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.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday