MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-1 FC Dallas

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One game, 100 words (or less): Dallas weathered LA’s dominant opening half to reach halftime even, eventually taking the lead through Blas Perez early in the second half. Though Robbie Keane quickly responded, the Galaxy had fallen victim to Oscar Pareja’s trap, failing to put Dallas away before the Toros came into the match.

In the 84th minute, the home side wriggled out of it. After Keane beat Adam Moffat just outside the left-side of the penalty box, a far post cross for Alan Gordon found the former Earthquake open at the far post. Heading down and across goal, the second half sub gave the Galaxy a 2-1 win, allowing LA to move even with Seattle atop the Western Conference.

Goals

LA Galaxy: Keane 62′, Gordon 84′
FC Dallas: Perez 54′

Three Four moments that mattered:

45′ – It’s still scoreless? – FC Dallas failed to test Jaime Penedo over the first 45 minutes. They were outshot 10-3 and saw Gyasi Zardes miss a 26th minute sitter. Playing without Fabian Castillo, Matt Hedges, and Diaz (starting on the bench), the team was dominated. The scoresheet, however, remained blank as the teams walked down StubHub Center’s tunnel.

54′ – That’s so Dallas – Keep FCD close, they’ll find a goal like this, even if they’ve been dominated for the first 54 minutes. They’ve become so good at it, any advantage implied by the run of play becomes irrelevant. Be it on the counter or via dead balls, FC Dallas has too many ways to render open play irrelevant.

Open play, however, was Dallas’s friend on Saturday, with play built down the Toros’ right allowing Blas Perez to drift wide and isolate Dan Gargan. On Andres Escobar’s floated cross, the Panamanian international was able to elevate over the LA fullback, giving the Toros a lead with their first shot on target.

62′ – Clear that, Victor – Victor Ulloa has been asked to carry a big load in his first full MLS campaign, and for most of the season, he’s played beyond the nine minutes’ experience he brought into the 2014 season. On a Gargan ball into the box, however, the 22-year-old midfielder took one touch too many, allowing Gyasi Zardes to win the ball off him to set up Keane to LA’s quick response.

84 ‘ – Patented move – It seems like we see this once per game from Keane. Matched up one-on-one with a defender, he’ll move the ball onto his right before dragging it across the defender, onto his left.

Usually Keane’s at such close range that this immediately leads to a shot, but on Saturday, it gave him a chance to chip a far post cross to Alan Gordon. Having creating room against Zach Lloyd, Gordon had an easy finish into the left of goal, one that gave LA full points on the night.

Lineups

LA Galaxy: Penedo; Gargan, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Rogers; Husidic (Ishizaki 62′), Sarvas, Juninho, Donovan; Keane, Zardes (Gordon 75′)
FC Dallas: Fernandez; Acosta, Watson, Loyd, Hernandez; Escober, Michel, Ulloa, Hollingshead (Diaz 55′, Benitez 83′); Perez, Akindele (Moffat 75′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Looks will be deceiving with Dallas – The Dallas team that used Mauro Diaz’s through balls to climb to the top of the Western Conference this spring is unlikely to return. Instead, Oscar Pareja seems content to lean on a resolute defense, his counter attacking threat, and Michel’s set piece magic to carry them into the postseason.

The beauty of those strengths is the ability to win games without playing well; at least, play well by normal standards. Shots, possession, territorial measures are unlikely to go Dallas’s way, but as long as the Toros can adjust at halftime, find a way to win some corners, and lean in their strengths, they’ll be able to “steal”some results.

The only draw back, and it is a minor one: Nobody will consider them a real threat. Dallas will never look as good as LA, Real Salt Lake or Seattle, even though they’re capable to earning these types of results. If they want to win hearts and minds (and hopefully, they don’t care), this isn’t going to do it.

2. Gordo > Friendo – Bruce Arena brought in Rob Friend to do this. Instead, the former Canadian international seemed more interested in drawing theatrical endeavors than scoring goals. LA’s first hope of acquiring a big target man didn’t come off.

Alan Gordon, however, has been a gift. He’s fit in perfectly since migrating south from San Jose. Given the salary cap, the team’s needs, and Arena’s success with veteran players, LA couldn’t have asked for a better solution.

It’s become a bit of a lark around LA to say “I don’t know what San Jose let him go.” The reasons are clear enough. But just because Gordon no longer fit with the Earthquakes doesn’t mean he can’t be a difference-maker in Carson.

