New York Red Bulls v New England Revolution

10-in-2: New England puts up another five-spot, routs the Union

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Two weeks, 10 goals, and the inevitable conversation: Is the New England Revolution now the best team in Major League Soccer? Over the last two weeks, the Revs certainly have been, following up a 5-0 win over the Seattle Sounders with today’s 5-3 rout of Philadelphia. The question is: How sustainable are these results?

Let’s set that aside for now and talk about the contrast between this result and Wednesday’s, when Philadelphia was able to take a 2-1 win out of Sporting Park in Kansas City. Before that game, John Hackworth’s side was seen as one of the worst in the league, but after a road win over the defending champs, the potential we noticed in the season’s first weeks was again shining through. Maybe the Union weren’t as bad as we thought.

source: AP
Lee Nguyen (R), pictured with Patrick Mullins, was one of three New England players to register a goal and an assist against the Revolution (Diego Fegundez, Chris Tierney). (Photo: AP Photos.)

On Saturday, the defense gave us reason to think otherwise. An early goal was surrendered when Austin Berry overran A.J. Soares. Diego Fagundez doubled the lead in the middle of the half. A scorching hit from Vincent Nogueira pulled one goal back, but then the second half onslaught: Lee Nguyen getting the best of Raymon Gaddis and Berry; Chris Tierney’s fine but too easy direct kick; Patrick Mullins scoring in his third straight. Though the Union would add a second through Sheanon Williams late, this game felt almost as lopsided as the Seattle result. Sébastien Le Toux’s late penalty conversation was practically irrelevant.

Given we’ve seen a New England outburst two weeks in a row (against teams at the opposite ends of the MLS spectrum), focusing on what Philadelphia couldn’t do should probably wait until we figure out why Nee England has been so successful. Better yet, why are the Revs all of a sudden so successful? After a slow start to the season and a series of ground out results, how has this team been able to put up 10 goals in the last two games of this surprise four-match winning streak?

Though there’s been a shuffle at the back, the big changes seem to be in the middle and up top. Lee Nguyen, dangerous throughout the season, has gone from effective to imposing, potentially striking a more potent balance with Daigo Kobayashi then he did with Kelyn Rowe. Whereas there was a sense of Maverick and Iceman when the emerging UCLA talent was in midfield, Kobayashi may be a better Goose.

Up top, getting Teal Bunbury wide, Patrick Mullins in, and Saer Sene out has completely balanced the attack. Rather than starting a player who is only effective cutting into the middle, New England has somebody who seems capable of playing (or, willing to play) wide. Combining with better balance via Kobayashi and stronger striker play from Mullins, that means more space for Nguyen, more chances to play direct, and players who can better take advantage of opportunities in transition.

At least, that’s one theory. The extent to which it’s true may determine whether this run is sustainable. If there really is a method to this madness (and 10 goals in two weeks is sure madness), New England is a true contender. If this is just a strong streak that will fade this summer, it’s still gotten New England to the top of the East. With this attacking talent, Jay Heaps may come up with another trick before the season’s out.

Report: Chelsea set to overhaul defense with clear out

WATFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Odion Ighalo of Watford, Gary Cahill of Chelsea and Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea battle for possession during the Premier League match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road on August 20, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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At times during Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday, Antonio Conte looked like he was going to cry.

The defending was that bad.

[ MORE: Conte bemoans defending ]

Chelsea gave up three first half goals, the first in calamitous fashion as Gary Cahill was inexplicably caught on the ball to let Alexis Sanchez in to score, and Conte was seething in his post-match press conference about the level of defending and the fact that Chelsea has now conceded at least twice in each of their last four games.

The Daily Mail reports that the Italian manager has seen enough from both Cahill and struggling right back Branislav Ivanovic and he will “phase them out” in the coming weeks at Stamford Bridge.

With captain John Terry set to come back from injury, plus Kurt Zouma close to a return too, Conte has other options and it seems likely he will now use those.

Per the report, Conte is also looking elsewhere to bolster his defensive options with Burnley’s Michael Keane and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson both linked with a January move to the Blues with the west London said to be scouting both players closely.

It will be intriguing to see how Conte changes things up in the games to come, especially as the Blues face tough tests against Hull City, Leicester City and Manchester United in their next three Premier League games.

Chelsea played the final 35 minutes at the Emirates in a 3-5-2 formation which is one Conte mastered at Juventus and with the Italian national team in the past. That formation may well get the best out of Terry, the erratic David Luiz and perhaps Zouma alongside them. Truth be told, Ivanovic and Cahill have both struggled for the last 12 months and it is about time they were held accountable for some of the defensive mistakes they’ve made.

Whatever Conte does, it has to be something drastic because the way he sets his team’s up they won’t win games 5-0. As long as Chelsea keep things tight, they’ll do well under the Italian manager. But right now that’s a big ‘if’ for the Blues.

As I wrote from the Emirates this weekend, Conte knows he has a huge job on his hands to transform their defense.

FIFA disbands racism task force ahead of World Cup in Russia

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behavior in 2018 World Cup host Russia.

FIFA wrote to members of the task force to say that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.”

“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The Associated Press on Sunday. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.

“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a different position.”

The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world soccer’s governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American investigation into soccer corruption.

Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was replaced exactly a year ago as task force chairman by Congolese federation president Constant Omari, who also sits on FIFA’s ruling council.

“We never had a single meeting under his chairmanship,” Obayiuwana said. “I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”

Obayiuwana, a journalist, broadcaster and qualified lawyer, received the letter from FIFA on Friday announcing the end of the task force.

“The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA,” wrote Gerd Dembowski, FIFA’s diversity and anti-discrimination manager.

“We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing.”

FIFA pointed to the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a “Good Practice Guide ,” starting a team of footballing legends and a new diversity award. Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s first female and non-European secretary general, will present the award on Monday at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester.

FIFA also told task force members that its own initiatives “actually exceed the working group’s recommendations” – trumpeting its “Say No to Racism” campaign, women’s leadership conferences and programs in Russia. There are less than nine months until Russia stages the Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.

The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

Joseph Maiorana/USA Today Sports
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The game in 100 words (or less): It was mostly the Crew from start to finish, and Ola Kamara’s brace helped ensure Greg Berhalter’s side that the team will remain in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. While the other Kamara — Kei — and his Revolution teammates were largely limited for chances on the evening, the Crew backline did an admirable job to prevent their opposition from testing them. For the Crew, it was the team’s first shutout since the two sides last met on August 20, ironically also a 2-0 victory for Berhalter’s group.

[ MORE: David Villa discusses MLS playoffs, Guardiola and more ]

Three moments that mattered

42′ – Ola smashes one past the Revs on the stroke of halftime — The Crew attack has sputtered a lot in 2016, but Ola Kamara continues to keep the team’s bleak playoff hopes intact.

67′ — Afful’s effort smacks against the post, stays out — The Crew attacked and attacked and attacked some more. Harrison Afful was definitely a bit unlucky that this chance didn’t end up in Brad Knighton’s goal.

84′ — Questionable penalty seals the points — It looked a bit soft to be given, but Kamara makes no mistake with the finish.

 

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

Man of the match: Ola Kamara

Goalscorers: Ola Kamara (42′, 84)

Watch: Dario Benedetto scores audacious blast for Boca Juniors

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When there’s little support up the field, what should you do?

Just ask, Dario Benedetto.

The Boca Juniors man broke Sunday’s 4-1 win over Quilmes wide open after a quarter hour when Benedetto smashed a 40-yard attempt into the back of the net, leaving the opposing keeper speechless.

The 26-year-old did just about everything right on the day, as Benedetto finished off the match with a hat-trick before halftime.