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Orlando City wins as Kljestan downs thin NY Red Bulls side

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Sacha Kljestan came back to bite his former club as his 72nd minute goal provided a 1-0 victory for an otherwise poor Orlando City side over a New York Red Bulls squad looking thin during the international break.

With Aaron Long and Michael Murillo away on international duty and Florian Valot to a recently torn ACL, the Red Bulls welcomed Orlando City to Red Bull Arena already struggling for depth. Then, just 20 minutes into the match, defender Connor Lade was forced off due to injury. He might have been given a bit longer to recover and return to the match, but New York came close to conceding while reduced to 10 men, so Omir Fernandez was summoned off the bench.

While the Red Bulls seemed to have control of the match, they weren’t exactly of high quality. The hosts managed just four shots on target through the match and completed just five passes in the penalty area all game. The left flank for New York was especially devoid of creativity as all four key passes came from the right. Marc Rzatkowski picked up three of those four key passes, while Daniel Royer, Alex Muyl, and Vincent Bezecourt failed to record any. Bezecourt had an extremely poor match, with just six completed passes in 60 minutes of play before he came off in favor of young Mathias Jorgensen.

As the second half dragged along, Orlando City surprisingly went in front as Kljestan reached a cross by Joao Moutinho at the far post that was likely meant for Dom Dwyer, but as it skittered behind the striker, Kljestan was there streaking in from midfield to meet the ball and strike it home.

New York began to feel a sense of urgency after the goal, and nearly equalized in the 82nd minute but Orlando City defender Carlos Ascues was on hand to clear the ball off the line. Things would get much worse on the injury front for New York, as Fernandez required a substitute himself in the 80th minute before Alex Muyl came off in stoppage time with the Red Bulls already out of subs. Muyl came back on the field, but he initially had signaled for a substitute before realizing they were out.

The loss leaves New York with just three points through the season’s first three matches and sees them fail to take hold of an opportunity against a poor opponent at home. Orlando City, meanwhile, earns its first win of the campaign and jumps above New York into fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Youthful FC Dallas side earns home win over Colorado

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The kids are alright in Dallas as a 2-1 win over Colorado pushed them into the mix near the top of the Western Conference standings four games into the 2019 season.

The Dallas starting 11 included five homegrown players and included 18-year-old Jesus Ferreira as well as 18-year-old Edwin Cerrillo and 19-year-old Paxton Pomykal. 20-year-old Reggie Cannon and 21-year-old Pablo Aranguiz also manned the midfield, making goalscorer Michael Barrios feel like an old man at 27.

And yet, it was Barrios who opened the scoring just past the half-hour mark. He received the ball near the top of the box and let rip a speculative effort, contorting his body awkwardly to get power on a near-post shot, and it was enough to slip by Tim Howard.

Colorado pulled level in the 69th minute as Tommy Smith chested the ball into the back of the net with Jesse Gonzalez on the ground. VAR gave it a look but determined Smith did not handle the ball as he was on his knees on the doorstep.

Sticking with the home side’s theme, FC Dallas brought 17-year-old academy product Thomas Roberts off the bench, and it was he who helped create the winner. His assist to fellow sub Zdenek Ondrasek fed the latter with a shot, and while that was saved, Ryan Hollingshead was on hand to slot the ball home.

Euro 2020 qualifiers: Italy, Spain, Switzerland all secure wins

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Sergio Ramos provided the winner from the spot as Spain took home a 2-1 win over Norway in Valencia. Rodrigo bagged the opener 16 minutes in, volleying home Jordi Alba’s floated baseline cross. Alvaro Morata nearly bagged a headed goal just past the half-hour mark as part of a ruthless first-half onslaught by the home side, but Rune Jarstein made a fabulous stop. Alba then nearly had his own, putting it into the back of the net but pulled back for the offside flag.

The hosts would rue not taking their first-half opportunities as Norway would pull level after the break as Inigo Martinez toppled over substitute Bjorn Johnsen in the box on a set-piece. Bournemouth attacker Joshua King slotted it home from the spot and evened the score. That wouldn’t last long though, as Spain moved back in front just six minutes later with Ramos from the spot as Jarstein came off his line on a Spain break and scythed Morata down, delivering a cheeky Panenka down the middle.

Italy went wire-to-wire to top Finland 2-0 in Udine. 22-year-old Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella opened things up in the seventh minute with a deflected volley that found its way past Lukas Hradecky. Finland could only manage a single shot on target the entire way through, with Teemu Pukki badly missing wide in the 65th minute with their best opportunity, and Italy secured the win with a second goal 10 minutes later. 19-year-old Moise Kean made a perfect run through the two center-backs and Ciro Immobile delivered an incredible ball to slice them up, with the teen needing just one touch to slot it home for his first international goal on his first start.

