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Atlanta or RBNY? Supporters’ Shield goes down to final day

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Surely it’s a challenge for American fan bases to get behind regular season championship, if due solely to the traditions involved with our major leagues.

In fact, in a lot of ways we stop just short of invalidating amazing seasons by disappointing playoff runs, as if having a bad game or fortnight is the equivalent of a character indictment.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 10 ]

The Golden State Warriors lost single-digit games in 2015-16, but lost to the Cavs in the finals. The 2007 New England Patriots went an absurd 16-0 in the NFL, but didn’t win the Super Bowl.

Yet here we are, three days from silverware heading to either Atlanta United or New York Red Bulls based on superlative regular seasons, and I can’t help but feel the Supporters’ Shield isn’t getting short shrift.

In a league which punishes away teams more than any other, where quality depth remains a problem and over-stresses the main players on a given team, this should be a much bigger deal.

Atlanta has a one-point lead on the New York Red Bulls, and a one-goal lead in differential. The clubs went head-to-head twice and RBNY won twice: First, a 3-1 win in Atlanta. Then, on Sept. 30, the Red Bulls beat visiting Atlanta despite a suspension to 20-goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips.

So Atlanta heads up to Ontario to face last season’s struggling Shield winners, Toronto FC, while at the same time, the Red Bulls host former captain Sacha Kljestan and mostly miserable Orlando City.

If both teams wins, they will boast the Nos. 1 and 2 point totals in MLS history. And one won’t win the shield.

Atlanta is seeking its first shield in a season its dealt with coach drama and plenty of transfer gossip regarding its star. It also boasts the best single-season finisher in MLS history in Josef Martinez.

RBNY is the shining example of development in MLS, whether midfielders or coaches. The club changed managers midseason, and overcame a disappointing start to put together an amazing campaign.

So while we relish the idea of these teams meeting in the Eastern Conference finals, there’s something about this weekend which is equal parts tantalizing.

Manchester United’s Solskjaer on Pogba, Rashford penalty duty

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has issued his verdict on Paul Pogba taking (and missing) an ill-fated penalty over Marcus Rashford on Monday in a 1-1 draw against Wolves at the Molineux.

[ MORE: Recap | Nuno reacts ]

The Manchester United boss says both players have been given authority to sort out who takes a penalty (He promises. He has proof on his computer).

Pogba won Monday’s opportunity, and his well-hit effort was parried by Rui Patricio. the score stayed tied, and United didn’t find a winner.

“The two of them are designated penalty takers, it’s up to them there and then – ‘this is mine’.

“Sometimes players just feel they are confident to score. Paul has scored so many for us and today it was a good save. You can see the slides on the Power Point [that prove both are PK takers].

“The two of them have been confident before. Marcus scored last week but Paul was also confident. I like players with confidence.”

As for Rashford, he’s not crying over Pogba’s spilled penalty.

“Paul wanted to take it, it’s that simple,” says Rashford. “Anyone can miss a penalty, he has scored so many penalties and it is normal to miss one.”

Instead, he’s finding a silver lining in a “disappointing” loss by focusing on the fact that United was absolutely worked over at the Molineux last season and arguably deserved all three points this go-round (Wolves beat United 2-1 that day).

“It is of course disappointing, disheartening, but we can’t let it get to ourselves early in the season,” Rashford said. “The last time we came to the stadium they were the much better team, but today was a different story. It has always been a tough place to come and today proved it again.”

United hosts Crystal Palace on Saturday before visiting Southampton on Aug. 31.

Wolves on VAR review of golazo: “I was hoping to stay happy”

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Nuno Espirito Santo issued the definitive quote of the VAR era after Wolves’ equalizer withstood video review in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Monday at the Molineux.

“I was hoping to stay happy.”

[ RECAP: Wolves 1-1 Man Utd ]

Espirito Santo saw VAR dramatically play a role in Wolves fortunes for the second-straight week, and the manager was not too happy with it on opening weekend when Willy Boly‘s handball was found to have assisted Leander Dendoncker‘s goal.

This time, VAR held up its end of the bargain in Wolves favor, as the cross that led to Ruben Neves’ incredible goal was found to be onside. From the BBC:

“I don’t know how they will solve it – it’s the emotion, you celebrate a goal so much and then you stay in silence. Don’t take that away from the people.”

The problem, of course, is money. So much is riding on qualifying for Europe, staying in the Premier League, etc. When sports became a big business, and managers aren’t complaining about their salaries, the science overtook the spirit.

Espirito Santo is correct that the wait to confirm a goal takes away from the joy of sport. It also will deny of us of the next “Hand of God” (and England would not have won its lone World Cup had goal line technology been around).

But ultimately, it will keep the correct score on the board. And that matters.

Pogba misses penalty in Man Utd-Wolves draw

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Ruben Neves scored an amazing goal and Rui Patricio stopped a Paul Pogba penalty as Wolves took a point from Manchester United in a 1-1 match at the Molineux on Monday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

United had two-thirds possession but could not find what would’ve been a deserved winner as Wolves flummoxed the Red Devils attack.

Anthony Martial scored for the second-straight match for United, who failed in a bid to go atop the Premier League.


Three things we learned

  1. Paul Pogba is to penalties as Shaquille O’Neal is to free throws – You just can’t understand how someone so good at his sport is so poor at what should be the easiest part of his game.
  2. Martial is a beauty, and is fully released from the shackles of Jose Mourinho. Whether he can take the next step is another story, but the Frenchman is a fitting winger for a Champions League club (even if United isn’t quite in the UCL).
  3. Patricio didn’t show the Premier League his very best last season, but has looked more like the Portugal national team goalkeeper so far in his sophomore PL campaign.

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men were content to let the visitors have the ball and work on the counter, and United quickly moved the ball in possession over the first stages of the game.

United took a deserved lead through Martial who ran onto a Marcus Rashford through ball and belted a rocket over a flailing Rui Patricio.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Neves brought Wolves level with a sublime bit of shooting, curling a majestic shot above and around the United back line to make it 1-1.

Watching the footage as it was being reviewed showed the margins so thin, but the goal held up and anyone hoping for some semblance of sanity was relieved.

United looked set to go back in front when Pogba drew a penalty off Conor Coady with a cutthroat move in the 18, but the Frenchman slammed his effort into the path of a diving Patricio.

WATCH: Ruben Neves spins an otherworldly ball over David De Gea

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Let us introduce you to your latest Goal of the Season contender.

Ruben Neves, who seemingly only scores beauties, struck again on Monday at the Molineux.

[ MORE: Neymar to Barca ]

The 22-year-old Portuguese playmaker loves to shoot as much as anyone, and set himself up clinically for his latest amazing marker.

Once Neves collected the ball atop the 18, he spun this magnificent effort over the flying David De Gea and off the underside of the bar to restore the deadlock in Wolverhampton.

De Gea may well have responded to this goal by quoting Ron Burgundy when Baxter ate the entire wheel of cheese.

Sensational.