MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Colorado Rapids

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One game, 100 words or less – A chance-less first half that showcased an improved Colorado defense gave way to a quick turn, with poor defending on an early second half corner allowing Clint Dempsey to give Seattle a 51st minute lead. Reverting to form that underscored a five-match losing streak they carried into the match, the Rapids began leaking chances, with Martins coming close three times over the match’s final 40 minutes. Though they were unable to double their lead, the Sounders still earned a one-sided 1-0 victory, one that creates some temporary breathing room at the top of the league.

Goals

Seattle: Clint Dempsey 51′
Colorado: None.

Three moments that mattered:

51′ – Dempsey unmarked – The first good chance of the match saw Seattle earn a corner after a ball put behind the defense by Gonzalo Pineda allowed Brad Evans to test debuting goalkeeper Joe Nasco. Off the ensuing corner, Marc Burch forgot he’s not longer a Sounder, giving Clint Dempsey an open volley from the middle of the area. Converting into the right side of goal, “Deuce” gave the favorites a 1-0 lead.

58′ – Martins almost breaks the bar – A suddenly struggling Colorado defense made life worse for itself with a poor clearance from Marvell Wynne. Moments later, Obafemi Martins unloaded on a bouncing ball just inside the penalty area, which the Nigerian’s shot testing the integrity of Nasco’s crossbar. Withstanding that test, the south end’s woodwork kept it 1-0.

90′ – Nasco keeps it close – A blast from Martins from near the edge of the penalty area gave Seattle a chance to (finally) double its lead, but Nasco again came up with a strong save, pushing the ball well wide. Quickly, however, Seattle had the ball at Clint Dempsey’s feet, drawing another save from Nasco. Moments later, Seattle’s strikers were combining on a counter, and while the attack fizzled just inside the final third, the Sounders remained on the edge of their insurance goal.

Lineups

Seattle: Stefan Frei; DeAndre Yedlin, Chad Marshall, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez; Brad Evans (Chad Barrett 75′), Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda, Marco Pappa (Lamar Neagle 75′); Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins (Andy Rose 92′)
Colorado: Joe Nasco; Chris Kulte, Thomas Piermayr, Marvell Wynne, Marc Burch; Marlon Harrison (Gabriel Torres 60′), Dillon Powers, Nick LaBrocca, Dillon Serna (Charles Eloundou 79′); Deshorn Brown, Edson Buddle

Three lessons going forward:

1. The break didn’t help Colorado – During the first half, the Rapids looked less like a team riding a five-game slump than an underdog trying to survive Seattle. The second half, however, saw them revert to form. Though the first 45 minutes gave Rapids fans reason to hope, Colorado’s weekend off didn’t solve the team’s problems.

2. Seattle’s starting XI seems mostly set – This isn’t major news, but it’s still worth pausing to consider what Seattle will look like going forward. Brad Evans has settled in on the right side of midfield, pushing Lamar Neagle to the bench. Though a healthy Djimi Traoré could eventually supplant Zach Scott in central defense, today’s XI looks like the team Sigi Schmid’s going to bet on. Over the last two weeks, that looks like a bet that should come good.

3. Edges being wasted – Deshorn Brown had only one goal in his last four games, a rate that should have improved today at CenturyLink. Against a back line of Marshall, Scott, and Leo Gonzalez, Colorado had a chance to take advantage of Brown’s speed, particularly on CenturyLink’s gridiron-friendly turf. Except for one, maybe two moments in the second half, that edge was never leveraged, allowing Seattle to enjoy an easy afternoon at home.

Where this leaves them

  • Temporarily, Seattle has a five-point lead in both its conference and Supporters’ Shield standings. Regardless of what happens later this weekend in Carson and D.C., the Sounders will again be top of the table come Monday.
  • Colorado is still three back of fifth in the East, but if Vancouver gets a result tonight against Portland, the Rapids will lose touch with the West’s final playoff spot.

Neymar makes history in PSG’s 8-0 thrashing of Dijon

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A pair of statements which are both true, and not at all mutually exclusive, if you allow logic and balance to prevail: 1) Neymar and his friends at Paris Saint-Germain are quite good at the soccer; 2) they aren’t challenged enough in Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Of course, they’ll be challenged plenty during the latter stages of the Champions League (they drew Real Madrid in the round of 16), but on a weekly basis, the level of competition in their domestic league isn’t of a high standard to indicate just how good they are. That’s the new debate with regard to PSG — it’s no longer, “Are they good? Maybe they’re just a big fish in a small pond.”

On Wednesday, led by Neymar, the most expensive transfer signing of all-time, Unai Emery’s side thrashed 10th-place Dijon to the tune of 8-0. As mentioned, Neymar did slightly more than just pull his own weight — four goals to go with a pair of assists; he lent a direct hand in six of the eight goals.

[ MORE: Chelsea survive Norwich in PKs, reach FA Cup 4th round ]

Even the statistical whizzes at Opta appear somewhat stumped by such an abundance of goals.

Anytime the keepers of stats toss out a “since we started collecting data,” be proud of your achievement. Be very, very proud.

FA Cup: Chelsea, Swansea into 4th rd; B’mouth ousted by Wigan

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Two more Premier League sides booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup, courtesy of third-round replays, on Wednesday, bringing the PL’s total representation to 14 clubs…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea 1-1 (5-3 PKs) Norwich City

Chelsea’s scoreless streak — for both themselves and opponents (three straight 0-0 draws across all competitions) — came to a merciful end on Wednesday, but not before surpassing the 300-minute mark. Michy Batshuayi — who, it must be said, struggled mightily in making just his third start (all in cup competitions) since mid-October — broke yet another scoreless deadlock in the 55th minute, ending the Blues’ scoreless run at 331 minutes.

With barely 30 seconds remaining in second-half stoppage time, 19-year-old left back Jamal Lewis brought the Canaries level with a thunderous header off the post.

Extra-time saw Chelsea reduced to 10, and then nine, men. Pedro was booked for diving just after the hour mark, and the Spaniard earned a second yellow card for a wild challenge in the 117th minute. Four minutes later, in second-half extra-time stoppage time, Alvaro Morata was booked for diving and proceeded to shout and gesticulate in the referee’s face. A second yellow was shown immediately.

Willy Caballero denied Nelson Oliveira on Norwich’s first attempt of the ensuing penalty shootout, giving the Blues the only cushion they’d need as Willian, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard all converted.

Chelsea will host Newcastle United in the fourth round on Sunday, Jan. 28.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Swansea City 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Swansea faced the greatest threat of a Cupset on Wednesday but managed to come out on top, knocking off runaway Championship leaders and champions-elect Wolves. The Swans went ahead through Jordan Ayew in the 11th minute before the prolific Diogo Jota, who’ll be in the PL one way or another next season, brought Wolves back to 1-1 in the 66th. Three minutes later, Wilfried Bony bagged the winner to see Carlos Carvalhal’s side through to the next round.

Swansea will visit League Two side Notts County, who knocked off Championship playoff hopefuls Brentford in the third round, on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Wigan Athletic 3-0 Bournemouth

Bournemouth sat 32 places above Wigan in the English football pyramid when Wednesday’s replay kicked off, and it matter not a single iota, as Paul Cook’s side hammered the Cherries at the DW Stadium. Sam Morsy, Dan Burn and Callum Elder bagged the goals for the League One leaders (three points clear after 26 of 46 rounds played). Wigan have alternated each of the last four seasons, finishing 23rd in the Championship and leading/winning League One. It’s been five years since the Latics were relegated from the PL, in the 2012-13 season.

Wigan will host West Ham United in the fourth round on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Sir Alex’s son in trouble for saying he’d “shoot” refs

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LONDON (AP) It clearly runs in the family.

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was known for having an explosive temper during his nearly 27 years at Old Trafford, and it seems he has passed it down to his son.

Darren Ferguson, who is the manager of third-tier English team Doncaster, is in trouble for saying he would “shoot” referees because of what he perceived as their poor standards.

Ferguson was charged by the English Football Association on Wednesday for remarks that “were improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

The 45-year-old coach has already apologized, saying it was a “tongue-in-cheek comment” and that “I do not advocate violence against officials.”

Ferguson was unhappy his team was denied a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth on Saturday.

“The referees are part-time and the standard is appalling, their fitness levels are a disgrace, I’ve had enough of it,” Ferguson said after the match.

“What can I do? Shoot them, it would be a good idea.”

Follow Live: Chelsea, Swans, Cherries in FA Cup replays

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Chelsea, Swansea City, and Bournemouth look to avoid upsets in replays of their third round FA Cup matches.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

All three matches kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET

The Blues tangle with former Premier League peers Norwich City, this time at Stamford Bridge, in a bid to host a fourth round match with Newcastle United.

Antonio Conte‘s not messing around (too much) with the XI.

Swansea City and Wolves, meanwhile, are arguably battling for a bid in the fourth round, as a trip to Notts County is on the docket for the winner of Wednesday’s replay at the Liberty Stadium.

Bournemouth is at Wigan Athletic for a replay with the third-tier Latics, with the victor hosting West Ham United on Jan. 27.