COMMERCE CITY, CO - MAY 24: Deshorn Brown #26 of the Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Montreal Impact at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on May 24, 2014 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated the Impact 4-1. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 3-3 Colorado Rapids

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One game, 100 words (or less): Up 3-1 in with 15 minutes to go, the Union are undone when an Michael Lahoud’s attempted bicycle kick catches Jared Watts in the face, turning a potential clearance into a straight red and a penalty kick. Seven minutes after Dillon Powers’ conversion, Deshorn Brown burns Sheanon Williams ahead of his sixth goal of the season, one that costs Philadelphia its second home win of the season.

Goals 

Philadelphia: Casey 16′, Williams 31′, Wenger 74′
Colorado: Serna 18′, Powers 79′ (p.k.), Brown 86′

Three moments that mattered:

16′-18′ – Bang-bang – A promising start for Colorado appears to go for naught when former Rapids star Conor Casey gets the ball back after his long switch to Raymon Gaddis. The right back’s eventual cross finds Casey just outside the six-yard box, moving across a flat-footed Shane O’Neill for the game’s first goal.

Two minutes later, the visitors’ strong start pays off, producing a quick equalizer. Powers, in possession, draws attention to the middle of the park, giving Dillon Serna room to cut onto his left foot after being found in the right of the box. Beating Zac MacMath near post, Serna’s left-footed finish makes it 1-1.

Just past the half-hour, another O’Neill miscue allows Sheanon Williams to restore the hosts’ lead. The Union would take a 2-1 advantage into intermission.

74′ – The Philly high point – Amobi Okugo, midfielder, pays off. Taking the ball off rookie Watts 28 yards from goal, the midfielder-cum-defender-dum-midfielder races toward the byline. Cutting the ball back with his left foot, Okugo gets some help from a deflection while finding Andrew Wenger, whose first touch finds the back of the net, giving Philly a 3-1 lead.

When Lahoud gives away a penalty minutes later, the goal looks crucial. After Powers’ conversion, Philadelphia’s lead is reduced to one (3-2), leaving the 10-man hosts 11 minutes from full points.

source: Getty Images
Deshorn Brown’s late equalizer salvages a point against 10-man Philadelphia. It also tied him for the Rapids’ lead in goals. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

87′ – And, the low – Lahoud’s mistake has cost Philadelphia their second home win of the season. With a brilliant turn around Williams, Brown beats MacMath from just outside the box, his sixth goal of the season bringing the Rapids even, 3-3.

Lineups

Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, White, Williams, Fabinho; Lahoud, Okugo; Maidana (Wheeler 82′), Le Toux, Cruz (Wenger 69′); Casey (Carroll 80′)
Colorado: Irwin; Wynne, O’Neill, Moor, Burch; Watts (Hairston 78′), LaBrocca; Serna (Torres 83′), Powers, Hill (Alvarez 65′); Brown

Three lessons going forward:

1. Philadelphia keeps finding feet to shoot: Central defense has been a problem all season, even if the culprits have changed. Whereas the beginning of the year it was Okugo, Aaron Wheeler, and Austin Berry, now it’s Williams, who was joined in the middle by Ethan White today. Given the plague striking the position, it may only be a matter of time before Maurice Edu, suspended for today’s match, is symptomatic, too.

Give credit to Deshorn Brown for his sublime touch, above, but Williams just can’t let that happen. He can’t take that risk, a man down, at the point in the game, knowing there’s nobody behind him. He has to keep the play in front of him.

Perhaps this is where it should be mentioned: Williams is not a center back, normally. He’s there because Philadelphia has three good fullbacks and zero, maybe one (Edu) good central defender.

That number would be higher if Okugo was still in the picture, but as Jim Curtin’s selection showed, that picture has changed. Perhaps permanently so.

2. The resilience of Colorado’s attack: The Rapids came into the day with 24 goals in 17 games – a fine number, but one that was helped by a league-leading six penalty kicks (a number that moved to seven today). With players like Brown, Powers, Vicente Sánchez, and Gabriel Torres, you might expect more.

Pablo Mastroeni, however, has shaded toward the conservative side, something you can after to do with such a diverse group of attackers. Add Edson Buddle to the mix, and Colorado has the ability to rekindle’s last year’s width or go with the more centered approach they’ve shown this season. They can play through Powers as well as rely on players like Sánchez to get them into attack. They have options.

