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.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”