MLS roundup: Sporting, RSL drawn late; Houston perfect after two

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From Jermain Defoe’s first goals in Seattle to San Jose’s late comeback in Santa Clara, Major League Soccer made up for a week two downturn in goals with an uptick in drama. Each of Saturday’s six games was decided by one goal or less, with three matches seeing points change hands thanks to late goals.

When the dust (mostly kicked up by the events at Buck Shaw) settled, the Houston Dynamo had a two-point lead on the rest of the league, with FC Dallas, Philadelphia, and Real Salt Lake moving to four points through two rounds. At the other end of the spectrum, New England and Montréal lost their second games of the season, with Jay Heaps ‘team sitting with a -5 goal difference after being shut out twice.

Here’s how the second Saturday of the 2014 Major League Soccer season played out:

New York Red Bulls 1-1 Colorado Rapids

New York’s attempt to rebound from last week’s disappointment was undone by a controversial late penalty, with Vicente Sanchez’s conversion earning Colorado a point at Red Bull Arena. While it was a strong result for Pablo Mastroeni’s head coaching debut, New York remains winless, its Supporters’ Shield defense yielding one point through two games.

(MORE: This call on Jámison Olave cost New York two points against Colorado)

Philadelphia Union 1-0 New England Revolution

The Union needed one huge save from Zac MacMath, but other than Diego Fagundez’s failed try from close range, Philadelphia was able to keep a lid on the winless, goalless Revolution. Holding nearly 60 percent of the match’s possession, the Union made Sebastien Le Toux’s first half goal hold up, moving to four points through two rounds.

(MORE: Philadelphia backs up Week One success, claims season’s first win against New England)

Seattle Sounders 1-2 Toronto FC

Two first half goals from Jermain Defoe got the England international’s Major League Soccer career off to a flying start, but thanks to a second half goal from Clint Dempsey, Ryan Nelsen’s team were left holding on at match’s end. Winning its season opener, TFC also sent Seattle to its first loss of the season.

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Houston Dynamo 1-0 Montréal Impact

Will Bruin’s 40th minute goal and some dodged bullets in Saturday’s second half have Houston out in front of the league – the only MLS team on six points through Saturday’s action. Chivas USA or Vancouver can join them tomorrow, but for now, powered by Bruin’s three goals on the season, Houston is tops in Major League Soccer.

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Sporting Kansas City 1-1 FC Dallas

Matt Hedges made up for his inability to stop Aurélien Collin’s 81st minute goal with a 90th minute equalizer, with the third-year pro heading home from close range to keep Óscar Pareja’s team undefeated through two games. Sporting, on the other hand, finish its season’s second weekend without a win, the start to its title defense hampered by its need to balance domestic concerns with Champions League’s challenge.

(MORE: Late goal from FC Dallas earns draw in Kansas City; Sporting’s attack suffering while squad rotates)

San Jose Earthquakes 3-3 Real Salt Lake

RSL’s 3-1, halftime lead only set them up to be “goonied” in Santa Clara, with a pair of late Victor Bernardez goals allowing the Earthquakes to salvage a result. With the last kick of the match, Bernardez scored from seven yards out, giving San Jose its second comeback victory of the week.

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Manuel Pellegrini takes the reins at West Ham United

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West Ham United was said to be chasing Rafa Benitez, and instead got a manager with more recent big time success.

Manuel Pellegrini is the new boss at West Ham, returning to the league which saw him guide Manchester City to a Premier League title and two League Cups.

[ MORE: Man Utd after pair of mids ]

The 64-year-old Chilean is well-traveled, and most recently managed Hebei China Fortune. He was released from his contract with the Chinese Super League side last week.

Pellegrini has also led Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Malaga since arriving from South America in 2004.

From WHUFC.com:

“I think that West Ham had a difficult season last season and I hope that next season we are going to play football that will delight the fans. I always play attacking football and we must try to reach important targets in the season.

“Every time you have a meeting you have feelings about whether it was a good meeting or a bad meeting and I had the meeting with him, just talking about football and talking about West Ham.  We agreed on a lot of things he wants for this Club in the way I think a football club must be managed, so we have a lot of common ideas.”

Pellegrini is missing more than a few elements to play the way he’d like to play, and his arrival could spell the end for long-time players like Mark Noble. It could also be a boon for Pablo Zabaleta as the former Man City pair is reunited in London.

