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.

Fulham fire Jokanovic, hire Ranieri as new manager

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Bottom of the Premier League table and leaking goals galore, something had to change at Fulham.

It was the manager.

Slavisa Jokanovic became the first Premier League manager fired in the 2018-19 season and the Cottagers sprung quite a surprise by hiring former Chelsea and Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri as his replacement. In a strange coincidence, Jokanovic was actually Ranieri’s first signing as Chelsea manager back in 2000.

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Ranieri last coached in England with Leicester as he led them to an incredible Premier League title win in his only full season in charge in 2015-16.

The following season he was fired in February 2017 with the Foxes in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle, and since then Ranieri coached at Nantes in France for the 2017-18 Ligue 1 campaign.

Ranieri, who coached Fulham’s west London rivals Chelsea in 2003-05, has been without a job for the past few months, but the well-traveled manager — formerly of AS Monaco, Roma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Greece among many others — is now back in the thick of things as he aims to lead American-owned club out of relegation trouble.

Speaking about his arrival at Fulham, the lovable Italian coach is eager to work with his squad over the international break to plan for his first game in charge against Southampton on Nov. 24.

“It is an honor to accept Mr. Khan’s invitation and opportunity to lead Fulham, a fantastic club with tradition and history,” Ranieri said. “The objective at Fulham should never be to merely survive in the Premier League. We must at all times be a difficult opponent and should expect to succeed. This Fulham squad has exceptional talent that is contrary to its position in the table. I know this team is very capable of better performances, which we will work on straight away as we prepare for Southampton at the Cottage.”

Fulham went on to say that Tony Khan, Vice Chairman and Director of Football Operations, “considered and spoke with a number of potential candidates within the past week” and that Ranieri was the “mutual and obvious choice.”

The club added that Tony Khan “will continue to oversee first team player recruitment and contractual agreements” and Ranieri will work closely with him on that.

What does Ranieri have to sort out at Fulham? In short, a lot.

Jokanovic led Fulham to promotion via the playoffs last season (after they reached the playoffs the season before too) and over the summer the club spent big, splashing out over $130 million on new players as Khan aimed to solidify the club in the Premier League.

Things didn’t go as planned over the opening months of the season with Fulham’s defense the leakiest in the PL and Jokanovic chopping and changing his team, especially his defense, most weeks. Over recent weeks Khan backed Jokanovic to turn things around, but they’ve acted swiftly with Fulham at risk of being cut adrift at the bottom of the table.

Ranieri will first do what he does best, make Fulham difficult to beat, but there’s no denying that his defensive philosophy is totally different to the free-flowing play Jokanovic preferred.

That attractive, attacking style of play led to the recruitment of most of the current squad under Khan and Jokanovic, so asking them to play in a solid 4-4-2 and to take no risks at the back will be a total culture shift for Fulham’s players.

This will be very interesting, and Ranieri will face his two former clubs in his first three games in charge. After hosting Saints, Fulham head to Chelsea for a west London derby on Dec. 2, then host Leicester on Dec. 5.

Fulham have acted quicker than they did in 2013-14 when they were last in the Premier League and were ultimately relegated after having Martin Jol in charge until December, then ene Meulensteen and Felix Magath were in charge later that season.

West Ham playmaker Arnautovic admits he’s playing hurt

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West Ham playmaker Marko Arnautovic is in his second season with the Hammers, and while leading West Ham with five goals on the season, he’s definitely not 100%. Still, his team needs him – both club and country – and so he’ll keep suiting up even through the pain.

Arnautovic, on international duty with Austria, admitted to hometown media that he needs regular medical treatment to stay on the pitch this season.

“I can not say if I’ll get an injection on Thursday,” Arnautovic said. “In my knee, fluid accumulates again and again. Of course, there are people who say they should rest themselves and do nothing for a week, but it’s just difficult.”

Arnautovic would not elaborate on the type of injection he is receiving, but it’s likely a steroid or other anti-inflammatory injection to keep the swelling in his knee to a minimum. He also may be having his knee drained, a painful process that involves physically removing fluid buildup through a syringe.

The 29-year-old was originally injured in a 3-1 win over Everton in mid-September, the club’s first win of the season. He was withdrawn from that match in the 64th minute after scoring a goal and assisting another, and missed the subsequent Premier League match against Chelsea. He returned to play 83 minutes against Manchester United the next time out, and has missed only one match since, playing the full 90 minutes in the other three.

To keep his knee as healthy as possible, Arnautovic told Sky Sports earlier last month that he was avoiding training too much. “The knee is not the best but I am fit and I can play,” Arnautovic said. “I’m not training a lot at West Ham to try and my knee calm.”

“After a game I need some rest for about two or three days. By the middle of the week I am training normally with the team, training in full. And on the weekend I can play, that is the most important thing. Obviously you can’t do anything on this bone bruise.”

Report: Jadon Sancho to start for England vs United States

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Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic are teenage teammates for Borussia Dortmund, a shining light for the growing generation of young internationals. Now, they will face each other on the field as international opponents on Friday as the United States and England clash at Wembley.

According to a report by Sky Sports, Sancho is set for his full international debut as Gareth Southgate will include Sancho in his starting lineup. It will be Sancho’s second cap after earning his first against Croatia in October.

That means it’s likely that the two will both be included from the opening whistle, as Pulisic is as guaranteed a starter as they come on the United States, barring injury.

Sancho has been white hot at the club level this season, scoring four goals and assisting five while earning a starting role with his form. One of his main teammates affected with diminished minutes as a result of Sancho’s form is Pulisic, who has not started in any of the last five Bundesliga matches and has just 64 minutes in that span.

Pulisic started against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on October 24, and eventually saw Sancho replace him in the 79th minute, with the young English international scoring in the 4-0 win. The two then started opposite each other against Atletico in the reverse fixture a week ago in a 2-0 loss.

Sancho will get the opportunity to prove his worth with a critical match against Croatia is on the horizon, as England has the chance to secure a spot in the Nations League semi-finals with a win. This will come alongside Wayne Rooney, who will be included in the squad and get the opportunity to play in a farewell match. Sancho was just two years old when Rooney made his England debut.

2018 MLS awards: Tata wins Coach, Zlatan wins Goal

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Major League Soccer announced a number of its regular season awards on Tuesday, and a pair of the league’s international stars were at the forefront of the achievements.

Outgoing Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino won Coach of the Year, while LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic won the league’s Goal of the Year award for his incredible long-distance strike against rivals LAFC back in late March.

Martino, in his second year in charge as Atlanta United’s first and only manager in franchise history, came just a point from securing the team’s first Supporters’ Shield in just its second year of existence. The club just won its first playoff series in club history as well, beating NYFC over two legs to reach the Eastern Conference finals. The Argentine has announced he will depart the club at the end of the season, with reports pinning him to a job with the Mexican national team.

LAFC manager Bob Bradley finished second in the Coach of the Year award, having led the first-year club to a third-place finish in the Western Conference and a playoff spot before being dumped by Real Salt Lake in the knockout round.

Ibrahimovic won Goal of the Year with his audacious half-volleyed strike from almost 40 yards out that chipped LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller and leveled the score. It was Ibrahimovic’s first MLS goal after moving to the Galaxy in the offseason from Manchester United. He scored again that match, a stoppage-time winner in the brand new derby.

Other awards were handed out during the hour-long awards ceremony on Periscope, including the Save of the Year, which went to Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei for ranging across his net to stop Colorado Rapids forward Shkelzen Gashi.

Skill Play of the Year went to Portland’s Samuel Armenteros for an incredible dink past Colorado defender Danny Wilson just before scoring the game’s first goal. The Celebration of the Year went to Bradley Wright-Phillips for the aftermath of his 100th MLS goal where he proceeded to remove his jersey to reveal another underneath with the number 100.