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MLS Wrap: What We Learned

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It was another busy evening of MLS action on Saturday. There were upsets,

Here’s a look back at what we learned from Week 17

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


Earthquakes continue hot form in rout of Galaxy

There weren’t any last minute heroics needed on Saturday evening in the first edition of the Cali Classico.

The San Jose Earthquakes routed the LA Galaxy, 3-0, in front of nearly 51,000 fans at Stanford Stadium in a battle of not only Argentine managers but also more strategic Designated Players v. the Galactico method. It was the Earthquakes fourth win in their last six MLS games, with the other two being draws as the Earthquakes are suddenly in playoff contention.

It took the ‘Quakes some time to get used to Matias Almeyda’s methods, but it’s paying dividends. Vako, who scored a brace on Wednesday in a win over the Houston Dynamo, bagged the first of the night against the Galaxy after a planned free kick routine bounced back to him at the top of the box. Vako’s curling effort in the 11th minute proved to be the difference in the match.

In the final ten minutes, Shea Salinas fired a cracking goal that bounced off the far post and in, while Tommy Thompson dribbled past three Galaxy defenders before his shot took a wicked deflection, leaving David Bingham helpless in goal.

Of course, the Earthquakes wouldn’t have won without their goalkeeper. Daniel Vega made a couple of world-class saves, one on a dipping, curling effort from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and another from Fabian Alvarez. The Galaxy controlled the match, especially in the second half, but thanks to last-ditch defending from the Earthquakes and saves by Vega, they didn’t score.

To add insult to injury, Sebastian Lletget, who continues to battle muscle injuries this season, suffered a right thigh injury, per the club, and was subbed off at halftime.


More drama in Atlanta? 

Thanks to recent acquisition Justin Meram, Atlanta United bounced back from a disappointing defeat at Toronto FC to knock off the Montreal Impact, 2-1. However, the game is partially overshadowed by the substitution of Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez.

The most expensive transfer in MLS history has found life difficult playing for a different coach than Martinez probably expected when he agreed to come to the U.S. (Frank De Boer instead of Gerardo “Tata” Martino) and the MLS style is different than what Martinez experienced in Argentina.

On Saturday, Martinez was subbed off in the 68th minute, well before Meram scored the winner and after the Impact had leveled the score in the 50th minute. Martinez had initially set up Meram’s first goal, but according to de Boer, Martinez wasn’t at his best as the game wore on.

“In the beginning,there was nothing wrong,” de Boer said after the match. “I think he played quite well. He was setting up the first goal, cutting inside, playing it to Justin (Meram), moves through to make the space for Justin to come inside, so I have no problem with that. But in the second half, especially around the 60th to 65th minute,he was making too many mistakes and then it’s a danger to the team in that moment. Then it is my choice to make a decision,and overall against Toronto, I think he played one of his best games. It was short notice that he’d play again and maybe he was tired, but he has to make those plays.”

Martinez spurned European offers to come to the U.S., but one may wonder if he’s regretting that now, midway through his first season here. Of course, this could just be a blip as well. Martinez went the full 90 and could have saved a point with a penalty kick in the eighth minute of stoppage time, but he failed to score.


Are the Revolution turning it around? 

Bruce Arena’s first match on the sideline came in a surprise 2-1 win on the road at his former home, the LA Galaxy. Since then, the New England Revolution has only lost once, which came in the U.S. Open Cup, without a full-strength squad.

In MLS play though, the team is unbeaten under Arena, and the Revolution picked up yet another win on Saturday, as Teal Bunbury’s second half stoppage time goal was the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo.

Everyone seems to be enjoying a new lease on their soccer lives. Carles Gil looks like the dangerous Designated Player he was supposed to be, Justin Rennicks made his first MLS start and Andrew Ferrell looks like a lock-down defender yet again. Arena also went with Matt Turner in goal instead of Cody Cropper, who had been preferred under former coach Brad Friedel.

Interestingly, Arena credited a tactical switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 as the reason the Revolution came back from being a goal down at halftime.

“I think I probably screwed them up in the first half a little bit,” Arena said. “I don’t think that formation they were
comfortable enough in, and not bad, as much as it was more favorable for Houston to play against. We
wanted to see [Justin] Rennicks up top with [Juan Fernando] Caicedo. So, we got that opportunity. I think
the second half, switching our formation a little bit helped. But at the end of the day, it’s still 11 against 11.
I don’t get entirely consumed with the discussion of formations. Of course, if the players know how to
move and work together, any formation you play can work.”

With the win, the Revs sit just three points outside of the playoffs. We’re not saying that they can win the whole thing, but a late-season surge to make the playoffs? We’ve seen weirder things happen.

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.