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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.

Report: AC Milan negotiating new deal for keeper Donnaumma

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 13:  AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gestures during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on February 13, 2017 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly become one of the most coveted goalkeepers in the world, and he’s only 17 years old.

[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]

And that’s why AC Milan plans on doing everything in its power to hold on to the Italy international.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s fall to Panama to begin CONCACAF Championship ]

According to CalcioMercato, the Rossoneri are preparing to lock up Donnarumma to a big deal once he turns 18 next week in order to fend off the likes of Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.

However, agent Mino Raiola could stand in the way of Milan as they attempt to negotiate with the promising shot stopper out of fear that the club won’t be able to compete with Europe’s best teams.

Also, it has been suggested that Raiola is seeking at least $4.25 million per season for Donnarumma plus add ons, while Milan is said to be willing to go as high as $2.1 million annually.

Donnarumma is currently in his second professional season with Milan and has risen to the Italian national team level over the past year as well. The young keeper is seen as the logical successor to Gianluigi Buffon once his international career concludes.

Baggio marks 50th birthday by visiting quake victims

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Roberto Baggio (L) is challenged by Diego Lugano during the Interreligious Match For Peace at Olimpico Stadium on September 1, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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AMATRICE, Italy (AP) Italian great Roberto Baggio marked his 50th birthday on Saturday by visiting towns devastated by earthquakes last year.

[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]

Baggio opted not to celebrate his milestone surrounded by celebrities, and instead spent the day in Amatrice, which was almost wiped out by the Aug. 24 earthquake.

The former world footballer of the year, who met children and others from the central Italy region, said “it was very emotional,” and he went there with his family “to fully understand what so many people are going through.”

Baggio also met the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, and said they will remain in contact, “and we will try to do something concrete.”

Baggio was moving on to nearby Norcia, which was also damaged, and there was a party organized with a birthday cake.

The Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and left a further 4,000 homeless. There were aftershocks for several days as well as more quakes in October and January.

Baggio, who was nicknamed “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail) for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, scored 27 goals in 57 appearances for Italy and helped the Azzurri to third place in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up four years later, when he famously missed the last penalty kick of the shootout in the final with Brazil.

He won the Serie A title with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan the following year.

FA Cup preview: Spurs, Man United face Championship opposition

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United leaves the pitch with the match ball after scoring a hat-trick during the UEFA Europa  League Round of 32 first leg match between Manchester United and AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford on February 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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As the Premier League sides have dwindled down in this season’s FA Cup, two of England’s big boys will hope to avoid upsets on Sunday.

At the moment, six PL clubs remain in the competition after Chelsea and Middlesbrough advanced on Saturday and Manchester City was held to a draw against Huddersfield. Arsenal will meet non-league affiliated side Sutton United on Monday.

[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]

Fulham vs. Tottenham — 9 a.m. ET

While Spurs have come away victorious in five of their six FA Cup encounters against Fulham in the past, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will face a tough test on Sunday. Fulham is currently battling to stay in the race for promotion next season to re-join England’s top flight but the Craven Cottage side will have a legitimate chance to make some noise after knocking off Hull City and Cardiff in the past two rounds.

Meanwhile, Spurs will likely be without striker Harry Kane, who picked up an injury in Thursday’s defeat against Gent in the Europa League. Tottenham has struggled away from home as of late, having won just two of their last 14 fixtures away from White Hart Lane.

Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET

The two sides haven’t met in the FA Cup since back in the 1980s, a win for Manchester United, and Sunday’s encounter likely won’t be much a walk in the park for Rovers. Blackburn is fighting for survival in the Championship, making their performance in the FA Cup all the more critical for morale over the second half of the season. However, key suspensions to both Hope Akpan and Elliott Bennett will leave Blackburn shorthanded.

Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils will be missing several key players as well, including Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, both of whom are injured. United has done well away from home recently, only falling once in its previous nine encounters away from Old Trafford.

Nice holds on to beat Lorient despite Balotelli’s red card

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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PARIS (AP) Nice striker Mario Balotelli has more red cards away from home than goals this season.

[ MORE: Marseille beats Rennes to stay in hunt for top four ]

The Italian has scored nine in the French league so far, but all have been at home. On Saturday he was sent off for the second time on his travels, and for the third time overall during his first campaign in France. However, despite his red card, Nice won at Lorient 1-0 to move up to second place behind Monaco.

[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]

Balotelli returned to the side after missing last weekend’s action with a fever, but was shown a straight red following an altercation with Lorient defender Zargo Toure. From initial video replays, it seemed difficult to ascertain what Balotelli did wrong other than backing into Toure with his arms up as they challenged for a ball.

Nice coach Lucien Favre was no closer to an explanation after the game, although he suggested Balotelli may have spoken out of turn to referee Tony Chapron.

“I didn’t see what happened. All of a sudden he was coming off and I said to myself, `What’s happened?”‘ Favre said. “I didn’t see when he (the referee) gave the red card and I don’t know why. It seems that he talked back to the referee.”

Favre refuted any notion that Balotelli might be getting singled out unfairly by referees.

“He’s not on referees’ radars. They are totally neutral,” Favre said. “If there is reason to send a player off, then they will.”

Midfielder Wylan Cyprien scored his seventh in the league after being set up by right back Arnaud Souquet early on.

Nice is three points behind Monaco, and one point ahead of defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which is at home to Toulouse on Sunday. Lorient is in last place.

MARSEILLE 2, RENNES 0

Marseille showed it can cope without top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis, as it maintained its push for a top-four finish and place in the Europa League next season.

Gomis has been Marseille’s best player, scoring 16 league goals, but injured a knee last weekend and is expected to be out for up to six weeks.

In his absence, wingers Clinton N'Jie and Florian Thauvin grabbed second-half goals as Marseille moved level on points with fifth-place Saint-Etienne and one point behind fourth-place Lyon. They are both playing on Sunday.

France playmaker Dimitri Payet went close three times – hitting the crossbar with a rasping shot – before starting the move that led to N’Jie’s goal in the second half.

Five minutes later, Thauvin scored a powerful swerving shot into the top corner from 20 meters after running onto a neat back heel from midfielder Morgan Sanson.

Inconsistent Marseille has won its last three home games but lost its last three away.

Next Sunday comes bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain, a must-win game in the eyes of the passionate Marseille fans at Stade Velodrome.

“We’re confident when we play at the Velodrome, but I’d like to us to do the same away from home,” Marseille left back Patrice Evra said.

OTHER ACTION

Mid-table Angers won 1-0 at home against Nancy, which is one place above the relegation zone.

Lille, down to 10 men, beat Caen 1-0 in Lille coach Franck Passi’s first match in charge. Attacking midfielder Anwar El Ghazi, who came from Ajax last month, struck shortly after Lille center half Adama Soumaoro was sent off.

Also, Metz drew with Nantes 1-1.

In Sunday’s other games, it is: Lyon vs Dijon, Montpellier vs. Saint-Etienne, and Bordeaux vs. Guingamp.