MLS

MLS: Dominant New England extends Eastern Conference lead, Inter Miami win again

By Sports Desk August 21, 2021

New England Revolution have stretched their lead to 15 points in the MLS Eastern Conference after a 4-1 triumph over Cincinnati on Saturday.

First-half goals from Tajon Buchanan, Emmanuel Boateng and Adam Buksa helped New England open up a 3-0 half-time lead and they never looked back.

Canada international Buchanan was critical, pouncing on a rebound to fire home the opener from close range, before dribbling in the box and providing the pass for Boateng's first-time effort.

Cincinnati pulled a goal back from record signing Brenner's 54th-minute strike but Buksa added a second on the hour, from Gustavo Bou's assist, to seal a comfortable win.

Revolution have now won four straight matches and are unbeaten in eight games. New England have scored a league-leading 44 goals this year and turned it on without injured star midfielder Carles Gil.

Benji Michel scored a 51st-minute winner as Orlando City snapped their three-game winless run with a 1-0 win over Chicago Fire to move up to second in the east.

Orlando were not helped when Nani was substituted on the half hour, but found a winner when Michel drove home after Tesho Akindele's steal.

Quinn Sullivan netted an 87th-minute equalizer to keep Philadelphia Union in touch with Orlando after a 1-1 home draw with Montreal.

Djordje Mihailovic had put Montreal ahead on the stroke of half-time before Sullivan's leveler which leaves Union two points behind Orlando.

Inter Miami continued their form resurgence with a 3-1 victory over Toronto, moving them up to 11th in the east and leaving the Canadians in last.

Mexican midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro netted a double while Robbie Robinson also scored as Inter claimed their third win in four games.

Damian Moreno scored a late winner as Atlanta United claimed their fourth consecutive win, edging DC United 2-1.

Houston Dynamo snapped their four-game losing run with 2-2 draw with Dallas in their Texan showdown, while Austin climbed off the foot of the Western Conference with a 3-1 home win over Portland Timbers.

Colorado Rapids claimed a third straight win, getting past Real Salt Lake 2-1 in the Rocky Mountain Cup while Vancouver came from behind to win 2-1 over LAFC.

After numerous delays, New York Red Bulls' derby with New York City was postponed with the pitch deemed unplayable after inclement weather as Hurricane Henri approached.

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  • Meyer 'loves' Lawrence progress as Jags look to end losing start in London Meyer 'loves' Lawrence progress as Jags look to end losing start in London

    Urban Meyer is increasingly encouraged by Trevor Lawrence's work in the NFL and hopes his rookie quarterback can lead the Jacksonville Jaguars to a much-needed first win of the year.

    The Jaguars are 0-5 heading into Sunday's NFL London game, although opponents the Miami Dolphins have also struggled to 1-4.

    This was always likely to be another tough season for the Jags, who went 1-15 last year to secure the first overall pick in the draft.

    Jacksonville used that first-round selection on outstanding college QB Lawrence, a key step on their path to turning around a franchise with only one winning season since 2007.

    Facing NFL opposition on a poor team has represented a steep learning curve for Lawrence, whose debut against the Houston Texans brought an entertaining, erratic three-touchdown, three-interception display.

    Week 2 saw only 14 of 33 pass attempts completed for a passer rating of 37.2 – the fifth-lowest of the season through five weeks.

    But there has been steady improvement across the past two games, in which Lawrence has thrown one TD pass, been picked once and rushed for two more scores.

    In Weeks 1 through 3, Lawrence completed only 57.7 per cent of his passes, tossed an accurate, well-thrown ball with 71.2 per cent and offered up a pickable pass with 6.3 percent. Among QBs with 10 or more attempts, he ranked in the bottom four in all categories.

    Across Weeks 4 and 5, however, with 74.1 completion percentage, 83.3 well-thrown percentage and 1.9 per cent pickable pass percentage, Lawrence has operated above the league average in each metric.

    "[Quarterbacks coach] Brian Schottenheimer and [offensive coordinator] Darrell Bevell have had experience with young quarterbacks – from Andrew Luck to Russell Wilson – and they've done really a great job," Meyer said ahead of the Dolphins game.

    "I love the progress, I love the chemistry between the coaches and Trevor, and you can see it on the field.

    "You can see his familiarity now with the offense and the people around him. It's really exciting to watch him grow."

    Coach Meyer, who is also in his first year in the NFL, is seeing "steady progress" from the entire team and said: "We have really good leadership on the team, a really good locker room on this team, and they want to win in the worst way."

    Meyer needs a win as badly as Lawrence, having come in for criticism this season. He also apologised following the team's Week 4 defeat after a viral video showed him sitting on a bar stool while a woman, who was not his wife, danced close to his lap.

    But Lawrence said of the Jags coach: "I think he has done a good job of handling the situation. He has had conversations with the team, one-on-one and with all of us.

    "[It is] just him being the same guy and coming to work, you know, a super hard worker.

    "[He] really cares about this team and no one can deny that, so we are in a good spot and we all respect him. We are just ready to go win some games."

  • Benzema: Barcelona v Madrid still 'the best' without Messi and Ronaldo Benzema: Barcelona v Madrid still 'the best' without Messi and Ronaldo

    Karim Benzema believes the Clasico is still "the best match that exists in football", even with neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo involved for Barcelona and Real Madrid.

    Benzema's Madrid visit Barca next week to begin a new era in one of the game's most famous fixtures.

    After Ronaldo left the capital for Juventus in 2018 – and later rejoined Manchester United – Messi followed his great rival out of LaLiga this year.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner, who had been a first-team player at Barca since 2004, joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer when the Blaugrana could not afford to renew his contract.

    In the 21st century, only Diego Forlan (10) has scored more LaLiga goals against Barca than Ronaldo (nine). Messi's 18 Clasico goals are the most of any player against Madrid in that time.

    Benzema, leading the league for both goals (nine) and assists (seven) in 2021-22, is the outstanding player among those who remain, but he insists the excitement around the match is undimmed.

    "For me, it's still the same. It remains the best match that exists in football," he told ESPN.

    "It doesn't matter about the players who are there, who have left or who will join. Real-Barca is historic.

    "The names change, but before there was [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, [Samuel] Eto'o. Real-Barca will always be Real-Barca."

    Leaders Madrid will undoubtedly be favourites, even in Catalonia. Ahead of the games this week, when Los Blancos are not in action but Valencia visit Camp Nou, Barca are down in ninth.

    Benzema is impressively holding the fort as Madrid's main man, but Barca are a little short on quality following Messi's departure amid a dire financial situation.

    The Blaugrana's salary cap is only the seventh-highest in the league, a long way behind Madrid's, and doubts remain around Ronald Koeman.

    He lost his first two Clasicos last season, becoming the first Barca coach to do so since Joaquim Rife in 1980. Koeman is also three without a win against champions Atletico Madrid, who beat his side before the international break.

    But Benzema says: "There's never a good moment to play them. A team like Barca or any top team, they can have a poor game and then bounce back again.

    "It's a match that we can't take lightly, even if they haven't played well so far."

    Benzema certainly has played well, and he has made the shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

    In this calendar year, the France international has 28 goals and 11 assists for Madrid in all competitions. Across the top five leagues, only three players – Robert Lewandowski (46), Erling Haaland (45) and Kylian Mbappe (43) – have recorded more involvements than Benzema's 39.

    "It's been a dream since I was young and also a motivation – the Ballon d'Or represents the best players in the world and [it is great] to be on the list," Benzema said.

    "If you count who's on there, it's very satisfying. It's always been an objective.

    "You could say [I am close]. What I've done for the last three to four years, to continue to perform at a high level.

    "When I'm playing, I don't think about the Ballon d'Or. I think about helping the team win, providing a spectacle. The Ballon d'Or comes as a result of that, because it's more of an individual focus, but it's all about the collective."

  • Zverev rues missed opportunity as he follows Tsitsipas out at Indian Wells Zverev rues missed opportunity as he follows Tsitsipas out at Indian Wells

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    American Fritz saved two match points to pull off an upset 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) win over Olympic gold medallist Zverev.

    Third seed Zverev was aware he had become hot favourite to triumph in California after Stefanos Tsitsipas crashed out to Nikoloz Basilashvili earlier on Friday, with US Open champion Daniil Medvedev already eliminated.

    And the German was frustrated with his performance against Fritz, which left him unable to add to the Masters 1000 titles he has already won in Madrid and Cincinnati this year.

    "It was just not really my day, to be honest," said Zverev, who had beaten Jenson Brooksby, Andy Murray and Gael Monfils to reach the last eight.

    "I was close to winning, but the level of tennis was just not there for me.

    "Mentally this is not easy for me. My next tournament is Vienna, so hoping I can deal with it well there, but right now I just want to go home.

    "It was a very long season and I have played well but this one hurts because I knew that, after Stefanos lost this morning, I was kind of the favourite to win this tournament, but my tennis wasn't there yet."

    Zverev had won 20 of his previous 21 matches on hard courts and led 5-2 in the deciding set.

    But Fritz was not to be denied, firing 36 winners to secure the second top-five win of his career, with this triumph adding to impressive victories over Italian duo Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner this week.

    Fritz said: "This is the farthest I've ever been in a big tournament. 

    "It is easily the best win of my life, against a really tough opponent on arguably the biggest match I could possibly play, so it's great.

    "The biggest thing was match point down, I wanted to make him serve it out, so I just fought as hard as I could to hold that game.

    "Then I got fortunate in his service game and from there I felt in control and felt really good under the pressure. I kept fighting. The crowd pushing me on meant so much.

    "It is amazing. Especially the way that match ended with such high emotions with the crowd. The crowd was amazing and it is a dream come true."

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