The game in 200 words (or less): This not the time for the Portland Timbers to lack attacking ingenuity, or to lose games in which they were clearly the superior side. However, those are the issues Giovanni Savarese and Co. will have to resolve in the week upcoming, following a 1-0 loss to a D.C. United side that has now won two consecutive games on the road. Wayne Rooney was back from suspension for the nation’s capital side, but, ironically, it was an own-goal from Bill Tuiloma that earned the Eastern Conference team three points. Diego Valeri and Co. had chances throughout the 90 minutes, but couldn’t crack the visitors. With three regular season games to play, United are five points clear of the playoff line. The Timbers, on the side, are only a point clear of missing out on playoffs. It’s time to buckle up if you support either team.
Three moments that mattered
25′ – D.C. United goes up — Bill Tuiloma scored it, but with playoffs in mind, D.C. United doesn’t care.
Between 2000-2008, the England National Team had some of the best individual players in their positions in all of world soccer. Yet they never made it past the quarterfinals in any tournament they competed in, and the “Golden Generation” came to a relative end with England failing to qualify for the 2008 European Championship all together.
According to Wayne Rooney, in a sit down with Roger Bennett from Men in Blazers on the Wayne Rooney Podcast, had England had a better coach, they would have won it all.
“You look at our team ten years ago and we arguably had the best group of players in world football,” Rooney said. “Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Myself, Michael Owen. Our team then, if we had Guardiola, with that group of players, we would have won everything. No doubt about it.”
If you’re like me and you’ve enjoyed Rooney’s honest chats with Rog, it’s not super surprising to hear him speak this off the cuff about a major moment earlier in his career. There’s a lot to break down from this comment, though.
Rooney’s first manager for England was the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksen. Eriksen, when he took over England in 2001, was coming off leading Lazio – yes Lazio – to the Serie A title, and had previous success with Fiorentina, Roma, and Benfica in Portugal.
He was ultimately criticized for his lack of fire and emotion on the touchline, as he watched England get knocked out of the quarterfinals at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the 2004 European Championships. The 2004 Euros and 2006 World Cup exits were both on penalty kicks, both to Portugal.
Rooney of course was injured against Portugal in the 2004 tournament, and had been injured in the run up to the 2006 World Cup and wasn’t at his best for that tournament either.
Perhaps the biggest indictment against Eriksen’s leadership – and that of the managers before him – was that Paul Scholes retired from international duty at just 30-years old, despite being one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Eriksen had tried, repeatedly to somehow fit Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Scholes into a 4-4-2, with one forced to play along the wing, and Scholes apparently decided if he wasn’t valued enough, he’d quit while he was ahead.
You wonder if Guardiola, or any coach today, with the value played on a good holding midfielder, would have made Scholes the first name on the teamsheet.
Things didn’t get much better for England after Eriksen, and Steve McLaren failed to qualify England for the 2008 Euros and was run out of town, but the damage was done.
So could Guardiola have won the World Cup with the former Golden Generation? Perhaps. But Guardiola would have struggled to get all these individual talents – many of whom were rivals for their club teams – to play together and play for the flag on their chest.
Listen to the rest of Rooney’s chat with Rog below.
Kane says England goals record is still ‘long way off’
Sure, Harry Kane “only” has 25 goals for England, but he got to the quarter-century mark in just 40 appearances for the Three Lions, thus he’s prepared to answer questions about breaking Wayne Rooney‘s record of 53 goals for the rest of his international career, despite the fact he’s not yet halfway home.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with Kosovo in 2020 European Championship qualification, Kane was asked about the prospect of one day becoming England’s all-time leading goalscorer. Predictably, Kane side-stepped the question as best as he could — quotes from the Guardian:
“When I score for England, it’s obviously something that people bring up. But I’ve said before, it’s still a long way off, and there’s a lot that can happen.”
“It’s something I’m very proud of, but I’m always looking forward for the next one, the next set of goals. [I want to see] if I can get to 30 and how quick I can get to 30, and go from there. We have another game on Tuesday, where I feel we will be able to create chances, so hopefully I can get a couple more.
“The main thing is that we keep winning. I’m in a good place with the players I’m playing with, they are going to create chances, they are going to give me opportunities. I’ve just got to make sure I’m ready to put them away.”
If/when Kane surpasses Rooney’s mark, it’ll be a phenomenal achievement given how quickly he is currently on pace to do so. It’ll hardly be a solo achievement, though, as Kane is clearly right to point out that he benefits from being part of a brilliant generation of attacking talent.
Kane has been practically unstoppable from the penalty spot as well, which should provide him one or two goals each calendar year until he retires from international duty. The goals start to add up quickly if you do the math, even conservatively, assuming Kane stays healthy and doesn’t miss out on too many caps due to the all-too-familiar ankle ligament injury.
And the East looks set for a blockbuster run into the playoffs, which begin their new structure this Fall. Only the No. 1 seeds get a bye, and two-legged affairs are joyfully a thing of the past.
As it stands, the playoffs may hinge on the massive advantage of a postage stamp pitch.
New York City FC
NYCFC has taken advantage of its schedule, winning five-straight matches including Saturday’s defeat of New England to climb into first place in the East.
Domenec Torrent now has a better points-per-match than Patrick Vieira’s strong run in charge, and NYCFC has a two-point lead on Philadelphia with a match-in-hand.
NYCFC has six matches left, and there isn’t a simple one in the bunch. Toronto, San Jose, and Atlanta come to Yankee Stadium, while the side travels to Dallas, New England, and Philly.
(A prolonged New York Yankees playoff run is going to wreak havoc on the grass, by the way, as NYCFC faces possible home games on Oct. 23-24 or Oct. 29-30).
The Union took advantage of the international break to take on Pumas of Liga MX, and their second choice team won 3-0.
Jim Curtin’s rise up the table is one of the best stories in the league, the coach rewarding Philly for its trust in him (and understanding that it hadn’t given him a full deck).
Four of five matches left on the docket are brutal, though. There are visits from LAFC and NYCFC, and trip to the Red Bulls and San Jose. If Philly holds out and finishes first, there’s no doubting their acumen for a postseason run.
Atlanta is five points back of NYCFC, but is on the same amount of matches. Given their schedule, Frank De Boer‘s men may well take the No. 1 see if they can take three points from NYCFC on Sept. 25.
The Black-and-Red only have four matches left. Wayne Rooney and Co. visit a desperate Portland next, and they’ve been pretty good about getting results away from home; DC’s nine wins/draws away trail only LAFC and NYCFC.
A Sept. 29 visit to the Red Bulls is DC’s only remaining chance to take points off a positioning rival. Even if they do that, Toronto’s slate means DC may fall out of a first round home playoff spot.
New York Red Bulls
Chris Armas’ team has a brutal road to the postseason. A point back of fourth with a match-in-hand, their standing could take a dive over the next two matches.
RBNY has consecutive matches across the country with Portland and Seattle, then visits from Philly and DC before finishing in Quebec against a Montreal side hopeful of chasing down the pack.
The keys are in their hands, but the Red Bulls have to drive across a mine field. This could end in any number of ways.
USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter did the Reds a solid by allowing Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez to stay for a pivotal two-match stretch. Greg Vanney got a near Man of the Match performance from Bradley and solid day from Gonzalez while Altidore rested up for NYCFC in a 5-1 drubbing of FC Cincinnati.
Both TFC and NYCFC will go into Wednesday’s game one little rest.
The Reds two brutal matches — away to NYCFC and LAFC — and three manageable outings against Colorado, Columbus, and Chicago. Beating NYCFC on Wednesday would seem to ensure a place in the Top Four, and a home game in Round 1.
New England‘s next game is critical, a visit to Orlando City. A draw or Revs win stings the Lions’ hopes for a late season push for the playoffs.
Montreal is dangerous on its day but tumultuous and faces a two-legged Canadian Championship with TFC for a place in the CONCACAF Champions League. It might be reasonable to prioritize that.
Orlando City has two points from its last four but also drew LAFC 2-2 this weekend. A win over New England on Saturday leads into a run-in of Houston, Cincinnati, and Chicago.
Chicago needs to win out and get help: Visits from Dallas and Toronto make this very difficult, though a finish against Orlando on Oct. 6 could be a show-stopper.