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Report: Manchester United considering extending Bailly

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Eric Bailly hasn’t made a single appearance for Manchester United this season to date, but the defender could see his contract extended as he eyes a return to the squad.

The 25-year-old has been a rock at the back for the Red Devils when on the field, but injuries have severely hampered his Manchester United career to date. Bailly is currently sidelined with a knee injury suffered in a preseason match against Leeds United in Australia, and could be returning to training soon.

According to a report by The Daily Mail, Manchester United brass is eyeing a new deal for Bailly, whose current contract runs out this summer. The report cites an unnamed source that claims the club does not like allowing players to run out deals, at the very least extending Bailly for one season and giving him some value should the club wish to move on in the summer.

Recently, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer indicated Bailly could return soon and feature in a reserves game, hoping to build up his fitness to full match readiness. Bailly was injured in preseason, meaning once healthy, he would require some time to stretch out his fitness before appearing in a competitive fixture for the club.

Bailly represents a difficult decision for the club, wanting to hold onto valuable defensive players but also needing to find players that can stay healthy and contributing on the field.

Seattle 3-1 Toronto: Sounders lift MLS Cup again (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): For the second time in four seasons, the Seattle Sounders are MLS champions by way of defeating Toronto FC in MLS Cup 2019, cementing their claim to one of a select few dynasties in league history (coupled with four U.S. Open Cups in 11 years since joining MLS). 69,274 were in attendance for the tie-breaking title decider at CenturyLink Field (Seattle and Toronto met in back-to-back MLS Cups in 2016 and 2017, with each side winning one). While Atlanta United romped to the 2018 title with exciting, free-flowing soccer, Seattle and Toronto reached Sunday’s final by way of a far more pragmatic approach — one from which neither side deviated, to the disappointment of most anyone not sporting Rave Green.

The game (finally) opened up with Kelvin Leerdam’s 57th-minute goal — which should have gone down as a Justin Morrow own goal — before Victor Rodriguez bagged the eventual winner with a terrific curler in the 76th. Raul Ruidiaz added an insurance goal in the 90th minute, unofficially kicking off what will undoubtedly be a week full of celebrations in the Emerald City. Jozy Altidore‘s 93rd-minute consolation goal could do little to dampen the mood.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s DeAndre Yedlin talks goal, celebration for Newcastle ]

Three things we learned

1. Clash of styles, adjustments in first half: So often in this game — and throughout the second half of the season — Seattle could be found defending with 10 and 11 players behind the ball, all within 15 or 20 yards of their own penalty area. That was the case once again on Sunday, as all four of Ruidiaz Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones are always ready to track back when Brad Smith and Kelvin Leerdam bomb forward.

They’re far from a bunkering side, though, as the full backs are as much attackers as they are defenders. Few teams in MLS counter-attack with the pace and precision of Seattle, regardless of who wins the ball, regardless of where they win it. TFC want as much of the ball as they can have — they do a fantastic job of controlling the game’s pace with their own possession — and the opened the game with plenty of possession, but every time Seattle won it they were off to the races in the blink of an eye. The Reds realized they couldn’t fend off counter after counter for 90 minutes, causing them to drop considerably deeper after 15 minutes. This meant it was almost all Seattle, as far as the chances went, for the ensuing 15 minutes.

Having now dropped too deep, TFC let the midfield-three of Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio and Marco Delgado set the line of confrontation in the middle third. Seattle had no answer for this — at least not in the first half — and TFC looked in complete control, without truly threatening Stefan Frei in Seattle’s goal, until Ruidiaz found himself with the game’s first real scoring chance in the 45th minute. Quentin Westberg was quick off his line to deny the Peruvian’s one-on-one look.

2. A fitting goal: To which you might say, “It doesn’t matter how they scored, only that they scored.” While technically correct, those who tuned in and persisted through the 90 minutes deserved something better than the Leerdam ricochet-goal/Morrow own-goal winner that they got.

3. Rodriguez makes a massive difference: Fortunately, Rodriguez had a moment of magic up his sleeve after coming on just after the hour mark. Smith made way for the Spaniard, a savvy tactical change by Brian Schmetzer to play with greater width down the right side (Morris) and tuck the left (Rodriguez) inside and underneath Ruidiaz. After finding little joy with the original down either side in the opening 60 minutes, Schmetzer’s change opened TFC up to constant goal threats before Rodriguez made it 2-0. Sure, TFC facing a deficit changed their gameplan considerably and forced them to live dangerously, but Seattle remained steadfast in soaking up pressure and hitting on the counter.

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

Man of the match: Raul Ruidiaz

Goalscorers: Leerdam (57′), Rodriguez (76′), Ruidiaz (90′), Altidore (90’+3)

Jamie Vardy: ‘I’m playing the best that I ever have’

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If you thought you had seen the best of Jamie Vardy, you are dead wrong.

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Sure, Vardy has put up sensational numbers throughout his peculiar career. A 31-goal season with Fleetwood Town during the 2011-2012 campaign of England’s fifth-tier, which is his most productive to date. Then there’s Leicester City’s historic title-winning season in 2015-2016, one that saw Vardy make a name for himself world wide, scoring 24 goals in 36 appearances.

Interestingly enough, however, we are finally witnessing the best of Vardy, at least according to the goalscorer himself. At 32 years of age, he leads the Premier League with 11 goals after 12 matches. From the BBC:

“I’m playing probably the best that I ever have but there’s a long way to go,” Vardy said following Leicester’s 2-0 win over a struggling Arsenal. “I’m always willing to learn, there’s new tactics with the gaffer and I’m always trying to give 100% and it’s paying dividends for myself.”

In their first, full season under experienced manager Brendan Rodgers, the Foxes are currently second in the table, five points behind unbeaten Liverpool. Rodgers, too, is a believer that his frenetic, yet skilled forward is currently experiencing a season to remember. To be exact, the 46-year-old is convinced that Vardy is in the elite echelon of strikers the world has to offer.

“It’s firstly about giving him confidence,” Rodgers said following his club’s eighth win of the season. “He is up there with the very, very top strikers in European football with what he brings to a team, his pressing.”

“We’ve allowed him to do essentially what he wants to do – he’s so honest, he’d press he whole back four if he could,” he added. “How we play, being aggressive and playing quickly obviously suits him. But his finishing ability, how clinical he is, is absolutely phenomenal. That’s a big testament to his concentration – when the opportunities come he’s always ready.”

Against Arsenal on Saturday, Vardy scored and assisted the second goal of the game. Coming up to the one-third mark of the season, Leicester pride themselves on an exceedingly fluid attack, built around James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Ayoze Pérez, Harvey Barnes and spearheaded by Vardy himself.

With 29 goals scored throughout 12 games, only Manchester City (34) has tallied more this season. The call from the dugout for the Foxes’ attacking line to press and play to pass is paying dividends.

“The creativity we’ve got in the side is going to benefit the team massively,” added Vardy. “We’ve got to take each game as they come. It’s still early on in the season – it’s a long slog.”

“There’s a lot of momentum round the club and everyone’s enjoying themselves. That enjoyment comes with winning.”

The best of Vardy is happening now, and you don’t want to miss it.

Leicester keeps flying with win at Crystal Palace

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Leicester City continues to surprise, collecting a 2-0 win over in-form Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Caglar Soyuncu and Jamie Vardy scored for the Foxes, who go third with 23 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The loss keeps Palace ninth, where they’ll stay unless Tottenham really punishes Everton late in the orning.

The Foxes are loving the Fortune, entering the day with 25 goals and 8 conceded despite an expected goals total of about 14 and 12!


Three things we learned

1. One bad moment punishes Palace: Roy Hodgson‘s well-drilled Eagles were doomed to defeat by a miscommunication on a set piece (their inability to score, obviously, also hurt). Gary Cahill and James Tomkins were out to lunch as Soyuncu into space and stooped to head a corner kick home. Maybe it was Soyuncu’s status as a true sleeper to score, but the chest high ball could’ve easily have been handled by either back had they moved with the Turkish center back.

2. Surprise scorer stoops to concur: Soyuncu entered the game with three club goals in almost 10,000 career minutes and none since scoring for Freiburg on Oct. 1, 2017 (He did score his lone Turkey goal against Tunisia in June 2018, for what it’s worth). One of five players to play all 990 minutes for the Foxes this season, he’s been a beast in defense especially in the air. Perhaps it’s a bit ironic that his winner came from his ducking to plant the ball in the goal, but you’d have to say it’s a richly-earned offensive reward from a man who does much of Leicester’s dirty work.

