Drilling down on: at Philadelphia 2, Montreal 1


Man of the Match: None of the above, which means the game-winning goal scorer gets the honor. Carlos Valdes took advantage of some poor Montreal defending on a late throw-in to record his first goal of the year, giving Philadelphia three points that continue the club’s climb into playoff contention.

In truth, there were no stand out performers. Fireworks at the end were sparked by errors more than talent, giving an exciting finish to a mostly forgettable match.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • This is the second game in a row where Montreal has come out flat, though there may be an unlikely cause. Maybe this is the new, Marco Di Vaio-dependent Montreal? One that’s going to rely on their new star to the exclusion of any other form of attack.
  • It certainly seemed that way throughout most of this one. Jesse Marsch played a very conservative 4-4-1-1 that relied on Felipe to connect with Di Vaio.
  • That wasn’t nearly enough, and against a Philadelphia team that could get very little going without Michael Farfan (out with a groin injury), the approach was far too conservative. I don’t know if Marsch came in with special reverence for the Union’s post-Nowak revival, but there was no reason right midfielder Davy Arnaud needed to be playing on the same level as Patrice Bernier and Collen Warner.
  • So with Philly lacking their creator and Montreal playing on their heals, the first half might as well not have existed. The teams combined for two shots on goal, a number that exaggerated their ambition.
  • The second half was different from its kickoff. Montreal did a good job of playing directly to Di Vaio (who had two early half-chances), while Philadelphia exploited the left side of the Impact defense as a consistent route into attack:
    • Montreal’s plan nearly bore fruit midway through the second when a nice 15-yard chip from Felipe saw Di Vaio beat Amobi Okugo (who, by in large, had yet another strong game). Bringing down the ball onto his left foot, Di Vaio appeared to have beaten Zac MacMath low only to see the Philly `keeper get his right hand to the shot, deflecting the ball just wide of the right post.
    • On the other end, Donovan Ricketts had to pull off similar heroics when a Sheanon Williams cross met a leaping Jack McIneney, the young attacker’s header pushed wide after some quick reflexes from Ricketts.
  • Philly controlled the early part of the second while Montreal got a grip on the match in the middle. By the final 15 minutes, the teams looked on course for a scoreless draw before Hackworth’s three subs combined for a moment of magic.
  • Or perhaps it was serendipity, because Philly needed a little fortune to score the opener. Antoine Hoppenot made it happen, beating three defenders (thanks to a wall pass to Gabriel Gómez) before chipping a ball into the six as he ran out of room at the line. Montreal seemed pause and to stare at a ball – as if it were going in slow motion –  before Lionard Pajoy poked it past Ricketts, opening the scoring in the 82nd minute.
  • Things seemed pretty hopeless for Montreal, who had failed to consistently threaten MacMath. As it turned out, they wouldn’t need to threaten before equalize, with a misplayed corner kick going into net, evening the score in the 89th minute.
  • Patrice Bernier swung a ball in near-post. When Zac MacMath didn’t claim it, the ball went off of Keon Daniel (colliding with MacMath and a teammate) and went in for the equalizer.
  • Montreal must have felt guilty, because they returned the favor two minutes later. A long throw from Williams was floated to Valdes at the edge of the six, even with the right post. A poor first touch toward the line saw Montreal fail to react, allowing Valdes to put the winner past Ricketts.
  • The game could have just as easily finished 0-0 (and been a fair result), but Philadelphia won the match’s ten final, chaotic minutes, giving the home team full points.
  • It wasn’t, however, a performance Philly could take much from. What they learned: They are a vastly less potent team without Michael Farfan, one that can’t take advantage of a visiting team having a bad night. Ultimately, yes, they did win, but they needed a strange goal to pull it out.
  • For Montreal, there’s a bigger problem: The team has turned it off since acquiring Di Vaio. Jesse Marsch sent out a team that was overly reliant on their new star. At one point, Di Vaio dropped back, played to Felipe, who turned and gave the ball away while trying to hit a streaking Arnaud, who had too far to got to get into the play. That failed movement sums up Marsch’s post-Di Vaio approach.
  • Instead of getting out of his way, the Impact need to start augmenting Di Vaio. Now scoreless in 351 minutes (for a team that hasn’t scored in open play for 221 minutes), Di Vaio needs help.

WATCH: Hartford Athletic scores wild 90th-minute winner

Hartford Athletic goal
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It’s very rare in this age full of soccer on our screens that we catch a goal of unique ingenuity.

The USL Championship delivered the goods on Wednesday.

Hartford Athletic had blown a two-goal lead to Philadelphia Union II on Wednesday and was staring down a 2-2 draw when Danny Barrera swung into action.

[ REPORT: Spurs land Mourinho’s “top target” ]

Well, perhaps he lunged into action. Or flailed. On third thought, swung is good.

Heck, you pick the verb.

Barrera, 30, turned Philadelphia goalkeeper Mitchell Budler into a gift horse, reacting quickly to flick his back boot into the path of the keeper’s attempted outlet throw in the 90th minute.

The 81st-minute sub became the match-winning goalscorer off the play, which gives him two goals and seven assists on the season.

Hartford has 32 points and is a point off table-leading Tampa Bay Rowdies with one match to play. Second-place Louisville City is also on 32 points and Pittsburgh Riverhounds have 31.

Hartford may be able to look back at Barrera’s goal as the surprise three points that swung a title race in its favor.

Leeds – Manchester City: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

Leeds - Manchester City
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Leeds – Manchester City: It’s been so far, so good for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds in their return to the Premier League, but a visit from Man City to Elland Road is a stiffer test (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leeds fell 4-3 to Liverpool on Opening Day but has since beaten Fulham and Sheffield United to sit top half of the table in this very young Premier League season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Man City fell 5-2 to Leicester City at home last weekend after beating Wolves to start their PL season. A midweek clean sheet of Burnley shows that Pep Guardiola’s men aren’t dead, and the Catalan mastermind will relish the chance to match wits with a man he hails as a role model in Bielsa.

Guardiola once called Bielsa the best manager in the world.

“Winning titles helps to have a job next season but at the end of your life, what you remember is not the titles you have won, what you remember is the memories you have and whether the manager taught you a lot,” Guardiola once said when asked about Bielsa. “What we remember are the experiences and the memories, the players you have had, the managers you have had. Marcelo is at the top of the list. Absolutely at the top of the list.”

Team news for Leeds – Manchester City (INJURY REPORT)

Leeds will not have emerging star winger Jack Harrison, who is in his second season on loan to the club from Man City and ineligible to play against his parent club. Gaetano Berardi (knee), Adam Forshaw (groin), Pablo Hernandez (groin) are on the injured list.

Things are getting better for Manchester City, who got Aymeric Laporte and Bernardo Silva back in a midweek League Cup win over Burnley. Still out are Gabriel Jesus (undisclosed), Sergio Aguero (knee), Joao Cancelo (foot), Ilkay Gundogan (COVID-19), and Oleksandr Zinchenko (undisclosed).

What they’re saying

Leeds’ young goalkeeper Illan Meslier on keeping a clean sheet: “I’m happy because in the last game against Fulham I felt I could have saved the last two goals, but against Sheffield I saved two important chances and we arrived at half time at 0-0 which was important. It is just one game though, and we are focused on the next game now and then the one after that. For the spectators I think 4-3 games are better, but for the team and me it is better one-nil. We managed to do that on Sunday and win the game so it is all good.”

Man City boss Guardiola on new signing Ruben Dias: “We know Ruben Dias’s personality and I am sure he will be an incredible player for the next six or seven years. We’re very happy to have him. Our back four are now a young team. We start training tomorrow and get going as quick as possible.”

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This line has probably become a lot tighter than it would’ve been in August since Leeds has burst onto the scene while Man City has been up-and-down (relatively speaking). Leeds is +675 to win at home and +440 to draw, while City is -290 to collect all three points.

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Leeds – Manchester City prediction

Leeds is a talented side and only getting better and deeper in terms of talent and experience. And Bielsa can plan for any opposition. But injured or not, City still has Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Raheem Sterling, and more. Man City 3-1.

How to watch Leeds – Manchester City stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Manchester United – Tottenham: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Manchester United – Tottenham: Jose Mourinho’s latest Premier League project waltzes into his previous stop when Tottenham Hotspur visits Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Both clubs boast midweek wins in the League Cup, though Tottenham’s Thursday visit from Europa League foes Maccabi Haifa have complicated Mourinho’s planning for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Tottenham may have a new striker in the fold, with reports claiming the North Londoners have loaned Mourinho’s No. 1 target, Carlos Vinicius, from Benfica.

Meanwhile, Solskjaer has grown frustrated of answering questions on United’s transfer activity with days to go in the window.

Team news for Manchester United – Tottenham (INJURY REPORT)

Same old, same old for United, which is still dealing with long-term injuries to Axel Tuanzebe (ankle) and Phil Jones (knee).

Tottenham is still waiting for Gareth Bale to regain full fitness after a knee injury, while Heung-min Son is unlikely to play Sunday but manager Jose Mourinho was unwilling to completely rule the South Korean out.

What they’re saying

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Man Utd’s transfer activity“I can’t give you any news. We are working with what we have got. We have a big squad. If there is any update, we will let you know. I don’t comment on other teams’ players. I can’t concern myself with other clubs. I know the club is working well and hard to have a strong squad as possible. Sometimes speculation is there and we can’t control that.”

Spurs’ boss Mourinho on midweek League Cup win over Chelsea“We were ready to fight, I told you. I told the players before the penalties that they were magnificent in the second half, we made Chelsea look ordinary. The team waited for the right moment…. I have to think about three games at the same time but the players only thought about this game, they were phenomenal. Phenomenal.”

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Man United is -108 to win while visiting Spurs register a +290 odds to get all three points against Jose Mourinho’s former club. A draw nets the bettor +260.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

Manchester United – Tottenham prediction

Tottenham’s looked the superior team in all competitions so far, though United’s stars have yet to really fire on all cylinders aside from Bruno Fernandes. The variables for this weekend, however, favor United. Spurs will have played Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday while United played Saturday-Tuesday. If Old Trafford was full of screaming fans we might expect a little more advantage for a home side, too. Son’s absence looms large, though, and that will tilt the scales from a 2-2 draw to a 2-1 Man United win.

How to watch Manchester United – Tottenham stream and start time

Kickoff: 11:30 am ET Sunday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Report: Tottenham lands Mourinho’s No. 1 striker target from Benfica

Carlos Vinicius to Tottenham
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If Gareth Bale doesn’t have “it” anymore, then Jose Mourinho’s gonna have other options.

Heck, even if he does.

Tottenham will soon announce the signing of Benfica striker Carlos Vinicius on a one-year loan and $50 million-plus option-to-buy after the season.

[ MORE: Champions League draw preview ]

Not to be confused with Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior, Carlos Vinicius is a 25-year-old Brazilian striker coming off a career-year in Portugal.

Vinicius scored 23 times with 13 assists in a breakout 2019-20 season, his 18 league goals tied for the Portuguese top flight lead with teammate Pizzi and Rio Ave’s Mehdi Taremi.

He’s also comfortable coming off the bench, scoring those six of his 18 league goals in substitute performances.

[ MORE: Mourinho on League Cup defeat of Chelsea ]

Football.London reporter Alasdair Gold says Vinicius was Jose Mourinho’s No. 1 summer target but the price tag was too high earlier in the window.

Vinicius used to belong to Napoli but twice went out on loan, one of those a 16-appearance, 2-goal campaign for Monaco in Ligue 1.

The player shares an agency with Cristiano Ronaldo, Ederson, Ruben Neves, Ruben Dias, and Matt Doherty.