Three things we learned from Sporting KC’s 4-0 thrashing of FC Dallas

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Sporting Kansas City moved to six games unbeaten (three wins) with a 4-0 thrashing of FC Dallas on Friday night, pushing the Western Conference newcomers to third place in the wild West. Few expected Peter Vermes’ side to gel and take the league by storm this quickly, but they’ve been immensely impressive in doing so.

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Most importantly, Friday’s showing put the rest of the league on notice: the end of the 2014 season was more an aberration than a sign of things to come. Three things to be taken from the latest installment of Viernes de Futbol

Krisztian Nemeth was brought in to be a (the?) difference maker, but he’s turning into a star instead

The thought behind Sporting’s signing of the ex-Liverpool prodigy’s this winter was that he’d serve as a consistent second scoring threat, taking the focus of opposing defenses off last year’s 22-goalscorer, Dom Dwyer, while chipping in eight or 10 goals of his own.

Instead, Nemeth has hit the ground running in MLS (when healthy) and very much usurped Dwyer’s star power — at least for the time being — with a three-game stretch (three goals, two assists – six and two on the season) in which he’s constantly looked like the best player on the field, in games against New England, Seattle and FCD — three surefire playoff teams and MLS Cup contenders.

The way Nemeth dominated, and at times toyed with, FCD’s talented, veteran central defense on Friday night (just watch how he leaves Matt Hedges for dead HERE) should serve as notice to the rest of the league. He’s dangerous with clever runs into the left channel, he’s simultaneously shifty and strong in his hold-up play, and yet he somehow looks most comfortable when running straight at defenders with the ball at his feet.

Dear Jurgen Klinsmann, please write Benny Feilhaber’s name on your Gold Cup roster…in ink

Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City

This is one has more to do with the last 18 months than Friday night’s shellacking at Sporting Park — though Feilhaber was pure quality yet again — but, to steal a now-famous line from Sacha Kljestan, are you even watching, Klinsmann?

Feilhaber has been, by miles and miles, the best midfielder in MLS since the start of the 2014 season (see HERE, HERE, HERE and most notably HERE…and especially HERE). Three months of total balling out wasn’t enough to earn a call-up to last summer’s World Cup? OK, fair enough, do it for an extended period of time. The second half of 2014 looked much the same as the first. Three three months of 2015, Feilhaber has four goals and seven assists to his name.

To say he’s been the best player on the field in 75 percent of Sporting’s games this season would be selling the man short. No longer just a one-way, luxury playmaker, Feilhaber covers more ground and recovers more balls inside his own half than most defensive midfielders. In short, he’s exactly the player the U.S. national team was praying Michael Bradley could be in a more advanced role last summer. No sour grapes here, though, just hoping against all odds and precedence that Klinsmann won’t make the same mistake two summers in a row.

FCD looked extraordinarily average without Fabian Castillo

Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas — Photo credit: FC Dallas

FCD managed to get by to a certain extent (one win, one draw) in four games without Mauro Diaz earlier this season. While the Argentine No. 10 is the beating heart of everything FCD look to do on a given night, the level of fright Castillo puts into the hearts of opposing full backs — and the subsequent production built upon said fear — is simply irreplaceable and further cements his place as the most dangerous attacking player in the league.

Without Castillo in the 18 on Friday night, the Sporting midfield collapsed on Diaz early and often, giving nary a glimpse of time or space in which to operate. Without the threat of Castillo running behind the exploitable right side of Sporting’s defense, the backline pushed higher and higher, smothering possession after possession deep in the middle third of the field.

Keying in on and shutting down one star attacker isn’t all that difficult in MLS, but doing so against a duo as talented as Castillo and Diaz…that’s a whole other story.

‘But hey this is MLS’: Wayne Rooney slams MLS’ travel arrangements

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Wayne Rooney is not a fan of MLS’ travel arrangements.

D.C. United lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in Canada, and had to fly back to the nation’s capital before prepping for a midweek showdown with visiting New York Red Bulls. To the 33-year-old Englishmen the trip should’ve taken six hours, not half a day.

MLS is notoriously known for the lack of charter flights it offers its teams, a mere four per season is the reported amount each team is allocated. Traveling on commercial flights has caused routine delays for a slew of team’s this season, with certain teams arriving only hours before the first whistle in some cases.

Players, however, will reportedly push for better travel in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Not only for Rooney, but for the majority of professional athletes around the world, flying charter is customary.

Upon his arrival to D.C. in 2018, Rooney turned down first-class flights offered by the Black-and-Red, among other fine accommodations. “If you are going to be part of the team, you have to be part of the team,” Rooney said on his decision to reject first-class flights and private hotel rooms. “All in and do the same things. I don’t want special treatment — I wanted to be treated the same as the players. I’m part of this team.”

Rooney, despite being on his way out of D.C. to join Derby County in January, is certainly a part of the team.

He is also now a part of the complex fight for better travel in MLS.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.

Lampard: ‘We need more personality’

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Frank Lampard‘s baptism of fire as Chelsea boss continued on Sunday, as the Blue coughed up a 1-0 lead and were lucky to draw at home against Leicester City.

[ MORE: Pulisic watch. How did he do?

After being hammered at Manchester United in their opening PL game last weekend, then losing to Liverpool on penalty kicks in the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday, Chelsea started superbly against Leicester but only led 1-0 thanks to academy graduate Mason Mount scoring his first goal for the club.

Speaking to our partners Sky Sports after the game, Lampard revealed he was not happy at all with the second half display and urged his young side to show more personality on the pitch.

“It was a really good start, fantastic, and we could’ve been two or three goals up. We were quick, bright, energetic, then we allowed Leicester back in the game and in the second half I was not very happy, we offered them too many chances on the counter attack,” Lampard said. “We can only look at ourselves. In all our matches I have been delighted in big passages of having the ball but we didn’t have enough angles or options to keep the ball moving. We have to have more personality, we saw that in midweek, but today we didn’t have that.”

The most disappointing thing for Lampard will be the way Leicester grabbed hold of the game in the second half.

Brendan Rodgers‘ side launched counter after counter as Jorginho and N’Golo Kante were overrun in midfield by James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, and both Maddison and Jamie Vardy should have won the games for the Foxes.

“You can attack, but still be in positions to not allow the counter-attack,” Lampard added. “I’m not here to play great attacking football and then concede counter-attack goals. We need to show more than we did. I was under no illusions that there would be moments like this. We have to work on the pitch on the things we can improve.”

Lampard is spot on with his assessment, but how does he change things?

The most obvious thing is that he needs his team to be more consistent. They’ve started their last three games fast but failed to make the most of big chances and have been made to pay for that with some sloppy passing in midfield.

It is still early days for Lampard in his first season as a PL boss, while many of his youngsters are also finding their feet in the top-flight. Chelsea’s fans will stay patient but the fact that have yet to grab a win shows there is plenty of work to do but the Blues have shown flashes of brilliance, usually at the start of games.

Having a consistent lineup is one thing, but Lampard now needs his players to be brave, show their personality and stand tall for the cause as he ushers in his new era. Too many of them went missing in the second half against Leicester at Stamford Bridge, which will be more than a little concerning for the Chelsea legend.

Pulisic watch: How did USMNT star perform on home debut?

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Christian Pulisic made his home debut for Chelsea on Sunday, as the USMNT star started for the Blues against Leicester City at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: What did we learn? ]

How did the 20-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania get on during his first start in the Premier League?

The American playmaker played 70 minutes and although he, like Chelsea, started well, it’s safe to say he faded in the second half as the west London club gave up their lead and drew 1-1 against the Foxes.

2nd minute: Pulisic follows up after Schmeichel saved Mount’s effort but the Leicester goalkeper bundles the ball wide.

3rd minute: Gets free at the near post from the resulting corner but can’t flick the ball goalwards.

15th minute: Gives away a free kick for a foul on Ricardo Pereira.

19th minute: Cuts in from the left and plays a nice pass across the pitch to start an attack.

20th minute: Works back well defensively to put Pereira off his cross.

26th minute: Starts a great move which almost sees Kante score. Flicks it out to Emerson who finds Giroud to play in Kante.

27th minute: Pulisic pops up on the right flank and tries to cross into the box but his cross is blocked and goes out for a goal kick.

29th minute: The American switches flanks with Pedro and is now on the right wing.

30th minute: Pulisic races onto a loose ball but Schmeichel slides out and gets there just before him.

34th minute: Back on the left, taken down by Ayoze Perez as he runs towards the halfway line and looks to pass. Wins a free kick.

39th minute: A few nice touches on the ball but then loses the ball on the halfway line.

41st minute: Plays a bit of a strange back pass to Kepa which puts Chelsea under pressure.

45th minute: Pulisic blocks a cross as the ball smashes him in the ankle and he goes down injured.

46th minute: He is back on his feet and sends in a cross which is deflected out for a corner.

53rd minute: Drifts in from the left and plays a nice ball inside, moment laters plays it to Pedro who loses the ball.

63rd minute: Chases down a lost cause but Caglar Soyuncu calmly flicks the ball over his head.

66th minute: Cross comes in and looks like he is winding up for a bicycle kick but is bundled to the floor. No penalty kick.

70th minute: Shortly after Leicester equalize, Pulisic subbed off and replaced by Willian. A ripple of applause from the home fans.