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.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.