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

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.