Those options create variety which, late in matches, becomes resilience. With a number of ways to beat you, Mastroeni can adjust to the game’s circumstances, perhaps explaining why the team is 7-5-5 despite a relatively modest +5 goal difference.

As for all those penalty kicks, the team is also third in the league in open play goals. Considering nobody on the team has scored more than six times, the Rapids have a lot of ways to beat you.

3. Momentum blunted for Philadelphia: The Union were unbeaten in three ahead of last week’s meeting with Dallas – a match that looked like theirs to lose, given Fabián Castillo’s suspension. Lose, they did. With the 2-1 loss, Philadelphia dropped its first game under Curtin, a defeat that threatens to become a streak with today’s result.

By itself, the loss would be heartbreaking, but the fact that it displayed all the problems the Union had under Hackworth will be especially demoralizing. If Philadelphia management are really trying to turn a page this summer — changing leadership ahead of a signings that are supposed to address the team’s ills — today’s result was a reminder: Merely changing the coach is not going to change this team.

Where that leaves them:

  • The draw keeps Philadelphia in seventh place, though New York’s win leaves the Union five back of fifth.
  • Colorado gains ground on second place Real Salt Lake, sitting one point behind their Rocky Mountain rivals ahead of RSL’s visit to the LA Galaxy (tonight).

 

FIFA candidate Prince Ali claims voting pledge from Liberia

Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, flanked by school-age soccer players in uniforms, speaks before about 300 guests during an event at a Roman amphitheater in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. The prince is running for FIFA president, saying Wednesday he will fight "deep-seated corruption and political deal-making" and make soccer's scandal-scarred governing body more transparent. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali of Jordan says the Liberia soccer federation has pledged its vote to him.

Liberia follows Egypt as the second African voter claimed by Prince Ali since the Confederation of African Football’s leadership endorsed Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman of Bahrain on Friday.

The CAF executive committee urged the 54 African voters among FIFA’s 209-strong membership to back the sheikh in the Feb. 26 election.

Prince Ali’s campaign team on Saturday published a three-page letter of endorsement signed by Liberia federation president Musa Bility.

Bility writes that Prince Ali “represents real change” while other candidates are “not even prepared to criticize” the FIFA system.

Bility was himself an applicant in the presidential contest, then failed an integrity test judged by FIFA’s election monitoring committee.

LVG says Mourinho speculation is false, calls the whole thing “nonsense”

Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho, center left, makes his way from the opposition dugout after greeting Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, centre right, during their English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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Louis Van Gaal is sick and tired of the media speculating about his employment (or potential lack thereof), as well as reports linking the presently unemployed Jose Mourinho to his job, so what we’re going to do now is speculate on those reports a bit more.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

But first, we’ll give Van Gaal the chance to tell his side of the story. Who better to explain what’s going on at Manchester United than the manager of Man United, right? OK, Louis, take it away, mate — quotes from the Guardian:

“The last two months have been very difficult for my wife, my kids, my grandchildren and my friends to cope with. For me too, but I can cope. In the Netherlands they know I am too arrogant to doubt myself, but I also know that such a nonsense is being created about me. I do not believe that there is already a relationship between José Mourinho and Manchester United.”

“It is logical when you have lost four matches in a row, people are bound to be doubting. … I criticize the media for inventing stories. I never hired security. Never ever. And I am walking on the streets without security and all the people I meet are very positive.”

OK, now that that’s out of the way, Jose Mourinho is definitely talking to Manchester United, or someone is doing so on his behalf. There’s arguably never been a more sitting-duck manager in world football than Van Gaal is right now — not only have the results been extremely “meh” for nearly two seasons now, but he’s also got less than 18 months left on his contract, which means it would cost the club considerably less to make him go away than, say, David Moyes, who still had more than five years(!!!) left on his deal when he was fired in April of his first season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL preview — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

Also, they were totally in for Pep Guardiola, too, and since they didn’t get him, they’ll have to respond thusly, and since Carlo Ancelotti has already been named Guardiola’s successor at Bayern Munich, Mourinho is the last “big name” out there right now. Unless, of course, they wanted to tap up Manuel Pellegrini, who’s on his way out to make room for Guardiola. Could be fun. But not as fun as Jose back in the Premier League, at Man United, in the same city with Pep. Remember the last time those two were employed on opposite sides of a heated rivalry?

