MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 4-1 Seattle Sounders

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One game, 100 words (or less): Bradley Wright-Phillips’ chances of history received a huge boost Saturday night, with his team’s playoff hopes rising along with them. With three goals before the hour-mark, MLS’s leading scorer pushed his team to a 4-1 victory over visiting Seattle – a win that ensures last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners will stay in the East’s top five for at least one more week.

Wright-Phillips opened the scoring in the first minute, though it would be another 52 before the New York sniper added his second of the night from the spot. On a counter attack in the 56th minute, Wright-Phillips scored his 24th goal of the season, leaving him three short of MLS’s single-season scoring mark.

A quick swap of goals by Clint Dempsey and Tim Cahill provided the night’s final pieces of excitement, with a Seattle team that made major chances from its mid-week U.S. Open Cup triumph falling hard at Red Bull Arena.

Goals:

New York: Wright-Phillips 1′, 53′, 56′, Cahill 65′
Seattle: Dempsey 61′

Three moments that mattered:

1′ – 29 seconds – Any fear Seattle had over-rotated its team were emboldened after 29 seconds, when Stefan Frei’s block of an Ambroise Oyongo shot gave New York’s leading scorer a chance from eight yards out. Forgotten moments earlier by a Seattle’s defense, Bradley Wright-Phillips was rewarded for initially setting up Oyongo, putting the rebound into the open net to give New York a ridiculously early lead.

53′ – Inexperience shows – Dylan Remick showed promise earlier this season when he was starting ahead of Leo Gonzalez, but after beating beaten by Lloyd Sam in the 53rd minute, the 23-year-old showed he’s not beyond a few rookie mistakes. As Sam, near the byline, turned toward the middle of the penalty area, Remick made a desperation lunge, taking out Sam just inside the box. Wright-Phillips fired his spot kick past Frei to give New York a two-goal lead.

56′ – Not Djimi’s night – Djimi Traore had a strange moment in the first half. Running under a long ball from Luis Robles, Traore kicked Wright-Phillips in the backside after desperately trying to compensate for his error. It’s not often that you see a defender run himself into position to kick an opponent in the butt.

It was the start of a bad night. Just before the hour, with Seattle having just gave up a second goal, Traore failed to adjust as Wright-Phillips drifted away from Chad Marshall. As New York countered down its left, Roy Miller played a long, diagonal ball between the defense and goal, one that saw Traore in no position to contest Wright-Phillips’ third goal.

Later, after Seattle had reduced the lead to two, a poor clearance by Traore allowed Tim Cahill to put his name on the scoresheet, a ball played right to the Australian international allowing him to finishing inside Frei’s right post.

Lineups:

New York: Robles; Duvall, Olave, Sekagya, Miller (Christenson 84′); Sam, McCarty, Alexander; Oyongo; Henry (Stevenson 92′), Wright-Phillips (Cahill 58′)
Seattle: Frei; Anibaba, Marshall, Traore, Remick; Neagle, Rose, Alonso (Pineda 80′), Pappa; Cooper (Dempsey 60′), Barrett (Martins 59′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Depth’s nice, when you don’t have to use it all – Yes, Seattle over-rotated, but perhaps Sigi Schmid felt it was necessary. Maybe the Seattel staff felt it was worth risking a loss to reduce the minutes for five or six of his regulars.

Regardless, the Sounders’ depth didn’t hold up. Though the team looked fine for much of the first half, mistakes that distinguish first choice players from useless depth cost Seattle. The Supporters’ Shield race could tighten up.

2. Djimi Traore looks done – Traore was a valuable addition at the beginning of last season, but he was one of the culprits as Seattle lost to Portland in the playoffs. This season, Zach Scott seems to have won the spot next to Chad Marshall, though if there was any lingering feeling a healthy Traore should start, tonight said otherwise.

3. BWP within reach – Three goals in five games is a lot, but after his third hat trick of the season, Wright-Phillips is on pace. Averaging one goal every 88.9 minutes this season, Wright-Phillips’ needs just under three games to tie the record, at his current rate. If Wright-Phillips stays on his season-long pace, Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski will lose their spots in MLS’s record book.

Where they stand now:

  • With the win, New York has a three-point lead on fifth place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. Should Columbus hold on to beat New England, New York’s lead on fifth goes back down to one.
  • For Seattle, this is a game to forget, mostly because the team continues to control its Supporters’ Shield destiny. The Sounders remain three points up on the Galaxy, and after LA’s done with Dallas tonight, Seattle will again have a match-in-hand.

Supporters Shield still up for grabs as Atlanta, NYRB both win

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The New York Red Bulls are still in the mix, but Atlanta United has taken a one-point lead into the final matchday of the season as both teams won on Sunday.

Atlanta United topped Chicago 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz stadium. Franco Escobar opened it up early and an own-goal put them ahead for good, keeping pace with RBNY’s win over Philadelphia and leaving them a point ahead at the top of the table.

Escobar’s strike came just eight minutes in, after feeding Josef Martinez near the penalty spot who whiffed and fell down, he latched back onto the loose ball and decided to take it himself, curling one inside the far post. Chicago scored in the 24th minute to level the score, but Atlanta did not relent.

Just two minutes after Chicago’s equalizer, Atlanta was back on top. Chris McCann crossed it from the left edge, and Johan Kappelhof attempted to slide and block the cross at the near post, but instead he redirected the ball into the back of his own net.

New York, meanwhile, kept pace with a 1-0 victory at Philadelphia behind a penalty from Kaku, sending Andre Blake the wrong way. The spot-kick was given on a VAR check that determined Alejandro Bedoya handled the ball.

On the final day of the season, the Red Bulls will host Orlando City, while Atlanta is on the road at Toronto. Atlanta can secure the Supporters’ Shield with a win, but New York can jump them with a win and an Atlanta draw or loss. Should Atlanta lose by one goal and the Red Bulls draw, the teams would be level on both points and goal differential, meaning the significant Atlanta lead on goals for would give them the advantage.

Rooney scores brace, DC United completes improbable playoff push

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They’ve done it. They’ve really done it.

D.C. United, with just two league wins through the first 19 games of the MLS season, has completed an improbable playoff bid by securing an Eastern Conference berth in the postseason with a 3-1 win over NYCFC on the penultimate matchday of the season.

Wayne Rooney, the catalyst for this amazing turnaround, fittingly scored a brace, including the opener just eight minutes in on a fabulous run from Luciano Acosta down the end line.

Acosta was there to secure the win, doubling the lead in the 24th minute with a long-distance strike into the top-right corner.

Goalkeeper Bill Hamid was required to preserve the lead, getting down low to stop a tight-angle strike from David Villa towards the end of the first half. That would spur D.C. on, as they would seal the deal with a penalty from Rooney in the 74th minute, leaving NYCFC with just a consolation in the 78th minute when David Villa ended the bid for a clean sheet.

The victory caps an improbable second-half run for D.C. United, as they have won five in a row and 10 of their last 15. Rooney has been the leader, earning the role of captain despite just signing this summer, and scoring 12 goals in 19 MLS matches. With Columbus Crew drawing, D.C. jumped all the way up into fourth place with the win.

Serie A: Icardi wins Milan derby, Lazio up to fourth

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It was a huge day in Serie A, and Mauro Icardi took the headlines with his 92nd minute winner to give Inter Milan a 1-0 victory over rivals AC Milan.

Matias Vecino whipped in a brilliant cross from way out on the right edge, and Icardi was there at the back post to head past Gianluigi Donnarumma for the late victory. The goal capped off an otherwise wasteful match, as Icardi’s winner came on just the fourth shot on target by Inter of their 18 total efforts on net, while AC Milan managed just a single shot on target of their 15 tries. It pushes Inter past Lazio into third in the table, while AC Milan remains way down in 12th.

Meanwhile, Lazio scored a pair of late goals to earn all three points at Parma and jump to third – temporarily – in the Serie A table. Ciro Immobile was on hand to dispatch an 81st minute penalty confidently into the top-left corner and send Lazio on its way to a 2-0 victory. The spot-kick came after Valon Berisha was tackled late by Riccardo Gagliolo both going for a loose ball in the penalty area, a soft giveaway but a penalty nonetheless.

With time winding down, Joaquin Correa sealed it four minutes into stoppage time by wrong-footing Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe to finish a well executed counter-attack. The win for Lazio eventually left them in fourth after Inter’s win on 18 points, still seven behind leaders Juventus but only three back of Napoli in second.

Elsewhere, Atalanta clobbered Chievo Verona at Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi 5-1 to pull out of the relegation zone. The win is the first for Atalanta since the first match of the season – stopping a seven-match winless streak – and the goal explosion marks a massive turnaround for a club that had scored a measly two times over the last six games.

The hero was 30-year-old Slovenian international Josip Ilicic who bagged a hat-trick, marking his first three goals of the season. Defender Marten De Roon actually began the scoring in the 25th minute with a laser from outside the top of the box, while Ilicic began his day four minutes later when he delivered a fabulous left-footed curler.

His left foot did it again from outside the box in the 50th minute to put Atalanta 4-0 up, and just two minutes later he had his third, tapping in a Robin Gosens ball home after Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino embarrassingly failed to collect the cross.

A huge relegation six-pointer finished in a 3-3 draw that disappointingly lifted neither Empoli nor Frosinone out of the drop- zone. 33-year-old Frosinone captain Daniel Ciofani found a brace, but Turkish international Salih Ucan rocketed home a 79th minute volley to share the points.

Torino slumped to a 2-2 draw with 17th placed Bologna on Arturo Calabresi’s 77th minute equalizer, while Fiorentina also disappointed in a 1-1 draw with 14th placed Cagliari thanks to Leonardo Pavoletti’s 69th minute strike that left the two teams even.

Bundesliga: Thorgan Hazard goes off as Gladbach jumps to second

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While Eden Hazard has torn it up in the Premier League, his brother is quietly leading Borussia Monchengladbach to a stellar season.

Thorgan Hazard scored a goal and assisted two others as Gladbach clobbered Mainz 4-0, jumping to second in the Bundesliga table. Jonas Hofmann had the hat-trick, putting Gladbach in the lead 21 minutes in, but Hazard made things happen. He threaded the pass to Hofmann through the three-man defensive line for the game’s opener.

Hofmann put them 2-0 up on another Hazard assist minutes after halftime, and then he bagged his own on a pinpoint cross from Nico Elvedi that left Hazard all alone to roof it past a helpless Florian Müller. Hofmann pulled in his hat-trick by the 63rd minute to seal the game.

Thorgan Hazard has now been directly involved in 11 goals in nine games for Gladbach this season, the same amount as his brother Eden has for Chelsea so far.

Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin and Freiburg drew 1-1 on a pair of first-half goals. Ondrej Duda scored for Hertha just seven minutes into the match thanks to an absolutely delicious feed from Per Skjelbred on a through ball from just past the halfway line. That was it for Hertha though, as they struggled to create more good chances. Freiburg knotted it up just past the half-hour mark, as Robin Koch delivered a howitzer into the top corner, a truly fantastic goal.

Hertha failed to truly take advantage of the crowded top of the table, but the point pushed them up to sixth in the table, level on 15 points with RB Leipzig. Freiburg, meanwhile, moved to nine points, just three above the relegation zone.