3. Dallas needs its stars – Mauro Diaz came and went tonight, being subbed off later after his introduction after halftime. Even if he’s fully fit at some point this season, the team has moved beyond being built around him. Dallas is claiming its points in different ways.

Those different ways almost require Matt Hedges and Fabian Castillo to be in the team. Hedges, the team’s new captain, is the key to a defense that has to support Pareja’s counter attacking approach. And the key to executing that approach? Castillo.

Where this leaves them:

  • Though Seattle has a game in hand, LA is not even on point with the Sounders. The duo sit atop the West and the league, with their season-ending, home-and-home series looming larger by the week. The Galaxy also clinched a playoff spot.
  • FC Dallas is settling into the number four spot. Four points back of Real Salt Lake, five points up on Portland, FCD seems destined to host the West’s four-five game.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 5

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We’re a full month into the 2018-19 Premier League season, which means we can begin — yes, only just now — to make more definitive statements about where everyone is headed for the season.

Not much change at the top of the power rankings this week, but plenty of movement in the middle and bottom thirds…

[ MORE: UCL preview: Real, Ronaldo debut apart; Man City, United, too ]

20. Burnley — Bottom of the table after four straight losses, Sean Dyche worked an unthinkable miracle last season but he might not survive another month of results like the one just completed.
Last week: 16
Season high: 15
Season low: 20

19. Cardiff City — Nailed-on favorites to be relegated before the season started, the Bluebirds haven’t shown anything to suggest they’ve got a trick up their sleeves. Their stay in the PL will, however, be lucrative, if brief.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20

18. Huddersfield Town — Teams wishing to avoid relegation must beat other sides in the relegation battle — Cardiff, for example. The Terriers couldn’t do it a couple weeks ago, followed by five more points dropped against Everton and Crystal Palace.
Last week: 18
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

17. Newcastle United — Three straight losses is better than four, but not by much. The Magpies get something of a free pass for facing Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal in consecutive games. The fact they lost each game by one goal (all 2-1)? Encouraging.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 18

16. West Ham United — The four teams below them in these rankings — and the real-life table — have been so bad that all the Hammers needed was one win to move from last place (with zero points) to outside the relegation zone.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

15. Fulham — Lost 3-0 to Man City this weekend. They’re supposed to lose 3-0 to Man City.
Last week: 14
Season high: 11
Season low: 17

14. Southampton — Only six goals conceded in five games is a top-six defensive record that could keep Saints up on its own. Only six goals scored, however, is firmly in the bottom half — dull and painful to watch, at best; a half-dozen defensive mistakes from relegation, at worst.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

13. Leicester City — Hammered by Bournemouth at the weekend, the Foxes undid any goodwill they might have accumulated in a narrow defeat to Liverpool pre-international break. Plus side: games against the Reds and Man United out of the way.
Last week: 10
Season high: 8
Season low: 13

12. Brighton and Hove Albion — Back-to-back draws, against Fulham and Southampton, in games Chris Hughton would have targeted as winnable fixtures.
Last week: 11
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

11. Crystal Palace — Snapped a three-game losing skid by beating Huddersfield, now the Eagles need to avoid being the lesser side against which Newcastle breaks out of its early-season slumber.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 13

10. Everton — Sure, half the team was out due to injuries or suspension, but losing 3-1 to the last remaining team without a point remains an unavoidably bad look.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 11

9. Wolves — After spending wildly in the summer, Wolves took just two points from their first two games in the PL. Back-to-back wins, against West Ham and Burnley, have shown they’re perhaps a cut above the relegation battle.
Last week: 8
Season high: 8
Season low: 13

8. Spurs — Back-to-back defeats, against Watford and Liverpool, and Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is outside the top-four (and -five) just like that. Harry Kane isn’t scoring (just two goals this season — zero in the defeats), and no one else has stepped up to fill the void.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

7. Manchester United — Wins over Burnley and Watford are nice, but let us know when they’re ready to handle a giant like Brighton.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

6. Bournemouth — Pop quiz: Who’s the fifth-place side in the PL table right now, ahead of both Spurs and Arsenal? ‘Tis the Cherries.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 12

5. Watford — No longer perfect, no longer unbeaten. The hard work begins now, with a winnable trip to Fulham. The fall from fourth — where the Hornets currently reside — could be quick.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 7

