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Sounders’ Stefan Frei returns to site of his famous moment

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TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) Stefan Frei would like to make one thing perfectly clear before the Seattle Sounders set foot again in Toronto.

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He would prefer it if someone else on the Sounders roster becomes the MVP of the MLS Cup final this time.

“I would really prefer it if one of our strikers became MVP this year,” Seattle’s starting goalkeeper said with a chuckle.

Frei will return to the scene of his greatest professional moment Saturday when the Sounders face Toronto in the championship match trying to become the fourth team in MLS history to win consecutive league titles.

A year ago, Frei made one of the most stunning saves in the history of MLS championship matches, changing directions and leaping in desperation to get his left hand on Jozy Altidore‘s attempted header in extra time that seemed destined for the top corner of the goal. It was the save Seattle needed to get to penalty kicks, where Frei made another save on Michael Bradley and Roman Torres eventually won the title for the Sounders with his made penalty in the sixth round.

But it’s the save on Altidore that everyone remembers and is certain to be shown repeatedly prior to Saturday’s rematch.

“I’m going to try and do the same thing as last year and at some point really zone out you guys and social media and just focus on the game,” Frei said.

While last year’s game will get a lot of the attention this week, it’s the defensive performance in this year’s playoff run that deserves the focus. Seattle has yet to allow a goal in four postseason games. The Sounders haven’t allowed a goal since a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 1. That’s a span of six full games since a shot got past Frei or backup Tyler Miller. Miller started the first leg of the West finals against Houston while Frei was slowed by a leg injury.

In the postseason, the Sounders have not allowed a goal since the first leg of the 2016 West finals, the longest postseason shutout streak in MLS history.

“It builds confidence throughout the squad when you have someone like Stef in goal,” Seattle forward Will Bruin said. “He’s going to make a big save when needed.”

For Frei, the final in Toronto will be the conclusion of nearly two non-stop seasons of soccer. It started in February 2016 when Seattle opened its training camp. Between the length of last year’s MLS season and being called into the U.S. national team training camp last January, Frei only had a few weeks of rest in between last year’s championship match and the start of preparations for this season.

But this has arguably been his finest season in MLS. Frei led the league with 13 shutouts in the regular season. In a sign of how much Seattle has improved defensively, he was forced to save just 84 shots in the regular season, the fewest of his four seasons with Seattle.

Frei made it a point to appreciate the atmosphere and celebration after Seattle beat Houston to clinch the Western Conference title last week. A year ago, all Seattle celebrations came away from home. When the final whistle blew last Thursday, Frei climbed on the crossbar of his goal in front of Seattle’s most rabid supporters and pumped his fists in celebration. While the championship match will again be in Toronto, at least part of this run was shared with the fans at home.

“It was awesome. I wish I could have given everybody in the stadium a hug,” Frei said. “We were so fortunate to get on that run last year and capture two trophies, but unfortunately both of them were away from home. So this last weekend when we had a chance to win one at home was amazing.”

Guardiola vows to ‘find solutions’ after Man City dismantled, embarrassed

Pep Guardiola - Man City
Photo by Martin Rickett - Pool/Getty Images
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Pep Guardiola has vowed to “find solutions” following Man City’s 5-2 defeat to Leicester City on Sunday, a result which undoubtedly cast a layer of doubt over his injury-riddled side’s title aspirations.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

What can Guardiola do to hugely affect the current situation, though, as he has just 13 first-team players available due to injuries and COVID-19? First things first, he must rescue his players’ morale after such a devastating defeat when they are anything but accustomed to losing in such a fashion. Apart from that, Guardiola will be forced to take a wait-and-see approach — quotes from the BBC:

“We played a really good first half and scored early on. They defend so deep it is not easy. The problem was was we put extra pressure on ourselves to score the second and third. We need to be more calm, we don’t have the players to attack the box that we need.

“We got nervous and gave three penalties and when you give three penalties you cannot win. I don’t know how many chances they created. We needed to be more patient. It is hard, but it is the second game of the season and we have to try to see what we need to do to avoid it again.

“I feel bad for the guys and for the club.”

