Richard Farley

MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 3-0 Toronto FC

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJjIdK5HA4Q]

One game, 100 words (or less): The teams may be next to each other in the Eastern Conference standings, but Wednesday at RFK Stadium, D.C. United and Toronto were worlds apart. Though United generated fewer chances on the night, their play in the final third proved more efficient, with an early score and a strong night from Bill Hamid allowing them to complete a July double over Toronto.

With goals from Eddie Johnson, Chris Rolfe, and Nick Hagglund (own goal), the Black and Red took a convincing 3-0 win from Toronto, closing their gap with Sporting Kansas City atop the Eastern Conference.

Goals:

D.C. United: Johnson 8′, Rolfe 59′, Hagglund (o.g.) 67′
Toronto FC: None.

Three moments that mattered:

8′ – E.J. with No. 4 – This is the type of goal D.C. may have imagined when they committed Designated Player money to Eddie Johnson. On a ball in from the right, Johnson gets in front of newly acquired Warren Creavalle, meeting Perry Kitchen’s cross to finish into the left of goal. Moments after Dominic Oduro missed a chance to open the scoring, D.C. had its opener, the “E.J.” providing more reason to believe he’s heating up.

46′ – Hamid comes up big on Moore – Strong saves on Luke Moore and Oduro make Bill Hamid a big part of United’s first half success, but early in Wednesday’s second half, the D.C. goalkeeper was called on to make his biggest save of the night. Put behind the United defense by Jermain Defoe, Moore had a chance to equalize from six yards Too casual, perhaps not anticipating Hamid would read the play so well, Moore ended up playing the ball into the oncoming keeper, failing to convert what would have been a game-tying goal.

67′ – Own goal ends hope – Nick DeLeon was involved in D.C.’s last two scores, but it was his part in the third that ended Toronto’s hopes. Coming in from the right flank, DeLeon moved through Toronto’s defense before putting a shot on Bendik. Though the Reds’ keeper got a hand on it, rookie Nick Hagglund’s attempted clearance ended up in his own goal, giving D.C. its insurmountable lead.

Lineups:

D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud (Jared Jeffrey 82′), Chris Rolfe (Conor Doyle 74′); Luis Silva (Lewis Neal 69′), Eddie Johnson
Toronto FC: Joe Bendik; Warren Creavalle, Bradley Orr (Daniel Lovitz 65′), Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro (Jonathan Osorio 65′), Collen Warner, Michael Bradley, Jackson; Luke Moore, Jermain Defoe (Gilberto 73′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Toronto may not have another gear – We remember their start, we look at their talent, and we think the Reds can another level, but after the last two performances against United, Toronto doesn’t look like a team ready to compete with the East’s top two.

2. The potential of Eddie Johnson – The numbers still aren’t great, but Johnson’s playing better, and with his early goal against Toronto, he gave D.C. fans reason to think their team can still get better. While you can chalk his opener up to a poor night from Warren Creavalle, Johnson’s value is in a versatility that allows him to take advantage of mismatches across the defense. If he starts converting more of the chances those match ups allow, D.C. won’t have to play out as many close games.

3. All-Star Bill Hamid – When Caleb Porter’s selections were announced, we (read: I) intimated a few goalkeepers were having similar seasons, but Hamid’s selection was a decent reward for a strong D.C. defense. On Wednesday, Hamid flashed a true All-Star’s form, making eight saves while leading United to their 11th win of the season.

Where this leaves them:

  • With 37 points, D.C. is only one point back of Sporting Kansas City in the East. They’re also one point back in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
  • And with the loss, Toronto stays in third place, albeit 11 points back of second place United.

Southampton’s replacement for Luke Shaw: Ryan Bertrand, on loan

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One spot down; two to go, for now. With rumors José Fonte may yet move from Southampton, Ronald Koeman may have more work than that to rebuild Saints’ back line. Today, however, the acquisition of Ryan Bertrand moves last year’s eighth place finishers one step closer to being ready for its season opener.

The news was announced today on the club’s website, with Chelsea agreeing to send the 24-year-old defender on his seventh loan. The year-long deal gives Southampton another season to identify a long-term replacement for the departed Luke Shaw, while the Blues find a place to get their left back playing time while Felipe Luís and César Azpilicueta hold down the position at the parent club.

Koeman, from Southampton’s web site:

“He is a top player who will bring a lot of quality to the team. He has experience at the highest level and is an exciting, attacking player, which is what I like to see in my full-backs.

“I’ve been very impressed with how Matt Targett is doing in pre-season, but he is still young and developing, which I am sure he will continue to do over the coming seasons.

“Left-back is an important position in the team because it is quite specialised in terms of the attributes needed to play there, so it is nice to get this signing completed because it gives us some stability.”

For Bertrand, it’s his second loan spell this year, having joined Aston Villa in January for the second half of the 2013-14 Premier League season. The move to Birmingham was his first loan since 2010, when he spent five months at Nottingham Forest. The two-time England international has also played with Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic, Norwich City, and Reading since joining Chelsea in July 2005.

According to Reuters, the loan deal includes a $17 million option to buy, should Saints want to purchase the player at the end of the season.

From Bertrand, again on Southampton’s web site:

“For me personally, this is another chance to play and a chance to join a fantastic club that’s moving in the right direction.

“With the set-up the club’s got, the manager it has coming in and the ethos it has, I thought this was a perfect match.

“The manager’s name speaks for itself, so to play under somebody like that will be good for me. His ethos and the way he plays matches my game.

“I had a lot of options and a lot of interest but, having met the people and spoken to the manager and seen what the club is about, in my mind this was the perfect decision.

It’s a reminder that, despite this summer’s fire sale, Southampton still have a few things going for the club. Its reputation for developing players is as good as any club in England, while the regard Koeman carries from his experience with Ajax, PSV, Barcelona, and the Dutch national team can make a difference while convincing young players to spend time on the south coast.

Those qualities will have to be leveraged to the fullest to restock Southampton’s depleted squad, but beginning with Bertrand’s loan, Saints have taken step one. Unfortunately, there are a number of steps to go.

Ugly scenes in Northern Ireland as Mexican U-19 player attempts to kick opponent’s head during Milk Cup brawl

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Mexico’s U-19 team is currently taking part in the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland, but after today’s incident, the only renown the team will gain from the annual youth tournament will be infamy.

During one of two on-field altercations today against the host nation, a Mexican player (whose number can’t be verified) is thrown down by an Irish counterpart, identified on the tournament’s website as Andrew Whiteside. After regaining his feet, the Mexican player appears to kick Northern Ireland’s Ben Cushnie, who had fallen to the ground.

Though it’s unclear where the kick lands, the player appears to aim for Cushnie’s head.

According to reports, four players were sent off during a match the home side won, 2-1. From the BBC, also unable to identify the Mexico player:

Mexicans Raul Monala Gudino, Carlos Arreola and Kevin Gutierrez were sent off with Northern Ireland’s Robbie McDaid also dismissed.

The first brawl led to Gudino, Arreola and McDaid receiving their marching orders while Gutierrez was then red carded by referee Tim Marshall in the closing stages.

After the second brawl, Marshall called the match before full-time, with Northern Ireland manager Stephen Craigan left “disgusted” by what had transpired. According to the BBC, tournament organizers are expected to launch an investigation into the incidents.

Atlético Madrid latest club linked with Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández

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All things being equal, who would you rather have: Javier Hernández or Fernando Torres? You could see smart people making good cases for either player’s quality, but once you factor in age and the difference in cost, there’s no debate. You’d much rather have ‘Chicharito’ in your squad.

If that premise seems random, consider today’s news out of England, with reports putting Atlético Madrid in a position to choose. Would you rather take on Hernández, a Mexican international who’s approaching odd man out status at Manchester United, or former Atlético striker Fernando Torres, whose similar status at Chelsea comes along with $15 million per year in wages and a $33.8 million price tag?

From England’s Press Association:

Javier Hernández is unsure whether he will remain at Manchester United next year, but Atlético Madrid are willing to offer the Mexican an escape route from Old Trafford should he decide to leave. […]

[Manchester United manager Louis van] Gaal was asked after the friendly win in Washington whether he would consider selling Hernández.

