KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 14: Dom Dwyer #14 of Sporting KC celebrates after scoring against the Philadelphia Union during the game at Sporting Park on May 14, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas.

MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 4-1 Toronto FC

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTdzR-Unhp0]

One game, 100 words (or less): What began as an opportunity for Toronto to join the race at the top of the Eastern Conference turned into a reminder: The Reds are not on Sporting Kansas City’s level. In the first half, that reminder was obscured by two penalty calls that went Sporting’s way, allowing the defending champions to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. Over the final 45 minutes, the control that’s become characteristic of Peter Vermes’s team wore down the Reds, allowing the home side to claim a 4-1 result.

Goals:

Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer (18′ p.k., 33′ p.k.), Soony Saad (64′), C.J. Sapong (77′)

Toronto: Gilberto (45′)

Three moments that mattered:

33′ –  Drawing the call – Go to ground in the penalty area, and you’re taking a chance, if you’re a defender. You’re giving the referee an out, something a savvy attacker can exploit.

That’s exactly what happened in the 33rd minute. With Toronto having already giving up a goal from the spot, Doniel Henry went down in front of Dom Dwyer, and while the initial move didn’t draw contact, the Sporting attacker made sure Drew Fischer was left with a difficult call.

Moments later, Sporting was up, 2-0.

45′ – Reason for hope – Benny Feilhaber is one of the best middle-of-the-park distributors in Major League Soccer, but just before halftime, the former U.S. international looked like one of us. Scuffing a pass inside his own half, Feilhaber allowed Collen Warner to put Dominic Oduro behind the defense. Moments later, Gilberto’s near post run allowed the Reds to cut their deficit in half moments before intermission.

66′ – The inevitable – The early moments of the second half reminded us why Sporting is one of the league’s best teams with a lead. Between their quality in defense and ability to control the ball, Kansas City is more capable than most of seeing out a one-goal game.

Mid-way through the second half, that ability went from defining to irrelevant. After a Graham Zusi corner was cleared to the edge of the penalty area, Soony Saad put his second goal of the season into the right side netting, quelling any hope a second KC mistake could pull Toronto back even.

Lineups

Sporting KC: Jon Kempin; Igor Julião, Aurèlien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum, Benny Feilhaber (Jorge Claros 73′), Graham Zusi; Soony Saad, Dom Dwyer (Claudio Bieler 80;), Sal Zizzo (C.J. Sapong 64′)

Toronto: Joe Bendik; Jackson, Nick Hagglund, Doniel Henry, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro (Daniel Lovitz 74′), Michael Bradley (Kyle Bekker 84′), Collen Warner, Jonathan Osario; Gilberto, Luke Moore (Bright Dike 78′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Toronto wasn’t, isn’t this bad – Sporting was the better team, no doubt, but don’t look too deep into this final score. There was a certain momentum to the second half, one that belied the competitive nature of the first half hour. In the face of two penalties, Toronto may have thought the game was taken from them (players are never that rational about penalties). From that perspective, tonight’s result was a bit aberrational.

2. Best job in MLS: Goalkeeper for SKC – Jon Kempin’s first Major League Soccer start was ultimately a successful one, but just as we saw when Andy Greunebaum, Eric Kronberg, and Jimmy Neilsen have been in goal, being Sporting’s number one has its perks. Between the team’s possession and the play of Collin and Besler, Sporting keeps those shots on target low. Tonight, Kempin only faced three.

3. Wanted: Right backs – Toronto pressed Jackson into service at fullback tonight, a decision that backfired when the Brazilian midfielder conceded the game’s first penalty. Mark Bloom is approaching a return, but in its first choice’s absence, Toronto has had trouble finding reliable solutions at right back.

Where this leaves them:

  • The win moves Kansas City to the top of the Supporters’ Shield case, with tiebreakers giving them the edge on Real Salt Lake, who also has 42 points.
  • Toronto stays third in the East, now only two points up on the victorious Crew.

Report: French outfit Nice interested in adding Liverpool’s Balotelli

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 14:  Mario Balotelli of AC Milan looks on during the Serie A match between AC Milan and AS Roma at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 14, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
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Mario Balotelli could soon have a new home, according to the BBC’s Phil McNulty.

The mercurial Italian striker, 26, has one league goal in each of his last two seasons (spent between Liverpool and AC Milan).

Jurgen Klopp is ready for Balotelli to find a home away from Anfield and McNulty says that place could be OGC Nice, where he’d join newly-signed ex-Bayern man Dante. Balotelli also had talks with Sion in Switzerland, according to the report.

The striker was a blazing hot commodity after scoring 17 goals for Manchester City in 2011-12, and again after netting 18 for AC Milan in 2013-14.

Balotelli has 13 goals in 33 caps for Italy, but hasn’t appeared for the national team since 2014.

