United States' Michael Bradley, left, tries to keep up with Belgium's Dries Mertens during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

At halftime: With Johnson out, Belgium, U.S. reach halftime scoreless — FOLLOW LIVE

1 Comment

The first 45 minutes have made it clear why the Belgians are favorites, but with a handful of near-chances of their own, the resiliency the U.S. showed through group stage has kept the teams scoreless at the halftime whistle. With Argentina waiting in the next round, nothing has changed between the upstart Americans and Belgium’s Golden Generation, with the teams set to kickoff the second half at 0-0.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals: See “0-0”, above.

Other key moments:

1′ – Near disaster for the U.S., with an errant Omar Gonzalez pass and some miscommunication between Geoff Cameron and Alejandro Bedoya allowing Belgium to get out on the counter. Cutting in front of Gonzalez, Divock Origi takes aim at Tim Howard’s far post from the right of goal. A kick save concedes a corner but keeps the U.S. even.

18′ – This is earlier than Geoff Cameron would have wanted to take a yellow, but trying to hold the ball in the U.S.’s attacking third, the U.S. midfielder takes out Dries Mertens. The call is an easy one. Cameron’s in the book, leaving him at least 72 minutes to avoid a second card.

20′ – The U.S. has struggled on set pieces, but after a corner conceded by Jan Vertonghen, the team generates a near-chance. Attacking a near post ball, Cameron flicks the Graham Zusi corner into space at the far post.  Clint Dempsey, however, seems a step behind the play and can’t get to what would have been a golden opportunity.

21′ – It’s not pretty, but a series of determined touches from Dempsey and Michael Bradley generates a shot for “Deuce” just inside the penalty area. The left-footed try poses no problems for Thibaut Courtois, but the attack shows the U.S. coming into the game.

23′ – Another midfield giveaway, and nearly another nightmare for the U.S. With a bad touch near the center line, Zusi evokes memories of Rico Clark, allowing Vertonghen to lead the Belgian on a counter. A touch to the left, a Kevin De Bruyne move back to the right, and De Bruyne has a shot on goal, one he pulls wide of the left post.

26′ – Fabian Johnson’s overrun on the right, allowing Belgium to play Vertonghen behind the defense. Bounding out of midfield, Marouane Fellaini’s in front of goal, but the pass across is blocked by DaMarcus Beasley, preventing the Belgians from challenging Howard’s goal.

30′ – Now Johnson’s down. After a half of sprinting up the flank all half to try and get behind Vertonghen, the right back’s hamstring gives out. Waving to the sideline, Johnson makes it clear: He can’t go on. Klinsmann could move Cameron to right back and bring on Kyle Beckerman, but DeAndre Yedlin gets the call instead. Only 20 years old, the Seattle defender has to replace one of the U.S.’s better players at this year’s World Cup.

38′ – Yedlin nearly makes his mark. Carrying the ball down the right, the replacement fullback lofts a cross to the far post for Dempsey. Matched up against Daniel Van Buyten, Dempsey doesn’t have much of a chance, but the crowd has reason to pause before the big Belgian clears the cross.

42′ – The game’s opening up, with another ball into the box from Yedlin quickly turned into an attack at the other end. After dealing with that threat, the U.S. is carrying the ball out of its own end, with Cameron playing forward for Dempsey. When Vincent Kompany takes out the U.S. captain at the ankles, the Belgian center back becomes the second man in the book.

Question for the second half:

– Who changes first? – The numbers say the Belgians have generated more (and better) chances (9-3, shots; 3-1, shots on goal), but this may be the game the U.S. wants to play. Will Jurgen Klinsmann eventually open things up? Or, for that matter, will Marc Wilmots not want to risk one of these U.S. attacks coming good? As time ticks away, will the Belgian coach eventually sacrifice some of his team’s chances to keep from going behind?

– Will Fabian Johnson be missed? – He’s been one of the U.S. difference makers in Brazil, but his injury has given way to a talented but inexperienced replacement. How DeAndre Yedlin performs opposite Eden Hazard will determine whether Fabian Johnson’s injury comes to define this match.

MLS Cup Playoffs: NY Red Bulls 1-0 (1-2 agg.) Columbus Crew SC

Tony Tchani, Michael Parkhurst

The game in 100 words (or less): Columbus Crew SC are headed to their second MLS Cup in club history (champions – 2008) after defeating the New York Red Bulls, 2-0 on aggregate, in the Western Conference finals (0-0 draw in an extremely chippy second leg on Sunday). Justin Meram and Kei Kamara scored the two-leg tie’s only goals — eight seconds and 85 minutes into the first leg, respectively — and Crew SC confidently managed the second leg by defending with numbers and wisely picking their spots to break out on the counter. RBNY held nearly 60 percent of possession in the second leg, but could muster just six shots on target over the 90 minutes. Crew SC will host the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup 2015 next Sunday (4 p.m. ET) at MAPFRE Stadium.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

38′ — Robles at full stretch to deny Kamara — What’s better: the first touch, second touch, turn and shot by Kei Kamara; or, the sprawled-out save by Luis Robles to swat away a ball clearly headed for the bottom corner? Quality on quality.

90+3′ — Abang heads home to make it nervy late — Anatole Abange rose above the crowd and headed home a recycled ball inside the penalty area after a Sal Zizzo cross was headed high into the air late into stoppage time.