He replied: “That I cannot answer because he is a player of Manchester United at this moment.”

The latter part of the answer seemed to suggest Hernandez could be on his way out of United and there are plenty of interested parties, chief among them Atlético.

Atlético head coach Diego Simeone, having been asked about a series of players this summer, was his typical complementary self, conceding the 26-year-old Mexican could help his squad. From the same report:

“He’s a vertical player, he’s great in one-on-one situations and he’s someone who could be useful to any team,” the Atlético coach told a press conference in Mexico, before his team’s pre-season friendly with Club América.

“We are speaking to the sporting directors about the type of player we want and then it’s up to them to bring the player in. With Javier Hernández and lots of other great players, anything is possible. We can’t close any door until the transfer window shuts.”

With Mario Manduzkic and Antoine Griezmann moving to the Vicente Calderón this summer, Hernández is unlikely to be a starter with Atleti, but with the reigning Liga champions looking to make another Champions League run, ‘Chicharito’ would  see plenty of time as Simeone rotates his squad. As a forward that plays along the defense, only Mandzukic would sit above him on the depth chart, while Manchester United has both Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck in its squad.

Among Hernández’s other suitors are Inter Milan, where he could join former teammate Nemanja Vidic, but Atlético’s interest gives the striker an opportunity to stay in Champions League. If a fee can be agreed, Madrid’s opportunity to escape his Manchester quagmire may be too good to refuse.

Nick De Santis no longer sporting director in Montréal

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Former Canadian international Nick De Santis is a fixture in Montréal soccer, from signing with the Canadian Soccer League’s Montréal Supra in 1987, to moving to the Impact in 1993, to his position as Sporting Director when the club jumped to Major League Soccer in 2012. As resident, player, manager, and executive, the 46-year-old has been a near constant presence in his home town.

As of today, however, the presence will be redefined, with an Impact team sporting Major League Soccer’s worst record relieving De Santis of his sporting director’s role.

From Montréal’s website:

“In business, the most difficult decisions to make are those made involving emotions,” explained Impact president Joey Saputo. “ This is why, today, I am forced to make this decision with a heavy heart. After twenty years of being part of the technical team as a player, successful coach and GM, it gives me great sadness to announce that Nick De Santis has been relieved from his functions.”

Though it’s always sad when connection as deep as De Santis’s has to be severed, this move has been coming. Fans at Stade Saputo had displayed signs reminding their owner that mixed results over the team’s first two-and-a-half seasons had one commonality. Decisions on players and coaches couldn’t be separated from the man who was making them.

According to Montréal’s statement, De Santis will continue with the club, albeit in an administrative role, but for a man Saputo called the Impact’s “architect,” a new soccer life starts now.

“He’s acted as not only a great advisor, but was also a friend,” Saputo said. “However, we are in a results based business. Since July 2013, the results are not at the level of our expectations. The decision not to make moves to improve this club during the offseason, albeit calculated, did not give us the competitive edge we were expecting.”

“We tried with coaches, had three coaches in three years. We changed players. Obviously Nick took responsibilities as sporting director. He made decisions during the offseason. There’s a certain amount of accountability that you have to take, and unfortunately we’re not where we want to be, and he’s paying the price for it.”

This time last year, Montréal was competing at the top of the Eastern Conference, with a quick start under first-year coach Marco Schällibaum leaving the Impact destined for the playoffs. Come the start of the postseason, Montréal were tripping over themselves, imploding during a season-ending 3-0 loss at Houston.

This offseason, De Santis elected to bring former Fire head coach Frank Klopas in as Schällibaum’s replacement while staying the course with his roster. The decision has left Montréal with three wins in 20 games, costing its architect his job.

It’s the change Impact fans asked for, though the lack of a clear alternative should give supporters pause. Nine months after being let go by Chicago, Klopas is in temporary control, with Montréal deferring its search for a new sporting director until the club reorganizes its technical department.

Regardless, this was a change that needed to be made. By staying true to the squad he assembled last season, De Santis crafted a make-or-break scenario. With 14 points in 20 games, something its broken in Montréal.