3. Black Swan Vardy delivers 10th goal: Clad in the black of Leicester City’s away strip, Jamie Vardy flapped his wings wildly after scoring the Foxes second goal. He is absolutely flying, turning back the clock to total 10 goals through 11 matches. It was a clever goal, too, a 1-2 with Demarai Gray hit cleanly with a left-foot. This wasn’t powerful Jamie Vardy having a party, rather a night at the opera. Good stuff.

Man of the Match: Soyuncu, with apologies to Guaita who kept it close.


Youri Tielemans led a robust rush down Palace’s left, setting up Harvey Barnes for a fifth minute shot that was collected by Vicente Guaita.

Wilfried Zaha did the same at the other end, but Jordan Ayew lashed wildly beyond the frame.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The edge of the 19th minute saw Vardy race onto a James Maddison pass, roasting James Tomkins only to find himself denied by Guaita (and Gary Cahill’s denial of a passing avenue). Evans headed over goal on a following corner.

Ayoze Perez made a terrific steal and run deep into the Palace half, but Patrick Van Aanholt‘s terrific run closed ground and sent the danger out for a corner.

The match was cagey and hectic, Zaha winning a free kick off Ricardo before halftime.

Palace had a good run in the first few minutes of the second half, with Zaha bounding a shot wide.

Leicester found some momentum after that, with Evans heading a corner toward goal that Guaita slapped over the bar.

The Foxes scored off the ensuing corner, Soyuncu ducking to adjust for a low corner when Palace’s center backs miscommunicated on their mark.

And the insurance goal arrived when Tielemans, who was fantastic, hit an incisive pass to Vardy to begin a 1-2 with Gray that ended in the back of the net.

Man City comes back to beat Southampton

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Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker scored in the final 20 minutes to rescue a 2-1 home win over Southampton on Saturday at a rain-soaked Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

James Ward-Prowse scored early for Saints, who looked better fit for battle. They remain in the drop zone with 8 points.

City’s 25 points are still six points back of Liverpool, who grabbed a stoppage time winner at Aston Villa.


Three things we learned

1. Ederson not perfect: It took plenty of rain for it to happen, but Man City goalkeeper Ederson made a rare error to put his team down early. Stuart Armstrong‘s bounding shot from distance didn’t have a ton of venom, but enough to provide a rebound for a prowling James Ward-Prowse to deposit.

2. Trailing, Guardiola turns to Aguero and Jesus: The Man City mastermind rarely plays Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero at the same time, but felt it was time when his side trailed at the break. Their lack of time together was evident as Aguero tried to set up Jesus in the 59th, and the Brazilian didn’t recognize the signal. Aguero, of course, got the equalizer.

3. Stout Saints make cliche count… for a while: It’s hard to beat the same team twice in a row, and Southampton will made their supporters plenty proud over 180 minutes versus the champs, minutes that followed a 9-0 home drubbing against Leicester City. The aforementioned cliche a saying often uttered in sports circles and an illogical tag we’ll have to put on City’s first 70 minutes. But there was an air of inevitability to Man City finding the winner, which came from a cross despite much success coming via standard Guardiola-inspired incisiveness.

Man of the Match: Aguero, if only for his refusal to quit after producing and missing so many chances. Notable nods to Kevin De Bruyne, Jannik Vestergaard, and Kyle Walker.


Sergio Aguero just missed heading a promising Kevin De Bruyne free kick on target in the 12th minute.

But Saints took the lead when Redmond set up Stuart Armstrong for a low drive which Ederson fumbled in the rain, allowing Ward-Prowse to knife home from in-tight.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg conceded a second dangerous free kick to City, and this 19th minute effort from De Bruyne was blocked by the wall.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Saints held firm against City’s controlling possession, watching Ilkay Gundogan‘s effort bound wide in the 65th as it remained 1-0 to the visitors.

Aguero couldn’t get high enough to push Bernardo Silva’s under the bar in the 67th, and was center stage to rifle a De Bruyne cross between Alex McCarthy‘s legs less than five minutes later.

Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy handled a pass back in his box to set up a prime chance for City, but De Bruyne curled wide of the goal.

Aguero couldn’t turn one home in the 83rd, and an ensuing corner turned into another.

Given how often you’ve seen the Argentine’s name in this recap, it was all the more surprising when Walker arrived at the back post to lash home a winner that was far from straight-forward.