“They did not want to play, they just wanted to counter-attack. We know that Vardy runs from far, far away and Barnes you have to control him. But the moment we started to get nervous, we thought we were not doing well.

“We are not going to create 10 chances. We have to know it is difficult. Even at 5-2, Leicester were in the 18-yard box. I am not going to give up, I am going to try to find solutions.”

Up next for Man City is a trip to Leeds United next weekend, where Guardiola will match wits with cult-of-personality legend Marcelo Bielsa.

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West Ham counter, cross their way to 4-0 win over Wolves

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West Ham – Wolves saw the Hammers explode for four goals, spearheaded by Jarrod Bowen’s brace, and a clean sheet as they secured a thoroughly surprising result at the London Stadium on Sunday.

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The Hammers picked up their first points of the season and climbed outside the relegation zone after suffering defeats in their first two games of the 2020-21 Premier League season.


2 things we learned: West Ham – Wolves

1. It pays to attack: Look, at the age of 57, David Moyes simply is who he is, and who he is is who he’s always been. He’s a pragmatic manager who prefers to defend with numbers behind the ball and counter-attack with the fewest number of players necessary to create half-chances in the hopes of fortuitously putting one or two away. It’s pretty bleak stuff for fans of Moyes’ various employers, let alone the neutrals among us. But, every now and then — typically when his back is up against the wall and he’s feeling desperate — he’ll tell a midfielder — perhaps even two — they’re allowed to move higher and join the attack. The fingerprints of Pablo Fornals and Tomas Soucek were all over Sunday’s shocking destruction of Wolves, when they wouldn’t otherwise have been. Enjoy it today, West Ham fans, because you know what it’ll look like again next weekend.

2. Wolves defense exposed in open space: As the modern game trends more and more toward teams favoring prolonged periods of possession as a means not only for attacking, but also defending, clubs are opting more and more for technically gifted defenders and less and less for the old-school, straightforward ball-winners of yesteryear center backs. Wolves have a squad full of the former, and they were badly exposed when asked to defend quicker wide players in acres of space on Sunday. Fortunately for Nuno Espirito Santo, he won’t face many more sides like West Ham this season.


West Ham started brightest and on the front foot for a change, and the Hammers were duly rewarded for their attacking endeavors in the 17th minute.

Fornals took a quick restart from inside the center circle and played Bowen in behind the Wolves defense with a brilliant through ball as two defenders paused ever so briefly. Bowen went one-on-one with Romain Saiss before cutting inside and placing a perfect left-footed strike past Rui Patricio and just inside the far post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Perhaps turning over a new leaf under manager David Moyes, West Ham refused to relent an ounce of pressure as they steadily threatened Wolves with counter-attack after counter-attack. That strategy paid off in the 58th minute, when Bowen bagged his second goal of the game.

Michail Antonio did yeoman’s work to Conor Coady down the left wing and pick out Fornals atop the penalty area. His shot smashed off the front side of the far post and spilled out to the six-yard box, where Bowen was to smash it home.

Just as Wolves were finding their footing and applying a bit more pressure, West Ham made it 3-0 in the 66th minute. The goal was initially given on Soucek’s header of Aaron Cresswell’s corner kick, but Raul Jimenez was eventually saddled as the scorer of an own goal at the near post.

Sebastien Haller completed the scoring with a header back across the face of goal from Arthur Masuaku’s cross in the 93rd minute.

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Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video)

Luis Suarez - Atletico Madrid
Photo credit: @atletienglish
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Luis Suarez enjoyed a hugely productive, if rather brief, debut for Atletico Madrid on Sunday as the Uruguayan superstar came on as a second-half substitute and scored two goals and assisted another in his new club’s 6-1 victory over Granada.

[ MORE: Guardiola vows to ‘find solutions’ after Man City embarrassed ]

Atleti had the game well in hand, 4-0 ahead, when Suarez replaced fellow lightning rod and new teammate Diego Costa, and yet he managed to take four shots, score two goals and tally one assist in only 20 minutes of action.

Suarez’s first goal for Atleti came in the 85th minute. It was a brilliantly placed header back across the face of goal after Marcos Llorente dropped a lofted cross onto his forehead on one post.

