Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It Happened in Europe: England has a better day, Benfica gets big road win

Group A
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Paris St. Germain
A trip to Ukraine is always tricky, even for the giant clubs in the world, PSG handled this one well right from the start. Serge Aurier had the French champions up a goal in the seventh minute. Brazilian international David Luiz made it 2-0 in the 23rd. The root was complete in the first minute of decide half stoppage time when Darijo Srna add the third goal.

Malmo 0-2 Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo, who can now run rampant on the Champions League goal scoring record with Messi out with a knee injury, put Real Madrid on top in the 29th minute. It was the superstar's 500th career goal for club and country. Number 501 came in the final minute of regular time to cap of a solid, if unspectacular, win for the Spanish giants.

Nothing special here. Real Madrid and PSG were both rejected to roll this group and that's exactly what's going on. They next two matches between then Erik determine who disagrees first and nothing more. Both will advance with ease.

Group B
CKSA Moscow 3-2 PSV Eindhoven
Eindhoven were looking to carry on their momentum from the big win against Manchester United, but they didn't get off to the best start. Ahmed Musa had Moscow ahead in the seventh minute. The lead was doubled in the 21st by striker Seydou Doumbia. Doumbia added a second from the penalty spot in the 36th to continue their dominance, Eindhoven pulled one back at the hour mark thanks to Maxime Lestienne. Right minutes later, Lestienne got the visitors with a goal, but it would not be enough to complete the comeback.

Manchester United 2-1 Wolfsburg
Four minutes is all it took for Wolfsburg to continue the Premier League's nightmares in Europe. It took that long for Daniel Caligiuri to make it 1-0 to the visitors. Juan Mata levelled from the spot in the 34th minute after Caligiuri handled the ball in the box. Anthony Martial turned the tide in the Red Devils' favor with a sliding goal in the 53rd. That goal would be enough for United to make England's Champions League look a bit better.

All four clubs here are tired with three points each. Needless to say this should be a fun watch going forward.

Group C
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Benfica
Atletico was putting all the pressure on their Portuguese guests, and they went in front in the 23rd thanks to Angel Correa. Nicolas Gaitan used an emphatic finish to tie the score in the 37th. A skillful touch and goal from Goncalo Guedes put the visitors up for good in the 51st.

Astana 2-2 Galatasaray
The Kazakhstani champions have their first ever Champions League group stage point, and the salvaged it in dramatic fashion. After the Turks went ahead with a Bilal kisa goal in the 31st minute, All the remaining goals came in the final fifteen minutes. Astana levelled in the 77th with an own goal of Galatasaray's Hakan Balta. Galatasaray struck back with an own goal of Astana's keeper Nenad Eric. The draw was earned in the penultimate minute when Roger Canas knocked one home to earn the home side the point.

Benfica scored a pretty big road victory against some tough opposition. They jump atop the group acc have the inside track for qualification for the knockout rounds. Atletico need to be sure to get wins in games against lowly Astana and Galatasaray, but they should advance in the end.

Group D
Juventus 2-0 Sevilla
Alvaro Morata was the man giving Juventus the lead with a headed finish in the 41st minute. Simone Zaza put it away in the Serie A champions'favor on the 87th minute.

Borussia Monchengladbach 1-2 Manchester City
After a scoreless first half, Gladbach went up thanks to some weak transition defending from Manchester City. In the 54th minute, Lars Stindl was allowed acres of space to take his shot and score for the German side. Manchester City then put it in overdrive to earn England's first truly big win of the campaign. Nicolas Otamendi scored in the 65th to tie it up and Sergio Aguero bagged the winner in the final minute.

Juventus simply took care of business while Manchester City got back on track to continue Monchengladbach's disappointing season. The Citizens can now feel safer having to battle Sevilla for that second qualifying spot.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Bayern roll, another bad night for England

Another busy day in Champions League action sees England struggle once again. Bayern Munich made a strong case for being the best there is in the world again as Robert Lewandowski continues to do nothing but score.

Group E
BATE 3-2 Roma
The home side got the jump on the favored Italians in this one. Igor Stasevich and Filip Mladenovic both scored for Bate by the 12th minute. He would score a second in the 30th to make it 3-0 to BATE at halftime. Roma tried to come back in the second half, but goals from Gervinho in the 66th and Vasileios Torosidis in the 82nd were not enough.

Barcelona 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen got off to the shocking first lead at Nou Camp. Kyriakos Papadopoulous headed home the opening goal in the 22nd minute. That lead would last through halftime and until Sergi Roberto and Luis Suarez scored twice in three minutes beginning in the 80th to give Barcelona the points.

This group got very interesting today. With Roma getting upset, that opens the door for Leverkusen to take the reins and run away with the second spot. Barcelona, who were thwarted by Roma, should be fine after a comeback against that Leverkusen side.

Group F
Bayern Munich 4-0 Dinamo Zagreb
This was pretty much the ass whopping you would expect Bayern Muncuh to hand down on Dynamo Zagreb at home. Douglas Costa snuck a shot inside the near post in the 13th minute to put Bayern ahead. Then it was the red hot Robert Lewandowski making it 2-0 in the 21st. Then Mario Goetze in the 25th. The Lewandowski again in the 28th. The hat trick arrived in the 55th. Lewandowski is simply unreal right now.

Arsenal 1-2 Olympiacos
Arsenal continues England's Champions League nightmare with a home lose to a team from Greece. There was a crazy stretch in the first half where three goals wee scored. First it was Olympiacos's Felipe PArdo banging home a deflected corner in the 33rd. Then Theo Walcott levelled for the Gunners in the 35th. Finally, in the most bizarre goal of the day, Kostas Fortounis hooked a corner towards David Ospina in the Arsenal goal, who caught it, but allowed his momentum to carry him into the goal. Alexis Sanchez leveled the score in the 65th, but it took all of a minute for Alfred Finnbogason to get the winner for Olympiacos.

Is Arsenal's Champions League campaign virtually over? They have zero pounds from two very, very woman's matches, have two games left against freakin Bayern Munich, and overall look unfit for continental competition. Unless Arsenal surprise us, it looks like a dogfight between Dinamo Zagreb ave Olympiacos for the second place slot.

Group G
Maccabi tel-Aviv 0-1 Dynamo Kiev
Andriy Yarmolenko gave Kiev an early start with a goal in the fourth minute. Moraes doubled the lead five minutes into the second half and that was all Kiev needed to get three points in Israel.

FC Porto 2-1 Chelsea
More bad news for the Premier League as Chelsea also falls. Porto went ahead via Andre in the 39th minute. Chelsea would counter through Willian in the final minute before the halftime whistle. The second half swung right back in Porto's direction. Maicon continued the trend of one named players scoring in the 52nd minute and Porto was able to hold on for the win against your defending English champions.

Chelsea's loss is far less damaging that Arsenal's. They are only a point back of Porto and Kiev for the top spot in the group. They should be fine in the end with those two fighting for the second spot in the roof off 16.

Group H
Lyon 0-1 Valencia
Sofiane Feghouli scored in the 42nd minute to give Valencia the halftime lead.  That would be out for the scoring and Valencia gets a crucial away win in this wide open group.

Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 Gent
Artem Dzyuba gave the home Russians a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 35th minute. Thomas Maton scored for Gent to tie it up in the 56th before Oleg Shatov became Zenit's hero in the 67th.

Zenit holds the inside track to the advancement as they are the only side with a pair of wins. Should be a fun battle for that other spot between Lyon and Valencia with Gent possibly sneaking in there.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Night Football: Everton storms back to beat West Brom

West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Everton
West Bromwich Albion was definitely the better team in the opening 45 minutes. Saido Berahino gave them their goal in the 41st minute with a nice run through several Everton defenders to collect a through pass. His shot powered through the efforts of Tim Howard for his second goal of the season. Although it was West Brom ahead, Everton probably should have had a goal earlier when Ross Barkley was wide open on the goal, but couldn't handle the pass, thus wasting the chance.

The second half looked like West Brom would cruise to victory. In the 54th minute, Craig Dawson headed a corner inside the back post to double their lead. Less than a minute later, that feeling changed. It took seconds for Romelu Lukaku got Everton back into the match with a headed goal of his own.

After that it was all Everton. Arouna Kone beat West Brom's attempt at an offside trap in their own penalty area to get behind the line for an easy equalizer in the 75th minute. Lukaku got the winner in the 84th with a determined effort in the six yard box.

Everton uses the comeback to swing into fifth place, a point behind Arsenal for fourth. It sends they are taking advantage of not being burdened by the Europa League this season. That was blamed for the disappointing finish from last campaign. West Brom sits on 15th place with eight points.

Sunday MLS: San Jose wins a mad one, Galaxy to the top of the West

Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Seattle Sounders
Obafemi Martins was able to put Seattle in front after a Kansas City turnover as the clock struck 31 minutes. Once behind, SKC was able to control possession, but get very few chances going forward. It wasn't until Dom Dwyer came on as a sub in the 74th minute that the home team was able to find some  magic in the attack. Dwyer was the one sliding home the equalizer in the 79th minute, Both sides had a shot at winning this one in the final five minutes plus stoppage time. Clint Dempsey only barely missed the target after a great feed from Martins. Then Dwyer missed a pair of golden opportunities in stoppage time for Kansas City.

In the end, a point a piece does little to the standings. Both sides gain a little more comfort as they try to hold onto their playoff spots in the West. 

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Real Salt Lake
Mattias Perez-Garcia's 87th minute winner was all this game gave us as San Jose climbs slightly closer to an elusive West playoff spot. It's more than a small miracle that the Quakes weren't able to score at least three or four more. They completely dominated the game in terms of shots, possession, and mad scrambles that came up empty. With all the clear chances that failed for San Jose, it's fitting that the goal came on a fluke deflection of an RSL defender. Perez-Garcia does get some stupidity points, as well. In his fit of celebration, he removed his shirt, an automatic yellow card, after he had already been shown a yellow earlier in the match. Therefore he was sent off right after scoring the winner.

