Drilling down on: at LA Galaxy 2, FC Dallas 0

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CARSON, Calif. – Two goals in the last half-hour allowed the LA Galaxy to claim full points from hard-charging FC Dallas, putting the defending champions eight points into a Western Conference playoff spot.

Man of the Match: Juninho’s work in the first half, often drawing the assignment of keeping tabs on David Ferreira, helped Los Angeles win the midfield battle over the first 30 minutes. Given how quiet Dallas’s best player was for most of the half, it was only appropriate Juninho be the man to break through late, his 66th minute goal proving the game-winner.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • As hinted earlier, Landon Donovan sat out this one, still nursing his hamstring back to health. That meant two of the games’ three starting forwards were Jackson and Mike Magee, two players with a virtues deeper in the formation, not as many in out-and-out attacking roles.
  • Unfortunately, that meant a lack of chances on goal in the first half. Dallas’s best threats were wide (Brek Shea and Fabian Castillo), but with Los Angeles controlling much of the play, David Ferreira was unable to bring them into the game until just after the 30-minute mark.
  • For the Galaxy, the first half’s best chance came off a litany of restarts (corners, direct kicks) conceded by Dallas in their final third. You would think eight LA restarts in one half (unofficial count) is enough for the David Beckham-Omar Gonzalez combination to do some damage. Kevin Hartman, however, went relatively untested, with George John and Matt Hedges leading some (mostly) strong set piece defending.
  • Dallas started to create some havoc after a half hour when Shea and Castillo switched flanks, allowing each to cut onto their stronger foot. Castillo, in particular, really came into the game, with Ferriera playing him through the Galaxy defense. Unfortunately for Dallas, the tactic led to an early end to Castillo’s evening, a collision with Josh Saunders forcing him from the game in the 41st minute.
  • The substitution brought Blas Perez in, the Dallas striker still recovering from a right foot injury. He didn’t look anywhere near 100 percent, at times walking gingerly, a hitch apparent in his gait when he tried to hit full speed.
  • In the second half, the game opened up, with both sides getting their chances to take runs at the opposing defense. For Dallas, it was Ferreira leading the charge through the middle, though balls played wide never came back in dangerous spots. For LA, passes behind a high Dallas line gave Robbie Keane a chance to craft a final ball, though his passes toward the six-yard box were easily cleared.
  • It wasn’t until a somewhat freak play in the 66th minute that LA broke through. Hedges, trying to play a ball into midfield, saw his pass blocked by Jose Villarreal. Hartmen tried to get to a ball rolling in the left of his penalty area, but Villarreal, winning the race, was able to play a ball across the top of the six for Juninho, who finished high into the right of goal.
  • LA would add a late Todd Dunivant goal (a nice piece of work between the LA left back, Keane, and Michael Stephens), leaving a final score that exaggerates the distance between the teams. For much of the game, Dallas seemed just as likely to find an opener as their hosts. With the teams going back and forth at the beginning of the second half without generating good chances, it looked like the match was destined to end 0-0.
  • Instead LA gets full points and opens up an eight-point gap on sixth-place Dallas. Only two points behind Seattle and Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy can worry less about if they’ll make the playoffs and more about where they’ll be slotted.
  • For Dallas, they stay five points behind the Whitecaps, but time is running out. Vancouver has a match in hand, and Dallas is down to six matches left in their season. Had they won, they would have been within two of the Galaxy and Whitecaps.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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