Series of troubling Saturday results for MLS contenders

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Methodically, Real Salt Lake has opened up a four-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, and while that’s a testament to the quality Jason Kreis has forged within a rebuilt squad, standing in a race is always relative to those around you. While RSL has continued to post impressive results, the rest of the league is failing to keep up.

Among those falling behind, four teams’ Saturday results are going to force them to take another look at the drawing board. In some cases, that drawing board had already seen new plans drawn up. With others, Saturday’s results will force new perspective on their ongoing problems:

FC Dallas – Nobody expected Schellas Hyndman’s team to compete for the West, but for much of the season, they sat at the top of the conference. But after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, Dallas have dropped to third, with last weekend’s 2-0 loss to the Galaxy serving as further notice Dallas isn’t  on the same level as the West’s best. Now the question is to accept that and consolidate around a more-modest vision or to strive for a standard which, while achieved over the season’s first two months, may be unrealistic. Hyndman’s already hinted at changes.

LA Galaxy – Some how, some way, the Galaxy need to stop giving away points at the end of matches. Andrew Jean-Baptiste’s 94th minute goal in Portland left the defending champions with nothing from a match they could have won, a result that conjured memories of their collapse in Stanford as well as a number of other capitulations. After Saturday’s game, player acknowledged the problem and were clearly frustrated with this inverse Goonie-ism they’ve developed. Unfortunately, they also had no solutions. At key points of games, the Galaxy are just being outplayed. They need to be better.

Montréal Impact – Like Dallas, they may have been playing over their head through the season’s first two-to-three months, but now having fallen out of first in the East, the Impact need to address that defense, one that was blitzed in a 4-0 loss at New York. They’re old, at times slow, and lack athleticism, and by now, teams have figured out how to get at them. Right now, Montréal doesn’t look like a team that can keep its place near the top of the Eastern Conference. They need a new plan, not just better performances.

Seattle Sounders – Again with Seattle, it’s not that they lost. It’s how they loss. The attack didn’t register a shot on goal until the 83rd minute, and while head coach Sigi Schmid spent time post-match pointing to San Jose’s style of play, at some point, his underperforming team has to develop a sense of urgency. With 17 games played, they still have a number of matched in hand on all of their conference competition. The more worrisome thing, after being shut out in three of their last four road games: The team just doesn’t look playoff caliber.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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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.

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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.

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