Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 20

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Best match: Portland needed a stoppage time goal to get past the LA Galaxy, 2-1, in a feisty match at Jeld-Wen Field that had a little bit of everything. It ended with a little huffy-puffy fit at the end from a clearly frustrated Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, who was surely upset that his team had just conceded another late goal and took it out on Portland manager Caleb Porter. (Arena calmed down just a bit, waved Porter over and made nice before they left the field.)

What Arena was really mad about: When Portland’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste struck late Saturday night in Stumptown, it was the eighth stoppage-time goal Los Angeles has conceded this season and the 15th they’ve allowed after the 75th minute.

League’s hottest scorer: No coincidence that Vancouver started winning about the team Brazilian forward Camilo went on a huge scoring tear. He added two more in the Round 20 capper late Sunday, a 3-1 win over Chicago, and now has 10 goals in his last nine matches. With 12 overall, Camilo is now alone atop the league scoring lead.

What happened to Montreal’s defense?: Thierry Henry had a goal and two assists in New York’s fashionable 4-0 win over Montreal. It was truly one of the top performances from Mike Petke’s team this year. On the other hand … What gives with the Montreal defense, which has allowed 12 goals in the last four matches? That’s not the way Marco Schallibaum’s team will stay near the top in the East.

An underrated man: Anybody remember how New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty stepped up his game and established himself as a midfield force in MLS last year? Well, Eric Alexander is starting to wear the look of Mr. Stepping It Up this year. When on his game, Alexander is providing extra helpings of offensive drive through the midfield. He still needs to add the element of consistency, but more matches like Saturday’s and the veteran American will be for New York what (the just released) Juninho could not be.

Houston finds the target again – but those forwards still aren’t scoring:  Houston finding goal has not traditionally a remarkable event. But the team nearly went 0-for-June, finding net just once in five matches (including one Open Cup contest). So scoring for a second consecutive match rates as a “talker” in this case as Dominic Kinnear’s team turned up a 2-1 victory at New England

On the other hand, it took two wonderful strikes from midfielder Adam Moffat to grab the three points. Once again, Houston’s strikers aren’t getting it done. Moffat and fellow midfielders Warren Creavalle and Brad Davis have all struck for goals lately … while the last time a Dynamo forward scored was way back on May 8.

Weekend’s best goal: No holding midfielder in MLS can thump in the long-range beauties the way Adam Moffat can. The Houston Dynamo veteran’s latest was struck with his left foot, which is his “weaker” foot.

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Real Salt Lake’s highly significant win: Real Salt Lake retained its pose as the league’s hottest team (extending its club-record unbeaten streak to 11 games across all competitions) with a 3-0 win over FC Dallas. It was the first time RSL had won in Texas, so manager Jason Kreis shed that weight from himself personally and from the club. And it was the organization’s 100th MLS win overall.  Neither team was at full strength, but the visitors had slightly more to deal with in absences of Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Alvaro Saborio.

Worst refereeing moment: When we say “worst,” that accounts for pretty much the entire season in this case. We talked more about it here. But long story short, referee Jorge Gonzalez made an absolutely baffling decision in Philadelphia, one that weighed heavily in turning a potential 1-1 draw into a Union win over Chivas USA.

The alarming injury at L.A.: Details are scarce (there may be a further diagnosis later today) but Galaxy striker Robbie Keane limped off late in Saturday’s loss to Portland. A Galaxy offense without Keane (whom we labeled last week as our mid-season choice for league MVP) would be a tame offense indeed. Anyone else getting the feeling this just isn’t the year for the two-time defending champs?

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.