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MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-0 FC Dallas

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_qQXXQEZFs]

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.

Goals:

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.

Lineups

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.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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