Toronto FC's Jermain Defoe scores from the penalty spot against San Jose Earthquakes during first half MLS action in Toronto on Saturday June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes

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One game, 100 words or less: Without Chris Wondolowski in the team, San Jose couldn’t afford to give up an opening goal to a TFC that relishes the opportunity to revert to it shell. While that’s not exactly what happened in the wake of Jermain Defoe’s opening goal, the Earthquakes were still made to pay for Alan Gordon’s early foul, one that struck Nick Hagglund and drew the attention of Fatis Bazakos. Defoe’s 26th minute conversation into the left of goal was all TFC needed to win its third in four.

Three moments that mattered:

1. 23′ – Are we sure he isn’t a right back? – In his first season out of Xavier, Hagglund has impressed in the middle when called up to replace Steven Caldwell or Doneil Henry. He’s made casual fans forget Toronto has Gale Agbossoumonde. On Saturday, however, the 21-year-old was called on to play right back. Twenty-three minutes in, he almost came good with his first Major League Soccer goal, trapping a ball swung to his side before volleying a 17-yard shot toward Jon Busch. The San Jose keeper kept the ball out, but very early on, Hagglung showed he wasn’t miscast in his new role.

2. 26′ – Gordon gives Toronto its shot – TFC’s corner from the left would have been innocuous enough had Gordon kept Hagglund on his back. Or not flailed his right arm toward the rookie’s face. Or just stood there and did nothing while the ball floated over this head. Instead, the forward’s arm gave Bazakos no reasonable choice. Ultimately, it cost his team the game.

source: AP
Toronto FC’s Jermain Defoe scores from the penalty spot against San Jose Earthquakes during first half in Toronto. (Source: AP)

3. 66′ – Did Goodson get lucky? – In the 66th minute, a long ball seemingly headed over the San Jose defense was batted down by the recovering Clarence Goodson, who received a yellow card for his troubles. The question is, with nobody but the goalkeeper behind him, whether the San Jose center back prevented an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Ryan Nelsen argued the point to the fourth official, but the counter point: The foul seemed to play into the “last man” fallacy rather than reflect an actual chance. To the extent it was an opportunity, it wasn’t an obvious one.

Three lessons going forward:

1. Toronto can get points without Bradley – This lesson didn’t start tonight. It started when Michael Bradley left for U.S. men’s national team camp. Since his departure, Toronto has 10 points in four games. The team had nine point in its previous seven.

2. The Reds may not need Gilberto – TFC fans are split. Some espouse the Brazilian Designated Players’ all-around virtues. Others focus on that goals column: 0. Today the 25-year-old injured his left thigh in warm ups and had to be pulled from the starting lineup. To the extent that TFC’s attack has beats, it didn’t miss one.

3. Sam Cronin still doesn’t fit in San Jose’s midfield – It’s sad to say this about a player who’s been so influential int eh past, but Sam Cronin just doesn’t fit with this year’s team. The hypothesis was played out after Khari Stephenson and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi became the team’s regular starters, and it was verified when Cronin looked redundant to the Frenchman for much of Saturday’s game. The sooner Stephenson returns to health, the better for Mark Watson.

Where that leaves them

  • Toronto: 6-4-1, fourth the the East, unbeaten in four
  • San Jose: 4-5-4, two points our of fifth in the West, 3-2-0 in its last five

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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