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MLS Cup Playoffs: Montreal Impact 3-2 Toronto FC

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Montreal Impact were in total control of the Eastern Conference final, just 90 straightforward minutes away from MLS Cup 2016, after delivering a series of haymakers to their 401 derby rivals, Toronto FC, over the first hour of the first leg inside Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. Montreal were irresistible and deadly on the counter, TFC’s midfield and defense disorganized and shredded time after time. Dominic Oduro bagged the opener inside 10 minutes, and Matteo Mancosu made it 2-0 before the eerie echoes of the North Star bell had finished reverberating around the cavernous arena jam-packed with more than 61,000 north of the border. With the deficit just 2-0, TFC had every opportunity to regroup at halftime and grab a vital away goal to make next Wednesday’s second leg more most interesting at 2-1, but the second half started worse for TFC than the first: Ambroise Oyongo made it 3-0 after eight minutes. Then, things got very MLS-y. Jozy Altidore pulled one back for TFC in the 68th minute, and Michael Bradley grabbed a second away goal five minutes later. From dead rubber, to must-see TV, the second leg can’t possibly kick off soon enough. Fun fact: kickoff was delayed nearly 30 minutes, because the penalty areas on each end of the field were painted roughly three feet too narrow on either side. Major League Soccer, indeed!

[ MORE: Klinsmann out | Arena back in as USMNT boss ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

10′ — Oduro slots past Irwin for 1-0 — Nick Hagglund stepped into no man’s land, Patrice Bernier applied the perfect touch on the through ball, and Oduro did what he does best — run really fast — and not quite the best — finish — to give the Impact an early 1-0 lead.

12′ — Mancosu hammers home a cross for 2-0 — Still reeling from the opener, Steven Beitashour and the rest of the TFC defense reacted just as poorly to Oduro’s through ball and Ignacio Piatti’s cross, as Mancosu made it 2-0 with ease.

53′ — Oyongo gallops through midfield, makes it 3-0 — Oyongo took eight touches, covering 40 yards, straight up the center of the field, without a single challenge made against him. Clint Irwin also failed to challenge the slow-rolling shot.

68′ — Altidore heads home Giovinco’s delicate chip — Sebastian Giovinco, worth his weight (plus some) in gold.

73′ — Bradley sweeps home to make things really interesting — So much of what TFC did well against New York City FC was to get the ball in the box, and to simply allow their opponents to capitulate on the clearance. If it ain’t broke…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Dominic Oduro

Goalscorers: Oduro (10′), Mancosu (12′), Oyongo (53′), Altidore (68′), Bradley (73′)

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.

Lampard, Azpilicueta back Barkley after penalty drama

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Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta claims that Willian was encouraging Ross Barkley in the run-up to the latter’s ill-fated penalty attempt in a 1-0 loss to Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

“Ross  is one of the best penalty takers in the team and one who takes them. He had the confidence and he was unlucky hitting the bar. They were encouraging him to have the confidence to score. There was high expectation. They were trying to get him into the best condition. Hopefully next time it goes in.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things ]

That is genuinely amusing from cheeky and likable “Dave.” Let’s take a look at the encouragement, shall we?

Barkley is literally, repeatedly motioning and even saying, “Nah, I got this. I’ll be fine.”

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Barkley was the penalty taker for the game, and doesn’t see the drama in it.

“Ross is a penalty taker and is when he starts games. He took it and missed it. It is a great story to say there is contention between players. If he scores it is not a story. But he took it and missed. That is it. The disappointment to all of us is that we didn’t get chance to win the game. There is no issue in the dressing room.”

Chelsea was the superior team over 90 minutes, but that can mean so little in a tournament where winning at home can be vital to the chances of advancement.