Saturday, October 31, 2015

It Happened in England: Liverpool continue Chelsea's skid, Leicester enters the top four

Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool
Chelsea was looking to turn around their putrid start to the season and Ramires gave them just the start they needed. The Brazilian latched his noggin onto a laser cross from Cesar Azpuilacueta in the fourth minute that easily beat Simon Mignolet. The early goal gave Chelsea some momentum and helped them look competent in their game for the first time in a while. Liverpool gradually got themselves back into the swing of things and were rewarded at the death of the first half. Philippe Coutinho equalized in first half stoppage time by evading what felt like the entire Chelsea back line by himself.

The second half was a sort of bland affair for the first 20 minutes or so. Chelsea did have a unique chance when Diego Costa tried looping a shot from just inside the Liverpool half over an out of position Mignolet, but the Belgian goalkeeper got a fingertip to the effort. More evasion of Chelsea's back line led to Liverpool thrusting themselves ahead. Another fancy Coutinho goal in the 75th minute did the trick. Christian Benteke secured the points for the visitors in the 83rd minute with a low shot that was one again through some questionable Chelsea defending.

That was all she wrote. Chelsea continues their woeful opening to the season and the countdown towards Jose Mourinho's firing is getting shorter and shorter. His squad has 11 points in as many matches and continues to hover around the relegation zone. Liverpool earns their first win under Jurgen Klopp with that added bonus of contributing to Chelsea's demise.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Manchester United
Palace just kind of did what Palace does here. They gritted out a draw against far superior competition. No goals were scored, which suits them just fine. Manchester Untied, however will consider this a missed opportunity and see the dropped points as a hit to their championship efforts, although they stay in the top four thanks to the West Ham loss.

Manchester City 2-1 Norwich City
It took until the 67th minute, but Nicolas Otamendi gave Manchester City they're deserved lead by heading home a Kevin de Bruyne corner. Fiesty Norwich would not go away quietly. They leveled through Jerome on the 83rd minute. Their effort to hold onto the draw was ruined in the 88th when Russell Martin handballed on the goal line and was justifiably sent off. That lead to a Yaya Toure goal from the spot. Surviving the scare means City means stay in first place.

Newcastle 0-0 Stoke City 
This was a goalless draw well with your ignorance. Two lower table sides failing to score can hardly hold anyone's attention for long.

Swansea City 0-3 Arsenal
Neither team found a breakthrough in the first half, but it was Swansea with the better opportunities. Bafetimbi Gomis, in particular, will feel like he should have scored when he was alone on Petr Cech in the 22nd minute. Arsenal, in general, were pretty bad in the first half. Their inability to plan on offside trap led to the Gomis chance and plenty of other defensive miscues bit them as well.

The second half was much better from the Gunners. Olivier Giroud continues his high scoring firm after a scoreless opening to his season. The Frenchmen headed home a rebound off the crossbar for Arsenal's first goal in the 49th minute. Defender Laurent Koscielny doubled the lead in the 68th with a hard working, bordering on fouling, effort in the penaltty area. The goal was met with protests from Swansea that the Frenchman backed into the goalkeeper as he was playing the ball. Joel Campbell made it three with his first Premier League goal in the 73rd to turn this into a rout.

The Gunners remain in second place thanks to the Manchester City win, but only on goal differential.

Watford 2-0 West Ham
Watford got the first half jump in this match of underappreciated London cubs. Odion Ighalo fired home the first goal in the 39th minute. Ighalo doubled the kiss in the 48th. West Ham had been off to a strong start this year. They take the blow and fall out of the top four, for now.

West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Leicester City
Jose Rondon's header off a corner at the half hour mark put West Brom ahead against the Foxes. Leicester woke up at halftime and poured it on after the break. Rihyad Mahrez had the equalizer in the 57th minute. He added his second in the 64th. Then Jamie Vardy contributed to his league leading goal tally to make it 3-1 in the 77th. Rickie Lambert pulled one back from the penalty spot on the 84th, but it wasn't enough for them. Leicester, thanks to the West Ham failure, leaps into third place.

Friday, October 30, 2015

It Happened in America: Montreal rolls Toronto, Portland beats SKC in instant classic

Montreal Impact 3-0 Toronto FC
After yesterday's excitement, tonight started off with a thorough Montreal beatdown of Toronto.

The Impact opened this one with three first half goals, and Didier Drogba only had one of them. Patrice Bernier got the party started in the 18th minute by finishing off a slick counter attack through some questionable Red defensing.. Then Ignacio Piatti carried it on in the 33rd by creating a turnover in the Toronto penalty area and finishing the goal himself.. Drogba finally contributed in the 38th by drilling home a gorgeous cross from Bernier. At halftime, it looked like Toronto's first ever playoff appearance would be very short lived

And very short lived they were. Montreal had nothing to do in the second half but defend their way to a simple 3-0 victory.

Toronto's defending was shady all night long. Their sloppy all night long. They never gave their threatening attacking trio of Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore any chance to create anything. By the time they were able to gain possession for extended periods, they were already down big and Montreal had their defensive shell firmly in place,

I really like this Montreal team going forward. Since Drogba made his debut on August 22, Montreal are 9-3-2 as they steamrolled their way into third place in the East. I love the matchup they have against the Columbus Crew over the next two weeks. While I think nobody can defeat the Red Bulls, Montreal is certainly the team with the best chance in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the emphatic Impact victory, the Red Bulls will travel to DC for the first leg against United on Sunday.

Portland Timbers 2-2 Sporting Kansas City (7-6 in penalties)
Well, they say save the best for last, and that's exactly what happened in the knockout round. A match that not only required extra time, but 11 rounds of penalties served as a wonderful dessert to this opening meal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The first half of this one looked a lot like the other three Kansas City-Portland throwdowns throughout this season. The Timbers were on the attack as the game began and actually came within inches of taking the lead in the fifth minute. Only the timely foot of Paulo nagamura on the goal line kept the game scoreless. Once Kansas City weathered the initial assault, the game morphed into the tight, chippy contest we were expecting. There weren't any true scoring chances, just solid defense and some fouls followed by some chirping between the two sides. At the halftime whistle, these two sides had played 315 minutes this season with only one goal between them.

Kansas City came out firing as the second half kicked off. Their best chance came off a Portland turnover in their own end that resulted in Dom Dwyer missing the upper corner of the net by mere inches. Despite the early pressure, it was Portland breaking the deadlock. Sporting failed to clear a corner and it resulted in Rodney Wallace breaking the Timbers' 327 minute scoreless streak against them in the 57th minute with a wonderful sliding shot through plenty of defensive traffic, 

Kansas City took a bit of a hit in the 83rd minute. Earlier in the match, goalkeeper Tim Melia took a boot to the face courtesy of Rodney Wallace. Wallace was cautioned for his hustle, but Melia was clearly shaken up. After having a rather heated talk with the trainer (likely over the results of the quick on field concussion tests), Melia remained in the game. About ten minutes later, clearly feeling the effects of the hit, he pulled himself from the match. Jon Kempin took over for him in the Sporting goal.

SKC must have used the departure of their keeper for motivation, as the found an equalizer in the 87th minute. Graham Zusi swung a cross in that found the head of Kevin Ellis just outside the six yard box for the tying goal. Extra time now loomed, as it probably had all game long, and as the final whistle of regulation went, the scores remained level.

In the sixth minute of extra time, Krisztian Nemeth used some fancy footwork to evade the Portland back line and roof a shot that left Adam Kwarasey helpless. Sporting Kansas City had their well deserved 2-1 lead. They would take that lead into the end of the first extra half, although Portland was able to get a couple half chances at a tying goal.

In the second portion of extra time, Kansas City used an effective game plan of keep away and time wasting to neuter any Timbers attack. When Portland did manage to gain control of the ball, they wasted their possession by forcing too many passes through the middle of the pitch instead of being patient and playing a wide attack. Despite these failures early on, a laser of a cross from Dairon Asprilla was met with a laser of a shot into a gaping goal by Maxi Urruti for the 117th minute equalizer. Penalties were now on the horizon, as they probably had been all along.

There was no more fitting way for this classic to end. Wouldn't you know it that five penalties was not enough. After the initial kicks, the scores were tied at three to send us to sudden death. Jorge Villafana sent his attempt straight into Kempin in goal, meaning Kevin Ellis could score to win. His shot was hammered into the left post. Dairon Asprilla strolled to the spot in round seven and confidently buried one, but Soni Mustivar followed suit. Darlington Nagbe tucked his round eight attempt inside the post to set up Jacob Peterson with a do or die moment where he kept his cool to score. Onward to the ninth shooter, where it was Jon Kempin stepping up and stoning Alvas Powell. Saad Abdul-Salaam came inches away from winning it. His shot looked to be cruising inside the left post, but instead clanged off it and across the goal mouth into the other post and harmlessly away. In the final shot before the goalkeepers took the spot, George Fochive scored for the Timbers. Amadou Dia scored down the middle to allow the goalkeepers the chance to go against each other. Adam Kwarasey, looking like a striker, nailed his attempt, then turned around and robbing his goalkeeping counterpart of the chance to keep the shootout going.

This was a playoff classic that kept everyone on the edge of their seat from start to finish. A pair of second half goals to send it to extra time, two extra time goals to bring on penalties, and every last man on the pitch being called upon to shoot for their club in a shootout that will be remembered for ages.

Portland survives this one to take on their Cascadia rivals, Vancouver Whitecaps, in the Western Conference Semi-Finals beginning on Sunday. That means Seattle will welcome FC Dallas to CenturyLink Field for the first of their two legs on the same day.

Here are all of your Conference Semi-Final matchups, all two-legged affairs beginning Sunday:
New York Red Bulls vs. DC United - 3pm - ESPN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers - 5pm - ESPN
Columbus Crew vs. Montreal Impact - 7pm - FS1
FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders - 9:30pm - FS1

Thursday, October 29, 2015

It Happened in America: United through after controversy, Seattle outlas LA in crazy one

DC United 2-1 New England Revolution
A late goal and some penalty area drama highlighted a thrilling opener to the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Juan Agudelo got the Revs off to an impressive start with a bicycle kick goal off a cross from Kevin Alston. United took some time to find their equalizer, but Chris Pontius gave it to them in the final minute before halftime. After a free flowing first half where both sides saw plenty of attacking opportunities, it was fitting for the first 45 minutes to wind up inconclusive.

The second half was a lot more passive than the first was. United's late winner came off a beautiful passing play in the 83rd. Nick DeLeon started it with a sick back heel pass to Fabian Espindola, who collected it on a dead run. He proceeded to slide a pass across goal to a waiting Chris Rolfe for the easy tap in. The Revs had their chances for a late tying goal. Jermaine Jones fired a shot barely wide in the 87th and was stoned by Bill Hamid on a point blank header in the 90th.

All hope was lost when Jones was sent off for an attack on the referee after he thought a United player had handled the ball in the penalty area. He did have a point, Mark Geiger did miss a handball in the box that should have been a penalty, but he can't be sprinting across half the field to shove the official. Such unsporting behavior will be looked at with a suspension in mind, no doubt.

Regardless of the controversy, United advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals in a two legged match beginning at RFK Stadium on Sunday. Their opponent will be determined by the winner of tomorrow's Toronto-Montreal duel. If Montreal prevails, they host the Red Bulls. If it's Toronto going through, Columbus comes to our nation's capital.

Seattle Sounders 3-2 LA Galaxy
Plenty of early goals kept us very much entertained as the nightcap proved to be just as exciting as the earlier match,

The match was electric right from the get go. Clint Dempsey had the home side in front just after the four minute mark. The USMNT forward banged home a cross during a moment of confusion for the LA defense. Galaxy countered right away. Sebastian Lletget brute an equalizer less than two minutes after Seattle went in front. But the Sounders wouldn't let it stay level for long. Andreas Ivanschitz played a free kick that Nelson Valdez slid home in the 12 minute to make it 2-1. 

The scoring fury continued in the 22nd with Gyasi Zardes finishing a wild sequence of shots by scoring on a deflected shot off a Seattle defender. Seattle thought they had the lead in the 26th when Ivanschitz thought he had scored, but was ruled to have been offside. The final 15 minutes of the half were far less chaotic than the first half hour, and we went into the intermission with each team sporting a pair of goals.

The rains came at halftime, but that didn't slow down any early Sounder attacks. Clint Dempsey and his crew had a couple great chances in the first five minutes of the half, but, for once, Donovan Ricketts was up to the challenge. It was a Ricketts goalkeeping error and a failed AJ DeLaGarza clearance that let to Erik Friberg's 73rd minute goal. The LA keeper wandered a little too far away from his post and allowed the Swede to loft a shot over him and into the back of the net.

It was now up to the Galaxy to overcome their suspect defending to find yet another equalizer. Standing in their way was Stefan Frei in the Seattle goal. He made key saves on Steven Gerrard (although the former Liverpool legend was offside) and Gyasi Zardes as the clock ticked past 80 minutes. A corner and a  couple stoppage time free kicks also bore no fruit for the Galaxy. The Sounders have their revenge for last year's Conference Final defeat as the defending champions fall in the first round of this year's playoffs.

Seattle will await the result of tomorrow's Portland Timbers-Sporting Kansas City match to find out who their opponent is in the next round. Should the Timbers win at home, Seattle welcomes FC Dallas to CenturyLink Field on Sunday. If Kansas City moves on, their Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps come to town.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

One Hit KO: MLS Knockout Round Predictions

The MLS Playoffs begin tonight with a pair of knockout matches featuring regular playoff contenders. Both of last year's MLS Cup finalists are in action against familiar playoff foes. Tomorrow night, a pair of playoff newbies square off before

DC United vs. New England Revolution
7:30pm Tonight
I don't like the way United have slid as the season has went on. They started off on fire and in the lead in the East for quite some time, but ended up sliding to fourth. They welcome in a New England side who has started to find a bit of a thing with Lee Nguyen scoring goals for them. DC's  best hope here is that home field advantage sinks the Revs, but I don't see it happening.

PREDICTION: DC United 1-2 New England

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy
10:00pm Tonight
A rematch of last year's Western Conference final, only this time they play just one match in Seattle. This is a tough one to predict. Giovani dos Santos and Steven Gerrard didn't have quite the effect on the Galaxy as many would have hoped and they seemed to trail off at the tail end of the season. They finished the year with a disastrous loss at home to Portland and a rough go of things in Kansas City. It would be a result of fixture congestion, as Bruce Arena has suggested, or just complacency with their playoff spot having been wrapped up already. Either way, I like Seattle at home here as I think LA will be tired and in bad form.

PREDICTION: Seattle 2-1 LA Galaxy

Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC
7:30pm Thursday
Here are a pair of sides making their playoff debuts. Toronto spent big over the winter with the aim of making the playoffs for the first time, and it worked. Although I think they would have hoped to have been higher than the sixth seed facing a tough trip to Montreal. The Impact have been seemingly unstoppable since landing Didier Drogba over the summer and I don't think that will stop here.

PREDICTION: Montreal 3-1 Toronto

Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City
These two played three thrillers throughout the regular season. The first two ended in scoreless draws and the third required a late winner for Kansas City despite Portland really dominating the match. That one match that saw a result was at Sporting Park, this one is on the Timbers' home turf. Portland may have struggled to finish in their matches against Kansas City, but they are really finding their scoring form of late. I like them at home here.

PREDICTION: Portland 2-0 Sporting Kansas City

These all should be thrilling matches that will be fun to watch, but there's one problem. These games are broadcast exclusively on UniMas, an ultra premium Spanish language channel that many cable subscribers don't get, including myself. If you do get the channel, and don't speak Spanish, you can hit the SAP button on you remote to listen to some awful English speaking broadcasters. This is a problem, MLS. Your highest profile games should never be on a hard to watch channel. It shouldn't have mattered how much money UniMas threw at you for this, selling the rights to a station with more exposure would have brought in more viewers to help grow your miniscule fan base. ESPN or Fox Sports may not have paid as much for the share of games that UniMas is showing, but they would have allowed more viewers to tune in.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

It Happened in America Part II: Red Bulls take Sheild, Portland, Seattle, SKC take final spots

Much more was at stake in the Western Conference as four teams were competing for three spots. The Supporters Shield was also up for grabs as the Red Bulls needed to get more points than Dallas in order to win that trophy.

Chicago Fire 1-2 New York Red Bulls
Since New York is in the playoffs, and Chicago is fated to last place, this East game got moved back to 7pm with the West slate since the Red Bulls were competing with Dallas for the Supporters Shield. Bradley Wright-Phillips gave them the leg up in that battle with an eighth minute goal. Sacha Kljestan scored from the spot in the 35th minute to double up that advantage. Gilberto scored for the Fire in the 78th to make it a game, but it was not enough to keep the Supporters Shield out of New York.

Sporting Kansas City 2-1 LA Galaxy
Kevin Ellis got Sporting Park all worked up with the opening goal in the 39th minute. He was lucky to even have the chance to take his shot, though. He was a bit offside when Chance Myers took the original shot that rebounded to Ellis. Robbie Keane would get that goal back in the final minute before the halftime whistle. The home team would regain the lead in the 65th minute with a Dom Dwyer goal fed by Benny Feilhaber. The Galaxy were a heroic Tim Melia save away from tying the game in the final minute of stoppage time, but they came up short.

Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 Houston Dynamo
Vancouver needed all three point to secure a first round bye in the West playoffs. It took them a while to get the big first goal, but Kekuta Manneh scored for the Caps in the 59th minute. A 72nd minute header from Kendall Watson secured that second place finish. Robert Earnshaw added the third goal at the death of the match.

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Real Salt Lake
Clint Dempsey scored in the fifth and 20th minutes. Marco Pappa sandwiched his in between those two. Just like that Seattle was up 3-0 in a game they needed to win. Luis Gil gave Salt Lake their consolation goal in the 77th.

FC Dallas 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose needed to win to have any shot at postseason play and they got the start they wanted with a 13th minute goal by Quincy Amarikwa. The lead would hold until, Mauro Diaz tied the score in the 38th minute. The Quakes night took a real turn for the worse when Matias Perez Garcia was sent off for a slap to the back of Diaz's head. Victor Ulloa gave Dallas the points against the ten man foes at the stoke of 79 minutes, but the Red Bulls result keeps them from lifting the Supporters Shield. They do, however, get to experience the pleasure of knocking San Jose out of the playoffs.

Portland Timbers 4-1 Colorado Rapids
The Timbers attached right from the start, and they got their first reward in the fifth minute with a gorgeous free kick Darlington Nagbe.Colorado struck right back with a somewhat fluky goal by Dominique Badji. Nagbe struck again with his head just after the half hour mark to power the Timbers back in front. Portland got a huge insurance goal in the 63rd minute. It went down as an own goal off Colorado's Sean St. Ledger, but it was Jorge Villafana doing the dirty work and taking the shot. Fanendo Adi got his chest to a Dairon Asprilla cross in the 88th for his 16th of the season adn to truly seal this one for the Timbers.

Dallas already had first place wrapped up, but the Vancouver win gives them the other knockout round bye. The three spots up for grabs were handed out due to San Jose's failure to get a win in Dallas. Portland's emphatic win gives them home field for a clash with Sporting Kansas City. The Seattle in and LA loss means last year's Western Conference finals rematch will take place in the Emerald City.

It Happened in America Part I: Columbus grabs first round bye, Toronto drops to sixth

Four games went down in the early slate, with little more than seeding at stake.

New York City 1-3 New England Revolution
New England needed to lose, big, in order to miss out on the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They didn't waste any  time assuring they wouldn't get crushed. Lee Nguyen gave the Revs the lead inside two minutes. Charlie Davies doubled the lead in the 38th. Kellyn Rowe made it three on the 55th. David Villa would end NYC's season with a goal from the penalty spot at the end of this one, but it was only a consolation.

Columbus Crew 4-0 DC United
The winner here took the second of the first round byes. The Crew were on the front for in the beginning of the match and they got the first goal from Jack McInerney in the 26th minute. They kept attacking and in the 54th minute, Justin Meram received a perfect pass from Michael Parkhurst and slipped a shot beyond Bill Hamid to double the lead. The rout was on when Ethan Finlay scored twice in as many minutes. The first, in the 66th, came when Jack McInerney was sprung through on goal behind a flat footed DC back line. He later laid a simple pass to Finlay who could walk into the net. The second was, again, a result of lazy defensive work by United in the 67th. Aaron Schoenfeld put in a fifth, just for fun, in the 80th.

Philadelphia Union 1-0 Orlando City
Orando needed to put a real hurting on the Union in order to have a prayer at the playoffs. They didn't exactly do that. Sebastian Le Toux scored from the spot in the 41st minute for the only goal in this one. The frustration mounted fir Orlando acc they took it out with violent fouls. They were shown six yellows in the match and Cristian Higuita was sent oft with five minutes to play.

Montreal Impact 2-1 Toronto FC
Thus was the least meaningful match of this opening set. Sebastian Giovinco did what he does in the 45th minute when he assisted on Jozy Altidore's opening goal. In the second half, Montreal's star summer acquisition, Didier Drogba turned the match on its head. He drew them level in the 54th and have them the lead a minute later.

So the East playoffs are set. As for the first knockout match, two playoff debutantes well have the pitch. Montreal jumps all the way up to third place, thanks to today, and will host this same Toronto FC team, who only makes the playoffs because the field was expanded for this season. The STade Saputo is sure to be jumpin' on Thursday night. DC United, who dropped to fourth after today, will welcome New England to RFK Stadium in the other match on Wednesday. The first round byes go to New York Red Bulls and Columbus.

Sunday Premier League: Manchester stalemate, Sunderland takes Tyne

Sunderland 3-0 Newcastle
The Tyne-Wear Derby proved to be a worthy appetizer to the main course in Manchester as Sunderland once again showed up big for this most under appreciated of Premier League rivalries.

Newcastle were looking pretty strong in the first half until the tail end if the frame. In stoppage time, Fabricio Coloccini clattered into Steven Fletcher in the box, earning himself a straight red card for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity and gifting the Black Cats a penalty. Adam Johnson confidently buried his attempt from the spot to give the home side a halftime lead.

The second half started with Newcastle on a passive attack and Sunderland just kind of letting them do what they wanted. Nothing showed up for the visitors, but a corner in the 65th minute resulted in Billy Jones banging in Sunderland's second goal from extremely close range. Fletcher provided the  l third goal and the finishing touch on a truly dominating performance from Sunderland on derby day.

Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City
This much anticipated version of the Manchester Derby turned out to be somewhat of a dud. The sparse attacking efforts, mostly from United, ended consistently in failure.

The first half was a back and forth affair that featured few, if any, real scoring chances. United would attack for five or so minutes, then City would do the same. So it went for 45 minutes without any goals. The intensity of derby day was still present, however. Hard challenges led to each side seeing some bookings. City's Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho were cautioned while United had Juan Mata down a yellow.

United took the initiative in the second half. They had a strong chance to go in from at the 50 minute mark after Raheem Sterling took down Mata in the box, but no call was made. The ensuing corner resulted in a Chris Smalling header only barely floating of target.

As the half wore on, City's game plan became increasingly defensive. They seemed quite content with a scoreless draw. I suppose not having Sergio Aguero out David Silva in the side will cause you to play that way at Old Trafford. The plan almost backfired. At the stroke of 84 minutes when Anthony Martial got a foot to a long ball in and sent it right into the crossbar. In the 88th, Mateo Darmian forced Joe Hart to use every inch of his arm to save his near post effort. In the end, their fortress in the penalty area held strong and Manchester week have to wait for the reverse fixture to settle their differences.

AFC Bournemouth 1-5 Tottenham
While everyone was watching the Manchester Derby, they were missing all the action on the southern coast of England.

The Cherries didn't waste any time getting the jump on their visitors from North London. Matthew Ritchie slammed home the opening goal for them less than a minute from the opening kickoff. Not that it took long for Spurs to draw level and take the lead with a barrage of first half goals. Bournemouth's goalkeeper Artur Boruc brought down Harry Kane on the penalty area and allowed the Tottenham native to score from the spot in the ninth minute. Mousa Dembele got in the way of a Danny Rose shot, but he latched onto it and fired into the goal in the 17th. Finally, Erik Lamela made it three goals by latching onto a goalkeeping error to the visitors just before the half hour mark.

