréal’s penalty area.

Now nine matches into the season, it’s time for Philadelphia to be concerned. Whereas in March you could argue the Union goals would come,  three open play in two months form a bigger, more convincing picture. Though Hackworth is tinkering — dropping Sebastien Le Toux and Cristian Maidana today — he’ll soon run out of buttons to push.

As for Montréal, the win will lift spirits, but it shouldn’t change the team’s outlook. Like the goal itself, this victory was more a result of Philadelphia’s failings than the Impact’s success. Credit Klopas’s team for taking advantage of its opportunities, but it’s unclear the team’s actually playing better than it was while winless.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.