MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 3-3 Vancouver Whitecaps

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvxxL86HcwU]

One game, 100 words or less: Down two goals going into the final half-hour, Philadelphia scored three times from minutes 63 to 71, with two goals from Conor Casey sandwiching Sebastien Le Toux’s 68th minute equalizer. After enjoying their lead for 12 minute, fans at PPL Park saw Zac MacMath give up the lead, with Pedro Morales coverting from the spot after the Philly keeper took own Darren Mattocks in the box.

Despite out-shooting Vancouver 29-6 and holding 59 percent of the ball, John Hackworth’s team was left to content itself with its sixth draw of the year, a valuable but disappointing point against one of the league’s better teams.

Three moments that mattered:

1. 41′ – Hurtado, Mesquida appear to bury Philadelphia – The Union had controlled the first half, but control is a strange thing in soccer. Sometimes, it breeds a comfort that leaves you exposed. Near the end of the first half, already up a goal, Vancouver took advantage of that control, with Erik Hurtado setting up Nicolás Mesquida 23 minutes after scoring the opener. Against a team that’s struggled all season to score goals, the 2-0 lead looked like enough.

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At the beginning of the season, Conor Casey appeared to be a poor fit for the Union’s new approach. For the second straight season, however, the former Rapid has become a focal point for Philadelphia.

2. 63′ – How do you lose Conor Casey? – Casey’s first goal? Fine. Great effort, and while you’d like your defenders to get in front of the cross, sometimes you have to take your hat off to the attacking player. Casey’s second goal, a blast inside the right post from the top of the arc? How does a team playing two holders give an attacker that much time from that spot? But also, how do the two defenders who should be keeping an eye on Philly’s number nine stay so stoic in the face of such a quality chance?

3. 80′ – That’s what Darren Mattocks is for – The Union will rue giving away the late penalty that cost them two points, but that’s what Darren Mattocks can do to you. And Pedro Morales, for that matter. One innocuous clearance and a hum drum layoff laid the foundation for Vancouver’s late counter, with a long ball off the outside of Morales’s right foot letting Mattocks’ speed undo the Union. MacMath made the wrong decision, being too aggressive on a ball that rolling toward a sharp angle, but you can empathize with his plight. Against slower players, he probably gets to that ball first.

Three Four lessons going forward:

1. Young Vancouver learns an old lesson – Any given Sunday, right? In this case, it was any given Saturday. Even against one of the team’s struggling sides, even with a 2-0 lead, a young Vancouver team was reminded: The weakest teams in MLS can still take a scalp, as evidenced by who won last year’s U.S. Open Cup.

2. Good Philadelphia is never that far away – This was an upset, but it wasn’t a smash and grab. Philadelphia played to the potential we saw early in the season. At home, against a team willing to play on the counter, the Union put up huge edges in shots and possession. While that doesn’t always mean a team will generate the best chances, on Saturday it did. That didn’t translate into a win, but it did remind us the good version of Philadelphia is never too far away.

3. Life without DeMerit may be near – After 24 minutes, Jay DeMerit was gone, unable to put weight on his leg as he left the game. On came Andy O’Brien, replacing a player who would have proved valuable as Philadelphia fought back from two goals down. Though Johnny Leveron gives Carl Robinson some depth in the middle, DeMerit’s loss could loom large for a team that was looking more likely to compete near the top of the Western Conference.

4. Mattocks and Hurtado, not Mattocks or Hurtado – Erik Hurtado’s goal and assist confirmed he belongs in the starting lineup, but does that have to be at the expense of Darren Mattocks? Ever since the Jamaican’s returned from injury, that’s been the case, but the best version of the Whitecaps sees both Hurtado and Mattocks in the starting XI.

Robinson’s made so many correct choices this year, it’s hard to fault him for holding out Mattocks, but like his flirtation with the diamond midfield, this may be Vancouver’s new coach being a little too reserved.

