Warner’s early red, Dwyer’s two goals see Sporting Kansas City cruise at Montreal

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In the middle of three games in eight days, Frank Klopas had to prioritize. He couldn’t have his whole team playing both legs of the club’s Canadian Championship semifinal as well as today’s match against Sporting Kansas City. That’s why, come kickoff today at Stade Saputo, a back four averaging 23 years of age was tasked with stopping the defending champions, with Jed Brovsky, Wandrille Lefevra, Karl Ouimette and Maxim Tissout asked to forget the fact Montral had already given up four goals to Sporting earlier this season.

Thanks to an early red card to Collin Warner, Klopas never got a real chance to evaluate his young defenders. Instead, he saw an already out-gunned team play at a numeric disadvantage for 73 minutes. With two goals from Dom Dwyer sandwiching Paolo Nagamura’s first half tally, Sporting claimed its second victory of the season over Montreal, the 3-0 result keeping Peter Vermes’ team at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Here’s the early, match-changing foul:

Did Warner forget where he was? Perhaps thinking he was in the middle of the field? Because it appears as if the Montreal midfielder was trying to pull a trick you’d see elsewhere on the field, grabbing the ball to stop play after you’ve gone down. Instinct probably took over, but how do players develop instincts that lead to fouls like this. Unless you’re Luis Suarez against Ghana, decisions like this rarely pay off.

Dom Dwyer converted the ensuing spot kick for this fifth goal of the year, giving Sporting a lead it’d double by halftime. In the 34th minute, Paulo Nagamura finished far post from the left of goal, eliminating what little uncertainty remained after Warner’s red card.

Given Kansas City already routed Montreal once this season, the result is less surprising than how it happened, yet the contrast between Sporting’s 11-on-10 performance and that of New York last week at Dallas makes for an interesting comparison. Granted, Dallas is a much better team than Montreal, but playing up a man in Frisco, Tex., the Red Bulls struggled, having to rely on a goal in transition from Bradley Wright-Phillips to claim full points. Had Blas Perez converted his early second half penalty kick, the result could have gone the other way.

Sporting, on the other hand, played 11-on-10 as if it spent most of the preseason practicing the scenario. The team’s passes were quick, assured – almost rehearsed. On one first half sequence, a ball fed to Graham Zusi above the defense’s left channel saw the U.S. international turned to play it wide as the ball was still on its way. With nobody within three yards of him, Zusi’s body language portrayed a man executing a step in a recipe the team knows by heart. Within 17 minutes of the red card, Sporting had put the match away.

As a result, Sporting will stay at the top of the Eastern Conference. Montreal, meanwhile, turns its attentions to midweek, when FC Edmonton visits Stade Saputo.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.