Dutch escape wild match with 3-2 win as Australia impresses again

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The Aussies put forth a valiant effort again, but again they could not sustain the pressure as the Netherlands picked up their second comeback win in two World Cup matches 3-2 on a 68-minute winner by Memphis Depay.

The Socceroos led briefly after Mile Jedinak buried an early second-half penalty, but Robin van Persie equalized four minutes later, and substitute midfielder Depay hit from distance 10 minutes later to bury the Australians.

The game started with the Dutch on top, but progressed in the opposite direction than the one against Spain did. Australia slowly built themselves into possession and into the game, and because of that the first Dutch goal came against the run of play.

Australia gave the ball away in the midfield, with Daley Blind stepping in and heading it over to Robben, and the Dutch winger took over from there. He skipped past a foul in the midfield, for which he was given advantage, and found himself 2-on-1 in the box.  He passed up a wide-open Robin van Persie and took the shot himself, finishing low across the face to the far post past a sprawled Maty Ryan.

But don’t count the Socceroos out. They weren’t phased, and came down the other end immediately to respond. Ryan McGowan, in the lineup for an injured Ivan Franjic, launched a beautiful long ball to Cahill, who fired a brilliant volley off the crossbar and in. The goal came 70 seconds after Robben opened the scoring.

There was no more scoring in the first half, but Australia asserted their dominance, winding up with 55% of possession. Robin van Persie finished the half with just one shot and 11 touches, while Wesley Sneijder ended the first 45 just 9-of-16 passing.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

The second half provided even more entertainment.  The Dutch defense proved even more shaky early after the break, and the Aussies capitalized. After a promising attack that went unpunished just five minutes after halftime, the Aussies struck with their next chance.

In the 53rd minute, substitute striker Oliver Bozanic whipped in a cross with Daryl Janmaat covering, and the ball struck the defender’s hand in the box. Replays showed the two men were very close to each other and it was clearly hard for Janmaat to get his hand out of the way, but it was behind him and therefore in an unnatural position, blocking the cross into the box.

source: AP
Robin van Persie (right) and Memphis Depay rescued their side from deficit to victory with the final two Dutch goals.

With the penalty given, Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak converted low and powerful, and the Socceroos had a shocking lead.

But just like Australia in the first half, the Dutch responded almost immediately.  The deficit provided a kick in the rear they required, and van Persie bore the fruit, slotted through by Depay and finishing powerfully for the lead.

Mathew Leckie had a brilliant chance to go in front on 67 minutes after a bad giveaway by Ron Vlaar, but Leckie’s chest shot went straight at Davy Cillessen after the cross by Tommy Oar.  It proved detrimental, as the Dutch would take advantage moments later down the other end.

Substitute Depay, on for the injured Bruno Martins Indi, had a go from long range, and the swerving shot crept into the net past a bamboozled Ryan, giving the Dutch a lead again at 3-2.

The Aussies quickly began to tire, and struggled to keep possession.  As the Dutch asserted their ascendency just as Chile did late in the game a week ago against Australia, they prevented a second comeback by the underdogs by holding much of the ball in the final 10 minutes.

There were two yellow cards of note.  Tim Cahill clattered Indi in the first half, earning him his second yellow card of the tournament and a suspension for the match against Spain along with it.  With Cahill at 34 years old, the suspension likely means he has played his final World Cup game, and maybe even his final in an Australian shirt.  Indi also appeared to be unconscious after the collision, and was substituted off.

Robin van Persie also picked up a yellow early in the second half – his second in two matches – for a wild elbow, and will miss the Dutch group-stage finale against Chile.

The win gives the Dutch 6 total points, and they will clinch a place in the knockout round if Chile wins or draws against Spain later today.  The same situation would see the Aussies mathematically knocked out of the tournament.


Netherlands – Cillessen, Vlaar, de Vrij, Indi (Depay 45′), Blind, de Jong, Janmaat, de Guzman (Wijnaldum 78′), van Persie (Lens 87′), Sneijder, Robben.

Goals: Robben 20′, van Persie 58′, Depay 68′

Australia – Ryan, Davidson, Spiranovic, Wilkinson, McGowan; Jedinak, McKay, Oar (Taggart 77′), Leckie; Bresciano (Bozanic 52′), Cahill (Halloran 68′).

Goals: Cahill 21′, Jedinak (pen) 54′

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

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When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

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Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd, USWNT

FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.