Edin Dzeko earned his 100th cap, but 24-year-old Deni Milosevic was the biggest winner as he provided the eventual winner for Bosnia & Herzegovina who picked up a 2-1 win over Armenia. Rade Krunic put the hosts 1-0 up past the half-hour mark in Sarajevo, and then Milosevic struck with 10 minutes to go, streaking down the middle to meet Edin Visca’s long cross from the right. Henrikh Mkhitaryan slotted home a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Greece flew to a 2-0 win over Lichtenstein in Vaduz as Konstantinos Fortounis and Anastasios Donis delivered the strikes. The first came at the stroke of halftime, brilliantly volleying a laser beam delivery from Dimitrios Kourbelis. The second came with 10 minutes to go with Donis firing home sealing the victory. It was elementary for the visitors, holding 73% possession and holding Liechtenstein without a single shot on target on just three total efforts.

Ireland topped Gibraltar 1-0 in Mick McCarthy’s first game back as manager. On a windy day at Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar, Ireland held 63% possession but could only manage three shots on target, picking up a 49th minute winner off the foot of Jeff Hendrick who came streaking down the middle to meet David McGoldrick’s cross from the left.

Sweden held off a late comeback from Romania to win 2-1 in Stockholm. Mainz striker Robin Quaison bagged the opener just past the half-hour mark with a wonderful touch on the outside of his foot at the near post. They doubled the lead through Victor Claesson just seven minutes later as Quaison’s cross was deflected right to his feet near the top of the box and he fired past Ciprian Tatarusanu. Romania scored just before the hour mark but it proved just a consolation as they couldn’t find an equalizer.

It was an elementary day for Switzerland who topped Georgia 2-0 behind second-half goals from Steven Zuber and Denis Zakaria. Switzerland was dominant from start to finish, pumping off 25 shots with eight on target and holding the hosts to just a single shot on target among six total efforts.

RESULTS

Spain 2-1 Norway
Italy 2-0 Finland
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-1 Armenia
Lichtenstein 0-2 Greece
Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland
Sweden 2-1 Romania
Georgia 0-2 Switzerland
Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands

Swiss defender Schar allowed to continue after being knocked out

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Swiss defender Fabian Schar was clearly knocked out on the pitch in the 24th minute but was allowed to continue the match as Switzerland eventually defeated Georgia in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Saturday.

Schar, who plays for Premier League side Newcastle at the club level, suffered a clash of heads with Georgia’s 23-year-old center-back Jemal Tabidze and went to the ground out cold. He lay motionless on his back with his hands at his side and his eyes closed.

Players from both sides attended to Schar immediately, with Georgia’s Zhano Ananidze reaching into Schar’s mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue, a skill players have learned in recent years due to previous on-field incidents of this nature.

Medical personnel attended to Schar for four minutes before play resumed, turning him onto his side before eventually sitting him up, appearing to administer some form of rudimentary concussion assessment, waving a hand in front of his face. Eventually Schar was allowed to return to the match. Tabidze also received lengthy treatment, requiring a bandage around his head to continue.

There has been a heightened awareness around head injuries at the top level of professional soccer, although clubs and national teams still struggle to make smart in-game decisions. Returning to play after suffering a concussion is extremely dangerous, with the risk of Second Impact Syndrome possibly deadly. Just because Schar was knocked unconscious doesn’t mean he suffered a concussion, but given the possibility and its danger, the look is a bad one for Switzerland.

The 24-year-old has been a fixture in the Swiss national team since mid-2014, earning his 48th cap on Saturday. He has been a regular for Newcastle this season since earning a starting spot in early November, making 18 Premier League appearances thus far.

Albania fires coach after losing at home against Turkey

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian coach Christian Panucci has been fired a day after his team lost to Turkey in a European Championship qualifier.

In a statement Saturday, the Albanian soccer federation said it had terminated the 46-year-old Italian’s contract.

Albania lost 2-0 at home to Turkey in their opening Euro 2020 game on Friday.

Panucci led Albania for 15 matches – winning four, drawing two and losing nine. He became coach in July 2017, replacing another Italian, Gianni De Biasi, who took Albania to its first major tournament at the Euro 2016 finals.

Albania plays at Andorra on Monday in its next Group H game with former national team players Ervin Bulku and Sulejman Mema in charge.

France, Iceland and Moldova are also in the group.