Early Peterson goal holds up as Sporting Kansas City downs Columbus

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Sporting Kansas City has become so synonymous with their pressing game and stars like Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, we ofter forget what they do best. Every few weeks, however, we’re reminded: No team in Major League Soccer is better at seeing out a one-goal lead.

After Jacob Peterson’s 10th minute goal at Sporting Park, Peter Vermes’ side had another chance to show off its ability to lock down a match. Despite two close calls from Columbus’s Bernardo Añor, the defending MLS champion were able to do so, joining New York and New England at the top of the Eastern Conference after Claudio Bieler’s late goal gave Kansas City a 2-0 win over the visiting Crew.

The game’s opening goal came after Zusi and full back Chance Myers built a chance down the right, one that left both sides fighting for the ball in front of goal. A shot blocked by Giancarlo Gonzalez was played off Michael Parkhurst by Dom Dwyer, with the ball eventually bouncing across goal to Peterson. The Sporting forward brought his right foot down on the bouncing ball and hammered it into Steve Clark’s net, delivering what would become the winning goal.

The best chances over the match’s next 80 minutes would fall to Columbus, but the opportunities would prove scarce. While Seth Sinovic and Dom Dwyer each had good looks for Sporting, neither matched a 31st minute header from Añor – a ball hit from the center of the box just outside Eric Kronberg’s right foot, testing the Kansas City keeper as he palmed the ball off the line. In the second half, a blast from outside the box saw Kronberg parry the ball back to the middle of the area only for the assistant’s flag to be raised for an offside Jairo Arrieta.

In stoppage time, having lost Wil Trapp to a second yellow, Columbus gave up the final goal, with a misplay by Michael Parkhurst allowing Graham Zusi to set up Claudio Bieler for some unneeded insurance. Moving back to the top of the East, Sporting handed Columbus it’s second loss of the season, leaving the Crew fourth after eight matches.

Despite the final score, the game was a relatively even one, though given the posture Sporting was able to assume after their early goal, it was impossible to say how the teams would have matched up had Peterson’s try been stopped. The game could very well have played out the same, with the league’s two most possession sensitive teams sharing the ball for most of the afternoon. Sporting, however, may have been slightly more aggressive, something that could have opened things up for Columbus.

That Sporting got that opening goal was a testament to the Vermes’ plan, with the team’s play from wide producing the game’s decisive role. Kansas City normally thrives in wide areas anyway, but starting Peterson instead of Sal Zizzo, Vermes seemed intent on attacking Waylon Francis on Columbus’s left, moving Zusi over to that side to go after the Costa Rican. The move payed off when Zusi and Myers combined to create the chance for Peterson, giving Sporting a lead they’d never relinquish.

For Columbus’s part, the match snaps a three-match unbeaten run, but it also served as validation of sorts. Over the course of 90 minutes in Kansas, the only thing that separated the two sides was that Peterson goal, and while Kansas City deserves credit for creating the chance, the opportunity also required a fortunate bounce off Parkhurst. If that ball deflects in any other direction, Columbus gets to play out that 0-0  a little longer.

From what we saw after Peterson’s goal, Columbus may have faired well, but given the scoreline, that remains hypothetical. Gregg Berhalter will have to wait until Sporting visits on July 17 to verify his team can keep up with the East’s best.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.