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

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

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Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.