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

FC Barcelona releases statement after terror attack

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FC Barcelona found tragedy at home on Thursday when a terrorist plot unfolded in Las Ramblas, killing 13 and injuring more than 100.

Las Ramblas is just a 20-minute ride from the Camp Nou, and the Catalan club hosts Real Betis on Sunday.

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A terrorist-driven rental van was driven at 50 mph through a crowded plaza. As of post time, two men had been arrested but the driver remained on the loose.

Saying it was sickened by the attack, FCB announced it will fly flags at half-mast, wear black arm bands during the match and hold a minute’s silence.

Here’s the full statement:

FC Barcelona wants to express its profound sorrow and utter disgust at the terrorist attack that has hit the heart of our city, la Rambla de Barcelona. The Club wishes to send our support and thoughts to the victims, their families and friends as well as the people of Barcelona and its visitors.

As a mark of respect, the flags will fly at half-mast at the Club’s facilities and the players from both teams will wear black armbands in all the Club’s matches this weekend.

On Sunday, before the 2017/18 La Liga opener against Betis, the Camp Nou will hold a minutes silence in recognition and memory of the victims.

AC Milan and Napoli likeliest challengers to Juve’s crown

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MILAN (AP) Juventus’ six-year Serie A domination could end this year.

AC Milan has reinforced its squad, Inter Milan has had some much-needed stability after four managerial changes last season, while Napoli looks set to mount an even stronger challenge this time around.

Lazio could also be surprise contenders after Simone Inzaghi’s side withstood a late comeback to beat Juventus 3-2 and win the Italian Super Cup on Wednesday.

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However, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned the rest of Serie A that it will be a very different performance from his team in Saturday’s season opener at home to Cagliari.

“We cannot and must not play like that in the league,” he said. “This defeat brings us back to earth. Some of the players aren’t fully fit yet, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy … but starting on Saturday you’ll see a different Juve.”

Allegri also took encouragement from the last time Juventus played Lazio in the Super Cup, in 2015.

“We beat Lazio in Beijing for the Super Cup two years ago and then had a bad start to the Serie A season, so hopefully we’ll do it the other way round this time,” he said.

Juventus has dominated Italian soccer for nearly a decade, winning three successive league and cup doubles and it will be tricky for anyone to prevent the Bianconeri from extending their league record to seven straight Serie A titles.

Milan was the last team other than Juventus to win the title and, despite having last finished in the top three in 2013, it looks the likeliest to depose the Turin-based club.

The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash and splashed out more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason.

[ VIDEO: Giovanni Reyna’s MOTM job for USYNT ]

As well as signing Italy’s top defender Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, Milan also brought in forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Fourth place in Serie A now guarantees qualification to the Champions League and that will be the minimum requirement for Vincenzo Montella’s team. But, if the new team gels quickly, there is the feeling that Milan could make a strong challenge for the title.

Bonucci was playing down his new side’s chances.

“Juve remains favorite and Napoli has a great chance of fighting for the title,” Bonucci said in interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. “As we are now we’re still a step below both, but we shouldn’t put limits on ourselves. After those two, I see Milan, Inter and Roma as equal.”

Napoli has finished in the top three in four of the past five seasons but even a record number of points last campaign still left it third, five points behind Juventus.

However, talk of the `scudetto’ is no longer a taboo for Napoli, which hasn’t won the title since 1990.

But, while it didn’t make any big signings in the transfer window, its biggest success of the offseason has been in keeping its band of talented players together.

It sold Ezequiel Lavezzi in 2012 and Edinson Cavani the following year – both to Paris Saint-Germain – while Gonzalo Higuain moved to Juventus in 2016.

This year Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have signed new contracts, while Marek Hamsik is just three goals away from breaking Diego Maradona’s scoring record for the club.

Mertens was reportedly pursued by a number of clubs – both in Italy and abroad – but the Belgium international, who scored more than 30 goals for Napoli last campaign, opted to extend his stay with the southern side.

“I stayed here because the team plays very beautiful football and doing that we can get a lot of joy,” said Mertens, who scored again as Napoli beat Nice 2-0 in the first leg of its Champions League playoff on Wednesday.

Napoli played arguably the best soccer in Italy last season and its attacking flair saw it score 94 goals, but it faltered against teams in the lower half of the table and coach Maurizio Sarri is hoping to have corrected that by the time it kicks of its Serie campaign at Hellas Verona on Saturday.

More AP Italian soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Top Premier League story lines – Week 2

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The Premier League hits its second match day on Saturday, beginning with Manchester United’s trip to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City.

That match isn’t even in our top five as a pair of Top Four battles await Sunday and Monday.

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Can heated rivalry help Chelsea find its form?
Tottenham – Chelsea (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) [ STREAM ] 

The Blues took a long time to recover from Gary Cahill‘s early red card as Chelsea lost 3-2 to Burnley on Opening Day, and know they could find themselves six points behind Tottenham after just two weeks of the Premier League season. The rivalry between Spurs and Chelsea has risen several notches in the past couple years, and Chelsea will also be hampered by suspensions to Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.

Everton starts murderer’s row of fixtures at the Etihad
Manchester City – Everton (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester United: Those are Everton’s next three matches following a win over Stoke and Thursday’s Europa League win over Hajduk Split (The Toffees head to Croatia on Aug. 24). The good news, if there is any, is that Man City didn’t look terrific in its win over Brighton and Hove Albion. The bad news? Everton’s top men, aside from new boy Gylfi Sigurdsson, almost all played in the win over Hajduk.

Arsenal’s beleaguered defense heads to the road
Stoke City – Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

The Gunners may boast wins over Chelsea and Leicester City this month, but Arsenal conceded thrice to the Foxes and needed drama to boost three points from Opening Day. Stoke fell 1-0 at Everton but was far from a pushover.

Can Town make it 2-for-2 versus the Toon?
Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle United (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – STREAM ]

Rafa Benitez’s Opening Day plans were shuttered by Jonjo Shelvey‘s poor red card, and the Spaniard won’t have his best midfielder at The John Smith’s Stadium when Newcastle faces a Town team that won 3-0 at Crystal Palace. The road sides won when these two met in the Championship last season.

Liverpool’s stumbling defense meets old pal Benteke
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – STREAM ] 

Jurgen Klopp‘s men stumbled out of the gates, even if their last minute concession against Watford in a 3-3 draw arguably shouldn’t have stood up to the linesman’s view. Benteke scored twice as the Eagles won at Anfield last season, and will certainly be up for irking his old boss once more.

VIDEO: Giovanni Reyna stars for USYNT with goal, assists

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Seldom is a U-15 match truly worth national attention, but it certainly deserves eyes when the player who stars in the Stars and Stripes happens to be the son of USMNT royalty.

Giovanni Reyna is going to be known as Claudio Reyna’s son for some time, but if he keeps up starring roles like his goal and two assist performance against Panama in the CONCACAF U-15 Championship, Claudio will move into “Giovanni Reyna’s dad” status at some point.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]

That’s way down the line considering “Dad” is an American pioneer with 112 caps, eight goals and a career with Manchester City, Rangers, Sunderland, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and New York Red Bulls, but worth noting nonetheless.

Reyna’s goal was an absolute stunner:

And here are his two assists, putting Mexico on notice for Saturday morning’s final.