MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 2-1 Colorado Rapids

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PORTLAND, Ore. —

One game, 100 words (or less): Poor marking on an early corner kick allowed Deshorn Brown and the visiting Rapids to claim the early lead, an edge they’d hold through halftime.

Despite Portland controlled play coming out of the locker rooms, but it took 27 minutes for that control to pay off. After Will Johnson cut through the Colorado defense with a 72nd minute pass for Jack Jewsbury, the Portland right back was able to find Maxi Urruti near-post, setting up the equalizing goal.

Five minutes later, another Argentine snatched took full points for the home team, with Diego Valeri’s 26-yard shot into Clint Irwin’s upper-left corner giving the Timbers a 2-1 win at Providence Park.

Goals:

Portland: Urruti 72′, Valeri 77′
Colorado: Brown 16′

Three moments that mattered:

16′ – Cashing in on chaos – Left unmarked by Fanendo Adi on a corner kick, Drew Moor’s header creates chaos in front of goal – a maelstrom that eventually comes good for the Rapids. Getting his foot to a ball that barely crosses the line, Deshorn Brown sends the first assistant’s flag in the air, putting the visitors in front.

source: Getty Images
Deshorn Brown’s early goal gave Colorado a lead in Portland, but an off-the-ball injury forced Pablo Mastroeni to pull him in Friday’s first half. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

72′ – A rare glimpse of Porterball – It was the type of goal implied in the name Porterball, a moniker Portland’s head coach abhors, yet when Johnson played a perfectly timed diagonal through the right of Colorado’s defense, the movement and possession the Timbers try to leverage finally paid off. Cutting a ball back from the byline to the near post, Jewsbury found Urruti, who lifted the ball over Irwin to make it 1-1.

77′ – Valeri’s payoff – During the first half, before Portland came into the game, there was one Timber who was already clicking on all cylinders. Then again, that’s a description you could apply to almost any Timbers games this season. On Friday, Valeri took his chance to step into the spotlight, making his All-Star case with a 26-yard bomb that delivered two extra points.

Lineups:

Portland: Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Danny O’Rourke, Liam Ridgewell, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Will Johnson; Darlington Nagbe (Rodney Wallace 90′), Diego Valeri, Steve Zakuani (Gastón Fernández 61′); Fanendo Adi (Maxi Urruti 61′)
Colorado: Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Thomas Piermayr; Dillon Serna, José Mari, Jared Watts, Dillon Powers; Dillon Serna (Kamani Hill 83′), Marlon Harrison (Gabriel Torres 65′), Carlos Alvarez; Deshorn Brown (Danny Mwanga 24′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Portland takes itself off life support – There would have been huge symbolic meaning if Colorado came into Providence Park, converted an early corner, and held out for full points. Between the poor marking and an inability to break through an opponent’s block, the night would have checked off all the “These Are Your 2014 Timbers” tropes.

source: AP
Diego Valeri’s fourth goal of the season was Friday’s game winning, moving the Timbers up one place in the Western Conference. (Source: AP.)

Instead, Valeri’s goal allowed Portland to claim a vital win, and while there are still 14 games left in their season, another competitive race in the middle of the West makes intra-conference points all the more valuable.

2. Losing Deshorn Brown hurt – Even before his goal, Brown was causing problems for the Timbers’ defense. Whether it was running across Danny O’Rourke for an early chance or pulling Liam Ridgewell wide, the Colorado striker was his normal, attention-drawing self.

When he had to leave the game half-way through the first half, the Rapids turned to Danny Mwanga (not Gabriel Torres, who’s still unable to win more time from Pablo Mastroeni). The former top pick had a decent night, but he’s no Deshorn Brown.

Without the Jamaican’s threat up top (and without the suspended Vicente Sánchez), Colorado lost their way, putting only one shot on target in the second half. If Brown’s out of a prolonged period of time, Pablo Mastroeni will have to re-think how his team operates going forward.

3. Liam Ridgewell: So far, so good – It spoke to the depths Portland has sunk: A defender being praised for merely doing his job. That Ridgewell, after one week’s training, was able to do that could be a huge boost to the Timbers. Portland’s spent a whole season searching for someone who can do the basics in the middle

Asked about his performance post-match, head coach Caleb Porter alluded to a late match block on Dillon Powers, with Ridgewell standing his ground at the top of the box before meeting the ball. Porter explained it wasn’t glamorous but emphasized the importance of the little things. He may not have stood out, but Ridgewell was getting those little things done.

Though he’s a Designated Player, Portland only needs “decent” from its new center back for its defense to improve. Nights with 62 percent possession can do the rest.

What this leaves them:

  • With the win, the Timbers leap over Chivas USA to claim seventh in the West, leaving them two points behind fifth place.
  • Had the 1-0 held up, Colorado would have temporarily moved second. Instead they remain tied for third with the Galaxy, one point behind Real Salt Lake.

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

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Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.

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.