Conor Casey 3

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

New St. Louis stadium plan calls for state land contribution

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has made it clear he’s opposed to state funding for stadiums, yet a revised proposal for a $200 million soccer stadium in St. Louis calls for the state to contribute land that’s potentially worth millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, a city aldermanic committee delayed a vote Thursday to advance a measure putting the proposal, which also requires city voters to approve $60 million in funding, on the April ballot.

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The investor group SC STL’s proposal calls for a 22,000-seat stadium near Interstate 64 and Union Station, a key component in the group’s effort to lure a Major League Soccer expansion team. MLS officials have expressed strong interest in St. Louis, but only if a stadium is built.

Time is of the essence: The league is expected to award two new expansion teams in the fall, with play starting in 2020.

St. Louis’ project was on life support after Greitens, a Republican who took office this month, said repeatedly that he opposed taxpayer funding for stadiums, calling it “welfare for millionaires.” SC STL had been seeking $40 million in state tax credits.

But a provision of SC STL’s revised financing plan, presented at Thursday’s meeting at City Hall, says the state would contribute the majority of the 24-acre project site, which is currently owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation, and perform some site clearing and infrastructure work.

The value is still being appraised, but given its location and the amount of land, it likely is worth several million dollars.

Greitens spokesman Parker Briden told The Associated Press in a statement that the governor “remains opposed to state funding to build the soccer stadium.” He did not immediately respond to a question about how the potential donation of land doesn’t conflict with Greitens’ hard-line stance.

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The first hint of compromise with the governor came in an email from SC STL spokesman Jim Woodcock late Wednesday, when he wrote that a “path forward” had been reached after two weeks of meetings.

“Gov. Greitens has made it clear to us that he is very supportive of adding a new professional sports franchise to the State of Missouri, and that’s a sentiment we wholeheartedly share,” the statement said.

The stadium project also requires taxpayer help from the city. The city Ways and Means Committee heard from SC STL officials Thursday, but no vote was taken on whether to ask the full Board of Aldermen to place the issue on the April ballot. The committee is expected to reconsider the measure Monday.

SC STL would be responsible for at least $95 million of the project cost, the entire $150 million expansion fee and all maintenance costs going forward.

Bundesliga returns: Will Bayern hold off competition again?

MUNICH, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 05: Sebastian Rudy of TSG Hoffenheim is challenged by Douglas Costa of FC Bayern Muenchen during the Bundesliga match between Bayern Muenchen and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at Allianz Arena on November 5, 2016 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)
Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images
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Germany’s top flight returns to action Friday when Bayern Munich travels to Freiburg in an attempt to keep the pressure on new boys RB Leipzig.

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For those who haven’t paid a ton of attention to the Bundesliga this season or need a bit of a refresher after several weeks away, here’s what to monitor over the next several months.

Really Big surprise Leipzig looks to keep title race going

Formed in 2009, RB Leipzig is a lot of German fans’ least favorite club after cash infusions caused a rapid rise into the top flight.

The new club is looking down at most of the haters, however. League leaders for much of the first half, Leipzig is three points shy of league leading Bayern Munich.

Bayern waxed Leipzig 3-0 before the holiday break, and the two sides won’t meet again until May 13. How long can the new boys keep up the show?

Historic relegation candidates

What does USMNT strikers Bobby Wood and Aron Johannsson share besides a national team? Both are on sides that have been in Germany’s top tier longer than the players have been alive.

Wood’s Hamburg has six national titles and hasn’t seen the second tier in 54 years. That’s the longest stretch in the league, two more seasons than Bayern Munich. Hamburg is a currently third-bottom, which would force them into a relegation-promotion playoff against the third-placed team in 2.Bundesliga.

As for Johannsson, his Werder Bremen side is just three points ahead of Hamburg. Bremen has been in the top flight for 36 seasons.

Chasing the Golden Boot

Robert Lewandowski has scored the most goals in two of the past three seasons, with Alexander Meier of Eintracht Frankfurt seizing the honor in 2014-15.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is leading the pack by three goals, but is with Gabon at the Africa Cup of Nations to help open the door for the rest of the bunch.

Koln’s Anthony Modeste is second with 13, while Lewandowski has 12. Two players, Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) and Sandro Wagner (Hoffenheim), have nine.

Can surprise Europe-chasers hold up?

Hertha Berlin was in 2.Bundesliga a few seasons ago, while Eintracht Frankfurt was there a season prior to that. RB Leipzig, as mentioned earlier, wasn’t even a club until 2009.

Eintracht made a Europa League run one year later, but neither was expected to be competing for a spot in Europe this season. As it stands, all three are in the mix.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 16 12 3 1 38 9 29 7-2-0 5-1-1 39
 RB Leipzig 16 11 3 2 31 15 16 6-1-0 5-2-2 36
 Hertha BSC Berlin 16 9 3 4 24 16 8 7-0-1 2-3-3 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 16 8 5 3 22 12 10 5-3-0 3-2-3 29
 1899 Hoffenheim 16 6 10 0 28 17 11 4-5-0 2-5-0 28
 Borussia Dortmund 16 7 6 3 35 19 16 5-3-0 2-3-3 27
 1. FC Köln 16 6 7 3 21 15 6 4-4-0 2-3-3 25

Report: El Tri’s Chicharito to LAFC in 2018

Bayer Leverkusen's Javier Hernandez, left, and Atletico Mineiro's Mattheus Rolden fight for possession of the ball during the first half of a Florida Cup soccer match, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
AP Photo/John Raoux
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It makes a lot of sense, you know?

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will turn 30 in 2018, not a spring chicken for a striker but still plenty productive if healthy.

His national team, Mexico, will likely be revving its engines for the World Cup, and won’t be upset to have the forward playing a bit less soccer and a lot closer to home.

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And Los Angeles FC will want to make a massive mark as it seeks to butt its head into a market dominated by the LA Galaxy (and, perhaps still then, Mexico national teamer Giovani Dos Santos).

So, tell us more, Steve Brisendine of MLSSoccer.com:

“[LAFC] are going to do everything possible to sign the current Bayer Leverkusen player, whose contract ends in 2018 and could therefore leave for a reduced fee. That’s what AS.com has confirmed with sources close to the project. LAFC hope to announce their new manager this spring and dream, a little later, to do the same with Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito.”

Make it happen. Make. It. Happen. We’re already reserving his spot on our MLS fantasy teams.

Transfer rumor roundup: Jagielka, Begovic, Berahino, Zarate

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: Saido Berahino of West Brom challenges for the ball with Phil Jagielka of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Everton at The Hawthorns on September 13, 2014 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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There’s action all over England, from those defending the goal mouth to others striving to conquer it.

[ MORE: More transfer gossip ]

— Bournemouth wants an upgrade on Artur Boruc, according to The Telegraph, and that could come in the form of Chelsea backstop Asmir Begovic.

The Cherries reportedly had a $12.5 million bid turned down by Antonio Conte, who has Thibaut Courtois in the No. 1 seat and Portugal national team backup Eduardo in the ranks (along with three keepers on loan and young goalie Mitchell Beanie).

— Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger shut the door on acquiring West Ham wantaway Dimitri Payet according to Sky Sports’ Transfer Centre:

“We have many players offensively who can play in this position. You are interested by the quality of the player but there needs to be a need as well, and we have no need in this domain.”

— Clubs in need of experienced Premier League backs need look no further than Everton, where manager Ronald Koeman has admitted that England international Phil Jagielka could leave Goodison Park. The 34-year-old center back has 40 caps for England and has made 337 appearances for Everton. He could be a massive upgrade for Sunderland if David Moyes is up for a reunion.

— Stoke City chairman Peter Coates says a purchase of Saido Berahino from West Brom is not contingent on a sale of Bojan Krkic. The latter has been linked to Middlesbrough.

— Mauro Zarate may be returning the Premier League. Watford boss Walter Mazzarri has been largely let down by his strike corps as Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney have taken steps back this season. Could $4 be enough to bring the ex-West Ham and QPR man from Fiorentina to Vicarage Road? Zarate has four goals in nine matches for La Viola, and has nine goals in 40 Premier League matches.