San Jose is only a point back of Portland for sixth place, but the Timbers have an extra game left to play. Salt Lake can probably close the book on their playoff chances, they are six back with only four to play.

LA Galaxy 3-2 FC Dallas
What the last game had in almost goals, this one made up with in actual goals. It took a little more than ten minutes for Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes, and Gio dos Santos to link up for their first goal of the game, and Galaxy's first goal in over four games. It was the Mexican international's third MLS goal since joining the Galaxy over the summer. Dos Santos turned provider three minutes later as Keane doubled the lead. Michael Barrios pulled one back fot Dallas in the 34th minute with a chipy header over Donovan Ricketts. Steven Gerrard scored his second MLS goal to make it 3-1 in the 57th. Dallas tried to make it interesting when Atiba Harris scored with five minutes to play, but it  wasn't enough. 

Both of these sides are virtual locks for the playoffs. LA temporarily climbs to the top of the West pile. They are a point ahead of Vancouver, who have an extra match to play. Dallas is only three points back of them with two bonus games left.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Morning Football: Cabaye penalty gives Palace win over Watford

Watford 0-1 Crystal Palace
Only one Premier League match on a Sunday morning? Kind of a drag if you ask me. To make it worse, the first half put anyone right back into their Sunday morning state of not wanting to get out of bed.

Neither team put in a good show for the first 45 minutes. They each only got one shot on goal and generally kicked the ball around the park the entire time.

The pace picked up after the break. Watford's best chance of the have cane in the opening minutes of the second half. Jose Jurado blasted a free kick into the corner of the woodwork. Unfortunately for the home faithful, that's the closest the Hornets would get to a goal.

Palace owned the rest of the half, but it still took a penalty to give then their reward. Jurado brought down Wilfried Zaha in the penalty area with 20 minutes remaining and Yohan Cabaye nailed it from the spot for the match's lone goal.

Watford never truly threatened to score. In fact, Palace probably looked more like scoring on the counter attack than the home side did with their front forward.

The win means Crystal Palace leaps to sixth in the table with 12 points. Watford drops to 13th with only nine.

It Happened in America: NYC win in late penalty fest, Impact cruise over DC

Toronto FC 3-2 Chicago Fire
It didn't take the last place Fire long to make some noise against a high powered East playoff team. Gilberto put one in the goal in the very first minute. The ever threatening Sebastian Giovinco assisted to level the score with a cheeky chip from an impossible angle that, I guess, clipped the head of Jonathan Osorio in the 30th minute. It looked to me like it went clean in off the foot of the Italian, though. Hindi scored a second in the 52nd to give the Fire the lead back. Seven minutes Jarrett, Michael Bradley put Toronto even again. Jozy Altidore provided the winner in the 70th of a Giovinco corner and Toronto was saved the embarrassment of losing to a last place team at home.

Montreal Impact 2-0 DC United
Didier Drogba was at it again. It took him less than four minutes to bang home a 25 yard free kick to give Montreal the lead. He had his second seven minutes later and the Impact were off and running. That was all they would need to hold off the struggling DC United squad. Their fall from grace continues as they now sit down in fourth place. Montreal has a pretty firm group on the playoffs now. They have a four point advantage with two games in hand on Orlando in seventh.

Columbus Crew 1-2 Portland Timbers
Fanendo Adi have Portland their lead in the 28th minute only to have it countered by the league's leading goal scorer, Kei Kamara, and his ear post header two minutes from halftime. Adi grabbed his brace in the 50th minute and Portland was able to hold on to earn a huge three pints in Ohio. The win means the Timbers gain some security against San Jose, Houston, and Salt Lake, who have all been creeping up on them for the final East playoff spot. Columbus misses a chance to put some additional pressure on the Red Bulls for the number one seed in the East.

New England Revolution 1-1 Philadelphia Union
Lee Nguyen converted from the spot in the 38th to give the Revs the lead in their chase for the top spot in the East. They failed to hold that midgame lead however. Fernando Aristeguieta scored his fifth of the yearn in the 65th minute to give the visitors a share of the points. New England dropping points also does the Red Bulls a huge favor. Them and the Crew are now each a point back with two fewer matches to play.

Houston Dynamo 3-2 Colorado Rapids
The Dynamo are still alive in the playoff chase, and this wild win helps their tall task of qualifying for the post season. Things started quickly with a Leonel Miranda goal in the third minute that was quickly countered by the first of two from Vicente Sanchez in the eighth. Giles Barnes put the Dynamo ahead again in the 24th, Colorado got back even a minute before halftime with Sanchez's second. The second half started off just ass fast as the first did. Brad Davis provided the winner in the second minute of the half. Despite plenty of close calls, Colorado's counterpunch never arrived and Houston took the win. The DYnamoa re three points back of the Timbers for the final Eastern playoff spot.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 New York City
New York City has a near impossible task to get to the playoffs, but a big win in Vancouver will help. Frank Lampard's second NYC goal gave them the lead in the 29th minute. We now skip ahead to the final few minutes where the penalties came flying. Pedro Morales scored from the spot in the 88th minute and looked to give a late point to the Caps.  However, MAtias Laba went in for a late tackle on Lampard just seconds before the final whistle. This lead to David Villa banging home the winner at the death. Vancouver still holds the Western conference lead, but Dallas is only a point back with two extra games to play. New York City is five points back of Montreal, so it still looks grim for them.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

It Happened in England: Spurs take down City, Chelsea drop points again

Tottenham 4-1 Manchester City
Manchester City, once thought to be invincible, has now lost two straight as the fall to Tottenham at White Hart Lane. And, wouldn't you know it, the two best defensive sides in England produced write a few goals. Manchester City was hampered by the sudden benching of Vincent Kompany due to illness in warm-ups, thus weakening their ability to defend. They also choose to rest the recently injured Joe Hart. Wilfredo Caballero got the start between the sticks.

Regardless, things started off well enough for the visitors. Kevin de Bruyne's counter attack goal put City in front in the 25th minute, but Spurs wouldn't let that get them down. Eric Dier equalized just before halftime with a low roller from distance.

The second half was all Tottenham. Five minutes after the restart, Toby Alderweireld headed home a free kick to put the home side in front. Local hero Harry Kane made it 3-1 by banging home the rebound of a Christian Eriksen free kick that found the corner of the woodwork. The fourth was courtesy of Erik Lamela in the 79th minute. He was all alone on a counter attack and was able to juke out Martin Dimichelis and Caballero in front of the net for the easy goal.

It seems those who were ready to hand Manchester City the trophy after five weeks might need to slow down on they're praise a bit. They might very well still win it all in the end, but today's defeat and last week's failure at home to West Ham prove that this side is far more fallible then we thought.

Leicester City 2-5 Arsenal
The Premier League's only remaining unbeaten side is unbeaten no more. Leicester had a plethora of chances to go ahead in the first ten minutes, and Jamie Vardy did just that in the 13th. In the 18th, after the Foxes nearly went ahead by two, Theo Walcott got free behind the back line ave was able to sneak a shot off the far post and in to tie things up. The Gunners went in front in the 33rd with w nine counter attacking mine that ended Alexis Sanchez taking into an open net. Sanchez headed home his serving in the 58th following a perfect chipped pass from Mesut Ozil. Sanchez bombed home his hat trick in the 81st minute from well outside the penalty area to put this game on ice. Vardy scored in the 89th for Leicester, but Olivier Giroud restored the three goal advantage in stoppage time.

Liverpool 3-2 Aston Villa
James Milner's second minute goal gave Liverpool a nice, fast start. It took a little longer for the second to come, but at the stroke of 58 minutes, Daniel Sturridge blasted a shot home after a nice series of one touch passes to double the Reds' lead. Then things got crazy. Rudy Gestede have Villa a glint of hope in the 66th, but Sturridge's second a minute later squashed that quickly. Gestede wasn't having any of Liverpool's denials. He scored his second if the match in the 71st to once again bring Aston Villa back into the match. Once things calmed down, Liverpool was able to hold on to claim the points at home.

Stoke City 2-1 AFC Bournemouth
Jonathan Walters's goal in the 32nd have the home team the lead against the feisty Bournemouth. Stoke held on for quite a while. Dan Gosling got Bournemouth on the board in the 76th minute, but Mame Diouf gave Stoke the win with his 83rd minute winner.

West Ham 2-2 Norwich City
Fresh off their big away win against Manchester City, West Ham was looking to continue their strong start against lowly Norwich City. But it was the visitors with the first goal in under ten minutes. Robert Brady created a turnover in the West Ham defensive end and converted when he was alone against the keeper. Diafra Sakho labeled for the home side in the 32nd minute. In the 84th minute, Nathan Redmond snuck a shot through plenty of traffic into the West Ham goal and looked to give the newly promoted side all three points on the road. But West Ham had other plans. Cheikhou Kouyate salvaged a point for the Hammers by scoring in a mass scramble in the third of four stoppage time minutes.

Manchester United 3-0 Sunderland
Memphis Depay continues to tear it up with Manchester United. His goal in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time was the result off some flat footed Sunderland defending. Not even 40 seconds into the second half, Wayne Rooney doubled the Red Devils' lead with a header from extremely close range. Juan Mata finished the scoring in the final minute of regular time  to send United's fans hope with a comfortable home win.

Southampton 3-0 Swansea City
Virgil van Dijk was the man heading home a corner for the Saints in the 11th minute. Dusan Tadic made it 2-0 in the 55th minute. Sadio Mane made it three goals just after the hour mark. He was in the right place at the right time to slot a low shot inside the far post. That was all the Saints needed to take care of a Swansea side who has been off to a pretty strong start.

Newcastle 2-2 Chelsea
Man, Chelsea thought theirs hip would be righted after their 2-0 win at home against Arsenal last Saturday, and here they go out and fall flat on their faces against lowly Newcastle. Ayoze Perez opened the scoring for the Magpies in the 42nd minute. It was a gorgeous half volley, too. The second came at the hour mark courtesy of Georginio Wijnaldum's second goal in a Newcastle shirt, this one a headed corner. The Blues put some pressure on for the remaining half hour, and were able to scratch back into the match in the 79th minute with a wonderful strike from Ramires. Willian levelled the score on an equally impressive goal in the 87th minute to rescue a point. Newcastle were barely able to hang on in the end. Regardless of the comeback, Chelsea have now conceded at least a pair of goals in six of their seven games this season and are only four points from the relegation zone.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday MLS: Orlando takes a loud step towards playoffs

New York Red Bulls 2-5 Orlando City
Orlando City walked into the Red Bull Arena as major underdogs in need of three points to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They got just that with a resounding victory over the Red Bulls.

Cyle Larin's hat trick led the way as the rookie striker has set the MLS record for rookie goal scoring. He scored first in the 24th, then again in the 43rd, and finally in the 61st on his way to a man of the match performance.

Dax McCarty levelled for the Red Bulls five minutes after the first Larin goal, but the rookie's second nullified that effort. Just after the second half began, Damien Perrinelle put in an own goal to make it 3-1 to Orlando. Lloyd Sam pulled one back for New York in the 58th, but Larin's hat trick put the match out of rea. Bryan Rochez added the fifth just for fun in second half stoppage time.

Orlando still needs a pretty epic Montreal collapse in order to make the post season in the inaugural season. At the moment, they are four points back of the Impact, with two fewer games remaining. The Red Bulls, who already have their playoff spot locked up, are a point ahead of Columbus with two games in hand at the top of the East. Their main fight will be securing one of the two first round bye slots, which they should be able to take care off without much trouble, even with this defeat.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Drogba scores again, ten man Dynamo gut out a win at home

Montreal Impact 2-1 Chicago Fire
Didier Drogba likes playing in MLS, it seems. He scored the opener for Montreal in the 39th minute. It was the Ivorian's fifth goal in four starts since joining the Impact in the summer. His goal would not hold up for long after halftime, however. David Accam equalized for the Fire in the 50th minute after some mass chaos in the penalty area. Montreal did manage to get their winner in the 76th minute. Andres Romero latched onto a perfect through pass from Patrice Bernier and beat a near helpless Jon Busch in goal.

Montreal further strengthens their hold on sixth place in the East with the win over decidedly last place Chicago. I also think you cannot count this team out from making a run in the playoffs. Since the arrival of Drogba, the Impact have played with a renewed energy. Their supporters are clearly pumped as well. Before Drogba arrived, Stade Saputo was just another MLS venue. Now, it borders on being a fortress. I normally condemn MLS for being a retirement home for the European legends of old, but in this case it has clearly brought life to a formerly drab soccer market in North America.

Houston Dynamo 1-0 Sporting Kansas City
Sort of a chippy game on the Texas coast led to Houston getting a prayer of eking out a playoff position. Six yellow cards were shown between the two sides, including a second yellow and sending off for Houston's Oscar Garcia. Thankfully, they already had the one goal they needed for victory. It was provided by Will Bruin tapping in a well placed low cross from DaMarcus Beasley in the 67th minute. Even while up a man, SKC never looked like they wanted to scratch out a point or more on the road. They never threatened the Dynamo goal and even continued the unnecessary physical play.

While Houston now as a little more of a prayer at the playoffs, they are three points back of Portland with five to play, Sporting Kansas City sticks in fifth, four points above the red line.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday MLS: Red Bulls clinch playoffs, Union set Houston back

Portland Timbers 0-2 New York Red Bulls
The Timbers and their goal scoring issues welcomed in the Red Bulls and their second fewest goals conceded into Providence Park.

The Red Bulls controlled a great deal of the early play, but never had a real clear cut chance to score a goal. The Timbers were forced to use ineffective counter attacks throughout the first half hour. The best chance either team had came in the 29th minute when Diego Valeri got wide with space on a counter, but Luis Robles came up big with a leg save. After the clock struck 30, the Timbers began to settle into the game and hold on to more of the ball. They had weathered the initial Red Bull storm and were hopefully trying to gain some reward. A reward that never came.

The Red Bulls had the next best chance of the game at the 35 minute mark. Gonzalo Veron dispossessed Liam Ridgewell in the Portland end, leading to a quality shot that just drifted wide of the far post after beating Adam Kwarasey easily. That set the table for the Red Bulls taking the lead in the 44th minute. Felipe Martins, with acres of space, launched a perfectly placed shot into the top corner from about 30 yards out. The second goal came right before halftime from a Damien Perrinelle header.

Both Red Bulls goals were the results of some poor defending from Portland. On the first goal, Felipe had no pressure on him as he had all the time in the world to launch his shot. On the second goal, Perrinelle was hardly challenged as he rose to head the ball in. This game went from being a scoreless draw where the Timbers may have actually been the better team to the Red Bulls cruising into the break with a commanding lead. The entire swing took less than five minutes.

After nearly getting a third goal off a corner in the opening minute of the second half, New York curled back into a defensive shell. They clogged their own penalty area with nine players forcing Portland to take shots from distance, if they were even able to shoot. Will Johnson took a blast from outside the box that found nothing but the cross bar in the 52nd minute. Their other unbelievable chance came in the 82nd when Fanendo Adi connected his head to a corner and fired it down with pace, but somehow Robles was able to get his hands to it. Robles came up huge once again on a Diego Valeri free kick in the 87th minute. Valeri's original kick took a deflection, causing the New York keeper to adjust on the fly. Nat Borchers came flying in for the rebound, but Robles recovered in miraculous fashion to deny the bearded defender.

The Red Bulls become the first team to seal their birth in the MLS Cup playoffs for this year. Their next goal will be the realistic one of securing the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They currently stand a point ahead of the Columbus Crew with a game in hand.

Portland will continue with the frustration of being unable to score goals. It isn't like they haven't had any chances, either. Today they had numerous successive chances in the second half that ended in either miraculous saves or spectacular near misses. They are still in the playoffs by a point over San Jose, and they have the added virtue of an extra game left to play, but they will need to start turning near misses and great saves into routine goals if they want to stay in that position.

Philadelphia Union 2-0 Houston Dynamo
Houston strolled into PPL Park hoping to move a little close on the Portland timbers for that sixth and final Western playoff spot. You would think playing the Union would be a good way to gain three points for just about any Western Conference team, but things rarely go according to plan in MLS.

The Union got themselves off to a quick start. Tanquillo Barnetta put them in front with a nice move through the Houston defense in only the third minute. That would be it for the first half however. CJ Sapong would score his eighth of the year in the 63rd to double the Union lead. Even when ahead, when you would expecting the Union to defend their way to the final whistle, they were controlling a great deal of the ball and making Houston work for any attacking chances. That control allowed them to cruise to a seemingly easy two goal victory.

The Dynamo can probably kiss their playoff chances goodbye after this loss. they are seven points behind the Timbers after this loss with only five games left. They also have San Jose and Real Salt Lake between them and sixth place, so there will probably be just a little too much for them to overcome.

The Union have been virtually eliminated for a while now, although they have a slim chance to catch Montreal in sixth place. They are only three points behind the Impact. But Montreal has three games in hand over the, so it's probably a lost cause.

Sunday Premier League: Spurs down Palace, United hold of Saints

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Crystal Palace
This one belonged to Spurs the whole way through. Although they only scored the one Son Heung-Min goal in the 68th minute, but they had hammered 22 shots towards Palace's goal. It was the second victory of the young season for Tottenham and they are now level on points with Palace with nine in the middle of the table.

Southampton 2-3 Manchester United
It was quite a thriller on the south coast. Graziano Pelle got Saints ahead first in the 13th minute. The lead would last until the 34th when Anthony Martial leveled for the Red Devils. Martial struck again five minutes after the second half got under way to put the visitors in the lead. A mad scramble in the penalty area in the 68th almost lead to his hat trick, but hsi shot drilled the bar before falling to Juan Mata who hammered home goal number three for United. Pelle got Saints back in it only four minutes from the final whistle, and had themselves a chance to tie the game in stoppage time. But David de Gea made a diving save to keep all three points for Manchester.

Liverpool 1-1 Norwich City
Liverpool's early struggles continue as they fail to pick up a win agaisnt the newly promoted Norwich City. They were the dominant team throughout the match and got rewarded with a Danny Ings goal in the 48th minute. Norwich managed to steal a point just after the hour mark with Russel Martin tying the game. The Reds pressed hard, but were unable to get a winner as they have to settle for another disappointing result at home against lesser opposition. Liverpool's eight points have them mired in 13th place in the table. Norwich, also with eight points, but is two spots in front on goal difference.

It Happened in America: Seattle takes Cascadia Cup, Crew jump in front of East

Toronto FC 3-1 Colorado Rapids
Sebastian Giovinco was at it again for Toronto as he continues to be a major factor in their campaign to qualify for their first ever post season. He scored in both the 14th and 18th minutes before assisting on Damien Perquis's 38th minute tally. Colorado tried to fight back into the match when Dillon Powers buried one in the 40th minute, but it was far from enough for the Western Conference cellar dwellers.

New York City 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Ned Grabavoy became the breakout here for New York City in this one. He scored twice and assisted on what turned out to be the game winner to give his club an all important three points. It was another NYC game where the second half was absolutely bonkers after a goalless first. Grabavoy's first came in the 51st minute, then the second in the 63rd. He assisted on a David Villa goal in the 63rd to complete 12 minutes of complete domination at Yankee Stadium. SAn Jose lifted themselves back into the match with Quincy Amarikwa scoring in the 72nd and Chris Wondolowski burying a penalty four minutes later. City was able to hold off the Quakes in the end, however. New York City is still a pair of points out of that elusive sixth playoff spot in the East.

DC United 1-2 Columbus Crew
Kei Kamara took another step in pursuit of the MLS single season goal record with the winner over DC in the 49th minute. The Sierra Leone striker now has 21 goals in 28 games with four remaining. It would take a Herculean effort for him to set a new record, he needs six goals to tie Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski, and Bradley Wright-Phillips with 27 in a single year. Ethan Finely  had already put the Crew up 1-0 with a 27th minute goal. Chris Rolfe knocked a penalty in the give United some hope, but it was all for nothing as , despite their best efforts, Columbus weathered the storm to move into the top spot in the East.

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Seattle Sounders
Seattle needed a win to keep their West playoff hopes secure, and this big win in Vancouver also gave them their first Cascadia Cup title since 2011. Andreas Ivanschitz, making his first start of the season, put Seattle in front in the final minute before the halftime whistle. Gonzalo Pineda scored his first goal of the season in the 71st minute. Finally, a familiar face, Obafemi Martins, put the game away just three minutes from the end. The Caps are still atop the Supporters' Shield standings, so this loss doesn't hurt too badly. Seattle is now five points clear in the playoffs.

Montreal Impact 3-0 New England Revolution
Didier Drogba seems to be enjoying his new home in Quebec. His goal at the hour mark put the home side up 2-0 and made sure the points stayed in French Canada. The first goal had come in the sixth minute with Johan Venegas rocketing home his first of the year. Just in case Drogba's goal wasn't enough, Dilly Duka added a third in the 76th. This was a much needed three points for the Impact. They are a point up in sixth with three games hand on NYC and Orlando. The New England defeat drops them to second as Columbus jumps in front of them atop the East.

Chicago Fire 0-1 Orlando City
These two duked out a scoreless draw with Chicago looking the better side for much of it until Bryan Rochez stole the game for Orlando. Rochez came on as a 71st minute sub for the Lions and nailed his second of the season in the 86th minute. Even with the win Orlando 's playoff hopes seem slim with Montreal and their three games in hand a point ahead of them for sixth. 

Real Salt Lake 3-0 LA Galaxy
Salt Lake got this party started right away as Devon Sandoval got them on the board in the third minute. They added to the lead in the form of a Javier Morales PK in the 28th. Sandoval scored a second in the 53rd to complete the scoring in this dismantling of the defending champs. RSL still has work to do if they want to see some post season play. They are three points and two spots back of Portland in sixth place. LA, however, should be in the playoffs. They are aiming for one of the first round byes for finishing in the top two places. They are level with Dallas for the second spot with 47 points. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Once Again, It Happened In England: West Ham shcoks Manchester City

Manchester City 1-2 West Ham
This match embodied everything there is to love about the Premier League. it may not have the best clubs in the world. It may not succeed on the continental stage. But I'll be damned if it doesn't produce the mosh shocking results of any European League. More so than any of its peers, one team can upset another on any given matchday. That is exactly what we got here.

It was West Ham shocking everyone once again in the opening five minutes. Just after the five minute mark, Victor Moses took a low shot that the City defense dared him to take. His low curling effort evaded a diving Joe Hart and the visiting underdogs had themselves an early one goal lead.

Manchester City should have levelled before nine minutes were up. Samir Nasri got behind Adrian, West Ham's keeper. He took the shot, but he was off balance and the ball bounced well wide of the gaping target. In general, this was City's game to lose. They had all of the possession, and it almost looked like West Ham were barely hanging on.

Despite all that City pressure, West Ham shockingly went ahead 2-0 thanks to a tough shot from Diafra Sakho off a corner that probably should not have been a corner. On the preceding play, it looked as if City had kept the ball in play as the referee's whistle blew saying otherwise.  Here were the Hammers up 2-0 as underdogs on the road against a team that was yet to do anything except win games this season. Shock is the only way to describe what we all were seeing. The only question was, how long would it last?

The question had to be asked because City kept pounding Adrian's goal with shots after the second goal. There were several instances of wondering how City didn't score. Sergio Aguero has his fair share of chances in the waning moments of the first half, but Adrian and the West Ham defense were up to the challenge each and every time. That is, until Kevin De Bruyne managed to fire a low shot past him in the second minute of first half stoppage time. The red haired Belgian managed to get some space in the center of the pitch before launching the bouncing ball inside the far post.
The goal breathed some new life in the Citizens, as they had a couple more great opportunities before the halftime whistle went.

The second half featured Man City taking shot after shot, earning corner after corner (they ended the match with 16 of them), and basically doing everything except scoring a goal. West Ham's defending was stout. They blocked every shot they could while trying to make every clearance count. That last port was often a struggle. Eight men were behind the ball at all times, so it was hard for them to find any real outlet to relieve the attacking pressure, let alone for a counter attack.

What couple breaks forward West Ham had were quickly foiled by either Manchester City getting back to their own third responsibly or by West Ham's unwillingness to push additional numbers forward. As time ticked towards the end, West Ham's defense became nine, and eventually ten, outfield players trying to clog the box and rob their opponents of any space to work. In the end, it worked and West Ham stormed into the Etihad and left with three more unbelievable points.

West Ham has waltzed into road games against Arsenal, Liverpool, and now Manchester City and left with nine out of nine points while outscoring their top four contending opponents 7-1. I hesitate to say that this West Ham squad is for real, I still don't feel like there has been enough proof. I am not sure they have the depth to contend with the big boys over the long haul, but they have been off to a pretty fun start to this season.

Arsenal's own stupidity costs themselves points

Arsenal was forced to take on the second half of their match with Chelsea with only ten men on the pitch. This was mostly due to the immaturity of Gabriel paulista for sticking his nose where it did not belong.

Towards the end of the first half, Diego Costa, who had been harassing Arsenal defenders near the edge of the rules all afternoon, got into a small scuffle with Laurent Koscielny. It began with the Arsenal defender receiving a smack to the face while the pair were fighting for the ball. It continued with a few words from the Frenchman and a chest bump from Costa, sending Koscielny to the ground.

My thought at this point was that Costa should have been sent off. Not only did he deliver a slap to the face, but he brought Koscielny to the ground with an aggressive and unnecessary action. When he seemed to be getting away without punishment, I sort of supported what happened next.

While Koscielny kept his cool and mostly walked away from the situation, Gabriel stepped into "defend" his teammate. There was shouting between him and Costa, but no real physical contact as both players were shown yellow cards. Okay, I thought, at least he got something for it, even if ift meant Gabriel had to take one for the team to get it done.

That really should have been the end of it. However, the 24 year old Brazilian wouldn't let Costa go. As the players backed down and looked almost ready to resume play, Gabriel stomped his foot onto Costa's leg right in front of Dean, earning himself a deserved red card.

This was just plain stupid from Gabriel. He had his say already. He helped Costa get the yellow at the cost of a yellow card for himself. The incident, which I remind you he was never a part of to begin with, was over. Everyone was ready to move on and get back to the game, That is, everyone except Gabriel, who felt the need to take one more shot at the controversial Chelsea forward.

After the game, Arsene Wenger lamented that Costa had remained on the pitch. He was quite physical all game, and probably should have had a yellow card earlier in the match. It is also debateable that the slap in the face into chest bump combo should have been red card worthy as well. Regardless of any punishment, or lack thereof, for Costa, there was no excuse for Gabriel's involvement.

Mike Dean, understandably, wanted to keep both teams at full strength after the original scrum, The game was moving well, it was exciting to watch even without any goals, and there was no real heat between the two clubs. Gabriel's transgressions forced his hand, however. After prolonging things as much as he did, there was no reason not to send him off.

I know managers calling out their players in post game interviews is never kosher, but if I'm Wenger after the match, I publicly reprimand Gabriel for his actions that can be described as nothing more than idiotic. He was baited in by a player who has a reputation of being a bit of a jackass, while his teammate was okay moving on as quickly as possible. As a result, he cost his team a real chance to get a point or more in a very difficult fixture.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who is never at a loss for words, was still unhappy with Dean's officiating. He mentioned a couple of "clear penalties" that should have gone against Arsenal. Of course, he had nothing to say about Costa's performance at the end of the first half and fully supported Gabriel getting the gate.

The entire tone of the match changed after that one play. Chelsea had no reason not to press forward with everything they had. They got their goal and were then content to play keep away from Arsenal. Just when the Gunners were starting to make a few moves towards a tying goal, Santi Cazorla let frustration get the better of him and earned a second yellow for a bad tackle in Chelsea's half of the field. It was an unnecessary challenge and a certain yellow. A player of Cazorla's experience should know better than to even try it.

In the end, Chelsea grabbed another goal while up a pair of players. Arsenal can chalk up another disheartening loss at Stamford Bridge to their own stupidity and immaturity. If Gabriel never confronts Costa, then Arsenal likely scraps out a scoreless draw, or at least puts them in a good spot to tie the game after going down. Heck, they might even snag the first goal themselves and end up winning the match. But none of that happens with less than a full compliment of players in the game. And they don't go down to ten, then nine, men, if their young defender had his head screwed on straight.

It Also Happened in England: Stoke blows two goal lead against Leicester, Bournemouth rolls Sunderland

AFC Bournemouth 2-0 Sunderland
Bournemouth got the jump on their visitors from the northeast with a Callum Wilson goal in the fourth minute of play.Five minutes later it was Matt Ritchie doubling their lead with a chested volley that will make a nice goal of the week candidate. Bournemouth were assured of the points in the 74th minute when Younes Kaboul was shown his second yellow for an aggressive foul. Sunderland barely stood a chance with all eleven men on the pitch, let alone being down to ten.

Aston Villa 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
Tim Sherwood's Aston Villa looks to be returning to their low scoring ways as they fail to find a goal at home against West Brom. Saido Berahino deflected a James Morrison shot to make it 1-0 to the visitors in the  39th minute, and that was all they would need. The second half featured West Brom retreating into a shell, figuring the offensively inept Villa wouldn't be able to penetrate it, and they were right.

Newcastle 1-2 Watford
Watford flew in front on the wings of some nice passing and the finishing touch of Odion Ighalo in the tenth minute. Igahlo's second came in the 29th when he collected a perfect through ball from Troy Deeney, rounded the keeper and slid the ball into the open net. Newcastle got on the board in the 62nd when Daryl Janmaat slipped a shot past Heurelho gomes in the Watford goal. But it was not enough for the struggling Newcastle. The Hornets held out for the victory and move to nine points on the year.

Stoke City 2-2 Leicester City
A wonderful goal from Stoke to get this one started. Marko Arnautovic slipped a perfect through ball to Bojan Krcic for the east left footed tap in in the 13th minute. It took seven minutes for the home side to earn their second goal on the backs of some sloppy Leicester play in their own end. Jonathan Walters jumped on a sad excuse for a back pass and easily slipped his shot into the net.Leicester came out firing in the second half. They earned a penalty in the 50th minute that led to Riyad Mahrez halving Stoke's lead. Jamie Vardy completed the Foxes' comeback in the 69th minute by finishing off a brilliant team move that spanned the length of the pitch. It started with a long pass flicked by Mahrez onto the racing Vardy. Both sides had a few half chances to take a late lead, but nothing was in the cards and the points had to be shared.

Swansea City 0-0 Everton
This was a pretty interesting game considering the final score. There was plenty of back and forth action, although there weren't many clear chances to go along with it. Kevin Mirallas was sent off mere minutes after being brought on as a sub for a possibly injured Ross Barkley. It went down near the end of the three minutes of stoppage time, so it was too late for Swansea to truly take advantage.

It Happened in England: Chelsea bully Arsenal to earn second Premier League win

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
Chelsea needed to get back on PRemier League form after only finding one win in their first five matches. Arsenal, meanwhile, has struggled of late in their trips to Stamford Bridge, and this match wouldn't change that.

The first half wasn't exactly fast paced, but it was pretty back and forth. One side would get a decent spell of possession aided by some sloppy clearances by a couple of weakened back lines. The finishing wasn't quite there for either team, however, and the first half left us without a goal. That doesn't mean the match was without its fireworks. In the final minutes of the half, Diego Costa and Laurent Koscielny got in a small tussle in the Arsenal penalty area. After a slightly heated exchange, Gabriel came in and had a few words for the Chelsea forward. After both players were shown yellow cards, Gabriel simply let his immaturity get the best of him. He just gave a little heel to Costa in anger and was sent off for his lack of self control. Because the young defender was unable to keep his head on straight, Arsenal were forced to try and exorcise their Chelsea demons with only ten men.

Needless to say, Chelsea was on the front foot once the second half got started. A free kick in the 53rd minute found the head of Kurt Zouma for Chelsea's the seemingly inevitable go ahead goal. From that point on, Chelsea was content with passing the ball back and forth between their midfielders. Arsenal, was shockingly okay with them doing so. That said, the counter attacking chances were there, Arsenal just weren't able to make anything of them.

Just when Arsenal looked to be making some headway in the attacking game, disaster struck once again. In the 78th minute, Santi Cazorla was shown a second yellow card for a late sliding challenge and Arsenal were down to nine players. It was now just a matter of survival for the Gunners. If Chelsea were good at playing keep away before, now they were just masters of it. Being two men down made winning the ball back a most difficult proposition. And when possession was won, it was difficult to send men forward ahead of the Chelsea defense. Chelsea did earn a fluky second goal just after the 90 minutes passed by. Eden Hazard took a shot that took a deflection into the wide open goal.

Chelsea will take the win to get back on tack in the Premier League. It is only their second of the season . Arsenal, on the other hand, will have to feel like they threw away a point because of their own stupidity. More specifically, that of Gabriel. If he simply walks away from an incident that never involved him in the first place, perhaps a full strength Arsenal guts out a crucial road point.



Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Night Football: SKC boosts playoff chances

Sporting Kansas City 3-1 FC Dallas
Kansas City came into this one needing a win to solidify their playoff hopes, and they got just that against a talented FC Dallas side.

They dominated control of the ball throughout the first half, but didn't find any reward. The only reason for hat was the sublime goalkeeping of Dallas's Jesse Gonzalez. Had it not been for his robbing of Chance Myers's header at the end of the first half, it would have been a different story.

The goals came flying in the second half, staring with Benny Feilhaber bombing home a free kick in the 65th minute. Less than ten minutes later, Dom Dwyer earned a penalty out of Gonzalez leading to Feilhaber's second of the night.

Dallas was on their way back into the game courtesy of Victor Ulloa's first of the season. In the 80th minute, Ulloa took a low shot that went right through the usually strong handed Tim Melia to make it 2-1. SKC made sure that was nothing more than false hope, however. Dom Dwyer hammered home the third goal in the 83rd to put the game our of Dallas's reach.

Kansas City uses the three points to move four points clear of dropping out of the playoffs. Dallas misses a chance to get back in front of Vancouver for the Supporters Shield lead. They are still a point back in second place.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Revs jump into first, Lampard scores first MLS goal

Amidst all the UEFA (and CONCACAF) Champions League action this week, we are treated to a trio of domestic league games right here is the USA.

New York City 2-0 Toronto FC
Frank Lampard got his first MLS goal in the 20th minute on a beautiful cross from RJ Allen. It was a splendid shot for the former Chelsea and Manchester City star as he makes his first truly meaningful contribution to his new club.

Michael Bradley barely missed an equalizer on a counter attack about five minutes later. After receiving a pass from Sebastian Giovinco, the American captain's shot bumbled wide of the far post. Toronto kept swinging and earned several respectable chances leading up to the half hour mark. Jozy Altidore was robbed by the fingertips of Josh Saunders hardly a minute after the Bradley miss. Giovinco had a shot blocked from point blank range. By the halftime whistle, New York City was only barely clinging to their one goal lead.

Toronto continued pressing the NYC line in the second half, but Saunders was up for the challenge of each one of Toronto's attempts, especially a pair of bullet free kicks off the boot of Giovinco. Despite those advances, it was Patrick Mullins heading home an Andrea Pirlo corner in the 77th minute to double New York's lead.

City still has an uphill climb towards the playoffs they are two points back of Montreal for that sixth and final Eastern playoff spot. Toronto aren't quite at risk of dropping out of the East playoffs, but if they don't turn things around soon, they might miss out on the postseason party yet again.

New England Revolution 2-1 New York Red Bulls
Plenty of early fireworks here as both sides found the scoreboard within six minutes. Diego Fagundez, who has now scored in for straight matches, put New England ahead before two minutes went by. Not too be outdone, Mike Grella rocketed home a sixth minute equalizer. That would be it for the first half, however.

After nearly an hour without a goal Kelyn Rowe gave New England the lead back in the 65th minute. This time they would remain ahead for more than a few minutes. In fact, they held it for the test of the game and took a big three points at home to leap frog the Red Bulls into first in the East.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Montreal Impact
San Jose, looking to get back into the West playoff race, hosted Montreal, who was looking to solidify their position in the East playoffs. In a tagger writer first half, the heat action cane from captain Chris Wondolowski banging home a loose ball in the 35th minute.

The second half didn't get off to the best of starts for the Impact. Ambroise Oyongo was sent off for delivering an aggressive slide to the knee of Matias Perez-Garcia in the 49th minute. But ten man Montreal was not phased at all. In the 65th, Kyle Bekker scored on a shot from outside the penalty area that David Bingham would love to have back. The San Jose keeper was caught wrong footed and handed the shot quite awkwardly as it passed him by inside the near post. Despite some close calls, Montreal was able to defend their way to a point on the road to move a full point ahead of Orlando for sixth place in the East. San Jose still remains a point back of Portland for sixth out West.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It Also Happened in Europe: Zagreb upset Arsenal, Chelsea wins easy

One more day to wrap up the first week of Champions League Group Stage play means another afternoon didn't watching six games at once and blogging about eight. Loads of fun, for sure.

Group E
Roma 1-1 Barcelona
Defending champions, and favorites to repeat, Barcelona are expected to cruise through this group with relative ease. their first goal here came 21 minutes in courtesy of the head of Luis Suarez. Roma equalized in curious fashion just after the half hour. Right back Alessandro Florenzi was flying up the right flank. As he reached the halfway line he just flung the ball towards goal, where Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was out of position and could only watch the ball float into his net. Just after the hour mark, Barcelona took a bit of a hit as Rafinha was the victim of a reckless challenge and had to be carted off with injury. Roma was able to defend their way to a week ragged opening draw against the tournament favorites.

Beyer Leverkusen 4-1 Bate
It was a quick start for Leverkusen as Admir Mehmedi scored for them in the fourth minute against the Belarusian champions. But Bate were not too disturbed by conceding early. Nemanja Milunovic headed home a corner in the 12th to level the score. Leverkusen went back ahead two minutes into the second half with a rather flukey goal. Hakan Calhanoglu took a shot that was deflected and sent way high over the keeper and into the goal. Chicharito made it 3-1 to the home side in the 58th. The fourth came from Calhanoglu again in the 75th to complete the rout.

Barcelona won't get too hung up on dropping points in Rome, they should still be fine going forward. Roma had to consider the point a victory and a big step towards a second place finish, ever with Leverkusen winning big.

Group F
Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 Arsenal
Not wanting con continue England's rough run of form in the Champions League, Arsenal were handed a tricky road trip to Croatia to open their campaign. In the 25th minute, Dinamo Zagreb were able to grab a counter attack and Josip Pivaric was able to poke through the Arsenal defense and his shot took a deflection off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the own goal. Zagreb continued to get forward as Arsenal's presses did next to nothing. It went from bad to worse for Arsenal in the 40th minute when Olivier Giroud was shown his second yellow card for a bad foul. Ten man Arsenal were lucky not to concede at the start of the second half. Only the outstretched arm of David Ospina kept it a one goal game. They did concede their second in the 58th on a very poorly defended corner that Junior Fernandes got his head to. Theo Walcott died in the 79th to make it look better, but this was still an ugly affair for the Gunners.

Olympiakos 0-3 Bayern Munich
Olympiakos scrapped their way to a goalless first half against the German giants.But Bayern wouldn't keep their zero for long in the second half. Thomas Muller floated one into the top corner for a rather anti-climactic first goal in the 52nd minute. Goals from Mario Goetze and Muller again right near the final whistle sealed the easy Bayern win.

Arsenal falling is what shakes up this opening week. Thankfully, Dinamo Zagreb aren't exactly going to keep up this form against Bayern or Olympiakos. Arsenal will need to grab some crucial home points ave escape Greece with at least a draw to feel better about themselves after today.

Group G
Chelsea 4-0 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Hosting a team from Israel, Chelsea was probably England's best hope to grab a win in the first week of Champions League play. They got off to the right start when Willian put them ahead 1-0 a quarter hour in. Oscar added one from the spot just before the halftime whistle to double the lead. Chelsea's domination continued in the 58th minute with a Diego Costa volley to make it 3-0. Cesc Fabregas finished the blowout in the 78th.

Dynamo Kiev 1-1 FC Porto
Oleg Gusev got Kiev started in the 20th minute, but Vincent Aboubakar levelled for Porto all of three minutes later. Aboubakar scored his second of the match in the 81st to get Porto in front, starting a wild final ten minutes in Kiev. Vitaliy Buyalsky have the home side a share of the spoils by tying the score in the 89th.

This group is all about finishing service place. Chelsea has firm control and was already the favorites to win it. The bathe will be between Porto and Dynamo Kiev for that second spot. With the draw here, the return leg in Portugal will be the all important match to watch in Group G.

Group H
Valencia 0-2 Zenit St. Petersburg
It was the visiting Russians and their Brazilian striker Hulk with the first goal in this one in the ninth minute. He struck again a minute before halftime to make it 2-0. Valencia was able to battle back thanks to Alex Witsel scoring an own goal in the 54th and Andre Gomes scoring the conventional way in the 73rd. Witsel was able to mage up for his misfortune in the 76th and gave St. Petersburg the surprise points on the road.

Gent 1-1 Olympique Lyonnais
It took a while, but Christophe Jallet final put Lyon ahead of the Belgian opponents in the 58th minute. Gent struck back ave were able to earn a draw in their first ever Champions League group stage match thanks to Danijel Milicevic ring things up in the 68th minute.

St. Petersburg got three huge road points in this wide open group. I'd have called for Valencia to hold serve at home and claim them, but the Russian ambush shakes things up a bit. Gent earning a draw does hurt Lyon a bit, but it won't be a major issue for the French side going forward.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It Happened in Europe: PSV upset Manchester United, Manchester City's struggles in Europe continue

Champions League coverage in America expanded quite a bit this season. Instead of Fox Sports controlling everything, they decided to split the load with ESPN. Between the two networks, all eight of today's games were available either on television or streaming online. Through my television, PC, and mobile device, I managed to max out at video feed of six out of eight matches. A real test of my concentration if there ever was one.

Group A
Paris St. Germain 2-0 Malmo
PSG was expected to roll through the Swedish champions and Angel di Maria, freshly arrived from Manchester United, made sure to get the Parisians off to a flying start with a goal in the fourth minute of play. It took them a while to add their second despite controlling the match. Edinson Cavani headed home a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 61st minute.

Real Madrid 4-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
It took a half hour for Karim Benzema to give Real Madrid the lead, and that was all they would get before the half. Things got rough for Shakhtar in the 50th minute when Taras Stepanenko was shown his second yellow and was sent off. After that, Real Madrid were rolling. Cristiano Ronaldo converted a pair of PKs to put the game clearly out of reach for the Ukrainian runners up. Ronaldo's hat trick came in the 81st minute, as if Real needed anything more to sew this one up tightly.

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Real Madrid and PSG are expected to roll through this group rather easily, as today proved. There's no question those two will advance, but the battle for the top spot will be fun.

Group B
Wolfsburg 1-0 CSKA Moscow
Kevin de Bruyne's departure was supposed to be a big blow for Wolfsburg, but it was his expensive replacement Julian Draxler with their first Champions League goal this year in the 40th minute. That was all they needed to take care of the visitors from Russia.

PSV Eindhoven 2-1 Manchester United
A scary opening for this one. Luke Shaw was aggressively challenged by Hector Moreno. After laying on the pitch for what felt like an eternity, he had to be stretchered off and replaced by Marco Rojo. In the 41st minute, United got some good news as Memphis Depay put them in front. United kept pressing, but it was Moreno, the perpetrator of Shaw's injury, providing Eindhoven with an equalizer in the second minute of first half stoppage time by heading home a corner. After creating a midfield turnover, PSV was able to break forward leading to a beautiful cross from Maxim Lestienne and header for the goal by Luciano Narsingh to make it 2-1 to the Dutch side. The 12th man that was the ruckus PSV Eindhoven crowd was too much for Manchester United to overcome in the end.

Wolfsburg gets a bit of a boost here thanks to PSV Eindhoven's upset of Manchester United, making their road to advancement a little easier. This should end up as nothing more than a bump in the road for the Red Devils, however. As they should be able to handle Eindhoven and Moscow at home. The tricky part, and the way that Eindhoven or CSKA Moscow can slip in ahead of United, is how well they do on those tough road games in Wolfsburg and the Russian capital.

Group CBenfica 2-0 Astana
Astana, who I expected to get waxed right out of this group, was holding their own for quite some time here. They were scoreless heading into half time, but Nicolas Gaitan made sure to get Benefica moving in the second half. His run through the Astana defense and subsequent shot were a thing of beauty to put the Portuguese champions up a goal. The second came from Greek international Konstantinos Mitroglou in the 62nd.

Galatasaray 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Heading to Turkey is never an easy task for any club, as those Galatasaray supporters can be quite hostile. Antoine Griezmann was not bothered. Last season's leading goal scorer for Atletico bagged the opener in the 18th minute and a second in the 25th.

Atletico Madrid looked quite good in a tricky road game, so they have to be considered bigger favorites than they were before to take the group. The second spot, which is generally considered up for grabs between Galatasaray and Benfica, goes slightly in the favor of the Portuguese champs after Galatasaray failed to take points at home.

Group D
Sevilla 3-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
The first half may have lacked fireworks, but the second was all about Sevilla running up goals on their German opposition. Two second half penalties against Gladbach were enough to undo them. Kevin Gameiro converted the first just two minutes into the second half. Ever Banega nailed the second in the 66th. Substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka provided the third goal in the 84th minute to put it away for good.

Manchester City 1-2 Juventus
Looking to make a real mark in Europe for the first time, Manchester City were handed a difficult opening match against one of last year's finalists. After a scoreless first half, Manchester City finally went in front off the head in Vincent Kompany. Mario Mandzukic levelled for last year's runners up in the 70th minute. Alvaro Morata made it 2-1 to Juve in the 81st minute, thus continuing Manchester City's continental struggles.

Sevilla got their emphatic home win against a side that we really don't know much about, Manchester City gave themselves a bit of a hurdle to climb ass they were unable to hang onto a lead at home. Juventus may be the best in the group, but Sevilla might be a force to challenge them. As for City, what more can be said? They are cruising through the Premier League early on, but at least after one game, still seem unable to exorcise their European demons. Before we really pass judgement, let's see what happens against Gladbach and Sevilla.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Night Football: Payet lifts West Ham over Newcastle

West Ham 2-0 Newcastle
Dimitri Payet was the man leading West Ham to their third win of the season. He scored both of the Hammers' goals to lift then to nine points and fifth place in the table.

Payet, who arrived from Marseille this summer, scored in the ninth and 49th minutes. He is adjusting to Premier League live quite well. He has three goals in five starts already, compared to only seven goals in 35 starts last year in France.

Other than the fact that Newcastle earned a bunch of possession after West Ham went up 2-0, the Hammers really dominated winless Newcastle. It was their first home win of their strange early season. They have beaten Arsenal and Liverpool on their travels while stumbling at home to Bournemouth and Leicester City. Newcastle was the perfect target to turn their home fortunes around, however. The Toon side have failed to score in four straight after today and are yet to win.

We are now five matches deep in the Premier League season and we have seen a few unbelievable things. First off is the extremely troubling opening to Chelsea's title defense. The Blues have lost three out of five while conceding 12 goals. It's the worst five match start for a defending champion in Premier League history. No team has ever started this poorly and managed to recover and win the title. Can Jose Mourinho acc his men overcome those astronomical odds to repeat?

On the other side of the table, West Ham are out to a solid start in fifth place, but the real shocker has been Leicester City. Having win three of five, they sit on 11 points and in second place. We can't get too excited about the Foxes yet, though. Their wins have come against lowly Sunderland, Stoll uncertain West Ham, and Aston Villa. We will learn a lot more about this squad in a couple weeks when they welcome Arsenal into the King Power Stadium.

Finally, Manchester City are making a strong case for the title race being all about them. They are a perfect five for five so far and gave Chelsea a real beating in their one truly competitive match. The way Crystal Palace was able to nearly scrap out a scoreless draw its likely prof that they will drop points at some point. Based on how they have handed their first five games, in general, it's hard to believe that there are many teams capable of giving them a challenge.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday MLS: New England and Orlando improve playoff chances

Toronto FC 1-3 New England Revolution
Toronto looked pretty good at the open of this one. They put some pressure on the Revs' back line and created a few almost chances. That all went for naught add Teal Bunberry got a chance for a low cross on a counter attack in the fourth minute. Damien Perquis got in the way of the pass only to, every so eloquently, fire it into his own goal. Diego Fagundez made it 2-0 in the 39th to dig Toronto's hole even deeper at halftime.

This really was a dominating first half gone wrong for Toronto. They had ten shots and two thirds of the possession, but it was New England with the pair of goals on as many attempts.

Robbie Findley put Toronto on the board ten minutes into the second half, which was a positive sign. But in the 71st minute, Kelyn Rowe converted for New England as Toronto was unable to clear its penalty area to erase any sense of Toronto hope.

For all the talent Toronto has up front, if they can't keep other playoff clubs of the scoreboard, their first postseason appearance is going to be a very short one. They're possession style is very effective in the attacking end, but I huge component to being successful in the style is being able to defend counter attacks. Toronto, as this game proved, is not very good in that regard.

Orlando City 1-0 Sporting Kansas City
Orlando City got off to quite the hot start here. Adrian Winter had them ahead in the fourth minute and that was only the beginning of a strong opening onslaught for the Lions. They only scored once in that first half, but it was clear that Orlando had all the momentum going forward.

Krisztian Nemeth changed that slightly for Kansas City when he put them even in the 59th minute, but they're joy didn't last long. Orlando snatched the lead right back in the 66th courtesy of Brian Rochez and his first of the year. Winter added his second of the night in the 72nd minute to put it away.

Orlando will take the boost to their playoff chances, but they are still behind Montreal on the games won tiebreaker. Kansas City remains level with Portland for the final two spots out West.

Sunday Premier League: Spurs leave it late, Leicester City with a furious comeback

Sunderland 0-1 Tottenham
Spurs were struggling to find much of an attack throughout much of thsi match. It wasn't until Ryan Mason took advantage of some flat footed Black Cat defending in the 82nd minute goal that they were able to snag all three points at the Stadium of Light. Shockingly, that was Tottenham's first win of the young season. It would come against Sunderland, though. Who will probably lose their eternal battle against relegation come season's end.

Leicester City 3-2 Aston Villa
The Foxes continue their magical opening to the season, this time with a miraculous comeback against Aston Villa. Young standout Jack Grealish put Villa up in the 39th minute and the lead was doubled in he 63rd by Carles Gil. The last 20 minutes then belonged exclusively to Leicester City. Ritchie De Laet got some help from goal line technology for the first of the goals in the 72nd minute. Jamie Vardy levelled the score ten minutes later by sliding home a low cross. Finally, just a minute from the end of the 90, Nathan Dyer, Leiceser City's prized summer buy, gave the Foxes their unlikely winner in his debut. Dyer charged for a cross, managed to get a leg to it amidst Brad Guzan's charge, and the ball bumbled in for the winning goal. Dyer made quite the sacrifice to win the game. He lay on the pitch for a minute or two after he was thundered into by Villa's American keeper, but he walked of no worse for wear. 

Leicester City is the surprise starter of this season.  The Foxes have 11 points in five matches and find themselves in second place in the table. Anyone with a sound mind can tell you that this form will not last, but we can all enjoy it while it does. I'm sure they will come down to Earth in a month or so and end up fighting the relegation battle by season's end. This furious start could be just what they need to stay up when all is said and done.

It Happened in America: Late draws salvaged by DC and Seattle

Philadelphia Union 1-2 Columbus Crew
Kei Kamara was at it again for the Crew. The league's leading goal scorer knocked home a pair of goals within five minutes of each other in the first half to really put Philly behind the eight ball before the half hour mark. CJ Sapong, gave them their reward after pelting the Columbis goal with shots, in the 69th minute. Not that it was enough. The Crew continue to put stnadings pressure on New York and DC in front of them as they sit in third, just a point behind those two. The Union fail to jump into the one East playoff spot that might still be up for grabs. They are two points behind Montreal in sixth.

Houston Dynamo 1-3 Real Salt Lake
RSL was in control for pretty much the entire first half. So it was not much of a surprise when Javier Morales finally scored in first half stoppage time. Davon Sandoval didn't want to wait as long in the second half to double the lead. His goal came only six minutes after the beginning of the second. Brad Davis put in a PK in the 65th to give the visiting side a chance, but Juan Manuel Martinez's first of the year squandered that three minutes later. The West being what it is means both of these clubs still have a chance to sneak into a playoff spot. They are both level on 35 points, six behind Portland in the final playoff spot.

FC Dallas 2-1 New York City
The last minute of the first half with Tesho Akindele and four minutes into first half stoppage time with Michel were all that Dallas needed to get past New York City at home. A Patrick Mullins PK goal was all the Manchester CIty farm club could muster up in a second half where they were in control of the run of play. Dallas is now only a game back of Vancouver for both the top spot in the West and the Supporters' Shield. While New York City's playoff hopes keep dwindling as the games pass by. They're now only a point above Chiago for last place in the East.

Colorado Rapids 1-1 DC United
DC United needs to start putting some wins together or else they will see their prospects at the top of the Eastern Conference continue to drop quickly. They didn't get off to the best start in this one and it took them a while to salvage their draw in the mountains. Bobby Burling put the Rapids on top in the 28th minute. Despite the fact that they were down, United failed  to really do much with the ball and onky took six total shots on the night. Alvaro Saborio rescued a point in the 87th to keep DC only a point back of Red Bulls.

LA Galaxy 0-0 Montreal Impact
Galaxy had nearly 60% of the ball, but the Impact defense was strong enough to keep them off the scoreboard while the attack actually outshot LA.  There were plenty of chances for either side, but no goals were in the cards by the final whistle. Montreal will take the draw, as they just needs points in their final games as they catch up to the rest of the pack in the schedule. THey are two points clear of sixth with four games in hand on seventh place Philadelphia.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Seattle Sounders
Seattle was another likely playoff team needing to salvage a point on the road against lesser opposition. Fatai Alashe had put the Quakes up in the 70th minute, but Obafemi Martins got Seattle level in the 82nd. Seattle can use the point to gain a little bit of safety from dropping out. They hold a three point advantage over San Jose in seventh. The Quakes could have really used the win here. That would have put them level with Portland for sixth with six games left.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

It Happened in England: Everton upset Chelsea, United roll through Liverpool

Everton 3-1 Chelsea
It's fitting that Chelsea, after their relentless pursuit of John Stones ended in failure, that they would visit Stones and his Everton side in the first game after the close of the transfer window. But the hero in this one wasn't even in the starting eleven. It was Steven Naismith leading Everton to a resounding victory over the defending champions.

Roberto Martinez's troops got off to the start they needed to add injury to insult to the visitors. Naismith, who came on as a ninth minute subsititute for the injured Muhamed Besic, got his head to a perfectly placed cross from Brendan Galloway in the 17th minute for the opening goal of the match. The home team kept pressing after the goal and came an Asmir Begovic fingertip away from Arouna Kone doubling their lead less than three minutes later. In the 22nd minute, they did find that second goal, and it was Naismith again. This time with a screming shot from outside the penalty area.

Despite Everton's early two goal lead, you knew their oponents wouldn't go away quietly. Chelsea would smash themselves back into the game in the 36th minute with Nemanja Matic's first goal of the season. It was a bomb from 30 or so yards out that left Tim Howard and his Everton defenders helpless. In the second half Chelsea was the main attacker as Everton sat back and tried to keep the Blues from tying the score. On a counter attack in the 82nd minute, Steven Naismith put this one away with his hat trick. He made a great run through the center of the defense to connect with a Ross Barkley through ball and the tap in.

Chelsea continues with their slow start with now only four points through their first five matches.

Norwich City 3-0 AFC Bournemouth
Cameron Jerome put Norwich in front in the 35th in this match of newly promoted clubs. Wes Hoolahan added the second seven minutes after the restart and Norwich was cruising. Matthew Jarvis added the third in the 67th, just in case the first two weren't enough.

Crystal Palace 0-1 Manchester City
Crystal Palace kind of did what Crystal Palace does here. They defended strong and nearly scrapped out a point against very, very tough opposition. They held out almost long enough to earn a point in this one. Manchester City didn't get their goal until the tail end of the 90th minute of this one. Kelechi Iheanacho, an unlikely goal scorer if there ever was one, latched onto a rebound to give City their goal and keep their perfect record to start the season.

West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Southampton
West Brom decided to defend their way to another frutrasting experience for Southampton. While the Saints controlled every aspect of the game, they were unable to find any goals amongst the WBA defense. Saints are sitting on a rather underwhelming six points after their first five matches.

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City
Theo Walcott gave Arsenal their first home goal of the season (in their third home match) in the 31st minute with a connection on a long ball and expert footwork. Arsenal then proceeded to play their style of game. They held on to the ball, never really threatened to score again, and allowed Stoke way too many opportunities of their own. Thankfully, the back line of Laurent Kocielney and Gabriel were up to the task of defending. And Olivier Giroud got his meaty French forhead to score his first goal of the season in the 85th minute.

Watford 1-0 Swansea City
Swansea has been the upstart club of the year, scrapping out a win against Manchester United and a hard fought draw against Chelsea. They stumbled a bit here on the road in Watford, however. Watford's goal came just before the hour mark when Odion Ighalo connected on a headed cross from Troy Deeney, who had just recieved the ball on a goal kick from his keeper. Trouble struck for the Hornets five minutes later when Valon Behrami was shown a red card, forcing Watford to hold of the Swansea attack with only ten players. They were able to accomplish that mission, however, and earn their first win of the season.

Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool
In a match of two teams who are still really unsure of what they truly are, it was the home Red Devils who decided to go off for their first truly big win of the season. It was a selection of Louis van Gaal's imports doing the damage, too. Although it did take them until the second half. First off, it was Daley Blind in the 49th. Then Ander Herrera in the 70th. Liverpool's prized summer buy, Christian Benteke, pulled the visitors back within a goal in the 84th, but Manchester United left little too doubt in the end. Anthony Martial, the much criticized purchase that highlighted United's transfer window, put the icing on the cake with his first Manchester United goal just two minutes after Benteke's bringer of hope.

For being considered in a slow start, United is actually pretty well off. They are on ten points and in second place, five behind perfect Manchester City. Liverpool is mired in ninth with seven points from five matches.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Night Football: Red Bulls charge to the top in the East

New York Red Bulls 3-2 Chicago Fire
The Red Bulls have finally overtaken DC United for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a 71st minute Sacha Kljestan penalty. Things did not get off to a great start for New York. The Fire jumped out to a 2-0 lead. it began when Kennedy Igboananike was tripped on the very very edge of the penalty are in the 13th minute, leading to Jeff Larentowicz making it 1-0 from the spot. David Accam doubled the lead in the 26th minute with a wonderful solo effort and dance around Luis Robles in the Red Bull goal.

Bradley Wright-Phillips got New York on the board almost immediately. The Englishman made some space for himself and slotted home a pass from Kljestan less than two minute after Accam's goal. Mike Grella would level the score in the 38th minute with a nice chip past Sean Johnson.

The Red Bulls continued to dominate the ball for the entire second half, so it was only a matter of time before the winner came along. Michael Stephens was the perpetrator by bringing down Lloyd Sam in the box to set up Kljestan's tally.

