Dominic Oduro was the game's dominant force, but Sporting Kansas Cty was able to take full points out of BMO. (Credit: Chris Young/Canadian Press/AP.)

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 1-2 Sporting Kansas City

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHnV8nueLNg]

One game, 100 words (or less): An impressive first half from the home team saw the Reds reach intermission with a one-goal, Jackson having opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Though Graham Zusi equalized just after halftime, the speed of Dominic Oduro (who set up the opening goal) constantly threatened to tilt the game in TFC’s favor.

That threat left Seth Sinovic injured, Igor Julião on a yellow, and Matt Besler dismissed after two infractions, but Sporting responded to its captain’s dismissal with a goal in the 80th minute, with Jacob Peterson giving the East’s leaders an unlikely 2-1 win in Toronto.

Goals

Toronto: Jackson 16′
Sporting KC: Zusi 48′, Peterson 80′

Three moments that mattered:

48′ – Zusi gets time to equalize – Toronto was the better team in the first half, with its quality also evident through most of the second. Just after intermission, however, that quality abandoned them as chaos in front of a poorly positioned Joe Bendik created an opening for Zusi. Just inside the penalty box, the U.S. international was given time to move the ball onto his right foot before finishing into an abandoned goal, nullifying all the good Toronto did before halftime.

75′ – Foul or no foul on Matt Besler? – I vote foul, but check out the highlights, above, and judge for yourself. Also, know that Sporting Kansas City had become desperate in their attempts to stop Dominic Oduro. Julião, with outstretched arm, had already desperately pulled him down, while Besler had earned a yellow for taking him down while trying to cover on the left.

So when I see Besler turn his shoulder toward Oduro and try to take him out, I don’t have much sympathy. Oduro’s theatrics while avoiding contract don’t change the bottom line: Besler still obstructed him, preventing him from following through on his chance. Given the cynical nature of the technique, I have no problem with the card.

source: AP
Dominic Oduro was the game’s dominant force, but Sporting Kansas Cty was able to take full points out of BMO. (Credit: Chris Young/Canadian Press/AP.)

80′ – Deflection, Dwyer help Peterson doom Toronto – Sometimes the breaks conspire against you, but when you’re playing 11-on-10, you can’t let breaks decide a game. Just because a cross into the penalty area deflects to Peterson, and some nice footwork from Dom Dwyer’s required to create a chance, you can’t have pity on Toronto. Up a man, and generally the better side throughout the night, the Reds shouldn’t have let Peterson’s right-footed finish doom them to defeat.

Lineups

Toronto: Joe Bednik; Nick Hagglund, Bradley Orr (Dwayne De Rosario 82′), Doniel Henry, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro, Collen Warner (Jonathan Osorio 80′), Michael Bradley, Jackson; Luke Moore, Gilberto
Sporting KC: Andy Gruenebaum; Igor Julião, Matt Besler, Aurèlien Collin, Seth Sinovic (Kevin Ellis 55′); Laurence Olu, Benny Feilhaber, Mikey Lopez (Jacob Peterson 77′); Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong (Soony Saad 71′), Dom Dwyer

Three Four lessons going forward:

1. Wherefore art thou, Michael Bradley – Stop me if this sound familiar: It’s not that Bradley was bad, it’s just that he wasn’t Michael Bradley. Yeah, it’s the World Cup refrain, I know, but it was still true. As good as Toronto was in the first half, it was because of strong work from Oduro and Jackson, good movement from Gilberto and Luke Moore, and the efforts Collen Warner did in the middle. As dominant as Bradley was in March, he’s been pretty average this summer.

2. And about Warner (or, more specifically, Toronto’s kicks) – Imported from Montréal, Warner is playing as well as he did in Salt Lake, but it is really worth it to give him this time when it could be used to develop Osorio or Kyle Bekker? Both players have done well this year, and while Ryan Nelsen surely knows more about those options than we do, it’s strange to see a defense that features Doneil Henry, Bradley Orr, and Nick Hagglund unwilling to give kids the benefit of the doubt in the middle.

3. Sporting wins a possible conference final – Not offense, D.C. United, but if you faced Toronto in the playoffs, I’m picking the Reds (potentially foolish, given the result of the teams’ most-recent meeting). So if Saturday was a preview of the Eastern Conference final, you have to give credit to Sporting, who overcame a strong Toronto performance and a red card to get a result.

In the short-term, the win increases their buffer in the East. In the long view, the result gives Sporting something to fall back on should they visit BMO in November.

4. Dominic Oduro was (and could be) huge for Toronto – Had Toronto won the game, you’d say Oduro defined the match (he was fouled 8 times, set up four shots, drew three cards and got the opponent’s best player dismissed). That he didn’t only underscores Sporting’s resilience.

Still, for a team that prefers a more conservative approach, Toronto may have found the perfect fit. Just kick Oduro the ball, let him beat his man, and don’t worry about having to commit players forward. Out wide, isolated on full backs, he’s an attack onto himself.

Where this leaves them:

  • Toronto remains third in the East, albeit 12 points back of Sporting KC.
  • With D.C. entertaining Fulham, Sporting’s four clear in the East. And thanks to a big edge in the games played column, they’re even with Seattle in the Supporter’s Shield.

What lies ahead for USMNT in January camp?

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Bruce Arena’s reign as the new U.S. national team head coach is well under way and the veteran seems to be enjoying his second stint in charge after 10 years away.

[ MORE: Europe’s 100 most valuable ]

The USMNT have been training in Carson, Calif. over the past five days and a pretty cool behind-the-scenes video of the opening day of training was released by U.S. Soccer (see above) to show how Arena has been getting on.

