With somebody like Marco Di Vaio in the team, often all you have to do is keep it close. Today at Stade Saputo, that basic formula came good for Montréal, a team that carried a seven-game losing streak into today’s visit from Chicago. Thanks to an 82nd minute finish from the Italian veteran, Frank Klopas’s team is back in the win column for the first time June 30, defeating Chicago, 1-0.
It was a game where the lack of action overshadowed what the teams did on the field, perhaps unsurprising given the seven combined wins (in 44 games) they brought into the match. At halftime, the teams had yet to register a shot on target and may have ended scoreless had it not been for a poor 82nd minute clearance from Razvan Cocis. In the right place at the right time, Di Vaio beat Sean Johnson from just inside the top of the penalty area, ending seven weeks of futility for Montréal.
For Chicago, it’s the latest in a collection of alarming results, with July 24th’s 5-1 loss at San Jose the first hint things were going from inept to disheartening. Wednesday’s 6-0, U.S. Open Cup loss rekindled that sentiment, but today’s defeat in Quebec may be worst result yet. Montréal is the worst team in the league, didn’t play particularly well, yet still claimed victory over Chicago.
Though the Fire are still within reach of the playoffs, the team appears to have taken a step back from last year’s product. Now 385 minutes without a goal from open play in MLS, Chicago’s attack has regressed, leaving it as problematic as Frank Yallop’s troublesome defense. Today, the two conspired to sink the team to another low.
At some point, it will be time to draw some conclusions about Yallop’s stewardship. With the postseason still a possibility, now doesn’t seem the time, but if the team can’t show improvement over its last 11 games, owner Andrew Hauptman will need to consider whether last offseason’s upheaval didn’t send the club in the wrong direction.
One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.
Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.
At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.
That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:
HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.
AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.
I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.
In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”
HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.
I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.
Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.
The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.
John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.
That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.
Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.
The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.