MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Portland Timbers

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One game, 100 words (or less): A third straight disappointing performance from Vancouver allowed the team’s Cascadia rivals to snatch fifth place in the Western Conference, with a trio of second half goals giving Portland a 3-0 win at BC Place.

After a scoreless first half, the Timbers converted following a 51st minute corner, with Alvas Powell running onto a Diego Valeri pass to head the visitors in front. Fifteen minutes from time, Maxi Urutti doubled the lead from the middle of the box, with Rodney Wallace’s finish from eight yards out under David Ousted giving the Timbers their final margin.

Goals

Vancouver: None.
Portland: Alvas Powell 51′, Maxi Urruti 75′, Rodney Wallace 79′.

Three moments that mattered:

50′ – Alvas is in the building – Poor defending last Sunday led to a shakeup in Portland’s defense, one that vaulted Alvas Powell to the starting lineup. Off an early second half corner, the young Jamaican defender made the most of the opportunity. Making a near post run onto a Diego Valeri ball, the 20-year-old headed his team in front, allowing the Timbers to capitalize on their half’s energetic start.

73′ – Vancouver’s big chance – A switch to a two-striker set at the hour mark failed to ignite the Whitecaps, who finally showed some life in the 73rd minute. Combining for a one-two with Erik Hurtado, Mauro Rosales found himself with a look on goal from even with the right post. With Liam Ridgewell taking away the cross-goal shot, Rosales couldn’t find the space between Donovan Ricketts and the post, slicing the Whitecaps’ best chance of the night wide for a goal kick.

75′ – Urruti seals it for Portland – Minutes after the Whitecaps’ miss, the Timbers put the game away. Giving Michael Harrington too much space to get down the right flank, Vancouver allowed the Portland fullback to find Maxi Urruti in the middle of the area. With the Whitecaps central defenders too deep in their box, the Argentine attacker had time to turn on a find the top of goal from 15 yards out. When Rodney Wallace added a third four minutes later, Portland had three huge points on the road.

Lineups

Vancouver: David Ousted; Steve Beitashour, Andy O’Brien, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey (Sam Adekugbe 80′); Russel Teibert, Matías Laba; Mauro Rosales, Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh (Darren Mattocks 60′); Erik Hurtado (Sebastian Fernandez 76′)
Portland: Donovan Ricketts; Alvas Powell (Michael Harrington 74′), Pa Modou Kah, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana; Diego Chara (Ben Zemanski 89′), Will Johnson; Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace; Fanendo Adi (Maximiliano Urruti 68′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Portland has a weird kind of defensive depth – The Timbers’ problems at the back have been well-documented, yet after conceding four goals last Sunday against Seattle, the Timbers were able to keep a clean sheet in Vancouver. A big part of that performance was Vancouver’s poor play, but with Powell, Pa Modou Kah, and Jorge Villafana, Caleb Porter was able to leverage his squad’s depth to make wholesale chances.

The Timbers may not have any standouts at the back, but with enough options to shuffle the deck, Porter may still be able to find a combination that works.

2. Vancouver’s attack is broken – After tonight’s performance, one in which the Whitecaps were only about to generate nine shots, Vancouver has gone 321 minutes without a goal. Given the talent Carl Robinson has in attack, how is this possible? Something’s broken, be it tactically or psychologically, because a team with this many weapons shouldn’t be so easy to shut down.

3. More fun with lineups for Carl Robinson – Vancouver’s first year boss has fiddled with his selection all season, but with raw talents like Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks, and Erik Hurtado, it’s tempting to think what a consistent role would do for their development. With Mauro Rosales recently acquired from Chivas USA, consistency is that much farther away, with the former Sounder getting his first start with the team tonight.

You’d think at some point this team will need to give players more defined roles, if for no other reason than to develop the familiarity that will help tackle challenges like Diego Chara and Will Johnson. Robinson seems reluctant to do that, though. While part of that could be justified in terms of match ups, but at some point, Vancouver needs to leverage its best players.

Robinson just needs to decide who they are.

Where this leaves them:

  • The loss leaves Vancouver in sixth place, one point behind the Timbers (albeit with a game in hand).
  • On a points-per-game basis, Portland the sixth best team in the West. But Saturday’s win was a big step toward returning to the postseason.

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

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Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

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Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

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Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

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We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.