MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 2-3 Seattle Sounders

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwsPK6pmykU]

One game, 100 words or less: Obafemi Martins’ early dominance was derailed by his own mistake, with a hands to the face ejection sending him to the locker room after 41 minutes and two goals. By that time, former Sounder Jhon Kennedy Hurtado had seen red, too, leaving the teams to play the second half 10-on-10. A Lamar Neagle ball into the right side of goal in the 78th minute gave the Sounders a two-goal lead, providing insurance against Harry Shipp’s second – a late blast from 17 yards into Stefan Frei’s upper-right hand corner.

Three moments that mattered:

1. 37′ – Hurtado gets sent off – The Fire defender, who had played every minute this season, had to be restrained by partner Bakary Soumaré when Chris Penso show him a second yellow card. Perhaps the Colombian defender was going to argue he didn’t make contact with Martins, but attempting a two-footed tackle in the penalty area (with Martins adroitly avoiding contact), Hurtado left himself no leg to stand on. After Martins converted from the spot, making it 2-0, Chicago seemed beaten.

source: AP
Obafemi Martins scored twice and was issued a red card in Saturday’s first half against Chicago, (Source: AP)

2. 42′ – Martins evens the scales – Shipp’s clinical finish from the left of the box inside Frei’s far post restored some hope for the hosts, but it was the aftermath of the goal that truly brought Chicago back into the game. During a fracas near the center line ahead of the ensuing kickoff, Martins was deemed to have made contact with Benji Joya’s face, earning a straight red card. All of a sudden Chicago had not only halved the lead, they’d even the scales.

3. 78′ – Lamar Neagle, Insurance Agent – A beautiful finish from the right side of Seattle’s penalty area in the 82nd minute gave Shipp his second multi-goal game of the season, further bolstering his place as this season’s Rookie of the Year. By that time, however, the Sounders had put the match away. Four minutes earlier, open in the left of the box as Seattle moved in from the other flank, Neagle calmly put a ball out of Sean Johnson’s reach and into the right side of Chicago’s goal, sealing Seattle’s win.

Three lessons going forward:

1. Neagle, Pappa continue to make wide midfield spots their own – The discussion around the wide midfield spots in Seattle’s 4-4-2 is starting to die down. Both Lamar Neagle, previously a constant source of debate, and Marco Pappa, who had a slow start to his Sounder career, have started to nail down the left and right flanks. Where that would leave Brad Evans when DeAndre Yedlin returns remains to be seen, but between Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda centrally and the strong performances Sigi Schmid’s getting out wide, Seattle’s midfield four is looking less and less like something you’d want to disrupt.

2. Obafemi Martins will go the way of Clint Dempsey – If his violent conduct red card is upheld, Martins will miss the team’s first two games after the World Cup break, matches at D.C. United and Vancouver. As important as the Nigerian has been to the team, it will be difficult playing any games without him. If Clint Dempsey can’t be integrated quickly after the World Cup (or, if the U.S. advances from its group), Seattle may be without both of its key attackers for at least one match.

3. Stop if you’ve heard this before: Chicago’s defense might not be good – Soumaré allowed Martins to turn onto goal one. Hurtado’s penalty conceded goal number two. All defenses seem to have moments like those, but Chicago has collecting them at a disturbing rate. It’s not that the Fire’s allowing such a remarkable number of goals. It’s that the goals they’re allowing are so preventable.

Where that leaves them:

  • Chicago: 2-4-8, ninth place in the East, four points out of fifth place
  • Seattle: 10-3-2, seven points clear of second place Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

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

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia