MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-1 Columbus Crew

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAX-zkbW0q0]

One game, 100 words (or less): Chicago’s plague of draws continues, with the Fire managing to drop points from after scoring first for the eighth time this season. Today, a first half penalty conversion from Mike Magee gave them temporary hope, but a goal seconds after the teams returned from the locker room pulled Columbus even. Thanks to a big stop early in the second half from Sean Johnson, the Crew were prevented from building on their equalizer, with Chicago left to endure its 13th draw of the season.

Goals

Chicago: Magee 37′
Columbus: Higuaín 46′

There moments that mattered:

36′ – Ball to … oh, wait. Nevermind – This type of play usually draws a number of “ball to hand” appeals, but Tyson Wahl had both arms outstretched when Grant Ward hit his cross. When the ball found Wahl’s right arm, Silviu Petrescu pointed to the spot, with little doubt behind the call that put Chicago up one.

46′ – 10 seconds? – Jeff Larentowicz jumps into midfield, Patrick Ianni ends up on his backside, and next thing you know, Columbus is even, with Federico Higuaín’s goal coming before Chicago’s sen any second half possession. Straight out of the locker rooms, the Crew have their equalizer, with the corresponding momentum leaving Chicago on the edge of a deficit.

53′ – The leg of Sean – After the equalizer, Columbus looked ready to take over, with the field apparently tilted toward Sean Johnson’s goal. In the 53rd minute, that advantage was set to pay off when Ben Speas ran unto a layoff from Higuaín, but with a kick save worthy of Dominik Hasek, Johnson kept the Fire even, leaving the teams destined to play out a half of few chances.

Lineups

Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Larentowicz, Gonzalo Segares; Grant Ward (Harry Shipp 57′), Matt Watson, Chris Ritter (Logan Pause 81′), Alex (Razvan Cocis 63′); Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa

Columbus: Steve Clark; Michael Parkhurst (Eric Gehrig 91′), Giancarlo Gonzalez, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchiani, Wil Trapp, Ben Speas (Jusitn Meram 66′); Federico Higuaín; Adam Bedell (Aaron Schoenfeld 66′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Larentowicz in the back still a work in progress – It’s not so much that the defense was bad. After all, Chicago only gave up one goal. It’s just a matter of how soon it clicks. Today, Larentowicz did play a small part in the goal, coming out of defense but failing to win the ball. At the same time, the rest of the defense, specifically Patrick Ianni, didn’t make the play behind him. How much can you really fault him for the goal?

In that way, the change leaves Chicago no better off, with the Fire defense still exhibiting a tendency for random error. Will that tendency continue into the future? In theory, time can only help the Fire’s new center back.

2. The value of Sean Johnson – Johnson used to be known for a hyper-athleticism that offset his inexperience, a quality that led to some eye-opening errors in goal. Over time, however, those errors have started to fade, while the high points have become more frequent. Bill Hamid may be going to Portland, but you can see why Sean Johnson remains slightly higher in Jurgen Klinsmann’s pecking order (for now).

3. Drawing out the season – 21 games, only eight of which have ended with a winner. That’s Chicago’s season, and while it’s admirable the Fire have avoided more than five losses, they play in a three-point world. At some point, preferably while the playoffs are still a distant hope, they need to become a three-point club.

Where this leaves them:

  • With the draw, Chicago remains five points back of the playoffs, albeit in eighth in the East.
  • As for Columbus, the point allows them to move clear of New England – one point into the East’s top five.

Wynalda named head coach, technical director of Las Vegas Lights

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Las Vegas Lights FC is staying very on-brand as it announces its new head coach and technical director.

After a season headlined by the lights, glitz and glamour off the field while fortunes on the field struggled, the Lights administration announced on Wednesday that it had hired Eric Wynalda to be its new manager. The former U.S. Men’s National Team striker takes over effective immediately, after Lights FC parted ways with Isidro Sanchez at the end of the 2018 USL regular season last Saturday.

[READ: Wenger could return to coaching in January]

Las Vegas made waves ahead of their expansion season by hiring controversial ex-Chivas USA manager Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, known affectionately as “Chelis.” However, just before the start of the season, Chelis was demoted in a way to technical director while his son, Isidro Sanchez, took over the reigns on the sideline. Chelis was eventually dismissed after a poor run of form and an altercation with a fan led him to receive an eight-game suspension.

However, the hiring of Wynalda perfectly fits within the ethos of the bright and loud club, trying to mimic the stereotype projected by Las Vegas. Wynalda’s comments and opinions on the sport in the U.S. have likely kept him from receiving MLS coaching offers, which is ridiculous because he’s proven to be a successful coach on the field. Not only a great scout of talent, Wynalda is the definition of a player’s manager, a coach that players want to run through walls for. He found success with Cal FC and in a short spell with the Atlanta Silverbacks, where he commuted back and forth from his home in Los Angeles.

Most recently, Wynalda has been out of a job since running for U.S. Soccer president, in which he was defeated early on during the election last February.

There’s likely to be a big overhaul of players this offseason at Las Vegas, but considering Wynalda’s eye for talent, there’s a good chance that the Llamas/Lights should be a more competitive side in 2019.

Mane undergoes hand surgery

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The “FIFA virus” is hitting Liverpool hard this month.

Sadio Mane, who reportedly broke his left thumb on international duty for Senegal, underwent surgery on Wednesday, Liverpool confirmed. The club did not include a timetable for Mane’s return in its press release, only saying, “Mane’s recovery will be monitored over the next couple of days ahead of the Reds’ return to action at Huddersfield Town on Saturday.”

With the injury, Mane joins Mo Salah, Naby Keita and Virgil Van Dijk as Reds to be injured during the international break.

As an attacker, it’s unlikely Mane really needs the use of his left hand other than to protect himself on aerial challenges on bumps from defenders, but depending on the recovery, it may just be a decision of how much pain Mane could tolerate. With matches against Huddersfield, Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff City to come, maybe this is a good time for Jurgen Klopp to rest some of his starters, including the walking wounded like Mane.

Fulham owner withdraws offer to purchase Wembley Stadium

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Wembley Stadium is set to stay in the FA’s hands.

[READ: USMNT 1-1 Peru: Player Ratings]

The FA announced in a press release Wednesday that Fulham owner Shahid Kahn had withdrawn his offer of $790 million to purchase Wembley Stadium. Kahn first became interested in buying the stadium in February 2017, when he and FA CEO Martin Glenn met at the Superbowl. What followed was an informal offer to the FA Board of Directors before a formal offer was made.

The offer has been valued at anywhere from nearly $800 million to nearly $1.2 billion. In a statement, Kahn said that his goal to purchase the stadium was to provide the FA with a large amount of capital which it could use to improve grassroots soccer around the country.

“The intent of my efforts was, and is, to do right by everyone in a manner that strengthens the English game and brings people together, not divides them,” Khan said. “Unfortunately, given where we are today, I’ve concluded that the outcome of a vote next week would be far from sufficient in expressing the broad support favored by the FA chairman to sell Wembley Stadium.”

The FA council was set to vote on the sale next week.

Although it cost the FA and British government more than $1.4 billion (adjusted for inflation) to renovate and rebuild Wembley Stadium, the arena hosted 33 events between July 2016 and June 2017 and in its latest published financial records, the FA recorded an after-tax profit of $21 million. So it seems that along with the sponsorships and broadcast deals, Wembley Stadium is a money maker, which makes it important for the FA to hold on to.

That being said, it’s hard to turn down a deal worth close to $1 billion, even if that’s a lump sum and they won’t receive further investments from stadium revenues in the future. In the future, maybe Kahn or another owner may make another offer, one that the FA council could accept.

Report: La Liga chief going to court to compel U.S. based games to happen

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The head of La Liga is considering taking extraordinary action to ensure that a planned match this year in the U.S. goes off as expected.

[READ: What did we learn about the USMNT?]

According to Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, La Liga president Javier Tebas is set to bring a lawsuit against the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and its chief, Luis Rubiales to compel the federation to approve Barcelona’s match against Girona on January 26, which has been scheduled to be moved to Miami, Fla.’s Hard Rock Stadium.

In a way, it makes sense that Tebas and the Spanish league is considering every possible avenue to ensure that their 15-year marketing rights agreement with Relevant Sports, including league matches played abroad, can move forward as expected. However, it was clear after the announcement in August that all parties involved – especially La Liga, had not thought this through. FIFA, the RFEF, local fans and the Spanish league’s player’s union have all opposed the news, and on Wednesday Real Madrid formally sent a letter of it’s disapproval in moving La Liga matches abroad.

Tebas and La Liga would prefer for this to be resolved legally sooner rather than later, so they can market the Barcelona match in Miami and begin negotiating with the other federations that need to approve. But there’s a decent chance that the other parties – FIFA, and U.S. Soccer – could fail to rubber stamp what would be a first-of-its-kind event. In any case, watch this space.