Drilling down on: New York 0, D.C. United 0

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New York surely hates to be winless after three matches in 2013, especially since these are Mike Petke’s first matches as a head coach.

On the other hand, it’s should be hard to feel too badly about the performance in a 0-0 draw with D.C. United. The Red Bulls were absolutely dominant. They needed to be a little sharper inside United’s 18, but otherwise there was so much to like about how the team approached and executed in its home opener.

The Red Bulls outshot their visitors from down the coast, 24-5.

(MORE: Match report from Jeff Kassouf, reporting from Harrison, N.J.)

Man of the Match

Brandon Barklage’s stoppage-time header, saved wonderfully by DCU goalkeeper Bill Hamid, will be the next poster moment for goal-like technology. It was awfully close. Either way, it was a quick-reaction swat away that earned a point for his team, preserving the draw dramatically. That was one of six saves for  United’s young goalkeeper. Oh, Hamid insists Barklage’s header never crossed the line: “No, it didn’t. I got there right before it went over.”

 Threesome of knowledge: what we learned

  • New York’s Olave is The Man 

United’s attack was a mess all the way around Saturday, but when the visitors did  manage to establish some possession, Jamison Olave was always in the way.

Olave is such a big fellow that it’s easy to forget how fast the Red Bulls commanding center back really is. (It’s that combo of speed and size, with the attached tenacity and smarts, that make Olave one of the league’s premier center backs.) That ability to close space quickly comes in handy for cleaning up messes, too, which we saw a lot of during Olave’s years at Rio Tinto with Real Salt Lake.

  • Fabian Espindola is working out great

All three of New York’s trio of top attackers were feeling it Saturday. But it was Fabian Espindola who came so close to making the moment that mattered. Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill certainly helped, but the newest striking weapon around Red Bull Arena hit the crossbar twice, once on a very difficult and quite athletic twisting header, and once on a big blast that punctuated some tricky dribbling through two flummoxed United defenders.

Red Bull management’s choice to jettison Kenny Cooper and Sebastien Le Toux, effectively swapping out those two for Espindola, who was scooped up in a big trade with Real Salt Lake, is looking like a good one. He has more chemistry with Henry after three matches than Cooper or Le Toux ever developed over an entire season. (Well, half a season in Le Toux’s case … but same difference.)

  • D.C. United passing in a word: yuk

DC just isn’t going to be the same with Saragosa in the lineup as with the more skillful John Thorrington, who is out for at least two months with a knee injury. Saragosa adds midfield bite, but he just doesn’t have the passing and receiving skill to operate smoothly alongside Perry Kitchen when United gets the ball.

Along with a defense that’s average at best in distribution, DCU struggled much of the day to get the ball into attacking positions.  And without the ability to mount much attack, it was mostly defend, defend and defend all day for the visitors.

Packaged for take-away

  • What is it about these two teams meeting at Red  Bull Arena that makes it want to snow so badly? Flurries throughout the afternoon framed the NBC pictures nicely.
  • New York’s Juninho has recovered well enough from a Week 1 injury to get back on the field, entering in the second half for Johnny Steele.
  • Lionard Pajoy in his 70 minutes for DCU? Absolutely invisible.
  • Dwayne De Rosario wasn’t seen much more; missing those first two matches due to suspension for a preseason incident seems to have left the former league MVP behind for now.

Full match highlights are here:

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Barcelona ends contract with company accused of fake posts

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona has ended its contract with a company that made negative comments on social media about people within the club.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said Tuesday the decision was made after the club found out that one of its service providers used an account to make “inadequate” comments about people in the club. He did not name the company nor give any detail about the comments.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Bartomeu reiterated the club’s denial of accusations it hired a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The Cadena Ser radio network said Monday a company used fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures and some of Barcelona’s players when they expressed views that went against the club. Cadena Ser said some of the figures included star players Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

Bartomeu said other companies will continue to monitor social media on behalf of the club.

“It’s the responsibility of the club to know what is said on social media around the world,” he said. “But the club has never contracted services to discredit anyone, and we will do whatever is needed to defend ourselves from such accusations.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham
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Manchester City takes the pitch at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since UEFA hammered it with a two-year Champions League ban when it hosts West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch Live at 3 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Manager Pep Guardiola has reportedly stated his commitment to the club ahead of the match, which was rescheduled from last weekend after Storm Ciara hit England.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Second-place City opens the day 25 points back of leaders Liverpool, while West Ham is one point behind 17th place.

The Irons have not won a Premier League match since New Year’s Day, David Moyes‘ first match in charge.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 


Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT —  Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy

West Ham: OUT — Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko. QUESTIONABLE — Felipe Anderson


Probable lineups

Man City: Ederson; Cancelo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, D. Silva, Aguero, Mahrez.

West Ham: Fabianski; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Zabaleta, Rice, Soucek, Noble, Snodgrass, Haller, Antonio.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s David Moyes on the relegation fight: “I’m more than confident we will climb the table. I think the players here are more than capable. I think we have got a good group. I think they are all fully aware of the situation we’re in and the improvement we need to make to make sure we’re not in the bottom three, and I’m sure come the end we will do.”


Prediction

A blowout. While West Ham has the urgency to get out of the drop zone, City will be pouring its full focus into finding form for next week’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid. City, 4-1.

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.