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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.

New St. Louis stadium plan calls for state land contribution

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has made it clear he’s opposed to state funding for stadiums, yet a revised proposal for a $200 million soccer stadium in St. Louis calls for the state to contribute land that’s potentially worth millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, a city aldermanic committee delayed a vote Thursday to advance a measure putting the proposal, which also requires city voters to approve $60 million in funding, on the April ballot.

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The investor group SC STL’s proposal calls for a 22,000-seat stadium near Interstate 64 and Union Station, a key component in the group’s effort to lure a Major League Soccer expansion team. MLS officials have expressed strong interest in St. Louis, but only if a stadium is built.

Time is of the essence: The league is expected to award two new expansion teams in the fall, with play starting in 2020.

St. Louis’ project was on life support after Greitens, a Republican who took office this month, said repeatedly that he opposed taxpayer funding for stadiums, calling it “welfare for millionaires.” SC STL had been seeking $40 million in state tax credits.

But a provision of SC STL’s revised financing plan, presented at Thursday’s meeting at City Hall, says the state would contribute the majority of the 24-acre project site, which is currently owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation, and perform some site clearing and infrastructure work.

The value is still being appraised, but given its location and the amount of land, it likely is worth several million dollars.

Greitens spokesman Parker Briden told The Associated Press in a statement that the governor “remains opposed to state funding to build the soccer stadium.” He did not immediately respond to a question about how the potential donation of land doesn’t conflict with Greitens’ hard-line stance.

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The first hint of compromise with the governor came in an email from SC STL spokesman Jim Woodcock late Wednesday, when he wrote that a “path forward” had been reached after two weeks of meetings.

“Gov. Greitens has made it clear to us that he is very supportive of adding a new professional sports franchise to the State of Missouri, and that’s a sentiment we wholeheartedly share,” the statement said.

The stadium project also requires taxpayer help from the city. The city Ways and Means Committee heard from SC STL officials Thursday, but no vote was taken on whether to ask the full Board of Aldermen to place the issue on the April ballot. The committee is expected to reconsider the measure Monday.

SC STL would be responsible for at least $95 million of the project cost, the entire $150 million expansion fee and all maintenance costs going forward.

Bundesliga returns: Will Bayern hold off competition again?

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Germany’s top flight returns to action Friday when Bayern Munich travels to Freiburg in an attempt to keep the pressure on new boys RB Leipzig.

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For those who haven’t paid a ton of attention to the Bundesliga this season or need a bit of a refresher after several weeks away, here’s what to monitor over the next several months.

Really Big surprise Leipzig looks to keep title race going

Formed in 2009, RB Leipzig is a lot of German fans’ least favorite club after cash infusions caused a rapid rise into the top flight.

The new club is looking down at most of the haters, however. League leaders for much of the first half, Leipzig is three points shy of league leading Bayern Munich.

Bayern waxed Leipzig 3-0 before the holiday break, and the two sides won’t meet again until May 13. How long can the new boys keep up the show?

Historic relegation candidates

What does USMNT strikers Bobby Wood and Aron Johannsson share besides a national team? Both are on sides that have been in Germany’s top tier longer than the players have been alive.

Wood’s Hamburg has six national titles and hasn’t seen the second tier in 54 years. That’s the longest stretch in the league, two more seasons than Bayern Munich. Hamburg is a currently third-bottom, which would force them into a relegation-promotion playoff against the third-placed team in 2.Bundesliga.

As for Johannsson, his Werder Bremen side is just three points ahead of Hamburg. Bremen has been in the top flight for 36 seasons.

Chasing the Golden Boot

Robert Lewandowski has scored the most goals in two of the past three seasons, with Alexander Meier of Eintracht Frankfurt seizing the honor in 2014-15.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is leading the pack by three goals, but is with Gabon at the Africa Cup of Nations to help open the door for the rest of the bunch.

Koln’s Anthony Modeste is second with 13, while Lewandowski has 12. Two players, Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) and Sandro Wagner (Hoffenheim), have nine.

