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

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Back at home, back playing a team that only deals with BC Place’s turf once every 24 months, Vancouver again looked like the team that dominated New York on opening day, a performance that delivered the Whitecaps’ second win of the season. In the process of posting their 2-1 result, however, we may have learned more about visiting Houston than the team that ended up on top. After going toe-to-toe with the swift Vancouver attack, the Dynamo proved the quality it showed the season’s first two games was more than the function of an easy schedule.

Before Saturday, we just didn’t know how good Houston was. The Dynamo’s 4-0 win over New England on opening night was impressive, but the Revolution proceeded to be shut out in its next two games. And while Houston beat Montréal 1-0 two weeks ago, only a huge deflection on Will Bruin’s goal separated them from a team that’s now 0-3-1. Particularly after that Impact game, there were reasons to doubt.

Those reasons appeared to come out early in Vancouver. After an initial feeling out period, the Dynamo were having the predictable problems with the speed in the Whitecaps’ attack. In the 13th minute, that quickness led to a corner kick, with a Pedro Morales cross after an initial clearance producing the opener for Jordan Harvey. After Andy O’Brien knocked down Morales’s ball at the far post, Harvey got to a bouncing ball before Tally Hall, poking the home side in front.

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

Near the 30 minute mark, though, Houston adjusted. Instead of the Vancouver attack continuously hitting their block with speed, the game started to slow down. The midfield of Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, and Boniek Garcia began getting a better hold on the game. David Horst’s shoulder blocks started cleaning people out. Over the last hour, the game looked less like a BC Place track meet than a typical Dynamo affair. Dom Kinnear’s team had solved the puzzle.

Unfortunately, one final hint of BC Place’s influence doomed Houston. In the 57th minute, right back Kofi Sarkodie slipped as former Akron teammate Darren Mattocks cut behind him into the left side of the Houston penalty area. Once down, the defender’s left arm, extended above his head, blocked the ball, making Kevin Stott’s call almost obligatory. Kenny Miller’s second conversation of the season made it 2-0.

Houston would come back with a goal in the 75th minute after Clark headed home a perfect restart from Brad Davis, but the consolidation only served as a wakeup call. David Ousted was never truly tested with a potential winner as an awoken Vancouver played out the clock, sending Houston to its first loss of the season.

(ELSEWHERE: D.C. United finally into goals, points columns, but Chicago takes result out of RFK (video))

But consider what Houston was up against. I mentioned it a lot on the blog, but it’s difficult to overstate the effect of the Whitecaps’ turf. It is the strangest surface in the league — the only one of its kind (LigaTurf) — and plays like the top of a pool table. For Western Conference teams that play there every year, coaches and players learn to adjust. For Eastern Conference teams that only visit British Columbia once ever two seasons, the experience has to be surreal. The typical training session a team has before a road game isn’t enough to adjust.

Houston also has one of the slowest central defense pairings in the league: David Horst and Jermaine Taylor. Horst’s familiarity with BC Place from his time in Portland seemed to help him adjust to Vancouver’s runs, but the lack of speed was still a disadvantage, especially since Houston’s formation also left the team outnumbered in midfield.

I can’t wait to watch this one later this week. I want to know how Houston overcame all these obstacles. I suspect it’s the same formula as ever — quality players, willing to work hard, executing the basics — but that doesn’t make the performance any less impressive. Even if is just just Rico Clark adjusting, working harder, and outplaying his opponents, I want to be able to focus on it.

(ELSEWHERE: Late Di Vaio goal makes Philadelphia pay, gives Montréal first point of 2014 (video))

Against some other teams, particularly Eastern Conference teams, Vancouver would have ran away with today’s game. But after they adjusted, Houston were their equals at BC Place. Despite the loss, it was a very impressive performance.

Arteta drawn into Ozil discussion, reacts to Liverpool doubleheader

Arteta on Ozil
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Mikel Arteta did his best not to give a soundbite that included Mesut Ozil’s name following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Leicester City in League Cup action on Wednesday.

Ozil, 31, has not played since assisting the lone goal in a March 7 win over West Ham and has since only twice even made the bench (June 20 and 25).

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Asked six times about the German, Arteta painted in broad strokes before mentioning Ozil in the second set of questions.

