Saturday, May 30, 2015

It Happened in America: Portland stuns Colorado late, lots of penalties elsewhere

Toronto FC 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Thunderstorms delayed the start of this one by a little more than 20 minutes, but Toronto didn't exactly feel upset about that delay once things got started. Sebastian Giovinco almost put Toronto ahead after a quarter hour when he juked a multitude of San Jose defenders on his way towards blasting a shot off the cross bar. Toronto did go ahead in the 22nd when Giovinco played a perfect floating cross to Justin Morrow for a diving header goal. They didn't have time to get used to being ahead. Ashtone Morgan handled the ball in the Toronto penalty area less than two minutes later to give Chris Wondolowski a penalty kick, which he scored with ease. Toronto reclaimed the lead in the 33rd minute with a low hard shot from Warren Creavalle that found the lower corner. The shot should have probably never happened, however, as Giovinco appeared to have tripped a San Jose defender to set up the goal.

The weather kicked back up in the second half leading to a sloppier quality of play. San Jose started off on the front foot in the rain, but got caught with too much pressure on the attack leading to a Sebastian Giovinco led counter attack. Giovino played a low cross from inside the box to Luke Moore to make it 3-1 in the 71st minute. At this point, the deluge could be described as a driving rainstorm that looked like no fun at all to play in, but they stuck it out. Even when ahead, Toronto had the better chances  and almost added a fourth.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Real Salt Lake
Gershon Koffie got the Whitecaps on the board first in the 36th minute,  but Javier Morales would equalize for Salt Lake a just before halftime. Goaltending, however, was the word of the day here. Both RSL's Nick Rimando and Vancouver's David Ousted made some great saves to keep the scoring down in this one. Vancouver got the winner from Cristian Techera not on a goalkeeping error, but an awful chest down by RSL's Elias Vasquez that fell right to the Whitecaps' attacker. Vancouver goes level with the Sounders for first, but Seattle has two games in hand over their Cascadia rivals.

New York City 1-1 Houston Dynamo
A pretty free flowing game that saw both sides pepper a fair amount of shots on the opposing keepers. Houston launched 15 to New York's 13, but both sides only found one goal. Houston's came from Will Bruin in the 16th minute while New York got their's from a David Villa PK success. The penalty was awarded when Raul Rodriguez clearly handled the ball in the box. The points were rightfully shared in this equally played match.

DC United 2-1 Philadelphia Union
Early on, and for much of the first half, it looked like Philly would scratch out their third win in a row against either New York Red Bulls or DC United. Sebastian Le Toux put the Union on the board in the fifth minute. They would hold on until Chris Pontius leveld during first half stoppage time. For the majority of the second half, it looked like they would hold out for a draw. But a very close call on a hand ball in the box with five minutes left of the ninety gave Chris Rolfe a PK to score the second and deciding goal. DC Continues to extend their lead in the East, they are now five points ahead of New England, who play tomorrow against LA Galaxy.

Orlando City 2-2 Columbus Crew
Ten man Columbus almost scrapped out a result in the CItrus Bowl, where Orlando City still seems to struggle mightily. The Crew got a goal early from Toni Tchani, that came in the sixth minute. Then things went downhill for them. In the 16th minute Michael Parkhurst tried to stop a shot from going in by swinging himself in front of it on the goal line. He failed to get his chest across to the ball and it struck his arm instead, resulting in a penalty and a straight red for hand ball on the line. Kaka scored on the penalty, and Orlando were level heading into the break. Kei Kamara, who else would it be for the Crew, delivered the three points for the shorthanded away side in the 61st minute. The Crew spend the remainder of the match with everyone behind the ball trying to withstand the mostly impotent Lions attack. They couldn't hold them off forever, though. In fact, they probably want the goal back. Columbus got a little too far forward and allowed Pedro Ribiero the space to score on a low curving shot from well outside the penalty area in the 88th minute to salvage the draw.

Chicago Fire 3-0 Montreal Impact
Montreal had been on a nice little run to open their delayed MLS season. They had won two in a row before Chicago welcomed them to Toyota Park and walked all over them. The entire first half belonged to the Fire as they got two goals before halftime. Of course, having Marco Donadel sent off in the 37th minute didn't help Montreal go anywhere.As for the scoring, Harrison Shipp came first in the 13th and then Jeff Larentowocz scored on a penalty right before the halftime whistle. The second half was more Chicago domination. Kennedy Igboananike scored again in the 72nd to complete the rout. And it was a rout in favor of Chicago. They didn't allow Montreal a shot on goal for the duration of things.

Colorado Rapids 1-2 Portland Timbers
The match started out fairly passively as Colorado was patient and pretty lifeless with their opening attacks. Portland was relying on speed in transition early on and they got the goal they were looking for in the 38th minute with a nice passing play between Maxi Urruti and Gaston Fernandez. Fernandez tucked his first goal of the season inside the far post and Portland was up 1-0 at halftime. 

The Timbers had quite disciplined defending for that vast majority of the second half, but they would almost come to rue their poor finishing and inability to pick out a pass on the break. They had several chances to double their advantage with Urruti and Fanendo Adi getting forward. Neither one was able to pick out the final pass that would have led to another goal. Instead, they allowed a bomb of a goal in the final minute before second half stoppage time. Sam Cronin hammered home a perfect lay off from Luis Solignac that Adam Kawarsey had no chance at.

The match was not over though. After Adi was sort of free on a breakaway and he blasted his shot into the side netting I thought it was for sure. I was quite wrong, though. The Timbers got one more chance as the clock ticked towards the end of the three minutes of added time. In another transition attack, Ishmael Yartey managed to wrestle the ball free from the Colorado defense and barely touch it on to Jack Jewsbury who couldn't miss from just a few yards out. That was the final action as the Timbers shocked three points from Colorado.

Portland had been subtly dominating this game for most of the second half. Colorado had more possession, but they were really only threatening in short bursts near the end of the match. Portland was able to do more with possession, although they missed quite a few chances at a second goal before their buzzer beater.

It was kind of how Portland has been playing lately in matches they might not be expected to win. They have been stable at the back while relying on their attacking speed to set up effective counter attacks. The only problem is the tunnel vision of their main attacking pieces of Adi, Urutti, and Darlington Nagbe. These three players, in general, are shoot first pass later types that need to learn to look for the layoff instead of putting their heads down and barreling in on the goal. If they did, we might not have to talk about late equalizers coming from their opponents and/or last second goals to snatch points.

The win puts Portland back above the red line in sixth place with 19 points, only four points behind the first place Sounders. Colorado, on the other hand, is in the basement in the West.

It Happened in England: Arsenal cruise to record 12th FA Cup

Aston Villa 0-4 Arsenal
Last year, Arsenal strolled into the FA Cup Final against Hull City and slept through the first half and were down 2-0 before the pitch was even dry from the pregame watering. They ended up coming back to win 3-2 in extra time, but the start left a lot to be desired. Thankfully for them, they left nothing to debate this time around.

Right from the get go they ruled this match with an iron fist, or a cast iron cannon, I suppose.

They got their first golden chance of the game in the 24th minute when Theo Walcott collected a Mesut Ozil cross and blasted the shot on goal, only Kieran Richardson's heroic and lucky block prevented it from going in.

Walcott would eventually get his goal to make it one-nil to the Arsenal in the 40th minute. It started with a cross from Nacho Monreal that found the head of Alexis Sanchez. The header went up in the air and backwards where Walcott came charging on to boot it on the half volley and quickly past Shay Given. That 1-0 scoreline would make to to halftime, but it was far from the end of the assault.

Sanchez collected the goal of the match five minutes into the second half. He launched a screaming shot that made Given look helpless as it caromed off the bar and into the back of the net. In the 62nd, Per Mertesacker got free from his marker on a corner for an easy header to notch goal number three. It was certainly over at that point, but, just for fun, Olivier Giroud scored an easy tap in as the last action before Arsenal's 12 FA Cup became official.

I was expecting an Arsenal win, but I would be kidding myself if I were expecting a blowout like this. I didn't exactly want another thriller like last tear's final against Hull (that was a little too intense for my fandom to take), but it would have been nice if Aston Villa had decided to get off the train and walk into Wembley to actually play a match. Calling them non-existent would be giving them too much credit. They were no contest for Arsenal, who are in top form, but shouldn't be winning 4-0 in a cup final.

A lot of the prematch criticism surrounded Villa's choice of goalkeeper. The decided to go with Shay Given over the American Brad Guzan, and it came back to hurt them. Guzan may have stopped the first goal, maybe put up an effort on the second, and maybe even gotten to the third. Given wasn't the only goat for the Villains, but he was probably the biggest/

I could talk about how well Arsenal played, how they got goals from four different players, and were just plain dominant. But, in reality, the story was just how awful Villa was. Arsenal keeper Wojciech Sczcesny may well have not been there. Villa only took two shots. Two shots. Over ninety minutes. And none of them were on goal. It was pretty pathetic really.

Regardless, congratulations go Arsenal on the record 12th FA Cup. They surpass Manchester United, who has 11, with this victory and into the English history books. Their run to get their wasn't extremely tough. The only real test was the trip to Old Trafford in March where they came out with a thrilling 2-1 win. After going nine years without any trophies, Arsenal now has two in as many years. Now they look to retool for 2015-16 and take a shot at the real prize, their first league title since 2004.

Friday Night MLS: Sporting Kansas City hammers FC Dallas

Sporting Kansas City 4-0 FC Dallas
Krisztian Nemeth got Kansas City going in the 19th minute with the final piece of a Graham Zusi free kick. Zusi's ball found the flying head of Kevin Ellis and then the head of Nemeth right in front of the goal. It was a pretty little play that could get some goal of the week talk. Things got a little easier for SKC when two hard fouls from Zach Loyd within ten minutes before halftime led to Dallas playing a man down for the entirety of the second half. As a result, Benny Feilhaber, Ellis, and Zusi made it 4-0 Kansas City by the 64th minute. Dallas was never really in the game, even before Loyd's sending off. They only managed five shots total with one reaching the target. Dallas misses the chance to jump Deattle in the top spot in the West. Conceding thee points to Kansas City means the two sides are now level at 21 points for second place.

The Rouge Report: Detroit City destroys Minnesota Twin Stars

Detroit City 6-1 Minnesota Twin Stars
This game got ugly really fast. Tyler Channel got the party started at Cass Tech before the five minute mark when City took advantage of a turnover near midfield that led to a wonderful transition play. By the final punch of the attack City had two attackers against just the goalkeeper. Cyrus Saydee dished a pass off to Channel for the finish. The carnage continued in the 29th minute with a Latif Alashe goal that I'll be honest, I was knee deep in a chant and wasn't looking for the goal. Hey, sometimes being a hooligan has its price.

Things then went from bad to much, much worse for Minnesota after the second goal. In the 32nd minute there was a collison between City's Colin McAtee and Minnesota's keeper Matt Elder on the edge of the penalty area. McAtee was shown the yellow card and Elder stayed down on the pitch for quite some time. He had to be helped off the pitch with an apparent ankle injury.

Things were a bit awkward for Minnesota at this point. They were not carrying a backup keeper on their roster, so defender Emmanuel Brown had to take over in goal. It was clear right from the start that Brown had no experience in net. He made one nice play seconds after being inserted between the sticks when he cut off Channel after he was clear on goal, but that was it. City's third goal went in off the foot of WIlliam Mellors-Blair in the 44th minute. It wasn't Brown's fault eintirely, but a more experiencd keeper might have made a play.

It became 4-0 City in the large amount of stoppage time after the first half when the head of Jeff Adkins put the ball in. This time it really was Brown's mistake that caused the goal. He overpersued towards Adkins and allowed the header to float right above him and into the goal. Staying home and waitng for the not very dangerous shot would have led to an easy save.

After halftime, more City goals were flying. James Murphy tapped in a low cross from within the six yard box that was another result of a poor defending by Brown. It was as if he still thought he was playing central defense when he came towards the passer, totally ignoring the streaking Murphy. Finally, after Minnesota got a consolation goal from Brian Chapman, Mellors-Blair added his second with a powerful shot to bring the final score to 6-1 in favor of Le Rouge.

City played very well, obviously. You don't beat a team 6-1 without having a great game on your own. However, Minnesota probably didn't belong on the same pitch as the home side in this one. It was evident right from the start that City was far and away the better team. Losing their goalie after a half hour certainly didn't help, but the result would have been no different had Elder remained in the game. Six goals would have been a little tough to ask for, but it still would have been all CIty all the time.

The victory imprioves Detroit City to 2-0-1 and seven points on the young season. Up next for City is the huge cross-state derby with Lansing United on Sunday. Lansing eliminated Le Rouge from playoff conention last year on the final day of the season, so revenge is in order as they travel to the state capital.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: A few early goals lead to a few 1-0 finishes

Seattle Sounders 1-0  Colorado Rapids
It was Kevin Doyle's first Colorado Rapids start since shipping over from England and it didn't exactly go as planned. It did, however, go as you would expect a Colorado at Seattle match to go. Seattle held the ball for 70% of the time and had 15 shots while Colorado struggled to get much going. The Rapids held on for a quarter of an hour before a failed clearing attempt led to Marco Pappa looping a shot in from the corner of the penalty area into the corner of the net to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. That lead would last them into halftime and on through the second half.

Portland Timbers 1-0 DC United
I'm convinced that the key to any Portland Timbers match is getting ahead early. They got their early goal in the fifth minute when Gaston Fernandez stole a pass in the DC United end and played a nice low cross to a rushing Maxi Urruti for the tap in. The goal would hold up for the duration of the match, but the only reason it stayed that was was Bill Hamid made a few miraculous (meaning lucky) saves that kept Portland from running up the score in the late second half. Also Fanendo Adi messed up a break in the 82nd minute. Kind of what we have gotten used to with him lately.

I think Portland needed some good home cooking after a sad road trip. Yes, they got the win in Montreal, but their lazy and uninspired performances in Toronto and Houston left this team in a very low spot heading into tonight. An early goal and being able to play in front of their home fans did this team wonders against the top team in the East.

Having their captain Will Johnson back was a boon as well. The Canadian international hadn't played since September when he broke his leg, and he was instrumental in holding onto possession for the Timbers.

Finishing is still a problem. They could have had a couple extra goals in the closing 20 minutes, but, whether it was Rodney Wallace, Urruti, or Adi, the final ball just wasn't there. I would like to see more of the Gaston Fernandez and Maxi Urruti strike combo, though. The goal they created together was a thing of beauty and was a welcome sight amidst all the crap being flung out there by Adi in recent weeks.

They travel to Colorado this weekend, a place they certainly should be winning.

LA Galaxy 1-0 Real Salt Lake
Lots of early goals from home sides on this Wednesday night. LA got theirs when Jamison Olave handled the ball in his own box to give Galaxy the penalty. Juninho buried the kick for LA and they were up after only seven minutes. Overall, this was a back and forth, and kid of sloppy, match between a couple of competitive sides. This was probably the best example of the tired midweek match for the week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

FIFA Gets Served

Wow. What a morning it has been. Let's start with a recap of what happened.

This morning in Zurich, Switzerland, less than 24 hours before the beginning of FIFA’s annual executive committee meetings, six FIFA officials were arrested by plain clothes Swiss law enforcement agents on orders by the United States’ federal courts. This is the culmination of a four year long investigation into bribery charges spearheaded by the FBI.

These six are part of 14 different FIFA officials and sports marketing/promotions executives based on the USA and Latin America that are being charged with allegations of bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. The estimated total of the money exchanged in these crimes is in excess of $100 million in US funds. Full details, including the names of those being indicted, can be found in this story from the New York Times. The US Department of Justice has also released a statement.

The best news in all of this is that FIFA is finally being held legally responsible for its long known history of corruption, bribery, and other scummy behavior.

There are conflicting reports, but they seem to suggest that this has to do with tournaments in Latin America, with some suspicion that this may have to do with the Copa America centennial tournament being held in the USA next summer.

In a completely unrelated move, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice has reportedly opened criminal proceedings related to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. They have seized digital documents related to the bidding for both tournaments. Various British news outlets, including The Guardian and Richard Conway of the BBC, are reporting that they are questioning “people unknown” about the bidding processes. The Swiss Federal Council has released a statement on the matter.

Clearly, this is a huge story that will continue developing for quite some time. But, let’s digest what we already know. A federal investigation has been going on for quite some time related to the transfer of money through US banks in US funds that appears to have been used to bribe various officials within FIFA. Several people have been arrested in a foreign country and are likely going to be extradited back to the US, so the evidence must be pretty solid. Finally, the Swiss government is looking into criminal charges related to the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. As of their morning press conference in Zurich, the hosts of both tournaments will not change.

The early public reaction has been quite supportive of the government agencies doing the dirty work brining down FIFA. Everyone knows FIFA is extremely corrupt. Everyone knows that things need to change within the organization. And now many people are hopeful of FIFA’s future for the first time in a long, long time.

Although this is already quite a lot of progress, there is hope that this is only the beginning of high level organizations coming down hard on world soccer’s governing body. There could be hope that since the USA’s federal investigators can lay hands on some pretty important people in FIFA and Switzerland can open a criminal case against them, other governments may be able to follow suit and bring them down on other issues. There’s hope that this can lead to positive change that could help root out the corrupt people that run the most powerful sporting organization in the universe. There is also the looming dark cloud that this is all just a pipe dream.

FIFA has been challenged by various parties before, and it still stands tall with the same bad apples running the show. Sepp Blatter, who has been president for 17 years, is fully expected to win another term in the next round of elections despite the breaking of this news. The vote is supposed to be held on Friday despite reports out there suggesting it might be delayed.

FIFA very well could slip right through this scandal without any serious repercussions. The six men arrested today, and the reportedly eight more coming, could walk away unscathed from all this just because FIFA is very good at wriggling its way out of serious trouble. The Swiss investigation could run into dead ends, because FIFA is also adept at misdirection and the concealment of information (see the Garcia report summary).

This history makes me feel like I have to pump the brakes a bit on any “down with Sepp Blatter” and “FIFA is imploding” talk. I am excited, for lack of a better term, about what went down, and continues to go down, in Zurich this morning, but I am also cautious in jumping to conclusions. A lot is still going to develop here and we need to wait for more details to emerge before marking today as the beginning of the end for the powers that be in world soccer.

I'll have more on this as it develops, including more thoughts on my weekly post at Big View Sports.

Monday, May 25, 2015

It Happened in America: Philly starts a win streak, Quakes draw with Orlando

New York Red Bulls 0-2 Philadelphia Union
Not only does Union earn their first two game win streak of 2015, but they score their first ever win at the Red Bull Arena. It could be argued that they really didn't deserve it. Looking at the possession chart on the MLS game recap, Red Bulls controlled possession for every five minute interval of the match and controlled 66% of possession overall. They outshot Philadelphia 15-7. Looking just at that, you'd think the score was reversed. Instead, it was two quick goals from Union to send the points to Philly. Vincent Nogueria broke the scoreless deadlock in the 57th and CJ Sapong doubling the lead a mere five minutes later. The win lifts Philadelphia to within a point of a playoff spot.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Orlando City
A couple of penalties made the difference in this one. The first one went against San Jose when keeper David Bingham was beaten to the ball by Cyle Larin and fouled him in the 62nd minute. Kaka converted the resulting PK. This put Orlando City, who was down to ten men after Brek Shea was sent off in the 51st minute. was up front. The lead would not last long. At the stroke of 66 minutes, San Jose's Jordan Stewart was chasing down a corner when he was shoulder charged in the box. Chirs Wondolowski scored his 100th career MLS goal with the PK. The points were shared. San Jose remains in fourth out west and Orlando holds on to sixth in the East.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

It Happened in England: Hull drop down on Championship Sunday

Hull City 0-0 Manchester United
Nobody will accuse Hull of not trying to stay up in the Premier League. They had two goals called back by offside in the opening 20 minutes, they had a flurry of chances after the hour mark, and overall left it all out in the pitch against a tough opponent. Marouane Fellaini was even sent off with less than a quarter hour to play, giving Hull a numbers advantage. It was all for naught anyway, as Newcastle got the win they needed to send Hull down to the Championship regardless of any result here. On the other end if the spectrum, Manchester United remain in fourth place where they are destined to play in a qualifier to reach the group stage of the Champions League.

Newcastle 2-0 West Ham
Moussa Sissoko secured safety for Newcastle with a header in the 53rd minute. Jonas Gutierrez made it for certain in the 85th. Newcastle lives because of the win and Hull gets sent down.

Arsenal 4-1 West Bromwich Albion
Arsenal hopefully saved some goals for Saturday's FA Cup final. They had three inside 20 minutes. Theo Walcott scored in the fourth and 14th minutes and Jack Wilshire added a glorious half volley in the 17th. Walcott completed his first half hat trick in the 37th. West Brom's goal came from Gareth McCauley in the 57th. The win means Arsenal take third place and avoid a Champions League qualifier in August and go straight to the group stage. WBA settle for 13th place.

Aston Villa 0-1 Burnley
I guess Aston Villa were saving their goals for Saturday against Arsenal. Danny Ings got Burnley's goal after only six minutes. They avoid a last place finishs only on goal difference, but they will still head down to the second tier next season.

Leicester City 5-1 QPR
The Foxes finish their first season back in the Premier League with a bang against last place QPR. Jamie Vardy, Leonardo Ulloa, Esteban Cambiaso, and Andrej Kramaric were their goal scorers. Charlie Austin gave QPR their consolation tally on their way down from the top tier.

Stoke City 6-1 Liverpool
It was nice of Liverpool to show up for Steven Gerrard's swan song. Stoke issued the proper beat down on the Reds once the 20 minute mark hit. It was Mame Diouf twice, Jonathan Walters, Charlie Adam, Steven N'Zonzi, and Peter Crouch doing the damage. Gerrard did have his moment, however. He scored Liverpool's goal in the 70th minute to end his English career before joining LA Galaxy.

Crystal Palace 1-0 Swansea
Two midtable teams round out the season as Crystal Palace gets the win in front of their home crowd. Marouane Chamakh scored the game's lone goal in the 57th minute. Crystal Palace continues to enjoy the best stretch of seasons in club history with a 12th place finish. Swansea seems to be used to finishing in the mid-table. This year they take eighth.

Manchester City 2-0 Southampton
Frank Lampard is the other major name departing England for the New World this season and he also scored in his final Premier League game. He put City ahead 1-0 in the 31st before heading of to New York City FC. Sergio Aguero would notch his Golden Boot winning 26th goal of the season in the 88th to finish the 2-0 scoreline. The win means City finish second and the loss means Southampton take seventh. They will play in the Europa League if Arsenal lift the FA Cup over Aston Villa on Saturday.

Everton 0-1 Tottenham
Harry Kane, who else, scored for Spurs to secure a sixth place finish and a spot in next season's Europa League. Everton are probably happy to see the season end. They finish in a distant tenth.

Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland
Chelsea celebrated their title becoming official by coming back from being down early to defeat Sunderland. After Steven Fletcher scored for the Black Cats, Diego Costa scored first and then Loic Remy scored twice for the Champions.

So there it is, another Premier League season in the books. Chelsea take the title with 87 points, eight more than second place Manchester City. Hull City, Burnley, and Queens Park Rangers will spend the next campaign in the Football League Championship. They are replaced by Bournemouth, Watford, and the winner of Monday's promotion playoff final between Norwich and Middlesbrough.

It Happened in America: Revs and United draw, Vancover continues skid

Toronto FC 1-0 Portland Timbers
Another lazy performance by Portland leads to another lazy loss. They gave up an early goal to Sebastian Giovinco, which, to be fair to Portland, was a sublime strike from quite a distance. But Portland needs to start playing like yet are even slightly inspired if they want to make a run at the playoffs this season. If they keep trotting out there and going through the motions, no Will Johnson or fully healthy Diego Valeri will help. Hopefully some good home cooking next weekend will turn then around.

New England Revolution 1-1 DC United
The battle for first in the East was inconclusive. New England's Charlie Davies got the scoring started in first half stoppage time, but that's about the only good thing that happend to the Revs last night. They went from having all eleven men on the pitch in the 50th minute to having only nine by the 60th.  Chris Tierney was given straight red in the 52nd for a bad foul. Then Lee Ngueyn was shown his second yellow six minutes later. It still took full strength DC United until the 80th minute to find their equalizer against their outnumbered foes. Jario Arrieta was the man to bag the goal. Overall it was a pretty defensive game, as matches tend to get when one team drops down to nine players. Only 16 shots were fired combined between the two sides,  and DC only had the one go on target. Still, an East Finals appearance for both of these teams is not out of the question.

Montreal Impact 2-1 FC Dallas
Montreal seems to be enjoying playing MLS games once again. Since the CONCACAF Champions League final they have now won two of three, all at the Stade Saputo. Ignacio Patti scored on a PK in the 25th minute to put the Impact on top. Jack McInerney doubled the lead shortly into the second half. Matt Hedges pulled one back for FC Dallas in the 77th, but it was to no avail.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Vancouver's cooling off continues in unglorious fashion. They lose one against a team they really should be beating here when Lucas Pittinari put Colorado on the board in the 51st minute. Despite thier best efforts, Vancouver was unable to find the equalizer. The loss to last place Colorado tumbles Vancouver to third out West.

Seattle Sounders 0-0 Sporting Kansas City
Seattle probably should have won this match without much trouble, wt with the way they dominated possession and all. They only got ten shots on Tim Melia, and only one made the target. So Kansas City was able to withstand the onslaught well, however, to earn the draw in very hostile territory.

Real Salt Lake 2-0 New York City
A fairly routine win for RSL. Anything less probably would have been a disappointment considering the way NYC has been playing of late. It was John Stertzer in the 25th and Alvaro Saborio in the 49th with the goals for them. RSL still sits in seventh, outside a playoff spot in the West, while NYC occupies the basement in the East.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

It Happened in America: Fire save a point, Galaxy get back on track

Columbus Crew 2-2 Chicago Fire
Jason Johnson salvaged a draw for Chicago in the fourth minute of stoppage time with a header from the edge of the box. From the 55th minute on, this one was the Crew's game to lose. That was when Kei Kamara finished his second goal of the game to put Columbus up 2-0. Even after David Accam got the Fire on the board three minutes later, it still looked like Columbus would snag all three points. Chicago, however, would not be stopped, and the last of their 19 total shots was the one that allowed them to rescue a point after all was said and done. The single point temporarily lifts Chicago into a playoff spot in the East, while Columbis holds firmly onto fourth place.

LA Galaxy 1-0 Houston Dynamo
This was somewhat of a snoozer for the vast majority of the match. It wasn't until Alan Gordon's floating header found its way over Tyler Deric in the second minute of stoppage time that something exciting went down. Although Houston will feel like they could have earned a point, it was a deserved win for Galaxy. Although it was still pretty ugly, they controlled the match and were better team last night. The bigger story was the return of LA's captain, Robbie Keane. He was introduced as a substitute in the  56th minute for his first action in seven games. Galaxy's win ended a five game winless streak that came to a head this past Sunday when they got hammered 4-0 by Orlando City.  The win leapfrogs them ahead of the Dynamo for the sixth and final playoff spot in the West.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nemeth scores twice as Kansas City downs New England

Sporting Kansas City 4-2 New England Revolution
Things started off well for the Revs, but they quickly snowballed out of control and Sporting Kansas ed all three points in a midweek MLS match that was actually quite exciting, for once.

Juan Agudelo got the Revs on the board early by capitalizing off an awful Kansas City midfield turnover. While trying to break out, SKC gave the ball right to the feared striker and he barreled his way through the startled defenders to slot past Tim Melia. They would not get to enjoy the lead for long.

Dom Dwyer leveled for Sporting in the 29th minute with a sublime strike. Dwyer took the cross off his chest, turned, and fired on the volley into the Brad Knighton's goal. It was his fourth goal of the season. Ten minutes later it was Kisztian Nemeth heading home a free kick from Benny Feilhaber to give SKC the lead.

It got worse for New England in the 42nd  when a rather harsh penalty was given against New England. Dwyer received a pass inside the box when he was tugged ever so slightly on the sleeve by Jose Goncalves. Referee Allen Chapman gave the penalty, much to the chagrin of everyone on the New England bench, and Feilhaber used some soft touch on the PK to make it 3-1 to SKC heading into halftime.

New England's spiral into defeat continued all of 20 second into the second half when their back line lost track of Nemeth and left him wide open for his second goal of the game. It was an absolutely awful run of play from the Revs as no player should be allowed half as much space as Nemeth found on his way to Sporting's fourth goal.

New England would get one back in the 64th minute. Scott Caldwell got open and buried a well placed shot from the center of the box, but it was too little, too late, for the Revs.

Sporting Kansas City was no doubt itching to get back in action after their weekend match with Colorado Rapids was postponed by inclement weather. They were clearly the fresher side tonight due to the unplanned night off, and they certainly took advantage. They got a much needed three points to put some space between them and the final spot in the playoffs. They sit in fifth place out west with 17 points. New England misses a chance to pull ahead of DC United atop the East. The east coast rivals go at it on Saturday with the top spot on the line.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It Happened in America: Orlando rolls, Philly shocks DC

Orlando City 4-0 LA Galaxy
Before this match, Orlando had never led at home. Now they have a blowout victory against what was once thought to be one of the West's great teams. Galaxy were starting their sixth different back line in the last six games, and this must have been their worst combination yet. Their first breakdown came in the 19th minute when they lost track of Eric Avila in the box so he could finish off a series of headers that ended up in the LA goal. In the 34th Orlando struck in transition with wonderful passing between Kaka and Cyle Larin. Larin was gifted a great pass from the Brazillian that left him with an easy tap in.

The second half went down in much the same way as the first. Kaka was clear on the goal when Jaime Penedo tried to beat him to the ball but got his legs instead. Kaka scored the following PK with ease. Just for fun, Orlando grabbed their fourth with a deflected shot from Darwin Cerin.

Orlando gets the third win of the year and climbs to fifth in the East with 12 points. LA's freefall continues as they fall out of the playoffs. They sit in seventh in the West, even on points with Sporting Kansas City with 14, but four goals back in goal difference.

Philadelphia Union 1-0 DC United
A rare clean sheet for Philadelphia as they shock the side with the most points in the league. Conor Casey thought he had a goal in the 17th minute, but it was waived away for a hand ball. Philly controlled most of the game and launched 14 shots on goal with five reaching the target. Zach Pfeffer eventually got the winner two minutes into stoppage time.

It was a pretty awful game for DC United. They failed to test Brian Sylvestre with a shot on target and only took five overall.

DC stays in first by two points over New England despite having their eight game winning streak snapped. The win for Union lifts them to eighth, only one point back of a playoff spot.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It Happened in England: City holds, Arsenal steals a draw

Swansea City 2-4 Manchester City
The story of this one will be the horrid defending from Manchester City when they had the lead. They got early goals from Yaya Toure and James Milner, but allowed Swansea to level the score by the 64th minute. Gylfi Sigurdsson made it 2-1 at the stroke of half-time and Batefimbi Gomis tied it at the 64 minute mark. It was like City got up two and then decided to just go through the motions for the rest of the game.

After the equalizer they woke up again. Toure bagged what would be the winner in the 74th minute. Then they went back into lazy City mode and almost conceded twice before the final whistle. Wilfried Bony got the fourth in stoppage time, but had it not been for a pair of fine saves from Joe Hart, Swansea very well could have earned the draw.

Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal
Manchester United owned this game pretty much right from the start. It took a while to get their first real chance of the game, however. It came at the half hour mark and it led to an instant reward. Ander Herrera was able to connect on a cross form Juan Mata to put the Red Devils up 1-0. A few minutes later, Radamel Falcao had a great chance on another cross to the far post, but his header was soft and right at David Ospina. Arsenal, while having a couple runs of possession, failed to even take a shot in the first half. It was the first time they failed to take a shot in the first half of a Premier League game in nearly 11 years.

Arsenal's second half was much better than the first, though they still had trouble finding the final ball against the stout United defense. They got a break midway through the second half when David de Gea was subbed off with an injury. With the second best keeper in the world now on the bench, Arsenal might actually have a chance if they could get a shot. Arsenal finally got their goal on a rather harsh own goal off Tyler Blackett in the 82nd minute. Theo Walcott got free along the right flank and took a shot at a poor angle. Blackett got a foot to it, but the deflection took it right over reserve keeper Victor Valdes and into the net. Arsenal were in a good position to steal a draw in a game where they were horribly outplayed. They even had several chances for Olivier Giroud to find a winner, but every time he messed it up somehow.

Today's results affect the final order of the top four. The City victory marches them closer to a second place finish , though they can still be caught by Arsenal. The main question left to be answered is who finishes fourth and has to play in a two-legged qualifier to get into the group stage of the Champions League. Right now, Arsenal sits in third with two points and a game in hand over Manchester United. A win on for Arsenal Wednesday against Sunderland or Sunday against West Bromwich Albion will send the Red Devils to that qualifier.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It Happened in America: Impact win big, Seattle with a win in Cascadia Cup

Montreal Impact 4-1 Real Salt Lake
A big and much needed win for Montreal. They haven't played many league games this seaon, so they are still kind of getting their feet wet in MLS for 2015, and a 4-1 beatdown on RSL is a fantastic way to get things rolling. The main part of the damage all happened over an 11 minute span in the first half. First, it was Laurent Ciman in the 18th, then Andres Romero scored twice in the 20th and 29th. Montreal was happy defending after going up 3-0 a half hour in. They did concede to Devon Sandoval just after halftime, but Dilly Duka restored the three goal lead in the 78th.

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-2 Seattle Sounders
Vancouver was once the hottest team in MLS, but have now only won once in the month of May. Things got off to a bad start for the home team when Chad Barrett got behind the backline and collected a great feed from Clint Dempsey. The ball in sort of confused Vancouver keeper David Ousted and Barrett rolled the ball into the goal easily. Marco Pappa again allowed Barrett to catch the Whitecaps' defense napping in the 36th. A long ball over the heads of the backline was volleyed in by the Seattle striker for his second of the game. Vancouver was just never able to get going in this one. The outshot their Cascadia rivals, but only rarely tested Stefan Frei.

New England Revolution 1-1 Toronto FC
This was a pretty big road point for Toronto. They even had the better chances over the first half hour. The best of them came in the opening five minutes when Sebatian Giovinco was through to the goal and his shot drilled the post. Despite this, they went down with a Juan Agudelo goal in the 32nd minute. Michael Bradley equalized just after halftime and Tornoto held on to secure the draw.

Houston Dynamo 3-1 Portland Timbers
Dynamo get a much needed three points with a pair of second half goals. Will Bruin scored their first of the night less than nine minutes in with a header off a corner. Fanendo Adi scored to tie the game after the half with a good shot after a feed from Diego Valeri. Giles Barnes gave Houston the lead for good in the 75th minute. Some good tic-tac-toe passing in the box had Portland's defense flailing all over the place. It was only a matter of time before Barnes, or anyone else really, was able to pick out an easy shot. Bruin's second of the match came in the 83rd and put it out of reach.

This is where I would normally rant and rave about a Timbers loss and explain what they did wrong and how to fix it. This time, however, all I have to say is that they were no good at all. Their midfield was slow and lazy with their passes and the back line kind of stopped playing in the closing fifteen minutes or so. It was probably their worst game of the season. They now sit in ninth place in the West, but still only a point out of a playoff spot. Got to love a league that doesn't exactly punish poor play.

San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 Columbus Crew
Here are two teams that I really don't know what to make of. They both have key wins followed by losses that make you scratch your head. Columbus was doomed fairly early in this one. It took all of 33 minutes for Mohammed Saeid to get two yellow cards and send the Crew down to ten men for the rest of the match. It still took San Jose until the second half to score their fisrt goal. It came courtesy of Chris Wondolowski's chest. Shea Salinas added the second while taking advantage of a clearly overwhelmed Columbus defense.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids
Weather got in the way of this one. It's been hot and humid all over the country, so a storm was bound to strike somewhere. Might as well have been in Tornado Alley where it could wipe out a soccer game.

It Happened in England: Mane sets a record as Saints stomp Aston Villa, relegation clears up a bit

Southampton 6-1 Aston Villa
Sadio Mane was the man scaring Aston Villa fans towards relegation. Mane scored twice on opportune deflections off Shea Given and again on a great transition passing play. All of this happened in less than three minutes. It was the fastest hat trick in Premier League history clocking in at two minutes and 56 seconds from first goal to third. Impressive stuff. Those were just the goals that went in early. Southampton could easily have had five or six in the first twenty minutes. Mane could have had four on his own.

Southampton did add their fourth in the 26th minute. Only this time it was Shane Long. The nicest goal of the day came from Long again in the 38th minute with a 30 yard curling bomb.
Christian Benteke headed home a cross during first half stoppage time just to make it look like they were on the pitch. Southampton's final tally came in the last ten minutes from Graziano Pelle.

This was a truly embarrassing showing for Aston Villa. The last thing you want to do in a relegation battle is waltz out there and give up five goals before halftime. Sure they have the FA Cup final in two weeks, but you'd think they would decide to get off the train and play a game to help avoid the drop. Thankfully for them, Hull's loss keeps them up next season. On the flip side, Southampton takes a very loud step towards playing in the Europa League next season.

West Ham 1-2 Everton
Everton comes from behind and gets a late winner from Romelu Lokaku. Stuart Downing scored for West Ham in the 62nd to briefly give the Hammers the lead. It only lasted them six minutes before Everton leveled with Leon Osman. Lokaku's winner came three minutes into stoppage time to end this clash of irrelevant midtable finishers.

Tottenham 2-0 Hull City
This one went down just about how I expected it to. Hull looked like they might have squeaked out a result, then Spurs unloaded and scored twice in less than ten minutes. First it was Nacer Chadli in the 54th, then Danny Rose in the 61st. Hull's relegation battle is now a real uphill climb despite other results going their way today.They host Manchester United next week needing a win to stay alive.

QPR 2-1 Newcastle
Queens Park Rangers may already know their fate as a relegated club, but that won't stop them from making life difficult for the other relegation candidates. They overcome Newcastle's 24th minute goal from Emmanuel Riviere to score twice in the second half. Matthew Phillips leveled in the 54th and Leroy Fer's upper 90 screamer in the 61st gave them the win. Newcastle now sits on the very edge of safety going in to the final day of the season. Should they fall to West Ham at home, a shock win for Hull against Man U. will send them down.

Burnley 0-0 Stoke City
So meaningless I didn't exactly feel the need to a pay attention. Already relegated Burnley and midtable Stoke decide to kick the ball around the yard and not score. Now, on to more pressing matters.

Sunderland 0-0 Leicester City
I really expected more from this game. I expected to see two sides desperately trying to get a win as they try to stay up in the Premier League. Instead, I got a game where neither side was able to put together an attack. Leicester had the best chance to win about a minute into stoppage time when Sunderland's keeper Costel Pantilimon misplayed a ball on the edge of his box allowing Andrej Kramaric a shot at a mostly wide open goal. Saying he half-assed the attempt would be giving him too much credit, though. The point for Leicester secures their safety for next season, while Sunderland is up three points on Hull with a game in hand. Yes, that game is against Arsenal, but, knowing Arsenal, they can still pull off a shocking result. A loss against both Arsenal and Chelsea coupled with Newcastle and Hull wins on Sunday could send them down on goal difference.

Liverpool 1-3 Crystal Palace
The game meant nothing for the standings aside from Liverpool's Europa League spot, but it was Steven Gerrard's final game at Anfield so it meant something to the fans. Adam Lallana got it off to a good start for the home crowd by forcing a turnover in the Crystal Palace half in the 26th minute. His run down the final third led to an easy opening goal. Palace then got on the front foot and were eventually rewarded for their efforts with a free kick barely outside the box. Jason Puncheon drilled the shot past a hopeless Simon Mignolet in the 43rd minute. That made the score 1-1 at the break.

Wilfried Zaha then followed to single handedly spoil the Gerrard party. He was introduced as a sub in the 59th minute and almost immediately made his mark. His first touch came less than a minute into his afternoon and ended in goal. He then drew a penalty at the end of the 90 minutes that led to Glen Murray scoring on the rebound after his penalty kick was saved. 

Liverpool's loss opens the door for Southampton to leapfrog their way into the Europa League next week. The Reds still control their own destiny, however.

It Happened in America: Chicgo blows a lead, Dallas and Red Bulls can't score

New York City 2-2 Chicago Fire
Things didn't start off so well for New York. Chicago scored both their goals in the first half hour. The Fire thought they had the lead after only seven minutes when Shaun Maloney slid a shot home on a through ball, but he was called offside. Chicago did take the lead before a quarter hour had been played. Razvan Cocis converted a floating header off a free kick just after the clock stuck 13 minutes. Things got worse for NYC in the 27th minute.  David Accam was through on goal and the only thing keeping him from scoring was a sliding tackle from RJ Allen. Allen was sent off for the "tactical foul" as MLS calls it. I call it hacking out a guy's legs when he is on a breakaway. Regardless of the semantics,  Jeff Larentowicz converted the ensuing penalty to put the Fire up 2-0 before the half hour mark.

City would pull one back seconds before the halftime whistle. Sean Johnson saved the original shot from David Villa from outside the box, but no Chicago defender was able to account for Medhi Ballouchy screaming in to bury the rebound.

The score would remain tied until second half stoppage time. Khiry Shelton salvaged a point for New York City with a well placed shot from around the penatly spot. For holding a one goal lead in stoppage time, Chicago was allowing far too much space in the penalty area. It didn't take much for Shelton to take advantage of that situation.

FC Dallas 0-0 New York Red Bulls
90 minutes failed to seperate these two sides, but it was one of the better scoreless draws you will see, particularly in the second half. As the action wound down, both teams started going for broke in their attempts to score. Michael Barrios had the first golden chance in the 72nd minute when his shot got beyond Luis Robles only to have Felipe clear the ball off the line. Fabian Castillo had a shot minutes later that sailed just north of the crossbar. Red Bulls pressured a bit as full time neared, but had to settle for close calls instead of goals.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Rouge Report: Late winner from Harris give DCFC a 3-2 victory over AFC Cleveland

Detroit City 3-2 AFC Cleveland
The NPSL opener went much better for Le Rouge than the midweek clash against Michigan Bucks. Seb Harris broke a 2-2 deadlock in the 88th minute to give all three points to City and sent 3,012 supporters home happy.

The opening of the match was a massive improvement over how things started on Wednesday. Detroit City had early possession and it led to early chances. The best of which came in the eighth minute from Javier Bautista. Bautista collected a ball at the top of the box and fired it towards the Cleveland goal, only to find the crossbar.

City's possession was coupled well with responsible goalkeeping from Brett Mollon. He was alert in reaching any Cleveland through balls they tried to play.

Rouge and Gold smoke, which was not allowed inside Ultimate Soccer Arenas, made its return to the match in the 19th minute. Colin McAtee worked a wonderful give and go with Bautista into the Cleveland penalty area. McAtee got the final ball and slid it home beyond the diving Anthony Flowers to give City the offensive reward they deserved.

The lead would only last until the 35th minute when Cleveland's Sergio Manesio slotted a shot past Mollon on the far post to level the score at one. It was a lapse in transition defense for Le Rouge, as they really could have gotten back faster to cover the attack. Manesio only had one man to beat in the end.

City would get the lead back seven minutes later courtesy of William Mellors-Blair and they would take a 2-1 lead into halftime.

After the break, Cleveland wasted no time getting back on the level. In the first minute of the second half, City's weak defending in the penalty area allowed a cross to reach Tom Beck's head on the far post and into the back of the net.

The rest of the half saw both sides trade minor blows. Cleveland got forward a few times and threatened with free kicks in attacking areas, but none tested Mollon much. Their best chance came in the 66th when Manesio came a couple feet away from his second of the match. His low shot towards the far post bumbled wide, One shot that did test the City keeper came five minutes from time. It was Manesio getting free in the penalty area again, but his shot went straight at Mollon.

City secured the three points when they were awarded a corner in the 88th minute. Cyrus Saydee took the in-swinging ball that found the head of Seb Harris. The ball powered through Flowers and into the goal, sending Cass Tech into mayhem. The final whistle blew shortly after.

This was a much better showing from Le Rouge. They were allowed to play their game early on, unlike on Wednesday night. They were responsible in possession and they never turned the ball over in the midfield. The defense was strong, but they slipped up a bit in the transition game. The attack was the overall high point of the match. Three goals, and inches away from a fourth, is usually enough to defeat any team.

Next for Le Rouge, they travel to face FC Buffalo in another Rust Belt Trophy clash next Saturday. AFC Cleveland stays in the Detroit area to play Michigan Stars in Dearborn on Sunday.

Elsewhere in the NPSL tonight:
Miami Fusion 2-0 Weston FC
Liverpool Warriors 0-5 Corinthians FC of San Antonio
FC Wichita 0-1 Joplin Demize FC

Here are your relegation scenarios for this weekend

The race to stay alive in the Premier League can end this weekend. Here is how each team still not dead can either stay up or drop down.

First, the bottom of the table:

Aston Villa- 38 pts. (max 44), -20 Goal Difference
Leicester City- 37 pts. (max 43), -13 GD
Sunderland- 36 pts. (max 42), -20 GD
Newcastle 36 pts. (max 42), -24 GD
Hull City- 34 pts. (max 40), -16 GD

Already relegated;
Burnley- 29 pts. (max 35)
QPR- 27 pts. (max 33)

Aston Villa
All Villa has to do to remain in the top flight is defeat Southampton on the road. If they fail to do so, Hull City losing to Spurs will do the trick for them.

Leicester City
The Foxes can clinch safety with a win at Sunderland on Saturday coupled with Hull losing or drawing to Spurs.

Sunderland
Pretty much reverse they Leicester scenario. If Sunderland wins at home against the Foxes and Hull loses or draws against Spurs, the Black Cats are safe.

Newcastle
A win against already relegated QPR and Hull losing or drawing means Newcastle stay up.

Hull City
They have the toughest road to stay up. A win at Spurs will keep them alive for at least another week. They can jump out of the drop zone with Sunderland and Newcastle losing or drawing. However, a Hull loss coupled with Sunderland and Newcastle wins sends the Tigers down.

The complicated nature of things means this will probably carry on into the final week of the season, or at least until the midweek match between Arsenal and Sunderland. Hull will probably lose at Tottenham, but too much else has to go wrong for it to end this week. Regardless, the Leicester City vs. Sunderland match should be a doozy, as games between nearly relegated teams usually are.

If you are like me and are rooting for chaos in the final week, the dream scenario is Hull winning and Newcastle and Sunderland drawing. Then Sunderland would fall to Arsenal midweek. This would leave all three sides level on 37 points heading into the final day of the season. Now that sounds like a fun final Sunday.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: DC United comes from behind to drop Orlando City

DC United 2-1 Orlando City
Orlando City got out to the early lead, but failed to hold on as the top team in the East got a pair of late goals to take down the expansion side.

It was all Lions early on as their goal came from Cyle Larin in the 11th minute. It was the end result of a corner that United failed to clear out of the zone.

You wond thing that Orlando would play a little more conservatively after this, being a the away team up 1-0 against the top team in the Eastern Conference. Instead they continued to attack, which is fine. It is a positive strategy and all. And it keeps things entertaining. A little more of a focus on defending might have allowed them to hold on.

It took DC United some time to get the leveling goal.  In the 70th minute, Taylor Kemp, looped in a well placed free kick that found the head of Kofi Opare followed by the upper 90 of the goal. It took them less than ten more minutes to find the lead again. Orlando was on the attack again, they lost possession and United got the chance to break out. First, a great pass from Davy Arnaud got Jario Arrieta forward. Arrieta launched a ball towards the six yard box, where Chris Rolfe was waiting to get a foot to it. He did just that and turned the ball into the goal to finish Orlando City's undoing.

It was a valiant effort from the new kids. They gave one of MLS Cup contenders quite a run for their money, but got burned in the end by a more skilled team. United retain their top spot in the East while Orlando are barely outside the playoffs at the moment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Rouge Report: Detroit City falls to Michigan Bucks 3-0 in US Open Cup

Michigan Bucks 3-0 Detroit City
That was a humbling match for Detroit City. They were outplayed by a clearly better team. Right from the get go, you could tell the Bucks were more skilled in the midfield, more responsible defensively, and better at finishing than Le Rouge.

The carnage began in the sixth minute when the City backline lost track of David Goldsmith in the box. Goldsmith was wide open to head home a cross for the first goal. Peri Merosevic took advantage of City turning the ball over in their own zone three minutes later. He slotted a shot beyond the diving keeper. The damage was complete at the half hour mark when University of Akron standout Brad Ruhaak nailed a screaming shot from 30 yards into the top corner of the goal.

City's flaws were evident right from the start. They couldn't keep possession. They had trouble wrestling the ball away from the Bucks in the midfield, and they were fairly overwhelmed in their own penalty area.

They did, however, have their chances to get on the board. Their golden opportunity came in the 18th minute when James Murphy had the Bucks' keeper completely beaten, but his shot at the undefended goal clanged off the post.

Come the second half, the Bucks were plenty okay being patient and letting City bring the play to them. They did press forward on the attack, but only had one chance near the end of the match when a nice passing play around flat footed Rouge defenders led to a shot off the post.

Detroit City can take comfort in the fact they will not see competition like this at any point during their NPSL season. Other than that simple fact, there were not many positives to take from their performance tonight. There were, however, plenty of lessons to be learned.

The number one would be they need to be more responsible in the midfield. They turned the ball over near the center of the pitch, or even in their own half, far too many times for any kind of sustained attack to develop. Their defenders were caught ball watching on the first goal, so that needs to change.

One of the few bright spots, I thought, was the play of captain Josh Rogers. The former Michigan State Spartan did well many times to clear the ball out of harm's way and clean up the mistakes of his midfield. His leadership was evident on the entire pitch, even though he was yellowed for running his mouth at the referee as the match neared its end.

The storyline coming into this match was the battle of differing ideologies on how to build a minor league soccer team. Do you do it with Dan Duggan's money and connections? Or with the DCFC ownership group's commitment to it's supporters and patient expansion. That question was not answered in this match, and it never was going to be.

So, Michigan Bucks won the match in a rout. That doesn't prove that Duggan's way of working beats the young adults from Detroit's methods. They had the better talent, so they won the game fair and square. That says nothing about the inner workings of the club from a business and marketing standpoint.

I will say that the Rouge and Gold supporters completely took over Ultimate Soccer Arena. The chanting of the Northern Guard was deafening throughout the indoor stadium, and it only got louder as the game approached its end.

It was like the scene at the end of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." Not to call Dan Duggan and the Michigan Bucks The Grinch exactly, but they stole Detroit City's party from them. Despite this they kept on singing and dancing anyway. Much like the Whos welcomed Christmas even after the Grinch had stolen their tree. Defeat wasn't going to keep them down. They were out to prove that they were loyal to their club, in good times and in bad. No talk of a higher level professional team from Bucks' ownership will draw them away from their beloved Le Rouge. I think the best way to get that message across was to keep making a ruckus despite the lopsided defeat.

Their stealing of the show was officially proven when the non-hooligan fans wafted over to the rowdies to snap photos and take videos for social media instead of to the winning side.

Up next for Le Rouge is the NPSL opener against AFC Cleveland on Friday night. Let's hope that one goes a little smoother.

As for the Bucks, they advance to the second round of the US Open Cup to play Portland Timbers 2 next Wednesday, again at Ultimate Soccer Arena. Not going to lie, a part of me wants to head over there wearing my Timbers shirt and scarf.

It Happened in Europe: Juventus draw Real Madrid to reach the final

Real Madrid 1-1 Juventus (2-3 on aggregate)
Juventus got the big 2-1 victory in the home leg against Real Madrid, but travelling to the Spanish capital is far different from playing in the bonkers atmosphere in Turin. Yet the Italian champions were up to the task.

Real Madrid had the front foot early on in the match. They controlled possession and got the first early chances. They got their goal in the 23rd minute on a penalty scored by Cristiano Ronaldo. It was a legitimate penalty call, Giorgio Chiellini did hack out James Rodriguez's calf. Ronaldo buried the kick with ease, going high and straight down the center on Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

At this point, the aggregate was tied but Real Madrid were up by virtue of their away goal from the first leg. They conceded a little bit of possession to the Italians, but little headway was made against the Spanish defense. Juventus only managed two shots, one on goal, in the first half despite controlling 53% of possession. Real Madrid, on the other hand, launched 13 towards Buffon's goal with four reaching the target.

The 1-0 score would make it to halftime.

Juventus's breakthrough came 12 minutes after the restart. Juventus had an attack that just wouldn't die. A free kick that was nearly cleared by Real Madrid ended in Paul Pogba, who was mostly absent for the rest of the match before this, heading a cross to Alvaro Morata for the equalizer that put Juve back on top in the aggregate.

Real Madrid then pressed forward with all their weapons. James Rodriguez had one of the best chances of the match when his bending shot from the top of the box had Buffon beat but it sailed over the upper left corner. Gareth Bale had several chances himself, but some kind of hex was keeping his shots out of the net. Seeing the words "Attempt missed: Gareth Bale" on the ESPN FC commentary was a quite common sight.

Amid all of Real's chances, Juve almost bagged that second away goal that would have sealed the match for Juve. Alvaro Morata almost added his second of the match when he received a perfect through pass from Arturo Vidal, but Iker Casillas barely got a fingertip to his shot. Casillas was called upon again just three minutes from full time when Pogba was alone in the box and blasted a shot that, again, was saved by the Spaniard.

Ronaldo and company would get a few half chances as time wound down, but it was not enough. Juve's defense held stout and they return to the Champions League final for the first time since 2003 to face Barcelona.

Barcelona and Juvenuts will meet in Berlin's Olimpiastadion for all the European marbles on June 6.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Barcelona cruises to Berlin

Bayern Munich 3-2 Barcelona (3-5 on Aggregate)
Barcelona played the way the needed to in order to advance to the Champions League final in Berlin. They got an away goal, or two as it ended up, and bottled up the Bayern Munich attack to the point of impotence.

Bayern Munich thought they had just the start they were looking for when Mehdi Benatia scored on a header off a Xabi Alonso corner. The only way Bayern would win this game was with a quick goal, a a quick second goal, and a clean sheet. They got the first ten minutes they were looking for, but then they forgot to play defense.

Neymar nullified the early goal by being on the end of a spectacular passing play between him, Leo Messi, and Luis Suarez. After a quarter hour, things went from optimistic to mostly hopeless for Bayern.

It went to entirely hopeless only 14 minutes later when Neymar struck again to put Barcelona up 2-1 on the match and 5-1 on aggregate with a pair of away goals.

Both Barcelona first half goals were created by Bayern pressing forward with all their forces because they had to. Barca is just too good to ignore the defensive part of the game. Their front three of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez is probably the best attack in the world. If you push too far forward and ignore even one of those three you will get burned, as Bayern learned today.

What could be frustrating for Bayern is that it wasn't like their attack was without life. They had plenty of chances that were just missing the final ball to finish off the attack.

For the rest of the match, Barca was content playing defense and preventing Bayern from getting any space in the box. The one lapse is defensive concentration allowed Robert Lewandowski to score from the outside of the box. A mistake Barcelona wouldn't make twice. Thomas Muller added one more in the 74th, but it hardly mattered.

Bayern needed five goals in the second half in order to win. Extra time was not an option as soon as Barca got the critical away goal. Five goals against Barcelona is impossible. The numbers required to commit forward would leave too many loose ends for them to exploit. Even when it was 3-1 in aggregate and Bayern still had a chance, Barcelona proved that.

Barca awaits the results of tomorrow's other semi-final between Real Madrid and Juventus in Madrid. Juve carries their 2-1 lead into the second leg, but the Santiago Bernabeu is a tough spot to play. Juve needs an away goal at the minimum in order to see this one through. However, if I were a betting man (which I'm not), I would throw money on Real Madrid creating an all Spanish final.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

It Happened in America: The first Hudson River Derby goes to Red Bulls

Toronto FC 1-2 Houston Dynamo
A fairly bland first half was livened up when Michael Bradley committed one of the most obvious penalties you will ever see in the 43rd minute. Chris Konopka saved the initial penalty, but Boniek Garcia was able to follow up his shot and boot home the rebound. Houston controlled the first half, in general, which was quite shocking. First off, this is Toronto's home opener after starting the season with seven straight on the road. Second, Toronto is the better team.

Toronto's home opener party was ruined even further in the 53rd minute when Giles Barnes made a dazzling counter attacking run before picking out Will Bruin with a perfect pass. Bruin buried the goal with authority to double the Dynamo advantage. It took 77 minutes for Toronto to score their first goal in the newly revamped BMO Field. Jozy Altidore was quite wide open due to DeMarcus Beasley and Jermaine Taylor ball watching. That left the US international alone to head home a Jonathan Osorio cross.

Toronto would attack more, but failed to find any payoff despite a few close calls.

New York Red Bulls 2-1 New York City
The atmosphere of this one was fantastic. The noise level of both sets of supporters was turned up to 11 right from the start. The players certainly felt the energy as well. It was quite a chippy game as things got started.

The red half of New York was the first to rejoice, and it took less than four minutes. The suburban Red Bulls got the jump on their urban rivals when Bradley Wright-Phillips was unmarked by ball watching center backs for an easy tap in from a cross by Lloyd Sam. City thought they had equalized just before the 20 minute mark on a Pablo Alvarez free kick, but his target, Chris Wingert, was offside when he drilled the ball in.

Things weren't all great for Red Bulls though. Matt Miazga was shown his second yellow card in the 36th minute. It was a deserved second yellow. Khiry Shelton was behind the defense and Miazga trampled him down, making the decision easy to make. Being a man down didn't stop Red Bulls from having the better chances over the course of the last ten minutes of the half. It also didn't stop them from finding a second goal after halftime. Bradley Wright-Phillips found his second goal when City fell asleep in transition and he received the pass for an easy tap in.

For being a man up, I was rather unimpressed with City after the half. I expected them to come out with guns blazing, and they did. But their shots failed to hit any targets and they forgot to pay attention to counter attacks. City would have a few nice chances in the Red Bull end, but as soon as they lost possession, the game opened up and they were left scrambling to get back. Wright-Phillips almost had a hat trick had it not been for Josh Saunders getting in the way of his half-pitch breakaway or him not seeing Lloyd Sam with wide open goal to his right.

Shockingly, City looked infinitely better after David Villa was subbed off. They managed to finally pull one back in the 76th minute when Patrick Mullins connected with a great ball from RJ Allen. City was pressuring hard as the game came to a close, but they were still vulnerable to shockingly aggressive counter attacks from Red Bulls. Even in  stoppage time they were threatening to add a third with attacks in transition.

I'll tell you what, the quality of play might have been up to the usual MLS standard, but the atmosphere of this one was terrific. If every City vs. Red Bulls match is this bonkers in the seats, then I will make every one of these guys must see TV, even the return leg at Yankee Stadium's awful pitch.

It Happened In England: The top four is just about set

Manchester City 6-0 Queens Park Rangers
The fate of QPR is sealed as they fail to look like they were even on the pitch against Manchester City. Sergio Aguero had a hat trick, which was enough on its own. Just for fun, Aleksander Kolarov, David Silva, and James Milner each scored. QPR joins Burnley as the first two teams to drop back down to the Championship this season. They are in last place and unable to catch 17th place Newcastle, who stand nine points in front of them. Manchester City, on the other hand, are now playing in the Champions League for sure.

QPR and Burnley will be joined by either Aston Villa, Leicester City, Sunderland, Newcastle, or, as it stands right now, Hull City.

Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
It was John Terry scoring early for the champions as they set out to eliminate Liverpool from Champions League contention. Steven Gerrard, who only has two games remaining at Liverpool after this, headed home a corner only a minute before halftime to level the score at the break. This result pretty much seals the top four as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United, not necessarily in that order. Liverpool's point today means they can still technically catch United for fourth, but the 14 goal gap in goal difference will be pretty tough to make up.

It Happened in America: Timbers win away, Crew with a statement win over Seattle

Chicago Fire 1-2 Real Salt Lake
Chicago was forced to play from behind early when Alvaro Saborio put RSL ahead in the 13th minute. Luke Mulholland doubled the lead just after halftime. Chicago had the possession and the shots, but couldn't really test Nick Rinamdo in goal. Their breath of hope came with a penalty tally from Jeff Larentowicz in the 88th minute.

Montreal Impact 1-2 Portland Timbers
This one was Montreal's first MLS match since April 11. They have been preoccupied with the CONCACAF Champions League and haven't had time for league action. The first half of this one was spend with the two sides feeling each other out. Chances were rare. After halftime, things picked up quite a bit. Portland owned the first ten minutes of the second stanza, They earned a series of corners in the first 12 minutes or so that resulted in almost chances. Montreal got some pace on the counter attack, but came up empty.

Then things got crazy. Nat Borchers put Portland on the board by being on the final end of a series of headers. Fanendo Adi had the chance right before that glanced the cross bar and fell right to Borchers for his second goal of the season. Diego Valeri, in his first start of the year, made his mark just before the 70 minute mark with a truly beautiful effort. Portland's maestro curled a perfect shot in from the corner of the penalty are to make it 2-0 to the visitors. Dominic Oduro cut into the lead less than 30 seconds after the restart by collecting a rebound and booting it home. It was thought that Portland's he had pushed off Jack Jewsbury, leading the referee to wave the goal off.

Somehow, Portland didn't go up 3, 4, or even 5-1 on breakaways that were flubbed my either bad passes, splendid goalkeeping, or awful runs with the ball. Thankfully, for them, their back line held the fort to earn all three points on the road.

DC United 1-1 Sporting Kansas City
Jario Arrieta tapped home DC United's opener in the 42nd minute, but the lead would not last the half as Dom Dwyer equalized on a fine shot for Kansas City just before the first 45 were up. Both teams had their chances in the second half, but none of them were enough to separate the sides.

Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 Philadelphia Union
Vancoucer just keeps on rolling, and Philly just keeps on being awful. Even with their main keeper back, Union still allowed three goals. MLS's worst defense (by far) this time allowed Pedro Morales, Octavio Rivero, and Darren Mattocks to score for the league best Whitecaps. Vancouer's 20 points have them tied with FC Dallas for the lead in the Supporters' Shield race.

Columbus Crew 3-2 Seattle Sounders
What a win for Columbus. Kei Kamara's brace turned out to be better than Clint Dempsey's in this one, as Fedrico Higauin also scored for the Crew. Columbus peppered Stefan Frei with 13 shots on goal out of 24 total. The fact that Frei only allowed 3 goals is somewhat astounding. Columbus was pretty good considering they were down 55-45 in possession by the end of the match.

FC Dallas 2-1 LA Galaxy
Dallas also keeps on rolling along as the Galaxy stumble again without Robbie Keane. Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring for the Galaxy and the 59th minute, but Dallas scored twice in the final quarter hour to earn the points at home. First, it was Blas Perez in the 77th, then Tesho Akindele in the 86th to seal the deal. Galaxy, who are now  a distant sixth in the West, should be thankful that some very big reinforcements in the form of Steven Gerrard are on their way in from Liverpool soon enough.

It Happened in England: Relegation race gets no clearer

The relegation picture is still clear as mud after this Premier League Saturday, here's how the matches went down.

Everton 0-2 Sunderland
The Black Cats take a very important and very shocking step towards staying in the Premier League next season. It was Danny Graham in the 53rd getting an advantageous deflection of a Jordi Gomez shot to open the scoring. Jermaine Defoe capped it off in the 85th to give Sunderland the three points they desperately need.

Aston Villa 1-0 West Ham
Tom Cleverly scored in the 31st minute to give Villa the well deserved three points. It was a much needed win, too. They are now four points and five spots above the drop zone with only two to play. In what looked like the season that Villa might finally drop down, they are now awfully close to safety.

Hull City 0-1 Burnley
Burnley are probably still going down, but they will certainly take a big road win against fellow relegation candidates Hull City. Danny Ings put them in front to stay in the 61st minute. Even with the win, the Clarets still fail to stay alive in the Premier League this season. Newcastle earning a point today means they sit seven points behind safety with only six left to play for.

Leicester City 2-0 Southampton
It was Riyad Mahrez with a double before 20 minutes had been played that give Leicester the win. Once thought to be falling down for sure, the Foxes of Leicester City keep rolling on with their late season surge. They get a big win against the Europa League contending Southampton to move to three point clear in the safe zone. Southampton, on the other hand, could have taken a large step towards Europe had they not faltered.

Newcastle 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
Victor Anichebe scored a huge goal for WBA in the 32nd minute by heading home a corner. This sucked the air out of the home crowd at St. James Park. Ayoze Perez gave them life in the 41st with a nice shot to the bottom corner. With the shared honors, Newcastle are only two points from relegation with Hull nipping at their heels. With QPR and West Ham remaining on their schedule, it could be a very nervy finish on the Tyne River

Stoke City 3-0 Tottenham
Tottenham also screwed the pooch on their chance to qualify for the Europa Leagye. They got whacked right oout of town by midtable also-rans Stoke City. Charlie Adam, Steven N'Zonzi, and Miame Diouf were your goalscorers.

Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United
Liverpool can still technically catch United for the final spot in the Champions League, but this win pretty much sealed the deal for the Red Devils' return to Europe. Juan Mata converted a penaltty in the 19th minute to get it started. Substitue Jason Puncheon scored 12 minutes past halftime to put Palace level, but Marouane Fellaini made sure the points wen United's way in the 78th.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

It Happened in America: Orlando and Colorado snatch late draws

Orlando City 2-2 New England Revolution
It was a thrilling comeback saw the Lions after down 2-0 with less than 20 minutes to play. Charlie Davies slotted home a run after a turnover in the 19th. It was Orlando on the attack from that point on, but they ended up going down further before mounting their true assault. This time it was Kelyn Rowe collecting an awful back header from Rafael Ramos to score on a mostly wide open net. Cyle Larin got Orlando's party started in the 75th when he headed home a cross from Ramos, making up for his earlier error. The equalizer came in the final minute when Aurelien Collin got his head to a Luke Boden cross that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

As a quick side note, the English language announcers on Univision Deportes are... annoying. I understand you are working for a Spanish network and feel the need to give the broadcast that Mexican flavor to it, but you don't have to force out an extended "gooooooooooooaaaall" just because. If the moment warrants a nice, long, drawn out "goal," then by all means go for it. But too many times the calls the action, then, as if he suddenly remembers this is a Spanish language station, he forces out his "goal" in drawn out monotonous fashion. I'd prefer he just describe what happens with an excited tone and let the rest of the moment speak for itself.

Colorado Rapids 1-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Chris Wodndolowski scored a very Wondo goal when he just kind of showed up right around a shot and juked his attempt past Clint Irwin to give San Jose the lead in the 19th minute. Colorado controlled possession, but took their sweet time finding the leveling goal. It finally came a little over two minutes into second half stoppage time. James Riley was able to get his head to a corner to give Rapids a well deserved point, although they may have deserved more. A minute later, David Bingham had to make a great diving save to preserved San Jose's point. Colorado got a nice transition play going that ended in Dillon Powers forcing the Quakes' keeper into action. On the following corner, Lucas Pittinari's header found the woodwork and the follow up went out harmlessly for a goal kick.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: RSL and Galaxy sleep through a 0-0 draw

Real Salt Lake 0-0 LA Galaxy
Thunder and lightning around the Rio Tinto Stadium delayed the start of this one for around an hour. That was it as far as fireworks were concerned as this one was quite the snoozer for 89 minutes.

