MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 3-0 Toronto FC

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJjIdK5HA4Q]

One game, 100 words (or less): The teams may be next to each other in the Eastern Conference standings, but Wednesday at RFK Stadium, D.C. United and Toronto were worlds apart. Though United generated fewer chances on the night, their play in the final third proved more efficient, with an early score and a strong night from Bill Hamid allowing them to complete a July double over Toronto.

With goals from Eddie Johnson, Chris Rolfe, and Nick Hagglund (own goal), the Black and Red took a convincing 3-0 win from Toronto, closing their gap with Sporting Kansas City atop the Eastern Conference.

Goals:

D.C. United: Johnson 8′, Rolfe 59′, Hagglund (o.g.) 67′
Toronto FC: None.

Three moments that mattered:

8′ – E.J. with No. 4 – This is the type of goal D.C. may have imagined when they committed Designated Player money to Eddie Johnson. On a ball in from the right, Johnson gets in front of newly acquired Warren Creavalle, meeting Perry Kitchen’s cross to finish into the left of goal. Moments after Dominic Oduro missed a chance to open the scoring, D.C. had its opener, the “E.J.” providing more reason to believe he’s heating up.

46′ – Hamid comes up big on Moore – Strong saves on Luke Moore and Oduro make Bill Hamid a big part of United’s first half success, but early in Wednesday’s second half, the D.C. goalkeeper was called on to make his biggest save of the night. Put behind the United defense by Jermain Defoe, Moore had a chance to equalize from six yards Too casual, perhaps not anticipating Hamid would read the play so well, Moore ended up playing the ball into the oncoming keeper, failing to convert what would have been a game-tying goal.

67′ – Own goal ends hope – Nick DeLeon was involved in D.C.’s last two scores, but it was his part in the third that ended Toronto’s hopes. Coming in from the right flank, DeLeon moved through Toronto’s defense before putting a shot on Bendik. Though the Reds’ keeper got a hand on it, rookie Nick Hagglund’s attempted clearance ended up in his own goal, giving D.C. its insurmountable lead.

Lineups:

D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud (Jared Jeffrey 82′), Chris Rolfe (Conor Doyle 74′); Luis Silva (Lewis Neal 69′), Eddie Johnson
Toronto FC: Joe Bendik; Warren Creavalle, Bradley Orr (Daniel Lovitz 65′), Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro (Jonathan Osorio 65′), Collen Warner, Michael Bradley, Jackson; Luke Moore, Jermain Defoe (Gilberto 73′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Toronto may not have another gear – We remember their start, we look at their talent, and we think the Reds can another level, but after the last two performances against United, Toronto doesn’t look like a team ready to compete with the East’s top two.

2. The potential of Eddie Johnson – The numbers still aren’t great, but Johnson’s playing better, and with his early goal against Toronto, he gave D.C. fans reason to think their team can still get better. While you can chalk his opener up to a poor night from Warren Creavalle, Johnson’s value is in a versatility that allows him to take advantage of mismatches across the defense. If he starts converting more of the chances those match ups allow, D.C. won’t have to play out as many close games.

3. All-Star Bill Hamid – When Caleb Porter’s selections were announced, we (read: I) intimated a few goalkeepers were having similar seasons, but Hamid’s selection was a decent reward for a strong D.C. defense. On Wednesday, Hamid flashed a true All-Star’s form, making eight saves while leading United to their 11th win of the season.

Where this leaves them:

  • With 37 points, D.C. is only one point back of Sporting Kansas City in the East. They’re also one point back in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
  • And with the loss, Toronto stays in third place, albeit 11 points back of second place United.

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.