Arteta said that Ozil simply hasn’t warranted a place in an 18. This is how he responded when asked if he understood why there are so many questions about a player who has 44 goals and 77 assists in 254 appearances for the Gunners.

From Football.London:

“Of course I understand and I respect your questions but I have to try to do my job as fair as possible. I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition.”

Okay then.

As for Wednesday’s win, the Gunners broke through on a Christian Fuchs own goal before sealing the deal on Eddie Nketiah’s marker just before the final whistle.

Arsenal was outshot 15-10 but both teams were decidedly second-string. Now the Gunners get consecutive affairs at Anfield, as Liverpool is the hosts for a Monday meeting in the Premier League and a League Cup fourth round tie days later.

Arteta was asked how big of a test that will be for the Gunners.

“You can imagine, probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world. That’s the fixtures, we have to go there. Let’s go first on Monday, let’s prepare well and see how it goes.”

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in July to deny the Reds a 100-point season, weeks after the Reds clinched the Premier League title. The Gunners again topped Liverpool in the Community Shield one month later.

The atmosphere and stakes will be high again next week. Surely Arteta can’t go 4-0 against Jurgen Klopp, right? Right?

Leicester City’s Rodgers: Gruesome Ndidi injury could cost him 12 weeks

Ndidi injury
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For every team, there’s an indispensible player and it’s difficult to argue against Leicester City’s player being Wilfred Ndidi.

The groin injury that kept the Nigerian out of Leicester’s 2-0 home loss to Arsenal in the League Cup could require surgery, said Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers after the game.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

One of the game’s top destroyers, Ndidi had played two matches at center back as Leicester opened the season 2-0.

Rodgers could hardly have made the injury sound more painful.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“We’re just waiting to hear more on that but it could be anything between six and 12 weeks,” Rodgers said. “It’s a groin abductor which may have come off the bone, which is quite a nasty one. We’re waiting to see if he needs an operation or not. If he does, it will be at least 12 weeks.”

Leicester missed Ndidi for five-of-six games in early 2020 and went 2D-3L, starting a skid that ended up costing them Champions League football.

The 23-year-old already has 34 caps for Nigeria.

The Foxes have Nampalys Mendy, Hamza Choudhury, and Daniel Amartey amongst their defensive midfield options.

They next face Man City, West Ham, Aston Villa, and Arsenal in Premier League play. Leicester will learn its Europa League group on Oct. 2 before beginning its UEL run the week of Oct. 22.

Champions League: Six-goal thriller in Norway; Marsch’s Salzburg lead

Champions League qualifying
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The UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round is delivering entertainment, with six first legs dotting the European landscape over the past 27 hours.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

American coach Jesse Marsch saw his Red Bull Salzburg take a first leg advantage home from Israel, while U.S. right back Henry Wingo and Molde played the game of the round so far against Hungary’s Ferencvaros.


Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg

The Austrian visitors were heavy favorites, especially with the hosts dealing with positive COVID-19 tests, but Maccabi took a ninth-minute lead through Dan Biton.

But young Dominik Szoboszlai’s Man of the Match showing began with a goal in the 49th minute and Masaya Okugawan gave Salzburg the lead eight minutes later ahead of next week’s second leg in Austria.

Molde 3-3 Ferencvaros

A thriller in Norway saw the hosts erase a 2-0 deficit only to hand a big away goals advantage to the Hungarian visitors with minutes to play.

Ferencvaros scored early in each half through Franck Boli and Myrto Uzuni. Both goals were set up by Endre Botka and Ferencvaros looked set to cruise through the first leg.

Molde snapped awake through former Manchester United, Cardiff City, and Seattle Sounders man Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who set up Leke James in the 55th minute before scoring a classy goal that was started on the right flank by fellow ex-Sounder and American export Henry Wingo.

Martin Ellingsen gave Molde its first lead in the 83rd, but Ihor Kharatin made it 3-3 four minutes later to send Ferencvaros back to Hungary with three away goals. A draw any less insane would be enough for them to head to the group stage.

