MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 3-1 Montréal Impact

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One game, 100 words (or less): A well-worked 31st minute goal for Hassoun Camara gave Montréal a chace to destroy the narrative, but come full-time, this was a typical Real Salt Lake performance. Control without dominance, pragmatism without panache, RSL took the three points they were expected to claim, and while a home win over the Impact has become obligatory, the simple precision of their restrained display hinted last year’s heights are still within reach. Thanks to a second half double from Olmes Garcia, RSL won, 3-1, but had Javier Morales proved more clinical, the two-goal gap could have been more.

Goals:

Real Salt Lake: Mulholland 3′, Garcia 70′, 90+3′
Montréal: Camara 31′

Three Four moments that mattered:

59′ – Garcia comes on for Findley – In the first move of the night, RSL puts the young Colombian on for Robbie Findley, who’s still trying to work his way back to full match fitness. The move seems obligatory, and it’s hard think a player who has zero goals this season can turn this match, but it’s only moments before Garcia is in position to break the 1-1.

61′ – Evan Bush saves Montréal? – The score is even, but early in the second half, the next RSL goal feels inevitable. Yet with a quick move across his goal, Evan Bush gives Montréal reason to think they can outlast RSL. In position after Chris Wingert’s ball across the top of the six finds Morales near the far post, Bush made the initial save before keeping himself alive for a kick save on Garcia’s followup. For a moment, it looks like the Impact can survive.

65′ – Issey’s a poor Nigel de Jong – This could have been one of the worst tackles of the year, but given Chris Schuler got up and walked off the field, we can judge it on a different level and note: If Issey Nakajima-Farran really was trying to be the next Nigel de Jong, he’s got it all wrong. His jump, shin-high, was far too low. Pulling back at the last second, his leg is not even aiming for Schuler’s chest. It’s almost as if he realized something was about to go horribly, tragically wrong.

Yeah, he got dismissed, but if he was trying for one of the more memorable tackles in league history, he thankfully came up short:

70′ – Garcia breaks through – Over his year-plus with RSL, Garcia has shown a  proficiency with his head, but with no goals thus far this season, that proficiency has been absent through the first half of the season. In the 70th minute, however, the Colombian’s snap header far post off a ball from the right gave RSL the lead, an advantage he’d double three minutes into stoppage time with his second of the season.

Lineups:

Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert; Luke Mulholland (Cole Grossman 83′), Kyle Beckerman; Ned Grabavoy; Javier Morales (John Stertzer 94′); João Plata, Robbie Findley (Olmes Garcia 59′)
Montréal: Evan Bush; Hassoun Camara, Matteo Ferrari, Heath Pearce, Krzysztof Krol; Andres Romero, Callum Mallace (Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé 62;), Patrice Bernier, Issey Nakajima-Farran; Felipe Martins (Justin Mapp 62′); Marco Di Vaio (Jack McInerney 77′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Boosts for RSL – Robbie Findley isn’t an All-Star, but for a team looking for a way to survive without Álvaro Saborío, his return to full strength could be a significant boost. Tonight moved the former U.S. international one step closer. Off the bench, García picked up the slack, giving RSL fans hope last year’s dangerman could emerge in the second half of the season.

2. Performing to reputation – RSL is known for its diamond midfield, but to this point in the season, that midfield had yet to impose itself on matches, a lack of control reflected in the teams possession and shots (and, shots allowed) numbers. On Thursday, the team held 62 percent of the ball and put 11 shots on target to Montréal’s two. Yeah, it was Montréal, but you have to start somewhere.

3. Even on bad nights – A first half chance at the left post. A second half chance at the right. Javier Morales had two chances to get on the scoresheet, but each time, the Argentine couldn’t craft a goal. On the surface, it seemed like a difficult night.

Then you look up, and the RSL playmaker finished the night with two assists, setting up the tying and winning goals. While RSL might have blown out Montréal on Morales’s good nights, they still managed a controlled, steady performance. And even amid his imperfection, Morales managed two assists.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

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Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.