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.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images
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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday