The game in 100 words (or
less more): One of the major topics prior to/early in the 2017 MLS season has been the league’s move toward Designated Players south of 30 years old — south in 25 in many instances — and with good reason. It’s certainly the way forward over the next 5-10 years. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s spend a few dozen words marveling at the way 35-year-old David Villa has — and continues to — dominate MLS. Through his first 64 regular-season MLS games, Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer’s strike rate sat at 0.64 goals per game. On Sunday, New York City FC’s leading man bagged another brace (his 11th in the club’s first 70 games of existence) as Patrick Vieira’s side thrashed D.C. United, to the tune of 4-0. Rodney Wallace starred early on, bagging the game’s opening goal and setting up Villa’s first to make it 2-0 before the half-hour mark, but it was Villa who won the ball back near midfield and fed Maxi Moralez for his first MLS goal six minutes before halftime, and capped the afternoon with a brilliant finish from an impossible angle 15 minutes from full-time. Villa’s bid to become the first back-to-back MVP winner in league history is off to a strong start.
[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup | Late-night ]
Three moments that mattered
28′ — Villa heads home for 2-0 — Three seasons with NYCFC, three goals scored in the club’s three home openers. Pro tip: he’s good, so maybe don’t give him five yards of space inside the 18-yard box.
39′ — Villa feed Moralez for 3-0 — For all the talent Villa possesses in his pinky finger, perhaps the most impressive thing he’s shown in MLS is a tireless work rate and commitment to the team’s cause. DP strikers aren’t typically winning the ball back on the other side of the field, let alone following that up with an inch-perfect through ball.
75′ — Villa shakes free of Birnbaum for 4-0 — Pro tip: if you find yourself one on one with Villa in the open field, you’ve already lost the battle and the war. In truth, Birnbaum did everything he could here, and did so pretty well.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]
Men of the match: David Villa
Goalscorers: Wallace (8′), Villa (28′, 75′), Moralez (39′)
According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.
Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.
The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.
Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.
Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.
With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.
According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.
Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.
Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.
Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.
In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.
Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:
To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.
So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.
To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.
Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.
The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.
There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.
[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]
Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.
While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.
The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.