Author: Richard Farley

Marco Di Vaio 2

Montréal win caps nightmare week for Chicago


With somebody like Marco Di Vaio in the team, often all you have to do is keep it close. Today at Stade Saputo, that basic formula came good for Montréal, a team that carried a seven-game losing streak into today’s visit from Chicago. Thanks to an 82nd minute finish from the Italian veteran, Frank Klopas’s team is back in the win column for the first time June 30, defeating Chicago, 1-0.

It was a game where the lack of action overshadowed what the teams did on the field, perhaps unsurprising given the seven combined wins (in 44 games) they brought into the match. At halftime, the teams had yet to register a shot on target and may have ended scoreless had it not been for a poor 82nd minute clearance from Razvan Cocis. In the right place at the right time, Di Vaio beat Sean Johnson from just inside the top of the penalty area, ending seven weeks of futility for Montréal.

For Chicago, it’s the latest in a collection of alarming results, with July 24th’s 5-1 loss at San Jose the first hint things were going from inept to disheartening. Wednesday’s 6-0, U.S. Open Cup loss rekindled that sentiment, but today’s defeat in Quebec may be worst result yet. Montréal is the worst team in the league, didn’t play particularly well, yet still claimed victory over Chicago.

Though the Fire are still within reach of the playoffs, the team appears to have taken a step back from last year’s product. Now 385 minutes without a goal from open play in MLS, Chicago’s attack has regressed, leaving it as problematic as Frank Yallop’s troublesome defense. Today, the two conspired to sink the team to another low.

At some point, it will be time to draw some conclusions about Yallop’s stewardship. With the postseason still a possibility, now doesn’t seem the time, but if the team can’t show improvement over its last 11 games, owner Andrew Hauptman will need to consider whether last offseason’s upheaval didn’t send the club in the wrong direction.

Penalty kicks see United States out of U-20 World Cup

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The United States picked the worst time to give its least convincing performance, though after a U-20 Women’s World Cup where the defending champions only won two out of four, it’s unclear today’s draw was much worse than the team’s opening game loss. The main difference, however, was the finality of the result, with a 3-1 loss in the penalty shootout seeing the three-time champions out after a 1-1 result against the North Korea.

The win moves the North Koreans into the semifinals, to face the winner of Nigeria and New Zealand. Meanwhile, the U.S. matches its worst performance in tournament history – the quarterfinal elimination on penalties to Nigeria four years ago.

Michelle French’s team started strong, with Makenzy Doniek’s second goal of the tournament giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute. Early in the second half, a Stephanie Amack handball conceded a 54th minute penalty, one converted by Jon So Yon to make it 1-1.

Over the next 66 minutes, a match defined by its lack of chances relegated the defending champions to a shootout, one that got off to a poor start when Savannah Jordan failed on the U.S.’s first attempt. Over the next three rounds, Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle’s failed attempts gave North Korea a change to win it in the fourth round. When Ri Se Ok beat Katelyn Rowland, the U.S. was eliminated before the semifinals for only the second time in seven U-20 World Cups.

It was disappointing end for a team that was one of the pre-tournament favorites, with an attack built around Paris Saint-Germain star Horan promising a strong defense of the team’s 2012 title. But the attack never fully clicked, scoring only five times in four games, with a goalless performance to open the tournament against Germany relegating the team to second in its group. While a strong showing mid-week against China hinted the team was coming around, today’s flat performance open the door for the North Koreans.

Had the game been an outlier — one of the team’s first down performances of the competition — fans could chalk this up to the realities of knockout round soccer, but aside from the China match, the U.S. never lived up to its reputation. Though a tough group led to a difficult quarterfinal draw, French’s team may not be one of the four best in this competition. In that light, today’s result was a just one.

WATCH: Arsène Wenger discusses Arsenal’s opening day victory over Crystal Palace

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Three points may overshadow the difficulties Arsenal faced on Saturday, but in light of last season’s opener, a 2-1 victory at home over Crystal Palace is nothing to take for granted. Whereas Aston Villa left the Gunners’ empty handed after one game a year ago, a late goal from Aaron Ramsey made sure Arsène Wenger’s side got off to a perfect start this season.

After the match, Wenger praised the toughness Palace brought to the Emirates, noting how much trouble the Eagles gave his inconsistent squad. Admitting his team played well in spells, the Arsenal boss was measured in his praise, leaving Ramsey the only player to earn unretained approval after the team’s first 90 minutes.

Amid his reaction today’s victory, Wenger provided an update on Kieran Gibbs, whose hamstring injury looks likely to keep him out of Champions League action mid-week.