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MLS (late-night) roundup: SKC win in Portland; RSL, Crew SC comebacks

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With six MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 28 more to go…

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Portland Timbers 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

Two teams remain unbeaten to start the 2017 MLS season: FC Dallas, the defending Supporters’ Shield winners, and Sporting KC. As far as statement wins go during the first month and a half of the season, few, if any, look better right now than Sporting’s 1-0 victory in Portland on Saturday.

Through six games played, Portland led the league in points (13), goals scored (16) and goal differential (+8). They were the unstoppable force. Through five games played, Sporting had conceded just two goals (fewest in MLS) — neither of which were scored prior to second-half stoppage time during games in which three points had already been safely secured — en route to securing the aforementioned unbeaten start (two wins, three draws).

With a defensive record like that, Peter Vermes’ side typically only ever needs to score one goal, and what a beauty they managed to score in this one. Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber and Jimmy Medranda were heavily involved in the build-up around the 18-yard box, and Dom Dwyer headed home expertly for his second goal of the season. As is customary now, Tim Melia made one unbelievable save to secure all three points and send Sporting to within a point of Portland and Columbus Crew SC (both of whom have played one more game than them) in the (very early) Shield race.


Houston Dynamo 2-2 Minnesota United

The exciting, young attacking talent was on full display in the first half, as Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis pushed Houston out to a 2-0 halftime lead, but leaky spells at the back indicated trouble was always lurking just around the corner.

Barely 90 seconds into the second half, that trouble came to full fruition, as Cristian Ramirez finally converted on his fourth chance on the night to make it 2-1. 12 minutes later, everyone in orange fell asleep and stood around the penalty area watching the ball, and Johan Venegas slammed home a deserved equalizer.


Columbus Crew SC 2-1 Toronto FC

If you’ve managed to work out the narrative surrounding Toronto this season, please do tell. They’re a confounding bunch at the moment: while they entered Saturday’s game as one of three teams unbeaten to start the season, they’ve got just one win in seven games, and they blew an early 1-0 lead in Columbus. Jozy Altidore headed home the opener, and TFC looked to finally have found their stride.

In the space of seven minutes just before halftime, they threw it all away and found themselves a goal down, which is where they’d finish. Niko Hansen set up Ola Kamara with a spectacular ball into the box, and Justin Meram popped up at the near post to slot home past Alex Bono.


New York Red Bulls 2-0 D.C. United

D.C. should be thankful for Minnesota and the Philadelphia Union, as they’re the only two sides who somehow manage to make Ben Olsen’s side seem a cohesive squad. (At least Minnesota are extremely watchable, and Philadelphia… well, OK, never mind.)

A visit from their I-95 (Atlantic Cup) rivals was exactly what New York, winless in four games entering the weekend, needed. Alex Muyl made it 1-0 less than a minute into the second half, and Bradley Wright-Phillips continued his march toward 100 MLS goals (currently at 72 in fewer than four full seasons).


Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

The 2016 Rapids were a mirage, perhaps even a figment of our imagination from beginning to end. The difference is night and day. 1-0 victories were the hallmark of last year’s Supporters’ Shield runners-up.

As for RSL, that’s two wins in two games under new head coach Mike Petke. On Saturday, they trailed 1-0, thanks Kevin Doyle‘s 29th-minute opener, heading into the 85th minute. Then, Colorado’s Jared Watts gave away a penalty and got himself sent off at the same time, and Brooks Lennon rifled a low laser past Zac MacMath three minutes later.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Montreal Impact 2-1 Atlanta United
Orlando City SC 2-1 LA Galaxy
Chicago Fire 3-0 New England Revolution

Mourinho: Van Gaal left good team, but I brought belief

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are bringing happiness to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, or at least more of it.

The United boss says the club’s turnaround is emotionally-based, and that the cupboard certainly wasn’t bare when he took over the Red Devils last summer.

[ MORE: Fellaini red  had “a bit of acting” ]

United finished fifth in the Premier League last season, tied for fourth with Man City and 15 points back of Arsenal. Mourinho’s men sit in the same spot this year, but are in the semifinals of the Europa League, have won the League Cup, and have the door open to the Top Four.

So what’s different? Here’s the boss, from the BBC:

“I think Mr. Van Gaal left a good group of boys with very good relations between them.

“[But] I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, belief, this extra bit that brings resilience, brings fight and they have it [now].”

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster with the Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw drama, but — like any new manager — Mourinho did have to sort the club. Now we wonder whether he’ll keep it happy or hit a traditional rut by Year Three (assuming he gets there, and United should be very good next season).

Spurs confirm Wembley as 2017-18 home

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May 14 will indeed be the last time Tottenham Hotspur takes the field at White Hart Lane.

Club chairman Daniel Levy has announced that Spurs will play all of its 2017-18 home matches at Wembley Stadium, and that WHL will be demolished in the offseason.

Spurs have a new venue under construction next door to WHL, calling the venue “the heart” of regeneration plans in the region. From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“This marks a momentous day in our Club’s history as it is the day we formally agreed the demolition of our beloved White Hart Lane.

“The Lane means a huge amount to each and every one of us and we needed to gain greater certainty on the delivery of the new stadium before we made the final decision to commence with the decommissioning of our iconic, historic home for some 118 years.

‘We shall ensure that we give the Lane a fitting farewell when we play our last match here on May 14.”

West Ham’s final match at Upton Park was a memorable one last season, thanks not just to the off-field but the on-field as well. The Irons came back to beat Manchester United 3-2 on a Winston Reid goal.

With Manchester United coincidentally (?) serving as the visitor on May 14, with Top Four if not title implications likely still in play, sign us up for a comfortable seat in front of TV.

Pochettino: Derby matters, but this is about title not “Totteringham”

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Mauricio Pochettino is a focused boss, one many of us wouldn’t mind as our manager.

The longtime Espyanol man knows a thing or two about being relegated to second fiddle in town, with Catalan rivals Barcelona enveloping the spotlight 99 times out of 100.

That’s why he’s not even bothering with treating Arsenal and “St. Totteringham’s Day” — the Gunners’ annual celebration of clinching a spot above Spurs in the standings — like anything than a derby date.

“I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view and focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League.

“For me (finishing above Arsenal) is not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to win a derby. My motivation is to try to win some titles with Tottenham, and my players improve every day and show we are better than the opposition.”

Spurs as a club is growing in big ways, and aiming to sit atop the Premier League standings every year. Yes Premier League derbies are important, but aiming to finish above a rival versus above all rivals is short-sighted. Pochettino’s got it right.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 35

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The Premier League games continue to come thick and fast with 10 matches on the slate this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

West Brom 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man United 2-0 Swansea City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 3-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Stoke City 2-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 am. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Sunderland 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM

Southampton 2-1 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Watford 2-1 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM