MLS

Minnesota United and Real Salt Lake collect tough away wins

By Sports Desk August 14, 2022

Minnesota United lived up to their terrific away record with a 2-1 win against Nashville SC at Geodis Park on Sunday.

At home, Nashville were the betting favourites in the contest, but perhaps that should not have been the case as they entered the match with the worst home record in the Western Conference, collecting just 14 points from 12 matches.

On the other hand, Minnesota are the West's third-best team away from home, with 19 points in 13 matches, and while they have been strong recently – with only one loss from their past 10 games – Nashville have only one win from their past 10.

The road team took the life out of the crowd when Franco Fragapane put Minnesota ahead 1-0 in the 27th minute, getting on the end of a terrific ball from Emanuel Reynoso after a costly turnover in Nashville's defensive half.

Nashville would find the equaliser in the 61st minute, with Hany Mukhtar converting from close range on a sharp angle, but less than 15 minutes later Minnesota grabbed the winner.

It was another move orchestrated by Reynoso, finding substitute Joseph Rosales overlapping down the left-wing just two minutes after his arrival into the game, and his low cross made its way through a sea of legs to reach Alan Benitez for a tap-in at the back post.

The result keeps Minnesota in the Western Conference's top-four, while Nashville are now clinging onto the seventh and final playoff spot.

On the other side of the country, the Seattle Sounders had 69 per cent of the possession against Real Salt Lake, but could not make it count, ultimately going down 2-1 at home.

Salt Lake only had 36 per cent possession in the first half, but they created the only two shots on target, resulting in the game's opening goal when Sergio Cordova got over the back of the Seattle defense in the 32nd minute. 

Although Cordova's first attempt was saved, he was able to dance around a couple of defenders after the rebound came back to him and find the bottom corner.

A 62nd minute equaliser from Albert Rusnak had Seattle fans dreaming of a comeback win, but that was extinguished just two minutes later as Andrew Brody re-established the Salt Lake lead, which they defended stoutly until the final whistle.

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    Rumba Munthali believes his Nashville SC side are in a good spot ahead of Saturday's clash with New York City, having continued their climb up the standings by beating Toronto FC 2-1 in midweek.

    Sam Surridge's 90th-minute strike handed Nashville their second win in their last four MLS matches on Wednesday, and they now sit eighth in the Eastern Conference.

    Interim boss Munthali has overseen a resurgence since taking over from the fired Gary Smith last month, and he is excited by the chance to keep it going against NYCFC.

    "It's really good to pick up more points and move up the standings," Munthali said. 

    "I thought the guys showed some heart and had a good second half and deserved to win.

    "Now we just have to talk to our staff, make sure the guys are in a good place for Saturday in the space we have and hopefully again have good performances."

    Nick Cushing's visitors sit six points clear of Nashville in fourth place, though they have lost ground on those above them by recording back-to-back losses.

    Having gone down 3-2 at home to the Columbus Crew last week, they were beaten 2-0 at the LA Galaxy on Wednesday.

    Cushing knows acclimatising to different conditions on their travels is somewhere his team can improve, saying: "We made changes, but we've got a squad that allows us to make changes.

    "If you want to be a consistently winning team, a team that is successful in MLS, you have to cope with travel and time zones and all of those things, the heavy schedule too."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH 

    Nashville SC – Sam Surridge

    Surridge scored both of Nashville's goals in their midweek victory over Toronto, his third match with two or more goals in MLS.

    Of Surridge's nine MLS goals, seven have arrived in the three matches where he scored more than once (one hat-trick, two braces).

    New York City – Santiago Rodriguez

    Rodriguez led NYCFC on Wednesday with five shot involvements (two chances created, three shots attempted), extending his team-leading shot involvements tally to 95 for the season. 

    If he maintains his lead, he will have led the team for shot involvements in each of the last three seasons, joining David Villa (2015 to 2017) as the only NYCFC players to do so in three straight campaigns.

    MATCH PREDICTION: NASHVILLE SC WIN

    The home team has not lost any of the four all-time meetings between these teams, with Nashville winning both of their home games and NYCFC recording a win and a draw on their own turf.

    New York's 2-0 defeat to the Galaxy last time out was their fifth shutout defeat of the year, tied with the New England Revolution and Orlando City for the joint-most in MLS.

    Nashville, meanwhile, have only lost one of their last seven regular-season games (three wins, three draws), and are chasing their first pair of consecutive wins since May-June 2023.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Nashville SC – 44%

    New York City – 29.2%

    Draw – 26.8%

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    Antoine Griezmann squandered a host of chances for France, who struggled in front of goal with Kylian Mbappe relegated to the bench due to a broken nose.

    Both sides move onto four points, and after Austria's win over Poland earlier on Friday, it is all to play for between the top three on the final matchday, with Poland the first team to be officially eliminated from the tournament. 

    The Netherlands came flying out of the blocks, with Jeremie Frimpong forcing a fingertip save from Mike Maignan with less than a minute on the clock.

    France soon found their footing though, with Griezmann, wearing the armband in Mbappe's absence, failing to scramble it in from six yards after Adrien Rabiot's lay-off before he drilled another effort just wide of the post.

    Maignan was required again when Cody Gakpo cut inside from left before whipping a firm shot across goal, as the goalkeeper got a strong hand to it.

    Just before the half-hour mark, Marcus Thuram looked set to break the deadlock after beating the offside trap, but one-on-one with the goalkeeper, he sliced his effort over the crossbar.

    After a slow start to the second half, France rallied on the hour mark, with Aurelien Tchouameni flashing a header over before Griezmann saw another glorious opportunity smothered by Bart Verbruggen at his near post.

    Against the run of play, Simons thought he had given the Netherlands the lead by picking out the bottom-right corner after latching onto the rebound of Memphis Depay's saved shot, but Denzel Dumfries, in an offside position, was judged to be impeding the goalkeeper and the goal was ruled out after a lengthy VAR check.

    Toothless France struggle without their talisman

    All the pre-match talk centred on whether Mbappe would be fit to play after suffering a broken nose against Austria.

    The answer: he was not. Instead, he started on the bench, with Marcus Thuram tasked with playing as the main forward in his absence.

    Griezmann provided their foremost threat though, appearing in his 11th consecutive game at the Euros for France – Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (18) and Germany's Toni Kroos (13) are the only outfielders on longer such streaks for their nations.

    It was a record-equalling appearance for the stand-in captain too, his 32nd at major tournaments, the most for a French outfielder along with Lilian Thuram.

    However, the forward had four of France's five first-half shots, finishing with five overall, but failed to lead Les Bleus to a statement victory.

    Still, France's wait for a win without Mbappe in their starting lineup goes on, as they have failed to come out on top in any of their last seven such matches (four draws, three defeats).

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    After losing both meetings in qualifying for Euro 2024 by an aggregate score of 6-1, the Netherlands were likely not too happy to come up against Les Bleus once more.

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    At the Euros, the Oranje have now avoided defeat in all three of their group-stage meetings with France (2000, 2008, 2024).

    Defensively, they stood strong. Despite France having 13 shots, only three were on target as they created 1.4 expected goals (xG).

    Virgil van Dijk led by example, making the most clearances (seven) of anybody on the pitch as the Netherlands protected their clean sheet.

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    Portugal opened their Group F campaign with a nervy 2-1 win over Czechia on Tuesday, with Francisco Conceicao coming off the bench to net a 92nd-minute winner.

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    He endured a frustrating outing, failing to score from five shots worth 0.73 expected goals (xG) including missing one big chance, as defined by Opta.

    The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has seen his place in the Portugal lineup debated since he was surprisingly dropped by Fernando Santos at the 2022 World Cup.

    Martinez, however, feels the 39-year-old is more than capable of playing a full part, saying: "How many games did Cristiano play last season?

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    Some in the Portuguese media have questioned whether Martinez should field another striker alongside Ronaldo, but the former Belgium boss wants his team to attack as a collective. 

    "He was the striker with the most shots on target, he was disciplined, he worked hard. He's an area player, he opens up spaces," Martinez said.

    "The important thing for us is to arrive in the area. We are not a direct team. We want to get into the final third with six or seven players. We don't need another player close to Cristiano, we need six or seven."

    Turkiye could call upon huge support at their opening match in Dortmund, as they overcame Georgia 3-1 in one of the games of the tournament to date. 

    Martinez predicts a hostile reception for his team on Sunday, saying: "We expect the stadium to be loud. Turkey had a lot of support in the stands. 

    "We also need to be ourselves, controlling the tempo and bringing width because that is what we do best. 

    "Turkey showed they can defend but their focus is always to attack. They are aggressive, they have character and attitude. There are no secrets."

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