MLS Week in Review: Round 28

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Two big routs

Don’t be fooled by the ‘close’ score out of Kansas City, where Peter Vermes’ team blew through the potential stop sign of all those missing pieces. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler were just settling into Columbus with the national team as SKC was passing comfortably in and around the visiting Crew from, yes, Columbus. It finished 3-0 but really wasn’t that tight, as SKC had 11 of the game’s first 14 shots and claimed nearly 60 percent of the first hour’s possession.

Portland was similarly in control of matters at Jeld-Wen Field, surviving a couple of early Toronto threats before putting their foot on the game in a meaningful way. Things have gone a bit loose for Caleb Porter’s team over the last few weeks, so a resounding 4-0 win (that did include a couple of late strikes, in fairness to the visitors) will go a long way to restoring some confidence and good feeling.

The weekend’s most shocking result

Not so far back, the Houston Dynamo had this showy streak going, never beaten in their mew home ground, which opened in 2012. Man, that thing is gone, gone. And how.

Sporting KC was the first to wrestle a win out of BBVA earlier this summer. But that was a close one, with the visitors giddy about tiptoeing away 1-0 victors. That’s why Sunday’s 4-1 loss to New York at BBVA Compass Stadium was such a head spinner.

If we weren’t convinced by Houston’s recent 5-0 loss at Montreal (the proud club’s worst defeat to date) that defense has gone all pear shaped for the Orange, maybe we all believe it now. The Dynamo can still make the playoffs, especially as fellow Eastern Conference aspirants New England, Chicago, Philadelphia and even New York still have issues of their own. But Kinnear had better turn up a striker who can reliably find goal, and then restore the back line to usual Dynamo standard. This is certainly not how the club pounded its way into the last two MLS Cup finals.

(MORE: As bad a game as Houston has ever played?)

Vancouver still experimenting

Nigel Reo-Coker, long a midfielder, took another rare turn at right back, while promising young defender Johnny Leveron was pushed ahead into the midfield for Vancouver. Later, one of the league’s top outside backs, Y.P. Lee, was inserted as a midfielder. Sure. Why not? It smacks of more over-thinking from manager Martin Rennie, who has been accused of this before.

On one hand, Vancouver had never won in Texas, so a little tinkering might have seemed reasonable. It would have, that is, if this were Round 8 or even Round 18. But it isn’t. It is Round 28! These things need to be sorted by now. They do, at least, for teams planning on playing past Round 34, which approacheth with speed.

None of it worked, by the way. FC Dallas won, 3-1, collecting three big points and vaulting past Vancouver in the standings.

The missing men

Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and Seattle all survived without substantial lineup pieces, as important types were away for international duty. (I must resist the urge to write once again about MLS plowing through the international fixture windows, but that drum has been banged all to heck, hasn’t it?)

But the Galaxy didn’t survive unharmed. Without Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy DPs three, they fell at home to Colorado’s young buckaroos. Edison Buddle’s stinger was the difference in a 1-0 Rapids win.

Weekend’s worst moment…and a controversial moment

It had to be New England goalkeeper Matt Reis getting ejected just five minutes into his team’s home match against Montreal, leaving the Revs to deal with a 10-vs-11 for almost an entire match. Referee Sorin Stoica was absolutely correct as he pointed to the spot, but considering the early minute and enough doubt about whether Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio was actually going to reach a loose ball before being tripped, a red card was a controversial choice – and potentially a season altering one. It certainly was a bad moment for the Revs, so desperate to get back into the playoffs after an extended absence. They could not overcome it in a 4-2 loss.

Mike Magee is back

The Chicago Fire playoff hopes are on the skids, but Mike Magee’s bid for a Golden Boot prevails anew. The Fire attacker had been stuck on 14 for most of August and then into September. So Magee’s 15th on Saturday in Seattle temporarily put the league leadership solely in his Chicago pocket.

Now, about that league MVP bid that could easily find its way to Magee if the Fire can find its way into the playoffs: a late own goal at CenturyLink Field prevented Chicago from taking a point, as offensively depleted Seattle won, 2-1. So those post-season hopes are, as we mentioned, on the skids.

Best goal

For novelty, technical craft and for gravitas, it was Jair Benitez’s goal from almost 60 yard,the insurance effort in Dallas’ 3-1 triumph over Vancouver in the Texas swelter. Nicely done, sir.

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Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Report: Man City considering Kingsley Coman as Leroy Sane replacement

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are considering Bayern Munich’s Kinglsey Coman as a replacement for injured Leroy Sane if he were to leave for the defending German champions over the summer, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sane, who is projected to be out until February or March with an ACL injury, was the subject of a $176 million move to Bayern Munich over the summer, but a move never came to fruition, largely due to the aforementioned injury. If negotiations between Sane’s camp and the defending Bundesliga champions pick up again this summer, City have a replacement in mind: 23-year-old Coman.

Coman, who has played in 10 league games for the Bavarian club this season, was managed by Guardiola during his time with the club and flourished during the title-winning 2015-2016 season. In 2017, the Frenchman revealed that the Spaniard’s departure was tough on him, saying, “I found life easier at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

As expected, Coman is not the only option City are exploring.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, who has a reported $82 million release clause, is also on the Premier League giant’s shortlist. Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, has strong ties to La Reala that goes back to his first day in the sport.

At the Etihad, the general feeling from Guardiola’s players is that the German winger is one foot out of England, and is instead focused on a move to Bayern and a return back home. With his contract in the final 12 months this summer, it is expected that the release clause for Sane will not be as lucrative as before. 

In 134 appearances for City, Sane has scored 39 goals, while Coman has scored on 28 different occasions in 139 appearances.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

EURO qualifying wrap: Germany, Austria, Croatia join Netherlands in qualifying

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Like the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Croatia qualified for EURO 2020 after wins on Saturday.

[ READ: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012 ]


Germany 4-0 Belarus

With goals from Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretska, and a second-half brace from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Germany routed an uncompetitive Belarus side 4-0 at Borussia-Park. The scoreline, however, should have been more lopsided, as the home side easily won the possession battle and outshot the visitor’s with a total of 31 shots (10 on target). Leaders of Group C, Germany is an early favorite for next summer’s tournament. Not hard to believe that, right? 

Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Qualifying for Europe’s main tournament is becoming a norm for Austria.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored early while Stefan Lainer added his own three minutes into the second half, as Austria edged North Macedonia 2-1 at Ernst Happel Stadion. Das Team, who stand second in Group G with 19 points after nine games, have now clinched a berth for the EURO on back-to-back occasions.

Croatia 3-1 Slovakia

When all was said and done, Croatia was too much for a 10-man Slovakia, who, initially, broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Bayern Munich’s Ivan Perisic scored the home side’s third and final goal of the match, which punched Croatia’s ticket in next summer’s tournament. Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic also contributed goals in the second half for Croatia.

Elsewhere

Russia 1-4 Belgium

Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Cyprus 1-2 Scotland

Israel 1-2 Poland

Armenia 0-1 Greec