As spectacular as this year’s PL season has been — and it’s bordering on the best of all time, still with 13 weeks to go — think about what that means for next season. It’s going to have be even more bonkers, so as not to seem boring by comparison. Louis van Gaal seems like a nice enough guy, but his team’s football isn’t that exciting on the field, and he offers little more off it. Mourinho isn’t the hero we deserve, but he’s certainly the one we need.

Another one: Lavezzi the latest star set for the riches of China

Paris Saint Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi form Argentina, celebrates the opening goal during a French league one soccer match between Paris-Saint-Germain and Rennes at Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Paris Saint Germain clinhed its second straight French league title on Wednesday after rival Monaco drew 1-1 against French Cup holder Guingamp. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
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The list just keeps growing; Ezequiel Lavezzi, he of Paris Saint-Germain and Argentine national team fame, is the latest star leaving Europe behind with the Chinese Super League his next stop, according to multiple reports Saturday night.

[ MORE: The latest transfer news and gossip ]

Linked with a move to Premier League side Chelsea during the recently completed January transfer window, a move away from PSG never materialized for the 30-year-old. Not on the European continent, at least.

Now, the former Napoli, San Lorenzo and Estudiantes (Argentina) attacker is set for Shanghai Shenhua, where he’ll reportedly take home something in the $11-to-15-million-per-year ballpark. When you can somehow get a raise from your current deal with a Qatar Sports Investments-owned club… well, I guess you’d be dumb not to do it.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

It was already pretty well known Lavezzi would be leaving the French capital in 2016, but when his tenure survived through much of Europe’s winter window, it seemed he would hang around until the expiration of his current contract before moving elsewhere on a free transfer.

Then came the monstrous windfall of cash into and subsequent spending by CSL clubs over the last two weeks; Lavezzi joins the likes of Ramires, Gervinho, Jackson Martinez, Alex Teixeira, Demba Ba and Fredy Guarin, among others, to move to China for massive annual salaries. At Shenhua, Lavezzi will play alongside Ba and Guarin, as well as former Everton and New York Red Bulls man Tim Cahill, who made the move to China last year.

The CSL’s transfer window doesn’t close until Feb. 26, so the spending spree may well go on a little while long.

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Atleti bounce back to keep pressure on Barca

Atletico's Jose Maria Gimenez, right, celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Eibar at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Eibar

The race for the La Liga title isn’t over quite yet — though Barcelona are overwhelmingly favorites at the moment — and Atletico Madrid will have to keep winning, with just about no room for error, to keep it that way. On Saturday, they did just that by defending their home turf, to the tune of a 3-1 victory over Eibar.

Keko put the visitors ahead in the 46th minute, but Jose Gimenez quickly opened the scoring for Atleti and equalized on 56 minutes. Saul Niguez made it 2-1 to Atleti seven minutes later, and Fernando Torres’ 100th career goal (below video) gave Los Rojiblancos a bit of insurance in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. With the victory, Atleti are level on 51 points with Barca, but the Catalan giants have two games in hand on Madrid’s “other” team, the first of which they’ll play on Sunday.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Las Palmas
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Villarreal
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Levante vs. Barcelona (6 a.m. ET)
Real Betis vs. Valencia (10 a.m. ET)
Celta Vigo vs. Sevilla (12:15 p.m. ET)
Granada vs. Real Madrid (2:30 p.m. ET)


Bologna 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina have left the door wide open for Inter Milan to re-enter the top three — and UEFA Champions League-qualifying — places with a 1-1 draw away to Bologna. The Viola finished the game with 10 men after Matias Fernandez was sent off for two yellow cards 10 minutes apart either side of halftime.

Their opening goal, which gave them the lead in the 59th minute, was beautifully worked and wonderfully taken by Federico Bernardeschi (below video). It was quickly canceled out, though, as Emanuele Giaccherini equalized four minutes later to earn a point and strengthen Bologna’s hold on 10th place in the league table.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Genoa 0-0 Lazio

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Hellas Verona vs. Inter Milan (6:30 a.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Carpi (9 a.m. ET)
Torino vs. Chievo (9 a.m. ET)
Frosinone vs. Juventus (9 a.m. ET)
Sassuolo vs. Palermo (9 a.m. ET)
AC Milan vs. Udinese (9 a.m. ET)
Atalanta vs. Empoli (12 p.m. ET)
Roma vs. Sampdoria (2:45 p.m. ET)