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.


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.


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.

‘Welcome to Zlatan’: Ibrahimovic makes play for LA’s heart

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic has really always belonged in Hollywood.

The powerful 6-foot-5 Swedish forward has loomed above soccer for nearly two decades, captivating the world with his sublime physical talent and uniquely outrageous personality. He has scored hundreds of majestic goals, won dozens of trophies and scuffled with a few teammates on his journey from Malmo to Milan to Manchester.

When Ibrahimovic officially landed with the LA Galaxy on Friday, he announced his arrival in a new nation with classic, theatrical, Zlatan-esque style.

“Los Angeles, welcome to Zlatan,” read the caption on a social media video featuring Ibrahimovic and a lion.

“Dear Los Angeles, You’re welcome,” said the back page of the Los Angeles Times sports section, with Ibrahimovic’s signature at the bottom of the mostly blank sheet.

Ibrahimovic has been labeled as both a beloved hero and an arrogant villain during his career of high-scoring exploits, but most everyone would agree he is the very definition of a star. The ponytailed 36-year-old could capture the attention of the world’s entertainment capital in a way that even David Beckham couldn’t manage.

“After 20 years in Europe, playing for the best clubs in the world with the best players in the world, I decided it’s time to move to a different continent,” Ibrahimovic said in an interview distributed by Major League Soccer. “Move over to the U.S., try the MLS. For me, there was no question about it. Galaxy was the team, and I chose them. They didn’t need to choose me. I chose them, and I come to do exactly what I’ve been doing the last 23 years: Winning.”

He’ll start next week, when the Galaxy formally welcome him to Los Angeles just three games into their 2018 MLS season. If he feels comfortable immediately, he could even debut in a derby against their new archrival Los Angeles FC on March 31.

The Galaxy are coming off a last-place MLS finish after winning a paltry eight league games last season, but Ibrahimovic doesn’t expect the five-time league champions’ woes to linger with him leading the line.

“I want to accomplish as much as possible,” Ibrahimovic said. “Wherever I went, I won, so I’m coming with this objective. I come to win. I want to win. I think it’s in my DNA that I’m winning trophies. It’s not luck.”

Ibrahimovic hasn’t played since Dec. 26 for Manchester United, which released him from his enormous contract for the move. Yet he returned swiftly after injuring a ligament in his right knee last April, and he said he has been “training very hard” for months.

“I need to play,” Ibrahimovic said. “I’m like a little child that you give candy for the first time, and he’s looking for candy all the time, so that is what I need. I need to play, and I want to play, so I’m hungry to play, because it has gone too long now that I haven’t felt involved in the game.”

Ibrahimovic also showed his motivation in the financial aspects of his move. He isn’t one of the Galaxy’s three designated players, instead taking a two-year deal paid with targeted allocation money – $3 million total, according to numerous reports – to fit into the Galaxy’s payroll structure.

Instead of banking a much fatter check from a European club, Zlatan appears determined to show his abilities in person to millions of new fans on a continent where soccer support has grown steadily for a generation.

Ibrahimovic’s move also should energize the Galaxy, who will mix him into coach Sigi Schmid’s intriguing collection of international talent. While French winger Romain Alessandrini and Mexican forward Giovani Dos Santos might not provide the same level of service as Paul Pogba, the Galaxy starters are among the best players in MLS, and Ibrahimovic must learn how to connect with them.

Ibrahimovic also confirmed he hasn’t ruled out a return to the Swedish national team for the World Cup this summer despite retiring from the international game in 2016, saying that “the door will always be open.”

“But I think the main focus now is Galaxy,” Ibrahimovic said. “I settle in. Get to know my new teammates. Get to know the club. Get to know the city. When I feel comfortable there, you take the next step.”

Mexico has to solve 2 major questions before the World Cup

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Eighty-seven days before taking on Germany in its first match of Russia 2018, Mexico appears to have only two major lingering questions for the final 23-man roster that will try to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in a tournament away from home. Is veteran defender Rafael Marquez going to be called? And if Giovani Dos Santos’ lackluster performances put his spot in jeopardy?

Manager Juan Carlos Osorio said recently that he already knows who are going to join him in the quest to play in the fifth game of a World Cup, something that Mexicans achieved only as hosts in Mexico 1970 and in 1986.

Currently, 20 of the 28 players that were called to play friendly matches against Iceland and Croatia appear to have their ticket booked for Russia, leaving a handful of players fighting for three roster spots.


With over two decades playing for the national team, Marquez might not play in a fifth World Cup for two reasons, the major one off the field.

Each week, the 39-year old Marquez shows signs of his demise. His team Atlas is the worst in the league and has a defense that has allowed 22 goals in 12 matches.

