MLS

MLS: Chicharito scores as Galaxy suffer third straight loss, Ruidiaz brace in Sounders win

By Sports Desk September 30, 2021

LA Galaxy's play-offs took a hit after they suffered their third consecutive defeat, going down 2-1 to Real Salt Lake in MLS on Wednesday.

The defeat means the Galaxy are winless in their past eight matches and while they dropped down to sixth in the Western Conference, their form means they could find themselves only a point ahead of the post-season chasing pack.

Former Manchester United forward Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez stung RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa's palms early, before Damir Kreilach scored his 11th goal of the season to put the hosts 1-0 on the stroke of half-time.

Ochoa denied Chicharito again in a 57th-minute fast break, before the latter equalised with 14 minutes remaining midweek.

But in the fifth of six stoppage-time minutes, Anderson Julio lashed in a wonderful volley from outside the box to claim the win for fifth-placed RSL and boost their play-off chances.

United States teenager Ricardo Pepi netted his 12th goal of the campaign as 10-man Dallas went down 3-1 to Western Conference contenders and second-placed Sporting Kansas City.

Daniel Salloi scored a double for Sporting KC, taking his season tally to 14, while Dallas had Bryan Acosta sent off.

Seattle Sounders stayed top of the Western Conference, ahead of Sporting KC, as Raul Ruidiaz scored a brace in a 3-1 win away to San Jose Earthquakes.

Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 25th minute, before firing home from the spot three minutes prior to the break. The Peruvian has 16 MLS goals this season, behind only DC United's Ola Kamara with 17.

Dairon Asprilla scored the winner as Portland Timbers claimed a 2-1 victory at Los Angeles FC to remain fourth in the west.

Supporters' Shield leaders New England Revolution maintained their 14-point advantage atop the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 triumph away to Montreal, extending their unbeaten run to six games.

Nashville, second in the east, blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Orlando City, while DC United got past Minnesota United 3-1.

Atlanta United boosted their play-offs hopes with a 1-0 win over Inter Miami, who have lost three in a row, while Toronto beat FC Cincinnati 3-2.

New York City suffered a second straight loss, going down 2-0 to Chicago Fire, and Philadelphia Union could only manage a 1-1 draw at New York Red Bulls.

Colorado Rapids eased past Austin 3-0 and Houston Dynamo played out a goalless draw with Vancouver Whitecaps.

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    Mancini was quick to praise the race for this season's Scudetto, with Milan requiring just a point on the final day at Sassuolo to secure the title ahead of Inter, who have an inferior head-to-head record.

    However, he reiterated his desire to see younger players provided with more opportunities.

    "First of all we must say that it was a beautiful championship, where many have fought for the Scudetto until recently," he added. 

    "I don't know who will win, I think Milan are at a bit of an advantage. But the matches must be played, then whoever wins will deserve it, be it Inter or Milan. Both have had a great championship anyway.

    "Honestly I hoped more players could come through, but in recent years the situation hasn't changed: there are many good young people who can't find chances."

    As for Italy's failings in World Cup qualification, Mancini is targeting a response from his side, who start their Nations League campaign at home to Germany on June 4.

    "We absolutely didn't deserve to go out, but we have to accept defeat and start again," he continued. 

    "We know we don't have big choices, but we have to come up with something like what happened four years ago."

  • The Numbers Game: Manchester City ready to disappoint Steven Gerrard and Liverpool The Numbers Game: Manchester City ready to disappoint Steven Gerrard and Liverpool

    Look away Liverpool, this may make for painful reading. Manchester City are not quite home and hosed in the Premier League title race, but all signs point to them brushing off Aston Villa on Sunday to clinch the trophy.

    Another gripping race for domestic dominance culminates in City hosting Villa, while rivals Liverpool face Wolves at Anfield.

    If City drop points, a Liverpool win would make Jurgen Klopp's team the champions. Yet recent history shows us that City rarely stumble against Villa, so a slip-up in the clash with Steven Gerrard's side would be a monumental shock.

    A sixth title in the Premier League era beckons, which would rank City outright second behind Manchester United's haul of 13 championships.

    Stats Perform takes a look here at key Opta numbers ahead of the final-day showdown

    Saving the best for last

    Pep Guardiola has repeatedly denied City lost their nerve against Real Madrid, when they remarkably surrendered what should have been a match-winning lead in the Champions League semi-finals.

    Such wild things happen in football, Guardiola has reasoned, which is why he will take a meticulous approach to preparation for the Etihad Stadium clash with Villa. There could yet be an extraordinary finish to the season, but not if Guardiola can help it.

    City have kept running through the tape in each of Guardiola's seasons in England, winning all five of their final league games under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. That ranks as the best such 100 per cent record for a manager in the competition's history.

    Going back even further, to the start of the Abu Dhabi ownership era, City have lost just one of their final league games in the last 13 campaigns (W10 D2). That loss came when they went down 3-2 at home to Norwich City in 2012-13 when Brian Kidd was in caretaker charge for the last game. A year previously, they famously beat QPR by that same scoreline to clinch a first Premier League title.

    This season, City have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League games (W22 D4), and are unbeaten in 11 since losing 3-2 at home to Spurs in February.

     

    What it would mean for Guardiola

    The City manager, who reports have claimed is ready to extend his contract until 2025, stands on the brink of Premier League history.

    Should his side keep Liverpool at arm's length, Guardiola will become the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

    This would be his fourth such Premier League title success in England, with only Manchester United's Alex Ferguson winning more. Guardiola has no intention of staying long enough to match Ferguson's staggering stack of 13 titles.

    City have won 168 of the 227 Premier League games they have contested in the Guardiola era, scoring 562 goals in that time. Those are inevitably league-best figures, and it would be hideously out of character for them to crack against Villa.

    A one-sided rivalry

    It was not always this way, of course. Villa finished ahead of City as recently as the 2008-09 season (finishing sixth to City's 10th), but the tables turned in the dynamic between the teams when the Abu Dhabi investment began at the Etihad Stadium.

    In recent years, this has been almost a formality victory for City, who have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa (D1), including the last six in a row.

    City's last defeat to Sunday's opponents was a 3-2 loss at Villa Park in September 2013.

    It is even more of a grim story when the focus falls solely on the games in Manchester. Villa have lost 15 of their last 16 away league games against City, losing each of the last 11 in a row since a 2-0 win in April 2007. This run of 11 is Villa's longest away losing streak against an opponent in their league history.

    What's more, Villa's record when facing any league-leading team is unimpressive. They have won just one of their 21 Premier League away games against league leaders (D3 L17), beating Leeds United 2-1 in January 2000, and have lost the last seven by an aggregate score of 21-1.

    Villa pulled off a shock of sorts when beating fourth-placed finishers Chelsea on the final day of last season, but they have not won their last game of a league campaign in consecutive seasons since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. The second of those wins came against champions Arsenal, but that is almost a quarter of a century ago.

     

    Doubling up on the last day?

    City will have Erling Haaland on board next season, so a flip of tactics seems inevitable to accommodate the prolific striker. This term, City have tended to rely on their midfield and attacking wide players to deliver in front of goal, and three players have reached double figures: Kevin De Bruyne (15 goals), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11).

    Now it could be Phil Foden's turn.

    Foden has scored nine Premier League goals this season, and if he scores against Villa it would make this season the first for City with two English players (Foden and Sterling) scoring at least 10 goals in a league campaign since 2004-05, when Robbie Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips were the pair.

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    Marsch inherited a struggling side from Elland Road favourite Marcelo Bielsa and has been unable to transform their fortunes, with Leeds in 18th due to an inferior goal difference compared with 17th-placed Burnley.

    Everton secured their Premier League status with a dramatic 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on Thursday, when Burnley took the lead but were held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa.

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    Marsch, speaking at a pre-match news conference on Friday, acknowledged the game with Brentford likely represents a must-win clash otherwise Leeds will be reliant on Burnley faltering against Newcastle United.

    "[There were] lots of emotions watching it. We can learn a lot from how the other players can handle the pressure differently," he said of watching Thursday's Premier League games.

    "We're excited for this challenge – we know we have to be at our best. I never came here to think it would be easy. I knew we'd have to fight for everything. I'll make sure we'll do this on Sunday.

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    "The support from everyone has been amazing, but I'm not thinking about the long-term project, only about Sunday and preparing for that."

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