MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Seattle Sounders

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt96zfVDCLk]

 

One game, 100 words (or less): With a team depleted by absences, injuries, and suspensions, Seattle’ was in no shape to take a result out of Vancouver. With a 12th minute, 26-yard bomb from Sebastián Fernández, the Whitecaps had the only goal they’d need, holding the Sounders to two shots on target in a 1-0 win at B.C. Place.

Three Two moments that mattered:

1. 0′ – This is the Seattle team? – Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin are just returning from Brazil (and not about to be stressed on that Vancouver turf).  Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda were both suspended. Obafemi Martins and Djimi Traoré are hurt. Seven points clear in the Supporters Shield race, the Sounders had room for a night like this, but the lineups at kickoff still spoke to the imbalance:

Vancouver: Ousted; Beitashour, Mitchel, Leveron, Harevy; Laba, Koffie; Fernández, Morales, Manneh; Hurtado
Seattle: Frei; Anibaba, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez; Neagle, Azira, Evans, Pappa; Barrett, Cooper

Vancouver wasn’t perfect either, but if you are going to have absences against a team missing Dempsey and Martins, might as well be in central defense.

2. 12′ – The absence of Alonso and Pineda – When you have two midfielders who’ve rarely played together, these kinds of things happen. The Whitecaps break pressure on their right and find Sebastián Fernández alone above the arc. With the defense entrenched at the edge of the 18-yard box, the Uruguayan has room to take a touch before having a crack. With both sides of goal to choose from, he picks the right, finding net for the game’s only goal.

source: AP
Vancouver’s Sebastian Fernandez saw his 12th minute goal hold up as the Whitecaps defeated Seattle, 1-0. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

3. 13′ – 90′ – The one big moment – The rest of the match didn’t exactly blend together, but it was defined by the same story. Vancouver, having its one-goal lead, was never given an incentive to go in for the kill, though they had their chances (most notably, a remarkable Erik Hurtado breakaway in the second half where his attempted chip dribbled meekly to Stefan Frei). Without its danger men, the Sounders never gave Vancouver reason to believe a second goal was necessary.

Three lessons going forward:

1. Seattle should be well-rested for Portland – The upshot of these suspensions and absences: The Sounders will be in good shape for their upcoming matches with the Timbers. Mid-week, the rivals face-off in the U.S. Open Cup, while CenturyLink’s upper deck will be open when the teams leave Tukwila for Seattle.

2. Vancouver has a huge lead in the Cascadia Cup – The competition’s current standings, thanks to the updated Wikipedia page:

 

2014 results summary
Team Pts Pld W L D GF GA GD
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 7 3 2 0 1 7 5 +2
Seattle Sounders FC 2 3 0 1 2 6 7 -1
Portland Timbers 1 2 0 1 1 7 8 -1

 

The Whitecaps have one more home game against the Timbers (Aug. 20) before closing the informal competition at Portland (Sept. 20) and Seattle (Oct. 10).

The Timbers’ game-in-hand and two matches against the Whitecaps could swing the race, but Seattle’s in a tough spot. Even if they max out points (11), they’re at the mercy of the Whitecaps. As of now, it looks like Cascadia’s trophy will stay in British Columbia.

3. Erik Hurtado seems to be cooling off – After the former Santa Clara forward broke through earlier this season with his first MLS goal, he went on a four-game run that pushed Darren Mattocks to the bench. Tonight, however, made it clear that form is gone. Particularly on that failed breakaway, Hurtado looks like his 2013 self, and while the work rate that’s always earn him time is still there, the Whitecaps may yet need Mattocks.

Not that he’s necessarily a better option. Scoreless in his last six appearances, the Jamaican international has now gone two-and-a-half months without a goal.

Where this leaves them:

  • The win gives Vancouver a room on sixth place LA, having opened up a four-point gap thanks to this weekend’s results.
  • Seattle stays seven points up on Real Salt Lake and Colorado in the Western Conference. The Sounders lead the Supporters Shield race by the same margin.

New Zealand 0-4 Portugal: Ronaldo, Portugal win Group A

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New Zealand gave the 2017 Confederations Cup all they had, but they go home empty-handed as Portugal won the Group A finale 3-0 to advance to the knockout round.

