Photo credit: Toronto FC / @torontofc

MLS Snapshots: TFC’s lead restored to 9 as NYCFC, CHI falter

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Toronto FC 4-0 San Jose Earthquakes

The game in 100 words (or less): TFC have taken all the excitement out of the final days and weeks of the regular season… with two months of the regular season still to go. Saturday’s 4-0 victory, their fifth straight win, over San Jose not only sent a(nother) clear message to the rest of the league that 1) they’re hellbent on MLS Cup vengeance, and 2) they might just be the best team in league history, but also re-established Greg Vanney’s side’s nine-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and in the Supporters’ Shield race (with thanks to results elsewhere — see below). Jozy Altidore bagged a pair of second-half goal, doubling and tripling the lead established by league-leading assist man Victor Vazquez. Jonathan Osorio competed the scoring with TFC’s third in 21 minutes to start the second half. Sebastian Giovinco left the contest at halftime with tightness in his quad.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Vazquez fills an empty net after Tarbell’s blunder — Andrew Tarbell made every effort imaginable in an attempt to get a touch on Steven Beitashour’s cross, but the second-year ‘keeper only wound up looking a fool as Vazquez bagged his sixth goal of the season (to go with 14 assists).

48′ — Altidore slots home for 2-0 — Goals don’t come much easier than this one, for which all Altidore had to do was not send his shot 20 rows into the stands, and he’d make it an even dozen on the season. (Scratch that earlier note — 15 assists for Vazquez)

64′ — Altidore heads past Tarbell for 3-0 — So it’s a baker’s dozen for Altidore, and four goals in TFC’s last three games.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Victor Vazquez

Goalscorers: Vazquez (26′), Altidore (48′, 64′), Osorio (66′)


New York City FC 0-1 Portland Timbers

The game in 100 words (or less): Three short days after cutting TFC’s lead to six points, NYCFC crashed and burned their own Shield dreams as they lost at Yankee Stadium for just the second time all season, falling to Portland, 1-0. Diego Valeri scored the game’s only goal and made a bit of history in the process (see below). The victory pushes Caleb Porter’s side two points clear of the Seattle Sounders for the Western Conference’s top spot (though Seattle now have two games in hand). Portland become the first West side to reach a dozen wins on the season, and extend their current unbeaten run to four games (three wins). TFC are the only side to beat Portland in the Timbers’ last eight games.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

44′ — Valeri hammers past Johnson for 1-0 — No one pressured Valeri and he fired past Sean Johnson to give himself a goal in seven straight games, which ties the Argentine for the all-time record in MLS history.

47′ — Brilliant nearly scores from his stomach — Frederic Brilliant so nearly scored the weirdest goal of the 2017 season, a pool-ball tap-in from his belly, but the Frenchman couldn’t quite hit the corner pocket.

84′ — Johnson makes a spectacular save to keep NYCFC in it — This is just absolutely ridiculous from Johnson, who’ll very likely ride this one to Save of the Year glory.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (44′)


Chicago Fire 1-1 New York Red Bulls

The game in 100 words (or less): Chicago’s tailspin might very well be over, but Veljko Paunovic’s side still dropped a pair of points at home on Saturday, in a 1-1 draw with New York. After putting a four-game losing skid to bed last weekend, Chicago were made to scrap their way to a point against a side four points (and two spot) below them in the East. Now 14 points back of TFC (they were the only side within three of the Reds a month and a half ago) and five back of NYCFC for second, the dreaded knockout round is looking a likelier destination everyday for Chicago. Two positives for Chicago: a loss would have meant just one point stood between themselves and New York (and three from falling out of the top-four, thus the right to host the knockout round game), and Nemanja Nikolic scored his first goal since July 1, a stretch of 10 games without the Hungarian finding the back of the net.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three Two moments that mattered

8′ — BWP’s in the right place at the right time, and it’s 1-0 — That describes, what, roughly 80 percent of BWP’s goal in MLS. That’s not a slight on the Englishman, because always popping up in the right spot is 99 percent skill and 1 percent luck.

66′ — Nikolic breaks his drought, makes it 1-1 — Nikolic gets the goal, but Michael de Leeuw should get all the attention for this delicate touch. As the ball came falling out of the sky, the Dutchman so carefully laid it across the face of goal and gifted Nikolic a chance he couldn’t miss.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Sacha Kljestan

Goalscorers: Wright-Phillips (8′), Nikolic (66′)

Report: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million

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The Geordie dream appears one giant step closer to reality after Amanda Staveley has reportedly made a significantly larger bid in her attempt to purchase Newcastle United from long-embattled owner Mike Ashley.

[ TIMELINE: Ashley puts club up for sale | Staveley’s first bid rejected ]

According to multiple reports out of the UK — the Telegraph offers the most information at this time — Staveley has increased her initial offer from $335 million to today’s $400-million figure which is expected to be enough to convince Ashley to accept and bring to an end his decade-long, rocky relationship with the Toon Army.

Ashley purchased the club for $177 million back in 2007 and has reportedly invested somewhere in the neighborhood of another $177 million, in the form of interest-free loans, during his stewardship. He stands to make a sizable profit in light of today’s reports, though his original asking price of $534 million is nowhere close to being met.

[ STREAM: Newcastle host Everton — Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET ]

The biggest question which remains — now that will he or won’t he sell? appears to have been answered — is how quickly the deal can be completed, thus allowing Staveley to back manager Rafa Benitez during the January transfer window. Once the two sides enter into deeper takeover talks and the process of transferring ownership from one to the other begins, a transfer embargo will be activated.

Benitez and Ashley traded verbal jabs over the club’s transfer dealings — or, lack thereof — in the summer, and the Spaniard has again this week insisted significant investment is needed in January, otherwise the Magpies could very well be relegated, once again. After a strong start to the season, Newcastle are winless in their last seven Premier League games (six losses) and have tumbled to 16th in the league table, now just two points clear of the relegation zone.

Klopp explains rotation vs. Everton, Salah’s injury scare

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Jurgen Klopp took a fair bit of criticism over his decision to rotate four members of his first-choice starting lineup for Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Everton, and the Liverpool manager might not be done rotating just yet — only this time, his hand could be force by an injury scare.

[ MORE: Klopp says post-game interview not a big deal ]

Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum were all dropped to the bench, on the advice of the club’s medical team, at the end of a 21-day stretch which saw the Reds play seven times. Klopp came under further scrutiny for his decision to substitute Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s undisputed player of the season thus far, with Liverpool leading 1-0 in the 67th minute.

Now, Klopp has revealed, that Salah was forced off due to fear of a potential hamstring injury, though the Egyptian is expected to be available to start when West Bromwich Albion visit Anfield on Wednesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) — quotes from the Guardian:

“I have 500,000 pieces of information and I have to make a decision; I cannot write a book before each game. I do not want to say [it was a risk to play Coutinho and Firmino] as that would sound like an excuse and I don’t need an excuse.

“I find it funny that we talk after this game about that but we did not speak about it after the 5-1 or 3-0, why they did not play [the wins at Brighton and Stoke when Salah, Coutinho and Sadio Mane did not all start]. This is one game we should have won they did not play. We play it 10 times and we win. We had a bit of information but, come on, it would sound like an excuse to me.

“I took Mo Salah off because he felt the hamstring a little bit. Then everyone said, ‘How can you take him off?’ I do not go out and say: ‘Because he is close to being injured.’ He is not injured at the moment, thank God. Hopefully we took him off early enough. We have to do it. Seven games in 21 days before Everton and now six games in 18 days. It is exactly the same. We need the best quality we can have before each game. We cannot ignore the number of games.”

The only thing Klopp could have done to draw even more criticism would have been to ignore the advice of the doctors prior to the game, then leave Salah on the field for all 90 minutes — win, lose or draw in the end. Once the above information had inevitably leaked out in said scenario, words like “irresponsible” and “negligent” would have been lobbed his way with reckless abandon.

It’s almost as if managers have more information available to them than the average, angry fan.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach