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MLS Snapshots: Fire in 1st; FCD coast past TFC; SKC extend streak

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Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Portland Timbers

The game in 100 words (or less): Sporting KC extended their home unbeaten streak in MLS play to 18 games with a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, but only just by the skin of their teeth. The visitors controlled and dominated in every aspect for the game’s opening 55 minutes and held a 1-0 lead before Sporting came to life just before the hour mark. Diego Valeri fired Portland ahead with a long-range striker in the 26th minute, but Daniel Salloi’s first MLS goal pulled the home side level after 60 minutes. Tim Melia saved his third penalty kick (he’s faced only four) of the season in the 75th minute, denying Valeri after Fanendo Adi won the spot kick in controversial fashion.

Sporting were far from their best, playing without Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer (international duty), on the day that their lead in the Western Conference was cut from five points down to three.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Valeri’s blast from distance makes it 1-0 — No one stepped to Valeri as he approached the 18-yard box (due in large part to Sebastian Blanco‘s full-sprint run to occupy Kevin Ellis), and the Argentine playmaker-turned-sniper made them pay.

60′ — Espinoza sets up Salloi for 1-1 — Everything about Salloi’s equalizer — from Roger Espinoza‘s pass, to Salloi’s first touch and finish — is perfect.

74′ — Melia denies Valeri from the spot — Adi threw himself to the ground and won Portland a penalty with just over 15 minutes left in the game, but the ball simply refused to lie, as Melia atoned for his “mistake” and stood tall as Valeri hit his penalty down the middle and into the goalkeeper’s waiting hands.

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

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: Valeri (26′), Salloi (60′)


FC Dallas 3-1 Toronto FC

The game in 100 words (or less): The first half of the 2017 season was about one thing for FC Dallas: biding their time until Mauro Diaz returned to full fitness and form after rupturing his achilles last October. Through their first 15 games (before Diaz returned to the starting lineup last weekend), Oscar Pareja’s side managed to tread water and hold onto a top-three place in the Western Conference throughout. On Saturday, making his second start of the season, Diaz was unleashed, and FCD’s sky-high potential was unlocked. Hosting league-leading Toronto FC, the Hoops found themselves 2-0 ahead after 21 minutes (a brace from Roland Lamah, the second of two set up by Diaz), were pegged back by Marco Delgado in the 56th minute, and sealed the victory courtesy of Maximiliano Urruti’s 10th goal of the season in the 78th minute. The win moves FCD, who have two games in hand, to within three points of Sporting KC at the top of the West. TFC, meanwhile, relinquish their hold on the East and league’s top spot, due to results elsewhere.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

5′ — Lamah pokes it past Bono for 1-0 — Maynor Figueroa released Urruti into the channel, and Urruti cut it back for Lamah who arrived in the nick of time to poke it past Alex Bono.

21′ — Lamah reels in Diaz’s through ball to make it 2-0 — The brilliance that is Mauro Diaz, on full display.

78′ — Barrios feed Urruti for 3-1 — Totally stretched while chasing an equalizer, TFC were caught out and Michael Barrios set up Urruti, with ease, to put the game out of reach.

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

Man of the match: Roland Lamah

Goalscorers: Lamah (5′, 21′), Delgado (56′), Urruti (78′)


Chicago Fire 4-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

The game in 100 words (or less): The only way to describe Chicago’s current standing as the first-place team in MLS is as rarified air, or unfamiliar territory.

Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing demolition destruction of Vancouver was but the latest in a string of impressive results, spurred on by a string of star performances by newcomer Nemanja Nikolic, who’s presently miles and miles ahead of everyone else in the Golden Boot and MVP races. Nikolic scored two more on Saturday, four minutes apart before the clock read 20:00, taking his 2017 tally to 16 (David Villa and Erick Torres are second, with 11 each). Nikolic turned provider on Chicago’s fourth, setting up Michael de Leeuw to complete the rout. The most impressive part? Dax McCarty and David Accam were away on international duty, and Bastian Schweinsteiger left the game after 43 mintues with an injury.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

14′ — Nikolic slams home Polster’s cross for an early lead — Matt Polster’s future is undoubtedly as a right back. A central midfielder up until last season, the 24-year-old still has the patience and vision required to excel in his former position, and showed it off in picking out Nikolic for the opener.

18′ — Nikolic slots past Ousted for 2-0 — Right down Main Street this time, Chicago create scoring chances from every level and every area of the field.

25′ — Alvarez volley’s Polster’s cross for 3-0 — See again: Polster, Matt, above. Arturo Alvarez does incredibly well with the finish, and it was “game over” after 25 minutes.

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

Man of the match: Nemanja Nikolic

Goalscorers: Nikolic (14′, 18′), Alvarez (25′), De Leeuw (84′)

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

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.