Elsewhere

Gent 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Olympiakos 2-0 Omonia Nicosia
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland

Second legs

Sept. 29
Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30 
Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv

League Cup: Havertz hat trick as Chelsea scores 6, Newcastle hits 7

League Cup scores
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There were few surprises to be found in the League Cup, one day after several eyebrow-raising results in the tournament’s third round.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]


Morecambe 0-7 Newcastle United

The League Two side was absolutely hammered by a Newcastle team who must’ve been read the riot act after a sleepy home loss to Brighton in weekend Premier League action.

It was already 4-0 when Morecambe’s Toumani Diagouraga was sent off. Joelinton scored twice and three players had a goal and an assist (Jamaal Lascelles, Jacob Murphy, and Miguel Almiron).

USMNT defender DeAndre Yedlin started at left back and set up an Isaac Hayden goal, with Matt Ritchie picking up an assist on Newcastle’s sixth of the game. An own goal rounded out the scoring.

A visit to League Two’s Newport County is next, and Steve Bruce’s men would be expected to win and find a spot in December’s quarterfinals. Halcyon days, or something.

Leicester City 0-2 Arsenal

A Christian Fuchs own goal finally helped Arsenal onto the scoreboard, though the Gunners were good money for the win.

The Foxes had an excellent goal mouth clearance from Wes Morgan with about 20 minutes to play, but could not find the equalizer.

Eddie Nketiah grimaced that he didn’t get to tap in the pass that Fuchs directed into his own goal, but got his marker in the 90th.

If Liverpool handles its business against Lincoln City this weekend, the Reds and Gunners will square off twice in four days (or less)

Chelsea 6-0 Barnsley

Kai Havertz scored his first Chelsea goal and hat trick, all assisted by Tammy Abraham, as the Blues made short work of their Championship visitors.

Havertz’s first Chelsea goal was one of two first-half markers and his second iced the contest.

Abraham scored in the 19th minute. Eight minutes later, he let Mount’s pass set Havertz up for a classy snap finish.

Ross Barkley scored in the 49th and Abraham got his second assist of Havertz six minutes later. His third came in the 65th minute and was followed by Havertz leaving the pitch to hand Ben Chilwell a Blues debut.

Chilwell didn’t disappoint, setting up Olivier Giroud for the match’s final goal.

Preston North End 0-2 Brighton

Graham Potter’s rotation allowed some talented players to showcase themselves away to a Championship side.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Alexis Mac Allister were the goal scorers as the Seagulls outshot PNE 11-4 to set up a match next week with Manchester United, who they meet this weekend in the PL.

Millwall 0-2 Burnley

As cagey as you’d expect from these two, with the Premier League visitors’ class a bit too much for the Championship’s Lions.

Josh Brownhill and Matej Vydra scored for Sean Dyche’s men with Matthew Lowton and Chris Wood collecting assists.

Burnley will face Man City or Bournemouth in the fourth round.

Fulham 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday

It was as tight as you’d expect from two sides who shared Championship scraps last season.

Aboubakar Kamara and Bobby Reid scored in the first 32 minutes to supply the Cottagers a fourth-round date at West London rivals Brentford in a rematch of the promotion playoff final.

Americans Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson both went the distance in the win.

Stoke City 1-0 Gillingham

The Championship side had all of the ball and the only goal, as Tyrese Campbell’s 37th-minute marker was enough to clinch a visit to either Bristol City or Aston Villa.

Fleetwood Town 2-5 Everton

Carlo Ancelotti’s dominant Toffees suffered a brief scare after building a 2-0 lead through a Richalrison double.

Mark Duffy scored in the 48th before Alex Iwobi restored the two-goal lead.

That’s when Jordan Pickford, well, he messed up.

Fortunately for the Toffees, who out-attempted Joey Barton’s Fisherman by a healthy margin, Bernard scored with 17 minutes left to ease any frayed nerves. Moise Kean finished the scoring off a Niels Nkounkou feed.

Everton faces West Ham at Goodison Park in the fourth round.


Next League Cup third round fixtures

All times ET

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


Previous third round results

Luton Town 0-3 Manchester United
West Ham United 5-1 Hull City
Newport County 3-1 Watford
West Bromwich Albion 2-2 (4-5 pens) Brentford
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — postponed


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Arsenal
Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
Brentford v Fulham
EvertonWest Ham United
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea
Newport County v Newcastle United
Brighton and Hove Albion v Manchester United