Portugal held much of the possession as expected, but they found little at the end early on. The first true chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 24th minute, who latched onto a Ricardo Quaresma cross from wide right and produced a powerful header, but it was poorly directed straight to New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the easy save.

[ RECAP: Mexico eliminates Russia with 2-1 comeback ]

Ronaldo had another headed chance minutes later, but he rocketed the attempt back off the post. Portugal would eventually find the opener just past the half-hour mark via the penalty spot. Danilo was clearly shoved by a pair of defenders on a set-piece, and Ronaldo easily dispatched the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

The favorites would double their lead just a few minutes later as Eliseu on the overlap came down the left flank and cut horizontally into the box. He fed a charging Bernardo Silva, and the in-demand Monaco attacker jumped to meet it and poked home. Silva was unable to celebrate after turning his ankle heavily on the landing, but he would come back onto the field.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Portugal finished things off with 10 minutes to go in the game as Andre Silva burst through the midfielder, shucked his defender, and fired past Marinovic to seal the game for good. Nani added a fourth The win means Portugal finishes level on points with Mexico at the top of Group A, winning the group on goal differential thanks to Silva’s final goal.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

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Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.

Report: Arsenal owner calls Bellerin to state intentions

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According to a report by Spanish radio station Cadena SER, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has personally called defender Hector Bellerin to tell the Spaniard he would not be sold.

The 22-year-old experienced a serious regression at the Emirates last season, and with media speculation surrounding his potential departure, Kroenke wanted to make sure his intentions were clear. Reports had linked Bellerin with a return to his home country, most notably to Barcelona.

With Bellerin under contract through 2021 having just signed his extension last summer, it’s clear the club has decided who they believe keeping should be a priority.

The defender lost his place briefly down the stretch run last season, finding himself on the bench in seven of the club’s final 17 Premier League matches. Despite that, Arsenal still clearly values Bellerin’s talent and durability and hope to ward Barcelona’s interest off. Bellerin didn’t help cool speculation when he bought a house in Barcelona just a short time ago.

Reports say that Arsenal would not take any less than $57 million for their right-back.

Watch Live: Mexico vs. Russia, NZ vs. Portugal

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Group A comes to a close on Saturday, with a pair of spots in the semifinals on the line. The group is jam-packed at the top, with nobody confirmed on to the next round and only New Zealand eliminated.

Russia meets group-leaders Mexico at 11:00 a.m. ET in Kazan, with the hosts needing a win to advance, while a draw would complicate things for Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad. Mexico needs just a draw to confirm advancement.

WATCH LIVE: Mexico vs. Russia live online at Telemundo Deportes

Mexico has brought back its first-choice lineup for the final group stage match, with a number of rotations made in the near-disaster against New Zealand. However, Carlos Salcedo is out with a dislocated shoulder, bringing Nestor Araujo into the starting lineup. Hector Moreno starts despite his injury concerns.

On the other side, Portugal takes on New Zealand with a chance to win the group still intact. Portugal sits in second position currently, level with Mexico on both points and goal difference, but behind by one on goals scored. Should Portugal win and earn a greater goal difference or outscore Mexico by more than one, they would win the group.

WATCH LIVE: Portugal vs. New Zealand live online at Telemundo Deportes

Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal yet again, fresh off his match-winning goal against Russia. They see both full-backs rotated from that match, with Raphael Guerreiro and Cedric rotated for Eliseu and Nelson Semedo.

New Zealand has already been eliminated, without a point thus far in the competition despite a pair of spirited performances for the Group A underdogs.

LINEUPS

Mexico: Ochoa, Moreno, Reyes, Layun, Araujo, Herrera, Guardado, J dos Santos, Hernandez, Lozano, Vela.

Russia: Akinfeev, Jikia, Kudryashov, Vasin, Glushakov, Erokhin, Bukharov, Samedov, Smolov, Zhirkov, Golovin.


Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Eliseu, Semedo, Moutinho, Pereira, B Silva, Quaresma, Ronaldo, A Silva.

New Zealand: Marinovic, Durante, Smith, Boxall, Doyle, Ingham, Rojas, Thomas, McGlinchey, Wood, Lewis.