Report: West Ham lands Zaza from Juventus for $32 million

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07: Simone Zaza of Juventus in action during the Pre-Season Friendly between West Ham United and Juventus at The Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
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After months and months of trying to land a big name striker, it seems West Ham has done just that.

David Amoyal of DiMarzio says that Juventus striker Simone Zaza is on his way to the London Stadium for a medical which will seal a $32 million transfer to West Ham.

[ MORE: Chelsea adds EURO champion ]

Zaza, 25, made his name as Sassuolo before moving to Juve last season, and forced his way into the national team. He has 14 caps with one goal, but is perhaps better remembered at this point for missing a penalty — with a creative run-up —  in Italy’s final EURO game.

The striker had been linked with West Ham as far back as this time last season.

This move should help insure the Hammers avoid too many goalless outcome moving forward, even with Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew out for a while.

That’ll be music to Slaven Bilic‘s ears. The manager said, “The disappointment is massive” after his side couldn’t break down Astra Giurgiu and dropped out of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

Chelsea adds No. 2 goalkeeper from Portugal’s EURO winning squad

LISBON, PORTUGAL - JULY 11: Portuguese goalkeeper Eduardo  during the meeting with the countries President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for the Portugal Euro 2016 Victory ceremonies at Lisbon on July 11, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images
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Chelsea have added some depth at the very back.

Eduardo’s the name, and the 33-year-old Portuguese backstop arrives at Stamford Bridge with a decent resume, having been on the roster for his country’s EURO 2016 triumph.

[ MORE: Stambouli, Bentaleb reunited ]

USMNT fans will remember him from his time between the sticks for Portugal at the 2014 World Cup. He has 35 caps, and has been with Dinamo Zagreb since 2014.

From ChelseaFC.com:

‘All the colleagues I have always say the dream is to come to the Premier League, where there are the best clubs and the best players, and the opportunity to come here arrived at this moment.

‘I am happy to be here and I hope I meet the expectations people have for me.’

Eduardo certainly won’t be taking over for Thibaut Courtois, but will definitely provide competition for No. 2 Asmir Begovic.

UEFA Europa roundup: West Ham bounced by Astra Giurgiu; Genk, Gent, Anderlecht roll on

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Angelo Ogbonna of West Ham and Takayuki Seto of FC Astra Giurgiu battle for possesion during the UEFA Europa League match between West Ham United and FC Astra Giurgiu at the Olympic Stadium on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)
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West Ham dominated the game but not the score line against Romanian side Astra Giurgiu, who advanced to the UEFA Europa League group stage with a 1-0 win at London Stadium on Thursday.

Well-traveled French midfielder Filipe Teixeira did the damage for Astra Giurgiu, as the former West Brom and Barnsley man scored in the 45th minute to give the visitors a 2-1 lead on aggregate after the sides went 1-1 in Romania last week.

The Irons carried possession and a wealth of shots, but couldn’t find their way past Romanian international goalkeeper Silviu Lung, Jr.

[ MORE: Stambouli, Bentaleb reunited at Schalke ]

Sassuolo star Domenico Berardi scored in a 1-1 draw with Red Star Belgrade, completing a 4-1 score line.

Elsewhere, a hat trick from Slovan Liberec’s Jan Sykora led the Czech side to a 3-0 second leg win, and 4-0 aggregate defeat of Cypriot side AEK Larnaca.

Gent got a pair of goals from giant Malian striker Kalifa Coulibaly as the Belgians completed a 6-1 aggregate win over Shkendija.

Full scoreboard
West Ham United 0-1 (agg. 1-2) Astra Giurgiu
Astana 2-2 (agg. 4-2) BATE Borisov
Arouca 1-2 (agg. 1-3) Olympiacos
Midtjylland 0-3 (agg. 0-4) Osmanlispor
Trencin 2-0 (agg. 0-4) Rapid Wien
Lokomotiva 0-2 (agg. 2-4) Genk
AEK Larnaca 0-3 (agg. 0-4) Slovan Liberec
Dinamo Tbilisi 0-2 (agg. 0-5) PAOK
Austria Wien 2-1 (agg. 4-2) Rosenborg
Beitar Jerusalem 0-0 (agg. 1-2) Saint-Etienne
Vojvodina 0-0 (agg. 0-3) AZ Alkmaar
Gabala 0-1 (agg. 3-2) Maribor
Slavia Prague 0-3 (agg. 0-6) Anderlecht
Fenerbahce 2-0 (agg. 3-0) Grasshopper
Panathinaikos 1-1 (agg. 4-1) Brondby
Krasnodar 0-0 (agg. 4-0) Partizani Tirana
Gent 4-0 (agg. 6-1) Shkendija
Istanbul Basaksehir 0-2 (agg. 1-4) Shakhtar Donetsk
SonderjyskE 2-3 (agg. 2-3) Sparta Prague
Sassuolo 1-1 (agg. 4-1) Red Star Belgrade
Goteborg 0-3 (agg. 1-3) Qarabag
Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-2 (agg. 3-3) Hajduk Split