Drilling down on: at FC Dallas 3, Colorado 2

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Man of the Match: The knock on Fabian Castillo is that for all his speed, his faulty decision making leaves the ultimate productivity wanting. Not Saturday at FC Dallas Stadium. His brutally accurate shot from 25 yards became the early equalizer. The young Colombian was fouled to set up Jair Benitez’s free kick goal, and then Castillo assisted on the second-half game-winner.

Packaged for take-away

  • This is the kind of year Brek Shea is having for Dallas: In the 6th minute, Ruben Luna delivered a nearly perfect ball across goal, one with just a smidge too much zip on it, though. Still, if Shea sticks out his right foot, he’s quickly hugging his teammates over in the corner after supplying that killer, early lead. Instead, he sticks out his left leg (for a ball coming in from the left) and the chance gets away.
  • At least twice in the first half, Dallas center backs were forward to hunt for set piece deliveries. Rather than playing balls toward then, Dallas went for something short and then watched as their center backs needed to sprint back. Curious.
  • The Rapids’ early goal was more or less something from nothing, but it was typical Brian Mullan, who has been putting in the hard work in MLS for a dozen years now. Julian de Guzman’s failure to match Mullan’s aggressiveness near the end line meant that the Rapids’ midfielder got on the ground and around the passive challenge to put a dangerous ball near goal. Jamie Castrillon made it count.
  • Mullan apparently wasn’t doing enough of that stuff. Or enough of something. He was off at halftime, although apparently not injured.
  • David Ferreira is a wonderful player, ever so skillful at holding off challenges and retaining possession under duress. On the other hand, since returning from injury, he’s sometimes looking for the foul too often rather than working out of the challenge. He does get kicked and fouled a lot, but still …
  • Colorado was doing such an outstanding job with its midfield shape, Joseph Nane and Jeff Larentowicz working in well-synched tandem as holders in the 4-2-3-1. They were constantly up Ferreira’s backside, and the Dallas creator was having trouble getting turned. When he did, young striker Luna was too static to become a target. That’s an element of sophistication Luna must add, because Ferreira will reward clever runs.
  • The Rapids got a little too concerned with Ferreira, perhaps, and got stretched late in the first half trying to deal with him along Dallas’ left side. Fabian Castillo exploited the vulnerable space in the middle, running into the space to sneak a ball just inside the post from about 25 yards. You wonder if maybe Matt Pickens should have gotten to the ball, which was a very good shot but maybe not a fantastic one.
  • Jair Benitez needed 87MLS matches to score his first goal, but it really was a sweet free kick.
  • Kevin Hartman’s double stop in the 34th minute sure helped the home team, but so did Omar Cummings missing an open goal from about 40 yards when Hartman inaccurately adjudged he could get to a ball far, far out of goal.
  • Castillo supplied the assist on Dallas’ third goal, but it was the hustle-bustle work of Hernan Pertuz, charging in to win a loose second ball, that made it all happen.
  • Yellow cards inside the first 51 minutes to two Rapids defenders and to Nane meant the visitors couldn’t be as physical, which meant Luna had an easier time receiving balls as a target and then laying off for Castillo and Ferreira.
  • A game that was progressively more open became even moreso when Castrillon decided it was a good idea to kick out at George John’s face when the FCD defender was on the turf. Referee Armando Villarreal, in just his fifth MLS match, was right to send the Rapids’ midfielder off.
  • Dallas clearly hasn’t had much work on seeing out the late leads. Even a man down the Rapids were finding space in Dallas’ end. Larentowicz, a never-quit type, kept finding ways to create a little something here or there. And too many times, Dallas was caught in the final 10 minutes defending with just five. Just five!

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

AP Photo / Ricardo Mazalan
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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”