AS stated earlier, New York finally overtakes United for the top spot in the East, and they still have a pair of games in hand over much of their competition. Chicago's nightmare season continues. They remain at the bottom of the East. However, due to the overall awfulness of the bottom half of that conference, they are still only four points back of a playoff spot.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

#KeyworthIt: Detroit City FC announces plans for a new home


Last night, the Detroit City Twitterverse was abuzz about a huge announcement coming from the club. After much waiting and anticipation, we finally got the news.

In a press release posted to their website Thursday morning, Detroit City FC announced their proposal to the Hamtramck Public School Board to renovate Keyworth Stadium and use it for the club's home matches as early as next spring. the 79 year old stadium sits on Roosevelt St in the small, dense, and diverse community of Hamtramck, a small city completely encircled by the city of Detroit. It has seen very little use and even less upkeep in the recent years, so the DCFC proposal will breath new life into an old building.

There is no doubt that the club needs a new home. Cass Tech, while offering a gorgeous view of Detroit's underrated skyline, is too small. The smallest crowd during the 2015 season was larger than all but one game the previous season. Despite efforts temporarily increase Cass's capacity, fans were still turned away from the gate as the stands were just too full. A larger home is needed, and Keyworth's 6,000 supporter capacity (with room for expansion) is just what the doctor ordered.

There are multiple advantages to this facility that show up both on and off the pitch. The major factor that affects the game itself is the wider field of play. A profile of the stadium from last October on Boys In Rouge estimates a 65 yard wide pitch, ten yards wider than Cass Tech. While not quite up to high end professional standards, it certainly is a big improvement over Cass tech's narrowness. One of the main weaknesses of the squad last season was their inability to play well in a wider playing area, this might go a long way towards addressing that.

The wider field does nothing to sacrifice the compactness and intimacy that has been the hallmark to the club's matchday atmosphere. The supporters are still right on top of the field, unlike the feeling of separation I felt when attending friendlies at Berkley's Hurley Field. The players will still be bathed in smoke after every goal, just as they always have been. The larger capacity only means that there will hopefully be more supporters raining noise upon opponents from just as close range.

The one drawback that some of the club's supporters will be the departure of the city of Detroit proper. Yes, Hamtramck is "in Detroit" based on the fact that it is completely surrounded by the city, but it is not part of the city limits. Detroit City FC was founded on the principle of bringing soccer to Detroit, not just the Detroit area. This doesn't bother me as much as it would bother some others. It is still soccer in my area, with Detroit as it's primary identity. It's not like the club is moving to Novi, or Pontiac, or Auburn Hills.

It does take away from the convenience of being so close to downtown Detroit. People, in general, are not as familiar with Hamtramck as they are with the busiest part of the city. We all know the die hards will follow along, but will fringe supporters and families still come out to a less familiar area? Downtown Detroit is considered a safe place to go for any number of activities, will people still feel that was about a more inner city residential area like Hamtramck?

As far as the Northern Guard and other supporters are concerned, there are plenty of bars within marching distance of the stadium that can continue to make matchday an all day affair. PArking might be tight, but the club and city of Hamtramck are working on that.

The only question that remained is how the project will be funded. DCFC is getting record crowds for every match, but they aren't made of money. And this project, with the structural renovations, field replacement, and more, sounds quite expensive. As part of their release, the club announced that a combination of club funds, traditional small business loans, and a "community investment campaign" will provide the cash needed to get the job done.

What is a "community investment campaign," you ask? Well, according to the release, it allows for supporters to loan their money to the club to go towards the renovation project. Details are coming soon, but I am curious to see how this will work. They compare it to Kickstarter style crowdfunding, but with the opportunity to earn your loan back with interest.

I have never poured money into a Kickstarter campaign before, but I see myself potentially investing in this project. I will wait until I see more details before officially pledging my contribution, but if it can help the club achieve their (and my own) dreams of a high octane matchday atmosphere, I am all for it.

All in all, the move to Keyworth Stadium will help Detroit City FC take the next step towards becoming one of the elite sports teams in this city and helping the city become one of the best soccer markets in the USA. It is a great place for the club to continue its organic, grassroots growth into the future. The next step, of which Keyworth is a major component of, is joining a professional league. Without a larger capacity for more fans, that would certainly never happen.

Midweek MLS Madness: Vancouver claims Shield lead, Portland and SKC still level

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0  Colorado Rapids
Colorado did well to hold with their far superior opposition through the first half. Despite being out possessed 57-43, the Rapids managed to equal the Caps in shots on their way to a goalless first frame. Neither team was really able to get much going in their own attacking half, despite each side's seven shots. Passing into the box was very sparse and mostly unsuccessful. Vancouver came alive and pulled way ahead after the break. Octavio Rivero put them on the board in the 73rd and Cristian Techera added the second four minutes later. They would cruise to victory in a second half that was certainly tipped towards Vancouver's attacking end. Shots went from even at the half to 16-9 to the Caps by the final whistle. The win lifts Vancouver to the top of the West and Supporters' Shield piles.

Portland Timbers 0-0 Sporting Kansas City
Neither team exactly found a rhythm in the first half, but the second half brought some fireworks. Most of the ammo belonged to the Timbers, and Lucas Melano in particular. Melano probably could have had a hat trick shortly after the hour mark had it not been for some heroic goalkeeping from Tim Melia. The best chance came after Graham Zusi drilled a post with a shot. Portland managed to get a great counter attack after the scramble in front of their goal that resulted in Melano, Diego Valeria, and Fanedno Adi leading a three on one charge, Melano got the shot, but Melia managed to get his body to it and keep the game scoreless.

This progressed into your prototypical Portland Timbers game. The home side defended well, the only real Kansas City chance was Zusi's post, and showed an utter lack of finishing ability. The chances were there on many occasions, but they were foiled each and every time, often by Portland's own mistakes. Whether it was an ill advised and/or rushed shot, failure to pick out the right pass, or poor ball on the right pass, nothing was ever there for Portland.

Although you can knock the Timbers forwards all you want, Tim Melia's performance cannot be discounted. Despite overwhelming pressure, Melia held strong in thee Sporting goal and kept the clean sheet. This despite the fact that he was peppered with seven shots on target.

The two sides had to settle for a goalless draw and entering a three way tie with Seattle for fourth in the West. Kansas City has the slight advantage, however, as they have a pair of games in hand over both Portland and Seattle.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Night MLS: Dallas bombs the Crew in Ohio

Columbus Crew 0-3 FC Dallas
Two side that have quietly been amongst the league's best met in Central Ohio looking to throw some insurance on a pair of already strong playoff bids. Both sides were crippled with losses due to national team duty, including a couple of big goal scorers. Kei Kamara, who was away with Sierra Leone, was the biggest missing name for Columbus. Dallas was without Panamanian striker Blas Perez.

Columbus thought they had the lead in the 25th minute when Jack McInerney managed to earn a penalty from Matt Hedges. It may or may not have actually been a foul, but it didn't matter in the end. Federico Higuain stepped to the spot and bumbled his shot plenty wide of the goal. Dallas made sure the Crew paid for their misfortune all of three minutes later. Atiba Harris got his head to a corner to put Dallas up a goal.

Columbus was on the front foot for much of the remainder of the proceedings and were quite susceptible to counter attacks. After a couple failed maneuvers, Dallas was able to get their second goal in the 69th minute on a breakaway from Michael Barrios. The third came all of two minutes later on a bad Columbus turnover in their own final third. Barrios was robbed of his second goal on the original shot, but David Texeira was there to bang home the uncontested rebound.

Columbus poured numbers forward for the remaining 20 minutes, but it was all to no avail. Dallas took the full three points with them back to Texas in resounding fashion.

Both sides are still reasonably secure in their playoff hopes, although Dallas gains a little more here. They jump over Seattle in the jumbled mess that is the West playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Crew miss a chance to tie DC United for the top spot in the East.

It Happened in America: Drogba's hat trick, Union make playoff push

New England Revolution 3-0 Orlando City
The Revs get a nice domination performance to solidify their own playoff hopes while damaging Orlando's. Diego Fagundez capped off a hard working first half with a 43rd minute goal. Their less than subtle domination continued even without the goals going in. The Revs took 21 shots to Orlando's eight while controlling 55% of the ball. The final two goals came from Juan Agudelo in the 84th and Christ Tierney at the end of stoppage time. The East playoffs are a little more clear than the West, but the battle for sixth place is strong. Despite this loss, Orlando still lives for that final spot. They are only two points back.

Montreal Impact 4-3 Chicago Fire
What a debut start for Didier Drogba. In his first time in Montreal's starting eleven he only bagged a hat trick and single handedly sent Montreal into a collective tizzy. All of them were the highly skilled goals that you would expect from Drogba. He looked like he was back in his Chelsea prime. Except he's 37 years old in MLS. His first was in the 27th minute before Jeff Larentowicz equalized from the spot. Wandrille Lefevre put Montreal ahead in the 42nd. Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike completed the goals that didn't matter by the hour mark. Drogba took over in the 61st and had his hat trick completed by the 65th. For all the flack that MLS gets for being a retirement home for the old international stars, it's going to be a lot of fun having Didier Drogba around to watch. Chicago, despite having the lowest point total in all of MLS, is only four points back of the playoffs.

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Toronto FC
Seattle had Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins back in the lineup together for the first time in recent memory and proved that they can be a major force heading into the postseason. Toronto, meanwhile, was without their three best players as Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley were all away on international duty. Martins scored the first goal, assisted by Dempsey, in the sixth minute. Toronto would fight back and equalize in the 59th minute with a goal from Eriq Zavaleta. Dempsey would find the Sounders their winner in the 77th. Seattle climbs up to third after being out of the playoffs just a couple weeks ago. Boy the Western Conference is messed up.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia, once the worst team in MLS, is now only a point out of the playoffs after beating the red hot San Jose Earthquakes. After both teams struggled to find a goal, Chris Wondolowski converted a penalty in the 64th minute to make it look like the Quakes would grab their fifth straight win. The Union had other plans. Conor Casey scored in the 74th and 86th minutes to give the visitors all three points. The Quakes, who can never seem to win when it matters most, are still two points back of Portland in sixth out West.