LA-RSL Man of the Match: Nat Borchers? Or Chris Schuler?

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With Real Salt Lake making the surprise move to put two defensive midfielders in the starting lineup, central defenders Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler looked like they were going to be protected. On Sunday, they were anything but.

On a night that started with duo clearing passes across the six and ended with the pair trying to stand up to LA’s counter attack, RSL’s central tandem were constantly tested. They bent and even broke a couple of times, but come full-time, the only score of a 1-0 game wasn’t on them. They couldn’t be expected to stop Sean Franklin’s blast from well outside the penalty area.

[MORE: Franklin blast all that separates LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake after leg one]

It’s no exaggeration to say another central pair would have conceded a couple of goals, leaving RSL with little hope ahead of Thursday’s second leg. But with players like Borchers and Schuler, Jason Kreis could afford to take some chances. That those risks didn’t come back to hurt RSL almost demands one of the team’s central defenders claim Man of the Match honors. Their performances had the greatest impacts on tonight’s result.

Schuler had some memorable moments — most notably, clearing a first half cross in the six-yard box before Landon Donovan could convert — but the pure quantity of Nat Borchers’ contributions wins him our honor. Borchers made 11 successful clearances (six more than his partner), added four interceptions, and recorded game-high three blocked shots – number that quantify the ever-present feel of his performance.

His key contribution, however, is difficult to separate from Schuler’s. As Real Salt Lake opened up late in the second half, seemingly willing to press for an equalizing goal, Borchers and Schuler found themselves isolated against a counterattack that’s been the key factor in claiming the two straight titles. Yet as Landon Donovan bore down on them and Robbie Keane tried to drag the defenders into confusion, RSL’s duo looked more comfortable than any central tandem we’ve seen try their hand against LA’s transition. No, they didn’t win every battle, but they won enough to keep LA from pulling away. They knew exactly what they wanted to do against the Galaxy’s biggest threat.

Man of the Match could go to either guy. If you thought Schuler’s great first half clearance should get some extra credit, he’ll be your guy for this honor. But on this occasion, we’re going with quantity, and as the most-prolific man cleaning up in RSL’s area, Nat Borchers wins PST’s acclaim.

Kane named England captain, set to break record

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Call him captain Kane.

The FA confirmed on Tuesday that Harry Kane would captain England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he’ll break a record for being the youngest England captain at a World Cup. At just 24-years of age, Kane appears wise beyond his years and has over the past World Cup cycle developed into arguably the best striker in the Premier League, if not one of the top center forwards in the world.

The previous youngest England captain was the late, great Bobby Moore, who was 25-years old at the 1966 World Cup – hosted of course by England.

Considering the overall youth movement within the England ranks, this comes as a smart decision from manager Gareth Southgate. Though strikers aren’t usually made captains, he leads the line by example and has displayed great leadership for Tottenham over the last two years. In addition, should he remain consistent in his club and country form, he could be an England captain for another eight years or so.

In the last two World Cups, England has gone with the veteran hand for captain, with Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for both. But England was knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2010 and didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2014, which, combined with the shocking defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, necessitated a change in management and culture.

Arsenal, Puma drop new kit for upcoming season

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Arsenal will have a new home kit next year, but there’s a bit of a twist compared to the old reliable we know and love.

Puma and Arsenal released the club’s 2018-2019 home kit on Tuesday morning, featuring a red and white top with a “pulse” design through the center, which displays different shades of red to symbolize the heartbeat of the club, and lighter red on the white sleeves. White shorts and socks will accompany the home outfit.

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Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang all modeled the new kit, giving a hint that the quartet could be in Arsenal colors next season.

The uniform also uses Puma’s “seamless evoKNIT” technology, making it easier for players to play in while running across the pitch. The club has picked the marketing campaign “#WeAreTheArsenal” to drive sales.

Will the new kits bring Arsenal more success next season? Time will tell.

Short-handed Galaxy beat Impact after Ibrahimovic red card

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MONTREAL (AP) Playing a man down after Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a red card in the 42nd minute, the Los Angeles Galaxy got past the Montreal Impact 1-0 Monday on a goal by Ola Kamara.

The Galaxy (4-6-1) ended a four-game losing run. Montreal (3-9-0) has lost three in a row, all by shutout, with the last two coming at home.

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Ibrahimovic was sent off after slapping Michael Petrasso, who had stepped on Ibrahimovic’s foot while marking him well away from the ball. After consulting video, referee Ismail Elfath showed Ibrahimovic the red card and Petrasso the yellow.

Both went down after the slap, and Ibrahimovic was limping as a trainer helped him off the field.

With 10 men, the Galaxy stayed back in the second half, looking for counterattacks.

In the 75th minute, substitute Emmanuel Boateng headed a ball forward that Kamara took on the run. He beat Marco Donadel and Jukka Raitala with a cut into the middle and scored his team-leading fifth goal on a low shot from inside the penalty area.

Montreal had some chances, including back-to-back shots in the 55th minute by Alejandro Silva and Raheem Edwards that were blocked by goalkeeper David Bingham.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.