4. Arsenal — The only non-top-two team with three straight wins. The problem is, of course, the season-opening losses to Man City and Chelsea have them sitting seventh nonetheless.
Last week: 7
Season high: 4
Season low: 9

3. Chelsea — Pop quiz no. 2: Who’s the current PL leaders? ‘Tis the Blues, so why aren’t they no. 1 (or 2) on this list? Does Arsenal count as a signature win in their second week under a new manager? Probably not, so we are in a holding pattern until they take on Liverpool in 10 days.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 4

2. Man City — It still feels blasphemous to not have them no. 1, but Pep Guardiola knows it’s not necessary to blow the doors off everyone in August and September in order to win the title; that it’s more important to pace yourself for the whole of 10 months, if you want to win the Champions League.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

1. Liverpool — Speaking of signature wins, going away to Spurs and completely controlling and dominating the game was a surefire signal of intent from Jurgen Klopp‘s men. What they did against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday doesn’t necessarily count for these rankings, but it shows they’ve got staying power.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

Juve’s Douglas Costa banned 4 games for spitting

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus winger Douglas Costa has been banned for four Serie A matches after a spitting incident on Sunday.

[ MORE: UCL roundup: USMNT’s Pulisic, McKennie shine ]

The Brazil international was sent off near the end of Juventus’ 2-1 win over Sassuolo after he spat at midfielder Federico Di Francesco. Costa had also raised an elbow at the same player and attempted a head-butt.

The Italian soccer federation announced his ban Tuesday, with the winger set to miss matches against Frosinone, Bologna, Napoli and Udinese.

[ MORE: UCL preview: Real, Ronaldo debut apart; Man City, United, too ]

Costa has already apologized for the incident on social media — via Google Translate:

“I would like to apologize to all of Juventus fans for this misleading reaction in today’s game. I also apologize to my teammates, who are always with me in good times and bad. I was ugly, I am aware and I apologize to everyone for it. I make it clear that this isolated attitude does not match what I have always shown in my career.”

Zlatan gets Thor treatment for game day giveaway (video)

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There’s something about Zlatan Ibrahimovic saying, “This is the new Greek god. This is Zlatan,” that leads you to believe it’s not the first time he’s had this thought.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-2 PSG ]

Ibrahimovic is the subject of a classic Costacos Brothers poster to be given away at the LA Galaxy’s Sept. 29 match against Vancouver.

If you’re not familiar with the Costacos Brothers, well, your bedroom growing up really missed out.

From “Kelly’s Heroes” to “Czechmate,” the Costacos were trusted with plenty of creative license in a bygone era.

Bygone for everyone besides Zlatan. Bit jealous we can’t get our hands on one.

Pulisic “a bit lucky” on 20th birthday match-winning goal

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BRUGES, Belgium (AP) Christian Pulisic celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring on his return from injury to give Borussia Dortmund a late 1-0 win at Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

“It was great to come back after injury to and to be back with the team,” said Pulisic, who also made his 100th appearance for the club.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The American, who hadn’t played since Aug. 26 due to muscular problems, came on with around 20 minutes remaining and scored in the 85th when Matej Mitrovic’s attempted clearance rebounded off his shin and looped in over Brugge goalkeeper Karlo Letica.

“It was a bit lucky but I’ll take it on my birthday,” said Pulisic, who had missed two Bundesliga games for Dortmund and the U.S. friendlies against Brazil and Mexico.

“I just saw the ball getting played through. I think the defender tried clearing it but I was in the right spot at the right time,” Pulisic said. “I think we deserved the goal at the time.”

Pulisic, who also netted against Benfica in March last year, is only the third American to score multiple Champions League goals after Fabian Johnson – who had two for Borussia Moenchengladbach – and DaMarcus Beasley, who scored six in stints at PSV Eindhoven and Rangers.

“I’m just going to enjoy the rest of the night with the team,” Pulisic said of his birthday celebrations.

Mario Goetze made a rare start for Dortmund but was unable to provide much of a spark against the spirited hosts. Leticia saved his effort in the first half. It was Dortmund’s only shot on target apart from Pulisic’s goal.

“It was a lucky win, a dirty win,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said.

The win means Dortmund has already bettered its Champions League campaign from last season, when it earned just two points in six group games.

Brugge was back in the Champions League group stage after a one-year absence and created the better chances.

In the other Group A game, Atletico Madrid beat Monaco 2-1.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports