Author: Richard Farley


MLS Roundup: Sounders, D.C. United slip; LA gains ground in the West

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MLS’s seven-match Saturday saw both conference leaders slip on the road, fifth place change hands in the West, and a long winning streak come to an end in Columbus. At this time of year, that’s a typical weekend in Major League Soccer, but the fact that so many games are carrying these types of story lines tells you the home stretch is upon us.

Toward, three players showed they’re ready for that finishing run:

  • Diego Valeri, again making a late charge for Best XI consideration, had a goal and an assist as Portland moved back into the West’s top five;
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips is on course of history after his third hat trick of the season. Sitting on 24, the New York striker is on pace for a league record 29 goals, if he plays the rest of his teams’ games;
  • Robbie Keane recorded his 15th goal and 14th assist of the season, bringing LA back for three valuable points in Carson.

Here’s how Saturday played out across Major League Soccer:

Portland Timbers 3, Vancouver Whitecaps 0

A strong start from the Whitecaps hinted Carl Robinson’s team was ready to make amends for the 3-0 drubbing Portland handed them in Vancouver three weeks ago. Instead, Diego Valeri thwarted that start with a sublime volley in the 28th minute, giving the Timbers the 1-0 lead they’d take into halftime.

In the second half, Valeri took the ball off Matias Laba near the center line, eventually setting Fanedo Adi up for the Nigerian’s seventh goal. Three minutes later, Darlington Nagbe did the same, finding Adi nine yards out for the game’s final score.

Philadelphia Union 0, Houston Dynamo 0 

Two teams that needed three points ended scoreless in Chester, with Philadelphia suffering its second draw in a row at PPL Park.

Holding Houston to no shots on target, the Union threatened to take a first half lead through Conor Casey, who had multiple opportunities to open the scoring. Kept off the board, Philadelphia was left hoping its second half’s chances would come good, but a penalty shout (denied) for Vincent Nogueira and Pedro Ribeiro’s late test of the upright meant the Union would end scoreless.

The draw left Philadelphia in sixth place at night’s end, two points out of the East’s last playoff spot. Houston is seven points back of fourth place Columbus.

Montreal Impact 2, San Jose Earthquakes 0

There’s an unfortunate irony behind Montreal, being MLS’s first team eliminated from postseason contention on the same night they continued their late reason progress. Given how 2014’s transpired, though, the Impact were under no impression they would play into November. Instead, performances like tonight’s two-goal win  are part of a building process toward next season.

That building process was slow going at Stade Saputo, with a team that was resting star striker Marco Di Vaio needing 81 minutes to craft its first goal. That’s when Di Vaio, on as a second half substitute, forced San Jose keeper Jon Busch into a diving stop, one that allowed Jack McInerney to knee-in the rebound.

Dilly Duka’s 87th minute insurance extended San Jose’s winless streak to nine.

New York Red Bulls 4-1 Seattle Sounders

This wasn’t your typical, lopsided Sounder aberration.  For most of the match they were competitive, if not outright better. Unfortunately, none of that competitiveness resulted in a first half goal. Instead, a half-strength team rotated in the way of Tuesday’s Open Cup win was pushed out of the game early it the second half, with Bradley Wright-Phillips’ third hat trick of the season giving New York its one-sided result.

Seattle’s defensive breakdown allowed Wright-Phillips to open his day from close range after 29 seconds, through his second came from the spot. Just before the hour, a counter attack built down New York’s left found the Red Bulls’ striker open in front of goal.

Though Clint Dempsey and Tim Cahill scored over the next 10 minutes, the match settled in after the home side’s final goal. Wright-Phillips ended the match with 24 goals, while Mike Petke’s team moved slightly closer to a postseason return.

Columbus Crew 1, New England Revolution 0 

A dominant first half couldn’t get the Crew on the scoresheet before halftime, but that thanks to a piece of Federico Higuain dead ball mastery, Columbus was up three minutes into the second half.

Though New England pressed to find an equalizer, Columbus came closest to scoring the next goal, with A.J. Soares conceding a penalty kick in the 84th minute. With his kindness getting the best of him, Higuain failed to convert the ensuing chance, leaving New England within striking distance.

Moments later, Charlie Davies nearly  made Columbus pay, but thanks to Steve Clark’s breakaway stop, the Crew were able to preserve their 1-0 result. They remain within one point of New York for fourth, while third place New England ends its five-game winning run.

 Chicago Fire 3,  D.C. United 3

A United team without Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson, and Chris Rolfe went down early at Toyota Park, conceding in the 16th minute to Quincy Amirkawa before Jeff Larentowicz doubled Chicago’s lead from the spot. Six minutes before half time, Luis Silva matched Larentowicz’s penalty score, pulling D.C. within one after Bakary Soumare’s foul on Steve Birnbaum.

In the second half, D.C. United began looking like its East-leading self, getting goals from Silva and Bobby Boswell to claim its first lead of the night in the 68th minute. Chicago, however, would quickly respond, with Matt Watson blasting a 26-yard shot inside Bill Hamid’s right post for a 78th minute equalizer.

With his first goal in a Fire uniform, Watson gave Chicago a record-tying 16th draw of the season. United is three points up on Sporting at the top of the East.

LA Galaxy 2, FC Dallas 1

A dominant start from the home side left the Carson crowd bedeviled as the teams went back into the locker rooms scoreless. Shortly after intermission, however, FC Dallas opened the scoring, using the mismatch of Blas Perez against Dan Gargan to score off an early second half cross.

Eight minutes later, Robbie Keane responded, converting from the middle of the penalty area after Gyasi Zardes forced a Dallas turnover. Six minutes from time, Keane added an assist on the game-winning goal, lofting a cross for Alan Gordon that the substitute striker headed home.

The win moved LA even with Seattle atop the standings, and while the Sounders maintain a game-in-hand, the Galaxy made up ground. With the teams having a home-and-home to end the season, LA has moved close enough to control its own Supporters’ Shield destiny.

MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-1 FC Dallas

MLS Sounders Galaxy Soccer
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One game, 100 words (or less): Dallas weathered LA’s dominant opening half to reach halftime even, eventually taking the lead through Blas Perez early in the second half. Though Robbie Keane quickly responded, the Galaxy had fallen victim to Oscar Pareja’s trap, failing to put Dallas away before the Toros came into the match.

In the 84th minute, the home side wriggled out of it. After Keane beat Adam Moffat just outside the left-side of the penalty box, a far post cross for Alan Gordon found the former Earthquake open at the far post. Heading down and across goal, the second half sub gave the Galaxy a 2-1 win, allowing LA to move even with Seattle atop the Western Conference.


LA Galaxy: Keane 62′, Gordon 84′
FC Dallas: Perez 54′

Three Four moments that mattered:

45′ – It’s still scoreless? – FC Dallas failed to test Jaime Penedo over the first 45 minutes. They were outshot 10-3 and saw Gyasi Zardes miss a 26th minute sitter. Playing without Fabian Castillo, Matt Hedges, and Diaz (starting on the bench), the team was dominated. The scoresheet, however, remained blank as the teams walked down StubHub Center’s tunnel.

54′ – That’s so Dallas – Keep FCD close, they’ll find a goal like this, even if they’ve been dominated for the first 54 minutes. They’ve become so good at it, any advantage implied by the run of play becomes irrelevant. Be it on the counter or via dead balls, FC Dallas has too many ways to render open play irrelevant.

Open play, however, was Dallas’s friend on Saturday, with play built down the Toros’ right allowing Blas Perez to drift wide and isolate Dan Gargan. On Andres Escobar’s floated cross, the Panamanian international was able to elevate over the LA fullback, giving the Toros a lead with their first shot on target.

62′ – Clear that, Victor – Victor Ulloa has been asked to carry a big load in his first full MLS campaign, and for most of the season, he’s played beyond the nine minutes’ experience he brought into the 2014 season. On a Gargan ball into the box, however, the 22-year-old midfielder took one touch too many, allowing Gyasi Zardes to win the ball off him to set up Keane to LA’s quick response.

84 ‘ – Patented move – It seems like we see this once per game from Keane. Matched up one-on-one with a defender, he’ll move the ball onto his right before dragging it across the defender, onto his left.

Usually Keane’s at such close range that this immediately leads to a shot, but on Saturday, it gave him a chance to chip a far post cross to Alan Gordon. Having creating room against Zach Lloyd, Gordon had an easy finish into the left of goal, one that gave LA full points on the night.


LA Galaxy: Penedo; Gargan, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Rogers; Husidic (Ishizaki 62′), Sarvas, Juninho, Donovan; Keane, Zardes (Gordon 75′)
FC Dallas: Fernandez; Acosta, Watson, Loyd, Hernandez; Escober, Michel, Ulloa, Hollingshead (Diaz 55′, Benitez 83′); Perez, Akindele (Moffat 75′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Looks will be deceiving with Dallas – The Dallas team that used Mauro Diaz’s through balls to climb to the top of the Western Conference this spring is unlikely to return. Instead, Oscar Pareja seems content to lean on a resolute defense, his counter attacking threat, and Michel’s set piece magic to carry them into the postseason.

The beauty of those strengths is the ability to win games without playing well; at least, play well by normal standards. Shots, possession, territorial measures are unlikely to go Dallas’s way, but as long as the Toros can adjust at halftime, find a way to win some corners, and lean in their strengths, they’ll be able to “steal”some results.

The only draw back, and it is a minor one: Nobody will consider them a real threat. Dallas will never look as good as LA, Real Salt Lake or Seattle, even though they’re capable to earning these types of results. If they want to win hearts and minds (and hopefully, they don’t care), this isn’t going to do it.

2. Gordo > Friendo – Bruce Arena brought in Rob Friend to do this. Instead, the former Canadian international seemed more interested in drawing theatrical endeavors than scoring goals. LA’s first hope of acquiring a big target man didn’t come off.

Alan Gordon, however, has been a gift. He’s fit in perfectly since migrating south from San Jose. Given the salary cap, the team’s needs, and Arena’s success with veteran players, LA couldn’t have asked for a better solution.

It’s become a bit of a lark around LA to say “I don’t know what San Jose let him go.” The reasons are clear enough. But just because Gordon no longer fit with the Earthquakes doesn’t mean he can’t be a difference-maker in Carson.

3. Dallas needs its stars – Mauro Diaz came and went tonight, being subbed off later after his introduction after halftime. Even if he’s fully fit at some point this season, the team has moved beyond being built around him. Dallas is claiming its points in different ways.

Those different ways almost require Matt Hedges and Fabian Castillo to be in the team. Hedges, the team’s new captain, is the key to a defense that has to support Pareja’s counter attacking approach. And the key to executing that approach? Castillo.

Where this leaves them:

  • Though Seattle has a game in hand, LA is not even on point with the Sounders. The duo sit atop the West and the league, with their season-ending, home-and-home series looming larger by the week. The Galaxy also clinched a playoff spot.
  • FC Dallas is settling into the number four spot. Four points back of Real Salt Lake, five points up on Portland, FCD seems destined to host the West’s four-five game.

Wenger, post-match: Focus was key as Arsenal burst past Aston Villa

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The highlight of Premier League Saturday was Arsenal’s explosion at Villa Park. In a three-minute, twenty-six second span of the first half, the Gunners turned a 0-0 score into a 3-0 edge, a margin they’d carry to full-time.

“I think they got a big blow with the first goal, and they couldn’t recover, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, asked to explain his team’s eruption. “We took advantage of it very quickly. And after that, it was game over.”

Arsenal would keep 71 percent of the ball, holding Aston Villa to two shots while handing Paul Lambert’s team first loss of the season.

Compared to the Gunners’ mid-week performance in Germany, it was a stark turnaround, one that left their managers applauding the team’s mentality.

“We had very good concentration,” Wenger explained. “We played a very, very good first half. We were in control, dominated the game. Second half was more about keeping the result with less driving going forward. Overall, it was a very important game for us.”

Wenger’s full post-game remarks can be seen, above.


MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 4-1 Seattle Sounders

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One game, 100 words (or less): Bradley Wright-Phillips’ chances of history received a huge boost Saturday night, with his team’s playoff hopes rising along with them. With three goals before the hour-mark, MLS’s leading scorer pushed his team to a 4-1 victory over visiting Seattle – a win that ensures last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners will stay in the East’s top five for at least one more week.

Wright-Phillips opened the scoring in the first minute, though it would be another 52 before the New York sniper added his second of the night from the spot. On a counter attack in the 56th minute, Wright-Phillips scored his 24th goal of the season, leaving him three short of MLS’s single-season scoring mark.

A quick swap of goals by Clint Dempsey and Tim Cahill provided the night’s final pieces of excitement, with a Seattle team that made major chances from its mid-week U.S. Open Cup triumph falling hard at Red Bull Arena.


New York: Wright-Phillips 1′, 53′, 56′, Cahill 65′
Seattle: Dempsey 61′

Three moments that mattered:

1′ – 29 seconds – Any fear Seattle had over-rotated its team were emboldened after 29 seconds, when Stefan Frei’s block of an Ambroise Oyongo shot gave New York’s leading scorer a chance from eight yards out. Forgotten moments earlier by a Seattle’s defense, Bradley Wright-Phillips was rewarded for initially setting up Oyongo, putting the rebound into the open net to give New York a ridiculously early lead.

53′ – Inexperience shows – Dylan Remick showed promise earlier this season when he was starting ahead of Leo Gonzalez, but after beating beaten by Lloyd Sam in the 53rd minute, the 23-year-old showed he’s not beyond a few rookie mistakes. As Sam, near the byline, turned toward the middle of the penalty area, Remick made a desperation lunge, taking out Sam just inside the box. Wright-Phillips fired his spot kick past Frei to give New York a two-goal lead.

56′ – Not Djimi’s night – Djimi Traore had a strange moment in the first half. Running under a long ball from Luis Robles, Traore kicked Wright-Phillips in the backside after desperately trying to compensate for his error. It’s not often that you see a defender run himself into position to kick an opponent in the butt.

It was the start of a bad night. Just before the hour, with Seattle having just gave up a second goal, Traore failed to adjust as Wright-Phillips drifted away from Chad Marshall. As New York countered down its left, Roy Miller played a long, diagonal ball between the defense and goal, one that saw Traore in no position to contest Wright-Phillips’ third goal.

Later, after Seattle had reduced the lead to two, a poor clearance by Traore allowed Tim Cahill to put his name on the scoresheet, a ball played right to the Australian international allowing him to finishing inside Frei’s right post.


New York: Robles; Duvall, Olave, Sekagya, Miller (Christenson 84′); Sam, McCarty, Alexander; Oyongo; Henry (Stevenson 92′), Wright-Phillips (Cahill 58′)
Seattle: Frei; Anibaba, Marshall, Traore, Remick; Neagle, Rose, Alonso (Pineda 80′), Pappa; Cooper (Dempsey 60′), Barrett (Martins 59′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Depth’s nice, when you don’t have to use it all – Yes, Seattle over-rotated, but perhaps Sigi Schmid felt it was necessary. Maybe the Seattel staff felt it was worth risking a loss to reduce the minutes for five or six of his regulars.

Regardless, the Sounders’ depth didn’t hold up. Though the team looked fine for much of the first half, mistakes that distinguish first choice players from useless depth cost Seattle. The Supporters’ Shield race could tighten up.

2. Djimi Traore looks done – Traore was a valuable addition at the beginning of last season, but he was one of the culprits as Seattle lost to Portland in the playoffs. This season, Zach Scott seems to have won the spot next to Chad Marshall, though if there was any lingering feeling a healthy Traore should start, tonight said otherwise.

3. BWP within reach – Three goals in five games is a lot, but after his third hat trick of the season, Wright-Phillips is on pace. Averaging one goal every 88.9 minutes this season, Wright-Phillips’ needs just under three games to tie the record, at his current rate. If Wright-Phillips stays on his season-long pace, Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski will lose their spots in MLS’s record book.

Where they stand now:

  • With the win, New York has a three-point lead on fifth place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. Should Columbus hold on to beat New England, New York’s lead on fifth goes back down to one.
  • For Seattle, this is a game to forget, mostly because the team continues to control its Supporters’ Shield destiny. The Sounders remain three points up on the Galaxy, and after LA’s done with Dallas tonight, Seattle will again have a match-in-hand.

Premier League recap: All goals, highlights from Saturday’s action

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Two teams coming off mid-wee, Champions League action met different fates away from home on Saturday. Arsenal, visiting Aston Villa in one of the weekend’s marquee matches, saw a first half explosion finally break through what had been a nearly impenetrable Lions defense., while in East London, the underdogs were the ones taking early control, With Sam Allardyce’s plan of attacking Liverpool right back Javier Manquillo paying off,  West Ham was able to pull off the an upset at Upton Park.

Elsewhere, four-goal games led to draws at Loftus Road and St. James Park, while matches in Burnley and Swansea produced one goal between them.

Here are all of Saturday’s goals and highlights, above.