Real Salt Lake was without their traditional number 10 Javier Morales. As a result, they came out in a 4-1-2-1-2 Diamond formation, hoping to rely less on wide passing. They used Luis Gil in the attacking midfield role, hoping to exploit the middle and get the ball forward to the strike pair of Devon Sandoval and Alvaro Saborio.

Galaxy were without their star man as well, captain Robbie Keane has been out for a while. His absence has been a key factor of their slow start, as their attack has been somewhat lifeless, a trait that would carry on into this one.

The first half was fairly drab. Neither side had anything resembling the final punch needed to score. Real Salt Lake had a couple of runs available, but kept straying offside, making them worthless. RSL's next great chance came in the 41st minute when Luis Gil outran Dan Gargan to the outside. His low cross was only slightly behind Alvaro Saborio.

Galaxy's attack was so impotent that it took them 39 minutes to even register a shot. Not a shot on target, just a shot in general. They had one legitimate chance during first half stoppage time. It came in the form of a Gyasi Zardes header wide of the goal.

Galaxy came out in the second half a little more lively. They controlled possession for a good portion of the half, but still failed to really test the RSL defense for the first twenty minutes. They did manage to double their shot count in the first twenty minutes, but still none of them made it on target. Their first one target came as the clock struck 66 minutes when Nick Rimando was forced to tap an Alan Gordon header barely over the bar.

Rimando had to come up big again in the 70th minute. Although it wasn't a save, Rimando cut out a cross from Travis Ishizaki. Had he failed, it would have been an easy tap in for Gyasi Zardes.

On the ensuing counter attack, RSL had a golden chance that almost ended in either a spectacular goal from Saborio or an own goal off Dan Gargan. Gargan's clearance skidded a couple feet wide of the bar and went for an RSL corner.

Saborio created another great chance with about 15 minutes left when he stole the ball from a stumbling A.J. De la Garza. His shot was deflected, saved by Jamie Pinedo and sent out for a corner. The corner was an almost chance as well, but the header was off the mark.

The thunder returned at the very death of the match. On an LA free kick as the clock struck 90 minutes, Omar Gonzalaez tried to sneak into the box but was dragged down by Jamison Olave. The referee's assistant made the call, as opposed to the ref himself, and Olave was sent into rage at the linesman over the decision.

Gonzalez did go down quite easily, but there was contact and a bit of a pull from Olave. It was desperate and mostly unneeded defending.

For the RSL fans who disagreed with the call, and Olave I suppose, Juninho's penalty was saved by the current USA number one keeper, Nick Rimando,

Olave probably should have given RSL the victory seconds before the final whistle. He received a pass on the edge of the box and fired a shot barely wide of the goal.

Once again, after watching a highly entertaining Champions League match in the afternoon, having this one as a downer was awful. Tuesday night, I wasn't expecting much at all. This one, however, I was expecting two teams who were desperate to get their slow starts to the season into gear.What I got instead was a Real Salt Lake side that looked out of sync and a Galaxy side that didn't entirely look like they wanted to be there for the opening 45 minutes.

I'm sure the weather delay had quite a bit to do with the apathy on the pitch. Sitting around for a whole hour waiting to get things under way had a lot to do with it, but I still expected a little more urgency, especially out of LA. Thankfully, this one was saved a bit by the exciting drama of the final minutes.

Hopefully this somewhat ugly slate of midweek games leads to a more exciting weekend.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Messi's brace sees Barcalona in front

Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich
Pep Guardiola's return to Camp Nou was ruined by a pair of Messi blasts and a Neymar breakaway late in the game to give Barcalona the 3-0 advantage after the first leg. Barca's speed won out over Bayern Munich's physical play, even though they were even for most of the match.

Bayern's aggressive defense was winning the day early in the match, but Barcelona had the first brilliant chance of the match regardless. It came 11 minutes in when Luis Suarez was alone against Manuel Neuer. The Uruguayan tried to go low, but the German international keeper got his foot out to make the save. A simple chip was all Suarez needed to do to give Barca a 1-0 lead. Neymar had another golden opportunity minutes later, but missed from point blank range.

Bayern was able to keep possession in the opening, but chances like the Suarez one proved that they were quite vlnerable on the counter attack. Robert Lewandowski almost converted that possession into something when he was inches away from sliding into a sliding Thomas Muller cross.

Starting around the 20 minute mark, Barcelona started to play the game how they wanted. Messi was delivering great crosses and overall doing what he does. Barcelona's fleetness of foot was becoming a problem for the Bayern back four. The match was quite physical, but Bayern was still committing fouls just to stop the Spaniards from running all over them. Bayern's attemtps to slow things down a bit often ended in failure.

Had it not been for some great goalkeeping by Neuer, it easily would have been 2-0 to Barca at haltime. Instead, the not quite complete finishing meant that it stayed scoreless after 45 minutes.

The chippy nature continued as the second half began. Dani Alves and Thomas Muller were scolded for what looked like glorified cat-fighting in the penalty area before a Bayern corner.

Barcalona tried to pick up the pace in the first quarter hour after the break and Bayern was doing a fine job of not allowing them to. Whenever Messi found himself with the ball near the top of the box he was instantly swarmed by four defenders. When Messi had a chance to get free, Bayern fouled him to slow him down. It was really their only option.

Things started to reek of a scoreless draw as the hour mark approached. Bayern didn't have the legs to outrun Barca, so they didn't look like scoring. Manuel Neuer was having such a strong game that he never looked like conceding. But, boy was I wrong.

Messi ended the talk of a goalless affair with a very Messi-like goal in the 77th minute. Another Bayern turnover in their own half led to him getting the ball in the corner of the box. Messi knew the whole time that he would shoot and he tucked his blast inside the near post, well outside the reach of Neuer. The goal put him back on the level with Ronaldo for most goals in Champions League history.

The second blow came at the stoke of 80 minutes when, you guessed it, sloppy play by Bayern in their own half led to Messi's second of the game. The Argentinian wizard broke Jerome Boateng's ankles and forced him to fall to the turf, giving Messi free reign over the right half of the pitch. His chip over the keeper was top notch, as well. He was tied with Ronaldo for the goals record for all of three minutes before he swam right back in front.

Because 2-0 wasn't enough, Neymarr took advantage of Bayern pushing hard for an away goal to get behind the back line for an easy breakaway goal, and the carnage was complete.

In the end, Barcalona was just too quick for Bayern's physical appraoch.

Bayern had a rough go of things in their own half at times. Constant turnovers in their own half proved to be their ultimate undoing. It's things like this that the Germans will have to clean up if they hope to triumph in the home leg and play a Champions League Final in their home nation.

Things are far from impossible for Bayern Munich. They are a much better team in the Allianz Arena than they are on the road. I'm not saying they can pull of what they did against Porto again, but it wouldn't shock me one bit if this result were flipped around in the second leg, setting up a fantastic extra time thriller on Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: San Jose steals three points from Houston on the road

Houston Dynamo 0-1 San Jose Earthquakes
It was a very dodgy first half. Both sides pressured, Houston a little more so, but they didn't exactly threaten to score until shortly after the half hour mark. Brad Davis scrambled to pick up a weak clearance from the San Jose defense and sailed his shot barely high and wide of the upper corner of the goal for the first real chance of the game.

As Houston started to take the upper hand, San Jose took a blow to their transition game when central midfielder Fatai Alashe was injured and forced to leave in the 29th minute. JJ Koval took his place, but wasn't as effective as Alashe usually would be.

San Jose had a good chance from a Matias Perez Garcia that was saved by Tyler Deric, The rebound eventually fell for Chris Wondolowski, but his header was extremely harmless. That was really it for the first half.

The second half proved to be much livelier.

Houston started on the front foot but still failed to find any payoff. Ricardo Clark drove a low shot that was barely tipped aside by David Bingham. Giles Barnes should have scored, as well, in the 52nd minute when he collected a through ball and got behind the San Jose defense. His shot sailed high and wide.

San Jose stole the lead a couple minutes after that Houston opportunity. Adam Jahn headed home a free kick that the orange defenders were hardly ready for. The ball was only set for the kick for a split second before Perez Garcia came flying in to deliver a perfect feed to the head of Jahn for the goal.

Houston would have a golden opportunity get right back on the level in the 58th minute after a scramble in the box led to a penalty against the Quakes' keeper. Barnes stepped up to take the kick and tried to go lower right corner, but Bingham was ready for it and parried it away to safety.

That would be it for them in terms of real chances. San Jose was content just parking the bus and only pushing forward when they felt like it. Their defensive stance was quite enough to earn the 1-0 victory. David Bingham wins my man of the match. His goaltending was superb despite rarely being tested.

Houston may have dominated possession for most of the game, especially the second half, but their final third play left a lot to be desired. Shots missed the mark, passes were misplaced, and the cohesion in the attacking end was just plain not there. The Dynamo are now winless in four and are outside the playoff picture by three points.

San Jose, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last four and level on points with LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City for fourth in the West.

Going from watching the pinnacle of the sport in the Champions League in the afternoon down to MLS at night really makes clear the vast gap that MLS has to span to become what it aspires to be. The passes were sloppy, the finishing was poor, and the speed of the game was slow. Maybe this boring match wasn't exactly the best comparison, but MLS games don't get near the skill level of any top flight in Europe.

Not that I think this is a huge problem, more of an observation. Nobody, not even the league itself, should ever mistake MLS for some top-tier operation. It was just a radical change going from the semi-final of the biggest club competition in the world, to a pair of mid-table MLS outfits.