Late Mauro Díaz goal keeps Dallas undefeated, Portland winless after 10-on-10 battle (video)

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In a game defined by a bizarre double-red card, FC Dallas again found a way to stay out of the loss column. With Dallas and Portland playing the final 50 minutes 10-on-10, a late Mauro Díaz goal snared the home side’s third win of the year, keeping Óscar Pareja’s team on top of the Western Conference.

But the 2-1 result was overshadowed by an unexplained sequence in that began in the 39th minute, one that ended with Michael Harrington and Je-Vaughn Watson seeing straight red cards. With their altercation taking place away from the play, cameras were unable to find a clear cause of the dismissals, leaving broadcasters guessing as to why the teams would go into halftime down a man.

Before the teams reached their locker rooms, though, FC Dallas had taken a late first half lead, scoring four minutes into stoppage time after a header send across goal by Kellyn Acosta left Blas Pérez with an empty net. In the second half, Portland seemed to adjust to the new, more open game quicker yet still needed a huge deflection on a Maxi Urruti pass for Matt Hedges to gift them an own goal.

(ELSEWHERE: Whitecaps are back in the win column, but Houston impresses in Vancouver)

Then, after Kalif Alhassan had threatened to take the game for the Timbers, the second ball in off a 84th minute restart restored the home side’s lead, taking advantage of what’s becoming Portland’s customary once-per-game breakdown. With a seem opening up in defense after a clearance was played back into the box, Díaz was left with a clear shot on Andrew Weber, one that sent Caleb Porter’s team to its second straight loss.

Given the strange nature of the game, it’s impossible to take too much from the result. Yes, Portland still looks like a shell of their 2013 selves, but they looked so while playing 10-on-10. When the sides were at full strength, we were starting to see a little bit of last year’s team come out. Whether they could have shown that in the second half, too, we’ll never know.

For Dallas, though, it may be worth noting that this team has played four very different games yet has gotten positive results from each of them. Opening night against Montréal was a five-goal affair. The next week in Kansas City they barely had the ball. Returning home to face Chivas USA, they had to wait the Goats out, while tonight they played 10-on-10 for most of the night. No matter the circumstance, Pareja’s team has found a way to perform, its results producing 10 points through four games.

(ELSEWHERE: Sporting Kansas City breaks out, overcomes penalties in Colorado (video))

The nature of those wins makes it difficult to tell how, exactly, Dallas is doing it. We know Mauro Díaz has been great, Fabian Castillo’s still a handful, and Je-Vaughn Watson seems to have a new life under Pareja. But it’s not like that trio is generating so many more chances than their opponents. And it’s not like the defense, yet to keep a clean sheet, as been stellar.

Like the rest of the league, we’ll need more than four weeks to figure out this Dallas squad. In the mean time, the team is off to its second straight unexpected hot start.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.