MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 1-3 Portland Timbers

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One game, 100 words (or less): Portland had not beaten Real Salt Lake since the teams’ first MLS meeting in 2011, with the eventual Western Conference champions eliminating the Timbers from both U.S. Open Cup and the MLS playoffs last season. On Saturday, however, an occasionally dominant performance from Fanendo Adi and a man advantage through most of the second half helped Caleb Porter claim his first win over his early nemesis. With a 3-1 victory at Rio Tinto, Portland won its third game in four while extending RSL’s four-match winless run.

Three moments that mattered

1. 28′ – Ricketts comes up big on Garcia – With Luke Mulholland having already put RSL up one, Portland couldn’t afford to give up another goal, particularly against a team that’s proven so difficult for the Timbers to beat. That’s what made Ricketts’ 28th minute save so vital. On a play built down the left, sent to the right of the box, then moved back to the middle, Olmes Garcia was allowed to fire away from near the top of the box. Caught by his left post, Ricketts seemed to be giving up too much goal, but on a shot hit within diving distance, the 2013 Goalkeeper of the Year’s save kept his team within one.

source: Getty Images
Fanendo Adi scored twice in the first half to lead Portland to a 3-1 victory at Real Salt Lake. (Photo: Getty Images)

2. 36′ – Fanendo Adi blows up Chris Schuler, starts taking over – When, in American football, an offensive lineman knocks a defensive player onto his back, you can say he blew him up. Suffice to say, it’s something that rarely happens on a soccer field. On a 36th minute corner, however, Fanendo Adi came pretty close to doing that to Chris Schuler. Knocking the 6’4″ RSL defender to the ground, the young Nigerian headed home the equalizing goal beginning a nine-minute stretch of dominance that culminated with his second goal. For Schuler, the play was part of a difficult night that included a hand ball ahead of the game’s final, penalty kick goal.

3. 53′ – Tony Beltran gets sent off – Thankfully, Beltran didn’t do more damage to Darlington Nagbe. Going airborne from behind and wrapping his legs around the Portland attacker, Beltran committed one of the uglier fouls of the say, one that could have been dangerous had his weight fell on Nagbe’s knee or an ankle. Earning his second yellow in two minutes, Beltran left his team with 10 men, part of the reason RSL dropped its second game of the season.

Three lessons going forward

1. Fanendo Adi looks unplayable – Chris Schuler is one of the best defenders in the league, making it more remarkable Adi physically owned him on that 36th minute corner. In terms of speed and technique, the FC Copenhagen loanee kept Nat Borchers back pedaling four minutes later before sending Jeff Attinella diving toward his far post. Through 225 minutes, Adi already has four goals, giving Porter the number nine he lacked during his first 16 months in Portland.

2. This could be Jeff Cassar’s first big challenge – Real Salt Lake has gone four games without a win, and they don’t have Kyle Beckerman to help pull them out of this slump. There are other leaders within the team, but faced with the first slump of his coaching career, this may also be time for Cassar to come up with a solution.

Maybe that solution could be using the World Cup break to refresh the squad, or perhaps some kind of shakeup in midfield is in order. From outside the team, it’s always difficult to tell, but after losing to the Timbers for the first time in three years, it may be time to reflect on what’s gone on wrong the last two weeks.

3. These are games Portland should win – That sounds crazy considering the teams’ history against each other as well as their 2014 results, but RSL is missing three key players because of injury and the World Cup. The Timbers left Pa Modou Kah in Portland but were otherwise at full strength. Though the Timbers came into the game with three wins, the team still has the talent to compete at the top of the West. Portland needed to take advantage of this opportunity.

Where that leaves them:

  • Real Salt Lake: 6-7-2, second in the West, eight points behind Seattle
  • Portland: 4-4-7, sixth in the West, two points out of a playoff spot

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.