Tottenham cane out with guns blazing in the second half. Harry Kane netted his club's fourth goal, and his second, in the 56th minute. The hat trick came just as the clock struck 63 minutes. That was plenty for Spurs to earn their the points on the road

Liverpool 1-1 Southampton
The Reds were denied a win late in an exciting dessert offering for this busy Premier League Sunday. Christian Benteke thought he had earned Liverpool their first win under Jurgen Klopp with his 77th minute goal. Sadio Mane had other plans, however. The Southampton striker leveled for the visitors with less than five minutes remaining to ensure the points remained shared at Anfield.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It Happened in England: Arsenal go top, Chelsea drop to West Ham

West Ham 2-1 Chelsea
Mauro Zarate hammered home a low shot off a corner from the edge of the penalty area to give the upstart Hammers the lead in the 17th minute. Chelsea proceeded to experience a series of close calls and rotten luck. They had a goal barely denied by goal line technology in the 35th. Cesc Fabregas thought he had leveled the score in the 42nd, but he was millimeters offside. In the final minute of the half, Nemanja Matic, who already had a yellow to his name, hauled down Diafra Sakho along the touchline and was sent off. To make it worse, John Terry and Fabregas were booked for running their mouths. Jose Mourinho even got in on the act and was banished to the stands for his protests. Halftime had arrived and Chelsea were down a goal, a man, and their manager for the second half in one of their more comical failures to date.

The second half started off better for the Blues. Gary Cahill pounced on a loose ball after a corner to tie the score at one in the 56th, but it would not hold up. It took West ham until the 79th minute to retake the lead. It was Andy Carroll's head connecting on a, Aaron Cresswell cross.

West Ham have now beaten four of last season's top six finishers and have earned 20 points so far, which has them sitting two points back of Arsenal in third place. Meanwhile, Chelsea provide us with another entertaining experience as they flounder their way through another match in which they lose both one of their top midfielders and their manager. Likely for multiple games each.

Aston Villa 1-2 Swansea
Jordan Ayew was Aston Villa's goal scorer in the 62nd minute, but that wouldn't be enough for Tim Sherwood's troops. It took Gylfi Sigurdsson all of six minutes to find Swansea's equalizer and Andre Ayew notched the winner in the 86th.

Leicester City 1-0 Crystal Palace
The league's leading goal scorer, Jamie Vardy, was at it again for the Foxes. He nailed his tenth goal of the year by taking advantage of a Palace turnover in the 59th minute, which was enough to provide the narrow victory. Leicester now sit with 19 points through ten matches, good for fifth.

Norwich City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
There were no goals in the first half, but it took West Brom's Jose Rondon less than a minute into the second half to give the visiting Baggies the lead. That was it for the scoring as West Brom downs the newly promoted Norwich to take another step towards mid table respectability.

Stoke City 0-2 Watford
Stoke was better early on, but Watford had the better chance to go ahead in the 38th minute, but they found the crossbar twice in a matter of seconds. The Hornets did get their goal from Troy Deeney in the 42nd minute to take the advantage at halftime. They doubled the lead in the 69th with a goal from Almen Abdi. Watford scores a big road win over superior opposition to move to 13th place with 13 points.

Arsenal 2-1 Everton
Arsenal bagged the lead in the 36th minute when Olivier Giroud, fresh off a goal against Bayern Munich, headed home a Mesut Ozil cross. Laurent Koscielny got his head to a Santi Cazorla free kick less than two minutes later to double the lead. Everton were not to completely out, however. In the 43rd minute, Ross Barkley led a charge that resulted in him taking a shot that took an opportune bounce off Gabriel and into Petr Cech's goal to half the lead heading into halftime.

The second half was a back and forth affair that nearly saw both sides add to their goal totals, but nothing was finished. Everton's best chance came as the clock was nearing it's end as Romelu Lukaku was gifted an open header, but his effort harmlessly grazed the top of the crossbar.

Arsenal go to the top of the table, at least until the completion of tomorrow's Manchester Derby. They are now a point clear of City with 21.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Man City wins late, PSG and Real draw

Group A
Paris Saint Germain 0-0 Real Madrid
The main role this match will play is to determine which of these two giants wins the group and which other one gets thrown in the underdog pot for the Round  of 16 draw. Neither side would find a goal here l, so that decision will have to wait for the reverse fixture in the first week of November.

Malmo 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Markus Rosenberg gave the Swedish champions the lead just as the clock hit 17 minutes. That goal would hold up for the duration to give the Swedes they're first points 
of the campaign.

We all know that PSG and Real Madrid will move along so the real fight is the one for the Europa league spot. Malmo has the leg up on that one, I guess.

Group B
CSKA Moscow 1-1 Manchester United
Anthony Martial handled the ball in his own box in the 14th minute to set up a penalty for Moscow. Seydou Doumbia's initial effort was saved by David De Gea, but the rebound came right back to the shooter who tapped in for the easy opening goal. Martial made up for his error with the equalizer in the 65th, but that's aol United could muster as far as a comeback was concerned.

VFW Wolfsburg 1-0 PSV Eindhoven
After a scoreless first half, Bas Dost took less than a minute from the second half kickoff to give Wolfsburg the lead. Mac Kruse added the second in the 57th to secure the home team victory.

All for clubs were knotted at three points coming into this evening and Wolfsburg is the one side coming out ahead. Still plenty to decide here as that win is all that separates Wolfsburg from last place.

Group C
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Astana
It took barely more than 22 minutes, but Atletico did get their first goal of the game courtesy of Saul. Six minutes later, Jackson Martinez scored their second and the rout of the Kazakhstani visitors was on.  Oliver Torres 
scored in the 63rd and an own goal provided the fourth goal in the 89th to finish the job.

Galatasaray 2-1 Benfica
It took less than 75 seconds for Benfica's Nicolas Gaitan to get the first goal in Turkey. That lead would only hold until Selcuk Inan buried a penalty in the 19th to tie the match at a goal apiece. Lukas Podolski broke that tie in the 33rd minute to give Galatasaray the 2-1 victory.

Had Benfica been able to hold onto their lead they would have had a real strangle hold on a knockout round spot. Instead, Atletico now shares first with them and Galatasaray are right back in the hunt.

Group D
Manchester City 2-1 Sevilla
Just before the half hour mark, Yevhen Konoplyanka gave Sevilla the lead amid some awful Manchester City defending. City were able to equalize in the 36th minute after a Wilfried Bony shot took a fortunate deflection off Adil rami for the own goal. Kevin de Bruyne provided the thrilling winner second before the final whistle on second half stoppage time.

Juventus 0-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
No goals here will serve as a big point for Monchengladbach as the underdogs were in desperate need of anything in Italy. They will take the bland result and move on.

Juve still has the top spot despite only a single point thanks to Manchester City and de Bruyne's heroics. The Citizens are now very much alive in the hunt for the round of 16 add they are level with Sevilla with six points in second.

Midweek MLS Madness: Colorado spoils Kansas City's playoff party

Sporting Kansas City 0-2 Colorado Rapids
Colorado spoils Kansas City's opportunity to clinch the playoffs with a pair of late goals. Dillon Powers scored in the 78th minute to give the Rapids the lead. They took a little bit if a blow in the 84th minute when Sam Cronin was shown his second yellow card for dissent and was sent off. Sporting was unable to capitalize on the man advantage any, in fact, stumbled once more. Marcelo Sarvas buried one in the 86th to guarantee Colorado a trio of points.

As I mentioned earlier, Kansas City could have clinched the playoffs with a win and now their playoff fate will be decided on Sunday. Their scenario is pretty simple. Just beat the Galaxy at home and they're in. Dhould they fail, a San Jose defeat to Dallas would do the trick.

They other two Western teams with uncertain playoff futures are arch rivals Portland and Seattle. The Timbers need at least a point at home over the Rapids to get in. Seattle needs to beat Real Salt Lake at home to get in. Both are through if San Jose falls, regardless of their results.

Decision Day, as the league is branding it, should be fun in the Western Conference. Three playoff spots are up for grabs in the 7:00 slate of matches. The Supporters Shield is also at stake as the Red Bulls can win to claim it for themselves. Should the lose, Dallas can jump them with a win.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Insanity in Leverkusen, Arsenal saves their campaign

Group E
Bayer Leverkusen 4-4 AS Roma
What an insane match. A confident penalty from Chicharito in the fourth minute got the German hosts on the board. The Mexican's service came in the 19th. When it looked like Leverkusen would ruin away with it, Daniele deRossi scored twice in ten minutes to bring Roma level at the break. In the 54th minute, they went in front on a bomb of a free kick from Miralem Pjanic. Iago Flaque made it four goals to the visitors 73rd. Just when you thought the lions would go to Roma, Leverkusen struck with two goals in three minutes. Kevin Kampl scored in the 84th and Admir Mehmedi tied this crazy affair in the 86th.

Bate 0-2 Barcelona
Heading cross-continent to Belarus is never easy, buy Barcelona did alright fit themselves. Ivan Rakatic's stunner in the 48th minute was the moment for them. He knocked home his second in the 65th to confirm Barcelona's three points.

Roma blew more than just this game with they're come from ahead draw. They are now in a distant last place with Barcelona and Leverkusen leading the way. Expect Barcelona and the resilient Germans to advance.

Group F
Arsenal 2-0 Bayern Munich
Arsenal saves their Champions League lives with an unexpected victory against Bayern Munich. A back and forth first half saw no goals, although Theo Walcott should have buried a wide open header from point blank range for Arsenal. Bayern Munich was on the front foot most of the match. As the foul smell of a scoreless draw crept up on this one, Olivier Giroud got his forehead to a free kick that bypassed an on rushing Manuel Neuer in the 77th for Arsenal's goal. Mesut Ozil provides the insurance on a stoppage time counter attack with the help of goal line technology.

Dinamo Zagreb 0-1 Olympiacos
Brown Ideye scored the lone goal in the 79th minute. It gave the Greek visitors the victory in Croatia to move into a first place tie with Bayern Munich.

This group is now wide open thanks to Arsenal finally showing up for a Champions League game. They have three points now and are within a win off Bayern ave Olympiacos in first. Nobody is out if the hunt here.

Group G
FC Porto 2-0 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Vincent Aboubakar in the 37th and Racine Brahimi for minutes later had Porto up a pair at halftime. That's all they would need to take care if their Israelite opponents.

Dynamo Kiev 0-0 Chelsea
Chess had their chances in the Ukrainian capital, but nothing went in for them. Despite a golden opportunity at the end of the first half, Chelsea will have to settle for a point in one of their more difficult fixtures in they're easier group.

Chelsea are a little behind the eight ball here with only four points, but there's plenty of ability to comeback. Porto continues to look like a solid performer on their way to the round if 16. Kiev cab even sneak in if a few treks go their way.

Group H
Zenit St. Petersburg 3-1 Olympique Lyonnais
Atrem Dzyuba gave St. Petersburg a lead before the clock struck two minutes. Things would calm down after that hot start until Alexandre Lacazette put Lyon on the level in the 49th. Hulk scored seven minutes after the equalizer and Danny provided the icing on the cake in the 82nd to give the Russian hosts the win.

Valencia 2-1 Gent
Just after the clock struck 14 minutes,  an own goal off Gent's Lasse Nielsen put the home team in front, but Thomas Foket equalized in the 40th. Another own goal, this time off Stefan Mitrovic, in the 72nd sunk the visitors for good.

Zenit stays perfect on the campaign as Lyon's struggles continue. Another win seals qualification for the Russian hosts. Valencia gets the leg up as well with they're drugs win. They, too, can qualify as early as next matchday.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday Night Football: Krkic penalty sinks Swans

Swansea City 0-1 Stoke City
Bojan Krkic's fourth minute goal from the spot was enough to see Stoke past Swansea in Wales. It was one if only two shots on target for the Potters as they didn't need much offense at all. Not that the Swans were any better. Of their 14 shots fired, only a pair made it on target and neither were exactly threats to score.

After a hot start, Swansea has now dropped to 14th in the table through right matches while Stoke uses the win to climb to 11th with 12 points.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday MLS: Portland shocks LA, Red Bulls win the East

DC United 4-0 Chicago Fire
This was pretty much what you would expect from the last place team in all of MLS coming into RFK Stadium. Chris Pontius got it all started in the 39th. Bobby Boswell got one on the 67th. Four minutes later it was Fabian Espindola with the third goal. Alvaro Saborio put the finishing touches on the blowout in the 80th. Chicago is now married to their last place fate. DC climbs back into second place and controls their own destiny as far as a knockout round bye is concerned. Because of what the Red Bills did later in the day, though, they can't take first.

New York Red Bulls 4-1 Philadelphia Union
The Red Bulls answered the United threat at first place with four goals of their own and they didn't waste time getting them. Mike Grella set an MLS record by scoring seven seconds after the opening kickoff. Bradley Wright-Philips had one in the fourth. Grella got another one in the 17th and Kemar Lawrence finished it off in the 41st. Not that it mattered, but Philly pulled one back with Sebastian Le Toux in the 55th. As mentioned earlier, New York cliches the first seed in the Eastern Conference.

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Seattle Sounders
The first half was goalless and pretty unspirited for both sides. Seattle, especially probably could have shown a lot more life in a pretty important match. A turnover in Seattle's defensive third led to Ricardo Clark getting space avg fitting a low roller that caught Stefan Frei off his line for the Houston goal in the 65th minute. Seattle finally found the equalizer when Obafemi Martins was wide open in the six yard box on a corner in the 82nd minute. His headed finish was so awkward looking, it almost seemed as he accidentally put the ball in. Seattle came closest to finding a winner with a Clint Dempsey free kick that pinballed it's eau through before hitting Tyler Deric's hand. The point helps Seattle a bit, they sit in fifth place with their playoff fate still in doubt heading into the season's final day.

LA Galaxy 2-5 Portland Timbers
What a massive win for the Timbers. Last time these two met at the Stub Hub Center it was the Galaxy doing all the talking, this time out was Portland with an emphatic second half demolition of the defending champions.

Robbie Keane had LA up at the break with a 35th minute goal, but once the hour mark struck, Portland caught fire. Fanendo Adi scored their first in the 65th and waited all of three minutes to add the second one from the penalty spot. In the 74th Diego Chara made it 3-1 to the visitors. Keane scored his second of the game in the 84th, but it was not enough to stop the Timber onslaught. Less than a minute after Keane's tally, Darlington Nagbe got a rare goal to put Portland back up a pair and Maxi Urruti made it five in the final minute before stoppage time. We are used to seeing Timbers matches featuring many missed opportunities where they could light up the scoreboard for five goals. If this is what they look like when they can actually finish, watch out.

The huge sees Portland into fourth place and controlling their own destiny against lowly Colorado next Sunday evening at home. Galaxy are now out of the hunt for the top spot on the West and they could fall as low as sixth if things break against them enough next weekend.

Sunday Premier League: Newcastle destroys Norwich for first win

Newcastle 6-2 Norwich City
The lone Sunday offering in the Premier League continued Saturday's trend of early goals, mostly coming from Newcastle's Georginio Wijnaldum.

Newcastle got the party started with some fancy footwork and a nice assist from Moussa Sissoko to set up Georginio Wijnaldum for a ten yard strike in the 14th minute. Norwich got themselves on the scoresheet when Martin Olsson delivered a picture perfect cross to Dieumerci Mbokani for a tap in goal just before the clock struck 20 minutes. Despite Norwich controlling precedings after their goal, Sissoko hooked up with Wijnaldum again in the 26th minute to put Newcastle back in front. They struck again in the 33rd. This time Ayoze Perez was the provider by scoring on a second chance after his first shot was blocked. The Magpies had jumped into a 3-1 lead.

Norwich contributed to the frantic pace less than two minutes later. Olsson earned his second assist of the match with a cross to the back post where Nathan Redmond was waiting all by himself for another tap in. That 3-2 scoreline would hold up to halftime, somehow. The teams combined for 14 total shots and five goals on five shots on target. Nieher goalkeeper made a save in the opening 45 minutes.

The goals continued to fly, at least for Newcastle, in the second half. Sissoko bagged his third assist in the 64th minute by setting up Aleksander Mitrovic from the right flank. Two minutes later, Wijnaldum found his hat trick. He buried a header to finish off another quick Newcastle counter. In case five goals want enough, Wijnaldum added a sixth, and his fourth of the game, on a deflected shot in the 85th.

The emphatic Newcastle win is their first of the season and lifts them to six points and out of the Premier League's basement to 18th.

It Happened in America: Montreal cliches, Dallas will win West

Toronto FC 0-2 Columbus Crew
Toronto clinched their spot in the post season last week, but they decide to flounder at home to the Crew this time around. Columbus jumps into second place thanks to goals from Ethan Finlay in the 40th and Federico Higuain in second half stoppage time. Even after going down a goal, Toronto was out possessed and out shot as their struggles against the top of the Eastern Conference continue.