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The second was far more a product of world-class reflex and the instinctual improvisation which has made Luis Suarez one of the world’s best goal-scorers for the last decade. He had precious little time to think as the ball was deflected back to him on atop the penalty area, but got the initial shot away anyway. It hit the post and bounced back out toward the penalty spot, where he followed up and slotted it home.

Suarez’s departure from Barcelona feels like it’s headed for the classic “what were you thinking?” ending, as a player who still has lots of goals left to score strengthens one of two La Liga title rivals from the capital.

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Barca are in complete disarray as Lionel Messi continues to publicly denounce the club which still employs him against his wishes, and Real Madrid are forever stuck halfway between rebuilding and making another run with the same group of players. All of that points to a massive opportunity for Atleti to slide into this season’s title race and make it a true three-horse race.

And Suarez, with all of his experience as a four-time La Liga champion, looks set to play an important part in that quest for Diego Simeone’s side.

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Leicester City smashes Man City through Vardy hat trick

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Manchester City – Leicester City: Jamie Vardy’s hat trick included two of three Leicester City penalties as the Foxes punished Man City 5-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

James Maddison scored a spectacular goal in a substitute performance and Youri Tielemans converted a Maddison-won penalty to salt away the points.

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Riyad Mahrez had given Man City a lead over his former team but Leicester had a 2-1 lead by halftime. Nathan Ake scored late off a Mahrez corner kick for City’s second goal.

It’s the first time Pep Guardiola has seen his team concede five goals at home, and also the first time a team has scored three penalties in a game.

Leicester City goes atop the table in joining Everton as 3-0 teams, while Man City falls to 1-1.


Three things we learned: Manchester City – Leicester City

1. Rodgers gets a signature win: Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has been seeking a win over a notable rivals since getting hammered by Liverpool and Man City in consecutive affairs during last season’s festive fixtures. This absolutely qualifies, and to do it in the first of 12 weeks without Wilfred Ndidi makes the win all the more impressive.

2. Pep’s point made: Guardiola had been grousing about his injuries all week and it might’ve all seemed a bit silly given the riches of Man City, but when Ferran Torres and Liam Delap entered the game as subs and you looked to the bench to see they were merely chosen over a bunch of defenders and youth, well, yup. Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Joao Cancelo, Gabriel Jesus, and Sergio Aguero all missed out.

3. Vardy loves the spot: Vardy knows how to make the most of any contact in the box and he’s even better once he sorts the ball on the spot. He has five goals on the young season and is not showing any signs that he’s 33 years old (aside from, perhaps, his limping gait).

Man of the Match

Tielemans is the club’s the most important player to the team now that Ndidi is out, but Nampalys Mendy filled in admirably against the top attack in the league.


Manchester City – Leicester City recap

Ex-Leicester City striker Riyad Mahrez has torn the cover off a goal to give Man City an early lead over his former club.

A loose ball fell to the Algerian near the back of the 18 and Mahrez absolutely smashed the ball into the upper reaches of the goal.

Schmeichel made a solid save on Raheem Sterling in the 18th minute as City bid for a second, and the goalkeeper also caught a Fernandinho header off a free kick.

Leicester had a chance on the break but James Justin passed instead of shooting with Ederson way off his line and it was broken up by Man City.

Rodri had the ball in the goal off a De Bruyne free kick but was offside and the score stayed 1-0.

Kyle Walker then wrestled Vardy to the box in the 37th minute. He doesn’t miss many penalties, that Vardy.

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He’d provide the go-ahead goal on a combination play often seen from Man City, as Youri Tielemans sent Timothy Castagne racing to the end line. The Belgian’s cutback was cheekily turned past Ederson by the back leg of Vardy.

Vardy drew his second penalty off a push from Eric Garcia and City was in real trouble.

Schmeichel saved a De Bruyne effort in the 62nd minute and Liam Delap headed over the goal minutes later.

De Bruyne picked out Raheem Sterling at the back post with 23 minutes to play only for the Englishman to head over the goal.

There wasn’t much for Man City to like aside from Ake’s goal, 71 percent possession and a 15-7 shot edge doing little.