Drilling down on: NY Red Bulls 3, at Philadelphia 2

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Man of the Match: New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara is moving up the list on my ballot for Rookie of the Year – perhaps already in the pole position. Once again Sunday he came through in the clutch with a big save at the end. It’s not just his shot-stopping, but it’s the overall management in the box, his sure hands and good choices on when to stand his ground or when to go get the ball. Other than one bobble in heavy traffic, Meara did everything right in this one.

Packaged for take-away:

  • The Red Bulls have four consecutive wins for the first time in nine years, and now sit atop the Eastern Conference after Sunday’s win at PPL Park.
  • I’m going to coin new term: The Marquez Conundrum ®. Because Rafa Marquez really is an asset on attack, but a complete defensive liability. Two Marquez passes led to goals for New York, including a sublime, perfectly weighted doozy into Kenny Cooper for the game-winner.
  • Cooper has nine goals, or one more than he had last year for Portland
  • Philadelphia defender Sheanon Williams is doing OK as fill-in at center back for Danny Califf, but he got crossed up on the game-winner, letting Cooper get into a dangerous gap. (Williams is usually Philly’s starting right back.)
  • Marquez was back in the lineup after four matches away. He took Dax McCarty’s holding midfield role; McCarty moved higher up the field, still stationed centrally but playing alongside Mehdi Ballouchy in the Red Bulls’ 4-1-4-1.
  • I’ve already had my say about Freddy Adu and his unwise choices.
  • As an addendum, no matter what you thought of Jorge Gonzalez’s choice to book Adu in that situation, here’s what the young Union attacker needs to do there: Just play! Don’t dive. Don’t fall. Don’t drag your foot and look for a call. Just try to score.
  • It really was a shame, too. Because Adu had been so dangerous in this one, probably playing his best match of 2012. Playing on the right but tucking inside as a playmaker, Adu was creating with his passes, off the dribble and through crisp set-piece delivery.
  • Union striker Lionard Pajoy has been a disappointment so far, if we’re being honest. But perhaps he’s the latest example that some players just need 10 or games to get things sorted out in MLS. Because he was quite bright in this one.
  • Whatever was missing from Joel Lindpere’s game (or in his personal life) earlier this year, the man has clearly found it.
  • At least twice, Philadelphia striker Danny Mwanga passed up opportunities to attack defenders. He hasn’t scored since last summer. Add it all up, the 2010 No. 1 draft pick just isn’t a confidence striker at the moment. Strikers who are feeling it and believing in themselves look for chances to take on defenders in 1-on-1 situations, sometimes even attacking guys along the back line when they probably should pass. Mwanga needs to call FedEx and order up a big shipment of “confidence.”
  • Meanwhile, Juan Agudelo’s 30-plus minutes off the bench for New York? Yep, not bad at all. He found good spots, kept possession well, worked well and used some athletic ability to point a couple of shots at target. All in all, that might be enough to convince Jurgen Klinsmann to bring Agudelo into the 29-man camp for a closer look-see, at least.

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

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

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.