Sean Davis

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Going to EURO: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012

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It was far from a convincing performance, but with a 0-0 draw against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Saturday, the Netherlands clinched a major tournament berth for the first time since the 2014 World Cup and a first EURO since 2012.

Needing a sole point to qualify for next summer’s big-stage European competition, Ronald Koeman and company clinched wit luck and tight, defensive work on their side. Throughout the final 45 minutes, the Northern Ireland’s possession of the ball was a mere 29 percent, while recording a lone shot off target.

A big reason for the defensive solidity was contingent on the Netherland’s center back tandem composed of Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk and Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt. The two defenders combined for three clearances, one blocked shot, one tackle and eight ariels won.

With the attack lacking in the finishing department despite accumulating 14 shots (three on target), the 28-year-old captain recognizes it was a tough, yet meaningful game for the team and for all of Netherlands, who failed to qualify for the 2016 EURO and 2018 World Cup.

“It was a tough game,” van Dijk said. “Unlucky for him (Davis), good for us! The lads are very happy in the dressing room. We’re back at a major tournament. It means a lot for us as players. Hopefully it means so much to the Dutch people.”

“We have to make sure we prepare very well for a big tournament,” he added. “We missed the last two. We want to perform well.”

With one game left against Estonia midweek, the Netherlands trails Group C leaders, Germany, by two points. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, qualified for the playoff round, with their opponent still to be determined.

Four takeaways from MLS Week 2

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Four teams are 2-0 and just two are winless after two weeks of MLS 2017, and there are several surprises amongst that sextet with zeroes in one column.

That’s where we’ll begin our look around Major League Soccer following another wild weekend.

[ MORE: Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd | 3 things from JPW ]


Awful dismissal puts LA in (more) unfamiliar territory

Embellishing Portland Timbers players sold referee Baldomero Toledo on a pair of yellow cards for Jelle van Damme in what effectively doomed the Galaxy’s comeback bid in California.

That leaves the Galaxy at 0-2 for the first time since 2001, and both of these losses came at home. In a league where home losses have been rare, it’s shocking to see LA staring down that mark.

They’ll be fine — both sides were missing stars on Sunday, and the Galaxy still nearly found a point — but perhaps LA faces a tougher road to the playoffs than previous seasons as new manager Curt Onalfo and several new Galaxy players learn each other.

Minnesota United is in a heap of trouble

Either of the Loons’ season-opening 5-1 losses could be chalked off as relatively insignificant, but the fact that both the debut defeat at Portland and Sunday’s battering by visiting Atlanta United showcased woefully inept defending says Minnesota has a legit shot at one of the worst records of all-time.

No team has won less than six matches in a season since DC United won three in 2013. Minnesota will be hard-pressed to hit the six figure, though perhaps the MLS experience of Bobby Shuttleworth — thrust into the lineup after a Sunday injury to John Alvbage — can help stem the bleeding.

Two-and-oh-my

Three of the four teams to start the year 2-0 missed the playoffs last season.

Perhaps none is more impressive than the start from Wilmer Cabrera’s Houston Dynamo, but since we covered that last week let’s deal with the others. We’ll also leave Portland be for now.

There was supposed to be an adjustment process for the New York Red Bulls without Dax McCarty, but Jesse Marsch is proving that doubting him is futile.

[ MORE: Conte is becoming what Mourinho was ]

New York’s bunch now boasts a win on little rest (and cross-continent travel) in a rambunctious Bobby Dodd Stadium as well as a 1-0 win against Colorado. Credit Sean Davis for a lot of that, as the 24-year-old has a league-best 7 tackles.

Then there’s San Jose, who went full “Goonies” in erasing Vancouver’s 2-0 lead on Saturday, one week after toppling Montreal 1-0. Yes, the Quakes were aided by a 23rd minute red card to Vancouver keeper David Ousted, but they also needed to come out of the gates well for embattled boss Dominic Kinnear. They are doing just that, and Anibal Godoy has been a massive part of San Jose’s success.

Philly’s very secret weapon

The Union have a pair of draws to open the season, and both are impressive for any number of reasons. Keeping Vancouver to a 0-0 result in British Columbia on Opening Weekend was nice, but dealing with blowing a lead against Toronto only to fight back for a point is next level.

One player who’s been hard to miss in both matches in 20-year-old center midfielder Derrick Jones, the Ghana-born U.S. U-20 man who’s come through the Union system from academy to USL to MLS. Sure there will be growing pains for the 6-foot-3, lightning quick Jones, but through two games he’s looking like a bonafide USMNT prospect.

BONUS: David Villa is still really, really good

When he came over from La Liga off a 13-goal season, we shouldn’t have been looking at his age. We’ll leave the rest of this takeaway to Andy Edwards’ recap of New York City FC’s 4-0 defeat of DC United.