West Ham has spent freely in recent years, and Pellegrini’s status could help it land a breed of player unavailable to Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, and David Moyes.

Transfer rumors: Man Utd after pair of midfielders; Liverpool eyes Lascelles

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The transfer rumors continue as players hope to have their futures sorted ahead of next month’s World Cup.

Manchester United is being linked with a pair of big money midfielders.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Anderson Talisca, 24, could be leaving Besiktas to join United following a $47 million offer, according to Metro. His 14 goals were fourth in the Turkish Super Lig and his seven assists tied for the team lead. He scored four more times in eight UEFA Champions League matches.

And then there’s highly-sought box-to-box midfielder Jean Michael Seri of Nice, linked with United as well as Manchester City. Club president Jean-Pierre Rivere hinted that the 26-year-old would certainly be headed somewhere this offseason.

Mika Seri is … a very good player who has brought a lot to the club and can legitimately have that desire to go and play abroad.”

— Liverpool could really strengthen its center back situation by buying captain Jamaal Lascelles from Newcastle United, though the hinted fee of $19 million seems low for an integral part of the Magpies’ back line (especially given that English players usually net higher fees on account of being English).

And Lascelles has said Newcastle “is the right club for me at the right time. We have a huge fanbase, an amazing manager, and this club is massive. It has so much history.”

The Chronicle also said Liverpool is also looking at Burnley star center back James Tarkowski, and that Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has his eye on 19-year-old Sevilla mid Alejandro Viedma.

— A wild rumor out of Diario Gol says Alvaro Morata is set to fight for his starting role at Chelsea and is encouraging Real Madrid buddy Marco Asensio to join him at Stamford Bridge. The report says Asensio would be an important part of any Chelsea sale of Eden Hazard.

— Cardiff City is said to be signing Hamburg striker Sven Schipplock when his Hamburg contract expires in June. He did not score for HSV last season.

Brighton adds Nigerian World Cup defender from Mainz

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Brighton and Hove Albion has added some depth to their center back pairing of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.

Leon Balogun has arrived from Mainz, the 28-year-old Nigerian heading to the World Cup and then hitting the Amex Stadium on a free transfer.

[ MORE: Zidane praises Ronaldo ]

Mainz avoided relegation by three points this season, and Balogun played in 14 matches. He had been with the Bundesliga outfit since 2015, and has 16 caps.

Balogun has also spent time at left and right back.

Ezequiel Schelotto just finished his first season as a Brighton right back, playing 28 times, but also moved up the right side. Bruno played plenty there as well, but is 37 years old.

Gaetan Bong and Markus Suttner split time at left back. All four of the players will be with the Gulls next season.

Brighton already had a top-half defense in terms of goals allowed. This should only help that.

Xabi Alonso: Liverpool-Real to be “such a special game”

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Xabi Alonso is part of a unique brand of footballer to have played with both Liverpool and Real Madrid.

The retired 36-year-old spent five seasons with each team, winning a UEFA Champions League with both, and now will watch his alma maters tangle for a UCL crown on Saturday.

[ MORE: Zidane praises Ronaldo ]

Alonso said he’s just rooting for “an unbelievable game to watch,” and seems like he’ll be happy either way.

“I have feelings for both clubs. I was lucky enough to win this trophy with both clubs so for me it’s difficult to pick one and I will be happy whatever happens, that’s for sure. For Liverpool, for Madrid [they are in] different circumstances, but it’s such a special game.”

The Spanish legend also seemed a bit torn as to whether Real’s experience or Liverpool’s newbie excitement could tilt the scales:

“For the Real Madrid guys, it’s the opposite. They have played so many finals in the last few years, so they can manage the situation better. Later it’s just 90 minutes for both sides, whatever happens. But the build-up is different.

“For sure it’s good to have that experience. But it’s good as well to have that excitement, that hunger, but you need to control as well the over-relaxation and the over-motivation.

“You need to find the right point of activation for the game. That’s not difficult because you know what it means to play in a Champions League final and you don’t have many chances during your whole career, and that’s one of the key psychological sides of this game. And the emotional side is almost as good as the football side.”

Maybe it’s simply playing both sides of the fence, and there’s no shame in that, but it does seem a hard match to choose. Both have been wildly inconsistent in league play as well as the group stage, but have been quite good in the knockout rounds.

It’s hard to pick against Real, but that’s why they play the games.