MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-0 FC Dallas

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One game, 100 words (or less): FC Dallas’s unbeaten run is over. 7-0-3 in their last 10 before arriving in Chicago, the Toros see three months of unbeaten soccer come to an end, with a late goal from Robert Earnshaw delivering the Fire an upset result.

Dallas had chances to take a lead through Ryan Hollingshead and Fabián Castillo, with Óscar Pareja’s again proving lively on the counter attack. In the 83rd minute, that approach came back to haunt them, with center back Jeff Larentowicz allowed to find Earnshaw in the middle of the area. The forward’s header inside the right post sent Chicago to its fifth win of the season.


Chicago: Robert Earnshaw 83′
FC Dallas: None.

Three moments that mattered:

40′ – Castillo, left! – It was the type of chance Fabián Castillo’s lived off of since returning from suspension: A quick move in transition that leaves him one-on-one with an opponent. This particular opponent, midfielder-cum-stopped Jeff Larentowicz, produced something we’ve rarely seen of late. Staying on Castillo’s right foot, Larentowicz kept the Dallas attacker from cutting back inside, forcing him into a left-footed shot that was easily blocked by Sean Johnson.

52′ – Hollingshead high – Dallas’s best first half chance came through Ryan Hollingshead, who failed to give Johnson a true test when put through to the left of goal. In the second half, Jari Benítez found the midfielder near the spot, but the 23-year-old put his one-timer off the top half of the cross-bar. Dallas’s chances were just falling to the wrong boots.

83′ – Earnshaw, again – Robert Earnshaw is a limited player, but within those limitations is the ability to finish chances, something that provided instant office when he arrived in Toronto last season. Having just signed with Chicago, the former Cardiff City man has done the same for the Fire, scoring his second goal in as many games with a late header from the middle of the box. Converting a cross from Larentowicz, the English import gave Chicago its fifth win of the season.


Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumaré, Gonzalo Segares; Grant Ward (Harry Shipp 63′), Matt Watson, Razvan Cocis, Alex; Sanna Nyassi (Robert Earnshaw 63′), Quincy Amarikwa

FC Dallas: Raúl Fernández; Je-Vaughn Watson, Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Jair Benitez (Moises Hernández 84′); Kelyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa; Ryan Hollingshead (Peter Luccin 66′), Fabián Castillo, Andrés Escobar (David Texeira 76′); Tesho Akindele

Three lessons going forward

1. It’s hard being favorites – At least, it’s hard being favorites when you’re not used to the role. Throughout the summer, FC Dallas has flown under the radar, a virtue the team lost when they beat Real Salt Lake last Friday. Thrust to the edge of first in the West, Dallas had earned expectations. On Saturday, the team failed to deliver.

2. Missing that bit of quality – Blas Pérez was suspended. Mauro Díaz is still out. At Toyota Park, those absences showed. Though Dallas was able to create enough chances on the counter, the team lacked other options, and as chances for Hollingshead went begging, the absence of Dallas’s stars came back to hurt.

3. It could have been worse – Chicago didn’t play particularly well, but with two late Earnshaw chances, the Fire had a chance to put up a more convincing result. Then again, for a team that came into the day with four wins in 24, winning is enough. Be it by one goal or two, all that matters for Chicago is getting some improved results. Against a good Dallas team, the Fire did just that.

Where this leaves them

  • This is where all those draws help. Chicago, seemingly wayward all summer, is only four points out of a playoff spot.
  • Dallas, on the other hand, stays third in the West, having lost ground to first place Seattle. FCD is now six points back of the Sounders.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.