Hat trick from Wright-Phillips gives New York two wins in a row

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This is exactly what teams should get when they pluck attackers from England’s lower leagues: the ability to read a play; get in the right position; and reliably finish. On Wednesday night, those abilities paid off Bradley Wright-Phillips, who produced an unlikely hat trick for the suddenly resurgent Red Bulls, helping New York overwhelm Houston for its second win of the season.

Routing visiting Houston 4-0, New York embarked on its first winning streak of the season, building on last Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia. Thanks to a goal and two assists from Thierry Henry, New York gave supporters a reason to believe last year’s Supporters’ Shield-winning season is more than a one-year fluke. After one of the more one-sided performances of the young MLS season, New York is suddenly third in the Eastern Conference.

It’s a swift turn around after a 0-2-4 start left New York near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but after last week’s break through, the Red Bulls had reason to believe the team’s initial, six-match stretch was as much randomness as an indicative of actual skill. Wednesday’s decisive win over the visiting Dynamo gives the team reason to believe wins over Philadelphia and Houston are better indicators than losses at Vancouver and D.C. United.

In that way, this performance may prove more telling for the Dynamo than the Red Bulls. Two weeks ago, Houston was handed a demoralizing loss in New England, though the team apparently recovered with a 0-0 draw in Philadelphia, Tonight, however, it appeared as if Mike Petke figured them out. Playing wide-to-in, New York used hard, driven crosses to beat David Horst and Jermaine Taylor, avoiding the aerial game where Houston’s duo would have an advantage. It’s an approach that more-or-less worked for the first three goals, with the final tally coming from the spot.

It was a performance that transcended any context two uncertain teams brought into the game. Sure New York was coming off of a week’s rest while Houston’s turnaround was quick, but that doesn’t explain such a lopsided, decisive result. New York fully deserved its four-goal margin.

It goes without saying that’s a good omen for the Red Bulls, going forward. New York may not be on the same level as Kansas City, clearly the best in the East, but who is? It’s a question we won’t even ask if the Red Bulls weren’t holding the Supporters’ Shield.

Still, if the Red Bulls had to match up with the likes or Toronto or Columbus tomorrow, would you really write them off? Toronto may have that Michael Bradley-ness not its side, but beyond that, New York is suddenly playing as well as any non-Kansas City team in the Eastern Conference.

On one hand, that’s life in the Eastern Conference, where two games take you from bottom dweller to contender. On the other, it’s reason for caution. Just because two wins can vault you up the Eastern Conference doesn’t mean you’re contending. New York is recovering and has started putting worries of a collapse being it, but that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly read to defend its Supporters Shield.

All it means is New York, compared to the winless team it was two weeks ago, is in much better shape. The flaws we saw in the seasons first five weeks may still be there, but right now, the Red Bulls are doing a much better job of overcoming them.ws

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

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


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

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Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.

Durmaz condemns Sweden fans’ racist abuse after World Cup loss

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KRASNODAR, Russia (AP) — Sweden midfielder Jimmy Durmaz says the racist abuse aimed at him over social media following the 2-1 loss to Germany at the World Cup has been “completely unacceptable.”

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

After coming on as a substitute, Durmaz gave away the free kick that led to Toni Kroos curling in an injury-time winner in Saturday’s group game. Durmaz has since been subjected to online abuse, including threats to his family.

Before a training session on Sunday, Durmaz — standing in front of the rest of the Sweden squad and beside coach Janne Andersson — read out a statement to the media from a mobile phone.

“When you threaten me, when you call me ‘Arab devil,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘Taliban,’ then you have gone far beyond the limit,” Durmaz said in the statement, which was published on the Swedish Football Association’s website.

“And even worse, when you go after my family, my children, threaten them. Who does such a thing? It is completely unacceptable.”

Durmaz was born in Sweden to Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I am Swedish and I am proud to play in the Swedish national team. That’s the biggest thing you can do as a football player,” he said in the statement. “I will never let any racists destroy that pride. We must all stand against all forms of racism.”

The Swedish FA has reported the abuse toward Durmaz to police.

“We do not tolerate a player being exposed to threats and violations,” said Hakan Sjostrand, secretary general of the Swedish FA. “It is unpleasant and very upsetting to see the treatment that Jimmy Durmaz has suffered. Completely unacceptable.”

The loss to Germany left Sweden tied on three points with its opponent. Both countries are three points behind Mexico with one game left. Sweden plays Mexico in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday, with Germany taking on South Korea at the same time.