With 31 players currently in camp, Arena is enjoying himself (banter with DaMarcus Beasley and waxing lyrical about Jermaine Jones says as much) but he already has one eye on the two crucial 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama coming up in March.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news

This camp will be key for the MLS-heavy contingent, with the likes of Chad Marshall, Benny Feilhaber, Dax McCarty and Juan Agudelo getting another chance to impress for the Stars and Stripes. So many youngsters have emerged from these camps in the past, with Kekuta Manneh, Keegan Rosenberry and Walker Zimmerman just some of the young talent looking to not only make their debuts but also become regulars in the USMNT setup.

Veterans Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi and others are all around and ready to prove their worth to the new boss too.

Below is a quick look at what lies ahead for his team during January camp (and beyond) as they prepare for two friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica to tune themselves up for the World Cup qualifiers when the European contingent will join the squad.


Training

  • Jan. 11-28 – Carson, Calif.

Friendlies 

  • Jan. 29 – Serbia in San Diego, Calif.
  • Feb. 3 – Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tenn.

2018 World Cup qualifiers

  • Mar. 24 – vs. Honduras in San Jose, Calif.
  • Mar. 28 – at Panama in Panama City

Study reveals Europe’s 100 most valuable players

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur (L) celebrates scoring his sides fourth goal with Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur (R) during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on January 14, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Wait, what?

[ MORE: Title race over for City? ]

A study from the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES) has slapped valuations on Europe’s top stars and both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo aren’t the most valuable.

Hmm.

The guys over at the Football Observatory, the soccer arm of CIES, always do a great job with these kind of studies and below you will find who they’ve ranked as the 100 most valuable players in Europe’s top five leagues.

CIES take players’ performance on the pitch, contract length, age and many other factors into place when ranking them and in the extensive study 10 Premier League clubs have players included as stars from Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur feature.

In total, 38 PL players are in the top 100.

Neymar is the most valuable player in Europe as the Barcelona star has a valuation of $261.5 million, which puts him way ahead of Lionel Messi who sits in second place with a value of $180.6 million.In third place is Manchester United’s Paul Pogba who has a value of $164.5 million, while Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez round out the top five.

Below is the top 100 list in full, courtesy of CIES, with their club, age and when their current contract runs out listed.

Do you agree with their valuations?


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Too early for Guardiola to concede Premier League title?

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Pep Guardiola suffered his worst-ever league defeat as a manager on Sunday as Manchester City were hammered 4-0 at Everton in the Premier League.

Post-game he was understandably glum.

[ MORE: Klopp slams United ]

Guardiola even appeared to concede the Premier League title, as the preseason favorites for the crown have now fallen 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go.

When asked if City’s title hopes were over after a fifth defeat of the season, the Spaniard’s answer was emphatic.

“Yes. Ten is a lot of points,” Guardiola said. “The second one [Tottenham] is three points. We have to see. I spoke to my players the last three weeks or a month, forget about the table. Focus on the next game and try to do our best to win the games and after that at the end of the season we are going to evaluate how our level and performance was — how was the coach, how was the players and after we are going to decide.”

It seems like Guardiola has already decided that the title race is over for City, but has he thrown in the towel too early?

With just five points separating second-place Tottenham with sixth-place Manchester United, it appears City’s primary focus will now be to finish in the top four as a mammoth battle ensues in the final third of the season.

Yet, we have seen some miraculous comebacks from teams in the past to win the title. These stats could give Pep hope.

In the 1997-98 season, Arsenal were 12 points behind United after 21 games of the season (United had played a game more) but roared back to win the PL by one point. And of course, City’s two PL crowns came courtesy of stunning late surges in the season with thanks to Sergio Aguero’s magic on the final day in 2011-12 and then Liverpool’s collapse in the closing weeks of 2013-14.

Pep, don’t lost the faith. It can be done.

However, if City lose to Tottenham next weekend and Chelsea extend their lead over Pep’s boys to 13 points by beating Hull City, it is curtains.

Such is the dominance of the big boys this season, City pretty much have to go unbeaten for the rest of the season to have a shot at winning the PL. Given their recent defensive displays that seems unlikely.

We all know Pep is an idealist when it comes to how he wants his team to play but now we are seeing he is a realist too.

Conte urges players “money is not everything” amid Costa rumors

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on January 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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While new reports are suggesting that China will have to curb its massive spending, Antonio Conte has urged his players that they don’t have to be tempted by the Chinese Super League.

[ MORE: United, Liverpool finish level after late Ibrahimovic equalizer ]

Chelsea currently sits atop the Premier League — seven points clear of Tottenham and Liverpool — but the club has recently been at the center of controversy as star striker Diego Costa has been linked with a move away from the club.

[ MORE: CSL set to limit number of foreign players per team ]

Costa missed his side’s 3-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday after several outlets reported a rift between the Spaniard and Conte.

The Chelsea manager told reporters following the match that Costa wasn’t available due to a back injury he suffered in training, but there has been continued speculation that the 28-year-old could head to China.

Conte has made it clear to his squad though that the quality of competition in England supersedes the money offered abroad.

“The money is not everything,” Conte told reporters. “When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased.

“I think we are a great club and it is a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason I don’t see [China] as a threat for my players.

The Blues have lost a number of high-profile players over recent seasons to the high spending of Chinese football, including Brazilian duo Oscar and Ramires, as well as John Obi Mikel.

Oscar departed Chelsea this month to join Shanghai SIPG for a reported $72 million.

“I have to look at the past,” Conte said. “Oscar played with us, had a good offer from China and he went.

“But this league is really competitive and every player wants to come and play in this league.

“This league is the first in the world because of a lot of positive things, so I don’t think these offers from China are a threat for our league.”