New England Revolution 0-1 Montreal Impact
Ignacio Piatti's 55th minute winner cliches a playoff spot for the Impact and pretty much seals the Eastern post season field. New England tried to find and equalizer as they controlled the run of play after the goal, but nothing came. Montreal goes to the playoffs for the first time in their history and ensures that Canada will have all three of its clubs in the tournament. As it would take a truly Herculean effort from Orlando next Sunday to overtake New England, the win also virtually eliminates the Lionsfrom contention. That means the Red Bulls, Crew, Revs, Impact, DC, and Toronto will quite likely be your Eastern playoff participants this year.

Real Salt Lake 0-1 FC Dallas
Dallas claims the top seed in the West behind David Texeira's 57th minute goal on the road. RSL is now out for sure as they still had a slight prayer for the playoffs when this one started. The win also gives Dallas a slight lead in the Supporters Shield standings. They now lead the Red Bulls, who play at Philly today, by three points.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

It Happened in England: Chelsea gets back on track, CIty hammers Cherries

Tottenham 0-0 Liverpool
There were chances for both sides (mostly Spurs), but Jurgen Klopp's debut at Liverpool ended in a scoreless draw. Danny Ings had Liverpool's best opportunity when he headed the crossbar in the first half. Spurs led the way for much of the rest of the game, but none of their attacks bore any fruit.

Chelsea 2-0 Aston Villa
Chelsea is looking to erase the first eight matches of their season, and a home tilt agaisnt lowly Aston VIlla is a great way to begin a turn around. Diego Costa got the Blues on the board in the 37th minute. An unfortunate own goal off Cila's Alan Hutton doubled Chelsea's lead in the 54th. That was enough for the home side to get a  much needed win and begin to move away from the bottom of the table.

Manchester City 5-1 AFC Bournemouth
Manchester City didn't seem to lose a step in their goal scoring game over the international break. Even without leading man Sergio Aguero, who's five goal day lifted the Citizens past Newcastle two weeks ago, they got early goals. Raheem Sterling scored in the seventh and WIlfried Bony doubled the lead in the 11th. Glenn Murray was able to pull one back for the Cherries in the 22nd, but Bournemouth couldn't get too excited. That small bit of hope wouldn't last long, because Sterling bagged his second of the game in the 29th. The completion of his first half hat trick came three minutes into the first frame's stoppage time. The second half was a lot less hectic. City defended their way through the final 45 minutes and Bony scored a fifth City goal in the 89th minute for the easy three points.

Southampton 2-2 Leicester City
Saints were the better team early on and went in front in the 21st through Jose Fonte. Virgil van Dijk made it a two goal lead in the 37th. The second half saw Leicester with a nice comeback. In the 66th, Jamie Vardy got the Foxes on the board. They kept scratching and clawing through the second half and got their draw when Vardy levelled the score in the first minute of second half stoppage time.

Everton 0-3 Manchester United
Morgan Schneiderlin put the Red Devils in front after 18 minutes with a low shot past Tim Howard. It took all of four more minutes for United to double their lead through Ander Herrara. Things went quiet until just after the hour mark when Wayne Rooney made it 3-0 to certify the Manchester United rout of Everton.

West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Sunderland
There were plenty of goals to speak of in England today, but there were few of them in this match. Saido Berahino got the only goal here in the 54th minute to give West Brom the lead and the win over the Black Cats.

Crystal Palace 1-3 West Ham
Carl Jenkinson scored his second of the year to put the Hammers in front in the 22nd minute, but Palace levelled three minutes later with a goal from Yohan Cabaye. Palace took a hit a minute before haltime when Dwight Gayle was sent off for a second yellow card in 12 minutes. Despite Palace playing a man down, it remained tied until West Ham went off in the final minutes. Manueal Lanzini gave them the lead in the 88th and Dmitri Payet sealed the deal four minutes into stopppage time. 

Watford 0-3 Arsenal
Neither team could find a goal in the first half of play, but it was all Arsenal on the attack. Usually, that means you know a goal is coming for the stronger team, but with Arsenal, however, you never really know. Thankfully for Gunner fans, the visitors owned the second half. Their inconsistent attack started delivering in the 62nd minute. After Mesut Ozil went down in the box, Alexis Sanchez was around to bang the ball in off the post. Olivier Giroud got himself involved after coming on as a substiute. He roofed a shot into the Watford goal in the 68th minute to double the Gunners' lead. Aaron Ramsey continued the onslaught six minutes later with his first of the season. That was plenty for Arsenal, although they certainly looked like they could add a few more. They were still quite happy to hammer the Hornets on the road.

Friday MLS: Orlando and San Jose are not dead... yet

Orlando City 2-1 New York City
New York City looked to have Orlando's slim playoff hopes taken care of with a first half stoppage time goal by Kwame Watson-Sirobe. Soon to be rookie of the year Cyle Larin had other plans, however. The 20 year old sensation scored his 16th and 17th goals of the season in the 62nd and 70th minutes to keep the Lions alive for the playoffs. Their ultimate fate is not in their hands, however. A Montreal win over New England tonight ends their season.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Sporting Kansas City
The Quakes go back above the red line for the time being thanks to Anibal Godoy's 47th minute goal. It was a wonderful defensive effort by the home side as well. They only allowed SKC to take eight shots on the night, despite having superior possession, particularly in the second half.They are level on points with both Seattle and Portland for fifth place at the moment. Their fate is less dire than Orlando's, but still out of their control.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Toronto clinches first ever playoff berth, Portland back above the line

Toronto FC 2-1 New York Red Bulls
Second half goals from Hercules Gomes in the 51st minute and likely MVP Sebastian Giovinco in the 78th deny New York's chance to clinch the first seed in the East playoffs. Shaun Wright-Phillips pulled on back for the Red Bulls in the 86th, but it wasn't enough to salvage a point. More importantly for the Reds, they clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time in club history, becoming the third team in the East to qualify for the postseason. 

FC Dallas 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Dallas claims a three point lead over LA atop the West thanks to Michael Barrios in the 32nd and Mauro Diaz in the 52nd. It was a thorough defeat of their fellow playoff foes, as Vancouver only mustered one shot on target for the whole match, Both sides already had their playoff places wrapped up. The Caps are four points back of Dallas in third place with a pair of games left to platy.

Real Salt Lake 0-1 Portland Timbers
Jamison Olave took down Lucas Melano in red card inducing fashion in the 52nd minute to breathe life into a match that was destined for a scoreless draw. Melano was alone against Nick Rimando in goal when he was clipped from behind by the Colombian defender, earning a penalty and sending off. Fanendo Adi nailed the PK for the only goal of the match. The win puts the Timbers back into the playoffs with a three point buffer over San Jose. RSL is now all but eliminated from playoff contention.

So here we stand, two games left in the season and the playoff hunt still well alive. In the East, New York Red Bulls, DC United, and now Toronto FC have all sealed spots in the postseason. New England, Columbus, and Montreal could all join them there this weekend. The only other teal alive is Orlando City, who take on New York City at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. A loss eliminates the Lions and seals our six playoff participants in the East. 

Out West, things are a little murkier. Dallas, LA, and Vancouver are all in already, with Kansas City, Portland, and Seattle also above the red line. Wins from all three would make them the final three teams in the West playoffs.The other clubs out there who can make it are San Jose, who host SKC on Friday, and Houston, who host the Sounders on Sunday. A loss would eliminate both teams 
should Portland take out LA on Sunday night.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

USA falls to Mexico in extra time thriller, questions about Klinsmann's future arise

USA 2-3 Mexico
Defensive breakdowns, particularly among the full backs, spelled the USA's doom as they fall to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

It was not the best start for the USA. A defensive breakdown from Damarcus Beasley in the tenth minute led to the Mexican opener. It was Javier Chicharito Hernandez with the close range finish off the assist from Oribe Peralta, who shredded Beasley along his way to making the decisive pass.

The Americans responded well however and equalized after Beasley washed a free kick along the left flank in the 15th minute. Michael Bradley lofted a perfect delivery that found the head of Geoff Cameron, of all people.

Much of the rest of regular time was typical for the United States. mexico controlled possession, but had few chances to score. The USA was able to get forward a few times themselves, mostly in the last fifteen minutes. They also never threatened to find a goal.

It was in extra time that this match took off. Mexico started the flurry of goals int he 96th minute with a well executed passing play that ended in Oribe Peralta scoring through the legs of Geoff Cameron. Being forced to play with a strong attacking posture, the USA controlled much of the ball on the way to the end of the first half of the bonus period. In the second frame, Bobby Wood, who seemingly does nothing but score huge goals, received a picture perfect through ball from Deandre Yedlin and scored on a classy finish through Moises Munoz's five hole in the 108th.

At this point, it looked like America would go in for the kill. The crowd was on their side as they played with a renewed energy. They got a couple of almost chances before Mexico delivered the suckerpunch in the 118th of 120 minutes. After a semi-cleared free kick in Mexico's end, Demarcus Beasley threw himself towards a 50/50 ball and lost, leaving him out of position and unable to defend Paul Aguilar who came streaking in to blast a shot beyond Brad Guzan.

The USA had no time to mount another comeback.

So now we cue the increased talk about the future of Jurgen Klinsmann as the USMNT's coach. After leading the team through the group of death in the World Cup, he has seen very little to be positive about since. This is the latest of his failures, but I am not sure he is entirely to blame here. He made the correct subs in this one, especially Yedlin and Wood, who both made an immediate impact upon entering the match. He started the best 11 players he could. While it was Beasley's over aggressive play that caused a pair of Mexico goals, I don't think there was anyone who could have done better.

I don't think Klinsmann should be sacked, but if there was ever a time for it to happen, it's now. When you look back at his career, he has the team in the exact same spot Bob Bradley had them in when Klinsmann took over. They had just done well in the World Cup, had a disappointing end to their Gold Cup campaign, and missed out on the Confederations Cup after a sad run of friendlies. I think Jurgen has a plan to build the country into more of a soccer power that will take time. I am just not sure the fans are willing to wait that long.

MLS Bonus Score
Colorado Rapids 0-1 Montreal Impact
Didier Drogba scored a wonderful grew l free kick at the quarter hour mark to give the visitors the win. They are now only a win away from clinching an East playoff spot. Colorado, however, has been eliminated from playoff contention. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

USA-Mexico Preview: Is this the beginning of the end for Jurgen Klinsmann?

Tonight in Pasadena, California, the Rose Bowl plays host to CONCACAF's two principal rivals. The USA and Mexico will do battle with a spot in 2017's Confederations Cup in Russia on the line.  For the USA however, this is about more than just a spot in that tournament.

Following a poor run of form after surviving the Group of Death and losing in the Round of 16 last summer in Brazil, many American soccer fans are questioning whether or not Jurgen Klinsmann is the right man to lead this budding soccer nation. Some have called for the German manager's head already and a defeat here will only strengthen that argument.

But is that much at stake?  Does Klinsmann really have to fear for his job in the not unlikely event that he doesn't win this one?

If there is any time for US Soccer to give Klinsmann the axe before the next World Cup cycle truly gets going, it's now. Waiting until later in the cycle could foil plans for success in 2018. Klinsmann set the lofty goal of reaching the semi-finals avye many fans have bought in. This is not likely to happen under new leadership. If they do not want Klinsmann around in three years, why not give his replacement as much time as possible to build a winner?

But is tonight the defining moment of Klinsmann's career in America? I think not. I think this nation rides him through the next World Cup before it thinks about cutting ties. Klinsmann has preached patience right from the start off his tenure. A country like the USA, with a very small soccer following, needs another cycle of consistency to move forward.

That's not saying Klinsmann isn't off the hot seat. He really needs to focus his game plans if he wants to get done big winds and stick around. Tonight needs to be the beginning of that turn around. If the team losses tonight and shows no signs of improvement in World Cup qualifying and friendlies over the next year, than he very well could be out as manager.

My main criticism of Klinsmann's management of the National Team is his inability to decide which direction he's taking. Is he building for the future or riding the experienced players to sort term success? His lineups in this past summer's Gold Cup were a mix of both philosophies and it ended in miserable failure and the need for tonight's match. His mix of kids with old men was his indecisive way of trying to both win the tournament and allow the youth to play meaningful soccer. He needs to stick with one or the other going forward.

With so much on the line from a competitive standpoint tonight, he's going with the best players he can trot out there, regardless of prior experience.

I expect to see the USA line up in the classic 4-4-2 "Klinsmann Diamond" formation. Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore should be up front. Michael Bradley, who is starting to look much, much better than he did in Brazil, should start in the attacking midfield role. Jermaine Jones and Graham Zusi would be my box to box midfielders and Kyle Beckerman would man the holding midfield spot.

The backline is always the question with this side. Losses in the Gold Cup can be directly attributed to put play on defense. The theme for this must win game is experience, so I go with Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in the middle with old man DeMarcus Beasley and the kid Deandre Yedlin as the full backs.

There are plenty of options off the bench. Gyasi Zardes can provide some late speed in the flanks. Chris Womdolowski can be a late game poacher up front. Danny Williams can reinforce the midfield and keep Mexico from pushing too far forward. Defense is the only area where there are few reinforcements. Fabian Johnson could step in as a wide defender, but that's about it.

In the end, I still don't believe this squad full of holes can take down a more complete Mexico side. They are quicker and more organized and come with a history of success in Pasadena.  I think Mexico takes this one 2-1 after an early pair of goals followed by a US comeback that falls short. Klinsmann sticks around as manager, for now, but expect next summer to be his time of reckoning if this downward slide continues.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Red Bulls thwart Impact's advance, Caps clinch playoffs

New York Red Bulls 2-1 Montreal Impact
Sacha Kljestan and Lloyd Sam scored in the first half and it was enough to sink Montreal as they catch up to the rest of the league in games played. Didier Drogba scored for the Impact in the 67th minute to try and spark a comeback, but it was to no avail. The win pretty much seals the top spot in the East in the Red Bulls' favor. Montreal now has a little less buffer room on their chase got the last playoff spot. They have a game in hand and a one point lead over Orlando.

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 FC Dallas
Vancouver was probably lucky to escape this one with the scoreless draw intact. Blas Perez had a golden chance to win the match in the final second, but his effort skidded barely wide. The Caps clinch a playoff spot with the point and Dallas moves closer to a first round bye in the West playoffs.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sunday MLS: Dallas and LA clinch playoff spots, Rapids eliminated

FC Dallas 4-1 Houston Dynamo
Dallas becomes the first Western Conference team to clinch their playoff spot while delivering a real blow got the Dynamo and their playoff chances. They weren't into the Texas Derby with a chance to pull even with Portland ave San Jose for the final East playoff spot and instead get rocked on the road. Mauro Diaz opened the scoring for Dallas in the 25th with a confident shot from the spot. Houston would get that one back with a one-hopper from distance off the not of Ricardo Clark. Two goals from David Texeira and Kellyn Acosta in the 51st and 53rd respectively gave the home team all three points to lift them into second behind the Galaxy. Oh, and Texeira added a goal in stoppage time for the sole purpose of forcing me to come back to this recap and write about it.

Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake
In the grand scheme, this one probably will not mean much. Colorado is destined to finish in last place and RSL will probably see their playoff hunt end unsuccessfully. Kevin Doyle got Colorado's only goal in the 16th minute, only to see Joao Plata and Luke Mulholland get Salt Lake in front before halftime. The loss sees the Rapids officially eliminated from post season contention. Salt Lake, meanwhile, is above them in second to last place, but still has a prayer at the playoffs. They are on 41 points with three matches left. That puts them three points back of the Quakes and Timbers for sixth place.

Seattle Sounders 1-1 LA Galaxy
Robbie Keane got the Galaxy going in the 36th minute and it looked to be enough for quite some time. Chad Barrett didn't get Seattle their equalizer until the third minute of second half stoppage time. The shared points clinch a playoff spot for the Galaxy and keep Seattle in great shape to clinch one of their own soon. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Premier League: Arsenal hammers Man U, Merceyside Derby stays even

Everton 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool opened the scoring in the 41st minute. Danny Ings was pretty wide open in the six yard box on a corner and was able to head the ball in with ease. Romelu Lukaku got Everton back on terms during first half stoppage time, however. He was in the right place at the right time to boot home a ball that came to him off both of Liverpool's center backs. The second half lacked the excitement of the first and failed to provide any more goals. Everton misses the chance to take an early leap into the top four,l but their chances to do that aren't going anywhere yet.

Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United
In order to win against the high flying attack of Manchester United, Arsenal really needed a fast start. The combination of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil provided just that. Sanchez flicked home a feed from Ozil in the sixth minute and Ozil buried a goal of his own in the eventh to get the Gunners off to a lighting fast two goal lead. Sanchez struck again in the 20th minute. He evaded a couple defenders on the edge of the penalty area and hammered a shot into the top corner.

Arsenal would carry that lead through a very defensive second half. They didn't allow United much of anything after that third goal, and they rode their defensive tactics to a huge clean sheet against one of the highest scoring teams in the Premier League. The three points move Arsenal into third, behind United only on goal difference.

Swansea 2-2 Tottenham
Andre Ayew's floating header at the quarter hour mark started things off for Swansea. Tottenham's Christian Eriksen got them back on terms in the 27th minute. Harry Kane, normally scoring goals for Spurs, put a pretty classy shot into his own net in the 31st.The Danish free kick expert struck again to give Spurs a point in the 65th minute. 

It Happened in America: Timbers fall out of playoffs, Orlando stays alive

Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union
Sebastian Giovinvo did what he does for Toronto, yet again. He scored his 20th goal of the year on a free kick in the 28th minute becoming the first Red ever to reach that milestone. Jozy Altidore added to the lead in the 63rd with a close range finish. Toronto native Steven Vitoria got Philly on the board three minutes later, but an own goal off Richie Marquez in stoppage time sealed it for Toronto, who are now two points away from clinching their first ever playoff appearance.

New York Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew
Both sides got off to a quick start in this battle for the top of the Eastern Conference. Justin Meram put the Crew on top in the ninth minute, only to have the lead squandered by Lloyd Sam's equalizer in the 12th. Bradley Wright-Phillips made it 2-1 to New York in the 21st. That would be it for the scoring as New York was able to hold off any Crew advance and keep their number one slot in the East.

Orlando City 2-1 Montreal Impact
Scary moment at the start of this one. In the opening minutes, On their way for an aerial ball, Orlando defenders Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos clashed heads and remained down on the pitch for quite some time. Both would have to leave the game. Redding looked as if he wasn't sure what planet he was on and Ramos was bleeding profusely from his forehead. Play was restarted after a delay of about seven minutes.

In the 33rd minute, Orlando City got the first goal of the match on a shot that Evan Bush would love to have back. Kaka chipped a pass forward to Cyle Larin. He took a rather light low shot that Bush had in his hands, but it bounced off the m high into the air and into the goal behind him. Dominic Oduro took advantage of a goalkeeping blunder on the other end to tie the score in the 43rd. Seb Hines gave Orlando the points they needed to keep their playoff hopes with a nice floater to the top corner in the 80th minute.

Chicago Fire 3-1 New England Revolution
The Revs are another team gunning for one of the top two spots in the East. Juan Agudelo just after the half hour mark to give them the lead they needed against the lowly Fire. The second half belonged to Chicago. David Accam scored in the 51st minute by somehow sneaking a shot behind Bobby Shuttleworth and inside the near post. Harry Shipp added their second in the 59th. It became 3-1 when Gilberto spun a shot into the back of the net. With the loss, New England misses a chance to clinch a playoff berth.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
A win could have put the Whitecaps back on top of the West and the Supporters Shield, and after Cristian Techera scored in the 39th minute, it looked like they would do just that. Chris Wondolowski, in true Wondo fashion, stole the three points from the visitors by equalizing in the 62nd, thus keeping Vancouver behind LA Galaxy at the top of the Western pile.

Portland Timbers 0-1 Sporting Kansas City
This one looked like another Portland-Kansas City scoreless draw special with the Timbers controlling play and leading the way in shots on goal. That was until they lost track of the Kansas City forwards in a counter attack and allowed Krisztian Nemeth to bury the winner in the 83rd minute. This came after Portland squandered chance after chance with poor finishing, pretty much what we have seen all year from them. They are tied with the Quakes for sixth, but have a game in hand over San Jose.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

It Happened in England: Chelsea continues their freefall

Crystal Palace 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
A header from Yannick Bolasie in the 68th minute and a Yohan Cabaye goal from the spot give Palace all three points at home. West Brom never looked interested in a victory here, They defended their way through the match against the only slightly superior Palace. While it held up for over an hour, it was inevitable undone by some nice passing work between Bolasie and Cabaye. Wilfried Zaha drew the penalty for the Eagles at a time when it should have been Albion pressing forward for a tying goal.

Manchester City 6-1 Newcastle
Manchester City has had a bit of a rough go in the Premier League over the last couple weeks. Losses at home to West Ham and away to Spurs have left them a bit rattled in the league. Newcastle kept that going here with a rare goal at the Etihad in the 17th from Aleksandar Mitrovic, but that wouldn't last all that long. City righted the ship in the 42nd with David Silva providing the pass to Fernandinho, the then headed to a rushing Sergio Aguero for the goal. In the second half, Aguero went off on a Robert Lewandowski like rage. He scored four times between the beginning of the half the 62nd minute for five total on the game. The sixth came from Kevin de Bruyne in the 53rd.

Norwich City 1-2 Leicester City
Jamie Vardy put the visiting Foxes ahead from the spot in the 28th minute. A couple of goals from either side were the story of the second half. Leicester got a second goal, this one from Jeffery Schlupp, in the 47th. Norwich was on the front foot the rest of the way, they got their goal in the 68th from Dieudonne Mbokani, but nothing else would show up for them.

AFC Bournemouth 1-1 Watford
Glenn Murray headed home a floating cross from Matthew Ritchie in the 28th minute to put the Cherries in front. Odion Ighalo gave Watford their answer in the final minute before the halftime whistle. The second half bore no fruit as both sides had to settle for a point a piece.

Aston Villa 0-1 Stoke City
Marko Arnautovic scored the game's lone goal in the 55th minute. Glen Johnson had no trouble picking him out in a gaping hole in the Villain defense for the easy goal. Stoke earns their first win of the season and now sits in 14th with nine points.

Sunderland 2-2 West Ham
I just can't seem to figure out West Ham. one week they look brilliant on a road trip to Manchester, the next, they look like crap against relegation bound Sunderland. Steven Fletcher scored ten minutes in for the Black Cats and Jermaine  Lens doubled the advantage in the 22nd. Seconds before the halftime whistle, Carl Jenkinson put West Ham on the board to head into the break. Lens had more to say in the match, but it was far from good for Sunderland. In the 57th minute, he was sent off for his second yellow card. Three minutes later, Dimitri Payet leveled for West Ham, who failed to find a winner with the man advantage.

Chelsea 1-3 Southampton
Another week, another Chelsea debacle of failure. The much maligned John Terry was back in the starting lineup again. All their offensive playmakers were present and accounted for. They had the early lead. Willian scored on a free kick for them in the tenth minute of the match. But Steven Davis got Saints on the level in the 43rd minute. Sadio Mane put them in front in the 60th. Graziano Pelle made it a two goal lead in the 72nd and the Blues' collapse was more than complete.

Nothing seems to be more humorous than watching the defending champions screw up match after match. They seem to find ways to look nothing short of inept in games they very well should be winning. They now have two wins and four defeats in eight matches played and are spiraling out of control quickly. they are in 18th place, a far cry from any form of title defense. I keep thinking to myself that this cannot last forever. Chelsea will recover and show us all that they can at least challenge for a spot in Europe next year. However, as each game goes on I believe that to be less and less the case. This team has internal problems that are actively sabotaging any attempt at winning and it gets worse every day.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday MLS: DC scores two late in rain soaked affair over NYC

DC United 2-1 New York City
DC United thwarted New York City's slim playoff hopes as Hurricane Joaquin aims at the DC area.

Frank Lampard, who sends to be finding his stride in America, pot City ahead by banging home a rebound 45 servings after the opening kickoff. Even though that would hold up for most of the match, it wouldn't be enough.

Fabian Eslindola got the home side on the board in the 73rd by putting in a rebound if his own. The winner came in stoppage time from summer acquisition Alvaro Saborio.

City's playoff chances are now all but dead. They are five points back of Montreal in sixth. With only two matches remaining. On the flip side if the spectrum, DC United have clinched a playoff spot with the win.