Surprise of the 2014 MLS Draft: Philadelphia took a goalkeeper. Hmmm …

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Everyone paying attention to the 2014 MLS Draft understood that some team would land a real plum in UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The guy looks ready to play in MLS today, and not just for the physical ability. Blake looks wise beyond his years in communicating with defenders, providing the valuable information in real time that can calm and improve a back line. In his overall command of the penalty area, he looks quite assured, too. Those are areas most young goalkeepers grow into; he’s already there.

So, Blake was clearly going early in the draft.

But to Philadelphia? That one fell as the big surprise of a draft that was fairly thin in talent compared to past pickings, but a day still blessed with lots of movement and trades, etc. (Two more rounds are set for tomorrow, but third and fourth rounds are productive only for depth, if even that.)

Truly, this turned into a bad, bad day for Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

MacMath, although just 22, looked set to be a third-year starter this year. That position as a starter turned oh-so-tenuous when MLS commissioner Don Garber stepped to the microphone to announce Blake as Philadelphia’s selection with the top overall pick.

(MORE: MLS Draft recap, who went where)

Philadelphia officials even traded up a spot, handing some allocation cash to D.C. United to ensure they select Blake, who has already had international appearances for Jamaica. MacMath must have fallen over sideways at that news.

While nobody really saw this coming – most projections had Blake going to Vancouver, which had the No. 3 pick and was desperate for a goalkeeper, making that one look like a no-brainer all the way around – perhaps in retrospect it shouldn’t be that much a surprise.

MacMath was put in goal too early at PPL Park, made the Union starter at age 19. His high-profile blunders – He was 19, after all, what did they expect? – cost the Union a game here and there. MacMath has stabilized his game to the point that he’s no longer making the regular, big blunders.

But he still doesn’t deal consistently well with crosses, and he hasn’t been the best about communicating with the back line – the very thing that Blake seems to do so well, even though he’s yet to play an MLS match.

Blake going to Philly was among the big surprises of the day – but don’t be surprised to see Blake taking over as the No. 1 at PPL Park very soon into the 2014 season.

(MORE: D.C. United has the best day)

Clinical Russia tops Egypt to reach knockout rounds

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  • Russia goals: Fathy o.g. (48′), Cheryshev (59′), Dzyuba (62′)
  • Egypt: Salah (PK, 73′)
  • Next: Russia-Uruguay, Egypt-Saudi Arabia

Hosts Russia scored a trio of second half goals to clinch the first spot in the 2018 World Cup’s Round of 16 with a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg.

The loss means Egypt is 0-2, the Pharoahs unable to find momentum despite the return of Mohamed Salah. Egypt needs a wild combination of factors to stay alive for the knockout rounds, and is likely heading home.

Salah won and converted a penalty for Egypt, while Denis Cheryshev, Artem Dzyuba, and an Egyptian own goal accounted for Russia’s goals.

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Some sloppy play out of the back allowed Golovin a shot from outside the 18 but he hit his effort wide of the frame.

Egypt stayed in the mix though, and a Russian mistake  deep in its own end forced Zhirkov to concede a corner with a desperation intervention that stopped Mo Salah from a doorstep opportunity.

Salah then won a yard of space but fired wide in the 42nd minute after Zhirkov stopped him from going to his right peg.

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Russia went ahead through an Egypt own goal from Fathy, who was jostling for position with Artem Dzyuba and turned Roman Zobnin’s mishit inside his net.

After Cheryshev made it 2-0, Dzyuba took an Ilya Kutepov long ball out of the air with his chest before turning past Ahmed Hegazy and blasting Russia’s third goal home.

Salah won a penalty in the 73rd minute, one initially ruled a free kick, and the Liverpool man blasted his shot home.

Neymar limps out of Brazil training

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Having drawn against Switzerland in its opener, Brazil now faces renewed concerns over the health of its megastar forward.

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Neymar’s right foot was “still not 100 percent” when he took the field for the 1-1 draw on Sunday, and the 26-year-old left practice early two days later.

He missed nearly three months after fracturing his foot for PSG under pressure by Marseille’s Dimitri Payet, but returned to score for Brazil in friendly defeats of Croatia and Austria. Neymar has 55 goals in 85 caps.

Neymar was favoring his right foot as he limped off the pitch, two days after being fouled 10 times against Switzerland. Fox reports that Neymar will be fine to practice on Wednesday, but the situation bears close observation.

Neymar was injured in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals when Juan Zuniga kneed him in the back.

Salah returns to Egypt starting lineup

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A familiar name returned to the starting lineup for Egypt on Tuesday afternoon.

Egypt named star Mohamed Salah in its starting XI, after resting Salah in Egypt’s 1-0 defeat to Uguruay on June 15. Salah has been recovering from an injured shoulder that he suffered during the UEFA Champions League final in late May.

Salah makes his World Cup debut now against the host nation, Russia, at 2:00 p.m.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

 

Senegal hold off late charge, defeat Poland on controversial goal

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Two matches, two upsets.

For the second time on Tuesday, an underdog took down a favorite as Senegal defeated Poland, 2-1, with the game-winning goal decided in controversial fashion.

In the 60th minute, M’baye Niang was waved onto the field by the referee while the ball was still in play in the middle of the field, and Niang raced on to the end of a Gregorz Krychowiak backpass that stunned the Poland defense. Niang arrived at the pass a second quicker than goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, allowing the Senegal winger to score into an empty net.

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The VAR checked the goal but it was allowed, as it was a subjective decision of the referee to allow Niang back on the field following an injury, and not a clear and obvious error.

Senegal took the lead in the first half on the counter attack. With Poland slow in transition, Sadio Mane found Idrissa Gueye in space at the top of the box. After two touches, Gueye fired a strike to the far post in the 37th minute that took a wicked deflection off Poland defender Thiago Cionek and left Szczesny helpless.

Poland struggled all game against the pace and physicality of Senegal and the Lions of Teranga were very smart in controlling possession and switching the field, forcing the Poland squad to tire quickly.

Krychowiak did breathe some life into the game with a header goal off a free kick in the 86th minute, but despite some poor clock management from Senegal, its defense was able to hold off Poland’s last-ditch chance to tie the game, going level with Japan on three points at the top of Group H.