MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-1 Real Salt Lake

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One game, 100 words (or less): Controlling the ball without controlling the danger, Real Salt Lake nearly felt the stink of FC Dallas’s counterattack early, with chances for Fabián Castillo and Tesho Akindele giving the home side chances at an early lead. When Blas Pérez was dismissed just before halftime, FCD looked set to rue those  misses, but when Michel’s 49th minute corner found Je-Vaughn Watson, fortune shined on the home side.

In the 75th minute, Castillo took advantage of the extra space on the field to score his ninth goal of the season, with only a late overhead volley from Olmes Garcia getting RSL on the board. Still unbeaten since May, Dallas won, 2-1.

Goals:

FC Dallas: Watson 40′, Castillo 75′
Real Salt Lake: None

Three moments that mattered:

44′ – Ismail Elfath takes center stage – It was a non-Dallas fans’ dream come true: Blas Pérez booked for simulation. The only problem: Chris Schuler gave the Dallas attacker a very obvious two-handed push, reacting after the two were entangled going up for a challenge. While you could argue Pérez did what he could to embellish the contact, it’s easier to note Schuler is a very big, very strong guy. He’s certainly capable of sending a man to the ground (especially a willing one).

Elfath went to a solution fans have mentioned for a long time, booking both the fouler (Schuler, in this case) and the embellisher. Unfortunately for Dallas, the rarely seen move left them down a man, leaving plenty of debate as to whether the wrong player was sent off.

49′ – Oops – Sometimes Dallas’s success is so simple. For example: Utilizing Michel’s delivery on dead balls. Just after halftime, the Brazilian utility man swung a corner to the edge of the six, one that froze players after a skimmed off  Schuler’s head. On the other side of the big defender was Watson, who saw the ball deflect of his left arm (drawn into his chest) and into goal for the opening score.

75′ – The one, little mistake – Against most teams, the poor header Nat Borchers sent into midfield wouldn’t be a fatal sin. When Fabián Castillo is on the field, however, he provides his own simple solution. Picking up the errant ball, Castillo got his chance to go one-on-one against Borchers, a challenge the veteran defender was bound to lose. When Castillo also beat Nick Rimando into the far site netting, Dallas had its game-winning goal.

Lineups

FC Dallas: Raul Fernández; Je-Vaughn Watson, Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Jair Benítez (Kelyn Acosta 64′); Fabián Castillo (Peter Luccin 79′), Adam Moffat, Victor Ulloa, Andres Escobar (Ryan Hollingshead 69′); Blas Pérez, Tesho Akindele
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert (Olmes Garcia 56′); Luke Mulholland (Sebastian Velasquez 74′), Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy; Luis Gil; João Plata, Robbie Findley (Devon Sandoval 79′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. FC Dallas is for real – You can’t take 11-on-10 games too seriously, no matter who wins, but if you look at the game in terms of what we learned about Dallas, the result is less aberration than reinforcement. We knew they were good on set pieces. We knew Fabián Castillo is near unstoppable; at least, right now. After tonight, we have another situation where those virtues can lead to victory.

Able to sit deep and play for set pieces and counters, Dallas may not only be capable of beating anyone. Against some of the league’s stronger sides — possession hoarders like RSL, Sporting, and Los Angeles — they may be perfectly set up to do so.

2. Saborío, Morales missed – I’m not sure this qualifies as a lesson as much as a known fact, but when Real Salt Lake struggled to generate decent chances despite their numerical edge, it was easy to think “pumping it into Saborío would be nice,” or “getting Morales between the lines would be good” – you know, the simple observations that reminded you neither of those stars were actually there. Else, Jeff Cassar would have leaned on them.

3. So I guess Je-Vaughn Watson is a right back – Watson was so good at right wing earlier this year that his move to right back seemed a purely function of need, as if Óscar Pareja was being forced to a move the Jamaican international because of injuries at the back. But now that Kelyn Acosta is back, Michael and Jair Benitez are options at fullback, and Walter Cabrera is on board, Watson is still getting time at right back.

Given how much success Óscar Pareja’s had, I’ll defer to him: no criticism; no qualms; no recent failures to cite as in noting this move tools weird. Pareja’s earned the benefit of the doubt. Watson at right wing was great, but using his ability to get forward from deeper in attack might fit how Pareja sees his team moving forward.

Where this leaves them:

  • RSL stayed tied atop the Western Conference with 42 points, although they’ve played two more games than Seattle.
  • With the same number of points, the same number of games played as RSL, Dallas has a share of the West’s lead, technically sitting above the conference champs thanks to one more victory on the season.

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 2nd in a row; Fire win 4th straight

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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The game in 100 words (or less): After starting the 2017 season nine games without a loss, FC Dallas, the longest-lasting unbeaten team in MLS, has lost two straight. Saturday saw their unbeaten start come to an end, against the San Jose Earthquakes, just as Wednesday’s trip to Toyota Stadium saw Oscar Pareja’s side drop all three points to the Chicago Fire. All three of the game’s goals were scored during the opening nine minutes, as FCD fought back from 1-0, but couldn’t find a second equalizer on the night. Nemanja Nikolic bagged the opener, his 11th goal in 13 games to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race to two, in the 3rd minute. Roland Lamah brought FCD back to level terms three minutes later, but David Accam restored the home side’s advantage after three more minutes. Nikolic had every opportunity in the world to take his goals tally to a dozen during second-half stoppage time, but Chris Seitz denied the Hungarian international from the penalty spot. For the first time since Sept. 2012, Chicago have won four straight league games, and sit just two points back of Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC (26 points).

[ WATCH: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to $10M contract demands ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic redirects past Seitz for 1-0 — Nikolic ran 15 yards straight ahead without a single FCD player picking him up or impeding his path to the near post, and they paid for it.

6′ — Lamah taps it in to make it 1-1 right away — Lamah has been quite the disappointment since arriving in Dallas this winter, but he happened to eb in the right place at the right time in this one, as a failed clearance fell to the five-times-capped Belgian international for an easy tap-in, and his first MLS goal.

9′ — Accam cuts inside to make it 2-1 just as quickly — At some point, Accam will be properly rated by the wider MLS audience, as he’s been Chicago’s best player for two full seasons, and has only hit a new high with capable attackers all around him.

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Man of the match: Dax McCarty

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′), Lamah (6′), Accam (9′)

Report: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to contract demands

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While Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has the feel of the player most clearly destined to play in MLS since Thierry Henry, we might have to wait a little while longer before the 28-year-old Mexican international ditches Europe in favor of a return to North America.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to a report from ESPN FC on Thursday, Hernandez is seeking an annual salary “way north of $10 million,” which would shatter the current record contract for an MLS player (Kaka — $7.2 million per year).

Hernandez has one more season left on his contract with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. During the summer of 2018 he’ll be available for any club in the world to sign on a free transfer. With Los Angeles FC, the team Hernandez has reportedly been negotiating with for months now, set to debut in MLS in March 2018, chances are they’d like the centerpiece of their squad (and the largest annual investment in MLS history) to be involved on opening day, thus a fee will be required, very likely pushing the club’s total investment (salary plus fee) into the neighborhood of $50 million.

[ WATCH: Giovani dos Santos’ jaw-dropping volley vs. MIN ]

You can see pretty quickly why LAFC might balk at such demands.

With that said, 1) LAFC shouldn’t be surprised by this recent development, given Hernandez’s otherworldly allure within the LA market; 2) to piggyback on no. 1, a player should be paid every cent he’s worth to the club, on and off the field, and there might not be a player in the entire world (this side Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) who’d make LAFC a bigger hit in LA from day one.

Enrique “more than satisfied” with Barca tenure, eyes one more trophy

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique is finally saying goodbye to Barcelona, with one last chance at a trophy.

The Luis Enrique era in Barcelona ends after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday, when the coach could cap his three-year stint with a ninth trophy out of a possible 13.

It would be a fitting farewell for him nearly three months after his surprise announcement that he was leaving.

“It would be a special title,” Luis Enrique said.

The former Barcelona midfielder has won nearly everything as the coach, since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014.

He led the team to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in 2015. He achieved the league-Copa double in 2016, and began this season with the Spanish Super Cup title, their only trophy so far.

It hasn’t been Luis Enrique’s best season with Barcelona, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and lost the Spanish league to Real Madrid last weekend.

“I’m happy and more than satisfied for all the years that I’ve enjoyed with this club,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said.

He announced in March he was leaving so he could get some rest.

“I came here to be a leader and I’ve been one. I’m leaving when I think it’s the best time to do it.”

His other titles included the 2015 European Super Cup and the 2015 Club World Cup.

Barcelona has yet to lose a Copa del Rey home-and-away series since he took over, a run of 12 straight triumphs.

“We are all thankful for these three years (with Luis Enrique),” captain Andres Iniesta said. “We have to win one last title to finish the best possible way.”

Barcelona has been in the Copa final in seven of the last nine seasons, including the last four. It has won it a record 28 times, including the last two.

Alaves will be playing in the final of a major tournament for only the second time in its 96-year history. The other was the UEFA Cup 16 years ago, when it lost to Liverpool 5-4 in extra time.

Alaves’ only winner’s trophy is for Spain’s second division. It was a promoted club in Spain’s top division this season after 10 years in the lower divisions, including four in the third tier. It finished ninth in the Liga.

Alaves enters the Copa final boosted from having beaten Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou at the beginning of the season.

The coach touted to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona is Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao this week. An official announcement is expected next week.

Marco Silva leaves Hull; Premier League clubs lining up

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Marco Silva came to the Premier League, he saw the PL, but he didn’t conquer the PL — at least, not yet.

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It was announced on Thursday that the 39-year-old Portuguese manager, who took over last-place Hull City in January, has left the club after succumbing to relegation from the PL. Silva, whose stock rose quickly during his brief stay in England, signed a contract that ran only through the end of the season should they be relegated, thus he’s not sure on options these days. Hull would have undoubtedly welcomed him back for a run at promotion from the Championship next season.

As recently as Wednesday, Silva was expected to be named the new boss at Porto, though various reports stated that talks between the manager and club had broken down.

[ MORE: Terry “couldn’t care less” about criticism of his farewell ]

Watford and Crystal Palace, both of whom are manager-less after Walter Mazzarri was fired and Sam Allardyce resigned, respectively, are said to be extremely interested in Silva’s services.