MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-2 Chicago Fire

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4-Wo8lWngc]

One game, 100 words (or less): A strong start for Toronto quickly faded into a game of few chances, one that allowed the visiting Fire to stay close to their favored hosts. With second half equalizers from former Reds Robert Earnshaw and Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago was able to move on from last week’s disastrous results, scavenging a well-earned point on the road with its 2-2 draw.

Goals

Toronto FC: Bakary Soumaré (o.g. 3′), Gilberto (79′)
Chicago: Robert Earnshaw (70′), Quincy Amarikwa (90′)

Three moments that mattered

3′ – Wrong way, Bakary – Toronto came out crisp, its quick passing matching the precise movement that left Chicago chasing the game. In the third minute, that passing put Justin Morrow behind the defense on the left flank, where a cross toward the edge of the six was misplayed by Bakary Soumaré. After two minute, Chicago looked destined for another disappointing result.

70′ – What about Bob – Robert Earnshaw’s first appearance of the season happened to come against his old team, with Chicago’s newest attacker looking to make an an instant on his Fire debut. Minutes after entering the game, the former Red did just that, cutting across goal at the edge of the six to mean a Grant Ward cross. His finish put his team in position to steal an unlikely result.

90′ – Toronto blows it – When Gilberto restored Toronto’s lead in the 79th minute, sanity seemed to be restored, though given how little the Reds had produced going forward (held to two shots on target all day), the 2-1 scoreline was a fortunate one.

In the 90th minute, Quincy Amarikwa snatched that fortune and turned it into failure, converting after a Lovel Palmer cross (and failed Earnshaw bicycle kick) found him at the far post. Forgotten, Amarikwa one-timed his right-footer into the top of Joe Bendik’s net, giving Chicago the 2-2 result.

Lineups

Toronto FC: Joe Bendik; Mark Bloom, Steven Caldwell (Doneil Henry 22′), Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow (Jackson 58′); Dominic Oduro, Michael Bradley, Collen Warner, Jonathan Osorio; Gilberto, Jermain Defoe (Luke Moore 77′)
Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larenotwicz, Bakary Soumaré, Gonzalo Segares; Sanna Nyassi (Robert Earnshaw 65′), Razvan Cocis, Matt Watson, Alex; Harry Shipp (Grant Ward 58′), Quincy Amarikwa

Three lessons going forward

1. No switches to flick in Toronto – The Reds talent gives the impression they’re capable of more; that at some point, something will click, and the team will be able to challenge D.C. United and Sporting KC. Perhaps title ambitions are too much, but certainly the Reds should be distinguishing themselves from the rest of the conference.

Today was a reminder: That may not happen. Just like last week in Kansas City, we saw a Toronto team that, at the opening of the game, looked dangerous. But as the game went on, the team waned. By the end, they were outright vulnerable, part of the reason they’ve been caught by Columbus in the Eastern Conference.

2. Fight left in Chicago – Some have written them off, myself included, but as today showed, Chicago’s still capable of playing spoiler. At this point in their playoff push, they needed three points instead of one, but if you forget about their faint postseason hopes, and today’s result was a good one.

3. Not so healthy defense – Ryan Nelsen has had to mix-and-match for most of the season in defense, but with Mark Bloom and Steven Caldwell coming back into the team today, the back four was as healthy as it’d been in months. By the hour-mark today, though, Nelsen had lost Caldwell and Morrow. he’s back to improvising with his back four.

Where this leaves them:

  • Still seven back of D.C. United (for now), Toronto now needs to worry about Columbus, New York, and New England. Missed points at home put their playoff hopes in a new perspective.
  • The point lifts Chicago to eighth in the conference, passing Houston while moving within five points of a playoff spot.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million, and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.

Geiger, Marrufo, Villarreal picked as Gold Cup referees

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) Mark Geiger, who three years ago became the first American to referee a knockout stage match at the World Cup, is among 17 referees picked for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Americans Jair Marrufo and Armando Villarreal also were announced Thursday for the 12-nation tournament, which runs from July 7-26 in various U.S. cities.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Geiger, who is from New Jersey, was a referee for France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria in the round of 16.

Three each were picked from Mexico (Roberto Garcia, Fernando Guerrero and Cesar Ramos) and Honduras (Melvin Matamoros, Oscar Moncada and Hector Rodriguez).

Two will come from Costa Rica: Henry Bejarano and Ricardo Montero.

Others picked for the tournament are Joel Aguilar (El Salvador), Drew Fischer (Canada), Walter Lopez (Guatemala), Yadel Martinez (Cuba), John Pitti (Panama) and Kimbell Ward (St. Kitts and Nevis).