Can surprise Europe-chasers hold up?

Hertha Berlin was in 2.Bundesliga a few seasons ago, while Eintracht Frankfurt was there a season prior to that. RB Leipzig, as mentioned earlier, wasn’t even a club until 2009.

Eintracht made a Europa League run one year later, but neither was expected to be competing for a spot in Europe this season. As it stands, all three are in the mix.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 16 12 3 1 38 9 29 7-2-0 5-1-1 39
 RB Leipzig 16 11 3 2 31 15 16 6-1-0 5-2-2 36
 Hertha BSC Berlin 16 9 3 4 24 16 8 7-0-1 2-3-3 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 16 8 5 3 22 12 10 5-3-0 3-2-3 29
 1899 Hoffenheim 16 6 10 0 28 17 11 4-5-0 2-5-0 28
 Borussia Dortmund 16 7 6 3 35 19 16 5-3-0 2-3-3 27
 1. FC Köln 16 6 7 3 21 15 6 4-4-0 2-3-3 25

Report: El Tri’s Chicharito to LAFC in 2018

Bayer Leverkusen's Javier Hernandez, left, and Atletico Mineiro's Mattheus Rolden fight for possession of the ball during the first half of a Florida Cup soccer match, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
AP Photo/John Raoux
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It makes a lot of sense, you know?

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will turn 30 in 2018, not a spring chicken for a striker but still plenty productive if healthy.

His national team, Mexico, will likely be revving its engines for the World Cup, and won’t be upset to have the forward playing a bit less soccer and a lot closer to home.

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And Los Angeles FC will want to make a massive mark as it seeks to butt its head into a market dominated by the LA Galaxy (and, perhaps still then, Mexico national teamer Giovani Dos Santos).

So, tell us more, Steve Brisendine of MLSSoccer.com:

“[LAFC] are going to do everything possible to sign the current Bayer Leverkusen player, whose contract ends in 2018 and could therefore leave for a reduced fee. That’s what AS.com has confirmed with sources close to the project. LAFC hope to announce their new manager this spring and dream, a little later, to do the same with Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito.”

Make it happen. Make. It. Happen. We’re already reserving his spot on our MLS fantasy teams.

Transfer rumor roundup: Jagielka, Begovic, Berahino, Zarate

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: Saido Berahino of West Brom challenges for the ball with Phil Jagielka of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Everton at The Hawthorns on September 13, 2014 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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There’s action all over England, from those defending the goal mouth to others striving to conquer it.

[ MORE: More transfer gossip ]

— Bournemouth wants an upgrade on Artur Boruc, according to The Telegraph, and that could come in the form of Chelsea backstop Asmir Begovic.

The Cherries reportedly had a $12.5 million bid turned down by Antonio Conte, who has Thibaut Courtois in the No. 1 seat and Portugal national team backup Eduardo in the ranks (along with three keepers on loan and young goalie Mitchell Beanie).

— Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger shut the door on acquiring West Ham wantaway Dimitri Payet according to Sky Sports’ Transfer Centre:

“We have many players offensively who can play in this position. You are interested by the quality of the player but there needs to be a need as well, and we have no need in this domain.”

— Clubs in need of experienced Premier League backs need look no further than Everton, where manager Ronald Koeman has admitted that England international Phil Jagielka could leave Goodison Park. The 34-year-old center back has 40 caps for England and has made 337 appearances for Everton. He could be a massive upgrade for Sunderland if David Moyes is up for a reunion.

— Stoke City chairman Peter Coates says a purchase of Saido Berahino from West Brom is not contingent on a sale of Bojan Krkic. The latter has been linked to Middlesbrough.

— Mauro Zarate may be returning the Premier League. Watford boss Walter Mazzarri has been largely let down by his strike corps as Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney have taken steps back this season. Could $4 be enough to bring the ex-West Ham and QPR man from Fiorentina to Vicarage Road? Zarate has four goals in nine matches for La Viola, and has nine goals in 40 Premier League matches.