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MLS: FC Dallas 2-0 Union | Dynamo 3-3 NE Revs | Earthquakes 1-0 Rapids

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The game in 100 words (or less): FC Dallas are MLS Cup contenders this year, just as they were in 2015, and they’ve built themselves a fantastic jumping-off point for the 2016 season with a 2-0 home victory over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday. Mauro Diaz assisted on both of FCD’s goals — as he typically does — which were scored by Fabian Castillo and Maximiliano Urruti. For all the praise that FCD’s attack is given — and rightly so — they were oh so good defensively in this one. It’s that kind of balance and ability to win games in so many different ways that’ll make them one of, if not the, team to beat.

[ MORE: Previewing MLS First Kick 2016 ]

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Castillo turns on the burners, 1-0 to FCD — Diaz -> Castillo. We’ve seen that combination once or twice before, haven’t we? Diaz is the magical no. 10 capable of springing Castillo, the blazing-fast winger into space at the drop of a hat. The Union were the first victims of 2016.

79′ — Urruti bags his first for FCD, courtesy of Diaz — Hey, remember what I just said about Diaz and Castillo? The same looks to already be true of Diaz and Urruti, who arrived this offseason from the Portland Timbers. Diaz crossed from the ball from the right side of the six-yard box and Urruti poked it home from the goalmouth. Argentine connection.

87′ — Castillo stretchered off the field — This is just about the worst possible news, both for FCD fans and fans of MLS in general. Fingers crossed Castillo is OK and doesn’t miss significant time.

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Man of the match: Mauro Diaz

Goalscorers: Castillo (22′), Urruti (79′)


The game in 100 words (or less): The Houston Dynamo blew a pair of second-half leads to drop two points at home against the New England Revolution, going from 2-1 and 3-2 ahead to 3-3 in the end. To their credit, though, they came back from a goal down after three minutes to take their first lead of the season. Giles Barnes scored in his first game as the new Dynamo captain, and Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger marked their Dynamo debuts with goals after coming to Houston from Philly in the offseason, but goals by Diego Fagundez, Charlie Davies and Daigo Kobayashi were enough to steal a point for the visitors despite trailing by a goal into the 93rd minute.

[ MORE: Previewing MLS First Kick 2016 ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Fagundez rifles in the opener from 25 yards out — Chest control. Bounce. Fire. Fagundez makes it look oh so easy, doesn’t he? This is how every player would like to open his season — three minutes on the clock, scoring an early Goal of the Year nominee.

77′ — Barnes slots home from outside the box, 3-2 Dynamo — Houston went 2-1 ahead in the 50th minute, but Davies pulled the Revs back level two minutes later. Then, with 13 minutes left in regular time, Will Bruin crossed the ball to the top of the penalty area, Boniek Garcia dummied it and let it run in order for Barnes to apply the deft finish to the far post. Poetry in motion.

90+3′ — Kobayashi heads home for the late equalizer — Fagundez’s cross was pinpoint to the penalty spot, and Kobayashi rose above the crowd to head the ball downward and past Joe Willis for the final-minute-of-stoppage-time equalizer.

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Man of the match: Diego Fagundez

Goalscorers: Fagundez (3′), Maidana (45+1′), Wenger (50′), Davies (52′), Barnes  (77′), Kobayashi (90+3′)


The game in 100 words (or less): It’s going to be a might long season for the Colorado Rapids, and it began in depressing fashion, a 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, on Sunday. Sure, Pablo Mastroeni’s men held a significantly larger chunk of the game’s possession than San Jose (58-42) and out-shot the Quakes 18-7 (5-4 on target), but they left Avaya Stadium with nothing to show for it once again. Chris Wondolowski did the damage, scoring the game’s only goal 44 seconds after halftime.

[ MORE: Previewing MLS First Kick 2016 ]

Two moments that mattered

46′ — Wondo heads home to start the 2nd half — Darwin Quintero provided the cross, Wondolowski provided the textbook header from just about the penalty spot. It’s what he does.

85′ — Bingham stretches to make the big, late save — David Bingham played the role of late hero for the Quakes, as his 85th-minute save to deny Eric Miller’s long-range blast was a thing of beauty.

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Man of the match: Chris Wondolowski

Goalscorers: Wondolowski (46′)

Report: Newcastle in takeover talks with UAE billionaire

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Reports out of Northeast England say Newcastle United supporters who want owner Mike Ashley out at all costs have new hope.

United Arab Emirates billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is said to be in talks with Ashley about a takeover of the St. James’ Park-based club, though there’s a lot of work to do for a deal to be complete.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

One report goes as far as to say Ashley has agreed to accept $444 million for the Premier League club.

Sheikh Khaled, 61, was educated at American colleges Boston University and Michigan State. He’s the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and was turned down with a $2.5 billion bid for Liverpool last season.

From The Chronicle:

NUFC have confirmed some talks with Sheikh Khaled. But say there is still “some way” to go on a deal. Newcastle United refusing to make any further comment at this time.

Takeover talks are nothing new at Newcastle, and there does seem to be some heat to these reports, but Ashley and his crew have spun these stories of interest in the past. And with Magpies supporters waiting for news on Rafa Benitez‘s new deal, some will be way of a smoke screen for an inability to reach an agreement with the celebrated Newcastle manager.

Wondolowski scores 149th, 150th goals; Earthquakes win

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TORONTO (AP) Chris Wondolowski scored his 149th and 150th MLS goals in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday night.

The MLS career goals leader scored both from close range.

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Wondolowski got a yard’s separation from Drew Moor and deftly redirected in Cristian Espinoza’s cross in the 37th minute to tie it at 1. The go-ahead goal in the 81st minute was a virtual replay, with Espinoza finding Wondolowski in space.

The San Jose striker has six goals in two games. He scored all four goals in a 4-1 victory over Chicago last weekend to surpass Landon Donovan’s league record of 145 goals and up his career total to 148.

Richie Laryea opened the scoring for Toronto (5-6-2) in the 28th minute

San Jose (5-6-2) won for the first time in six road games this season.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”