Blas Perez available off the bench? No wonder FC Dallas tops the MLS West standings today

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Is there a more dangerous scorer in CONCACAF today than Panamanian bruiser Blas Perez?

Perez scored again last week as Panama topped Honduras, 2-0, to move atop the CONCACAF “Hexagonal,” the six-team group of final round World Cup qualifying contestants.

And now FC Dallas has that guy to bring off the bench?

Schellas Hyndman did just that Saturday in New England. Now blessed with a trio of top striker choices, Hyndman didn’t need to press Perez into duty for the club’s trip to Gillette Stadium. Rather, the FCD boss went with Kenny Cooper at striker, biding his time as playmaker David Ferreira and a midfield that has found its balance lately more than held their own against the home team.

What Hyndman said about the ability to bring in such an outstanding striker – one that replaced an 18-goal scorer from last year (Cooper) after 64 minutes Saturday:

He played two games last week with Panama and he came back a little bit banged up. We wanted to rest him the best we could. But what a great substitute to be making, a player of that quality.”

“What we felt like, we just needed someone fresh up there that could hold the ball a little bit different [than Cooper]. When you bring in a Blas Perez, it does affect the opposition quite a bit. Mentally, [they] go, wow, OK good. Kenny’s out now here come Blas. Are you kidding? He adds something a little bit different. We found him a couple times and he could have had another [goal besides the one he did score].”

Cooper scored one that was called back. Perez’s late strike, one that helps position Dallas atop the West after five MLS rounds – And how about that! – off Ferreira’s pretty pass was perfectly placed, and it counted in Dallas’ 1-0 in outside Boston.

Note, by the way, who does some good hold-up work and rescues the ball from trouble in midfield on the telling sequence that led to Saturday’s only goal. It’s Perez, naturally.

Here’s the Panamanian international’s goal Saturday:

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

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VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]