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MLS (late-night) roundup: SKC win in Portland; RSL, Crew SC comebacks

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With six MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 28 more to go…

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Portland Timbers 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

Two teams remain unbeaten to start the 2017 MLS season: FC Dallas, the defending Supporters’ Shield winners, and Sporting KC. As far as statement wins go during the first month and a half of the season, few, if any, look better right now than Sporting’s 1-0 victory in Portland on Saturday.

Through six games played, Portland led the league in points (13), goals scored (16) and goal differential (+8). They were the unstoppable force. Through five games played, Sporting had conceded just two goals (fewest in MLS) — neither of which were scored prior to second-half stoppage time during games in which three points had already been safely secured — en route to securing the aforementioned unbeaten start (two wins, three draws).

With a defensive record like that, Peter Vermes’ side typically only ever needs to score one goal, and what a beauty they managed to score in this one. Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber and Jimmy Medranda were heavily involved in the build-up around the 18-yard box, and Dom Dwyer headed home expertly for his second goal of the season. As is customary now, Tim Melia made one unbelievable save to secure all three points and send Sporting to within a point of Portland and Columbus Crew SC (both of whom have played one more game than them) in the (very early) Shield race.


Houston Dynamo 2-2 Minnesota United

The exciting, young attacking talent was on full display in the first half, as Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis pushed Houston out to a 2-0 halftime lead, but leaky spells at the back indicated trouble was always lurking just around the corner.

Barely 90 seconds into the second half, that trouble came to full fruition, as Cristian Ramirez finally converted on his fourth chance on the night to make it 2-1. 12 minutes later, everyone in orange fell asleep and stood around the penalty area watching the ball, and Johan Venegas slammed home a deserved equalizer.


Columbus Crew SC 2-1 Toronto FC

If you’ve managed to work out the narrative surrounding Toronto this season, please do tell. They’re a confounding bunch at the moment: while they entered Saturday’s game as one of three teams unbeaten to start the season, they’ve got just one win in seven games, and they blew an early 1-0 lead in Columbus. Jozy Altidore headed home the opener, and TFC looked to finally have found their stride.

In the space of seven minutes just before halftime, they threw it all away and found themselves a goal down, which is where they’d finish. Niko Hansen set up Ola Kamara with a spectacular ball into the box, and Justin Meram popped up at the near post to slot home past Alex Bono.


New York Red Bulls 2-0 D.C. United

D.C. should be thankful for Minnesota and the Philadelphia Union, as they’re the only two sides who somehow manage to make Ben Olsen’s side seem a cohesive squad. (At least Minnesota are extremely watchable, and Philadelphia… well, OK, never mind.)

A visit from their I-95 (Atlantic Cup) rivals was exactly what New York, winless in four games entering the weekend, needed. Alex Muyl made it 1-0 less than a minute into the second half, and Bradley Wright-Phillips continued his march toward 100 MLS goals (currently at 72 in fewer than four full seasons).


Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

The 2016 Rapids were a mirage, perhaps even a figment of our imagination from beginning to end. The difference is night and day. 1-0 victories were the hallmark of last year’s Supporters’ Shield runners-up.

As for RSL, that’s two wins in two games under new head coach Mike Petke. On Saturday, they trailed 1-0, thanks Kevin Doyle‘s 29th-minute opener, heading into the 85th minute. Then, Colorado’s Jared Watts gave away a penalty and got himself sent off at the same time, and Brooks Lennon rifled a low laser past Zac MacMath three minutes later.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Montreal Impact 2-1 Atlanta United
Orlando City SC 2-1 LA Galaxy
Chicago Fire 3-0 New England Revolution

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.

Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan

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Given two key factors — the date on the calendar and how far apart the two sides appear to be in their respective valuations — it’s looking increasingly likely that Romelu Lukaku will still be a Manchester United player when the upcoming Premier League season starts, despite numerous bids by Inter Milan this summer.

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

According to reports out of the UK, Man United have rejected Inter’s latest bid, said to be for $67.5 million. The Red Devils paid $96 million for the big Belgian forward just two summers ago and appear hellbent on recouping most, if not all, of their investment.

Antonio Conte called Lukaku “an important player for us” this week in an attempt to further unsettle the 26-year-old, but that doesn’t appear to have shaken United’s resolve in holding out for the fee they desire.

[ MORE: Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is growing tired of answering questions about the saga, especially since there has been little to no progress made in recent days and weeks. When pressed on the topic again this week, he said he had “no more updates.”

Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final

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The 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy wrapped up on Saturday, as four PL sides took the field in Shanghai, China…

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 (3-2 PKs) Man City

Wolves turned in a fantastic defensive display against the two-time reigning PL champions, indicating that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is very much ready for the start of the season. Man City had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas, but Wolves were quick to close off the passages when City typically dominate.

Wolves captain Conor Coady was part of the stellar defensive performance and he lauded some of the young players who entered the game as second-half substitutes and saw the game out to 0-0.

“To beat City at any point is a great accomplishment for us,” he said after the game. “We rode our luck at times but I thought the young boys were outstanding”

David Silva had perhaps the game’s best scoring chance in the 78th minute, but Rui Patricio made a top-drawer save to deny the Spaniard’s curling effort at the last possible moment.

Silva and Ilkay Gundogan began the penalty shootout with back-to-back efforts saved by Patricio. 20-year-old forward Lukas Nmecha was also denied on City’s fifth and final attempt.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United

Newly appointed head coach Steve Bruce watched as an observer, due to “the terms of his visa,” as his Newcastle side beat Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham 1-0 in the third-place playoff.

Yoshinori Muto bagged the game’s only goal in the 34th minute. Jamie Sterry whipped in a cross from the right wing that curled around a pair of defenders at the near post and presented itself to Muto, still with plenty of work to do, for a first-time finish.