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MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Real Salt Lake

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hS0ge2KE–c]

One game, 100 words (or less): Seizing on an early mistake from Real Salt Lake’s midfield, San Jose claimed a 14th minute lead at Buck Shaw Stadium, with the newfound scoring prowess of midfielder Sean Cronin putting the home side in front. Though the Earthquakes proved troublesome in transition, Real Salt Lake eventually turned a 36th minute chance into a David Gantar whistle, allowing Javier Morales to equalize from the spot.

While both teams had near-misses just before half time, the match would stay 1-1 for the next 54 minutes, leaving both teams with a point after 90 minutes at Buck Shaw.

Goals

San Jose: Sam Cronin 14′
Real Salt Lake: Javier Morales (p.k.) 36′

Three moments that mattered:

14′ – Cronin on fire – You don’t see this very often: Kyle Beckerman with a big giveaway, on that left Chris Wondolowski on the box in the left of the area. Cutting the ball back toward the arc, the San Jose captain finds an oncoming San Cronin, whose second goal in as many games gives the Earthquakes an early lead.

36′ – Olmes gets the whistle – A nice run by Abdoulie Mansally leads to a dangerous cross from the byline, though Olmes Garcia’s attempt to get in front of Jason Hernandez sees the RSL attacker stumble at the edge of the six-yard box. Referee David Gantar, however, sees a foul on Hernandez, giving Javier Morales a chance to equalize from the spot. Burying his shot into the left of Jon Busch’s goal, the returning playmaker pulls RSL even, scoring a goal few could have predicted as the night’s last.

43′ – Almost caught – Atiba Harris almost had him. Moments after Luke Mulholland nearly gee RSL the lead, the San Jose midfielder nearly caught Nick Rimando leaning the wrong way, the RSL keeper taking a step to his left while Harris was lining up a shot heading inside the right post. Luckily for the U.S. international, Harris put that shot well inside the upright, allowing Rimando to get a palm to the ball just before it crossed the goal line. A ball length closer to the post, and Rimando would have paid for his misstep.

Lineups

San Jose: Jon Busch; Sean Francis, Víctor Bernárdez, Jason Hernandez, Jordan Stewart; Shea Salinas (Cordell Cato 75′), Sam Cronin, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi (J.J. Koval 83′), Atiba Harris; Tommy Thompson, Chris Wondolowski
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Abdoulie Mansally; Luke Mulholland (Luis Gil 83′), Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy; Javier Morales (Cole Grossman 90′), Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia (Robbie Findley 79′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. The importance of Javier Morales – One week after failing to break down a 10-man Dallas, you could see a difference in RSL. Then again, that’s what Javier Morales is supposed to do: Make a difference. While the team generated the same number of goals as in last week’s loss, RSL looked more like itself with a focal point back in the middle. Going forward, however, that’s go to translate into more chances on goal.

2. The importance of Tommy Thompson – This isn’t just Tommy Thompson. It’s Matías Pérez García and Yannick Djaló, too, though Thompson’s youth and American-ness has generated more buzz. Regardless, San Jose plays like a much more cohesive team when it has that connecting element under Chris Wondolowski. Continuing to flash a brilliant touch, Thompson is showing he can be that kind of player.

3. RSL’s fickle West – The defending conference champions have lost once since July 12 yet find themselves five points back in the West, having played more games than their two main rivals. With Seattle recovered and Los Angeles surging, RSL is beginning to look like the third of three favorites, a story which may change if Álvaro Saborío comes back strong.

Where this leaves them

  • With three points in their last five games, the Earthquakes are eight back of a playoff spot. Tonight’s was a good performance, but San Jose needed three points.
  • RSL is tied with LA for second in the West, albeit with two more games played than the Galaxy.

Mancini reportedly not interested in Leicester City, De Boer says no

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 20:  Head Coach of FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini looks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 20, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.

Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”

However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.

That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.

“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”

Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.

Win over Las Palmas again has La Real on edge of CL spot

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11:  Xavi Prieto of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on December 11, 2015 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.

La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.

[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]

That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.

The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.

Conte pulling from prior experience as title race pushes on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.

In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]

“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”

The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.

Sean Dyche says Joey Barton should have a TV show

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Joey Barton of Burnley (L) and Matt Rhead of Lincoln City (R) exchange words during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Burnley and Lincoln City at Turf Moor on February 18, 2017 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Burnley manager Sean Dyche says Joey Barton‘s life is chock full of fascinating moments, so much so that he should have his own TV show.

Except when he’s behind closed doors at Burnley, of course. Then he’s a stand up individual. Right, sure.

“It could be a TV series,” Dyche said in his pre-match press conference ahead of an away tilt with Hull City. “Being Joey. It’d be interesting. Never a dull moment.”

But of course, immediately after that, Dyche switched gears. “Unless he’s in here, training with me,” he backtracked. “I think it’s pantomime stuff. I’ve seen a lot more controversy around Joey than that. If that’s as far as it goes, I’ll be a happy man.”

“That” referred to Barton’s embarrassing dive in the FA Cup loss to non-league opponents Lincoln City where the midfielder play-acted after nothing more than a brush of the elbow from Matt Rhead, falling to the ground and clutching his head. Barton was involved in a number of heated moments during that match, adding to his already massive list of controversial moments in a mercurial career.

“Joey’s been terrific,” Dyche said. “I thought by a mile, by an absolute mile, he was the best player on the pitch last weekend. So he’s been absolutely fine. He’s in good nick – as you can see – and he’s definitely up for the challenges that come in front of us.”

But word of Joey Barton apparently hasn’t reached London. A few weeks ago, ahead of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Burnley on February 12th, Blues manager Antonio Conte was asked if he was familiar with Burnley’s squad and Barton in particular – an admittedly leading question – and Conte was unable to give an immediate answer. He instead asked his press officer muttering, “Joey Barton?” under his breath. The press officer embarrassingly tried to save face before Conte stepped back in giving a generic answer that they had already played once and he was familiar with the squad.