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Vancouver jumps on San Jose early, sees out 3-2 win

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If you’re going to visit BC Place, better bring your track shoes. New York was reminded on opening day, with Houston falling victim to Vancouver’s speed earlier this season, too. With San Jose visiting on Saturday, the Whitecaps had another chance to show what their attack can do to guests slightly slow of foot. Racing to three goals in the first 20 minutes, Vancouver went on to a 3-2 win over the Earthquakes, claiming the team’s first victory since March.

It wasn’t merely Vancouver’s speed that caused San Jose problems. It was also how the Earthquakes tried to deal with it. With a back four that dropped quickly to keep from getting beat, the defense left too much work for Sam Cronin and J.J. Koval in front of the defense. The duo weren’t up to the task. Kekuta Manneh was allowed to cut in as well as claim a rebound off the post on his 10th minute opener, while Pedro Morales, one minute after doubling Vancouver’s lead from the spot, was allowed to tee-off from 21 yards out, the third time the Whitecaps’ playmaker was given room near the arc.

Though the tactic didn’t work, it’s unclear what else Mark Watson could have done, highlighting the difficulties San Jose were always destined to have a BC Place. With players like Brandon Barklage, Victor Bernardez, and Clarence Goodson in defense, playing a defensive line that challenged higher up the pitch would have been exploited by Darren Mattocks (the Jamaican still managed to do so by drawing an 18th minute penalty on Bernandez). Given the Earthquakes’ squad, there aren’t a lot of meaningful alternatives in midfield. Starting Yannick Djaló (who left early, injured) underneath Chris Wondolowski may have been all Watson could have done to try to bolster the midfield.

Even with those issues, San Jose nearly goonied this game. A Jay DeMerit penalty gave Wondolowski a goal from the spot in first half stoppage time, with the San Jose captain added a second in the 91st minute. Despite their huge disadvantages, the Earthquakes had three minutes to steal a point.  Tthe final scoreline flatters San Jose, but at the final whistle, Vancouver’s advantages hadn’t completely taken the Earthquakes out of the game.

Though the Galaxy did well to deal with the Whitecaps two weeks ago, this is the danger Major League Soccer teams face when they go to Vancouver. The team has players like Mattocks, Manneh,  Erik Hurtado – players who can run you off the park. They have players like Morales, Russell Teibert, Sebastian Fernandez, Nicolas Mezquida, and Kenny Miller – fast players in their own right, but players with the skill and creativity to utilize the team’s burners. The Whitecaps can match up against your weaknesses then throw fresh legs at you, all the while taking advantage of that fast track in Vancouver.

The big challenge, as we’ve seen this year, is how to take this show on the road. To this point, Carl Robinson’s employed a noticeably different approach away from home, something that’s left the Whitecaps winless away from BC Place. In time, however, this young team will accumulate enough tricks to scavenge points away from home. On days like today, it looks like only a matter of time before Vancouver will challenge.

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.”

MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Sporting KC (video)

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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The game in 100 words (or less): Too many teams qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. There, I said it. Because MLS rules are written as such, two of Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders will likely make it this year, and that’s two too many. On Saturday, the former most narrowly outplayed an even worse San Jose Earhthquakes side, to the tune of 2-1, to go fifth in the Western Conference and move eight points clear of the 7th-place Sounders. The worst part about the current playoff structure: one of the above mentioned sides will almost certainly get hot in the postseason, after doing very little over the course of 34 games to establish themselves as one of the league’s elite. You know, just like the Timbers did last year. Anyway, Dom Dwyer, Simon Dawkins and Kevin Ellis scored the goals on the night. Neither side is any good, nor should they be in the playoffs. That’s MLS.

[ MORE: Playoff Picture — 4 teams can clinch playoff berth this weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

7′ — Dwyer heads home for the early opener — The ball from Paulo Nagamura was inch-perfect, and the header by Dwyer was unstoppable.

42′ — Coelho whiffs, Dawkins makes it 1-1 — That’s just unlucky, if you’re Nuno Coelho.

81′ — Ellis bundles the corner kick home for 2-1 — A fitting winner to this game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: Dwyer (7′), Dawkins (42′), Ellis (81′)