US ‘keeper Brad Guzan hails Aston Villa’s new-look defense after solid start

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In the week where he seemingly jumped into the role of U.S. national team’s number one goalkeeper for the next year, following Tim Howard’s sabbatical, Brad Guzan put in another top display to record his second shutout in as many games to kick off Aston Villa’s season.

Villa held Newcastle to a 0-0 draw at home on Saturday and coming off their opening day 1-0 win at Stoke City, the Midlands club have tallied four points from their opening two matches of the campaign. Not bad at all, especially compared to the last few seasons.

[HIGHLIGHTS: Villa 0-0 Newcastle]

Guzan, 29, played a huge part in thwarting Newcastle as late on Siem de Jong smashed an effort on goal but Guzan beat the ball away superbly as he helped Villa on the way to another point.

Following the match Guzan spoke to reporters about Villa’s new experienced core at the back and how they have helped the sleeping giants of English soccer to get off to a solid start to the new campaign.

 “I was just happy to play my part really,” Guzan said. “Up to that point the guys in front of me had made my job quite easy. I hadn’t had much to do in terms of saves. When you have a defense in front of you that are prepared to put it on the line and make blocks and tackles it makes it easier for a keeper. I thought we were a little bit unlucky not to get three points. Yes, they might have had a bit more of the ball, but up until that save I didn’t really have anything to do.”

With Swiss international center back Philppe Senderos arriving on a free from Fulham, Aly Cissokho signing from Valencia and Scottish right back Alan Hutton back in from the cold after various stints away on loan, Villa’s defense all of a sudden looks much tougher to beat. Plus with the shaved heads of Guzan, Hutton, Vlaar and Senderos back there, Villa’s defense merged into a mass of brilliant bold defenders who threw their body on the line time and time again for the cause. Bravo.

A back four of Hutton, captain and World Cup star Ron Vlaar, Senderos and Cissokho is much different than the core of youngsters who manned it last season. The likes of Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton and Nathan Baker have all been replaced after two seasons of struggle for Paul Lambert’s men who gave youth a big chance to succeed. With new assistant coach Roy Keane on board, his mantra has always been to set up a solid defense and have a few attackers who can win you games.

USMNT ‘keeper Guzanis  behind a new sturdy defense and although Villa may not be the most attractive team to watch this season, they will certainly get plenty more points as their defensive unit looks in fine fettle early on in the 2014-15 season.

MLS Three Things: RBNY beats Atlanta, is a special club right now

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At this point, Jesse Marsch could take the USMNT job, Tyler Adams could bolt for the Bundesliga, and we’d still have to select the New York Red Bulls to finish with a home playoff game.

[ MORE: Willian’s shot at Conte ]

That’s how well run RBNY is these days, which is to take nothing away from their coach and 19-year-old star, but considering they navigated a solid CONCACAF Champions League run en route to this start… well…. wow.

On a night when Luis Robles’ ironman streak ended, Kaku recorded two assists, and Ezequiel Barco bagged his second goal in three matches, they don’t even meet the requirements of our three things.

Form giants deliver more goals

Marsch’s men have been shutout once this season, and most multiple goals in four-consecutive wins. Three of those four wins have come on the road, at LA, Colorado, and now Atlanta.

RBNY has the best points-per-game in Major League Soccer, has scored the joint-most goals despite playing in the second-fewest games, and is allowing barely more than a goal-a-game.

Bet against ’em. We dare ya.

BWP delivers the goods

RBNY’s 33-year-old English star scored twice and won a penalty that Daniel Royer converted as he continued his assault on all future Red Bulls’ hopes of becoming the club’s leading scorer.

Bradley Wright-Phillips has almost 50 more goals than his nearest competitor, Juan Pablo Angel, and he makes headers look like child’s play.

Victory comes with a price

Kemar Lawrence was lost with a scary-looking face-plant on a clearance, and needed to be stretchered off the pitch. Hopefully it’s not long-term for the Jamaican back.

Willian “edits” Conte out of FA Cup champions photo

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Willian is not a fan of Antonio Conte.

Come to another conclusion if you like, but it’s hard to argue the Brazilian wizard’s feelings following his Instagram post after Chelsea beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: Matic wants squad changes at Man Utd ]

Willian covered his manager in trophies following the win, and it’d be a stretch to call that a tribute to the Italian’s tactical brilliance.

The player recorded seven goals and six assists despite playing less than all but 12 Chelsea players in league play (12th place Alvaro Morata had 11 and 6).

We’re accepting alternative explanations for the since-deleted Instagram photo below:

Elis scores twice as Dynamo beat Fire 3-2

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Alberth Elis scored two second-half goals to help the Houston Dynamo beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 on Sunday for their first road win of the season.

Elis, on a one-on-one breakaway, cut back to evade defender Johan Kappelhof and ripped a right-footer from the center of the box into the back of the net to give Houston (4-3-3) a 3-2 lead in the 74th minute.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Dynamo’s Romell Quioto opened the scoring in the fourth, running onto a long through ball from Tomas Martinez and rolling the finish past sliding goalkeeper Richard Sanchez. Nemanja Nikolic tied it in the 14th minute and then fed Diego Campos for a goal about two minutes later. Elis converted from the spot to make it 2-2 early in the second half after Mauro Manotas drew a foul in the area conceded by Sanchez.

Chicago (3-6-2) has lost three of its last four games.

 

Inter Milan back in the Champions League after late heroics (video)

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It’s been more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League, an infamous run that ended on Sunday.

Inter scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-place Lazio and advance into the Top Four via head-to-head record.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

Lazio held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but could not get the job done at home, collecting red cards in the 79th minute and stoppage time.

Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino scored his third goal of the season, redirecting a corner kick home in the 81st minute, as Inter clinched fourth place in Serie A.