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

[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.


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.


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.

Europa League: Manchester United thumps Fenerbahce, Zenit avoids upset

Manchester United's Paul Pogba, left, celebrates scoring his sides third goal with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, during the Europa League Group A soccer match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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Goals, goals, goals and several red cards dotted the landscape of Europa League football on Thursday.

Premier League teams saw mixed results despite controlling performances, while the day avoided a single 0-0 result.

Manchester United 4-1 Fenerbahce

United moved atop Group A, level on points with Feyenoord, after a fairly comprehensive home win.

Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils got a pair of deserved penalty kicks in the first 34 minutes, as Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial converted chances to make it 2-0.

Pogba scored a really nice goal from distance off a Jesse Lingard feed before halftime to put it out of reach, and then Lingard struck just after the break to make it entirely academic at Old Trafford.

Robin Van Persie did score upon this return to Manchester, and the fans gave his announced goal a warm cheer.

Inter Milan 1-0 SouthamptonRECAP

Saints were the better team on the day, but Antonio Candreva scored the lone goal as the hosts gave Southampton its first setback of this Europa League season in front of 7,000-plus traveling fans.

Dundalk 1-2 Zenit Saint Petersburg

The Lilywhites looked ready to leap atop the Group D table for a while, an achievement that would feel a bit like Leicester on PEDs.

The opening goal came from Robbie Benson in the 52nd minute, but Robert Mak equalized for Zenit in the 71st before Giuliano put the Russians ahead six minutes later.

The Irish semi-pro side is now 1-1-1 in group play and remains the first club from the republic to score a goal in a group stage or higher European when they drew at AZ Alkmaar.

Dundalk then became the first Irish side to win a European group stage match when it toppled Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-0 at the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Take this moment to salute their performances, even with a loss on Thursday.

Celta Vigo 2-2 Ajax
Standard Liege 2-2 Panathinaikos
Konyaspor 1-1 Sporting Braga
Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 KAA Gent
RB Salzburg 0-1 Nice
Krasnodar 0-1 Schalke
Steaua Bucuresti 1-1 Zurich
Osmanlispor 2-2 Villarreal
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 0-1 Sparta Prague
Slovan Liberec 1-3 Fiorentina
Qarabag 2-0 PAOK Salonika

Feyenoord 1-0 Zorya Luhansk
Young Boys 3-1 Apoel Nicosia
Olympiakos 4-1 Astana
Mainz 1-1 Anderlecht
Saint-Etienne 1-0 Qabala
AZ Alkmaar 1-2 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Roma 3-3 Austria Wien
Viktoria Plzen 1-2 Astra Giurgiu
Genk 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Rapid Wien 1-1 Sassuolo


Premier League and NBC Sports Group hosted at U.S. Embassy event in London

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The Premier League and NBC Sports Group were recognized today at a U.S. Embassy event in London.

The event, held at Winfield House, the residence of Ambassador Matthew Barzun, celebrated the growth of the Premier League in the United States, highlighted by NBC Sports Group’s innovative coverage and promotion of the league.

Attendees included Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, and NBC Sports Group’s U.K.-based Premier League announce team of Arlo White, Lee Dixon and Graeme LeSaux.

Ambassador Barzun introduced Scudamore and Jon Miller (President of Programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN) at the top of the program.

“We are honoured to represent NBC Sports inside the hallowed halls of Winfield House,” said White, who moderated a Q&A at the event. “We thoroughly enjoy bringing the excitement of the Premier League to fans in the United States, and are thrilled that we are playing a prominent role in growing the game stateside.”

As the exclusive U.S. home of the Premier League since August 2013, NBC Sports Group’s presentation of the Premier League has reached nearly 30 million American viewers in each of its three full seasons as the league’s exclusive U.S. home – more than double the U.S. audience in any year prior.

WATCH: Pogba puts Europa League match to bed for Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Anthony Martial #11 of Manchester United is cogratulated by teammate Paul Pogba after scoring his team's second goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Manchester United’s first two goals of Thursday’s easy win over Fenerbahce came off penalty kicks, but the third was far more pleasing to the eye.

Paul Pogba nabbed his second of the night by tearing into a Jesse Lingard lay-off from 20 yards away, ensuring that halftime might as well have been full-time.

[ MORE: Saints fall in Milan ]

Anthony Martial joined Pogba in converting a penalty, while Lingard made it 4-0 just after halftime.

More than 7,000 Saints fans see Southampton fall in Milan (video)

MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 20:  (R) Antonio Candreva of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goalduring the UEFA Europa League match between FC Internazionale Milano and Southampton FC at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Milan, .  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
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Antonio Candreva’s 67th minute goal gave Inter Milan a lead against the run of play, and dominant Southampton failed to take advantage of an Inter red card in a 1-0 loss at the San Siro on Thursday. (video)

The setback was Southampton’s first in Europa League play this season, and costs them the top spot in Group K at the group stage’s midpoint.

[ MORE: Atleti accepts January transfer ban ]

Saints had the edge in shots and attempts on target, but couldn’t get the better of their historic Italian opponents.

Sparta Prague beat Hapoel Be’er Sheva 1-0 to move ahead of Saints on six points. Southampton has four, as does Hapoel. Inter sits fourth with three points.

The winner was a classy goal, by the way, for the 43-times capped Italian winger:

Our own Joe Prince-Wright was on the scene as Saints were very well-represented in Italy.