90+5′ — Madness in the penalty area, RBNY hit the post — It was absolute scenes inside the Crew SC penalty area. Ball after ball pumped into the box, headed high into the air and briefly cleared. The final chance of the game fell to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who headed the ball toward the far post with Steve Clark rushing out quickly, only to see his slow dribbler bounce off the front side of the post and back into the field of play.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Abang (90+3′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: FC Dallas 2-2 (3-5 agg.) Portland Timbers

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers FC
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers are headed to their first MLS Cup in club history after defeating FC Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate, in the Western Conference finals (2-2 draw in the second leg). Fanendo Adi scored in Sunday’s second leg, giving Caleb Porter’s side a 4-1 aggregate lead before Ryan Hollingshead and Blas Perez scored inside the last 25 minutes to give Oscar Pareja’s bunch a late lifeline, but Lucas Melano’s spectacular tap-in sealed the Timbers’ trip to MLS Cup. The third seed heading into the playoffs, Portland bounced Sporting Kansas City in an epic penalty shootout in the knockout round and outlasted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals before knocking off the West’s top seed over two legs to advance to MLS Cup 2015. No matter who advances from the East finals later on Sunday, Portland will play away in MLS Cup, to either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

54′ — Adi fires past Gonzalez to make if 4-1 — Oscar Pareja elected to go with Walker Zimmerman at center back on Sunday, dropping regular starter Zach Loyd to the bench. On the game’s opening goal, it was Zimmerman who wound up on the ground as Adi received the ball, turned and fired a massive away goal past Jesse Gonzalez.

68′ — Diaz’s magical ball curled home by Hollingshead — Mauro Diaz is a wonderful magician capable of playing the kill through ball from anywhere on the field — this we’ve known for quite some time. His chipped through ball to set up Hollingshead’s goal was extraordinarily brilliant, even for him.

73′ — Perez heads home the free kick to pull within one — Would you be surprised to hear that it was Diaz who set up FCD’s second goal? His free kick was Perez-finding missile and found the head of the Panamanian striker at the top of the six-yard box, where 34-year-old headed home with ease.

90+5′ — Melano rounds Gonzalez, seals MLS Cup berth — Poor Jesse Gonzalez. Absolutely schooled and posterized by Lucas Melano. What a way to sew up a place in the championship final.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Mauro Diaz

Goalscorers: Adi (54′), Hollingshead (68′), Perez (73′), Melano (90+5′)

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid bounce back; Juventus on the charge

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid bounced back from back-to-back La Liga defeats with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar on Sunday. Gareth Bale (below video) and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty kick) provided the goals to keep Rafa Benitez‘s bunch (27 points) third in the league, two points behind Atletico Madrid and six behind leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Villarreal
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Valencia

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup ]

Roma 0-2 Atalanta

Losing at home to sides currently in a relegation battle — rarely a good idea, especially if you fancy yourselves title challengers, but that didn’t stop Roma from doing just that on Sunday. Alejandro Gomez and German Denis scored the goals to knock off a 10-man Roma side (Maicon – 81st minute) and keep Rudi Garcia’s bunch (27 points) from gaining ground on any of the three teams currently ahead of them — Inter Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina — all of whom play on Monday.

AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria

M’Baye Niang scored twice, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Luiz Adriano (below video) added single tallies for AC Milan (23 points) to keep pace with the top-five pack in Serie A. After 14 rounds of games, the Rossoneri sit sixth, a point outside fifth (UEFA Europa League) and five points out of third (UEFA Champions League).

Palermo 0-3 Juventus

Don’t look now, but here come Juventus. Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over Palermo makes it four straight wins in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s side — a run that pushes them all the way up to fifth in the league (24 points), just six points off the pace of leaders Inter, who play on Monday. Mario Mandzukic (below video), Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza scored the goals for the world’s most frightening fifth-place team.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-3 Udinese
Frosinone 3-2 Hellas Verona
Genoa 1-2 Carpi
Empoli 1-0 Lazio

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina (1 p.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Inter Milan (3 p.m. ET)

Arsenal’s injury crisis — add Sanchez, Cazorla, Koscielny to the list

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
Leave a comment

From title challengers to just hoping to hold on to a top-four place while Arsene Wenger is forced to play reserves and academy players because half of his star players are currently out injured — the annual story of Arsenal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Oct. 27, when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both went down with injuries in the same game, marked the unofficial start of Arsenal’s 2015-16 injury crisis, but things didn’t really get going full bore until the last seven days, when five more players — four of them full-time starters — picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for anywhere between three weeks and three months.

Added to the list last weekend: Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks)

Added to the list on Sunday: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – MORE DETAILS), Santi Cazorla (knee), Laurent Koscielny (hip)

Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, Wenger said Koscielny “could not walk” due to the hip spasm that forced him out of the game after just 11 minutes. He also divulged that Cazorla, who could not be subbed off because Wenger had already used all three subs late on, played the second half “on one leg.” Sanchez came into Sunday injured after picking up a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Arsenal fans were up in arms during the summer transfer window — let’s be honest, the following is true of every transfer window the last five years — crying out, “We must buy, we must buy.” Have a look at Arsenal’s complete injury list at the moment, and try to say, “They didn’t need to buy in the summer.”

In chronological order: Danny Welbeck (knee – early 2016 return), Tomas Rosicky (knee – Christmas time return), Jack Wilshere (leg – Christmas time return), Theo Walcott (calf – December return), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks), Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Laurent Koscielny (hip – to be assessed), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – to be assessed), Santi Cazorla (knee – to be assessed)