Where that leaves them:

  • Philadelphia: 3-7-6, but only three points out of fifth in the West.
  • Vancouver: 5-2-6, unbeaten in seven

Vidal rips Ronaldo ahead of Confederations Cup semifinal

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Chile hopes to make a statement on Wednesday when it faces EURO 2016 champions Portugal and Ballon d’Or champion Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions can lay claim to another inter-confederation title with two more wins in the 2017 Confederations Cup, beginning with the semifinal in Kazan.

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Chile finished behind Germany in Group B but didn’t lose a match and only allowed two goals. That’ll be tested by Portugal and its seven goals in three matches.

Two of those goals came from Ronaldo, but don’t tell that to Arturo Vidal. Chile’s hard-edged midfielder doesn’t like him much.

From Goal.com:

“Cristiano is a smart ass,” he told reporters. “For me he does not exist.

“I have already told my Bayern Munich team-mate Joshua Kimmich that we will meet again in the final.”

Germany will have to take care of Mexico to make that happen, though we have a feeling a certain smart ass will have a thing or two to say before it’s all said and done.

Vidal has spoken loudly of his desire to get Chilean teammate Alexis Sanchez, a former Barcelona man, at his club Bayern Munich. If Ronaldo is on the market, this isn’t a great recruiting tool. Ah, jokes.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

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Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

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That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

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Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

USMNT Gold Cup 23-man roster leaves some questions

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We have Bruce Arena’s 23-man United States men’s national roster for the Gold Cup, and there are more than a few surprises left out of the bunch.

Often a chance to experiment, those who thought this year’s Gold Cup roster would be one aimed at reclaiming glory with authority may be surprised to see the status quo.

Jurgen Klinsmann brought most of his big guns to the 2015 party — which didn’t go well for Brad Guzan and Co. — but Arena will roll into this summer’s tournament without most of his big names. There’s no Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, nor Jozy Altidore.

Those aren’t huge surprises, though who Arena neglected from his original 40-man short list is a bit of a shock to the system (Players can be called into the mix after the group stage, which is a fairly simple affair for the USMNT to navigate versus Panama, Martinique, and Nicagarua).

Arena is going with Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, and Bill Hamid in a trio that fails to impress. Hamid does have a big crowd of fans who’d like to see him get a chance to assert himself as the future, and hopefully either Johnson or Hamid finds time between the sticks against a serious opponent like Panama. No surprise that Tim Howard and Joe Bendik didn’t leap into the trio (EDIT: This post initially questioned the omission of Jesse Gonzalez, but his one-time switch from Mexico to the USMNT has yet to go through).

We’ll ignore the omission of Danny Williams for the most part considering he was absent from the 40-man list, but he must have said something seriously awful to Arena or someone at U.S. soccer.

The group of forwards leaves little to complain about, as Juan Agudelo and Dom Dwyer very much deserve their chances to compete for playing time with Sounders star Jordan Morris, but the midfield provides some head-scratching. Gyasi Zardes may be a longtime Arena favorite, but the Galaxy man has been ice cold in MLS. The 25-year-old has a single assist in almost 1000 minutes of play this season, and that came back on April 8. Tommy McNamara has not lighting the league on fire and Chris Pontius and his six assists are 30 years old, so much of the grief should be directed at the 40-man again, but Zardes has to embrace this opportunity. And maybe it’s a way to help the Galaxy and Zardes get a little mojo.

As an aside, Wil Trapp is among leaders in several MLS passing stats, which leads me to believe Arena is going to play Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta a ton and doesn’t see much of a need for Trapp in this tournament, not ever.

Defenders Steve Birnbaum and Jonathan Spector were not rewarded with looks, though Graham Zusi was included in what must be an arm reaching out for USMNT experience. Birnbaum is leading MLS in aerials won per game and Spector is by far Orlando’s top rated player since returning from England. Yes, Spector is 31 but this is about still qualifying for next summer’s World Cup, not the 2022 cycle. Spare a thought for Matt Polster, who has been decent since returning from a knee strain. This is nothing against Zusi, a consummate professional who won’t kill the team by any means and will be an tremendous asset in leadership.

What about you? Any other gripes? Or do you love the bunch?