Quickie review of Week 8 in Major League Soccer

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Low goal trend continue: Week 8 looked a lot like Week 7 in the trickle of goals. Eight of ten matches came and went with two goals or fewer. (But no scoreless draws!) Those were all 1-0 wins or 1-1 draws.

Landon Donovan rising: The league’s former poster boy isn’t done yet. Clearly. Donovan continues to work into playing shape, and his increasingly ability to help the champs along the way deserves further, closer monitoring. Donovan had a goal and an assist in the Galaxy’s meaningful, dominant 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.

That was the weekend’s most significant result. And it’s also significant because of what it means for Donovan – and potentially for the United States national team.

trangely, even though there weren’t a ton of goals, the center backs were providing their share of them. Jamison Olave recorded his second goal this year for the Red Bulls (helping to heap some of that above-mentioned misery on D.C. United. And Dallas’ George John supplied the important, late game-winner as FC Dallas took down the champs in Texas.

More penalty kick blues: This is getting to be an epidemic around MLS lately. Something in the Gatorade? Seven of the first eight PKs this year in MLS were successful. That more or less mirrors historical averages. Since then, however … yuk!

Since then, just two of eight have been successful. Over the weekend, Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando one saved off of Chivas USA’s Edgar Mejia; that was Round 8’s only spot shot.

As our guy Richard Farley told you about in piece linked above, Rimando increased his MLS penalty save rate to a remarkable 30.5 percent; opposing kickers are just 41-for-59 all-time against RSL’s veteran shot-stopper.

Coach in most trouble… : On last week’s Panic Quotient, I put three coaches ahead of D.C. United’s Ben Olsen on the ranking of coaches in trouble. That was based on a hunch that a focused bunch from United, playing at home, could get past a young Philadelphia Union squad. Well, wrong and wrong. Olsen’s team lost its third consecutive match at home. As we talked about yesterday, few MLS manager survive losing at home over any extended period.

… and trio of coaches with reprieves: We would be naïve to say that Seattle’s Sigi Schmid, Chicago’s Frank Klopas and New York’s Mike Petke are out of the woods. But they did all guide teams to Week 8 wins. So … big exhale. For now, at least.

Leading scorer, young scorer: This may not last all year, but for today Major League Soccer has a 20-year-old leading goal scorer. Jack McInerney hit Nos. 5 and 6 on the young season. (They were big goals as Philly won on the road, 3-2 at D.C. United.) The talk will now begin that young “Jack Mac” should be scooped up for Gold Cup duty

Attendance dragging: MLS attendance is down measurably from 2012, averaging just 17,508. That’s down about 7 percent from the record high of 18,807.

One reason is the attendance drag in Toronto, previously one of the more reliable, weekly sellouts in MLS. But the organization’s perennially bedraggled state has worn on fans. We saw it start last year, and Saturday’s crowd at BMO was reported at 15,973. It didn’t even look that strong – and the Reds late goal allowed in a 1-1 draw with Houston won’t help.

Weekend’s best goal: You know what makes Thierry Henry’s latest goal for New York so satisfying to watch – besides another highly technical finish from the fabulous French striker, that is? All the right choices are made as New York goes back to front in about 12 seconds. The clearance from Jamison Olave is perfect, not just “clearance” but  a well-distributed one, right to Dax McCarty. McCarty makes the right choice in moving the ball quickly along to Fabian Espindola, who does the same when he sees Jonny Steele’s aggressive movement along the left.

Steele picks out the right moment to fee Henry’s precision run behind the defense. Every choice and every touch are well-designed. Here ‘tis:

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Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

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

Top Premier League storylines: Week 13

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Yes, Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and, sure, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manuel Pellegrini are in managerial hot seats, but is there any match more intriguing than Man City and Chelsea squaring off with the knowledge that a bad outcome could see them double digits out of first?

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


The Jose Mourinho Era begins against a familiar foe

  • West Ham v. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have matched wits many times, which could help the former in his bid to get ready for a rankled Spurs side to kickstart the Premier League weekend.

Mourinho has only matched up with six managers more than Pellegrini in his career, and boasts a 7W-3D-4L record. Can he quickly get Spurs put together for a visit to a desperate Irons side.


Chelsea, Man City put slim title hopes on the line

  • Manchester City v. Chelsea — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Both Pep Guardiola‘s City and Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have lost to Liverpool, meaning their chances to directly affect the Reds’ title hopes are limited. Matches like this one are the ones that get the Reds salivating, in fact, knowing that only one team can snare three points.

City enters the day nine points back of first and a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City. The Top Four race sure looks clear cut right now — the chasing pack is eight points behind fourth — but failure to win on Saturday will likely leave either side double-digit points back of first.


Knock off the Red Devils? Wilder things have happened

  • Sheffield United v. Manchester United — Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has the newly-promoted side in fifth place on the table, one point better than his celebrated visitors. The Blades will sit no worse than five points back of the Top Four if they can beat Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Red Devils, adding another big name to a season of results which already includes a defeat of Arsenal and draws against Chelsea and Spurs. United is still without Paul Pogba and now will also miss Scott McTominay. Another upset brewing?


Reds hope to get back to business as usual in title fight

  • Crystal Palace v. Liverpool — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

A week removed from a glitzy show against Man City, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds now visit a Palace side who is probably getting sick of facing the Premier League’s best. Roy Hodgson‘s table rise has been stunted by a four-match winless run that includes 2-0 losses to Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea to go with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

A Liverpool win will boost it clearer of Man City and/or Chelsea, as the Reds seek a double-digit lead on the field (Second-place Leicester City is away to Brighton and Hove Albion).


Arsenal looks to right wobbly league ship versus slumping Saints

  • Arsenal v. Southampton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Unai Emery‘s Gunners may be doing fine in the Europa League, but they’ve taken just two points from 12 since an Oct. 6 defeat of Bourrnemouth at the Emirates Stadium. Saints only win since mid-September in any competition is a 4-0 demolition of rivals Portsmouth. If Arsenal cannot get right here, well…

The 2 Robbies break down Tottenham’s big switch from Poch to Mou

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Maybe you saw the firing of Mauricio Pochettino coming, and maybe you even though Jose Mourinho could be in the running to take his place, but the whole thing happening in rapid fire fashion calls for something different.

Call it an emergency podcast for The 2 Robbies.

[ MORE: Ederson back in training ]

Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle respond to the shocking and divisive news coming from North London earlier this week.

Tottenham Hotspur sacked Pochettino and quickly replaced him with The Special One. This episode also includes some of Jose’s first words as the new Spurs Head Coach.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Pochettino leaves emotional whiteboard message to Spurs

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Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff have left Tottenham Hotspur, but not without fond words for the North London set.

Pochettino’s backroom staff was also dismissed, with assistant Jesus Perez and coaches Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez leaving to make room for Jose Mourinho’s crew.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

And Perez wanted to make sure that the world knew the final words Pochettino left for his players, something that has Tottenham supporters even more emotional.

It also surely plays as a political piece which will increase the villain status of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who’s been under fire for not helping Pochettino by selling players who did not want to be in North London.

Even Mourinho heaped praise on his predecessor.

“Mauricio, for the work he did, this club will be always his home,” Mourinho said. “He can come when he wants. When he misses the players, when he misses the people he work with. The door is always open for him. He will find happiness again. He will find a great club again. He will have a great future.”

Get your tissues, Spurs fans.