Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday MLS: Seattle lucks into a win, Red Bulls stomp DC United

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Portland Timbers
A crowd of 64,358 fans, the largest in MLS this season, watched the Sounders scrap out a win over their arch rivals to get back onto a playoff spot. Although Portland will feel hard done by the end result.

Things didn't get off to a good start for Portland. Obafemi Martins, who missed the last Seattle-Portland match, created a turnover in the Portland penalty area and fought his way to the opening goal in the sixth minute. Portland settled in nicely after conceding. They had a few golden chances over the course of the next half hour, but none had the final touch to score.

In the 40th minute, Seattle was awarded a very controversial penalty. Obafemi Martins was past the defense and in on goal. He got a touch to the ball and sent it towards the post before clattering into Adam Kwarasey, who was then called for a penalty. Kwarasey didn't initiate any contact. He was merely going for the ball, missed it, and was plowed in to by Martins. Evans scored on the penalty, so Seattle was handed a questionable 2-0 lead at halftime.

Portland then experienced a most frustrating early second half. As they failed to get anything of note going forward, they began to resort to sloppy challenges to regain possession. they kept fighting, however. Jack Jewsbury finally gave the Timbers their just reward in the 58th minute. Portland earned a corner and Jewsbury was there to head home Diego Valeri's take to get the Rose City on the board. Seattle's defense tightened up quite well and didn't allow Portland much room to operate as the clock ticked towards the end. There were a few chances, but only one or two real threats.

Seattle uses the win to get back into sixth place and a Western Conference playoff spot. Portland misses a chance to climb as high as third had they won the game. Instead, they are stuck in fifth after an infuriating performance for them. They were, far and away, the better team in many ways. They took 20 shots despite having inferior possession. Seattle never made much progress going forward after the first five minutes and only doubled their lead on a poor penalty call. The Timbers have no reason to hang their heads after this, they really deserved at least a point today.

New York Red Bulls 3-0 DC United
New York was controlling the game early on but didn't catch and great chances until the half hour mark. The one great chance before that was a Sacha Kljestan run that ended in a timely save from Bill Hamid. Lloyd Sam was they man giving the Red Bulls the lead in the 33rd minute against some horrid defending from DC United. Bradley Wright Phillips volleyed home the second goal in the 42nd off a picture perfect cross from Mike Grella.

New York continued their less than subtle domination after the half. Even down 2-0, DC was not able to get anything going in their attacking half. An hour into proceedings they only had two shots compared to New York's 20. In the 64th minute, Wright-Phillips took advantage of more sloppy United play in their own end to bag his second of the game and essentially end any hope DC might have had of coming back to earn a result.

United, who once had a double digit points lead in the East, now see their advantage drop to only two over these Red Bulls. To make their position even less sound, New York has three matches in hand on United. 

Sunday Premier League: Saints roll, Swans upset Manchester United

Southampton 3-0 Norwich City
This was the Saints' game from start to finish even though it took them the entire first half to score. Graziano Pelle scored from the spot in first half stoppage time to give Southampton the lead. A pair of second half goals from Dusan Tedic within three minutes of each other sealed the deal for them. It was the first win of the year for Southampton as they not have five points from their first four games. They also finally showed us what we all knew they were capable of for the first time on the young season. Maybe they can show us more against a higher quality opponent.

Swansea City 2-1 Manchester United
Swansea battles back from a second half deficit against the run of play to earn a huge three points against the Red Devils in Wales. After Juan Mata put Manchester United ahead in the 48th minute. It would last until Andre Ayew leveled in the 61st. Swansea would move in front to stay with a Bafetimbi Gomis goal in the 66th. Gomis now has four goals in as many games and is leading Swansea to a strong start. The Swans are in third with eight points after four games.

It Happened in America: New York City still outside playoffs, Vancouver can't climb atop West

New York City 1-2 Columbus Crew
Columbus foils another chance for NYC to climb into the playoffs. Federico Higuain got the Crew on the board by heading home a tenth minute corner. City would fight back when Andrew Jacobson scored his first goal of the season with a seemingly harmless shot from distance. Both teams put on plenty of attacking pressure,. They combined for 36 shots on the afternoon. It began to look like a draw, especially after Josh Saunders made a great save on Will Trapp in the 82nd minute, The rebound led to a cross to Kei Kamara, who headed home, but was miles offside when he did. Justin Meram got the winner by threading a weak shot past Josh Saunders and through the rest of the New York defense. Columbus moves up to second, pending the results of tonight's Red Bulls-DC United clash. City is still a point and two spots out of the playoffs.

Toronto FC 2-1 Montreal Impact
Toronto takes the 401 Derby with a couple goals from its USMNT standouts. Michael Bradley was the first of the Americans to bury one. He finished off a great passing play started by, who else, Sebastian Giovinco in the 35th minute. Jozy Altidore doubled the lead ten minutes after halftime. Montreal fought back and Dominic Oduro scored in the 74th, but the French Canadian club couldn't muster anything more. Toronto is firmly in a playoff spot, but Montreal falls a point out into seventh. They do have four games to make up on sixth place Orlando though.

Philadelphia Union 0-1 New England Revolution
Diego Fagundez's 51st minute goal was enough to give the Revs the victory on the road against last place Philadelphia. The goal makes Fagundez the youngest player to score 25 career MLS goals. The Union took a bit of a blow right before the final whistle as Cristian Maidana was sent off,. They are firmly in last place in the East, so I doubt his presence will truly make a difference going forward. New England has firm control of fifth place and should be a playoff team, barring some epic collapse.

Orlando City 1-1 Chicago Fire
Orlando struggled to make much of their offense count, but managed to gut out a draw anyway. David Accam put the Fire in front at the half hour mark, but an own goal off of Eric Gehrig in the 37th made sure they couldn't celebrate for long. Orlando proceeded to dictate the flow of the entire game, but failed to fin another goal. They will take the point, even though they probably should have had all three. They hang on to sixth in the East by a point over New York City and Montreal.

Houston Dynamo 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
The Whitecaps' roller coaster season continue as they fall to Houston on the road. They went down due to a 34th minute goal bu Ricardo Clark before things started to truly unravel. Kendal Watson was shown his second yellow card in the 56th minute and Matias Labia did the same in the 64th. Houston proceeded to use the two man advantage to add a goal to their lead in the 87th. It was defender Raul Rodriguez's second of the season. The Caps are still in second, despite the setback. They are a point back of the Galaxy for the top of the Western Conference and the Supporters' Shield. Houston makes progress towards the playoffs, but they are still three points back of San Jose in sixth.

FC Dallas 2-0 Real Salt Lake
Dallas may have had a 57-43 disadvantage in possession, but they outshot Real Salt Lake 21-10 on their way to this 2-0 win. Tesho Akindele scored the first goal from the penalty spot in the 51st minute and Fabian Castillo got the insurance goal in the 79th. Salt Lake, despite copious amounts of possession, only took four shots on target.This defeat sends them down to the Western Conference basement while Dallas climbs to third.

Colorado Rapids 2-1 Sporting Kansas City
Colorado gets another win against a playoff side to escape last place in the West and they had to come from behind to do it. Dom Dwyer scored for Sporting just two minutes after halftime, but Maynor Figueroa in the 53rd and Kevin Doyle in the 76th bumped the Rapids ahead for good. The Rapids even did well controlling things at the end to prevent Kansas City from mounting a true threat at the end. Colorado still isn't going anywhere on the year, although they still have a prayer to make the playoffs. But wins like these can be nice boosts towards the future. Kansas City sits in fourth out West, firmly in the playoffs.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

It Happened in England: Palace upset Chelsea, Man City remains perfect

Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
Newcastle's early defensive strategy involved clatteringinto Alexis Sanchez any time he got free fown the flank. Their physical playu got a little bit out of hand in the 16th minute. Aleksander Mitrovic was sent off for an aggressive and late challenge on Hector Bellerin. All in all, Newcaste was issued three yellows and a red in the first half hour. Not that Arsenal was able to take advantage of playing most of the first half while up a man. Their finishing issues were on full display, culminating in Theo Walcott being unable to chip home a rebound off an Alexis Sanchez shot. Overall, the Gunners attack was lifeless against a shorthanded team that has been known to give up a few goals when at full strength.

The second half rolled around and Arsenal's goal finally came and they weren't the ones who scored it. Fedrico Coloccini's feet redirected an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shot into the Newcastle net to give the Gunners the lead in the 52nd minute. Arsenal took 24 shots on the day, with eight on target, and none of them went in the net. They need a new striker who is capable of beating a goalkeeper, because the Gunners couldn't score in a brothel right now.

AFC Bournemouth 1-1 Leicester CIty
Callum Wilson gave Bournemouth a deserved lead in the 24th minute. It was a goal of the week as well.  Wilson executed a bicycle kick to send the smallest stadium in the Premier League into chaos. It looked like that goal would carry the Cherries through, but Jamie Vardy levelled from the spot for Leicester in the 86th minute to share the points between the sides. The Foxes are the surprise unbeaten team of the year. They have a pair of wins and a pair of draws on the young season.

Aston Villa 2-2 Sunderland
There were plenty of early goals in this one. Yann M'vila came first for Sunderland in the eighth miniute with a stunning free kick, but the Black Cats' lead was short lived. Scott Sinclair buried one from the spot three minutes larer to level for Asto Villa.  Sinclair added a second with a sliding shot to complete a quick counter attack in the 41st. Sunderland's equalizer came in the 51st courtesy of Jeremain Lens and a nice move through the Villa defense. The scoring shut down after that and things stayed level at a pair of goals each.

Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace has always played Chelsea tough, and this time around was no exception. After weathering the Blues' strm for 65 minutes, Palace was rewarded when Bakary Sako blasted home a shot on a counter attack. It took Chelsea some time, but they did manage to tie the score. Radamel Falcao dove to meet the ball with his head in the six yard box for his first Chelsea goal in the 79th minute. Falcao's goal wouldn't stand for long. In the 81st minute, Joel Ward buried a diving header of his own to put Palace back in front. Chelsea threw numbers forward for the remaining nine minutes and five minutes of home field aided stoppage time, but couldn't push another goal through. It was Jose Mourinho's second ever home loss in the Premier League. Chelsea's early season struggles continue. They only have four points from as many games in what was expexcted to be a run at a repeat title.