In Mexico there’s a big debate on whether it’s worth calling a player whose best moments are behind him.

Marquez is worshipped in the locker room because most of his teammates grew up watching him when he won the Champions League playing for Barcelona (2005-06 and 2008-09).

Besides that, Osorio has to weigh in that Marquez was sanctioned last August by the U.S. Treasury for allegedly acting as a front person for a Mexican drug lord.

Marquez stopped playing for three months to take care of the issue and returned to action in Mexico but the Treasury has not lifted the sanctions yet and Marquez is unable to play in the United States and that’s why he was not called for the friendly matches.


A 28 year-old player as talented as Giovani Dos Santos should be a lock to be on the final roster for Mexico but that’s not the case. Dos Santos, who played in South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, has not performed well for Mexico under Osorio, who loved the player and has given him opportunities to return to form, but that has not happen.

A recent injury left Dos Santos out of the squad that will play against Iceland and Croatia and that opened the doors for Rodolfo Pizarro, who has been playing great for Chivas and has a good chance of taking the spot if the L.A. Galaxy striker continues with his lackluster performance.


Taking the qualifiers and the Confederations Cup as a reference, Osorio pretty much has his roster set for the World Cup. Guillermo Ochoa and Jesus Corona will be two of the goalkeepers and Alfredo Talavera is probably the third. The defenders Nestor Araujo, Jesus Gallardo, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes and Carlos Salcedo are also favorites of the Colombian manager, as well as the midfielders Jonathan Dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera and Javier Aquino. On the attack, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Javier Hernandez, Raul Jim�nez, Hirving Lozano, Oribe Peralta and Carlos Vela appear to have their spots secured leaving only three spaces.

Fighting for that chance are: Hugo Ayala, who’s been stellar for a Tigres team that has won two of the last three titles in Mexico; Oswaldo Alanis (Chivas), who played in last year’s Confederations Cup and Edson Alvarez (America), who’s not playing much for his club but Osorio loves his style of play and the fact that he can also play as a midfielder.

Midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez is also on the mix after declining to play for the U.S. and Omar Govea, who plays for Royal Excel in the Belgium league, has gathered interest from Osorio.

All five players will have a chance to present their cases in the upcoming friendly matches.

Battle-tested United could turn attention to Neymar this summer

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Last summer’s drama surrounding Neymar could be nothing compared to what is in store for the Brazilian in 2018.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic ]

Diario Gol is reporting that Manchester United is exploring the possibility of making a bid for Neymar this summer, which would come at a record fee for the Premier League side.

The report suggests United would be willing to pay over $367 million for the Paris Saint-Germain star, while possibly sending Paul Pogba to the French giants in the swap.

Neymar, who joined PSG in 2017 after a messy ending at Barcelona, has been heavily linked to his former’s side bitter rival Real Madrid

Man United boss Jose Mourinho is reportedly keen on the move for Neymar after the club’s signing of Alexis Sanchez didn’t live up to the billing.

The Chilean international has scored just once in 10 appearances for the Red Devils, and Mourinho has let it be known that he wasn’t pleased with the player after United crashed out of the UEFA Champions League against Sevilla.

Meanwhile, Pogba’s relationship with the Portuguese manager has been anything but steady in their time together at Old Trafford, making the reality of the French midfielder leaving Manchester a strong one.

Nothing has been indicated for certain that Neymar will leave PSG following the World Cup in Russia, but all signs are pointing to the currently-injured attacker moving from the Parc des Princes.

Report: Conte, Pirlo could spearhead Italy managerial team

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Various nations are still mourning their failure of missing out on the 2018 World Cup, but arguably none bigger than powerhouse Italy.

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The Azzurri, who lost to Sweden in a UEFA playoff series in 2017, will not take part in soccer’s most-prestigious competition in Russia for the first time since 1958.

Former manager Gian Piero Ventura has received heavy criticism for the nation’s failure, and stepped down from his role as head coach immediately after Italy’s dismissal from World Cup qualifying.

A familiar face could now be in line to replace Ventura though, as Football Italia reports that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte could make a return to the Azzurri.

Conte remains under contract at Stamford Bridge, however, Chelsea’s dip in form this season after winning the title in 2016/17 has many speculating that the Italian won’t survive to coach the Blues next year.

Meanwhile, Italian legend Andrea Pirlo has also expressed his interest in joining the technical staff if Conte is appointed.

The two have a close history together from their days with the national team and at Juventus.

In addition to Conte, Carlo Ancelotti is reportedly being considered for the job as well, and Pirlo is believed to be willing to join the managerial staff is the former Bayern Munich coach is hired.