MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 2-2 FC Dallas

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDOrQq4Y4f4]

One game, 100 words (or less): A first half where the Timbers failed to get a shot on target left Portland own two at intermission, with goals by Fabián Castíllo and Blas Pérez putting FC Dallas on the verge of its second win in a row. By full-time, however, a Will Johnson penalty kick and Pa Modou Kah’s stoppage time equalizer salvaged a point for the home side. Thanks to second half red cards to Moises Hernández and Pérez, FCD finished the match with nine men, allowing the Timbers to pile up 30 shots (10 on target).

Three moments that mattered:

1. 77′ – Adi draws the whistle on Watson – Part of what made Dallas’s first half performance so remarkable? They were depleted, especially at the back. None of Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, Jair Benítez, Michel, Kellyn Acosta — heck, let’s throw George John in, too — were available, leaving fullback Zach Loyd to partner Stephen Keel in the middle while Hernández and Je-Vaughn Watson started wide. On paper, this was a team that should have struggled to contain the Timbers, but it wasn’t until FCD’s more conservative approach in the second half that the back line became sitting ducks.

Fanendo Adi took advantage in the 77th. Making the most of whatever contact there was between himself and Watson, the reigning MLS Player of the Week drew a crucial penalty in the left of the box. After Johnson and Gastón Fernández bickered over who’d have the honors, the Timbers captain brought his team back into the game, taking advantage of a generous whistle.

2. 90+2′ – Pérez ties Dallas’s hands – A dangerous tackle in the 87th minute had already sent Hernández to the locker room, but five minutes later, Pérez’s tendency toward gamesmanship got the better for him, drawing a red card when he stepped on a fallen Kah. Two minutes later, against a Dallas team reduced to nine, Kah scored from close range to make FCD pay for its lack of discipline.

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Fabian Castillo bumped an assistant referee after Wednesday’s match in Portland, an action that will likely raw the ire of MLS’s league office. (Photo: Getty Images)

3. 90+6′ – Castillo, Dallas assistant create more problems – It’s a shame that a team that played so well over the first 45 minutes was left rueing behavioral problems, but two incidents that happened near the final whistle helped overshadow what would otherwise be a well-earned point:

  • The first saw assistant coach Josema Bazan sent from Dallas’s technical area after an altercation with a fan behind the FCD bench.
  • Then, seconds after full-time as blown, Castillo made contact with assistant referee Fabio Tovar after spiriting from Dallas’s bench to meet him on the field.

Both incidents should draw the attention of the league office.

Three lessons going forward

1. Portland’s defense is still bad – Tonight the back line was so bad that Caleb Porter pulled Rashawn McKenzie at halftime, replacing him with the recently signed Danny O’Rourke. With former Birmingham City defender Liam Ridgewell being spotted in Portland, the Timbers may be getting reinforcements soon.

2. Castillo’s newfound finishing will be missed – For the second game in a row, Castillo proved reliable when given a chance to finish, with his first half score from the right of the area giving Dallas its first half lead. Has the talented Colombian turned a corner? It may be a while before we know for sure. That post-match bump of Tovar could draw a multi-game suspension.

3. Dallas is running out of bodies – The World Cup break couldn’t come at a better time for FCD now. In addition to the team’s injured defenders (above), Mauro Díaz and Hendry Thomas are out. Thanks to their Wednesday indiscretions, Hernández, Pérez, and Castíllo will join them. If you ever wanted to play for a Major Leaue Soccer team, go ask @fcdallas now, because they may be operating on a first come, first serve basis.

Where that leaves them

  • Portland remains in sixth at 4-4-8 but has the seventh-best points rate in the Western Conference.
  • FC Dallas sits on 22 points through 17 games, tying them for third in the West with Colorado. Unfortunately, FCD has played two more matches than every other team in the West’s top five.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.

Netherlands manager Danny Blind fired after Bulgaria loss

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The Netherlands are in real trouble, and the manager has paid the price.

The Dutch national team has parted ways with Danny Blind the day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria left the Dutch fourth in their World Cup qualification group halfway through.

The move garnering all the headlines from Saturday’s loss was Blind’s decision to start 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt. The Ajax youth product, who has just two Eredivisie starts to his credit, made two crucial errors and yanked at halftime, but the damage had been done. Spas Delev scored twice in the opening 20 minutes for Bulgaria, and that was all the home side needed as the Dutch offered little in front of goal.

Blind was also criticized for not getting Memphis Depay on the field as they chased the game. The Netherlands held 74% possession, but could only manage 3 shots on target. Depay has been in good form since his January move to Lyon, with five goals in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances.

This decision was something Blind saw coming. He told national broadcaster NOS immediately after the Bulgaria loss, “I blame myself. It can’t go on like this. Things have to change.”

“I need to think about [my future]. I do not throw the towel in here. I’m incredibly disappointed, especially since I had a good feeling about this match. It makes sense that I put myself in front of the mirror.”

However, the problems for the Dutch go far deeper than Danny Blind. They missed out on Euro 2016 largely thanks to the failed 2nd tenure for Guus Hiddink. His assistant Blind took over, but the results have been equally as poor. The Netherlands sit fourth in UEFA World Cup qualification Group A, with losses to Bulgaria and France plus a draw with Sweden. It’s not over for them though, as they sit three points back of a second place spot with five matches to go, and three of those five at home.

With the Netherlands still yet to play their friendly against Italy this coming week, former goalkeeper Fred Grim takes over on an interim basis. Grim collected 101 caps for the Netherlands, and has served as the Netherlands U-21 manager for the last two years. Before that, he took charge of his first full managerial job as head man of Dutch 2nd-tier club Almere City.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.