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.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.