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).

 

La Liga: Sevilla win late to move even with Atletico Madrid in 3rd

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MADRID (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder scored three minutes after entering the game to give Sevilla a late 2-1 win over 10-man Celta Vigo in the Spanish league on Thursday.

The victory moved Sevilla even on points with third-place Atletico Madrid with four matches left. Third place guarantees an automatic spot in the Champions League next season, while the fourth-placed team has to go through a playoff.

Ben Yedder netted the winner from close range after a low cross by Samir Nasri in the 79th minute, beating a defender to the ball and hitting the top of the net with a right-footed shot.

“It was a complex game but the team was able to overcome the difficulties,” Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said.

Joaquin Correa put the host ahead after halftime, and Iago Aspas equalized by converting a penalty kick just minutes later. Aspas did not celebrate the goal out of respect to fans of his former club.

Sevilla dominated from the start and was pressuring vigorously in search of the winner, especially after Celta went a man down when midfielder Pablo Hernandez was sent off with a second yellow card in the 56th with the game 1-1.

Sergio Escudero and Nasri each struck the crossbar a few minutes apart late in the second half, and Vicente Iborra also had hit the woodwork earlier in the game played under steady rain in Seville.

It was the third win in four matches for Sevilla after a streak of five games without a win.

Sevilla and Atletico are level on points, but the Madrid club is ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Top PL Storylines: Bye-bye, St. Totteringham’s Day? So long, Sunderland?

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Ahead of Week 34 of the 2016-17 Premier League season, we’re most looking forward to keeping an eye on the following storylines…

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Cancel St. Totteringham’s Day?

8,018 days (otherwise known as 22.9 years) have passed since Tottenham Hotspur last finished above Arsenal in the Premier League. First of all, that’s a lot of days. Secondly, the time to reset that clock is nearly upon us, as Tottenham take a 14-point lead into Sunday’s North London derby (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) — perhaps the final one to be played at White Hart Lane. With Arsenal having only five games left to play after Sunday, a 17-point deficit would be mathematically impossible to overcome, and would guarantee Spurs’ first PL finish above Arsenal since the spring of 1995.

The fact that Spurs could end that embarrassing, heinous streak in a game against Arsenal, in perhaps their next-to-last game at White Hart Lane, and maybe even close to within a single point of Chelsea in the title race… it’s almost all too timely and too perfect to believe it could really happen… to Spurs.


Finish the job

With all due respect to Middlesbrough (home), West Bromwich Albion (away), Watford (home) and Sunderland (home), Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, where they’ve lost on their last two visits (all competitions) and they’ll take on seventh-place Everton (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com), is far and away the toughest remaining fixture on Chelsea’s schedule as they chase a fifth PL-era title (fifth in all eras). Having booked their spot in the FA Cup final by beating Spurs last weekend, Antonio Conte is dreaming of — and a favorite to win — a double in his first season at Stamford.


Someone has to finish top-four

Ahead of the weekend, two points separate Liverpool (third), Manchester City (fourth) and Manchester United (fifth), with Arsenal another four back in sixth (but possessing a game in hand). Given all the points dropped by each of the aforementioned sides in recent weeks, it’s important to remember that someone has to finish third and fourth in the PL this season.

We’ve already discussed Arsenal’s titanic task, so here’s the challenges facing the other three this round: Liverpool, at Watford (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com); Man City, at Middlesbrough (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, on  NBCSports.com); Manchester United, vs. Swansea City (7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com).


So long, Sunderland?

For five seasons now, Sunderland have flirted with relegation from the PL; and every previous season, they’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat and managed to stay up. This season, though, under David Moyes, there appears to be no rabbit. With five games to go, safety is a whopping 12 points away, which means a loss to Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSports.com), coupled with a win or draw by 17th-place Hull City, would officially send Sunderland to the Championship next season. If the Black Cats somehow find their way out of this predicament, a northeastern knighthood awaits Mr. Moyes.

French authorities investigating 2018, 2022 World Cup bids

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PARIS (AP) French financial prosecutors are investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and have heard former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

A person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Thursday that France’s financial prosecutor services (PNF) opened the investigation on grounds of private corruption, criminal association, influence peddling, and benefiting from influence peddling relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Blatter was questioned in Switzerland last week as a witness, the same person told the AP.

The office of the attorney general of Switzerland said in a statement that “at the request of and in the context of proceedings being conducted by French justice authorities, it has questioned Mr. Joseph Blatter in his capacity as a person providing information on the 20th April 2017 in Zurich.”

The PNF opened its investigation last year.

FIFA has also been targeted by investigations led by Swiss and US authorities. Last month, FIFA sent 1,300 pages of internal investigation reports into suspected bribery and corruption to Switzerland’s attorney general. The documents complete a 22-month probe by legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which FIFA retained in the fallout from United States and Swiss federal prosecutors revealing their sprawling investigations of soccer corruption in May 2015.

Blatter said last week that he met with U.S. Department of Justice investigators and insisted he was not a suspect in their bribery and corruption case linked to FIFA.

Blatter was suspended from office in September 2015 and later banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee.

Johannsson expected to leave Bremen this summer — is MLS next?

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Aron Johannsson’s time at Werder Bremen is all but finished, as the 26-year-old American-born, Icelandic-raised striker is expected to leave the club this summer after 22 months with Die Werderaner.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Having failed to make much of an impact during his second season in the Bundesliga, following a few promising days early in the fall of 2015, the German press stated on Thursday, in no uncertain terms, “Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club” — quotes from Kicker (translation courtesy of Google Translate):

In addition, Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club. The US boy was not able to get through the hard competition in the storm, claimed more time, which can hardly be guaranteed in the next season. The fact that Baumann is already talking about finding a meaningful solution with the striker in the summer can be interpreted as follows: Johannsson will leave Werder.

Since various bits and pieces are lost in the above translation, allow us to offer a translation of the translation: the “hard competition in the storm” refers to the three or four strikers presently ahead of him in the pecking order. Johannsson fell down the depth chart due in large part to a hip injury which cost him the final seven months of last season.

Johannsson was recently quoted as saying, “It’s not my desire to leave, but at the end of the day it’s important that I play. I love football, but I need to play to be happy.”

[ MORE: John Brooks hip injury is worrying ahead of World Cup qualifiers ]

So, what’s next for Johannsson?

He can probably forget about a move to a top-division team in any of Europe’s premier leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France). A move back to Holland, where he starred at AZ Alkmaar (39 goals in 81 games) before moving to Bremen, would make sense if his goal is to stay in Europe at all costs. Another strong season (just a half, even) could earn him another shot with a first-division side roughly the size of Bremen.

Then, there’s MLS, which Johannsson’s been linked with before, and has publicly expressed a desire to join one day. As a current U.S. national team player, a move to MLS would mean a trip through the league’s allocation order for Johannsson. As of this posting, the Houston Dynamo hold the no. 1 spot in the allocation order, with Columbus Crew SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Minnesota United and Orlando City SC rounding out the next five.

[ WATCH: If you haven’t Darlington Nagbe’s latest golazo ]

Any team in MLS could land Johannsson by acquiring the top spot in the allocation order, via trade, and agreeing (what would almost certainly be) a Designated Player contract with him.

At the age of 26, Johannsson will likely feel there is still something left for him to accomplish in Europe. A strong showing in this summer’s Gold Cup (he’s a perfect candidate for Bruce Arena’s “B-team”) could open plenty of eyes — and doors. Money talks, though, just as the opportunity to be the face of the franchise and score a boatload of goals in MLS might also do.