Liverpool 0-3 West Ham
Liverpool went into this one having not conceded a goal in their first three matches. West Ham changed that two and a half minutes into this one. Manuel Lazini booted home a low cross to put the Hammers up early on. Even while the Reds were pressing forward down a goal, West Ham was still able to push a counter attack through from time to time. On one of these attacks, Mark Noble was able to bang home a deflection from the top of the penalty area to make it 2-0 to the visitors. Diafra Sakho ended any hope of a late Liverpool comeback with a goal right before the end of the 90 minutes.

Manchester City 2-0 Watford
After a first half that featured plenty of Watford defending with zero City goals, the second half opened up with a little more action. Raheem Sterling scored his first Manchester City goal a minute and a half after the restart to finally penetrate the Watford shield. Fernandinho made sure they didn't have to wait long for the second goal. He rifled a shot inside the far post in the 56t minute, doubling the CIty advantage. They didn't need anymore, but they probably could have scored more if they wanted to. City remains the only perfect club with 12 points out of 12 possible.

Stoke CIty 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
This one wasn't going well for Stoke right from the beginning. In the 25th minute Ibrahim Afellay was sent of for slapping Craig Gardner. Charlie Adam was also shown red in the 31st minute for stomping on a WBA player. It took West Bromwish Albion a while to capitalize Seconds before the halftime whistle, Saloman Rondon bounced home a header to put West Brom in the lead at the break. That was all they could muster against the nine man Stoke City squad. Which is kind of sad, even for West Brom.

Tottenham 0-0 Everton
This one ended as a scurried draw, but don't think that it wasn't for Tottenham's lack of trying. Possession may have been even based on the raw percentages, but it was Spurs with the better end of it. The took 20 shots on the day, but Tim Howard was up to each of the six on target. Everton will take the draw on the road in a hostile environment to bring them to five points in four games. Tottenham will continue to shower out of the gate with only two in there four matches.

Friday Night MLS: San Jose takes California Clasico

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 LA Galaxy
Shea Salinas's 18th minute goal was enough for the Quakes to hold off LA and take the points in an intence California Clasico. The game's lone tally came off a rebound from a Quincy Amarikwa header that was saved by Donovan RIcketts.

Galaxy were pressuring for the rest of the half, but thye took a blow just after the break. Amarikwa latched onto a long ball and was clear on goal when Leonardo took him down. The defender was shown straight red for his transgressions and LA was forced to play a man down.  The Quakes may not have threatened with their greater numbers, but they controlled the run of play until the final fifteen minutes. THat's the only time LA started to put on any real pressure.

San Jose is red hot right now. They have won four straight to climb into the sixth and final playoff spot n the West. Galaxy are still in first place, but if Vancouver wins this weekend they fall into second.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Cellar dwellers prevail

Chicago Fire 3-2 New York Red Bulls
Sacha  Kljestan may have gotten New York up in the tenth minute with a penalty, but that would be the best anything would get for the Red Bulls. Kennedy Igboananike got his first of two in the 22nd to put the Fire level and Patrick Nyarko put them in the lead in the 41st. Ronald Zubar made it a game again four minutes after the beginning of the second half, but Chicago had another answer. Igboananike's second, the game winner, came in the 73rd. The still last place Fire were clear and deserved winners here. New York's only two shots on target were the two goals, and the Chicago outshot them in general 17-9. The Red Bulls miss a chance to creep forward on DC United, nut they still have three games in hand to make up the five point difference between them.

Colorado Rapids 2-1 Houston Dynamo
A first half penalty from each team paved the way for Kevin Doyle's second half winner. Colorado's Vicente Sanchez scored from the spot in the 20th and was countered by Brad Davis in the 37th. Doyle found his winner fairly late, in the 78th minute. Sean St. Ledger chipped a cross off the end line that connected with the Irishman's head for the easy goal. Once again, the three points were not enough to pull the Rapids out of last in the West. And Houston misses their opportunity to level themselves with Seattle for the final playoff spot out there.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Night Football: Arsenal, Liverpool share points at the Emirates

Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool
Both side will feel they were robbed by three points in this one. Arsenal will feel the refs cost them a victory, while Liverpool will point squarely at Petr Cech.

Arsenal were in control if this game throughout the first half. The problem was, they were also controlling Liverpool as much as themselves. The Gunners were without Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, who were dropped late from the team due to illness. Due to their two starting center backs being sidelined, Gabriel and Nacho Monreal were forced into anchoring the back line. And what a shaky job they did early on. Not only did they allow the first golden chance of the game less than five minutes in, but they also had trouble clearing the ball out of their own third.

Arsenal spent the first half alternating between controlling the ball with their typical passing style in their attacking half, and turning the ball back over to Liverpool in their defending half. Liverpool really wasn't doing anything. They were just waiting for Arsenal to put themselves offside or take a shot and either step in the way of it or watch it go wide when defending. On the other end, they were allowing Arsenal to screw up their breakout, pounce on the ball, and take another shot.

Arsenal's spells of possession weren't exactly fruitless either. Aaron Ramsay should have had the opening goal within the first quarter hour after he collected a through ball from Mesut Ozil, but he was incorrectly ruled offside as he put the ball in the net. Even with the chances, each one of the increasing number of turnovers was creating a better and better chance for Liverpool. Christian Benteke was robbed by Petr Cech just before the 40 minute mark after one of said turnovers. In fact, Petr Cech was the only reason this game wasn't 3-0 to Liverpool at halftime. His crowning achievement of the opening half was barely getting enough of a touch to keep Philippe Coutinho from scoring a stunner in the 44th minute.

In the second half, Arsenal was in more positive control. The silly back line turnovers stopped, for the most part, and the attractive passing play in Liverpool's end became more and more prevalent. Arsenal had the bulk of the chances in the second 45, but Simon Mignolet made a couple nice saves and Martin Skrtel made more than his fair share of timely clearances. Skrtel was probably Liverpool's man of the match. As Arsenal brought on fresh attacking bodies, it was he who kept pace with the speed and power of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Speaking of Arsenal's two subs, they didn't really have their desired impact. Both Chamberlain and Walcott entered the game with the expectation of creating pace down each flank. Neither accomplished their goal. Walcott was non-existent for his brief time on the pitch. Oxlade-Chamberlain was noticed for all the wrong reasons. Each touch he took was followed by an ill advised shot or off target pass.

Liverpool was able to get forward a couple of times, but they never gave the makeshift Arsenal back line all that many nervy moments.

It will be hard to look back at this match without referencing the Aaron Ramsay disallowed goal. It was clearly a case of linesman error as he was most certainly onside. It would have given Arsenal a huge early lead. Considering the amount of control they displayed throughout the rest of the match, particularly in the second half, it is beyond conceivable to think that they would have held on, maybe even scored another goal.

Arsenal have now gone two home matches without scoring a goal, which is concerning considering the firepower this team has up front. Perhaps the answer is for Arsene Wenger to add another high priced attacking player, a move he has been criticized for considering throughout the summer.

Liverpool is also having troubles scoring, they won on opening weekend only because of a highlight reel goal by Coutinho. They won in week two by a 1-0 score as well. So, while they can't seem to score much, they do have the benefit of not having conceded in their first three matches. But you can't win if you don't score. And if you don't win, you don't see Champions League games next season.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday MLS: Galaxy dominates New York City in battle of the old European superstars

LA Galaxy 5-1 New York City FC
I'm going to call this game the MLS Retirement Home Cup from now until both teams stop bringing in aging Europeans (or Mexicans to account for Giovani dos Santos). Although Frank Lampard wasn't in New York City's 18 this afternoon, they still trotted David Villa and Andrea Pirlo out there against LA's dos Santos, Robbie Keane, and Steven Gerrard.

The first half hour or so of this game was a fairly good reminder of how far MLS has to go in order to catch up to the rest of the world's domestic leagues. There was sloppy defending by both sides. The best example was when Josh Saunders went to take a goal kick and made it look like he was only nine years old. The unaware NYC defender let it bumble off his feet right to Gyasi Zardes, who prompted to mismanage the three on one break that LA were gifted. NYC was defending like pylons and getting away with it because LA was shooting like they were drunk.

Later in the first half, LA's finishing remained a problem. Just before the half hour mark, Robbie Keane drilled a shot off the underside of the crossbar and nobody was able to bury the rebound. A couple minutes after that, Giovani dos Santos couldn't bury one in an open net. Several chances off the rebound resulted in the ball going in off a very offside Sebastian Lletget.

Galaxy finally found some sobriety amongst City's absentee defending in the 36th minute. City turned the ball over in their own half once again and Robbie Keane was there to collect. He played a great ball forward to Gyasi Zardes who headed home the game's first goal.

LA had more time to sober up after the halftime whistle.

In the 54th minute, Robbie Keane was able to blow by the New York City back line for a tap in past Josh Saunders. Dos Santos chipped home the third on a 2 on 1 breakaway after blowing past another display of flat footed defending. Sebastian Lletget just before the 70 minute mark to make sure this one was beyond over.

To make sure they didn't go home empty handed, Patrick Mullins managed to draw a penalty against Dan Gargan in the 79th minute. David Villa stepped to the spot and confidently nailed the kick. Not that it was even close to enough to make New York City feel good about their trip to Southern California. Because LA didn't want New York to leave with any shred of hope, Robbie Keane grabbed hisbrace a minute after that penalty. In case you lost count, that was Keane's 12th goal in seven matches. It was also Galaxy's 1,000th goal in MLS. They are the first MLS club to hit that milestone.

To be perfectly honest, New York City was so bad today that they are lucky they didn't concede ten or more goals. The sad part is, they are still in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. For them to make the playoffs however, they really need to start playing a little bit of defense. They clearly didn't today. It wouldn't hurt if they got a little more heart out of their big name designated players, too. Pirlo has been pretty lazy since shipping in from Italy. Lampard has barely even been on the field since coming in from Manchester City. Villa has been playing down to the level of his peers. The only non-big name who has had an impact on their team of late is Kwadwo Poku, who is quickly looking like the next big thing in MLS. For now, New York City will slink on back to the east coast still mired in seventh place and outside the East playoff picture.

LA will take the easy three points and leapfrog Vancouver into the Wester Conference and Supporters' Shield lead, although the Whitecaps have a game in hand over them. They seem to have everything going at just the right time. Robbie Keane is unstoppable. Giovani dos Santos is adjusting very well to the MLS atmosphere. They still have Gyasi Zardes and Steven Gerrard behind those two. Watch out for this team in the playoffs. They certainly look like repeating as champions.

Sunday Premier League: Chelsea wins ugly,

West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Chelsea
The first chance of the game came in the 13th minute when West Bromwich Albion was awarded a penalty for a foolish challenge in the box by Nemanja Matic. James Morrison stepped up to the spot and drove it right down the center of the goal into Thibaut Courtois's leg. Matic was having a problem with physical play in general early in the match. He was yellow carded in the 17th minute for an aggressive challenge on Callum McManaman.

Despite WBA getting forward and creating some semi-chance, Pedro struck for Chelsea's first goal in the 20th minute. In his Premier League debut, he took a shot in heavy traffic that took a slight deflection on its way into the net. Just before the half hour mark, Diego Costa scored his first of the season on a counter attack from a West Brom corner.

The early goals did not have West Brom completely defeated. The Baggies were back into the game as the clock ticked to 35 minutes. James Morrison made up for his penalty miss by banging home a cross from Salomon Rondon to make it 2-1 to the visitors. But the sense of hope would not last for long. Cesar Azpilicueta became the third Spaniard to score for Chelsea on the day when his shot trickled into the WBA goal to make it 3-1 heading into halftime.

The continuing saga of John Terry's season took another twist in the 54th minute. He was sent off for bringing down Rondon as he was in on goal. After he was subbed off at halftime last week for reasons unknown, this should make for an interesting off field story at Chelsea this coming week. Ten man Chelsea would conceded Morrison's second of the year five minutes after the sending off. General possession numbers slowly started to shits in West Brom's favor, but they failed to find a breakthrough.

Between the missed penalty and having to play the last 35 minutes of the match without one of their top defenders, Chelsea are lucky to have escaped this one with all three points. Had they been playing a team that won't be fighting relegation all year, they probably would have dropped points. Based on their first three games, Chelsea are more of a side show that a true title contender. They have only four points from three matches and their manager and captain have been creating more off field storylines than on field highlights.

Everton 0-1 Manchester City
Manchester City had been the better team for the majority of the first half. They got off nine first half shots, but only a couple could have been considered half chances. Everton wasn't any better. They had fewer shots, but probably just as many real goal scoring opportunities. Everton probably should have taken the lead in 25th minute when Romelu Lukaku put the ball in the net, but he was judged to have been offside, perhaps incorrectly.

Manchester City came out firing some more in the second half. The opening moments were all about their attack. The first salvo culminated in David Silva drilling a post in the second minute of the second stanza. Alexander Kolarov broke the scoreless tie just before the hour mark. He connected on a pass from Raheem Sterling right along the end line. By dark magic, or something, he was able to thread the ball between Tim Howard and the near post at the right angle to find the back of the net.

The put away goal came from Samir Nasri with only two minutes remaining. He worked a give and go with Yaya Toure and played a perfect chip over a helpless Tim Howard. City remains perfect on the young season, and they have done it in quite convincing fashion. The opener against West Brom was a cake walk, They owned Chelsea last weekend. Now, they rook down a tricky Everton side on the road by a pair of goals. Chelsea may have been the favorites before things got started, but now, Manchester City has to be leading any and all title conversations.

Watford 0-0 Southampton
In a fairly lifeless first half, the only moment of note was a rough one for Southampton. That was losing Sadio Mane to injury and having to use a sub in the 25th minute. The loss may have cost them a chance or two in this match, but it should also hurt going forward. As for the rest of the match, a draw was probably the most likely result. Both sides were pressing and taking shots, but neither one had the finishing punch to get a goal.

It Happened in America: Vancouver takes Shield lead, Crew get dramatic win

Toronto FC 5-0 Orlando City
Toronto owned the first half of this one. They held the ball for nearly 60% of the half and outshot Orlando 6-1, but failed to score any goals despite the fact that Orlando had been playing a man down since the 36th minute. Their goal came very early in the second half. Within the first minute after the break, Michael Bradley made some great headway down the left flank and into the penalty area. He slipped a nice pass to Marco Delgado, who had a wide open goal. Toronto doubled their lead in the 57th minute from Sebastian Giovinco doing what Sebastian Giovinco does. In this case, it was bomb free kicks in off the post from 20 yards out. He assisted on the third Toronto goal put in by Justin Morrow. How important is Giovinvo to Toronto FC? He has either scored or assisted on 21 of their last 28 goals. Insane. Jozy Altidore scored the fourth goal from the spot in the 83rd after Adrian Winter was sent off for a second yellow. Altidore scored the fifth with a header two minute later. Let's just say that nine man Orlando was happy when the final whistle blew and this humiliation was over.
DC United 0-2 San Jose Earthquakes
United's slide continues as the now former Supporters' Shield leaders drop another game at home to an opponent currently outside the playoff picture. Christ Wondolowski started the Quakes' night early by being in the right place at the right time to slot home the opening goal in the fourth minute. Shea Salinas added the second in the 52nd minute with what looked like an accidental shot. He got the finish, but Quincy Amarikwa was the man who did the dirty work with a filthy run through DC's flat footed midfield defense. United will really wonder how they failed to get a goal. They took 23 shots, but only four were on target. Their lead on top of the East is now down to five points, and the second place Red Bulls have four whole games in hand.
Columbus Crew 3-2 Sporting Kansas City
Kansas City has made a small habit of winning games late, but this time the tables were turned as it was Columbus with the late goals to steal three points against SKC. Sporting jumped out to the early lead with a Marcel de Jong goal in the 14th minute. Ethan Finlay levelled for the home team in the 35th minute, however. The next SKC lead emerged just after the hour mark. Graham Zusi was the man with a beautiful shot from the corner of the box that hooked its way inside the far post. SKC would hold on until the final ten minutes. Tony Tchani buried Gonzalo Higuain's free kick in the 80th minute to tie it at two. Jack McInerney won it with his first Crew goal since transfering in from Montreal.
Montreal Impact 0-1 Philadelphia Union
Sebastian Le Toux has a thing for late goals. He got the lone goal in this one in the 78th minute to steal the game for the Union and ruin Didier Drogba's MLS debut. The Ivorian legend came on just before the hour mark, but failed to have any real impact for the Impact. Although he did barely miss a free kick in the final minute before stoppage time. On the night, Montreal outshot their American opposition 16-7 and controlled 65% of possession, so they will really feel they should have at least held on for a point.
Chicago Fire 0-1 Colorado Rapids
In a battle of the last place teams in each conference, Dillon Serna wasted no time giving the Rapids a lead on the road. He scored put home Gabriel Torres's pass 47 seconds into the match. That was enough for Colorado as they held for the remaining 89 minutes. The clean sheet was not for a lack of Fire attempts. The Eastern Conference cellar dwellers launched 20 shots on Clint Irwin's goal while controlling two thirds of possession. There's a reason the Fire are in last place.
Real Salt Lake 2-0 Seattle Sounders
Seattle had their big goal scoring outburst last week, and this time they return to the recent form of staying off the scoreboard. On the flip side of that coin, Real Salt Lake probably played their best game of the season. Javier Morales scored from the spot in the 12th minute in. Sebastian Jaime doubled the lead seven minutes later and that was all RSL needed to take all three points. Seattle was lifeless on the road. They only took five shots on the night and only one landed on target. They are still in a playoff spot, but with the way San Jose has been playing, it's only a matter of time before they take the Sounders over.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 FC Dallas
Vancouver gets a mid-first half goal from Cristian Techera to snag three points from Dallas and jump into the Supporters' Shield lead. It was quite the goal too. Kekuta Manneh made a determined individual effort to run across the center of the pitch with the ball before playing a low cross towards Techera and two Dallas defenders. Somehow, he managed to get a heel to the ball and direct it into the goal. The game in general was very tight and defensive. Each side only took seven shots total. Vancouver, in general, started to defend more after they got their goal. Dallas failed to penetrate the Caps' shield and thus dropped the points. Vancouver overtakes DC United at the top of the league. Dallas stays down in fifth,  three points clear of a playoff spot.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It Happened in England: Bournemouth gets first win, Palace gets late winner from Sako

Manchester United 0-0 Newcastle
The first half of this one was fairly tame. I expected Manchester United to get a little more of a jump on the visitors, but they never really threatened to score. In fact, as the half wore on, it was Newcastle with the better chances. The second half featured some pretty defensive Newcastle tactics. The Magpies showed little interest in attacking and were quite content trying to hold out for a scoreless draw. And despite Manchester United having upwards of 70% of the ball in the second half, no goals came.

Leicester City 1-1 Tottenham
This one was really nothing special until the final ten minutes. Bamidele Alli broke a scoreless deadlock in the 81st minute with a pretty diving header near the goal post. Just when Tottenham felt they could enjoy a lead for the remainder of the match, Riyad Mahrez equalized with a shot through traffic. It was his fourth goal in three matches, which is setting the pace in the Premier League. Tottenham will rue their superior number of possession and shots, but kudos to the Foxes for weathering the storm and battling out a draw against a tough opponent. The point means that Leicester sit on top of the table until Manchester City and Liverpool play tomorrow.

Crystal Palace 2-1 Aston Villa
After no goals were scored in the first 45 minutes, Crystal Palace began attacking in earnest after the break. They though they had the lead seconds before the hour mark when James McArthur chested home a pass from Dwight Gale. Originally ruled a good goal, the referee went on to have a long talk with his assistant before finally ruling McArthur to have been offside. They would eventually get their goal in the 71st minute from Scott Dann. Their lead would only last for six minutes before Papa Souare put one into his own goal to level the score at a goal each. But joy would return to the Eagles' supporters before the end of proceedings. Bakary Sako, in his Palace debut, bagged the winner after  lazy Villa turnover in the 87th minute.

Norwich City 1-1 Stoke City
Xherdan Shaqiri was making his Stoke City debut and it didn't take long for the Swiss international to get involved. In the 11th minute he lined up to take a free kick that found the head of Mame Diouf and the back of the Norwich goal. The lead would last until shortly before the half hour mark. Russel Wilson took advantage of Stoke failing to clear their penalty area by slipping a shot through Jack Butland's five hole. That would sum up the scoring as both sides failed to break through in the second half.

Sunderland 1-1 Swansea City
it looked like this match was tracking towards a goalless first half, but Bafetimbi Gomis continues his hot start to the season by scoring his third goal in as many games in the final minute of first half stoppage time. Jermaine Defoe scored his second of they year to give the Black Cats a point on the afternoon.

West Ham 3-4 AFC Bournemouth
It took until their third game, but Bournemouth finally scored their first ever Premier League goal in the 11th minute of this one. Callum Wilson was the man with the historic moment for the Cherries by booting home a Simon Francis cross on a first time touch. They wouldn't have to wait so long for their second. Wilson pounced on a loose ball in the box to earn his brace in the 28th minute. west Ham would scratch and claw their way back into the game early in the second half. It began in the 48th minute when Mark Noble buried a penalty. The Hammers tied it up five minutes later through Cheikhou Kouyat√©. Bournemouth would recover, however. Mark Pugh put them back in front in the 66th and Wilson notched a penalty of his own to complete his hat trick in the 78th.  Modibo Maiga's 82nd minute goal would make it a game for the last ten minutes, but it wasn't enough and Bournemouth earned their first Premier League win in high scoring style..

Friday MLS: Timbers fight back to draw Dynamo

Portland timbers 2-2 Houston Dynamo
A fairly solid first half for Portland was ruined by a pretty rough five minutes at the end of the first half. After controlling the play and creating the majority of the chances, they conceded at the stroke of 40 minutes by allowing Will Bruin a little too much space along the right edge of the penalty area where he could play off a pass to Oscar Garcia for the tuck in goal. The second Houston goal five minutes later looked very similar. This time it was Bruin himself tucking home the shot from inside the far post after a feed from Brad Davis.

Naturally, Houston was comfortable defending their way through the second half. For the first half hour they did quite well at it, too. Darlington Nagbe got the Timbers on the board in the 76th minute by taking the ball out of a scramble atop the penalty area, darting out wide, and placing a shot inside the far post for his second goal of the season. Lucas Melano tipped home an attempt by Diego Valeri in the 86th minute to level the score. It was the Argentine's first MLS goal.

Portland had to weather a slight storm as stoppage time hit in the second half. Diego Chara threw an elbow on Erik Torres to earn himself straight red. Thankfully for the Timbers, Houston was unable to capitalize in the three minutes they had a man advantage.

The draw does more damage to the playoff hopes of Houston than it does to Portland. They are still three points back of the final Western Conference playoff spot. Portland moves into a tie for fourth with Sporting Kansas City with eight matches left in the regular season.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Crew and NYC even, San Jose routs SKC

Columbus Crew 2-2 New York City
Kei Kamara began the scoring by extending his golden boot lead in the 24th minute. It was his league leading 18th goal of the season. Columbus would ride that lead into halftime before New York City was able to respond. Kwadwo Poku got his first of two goals in ten minutes in the 57th. Poku made a brilliant run to collect a wonderfully threaded David Villa pass behind the Crew back line for an easy tap in past Steve Clark. His second came in the 66th by booting home a shot from the top of the box off a corner. Cedrick Mabwati scored his first goal for the Crew in the 72nd with some nice footwork through traffic and a wonderful give and go with Kamara. The storms came in the 77th minute, causing a delay of a little more than an hour. Afterwards, both sides' play was choppy and neither side was able to assemble much of anything causing the score to stay level.

City misses an opportunity to leapfrog Montreal into a playoff spot. The single point tonight leaves those tow teams tied for sixth place. Columbus, meanwhile, breaks the tie for third in the East, they are now a point ahead of New England.

Sporting Kansas City 0-5 San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose takes a very loud step towards a playoff spot by handing Kansas City a defeat they will want to forget. Cordell Cato set the tone early with a goal in the third minute. Chris Wondolowski added a penalty in the 17th. Anibal Godoy made it 3-0 before halftime by scoring his first of the season in the 27th. After the half, Cato and Wondo would score again to ensure that the final half hour would be a mere formality. Frustration set in for Kansas City with less than 20 minutes to play as Benny Feilhaber was given a red card for denying a Quincy Amarikwa a goal scoring opportunity. It was a soft call, a yellow card probably would have been enough considering the score, but regardless, Feilhaber will miss this weekend's clash at Columbus.

The win puts the Quakes three points out of the Western Conference playoff picture, while the defeat thwarts a chance for Kansas City to move to the top of the Western pile.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Night Football: Liverpool slip past Bournemouth

Liverpool 1-0 AFC Bournemouth
Liverpool have back to back 1-0 wins to open their season, but this one probably should have been by a couple more goals. The one goal came from Christian Benteke opening his Liverpool scoring account in the 26th minute. The goal was somewhat questionable. He booted home a cross from Jordan Henderson that cause a little controversy. Although not making a touch, Philippe Coutinho did make a solid attempt at landing the cross for himself, although he was yards offside. The goal probably should have been disallowed because of Coutinho's offside position, for he made himself part of the play.

Bournemouth had their chances to score. In the fifth minute they had a goal taken away for an unnecessary foul. Tommy Elphic rose to head a corner into the net, but he pulled Dejan Lovren at the shoulders to aid in his effort. They would force a great save out of Simon Mignolet just five minutes into the second half. They would take 13 shots total, but none found their way in the net.

Liverpool become the fourth Premier League side to win their first two games. Neither once was exactly convincing. The only reason they didn't bore themselves into a draw in the opener at Stoke was Coutinho's golazo in the dying minutes. They were lucky to have their goal today counted and that their opposition never scored any of their own. Overall, the Reds can't complain about their start. Six points from six possible is good for anyone.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Night MLS: Seattle scores a lot for once, Union and Fire with a late thrill

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Orlando City
You knew Seattle's goal scoring drought wouldn't last forever. Tonight they decided to unload a couple of months worth of scoring frustration on Orlando City. One big reason the goals went flying was the return of Obafemi martins, who had been sidelined by injury since Seattle's humbling US Open Cup loss against Portland. Martins waited only 17 minutes into his return to add his name to the scoresheet. He was then joined by Nelson Valdez in the 51st, added his second in the 62nd, and watched Thomas (just Thomas) add one for fun in second half stoppage time.

It was an overall frustrating afternoon in the northwest for Orlando City. They took a grand total of six shots in the match with none on goal. Let's just say it was one they would like to move on from as quickly as possible as they miss a chance to jump into an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The win doesn't immediately help the Sounders in the standings. They are still four points clear in sixth place out West and three points back of Dallas for fifth.

Philadelphia Union 3-3 Chicago Fire
This one made up for what the earlier game lacked in drama despite being a matchup of a couple of MLS cellar dwellers. Kennedy Igboananike started the flurry of goals for Chicago in the ninth minute. Philly would tie the score in the 21st minute with a header from Fernando Aristeguieta. Ten minutes later, Union would be ahead after a shot by Fabinho was  deflected past Sean Johnson. That lead would last into the second half. In the 54th minute, the Fire would equalize thanks to some great off ball movement by Patrick Nyarko to give himself an easy shot and great vision and passing by Igboananike to set it up.

Then came the chaotic finish. Union thought they had they game won as the clock struck 90 minutes as Sebastian Le Toux slipped home a goal in a four on three rush in the final minute of play. But all the celebration was for naught. Igboananike struck again in the second added minute to force the teams to share  a point.

Not that the point helps either side. The Fire are in last place in the East (and the entire league) and Union are only a point ahead of them. So neither side is going to make any waves in the playoff race.

Sunday Premier League: Arsenal get on track, Manchester City hammers Chelsea

Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal
After a disheartening loss to West Ham on their home turf last week, Arsenal were looking to get back on the right foot with a win in South London. They got off to the start that they wanted as they scored their first goal of the season in the 16th minute. Olivier Giroud was the man with a falling volley into Alex McCarthy's goal. Along with the goal, Arsenal was really playing the type of game they should have had against West Ham. After 20 minutes, they had already taken eight shots to Palace's two and held a 66% possession advantage.

The opening flurry of Arsenal success would soon subside. Joel Ward would bring Crystal Palace level in the 27th minute. He took a long range shot that found its way through the Arsenal defense and past Petr Cech. The rest of the first half was a pretty thrilling back and forth affair, but neither side was able to add another goal.

The second half started with Crystal Palace almost jumping into the lead. Connor Wickham latched himself onto a clever cross from Wilfried Zaha, but the shot nailed the cross bar after beating Cech. It was Arsenal with the go ahead goal in the 55th minute. Alexis Sanchez rose to a cross and headed it down towards goal. The attempt may have been going wide if not for the touch of Damien Delaney's toe to redirect it into the net.

As the second half wore on, Palace came alive with threats to score. Their best chance was less than two minutes before the 90 were up. Joel Ward rose to head a corner downward towards the goal, but it came right to Cech for an easy save. That was the most Palace could muster before the final whistle.

Arsenal earns themselves a needed win after the let down against West Ham in the opener. It would have been quite the setback to open the season with a pair of losses, or even only a point from their first two. Now, it could be reduced to a small hiccup in the grand scheme of the season. 

Crystal Palace has no reason to hang their heads. They came close to finding an equalizer in the end of this one and they only lost because of an unfortunate bounce on an own goal. Overall, they played a strong game, they just succumbed to the fact that Arsenal is a better team. This result is not a shock to anyone, and Palace will be fine going forward as they chase another strong finish.

Manchester City 3-0 Chelsea
City almost got going straight away in this one. Jesus Navas had a golden opportunity just 30 seconds in, but Asmir Begovic was up to the task. City, in general, was having some wonderful chances in the first 20 minutes through their superior attacking play. Chelsea was forced to defend and weather the City storm early on. City's efforts were rewarded in the 32nd minute when Sergio Aguero navigated a cluttered penalty area to slot home the opening goal.

At the end of the first half, Chelsea started to feel the effects of the physical play both sides were throwing around. Gary Cahill had to leave the pitch with a bloody nose. Diego Costa took a blow to the back of the head that drew blood and required a heavy duty wrap to keep him in the game. Thankfully, neither player missed significant time and were able to recover after the halftime whistle that went minutes later.

City came out with more of the same attacking flair that they showed in the first half. They earned a free kick on the edge of the box in the 47th minute that led to a quality chance. Minutes after this, Chelsea was able to counter and appeared to have had a goal from Ramires, but he was ruled offside. The scattered threats from Chelsea were not enough to wrestle control of the match away from Manchester City. Their bus wasn't exactly parked in front of their goal either. Even into the final 15 minutes of the match, the Citizens were putting a press on the Blues' back line, even if it was only with three or four players.

The pressing paid off in the form of a second goal in the 79th minute. Vincent Kompany headed a David Silva corner into the lower 90 to essentially give Manchester City the points and the top spot in the table for the second week running. In case that wasn't enough, Fernandinho took advantage of Chelsea's inability to clear their own penalty area in the 85th minute. He took hold of a loose ball and blasted a shot past a helpless Begovic.

Chelsea now only has a single point from its first two matches, including last week's draw against Swansea City at home. This afternoon, they can take solace in the fact that they were without Thibault Courtois, their starting keeper, due to red card suspension. He may have kept a couple of City's goals out, but he would not have helped the Blues score any of their own. However, they shouldn't be that concerned for their title defense, there is still plenty of time to recover. 

Manchester City can take plenty of pride in this win. They controlled the match against what many people believe is the best team in the Premier League. They lit up a strong defensive side for three goals, all while keeping that strong Chelsea attack off the scoreboard. They used the exact formula necessary to challenge Chelsea over the course of a long season.

It Happened in America: Kansas City with a huge comeback, Portland rescues a late win

New York Red Bulls 3-0 Toronto FC
The Wright-Phillips brothers continue to get the job done for the red side of New York. Bradley scored the first goal for them in this one, his eleventh of the season, with a perfect chip off a pass from Mike Grella. Toronto barely even showed up to the match. They took greater advantage of Toronto's absenteeism at the stroke of 65 minutes when Anthony Wallace fired one home from close to 25 yards out. It was a shot that Joe Bendik really should have gotten his hands to. The third goal came with all of 30 seconds remaining in three minutes of stoppage time. Bradley Wright-Phillips was leading a counter, took a shot, had it stopped, only for the rebound to go right to Gonzalo Veron for the easy goal and the 3-0 win for New York.

New England Revolution 2-0 Houston Dynamo
After only 12 minutes had been played, severe weather moved in on Gillette Stadium, causing a delay that would last for more than two hours. Once they finally got started, neither team was quite ready. At halftime, another severe storm rolled in to delay the game even further. The total time elapsed between the two delays was two hours and 50 minutes. The second half was more lively than the segmented first half. New England got their first goal in the 69th minute from Jose Goncalves. The finishing goal came from Juan Agudelo in the 88th. Houston had a rough night and never got going. They only got one shot on target for the match.

Sporting Kansas City 4-3 Vancouver Whitecaps
What a comeback by SKC. It looked like Vancouver would run away with this one pretty early on. Kekuta Manneh scored twice in the first half to give the Western Conference leaders a 2-0 lead heading into the break. Kevin Ellis got Kansas City on the board with a goal in the 53rd minute. It looked like the Caps had this one put away in the 75th minute when Pedro Morales made it 3-1 on a free kick. That's when SKC took off. Dom Dwyer scored the first of the comeback in the 81st. Then Paulo Nagamura equalized in the 87th. Finally, it was Nagamura again with the winner four minutes deep into stoppage time. The loss hurts Vancouver big time. They fall out of first place in the West. Kansas City, who sits in third, is only three points out of the top spot.

FC Dallas 1-2 LA Galaxy
Michael Barrios put the home side up in the 33rd minute, but it wouldn't hold the entire match. Robbie Keane bagged the first of his two goals int he 51st minute. The second came five minutes later. The closest Dallas came to an equalizer was at the 65 minute mark when Blas Perez had a quality shot, but was robbed by Donovan Ricketts. With the win, LA leapfrogs Vancouver into first out West.

Real Salt Lake 0-1 Portland Timbers
Former Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers rescued this one from the grips of a scoreless draw at the death of the match. The bearded one headed home a corner in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time to secure a big three points for the Timbers. The win vaults Portland into fourth place, while RSL is still three points and three spots out of the playoffs.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

It Happened in England: Everton rolls over Southampton, Leicester gets another win

Southampton 0-3 Everton
This wasn't the way Saints had envisioned their home season starting off. As for Everton, they will take three points against a strong opponent in the road. Romelu Lukaku had a rough go in his first full season with Everton, but his first goal of the new campaign came early in this one. In the 22nd minute, he headed home a cross off the far post to put the Toffees ahead. His brace came a minute before the halftime whistle with a low shot from outside the box that evaded a diving Maarten Steckelenburg. As for the second half, Everton played a picture perfect game of keep away and defending to allow that pair of goals hold up. The even added a third in the 84th minute. Ross Barkley's upper 90 blast put this game away, as if it wasn't already.

West Ham 1-2 Leicester City
Diafra Sakho came inches away from giving West Ham a second minute lead when his shot found the woodwork. That would come to haunt the Hammers as they ended up going down a goal in the 27th minute courtesy of Leicester's Shinji Okazaki and his persistence in the penalty area. To add to the Foxes' joy, Riyad Mahrez scored his third of the young season in the 38th. West Ham climbed back into the match in the second half. They were able to get the jump on Leicester after the break and got a goal from Dimitri Payet in the 55th minute. Their chances would end in the first minute of stoppage time when Adrian, their keeper, was shown straight red for a glorious boot to the gut of Jaimie Vardy while he was playing up on a corner. Having already used all of their subs, the goalkeeping duties were handed over to Carl Jenkinson for the last couple minutes of the match. After a win last week against Sunderland and now this big road win, Leicester are off to a nice start to the season and find themselves on the top of the league for a day.

Swansea City 2-0 Newcastle
Getting a nice boost from earning a point against the defending champions, Swansea started this one off with a bang. Bafetimbi Gomis, who scored last weekend as well, put the Welsh side up in the ninth minute by blazing past the Newcastle defense on a through ball for an easy goal into a wide open net. They were able to keep it going into the second half andAndre Ayew doubled the lead in the 52nd minute. That was all they would need to win a match they truly dominated. Swansea are off to a nice start this year as they look to shock some of the big clubs and qualify for some continental competition next year.

Sunderland 1-3 Norwich City
Norwich got the jump on their hosts in the first half with a pair of goals to give the newly promoted side a nice lead on the road. Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker were the men getting the job done for the visitors. Nathan Redmond became the third different Norwich goal scorer in the 52nd minute to essentially end any hope of a Sunderland comeback. Although the Black Cats did get a consolation goal from Duncan Watmore in the 88th minute.

Tottenham 2-2 Stoke City
Stoke made headlines over the week with the signing of Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, but they were without their record purchase for this big one. Shaqiri was left off the team to serve a mandatory suspension carrying over from yellow card accumulation in Italy's Copa Italia. Sort of unfortunate that Stoke had to be punished for that. By the letter of the law, it makes sense. But, had he stayed in Italy, the suspension would not have applied to any league games, only a cup match. Stoke tried, and failed, to have the suspension carried over to the FA Cup instead.

As for the match, Eric Dier headed home a corner in the 19th minute for Spurs' first goal in this one. Nacer Chadli added another one in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half. Although it took them a while, Stoke did get back into the match. In the 78th minute, Marko Aranautovic scored from the spot to get them on the boad. Mame Diouf levelled the score five minutes later with a gorgeous diving header. That was enough to spoil Tottenham's home opener and salvage a point for Stoke.

Watford 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
Watford were certainly the better team in their first home match back in the Premier League. They launched 16 shots on the West Brom goal, but none of them found their way in. West Brom, for their part, had the best chance of the game when Sadio Berahino's header off a corner barely missed the target. It was one of six attempts for WBA, none of them were even on target.

Friday MLS: San Jose moves towards playoffs with win over Colorado

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Colorado Rapids
This went the way you would expect a match between two sides that will probably both miss out on the playoffs would go. Not many great chances, an average number of shots, and a weird headed goal deciding it. that weird header came from Clarence Goodson from about a yard out on a cross from Quincy Amarikwa. Colorado, despite their advantage in possession, never really mounted any sort of comeback after they went down early in the second half.

The win puts the Quakes within three points of the playoffs, while Colorado stays five points clear of the Western Conference basement.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Night Football: Manchester United squeaks by Aston Villa

Aston Villa 0-1 Manchester United
In a first half controlled by the Red Devils, Adnan Januzaj claimed the only goal in the 29th minute. The Belgian youngster used his great ball handling skills to dupe the Villa defense and slot a shot behind Brad Guzan and inside the far post.  Aston Villa really did struggle in the first half. They were unable to make anything of what little possession they could muster. They only took one off target shot to United's five, with the one goal on target.

Villa did have a genuine claim for a penalty in the 38th minute. Micah Richards was trying to get his head to a corner when he was pulled at the shoulder by Matteo Darmian. To be fair, Richards still got to the ball, and, in a sort of theatrical way, flopped to the ground after a wayward header. But it still should have been a penalty to Aston Villa.

The second half, to be honest, was kind of boring. Villa had some quality possession, but made nothing of it. They did manage to get one shot on goal, but it was far from a threatening one. United weren't much better. They totaled nine shots on the night ave only found the one goal. There were no real chances on the second half as both teams were unable to make any headway in the opposing penalty area.

Aston Villa looks a lot like the same Aston Villa team that struggled to score for most of last season. Tim Sherwood was able to remedy that in the second half, but it looks like his changes haven't carried over into the new campaign. United also looks weak. Louis Van Gaal is going to have to give a way to get this collection of players to play as a team. They weren't one cohesive unit today and if they don't become one, they will have trouble against the top clubs.

Midweek MLS Madness: NYC shocks DC

New York City 3-1 DC United
United were inches away from bumbling themselves into the lead just minutes into the match. Conner Doyle received a long ball in the City box and tried to chip a shot over Josh Saunders. The keeper got a piece of it, but the ball almost trickled into the net before it was cleared at the last possible moment. In the 36th minute. Chris Rolfe led an attack after intercepting a very lazy Andrea Pirlo pass. Rolfe laid a much better pass off to Alvaro Saborio for an easy tap in goal to put United ahead 1-0 going into halftime.

New York City would then own the second half. They got a chance right before the 50 minute mark that was cleared off the line. Seconds later, they converted off some sloppy play by DC in their attacking end. Pirlo created the turnover and his tackle send the ball to David Villa. Villa slotted a perfect pass to Kwadwo Poku, who danced his way around Bill Hamid to play a simple pass to Thomas McNamara for an easy goal.

Villa would score one of his own to put City ahead in the 80th minute. He fought through some pretty tight traffic on his way to a well placed shot that beamed into the back of the net. Pirlo provided the assist to the Spaniard. Poku would get the insurance goal in the 88th with a great solo effort.

For a while, I was questioning Andrea Pirlo's effort after his ugly turnovers last week and in the first half last night. It seemed that he was treating MLS like a low pressure retirement home. But, in the second half, he came alive with a wonderful pass to set up the Villa goal and some much improved midfield play overall. It is clear that Pirlo has plenty of talent for MLS, he just needs to display the effort that we all want to see out of him.

Even when Pirlo is giving it his all, I am still not sure if he is the missing piece that can save NYC's season. At the moment, they are only a point out of a playoff spot, but there is too much stiff competition ahead of them. I don't think they are better than Orlando City in seventh, Montreal in sixth (who also have three games in hand on Orlando and New York), or Toronto, Columbus, or any team currently in the East playoffs.

United will have to pick up their act if they hope to hold on to first in the East. They are eight points up on Red Bulls, but the team from New Jersey has a whopping four games in hand and can easily overtake DC when all is said and done.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is American Soccer Ready for Promotion/Relegation?

This morning, The Telegraph dropped this potential bomb on the American soccer world:
Joe Barone, the chairman of the National Premier Soccer League, has revealed he wants a merger with the NASL to kickstart promotion and relegation in North America. 
North American Soccer League commissioner Bill Peterson said earlier this week that he would like to begin discussions between the two leagues to help build a pyramid system.
This is a pretty big deal. It is the potential first step towards a true pyramid system in the United States. It is the goal of a growing sect of American soccer fans, and, for that matter, USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann, that want to see the domestic game fall in line with its far superior European counterparts.

But is the American soccer landscape ready for such a giant leap forward? Despite soaring attendance figures in every tier of the American system and the national team's home matches, soccer is still not a mainstream sport in this country. It's still does not have nearly the relative support that the sport enjoys in other countries that do have a promotion/relegation system.

In general, I am all for promotion and relegation in the USA. I love the idea of a small amateur club, like my own Detroit City FC, going from the lowest levels of the NPSL all the way up to the big show of MLS. I would rather see them do this through their play on the field as opposed to putting up hundreds of millions of dollars in the form of expansion fees and funds to build a stadium.

Detroit City has a great supporter base that is more than ready to embrace a jump in league. The same can be said for Chattanooga FC, who attracted more than 18,000 fans to the NPSL championship match against New York Cosmos B last weekend. That's more fans then some MLS teams can get. Imagine how this market could do with a professional team with high caliber players?

However, while this might be beneficial to the little guys like DCFC and Chattanooga, the major players in the game will never be in favor. Imagine if, after a poor season, one of the MLS stalwarts like LA Galaxy gets sent down to the NASL? The owners would be outraged. The loss in profits could be more than enough to cripple the club beyond repair.

The still fragile fanbase of MLS, accustomed to the highest level of play, might abandon the team. The average American soccer fan is a very fickle creature. If their team becomes "minor league" after a poor season, it might be game over for them. I keep thinking back to typical fans of other American sports, specifically baseball. If a team like the Miami Marlins, who don't exactly shatter attendance figures, found some way to get demoted to Triple A, would they be able to keep the franchise afloat? And this is in a well established sport with well over a century's worth of history in this country.

Compare this with DC United. They are right now in the lead for the Supporters' Shield. They might be the best team in MLS, but they are dead last in attendance, filling an average 75% of their 20,000 or so capacity. Would anyone other than the hardcore supporters stick with the team if they dropped to the second tier? I bet very few would.

The proposal that NPSL chairman Joe Barone and NASL commissioner Bill Peterson suggest is but a small step. It will only involve two lower tier leagues. Their proposed system is modest. Based on their current idea, only one team could possibly go up or down per season. They call for a two-legged playoff between the NPSL national champion and the last place NASL team, with affiliated teams being kept out of the top league. If it were in place this season, New York Cosmos B, who won the NPSL, would not be eligible to join their parent club in the top level. Instead, Chattanooga would face the eventual bottom team in the NASL.

There are still kinks to iron out. For instance, sure Cosmos B can't be promoted, but could the NASL Cosmos be demoted? Saying no gives them an advantage over the other NASL teams, but saying yes raises questions about their affiliate club. Do they take a year off? Do they fold completely? Do they drop down to the USASA to ply their trade against beer league teams?

Then there's the mixed professional/amateur status of the NPSL. If a club like Indiana Fire, who has zero support and, on numerous occasions, have struggled to play all of their scheduled matches (yet made it to the NPSL national semifinals) makes their way to the NASL, could they survive both financially and on the pitch? These are the things that would have to be sorted out before they can truly implement such a system.

I like this slow, steady approach to pro/rel. It gets the ball rolling in a low pressure environment. Plus, implementation is still years away, as the NASL is still looking to expand to 20 teams.

If it fails between the second and fourth level leagues, then it might not be the time to introduce it to the big show of American soccer. However, if it takes off and helps boom soccer in this country, then maybe MLS might have to look at it and jump in on the system. I just think it will be a while before MLS and their bigwigs are ready to adopt their very business friendly single entity model for something much riskier.

Promotion and relegation is a great idea, and one that I want to see in the United States. But I am not sure that the game itself is ready for it. There just isn't enough popularity for it to work, for now. But it has to start somewhere, and this might as well be it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Night Football: Manchester City wrecks West Bromwich Albion

West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Manchester City
As expected, this one was going Manchester City's way right from the start. Yaya Toure opened up the scoring for the Citizens in the ninth minute. His low, seemingly harmless, shot took a couple of strange deflections before trickling past Boaz Myhill in the WBA goal.Toure's brace came in the 24th minute at the tail end of a fantastic one-two from Wilfried Bony at the top of the West Brom box.

The best chances for the remainder of the half came in quick succession. In the 41st minute, Raheem Sterling, freshly arrived in Manchester from Liverpool, got behind the WBA line and was clear on Myhill's goal. The American keeper held his ground however and stopped Sterling's shot in its tracks. This set off a quick West Brom counter attack that ended in Saido Berahino slotting past Joe Hart, but that flag had been correctly raised for offside.

The second half was the same story. West Brom looked out gunned as City controlled the game. Vincent Kompany headed home a corner in the 59th minute to make it 3-0. City was then content just playing out the match, although they did allow a couple chances to West Brom in the form of plenty of second half corners that never amounted to anything.

One thing is for sure about this City team. They will score plenty of goals this year. Just think, yeah it was West Bromwich Albion, but they accomplished this thrashing on the road without Sergio Aguero in the starting eleven. There were a couple of nervy moment in defense, so expect them to concede more than a few goals along the way, too. Thankfully for them, this was West Brom, who did an adequate job of thwarting their chances by themselves, usually with an offside flag.

Sunday MLS: Sounders struggles continue, Red Bulls sweep New York Derby

LA Galaxy 3-1 Seattle Sounders
The Sounders have had trouble scoring of late. Being without Clint Dempsey figured to increase that run, but instead, they put one in before a minute had been played. Chad Barrett received a perfect pass from Erik Friberg to put Seattle up a goal very early. Unfortunately, Barrett was injured while celebrating the goal. He tweaked his hamstring in his jubilance and was subbed out in the fourth minute. To make things worse for the rave green, the lead didn't make it to the quarter hour. Gyasi Zardes and his right foot evened the score in the 12th. In very MLS-like fashion, both sides had scored on their first shot of the game. The rest of the first half was pretty uneventful as neither team was able to muster up much of anything.

The second half started with a bang. Just two minutes into the half Robbie Keane fired home a fortuitous bounce from the edge of the six yard box for his 11th goal of the season. Giovani dos Santos than made his mark felt in his MLS starting debut. In the 64th minute, he got behind the Seattle line to receive a perfect through ball from Keane for a shot that the Mexican superstar will never miss.

Seattle may have found an early goal, but their general struggles continue and are now in real danger of dropping below the red line for the first time all season.

New York Red Bulls 2-0 New York City
Red Bulls have swept the first season of New York Derbies as the take round three last night. It looked like City would get the jump on the suburban adversaries, Mix Diskerud was denied by Luis Robles after a great through ball from David Villa as the clock hit seven minutes. Instead, it was Bradley Wright-Phillips putting the red half of the Big Apple on the board in the 21st minute by collecting a perfect cross from Kemar Lawrence. Much of the match was a free flowing back and forth affair. The sides traded half chances until the stroke of 84 minutes when Felipe slotted a shot between Josh Saunders and the near post to make it 2-0 to Red Bulls.

New York City still seems to be having trouble integrating all three of its designated players and getting them to play well with the rest of their cast of characters. David Villa has been this club's best player all season, but he hasn't had much support, even after the arrival of Frank Lampard, who last night was flopping and whining as if he were still at Chelsea, and Andrea Pirlo, who looks like he is taking this whole ride into the MLS sunset thing rather casually, so far. Mix Diskerud is the only guy who looks like he's capable of picking up the slack, but that is far from enough. They are in real danger of missing the playoffs as the currently sit four points back of Montreal for sixth in the East.

The Red Bulls, on the other hand, are putting some pressure on DC United for first in the conference. They are eight points back, but have three games in hand on the current Supporters' Shield leaders.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Football Sunday: Arsenal stumbles, Liverpool stuns Stoke late

Arsenal 0-2 West Ham
This started off like a standard Arsenal game. Olivier Giroud was missing his finishes, they allowed quite a bit of possession to West Ham, and just didn't have control of the game for the first 45 minutes. West Ham successfully punished them in the 43rd minute with a headed free kick goal from Cheikhou Kouyate. Petr Cech had come off his line to try and claim the it, but Kouyate's head got their first for the goal.

The Arsenal-ness of the match continued in the second half. They spend the majority of the first ten minutes in the West Ham end, with Giroud naturally failing to finish a couple times. In the 57th, the Hammers struck again with another shot that Cech should have saved. This time Mauro Zarate was the culprit with a low show from distance that evaded the diving Arsenal keeper.

The rest of the match continued with this theme. Arsenal would hang on to the ball, wait for the right moment, it wouldn't come, and they'd take a harmless shot. There were never any times when the Gunners truly threatened to score. Then there was Petr Cech having a rather bad game in goal, letting in two goals that he should be saving. This isn't a massive step back for Arsenal as they challenge Chelsea for the title, since the defending champs also dropped points at home to a beatable opponent. It is merely a missed opportunity, and one they can't make a habit of missing.

Newcastle 2-2 Southampton
Southampton salvaged a point on the shores of the Tyne River with a late goal from Shane Long. The Saints had the lead in the 24th minute courtesy of Graziano Pelle, but they failed to hold on. In the 42nd, Newcastle's Papiss Demba Cisse tied the score at one. They would take the lead a few minutes after halftime. Georginio Wijnaldum scored his first Newcastle goal to give it to them. Saints battled back however, and were rewarded with Long's tying goal in the 79th minute to make sure each side left with a point.

Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool
Stoke seemed quite happy to let this thing play out to a scoreless draw throughout the first half. They were playing nine men behind the ball and clogging the box up so Liverpool's newly purchased attacking talent was unable to do anything. And the tactic worked. The Reds only took three shots in the first half, none of which would be considered actual scoring chances. Stoke probably had the best chance if the half in the 36th minute. A series of bounces took the ball to the top of the box but the shot sailed high.

The second half started out in much the same way. Stoke defended. Liverpool looked ineffective. After the hour mark things started to open up. Stoke pushed more numbers forward, which opened up chances for both sides. While they never cashed in, it was the Potters taking better advantage of the open field. They earned the set pieces and almost made a couple count.

Liverpool, meanwhile, continued to look frustrated at their inability to penetrate the penalty area and create chances. Philippe Coutinho's 86th minute dagger came seemingly out of nowhere. It was the perfect shot from a non threatening position. It was the amazing feat of athleticism that Liverpool needed to snare all three points in this one.

It Happened in America: Whitecaps dominate, Kamara bags another brace

Toronto FC 1-3 Sporting Kansas City
Benny Feilhaber put SKC ahead with a converted penalty in the 22nd, but Toronto wouldn't let that last. Seconds after Feilhaber's goal. The winning combo of Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, and back to Bradley for the finish tied the score at one. Ton continue the bonkers first half hour, In the 29th minute, Feilhaber lines up for a free kick, he looped it onto the head of Krisztian Nemeth, who floated it over the head and outstretched arm of Joe Bendik. The Reds really should have at least equalized in the second half. Right around the 80 minute mark, they had a scramble that produced five shots, Two were blocked. Two were saved by Tim Melia. And the third, a wide open header by Jozy Altidore, bounced well wide of the target. Bradley missed a perfect chance a few minutes later. All of Toronto's attacking efforts were rewarded by them conceding a third goal in the 87th minute. Former Toronto FC man Jacob Peterson slotted home a feed from Amobi Okugo to seal three points for Kansas City.

Orlando City 0-0 Philadelphia Union
It was kind of a snoozer at the Citrus Bowl. The home side struggled to get shots (they only had one attempt from inside the penalty area) and Philadelphia just struggled in general. Both sides are on the outside of the playoff picture, Orlando is level on points with Montreal for sixth, however.

Montreal Impact 0-1 DC United
DC decided to not allow a pair of early goals to their opponents this time around and managed to escape Quebec with three points as a result. Chris Rolfe got United's goal due to some mismanagement of of the ball by Montreal's back line. Jario Arrieta slid onto a lazy pass to poked it to a wide open Rolfe for an easy goal. Despite the loss, the Impact hold onto their playoff spot and still have a few games in hand on their competition.

Houston Dynamo 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes 
Houston gets a big win to keep pace with sixth place Portland for the final playoff spot in the West with a thorough beating of the Quakes. They held San Jose to only six total shots. All the scoring came in the second half. Old man DaMarcus Beasley broke the scoreless tie in the 55th minute. Five minutes later, Fatai Alashe was sent off for a second yellow card after being lucky not to see straight red from the foul causing the first yellow. Quincey Amerikwa lucked his way into an equalizer in the 70th for San Jose, but it wouldn't last long. Houston got the winner five minutes later with a beautiful pass from Sheanon Williams to Alex for the finish.

Colorado Rapids 1-2 Columbus Crew
Colorado got a late first half goal from Bobby Burling and a boat load of shots, but it wasn't enough to see of a more efficient Columbus side. The Crew's two goals came from, who else, Kei Kamara within 12 minutes of each other in the second half. The mid-Ohio goal machine leapfrogs Sebastian Giovinco for the Golden Boot lead with the brace and Columbus hops all the way into second place in the East with the win.

Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0 Real Salt Lake
This was all Caps all the time. Octavio Rivero scored one from the spot to start the show in the seventh minute. Po Modou Kah added the second goal in the 40th. Cristian Techera scored a second half brace with goals in the 50th and 68th to finish the beatdown. RSL barely even showed up. They only managed six shots and saw very little of the ball, even after  going down by four goals with more than 20 minutes to play. Vancouver is now four points clear atop the Western Conference.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

It Happened in England: Premier League Opening Day

Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham
Although they didn't score a goal on their own, Manchester United gets off to the winning start they never saw last year despite Tottenham's late advances. The Red Devils' goal came from Scott Walker beating his own keeper in the 22nd minute.  It wasn't the prettiest opening for Manchester, they allowed Tottenham a lot of space to attack in the second half. Their defense, however, was up to the task and was able to keep the clean sheet in support of their lackluster offense.

AFC Bournemouth 0-1 Aston Villa
I understand that Bournemouth is motivated to play inferring if they're boisterous views of 11,000 in the Premier League's smallest stadium, but I would have thought Aston Villa would have showed up a little more. The Cherries held the visiting Villains to all of one off target shot in the first half while holding a nearly 60-40 possession advantage. Despite the early struggles, they got a 72nd minute header from Rudy Gestede to take the lead and spoil the Bournemouth debut.

Norwich CIty 1-3 Crystal Palace
Palace takes care of business on the road to open what they hope to be another club record season. Wilfried Zaha started all the fun in the 39th minute for Palace. They went up 2-0 shortly after halftime courtesy of Damien Delaney. Norwich would open their Premier League account in the 69th minute. Nathan Redmond was the provider of their first goal back in the top flight. Norwich would try to earn a home point in this once, but they would concede one more at the death of the match. Club record transfer capture Yohan Cabaye scored his first ever goal for Palace four minutes into second half stoppage time.

Leicester CIty 4-2 Sunderland
It was a first half goal scoring party for the Foxes. Less than a half hour had passed before Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Mahrez again from the spot had Leicester City up 3-0. Jermain Defoe pulled one back for Sunderland in the second half, but Leicester went right back up by three with a goal from Marc Albrighton. Steven Fletcher added a secured for ghee Black Cats in the 71st to make it look like less of a slaughter. I think it's safe to say that this isn't how Dick Advocaat and his troops planned on starting off a season where they will be fighting relegation all year long.

Everton 2-2 Watford
What could have been a pretty embarrassing start for Everton turned in to a merely disappointing one. They took part in some absentee defending to allow Miguel Layun to score and put the new guys to get on the board 1-0. They took quite took a while to recover. Ross Barkley was the man leveling Everton in the 76th minute. Then the goals began to fly. Watford retook the lead in the 83rd minute with a goal by Odion Ighalo and Everton's Arouna Kone equalized three minutes later. Watford was the only one of the newly promoted sides to earn at least a point, and they did it on the road against a very established Premier League side.

Chelsea 2-2 Swansea City
It wasn't quite business as usual for the defending champions, as they only manage to get a point at home against a difficult Swansea team. Some may say they were even outplayed by the club from Wales. Oscar started the scoring in the 23rd minute with a well taken free kick. Swansea would level the score in the 29th. It was Andre Ayew netting his first goal in a Swansea shirt. Less than a minute late, though, Chelsea found themselves back in the lead after Federico Fernandez deflected a Willian cross into his own goal. Disaster then struck for the Blues at the stroke of 52 minutes. Bafetimbi Gomis was behind the Chelsea line with only Thibaut Courtois to beat when he was tripped by the keeper on the very edge of the box. It was a penalty and straight red, sending the champs down to ten men with the site levelled, which is how things would finish.

Friday MLS: Timbers dispatch lowly Fire

Portland Timbers 1-0 Chicago Fire
The Timbers ended their four game winless streak with a somewhat drab win over Chicago. The one goal came from Fanendo Adi being in the right place at the right time in the 48th minute. Will Johnson carried the all in from the right flank before taking a shot that was easily stopped by Sean Johnson. The rebound, however, was spilled right into Adi's oncoming foot for the tap in goal.The rest of the match was highlighted by Chicago failing to really do anything with their superior possession and Portland looking ugly on their counter attacks. Newcomer Lucas Melano, in particular, probably should have had a pair of second half goals, but his shooting went awry.

The Timbers will take their 1-0 win, though. It keeps them in the playoffs and even boosts them up to fourth place heading into today's matches. As for the Fire, they are still at the bottom of the East and heading just about nowhere.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Impact level with Red Bulls, Toronto owns Orlando

Montreal Impact 1-1 New York Red Bulls
This one was a tale of two halves. The first half saw the home Impact control the flow of the match and get more than their fair share of chances. Dominic Oduro earned their just rewards with a banger of a goal in the 42nd minute. After the break, things turned around and the Red Bulls got involved. The equalizer came from Lloyd Sam in the 52nd minute. It was an impressive effort by the 30 year old from Leeds, as he was pretty much being tackled by Donny Tola in what could have been a penalty had the ball not gone in.

Both side will feel like they could have scored more. Whether it was Montreal's first half chances or New York's in the second, 1-1 feels like a low score for the amount of action here. The point for New York brings some comfort to DC United, who are eight points ahead of them atop the East. The Red Bulls do have three games in hand, however. Monteal, meanwhile, increases their hold on the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.

Toronto FC 4-1 Orlando City
The other match in the Great White North went all to the home team. Sebastian Giovinco did a lot to convince us that he is the MVP of the league and probably should still be plying his trade in Italy. Frst off, he drew and scored on a penalty in the 12th minute, Orlando would equalize five minute later on a well placed shot by Luke Boden, that would hardly be enough for the Kaka-less Lions to compete. Giovinco struck again, this time on a perfect free kick, in the 56th minute to make it 2-1. Collen Warner headed home a corner in the 81st to seal the three points. Giovinco finished off his hat trick with barely more than two minutes remaining with a low shot that tucked inside the near post.

Toronto's big win puts them in third, two points back of the Red Bulls. Orlando, on the other hand, fails to leap frog Montreal into an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday MLS: Portland and San Jose come up empty, Fire upset Dallas

San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers
With all the goals scored yesterday, it was a little strange watching this one finish without a score. The teams probably had about one good chance each. San Jose messes theirs up all by themselves. Chris Wondolowski found himself wide open in front of Adam Kwarasey's goal in the opening ten minutes, but he was unable to handle the cross and the opportunity amounted to nothing. Portland's best chance was thwarted by the referee. Diego Valeri appeared to have fought through a San Jose foul to launch a pass towards a streaking Rodney Wallace, but the play was called back for the foul. There really should have been an advantage played, but the officials disagreed.

Overall, San Jose was stopped by poor attacking third play and Portland had trouble hanging onto the ball in the midfield. Valeri, in particular, was making a habit of turning the ball over near the halfway line.

Portland had the best chance to open the second half. Fanendo Adi attacked in transition down the right flank, found an open shot, but harmlessly drilled the lower part of the far post.  The rest of the second half started to reek of a scoreless draw.Half chances came and went for both sides, but the final ball was never there. The bad smell of a 0-0 finish wafted away in the 74th minute. Diego Valeri was tripped up in the San Jose penalty area leading to a chance from the spot. The Argentine maestro stepped to the spot and found the crossbar at full speed to preserve the empty scoreboard.

Chicago Fire 2-0 FC Dallas
It looked like goal scoring returned to it's Saturday pace in this one, but it ended up being a pair of goals bookending this upset. Chicago's David Accam scored his sixth goal of the season in the fourth minute with a determined effort down the right flank and a well placed shot past Dan Kennedy. That pretty much summed up the action in the first half. Shots were hard to come by, legitimate scoring chances were even tougher. Chicago was happy defending against Dallas's sparse attacks. Of the four Dallas shots in the first half, maybe one of them was a half chance.

The second half was much of the same. Dallas would control possession and Chicago would counter when they could. The story changed a bit in the 80th minute when Matt Watson was shown straight red for a malicious tackle on Rolando Escobar. Chicago now had no choice but to sit back and defend against their more numerous foes. That didn't stop them from earning themselves a penalty on an 83rd minute counter attack. Kellyn Acosta tripped up Kennedy Igboananike on the very edge of the box to concede the foul. Shaun Maloney buried the try to make it 2-0 Chicago, and secure all three points to the Fire.

This was a pretty big upset. The Fire are still near the bottom of the East standings, they are tied for last on points with Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Dallas misses the chance to climb ahead of Vancouver atop the West.

It Happened In England: Arsenal takes the Community Shield

Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea
England has handed out it's first piece of silverware for the new season, and it's Arsenal taking the FA Community Shield for the second year in a row.

After a somewhat slow start, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 24th minute. The winger made left back Cesar Azpilicueta look silly with a juke move and well placed left footer in the upper 90.

The first real chances for Chelsea came from Ramires. First, in the 33rd, the Brazilian spun his way into space to launch a shot, but his effort was barely wide of the goal. A few minutes later, he headed a Loic Remy cross inches over the crossbar.

Arsenal kind of settled in to a very Chelsea like game in the first half. They got their goal, then sat back and defended. They attacked when the chance presented itself, but they concentrated on not allowing the defending league champions from scoring, and it worked well in the opening stanza. Each team only took three shots, with none of Chelsea's getting on target.

Chelsea was the main attacker in the first half. Arsenal did try to retain some possession early, but their efforts were short lived. To enhance their attack, Chelsea brought on Radamel Falcao for Loic Remy at halftime and Oscar on for Ramires shortly thereafter. Arsenal was content sitting back and allowing the fresh legs to come to them. This led to a lot more attempts from the Blues, while Arsenal's attacking pace never really changed.

As the half wore on, it looked more and more like Arsenal's defense would break. To counter this, in the final ten minutes Arsene Wenger brought on Kieran Gibbs at left back, shifting Nacho Monreal to center back, a position he has struggled at in the past. It didn't seem to matter, as they kept the Blues off the scoreboard despite a couple close calls.

Arsenal's big question mark coming into the season was their back line and their ability to prevent goals. It seems that the combination of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny should have what it takes, but how will they fare if one or both of those starters spend an extended period of time in the injury ward? Their defensive depth leaves a lot to be desired, and Wenger did very, very little to address that problem in the transfer window.

This result has to be considered a positive sign for the Gunners. Yes, it's only a glorified friendly and Chelsea was without Diego Costa, but the fact that they were able to keep a clean sheet in a semi-competitive game is important. Arsenal are probably the side best suited to challenging Chelsea's title defense, and if their defenders can play this well all year, and stay healthy, they are certainly considered legitimate contenders.

Chelsea, will probably brush this off as working off early season kinks in a low pressure format. They will be fine, will mount a formidable title defense, and this will be seen as little more than a small bump on their road to a repeat.

It Happened in America: DC and RSL hang ten, Sounders fail to score again

New York City 2-3 Montreal Impact
Frank Lampard's MLS career did not start as planned as NYCFC failed to come back against their visitors from the great white north. Montreal, fresh of the news that they landed former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, got a pair of goals from Ignacio Piatti after Dominic Oduro got the party started in the fifth minute. Oduro got behind New York's back line as he collected along ball before calmly stepping beside Josh Saunders for the easy goal. Piatti's first was a chip over the NYC keeper after yet another long pass. David Villa added a penalty in the 68th minute to get New York on the board, but Montreal earned a PK of their own in the 85th. Thomas McNamara scored to put New York within a goal one minute later, but it wasn't enough for the home side to earn any points.

DC United 6-4 Real Salt Lake
What a wild one at RFK Stadium. DC United is suffering from early conceding syndrome. For the second straight week, United found themselves spotting the enemy a two goal lead. In the opening minute of this one, Joao Plata banged home the first RSL tally. Kyle Beckerman added the second goal in the 21st minute with a low blast from long range that clanged off the near post and into the goal.

Much like the Philly game on Sunday, DC did scratch their way back into the game. Chris Rolfe put DC on the board at the stroke of 42 minutes with a wonderful move from the end line to the center of the box that lead to a perfect shot past Jeff Attinella. The equalizer, Rolfe's second of the match, came in the 55th minute came after Devon Sandoval pulled down Bobby Boswell in the box for a clear penalty. Taylor Kemp completed the comeback in the 59th minute with a half volley upper 90 blast from well outside the penalty area.

The lead would only last until just after the hour mark. Aaron Maund headed home a free kick in the 62nd minute to level the score. To continue the frantic pace, United took the lead back on a real "oh fudge" moment from the RSL defense. A mad scramble led to Fabian Espindola toeing home an off the line clearance. The touch was so slight, the goal was originally ruled an own goal. More wildness occured in the 69th minute when Javier Morales equalized with a chip over Andrew Dykstra. Perry kitchen's 79th minute header served as DC United's winner, but that didn't mean they were done scoring. Nick DeLeon wanted in on the action, and his 85th minute bomb from outside the area made sure his name made it to the scoresheet.

The ten goals scored is tied for the second most in MLS history.

Philadelphia Union 1-3 New York Red Bulls
This one took a while to get going, but was pretty fun once it did. Sacha Kljestan's 66th minute penalty started the scoring. Philly leveled in the 73rd with a sliding goal from Sebastian Le Toux. The tie lasted less than a minute before Steven Wright-Phillips, making his Red Bulls debut, fed his brother Bradley for the winner in the 74th. Union would pressure pretty hard afterward but the equalizer never came. Instead, Bertrand Abang got on a breakaway to score the third, and final, New York goal.

New England Revolution 3-1 Toronto FC
Charlie Davies was in the right place at the right time for New England's opener. He slid to knock in a Kelyn Rowe pass inside the six yard box. The first half didn't exactly go well for Toronto as a whole. In the 39th minute, star forward Jozy Altidore found himself staring down a red card after a hard foul. Ten man Toronto would concede relatively quickly. In the 44th minute Damien Perquis fouled Rowe in the area, leading to a Lee Nguyen goal from the spot. Davies would add a second in the 65th minute to finish the rout. Jonathan Osorio was credited with Toronto's consolation goal on a deflected shot in the 75th minute.

Orlando City 5-2 Columbus Crew
Fedrico Higuain scored for Columbus in the fifth minute, but that would wrap up the good news on the night for the Crew. Orlando proceeded to rip off five unanswered goals beginning with likely MLS rookie of the year Cyle Larin in the 18th. Darwin Ceren put the Lions in front in the 38th. Larin's second made it 3-1 in the 58th. Aurelien Collin headed the fourth home in the 77th. The fifth was from Cristian Higuita in teh 85th. Only a stoppage time own goal off Collin gave Columbus something to cheer for after the first five minute. 

Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Houston Dynamo
In a night filled with goals in the first ten minutes of matches, Dom Dwyer continued the trend with his sixth goal of the season in the sixth minute. The goal would not hold up, as Houston's Ricardo Clark found the equalizer in the 78th.

Colorado Rapids 1-3 LA Galaxy
Colorado got a first half goal from Marcelo Sarvas in the 12th minute, but they were unable to hold the lead after halftime. Sebastian Lletget got it started for LA in the 56th. Alan Gordon put them ahead by poaching a rebound in the 69th. Robbie Keane added the third in stoppage time just for fun. It was sort of nice to see Colorado grab an early lead against the favored Galaxy, but as the match wore on, you knew they were going to concede and eventually lose. Just sort of happens when the last place team plays the defending champs.

Seattle Sounder 0-3 Vancouver Whitecaps
Not even getting Clint Dempsey back was enough to get a win for Seattle. Their defense was once again atrocious and their attack was unable to do anything with their nearl 60-40 possession advantage. Pa Modou Kah scored off a fortunate deflection in the sixth minute and earned a brace a few minutes after halftime. Pedro Morales scored the third on a beautiful free kick that went right through a broken Seattle wall. The Sounders are in real trouble. Since the Clint Dempsey outrage in the US Open Cup, they have lost six out of seven matches. In those seven games, they have scored only twice. They find themselves only three points clear of a playoff spot.