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).

 

Report: American teenager linked with Manchester United

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The U.S. Men’s National Team is always looking for more Christian Pulisic-like players, and another star-in-the-making could be on his way to Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Three keys for USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

American teenager Will Vint is reportedly being pursued by Premier League giants Manchester United after previously having trialed with Fulham and Everton.

Vint, the 15-year-old son Everton academy director Peter Vint, has reportedly impressed the Red Devils while on trial as of late. Additionally, the teen’s Instagram page describes him as a “Footballer at Manchester United.”

The number of Americans in England’s top flight have dwindled down over recent years, however, USMNT mainstays like Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan (moving to Atlanta United) still reside in the PL.

Chapecoense announces match against Colombia’s Nacional

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazilian club Chapecoense will play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional on April 4 in what will be an emotional home match.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina XI to face Bolivia ]

In November, 19 members of the Brazilian team died in an air crash outside Medellin as they travelled to play Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final. Out of 77 passengers, 71 died in the incident, including players, journalists, and club officials.

Chapecoense says they will play at 22,000-seat Arena Conda in southern Brazil in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana.

The tragedy made Atletico Nacional pronounce Chapecoense as champions, and the South American confederation agreed.

The Recopa Sudamericana is between the champions of the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa Libertadores.

Aguero left off Argentina starting XI to face Bolivia

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Sao Paolo striker Lucas Pratto will receive a fantastic opportunity on Tuesday when Argentina faces Bolivia in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT travels to Panama in CONCACAF WCQ ]

It just so happens that Pratto’s gain is a major letdown for one of the Premier League’s top strikers. The 28-year-old is tied for second this qualifying campaign for Argentina with two goals.

La Albiceleste have announced their starting lineup ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Bolivia, which features mainstays Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Meanwhile, Aguero — who started in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday — is the lone change from manager Edgardo Bauza.

The Copa America runners’ up are currently depleted with a combination of injuries and suspensions. Four players will miss Tuesday’s meeting in La Paz due to suspension, including Gonzalo Higuain, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas will each miss the match after sustaining respective hamstring and knee injuries.

Argentina currently sits third in the CONMEBOL table while Bolivia is in danger of elimination with a loss on Tuesday. La Verde have managed just seven points in the first 13 rounds of World Cup qualifying.

Three keys for USMNT against Panama

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Coming off of Friday night’s dominating effort against Honduras, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks for their second win in five nights when Bruce Arena and co. head to Panama.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT goes for second win in Hex on Tuesday ]

Strong performances from players like Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic have USMNT fans buzzing ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Panama City, but there are several questions that lie ahead for Arena as the U.S. goes for its second win in the Hexagonal.

How does Arena cope with injuries?

The only downside of the team’s 6-0 win over Panama on Friday was the aftereffects if the match. John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Michael Orozco and Jordan Morris are no longer with the USMNT after sustaining injuries/illnesses, leaving Arena shorthanded as the Stars and Stripes head into the Estadio Rommel Fernández.

While Clint Dempsey’s emphatic national team return will provide Arena with some assurances up front, along with the emergence of Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, there are some questions in the midfield and defense for the U.S.

Jermaine Jones is available to return from his one-match suspension and could potentially fill the void left by Sebastian Lletget after his injury on Friday. While, Alejandro Bedoya — who replaced Lletget in the Honduras match — will also be in line for a starting spot.

Defensively is where it gets a bit tricky though, as Arena has to make up for an already-depleted backline. There was no DeAndre Yedlin or Fabian Johnson coming into this round of qualifiers, and John Brooks’ release from camp leaves the defense even thinner. Tim Ream appears to be Arena’s next choice to start at centerback with Brooks unavailable, but will he stick with Omar Gonzalez in the center or slide Geoff Cameron back into the middle?

It seems like the latter choice, especially given Cameron’s experience in the central defense, but that would mean Arena has to slot somebody else into the right back position. Graham Zusi has had slight experience in that role as of late, but it could be a bit of a gamble for Arena in another high-stakes match.

Bradley must control the middle once again

Forget Michael Bradley’s superb goal, which lifted the U.S. lead to 2-0 on Friday, it was the captain’s overall performance that is exactly what should be expected from the center midfielder.

Bradley completions/MLSSoccer

In 90 minutes of play against Los Catrachos, Bradley only missed on six passes while also making several successful tackles and recoveries to limit the Honduras attack.

The loss of Lletget is definitely a significant one for the Americans, given his lively movement going both ways. However, LA Galaxy teammate will likely be in line to replace the vibrant midfielder on Tuesday as he returns from a one-match suspension.

In regards to Bradley though, the U.S. veteran is at his best when he is able to move freely throughout the midfield, but Jones’ inclusion could present more of a burden for the Toronto FC player.

Jones is still a very capable midfielder, but he simply doesn’t have the pace to match that of a Lletget, which leaves Bradley more liable for covering ground defensively in front of the backline.

On top of that, the back four will see more changes on Tuesday after Brooks’ exit from the USMNT, making Bradley’s role all the more critical when facing players like Luis Tejada and Gabriel Torres.

[ MORE: CONCACAF qualifiers resume Tuesday afternoon ]

Dempsey/Pulisic bond continues to evolve

It couldn’t have gone much better for the pair on Friday night as Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic were directly involved in five of the game’s six goals.

The budding relationship between the two key attackers though is an intriguing one, and will likely determine just how successful this USMNT can be down the road. At 34, Dempsey is certainly on the back end of his career, however, his effort against Honduras shows just how dangerous the Seattle Sounders man can be, even after missing significant time due to a heart problem.

Meanwhile, Pulisic continues to shine in European with giants Dortmund, appearing both in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. The two likely won’t be together on the international scene for long, perhaps only until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the partnership is something to monitor over the next year-plus.

Not only does the duo represent a dangerous one-two punch in the attack but also a changing of the guard. Dempsey has been one of the most talented USMNT players in the nation’s history, and many believe Pulisic has the talent to match or even surpass that of the 55-time goalscorer.

We’ve seen it before when Landon Donovan was phased out of the U.S. squad and Dempsey was essentially handed the reigns of the attack, and this time Pulisic will be doing so with much more time to make an impact. The 18-year-old already has four international goals in 12 appearances, and if he improves on that goalscoring pace the U.S. will be enjoying his presence for many years to come.