MLS

MLS: Vela leads rally as LAFC go top, Red Bulls denied after late Columbus strike

By Sports Desk March 20, 2022

Carlos Vela scored and provided an assist while Ryan Hollingshead netted two goals, as LAFC came from behind to win 3-1 over Vancouver Whitecaps and move into top spot in the MLS on Sunday.

The Whitecaps took a 12th-minute lead from Tristan Blackmon's instinctive close-range finish, but the 2019 MLS champions rallied, led by former Mexico international Vela.

Vela's 27th-minute corner was met by Hollinghead with a powerful header for the equaliser before the ex-Arsenal attacker struck at the second attempt with a 38th-minute left-foot volley.

Hollingshead wrapped up all three points with the pick of the goals, unleashing a fine low right-foot strike from the edge of the box in the 70th minute.

The result means LAFC have collected 10 points from four games, to sit atop the Western Conference with the best record in the MLS. Winless Vancouver have one point from four games.

Darlington Nagbe poked home a dramatic 95th-minute equaliser as Columbus Crew snatched a 1-1 draw at New York Red Bulls, denying the hosts top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Tom Barlow had inadvertently put the Red Bulls ahead in the 84th minute from a scramble following a corner but Nagbe pinched a point late after reacting quickest from Steven Moreira's low cutback.

Diego Fagundez earned Austin a 1-1 home draw with Seattle Sounders with a 70th-minute strike, after Will Bruin opened the scoring in the 43rd minute from Cristian Roldan's assist.

Seattle's Kelyn Rowe came closest to a winner with a 74th-minute effort hitting the crossbar.

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  • Leeds set for another new era after Marsch sacking, but will it be same old story against Man Utd? Leeds set for another new era after Marsch sacking, but will it be same old story against Man Utd?

    At the end of February 2022, Leeds United bosses had seen enough.

    "This has been the toughest decision I have had to make," said chairman Andrea Radrizzani at the time.

    Leeds had taken just one point from six games, leaving them only two points above the relegation zone. A 4-0 home defeat by Tottenham was the final straw for Marcelo Bielsa, who was dismissed on February 27. 

    At the beginning of February 2023, Leeds United bosses had again seen enough as they parted company with Bielsa's successor Jesse Marsch.

    Leeds have taken just three points from their past seven games, leaving them level on points with Everton in the final relegation spot, albeit having played a game fewer than the three teams below them.

    Unlike Bielsa, who ended the club's long wait to get back into the Premier League and then guided them to a ninth-placed finish in their first season back, Marsch never truly won over the fanbase.

    Whereas Bielsa had murals dedicated to him all over west Yorkshire throughout his time in change, with his exit doing little to impact the esteem he's held in around Leeds, Marsch's year in charge will likely soon be a distant memory.

    Indeed, the 95-word statement put out by the club on Monday confirming his departure – with no comment from Radrizzani or his peers – was as brutal as it was damning.

    And so Leeds are now on the lookout for a new man to keep them in the division, with Carlos Corberan – who has impressed in his four months at West Brom – the early frontrunner to take charge.

    Bielsa is also reportedly among the contenders to succeed the man who succeeded him, while Mauricio Pochettino, Ange Postecoglou and Ralph Hasenhuttl have been touted as other options.

    New manager bounce?

    Pulling the plug on Marsch's tenure was a big call by Leeds chiefs, coming in the same week they face Manchester United in back-to-back Premier League games.

    It will be only the second time in the competition's history that the same two teams have met in successive games, following Arsenal's 2-0 and 4-2 wins over Bolton Wanderers in January 2010.

    Leeds are in a race against time to bring a new man in before the first of those games at Old Trafford on Wednesday, although they then have a further four days ahead of welcoming their fierce rivals back to Elland Road.

    As it stands, Marsch's assistant Chris Armas, who previously worked as Ralf Rangnick's right-hand man at Old Trafford last season, is expected to oversee the midweek match in Manchester.

    A new manager bounce would come in handy for at least one of those games. In the view of many Leeds fans, simply having anyone other than Marsch in the dugout will boost their chances of getting a result.

    Whether it be a caretaker or a permanent head coach, though, history suggests bringing in someone new ahead of playing United very rarely pays off.

    Of the 16 previous occasions a manager or caretaker has taken charge of his first Premier League match against United, the Red Devils have won 12 times, drawn once and lost only three times.

    However, the most recent such instance was just three months ago when Unai Emery inspired Aston Villa to a 3-1 home win against Erik ten Hag's side, ending United's nine-match winning run in such encounters.

    Emery joins an elite list that also includes Alan Curbishley and a certain Jose Mourinho, who masterminded wins over United in their first Premier League games in charge of West Ham and Chelsea respectively.

    Little joy for Leeds

    Perhaps a more telling statistic, though, is the one that highlights just how badly Leeds have performed in this fixture down the years, regardless of who has been at the helm.

    Leeds have won only one of their past 17 Premier League games against the team from across the Pennines, with that a 1-0 victory in September 2002.

    That winless run goes back even further when only accounting for top-flight matches played at Old Trafford, where they were last victorious in February 1981. 

    Returning to the elite after 16 years away has done little to change the one-sided nature of this fixture, with Leeds losing three of their four meetings over the past two campaigns and drawing the other.

    The 15 goals they have conceded against United in 6-2 5-1 and 4-2 defeats are second only to the 16 shipped against Manchester City over that same period.

    Furthermore, since the start of last season, Leeds have taken just one point from their eight games against sides starting the day in the top three.

    Marsch or not, this was always going to be a match in which the odds were stacked massively against Leeds, particularly with their opponents on a 13-game winning streak at Old Trafford in all competitions.

    That is the Red Devils' best run since a record 20 wins in a row between December 2010 and September 2011.

    Plenty to play for

    Ending that barren run will go a long way to boosting Leeds' survival hopes, although ultimately whoever comes in will have 16 matches after this week's unique double-header to steer the Whites to safety.

    Without a win in seven Premier League games, with that the longest ongoing run of any side, it hardly came as a big surprise to see Marsch given his marching orders on the back of 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest.

    The American departs with a Premier League win percentage of 25 across his 32 matches, which is the second-lowest of any Leeds boss in the division after Eddie Gray (24 per cent).

    Another new era now beckons at Elland Road, and whoever it is that replaces Marsch will have their work cut out in the short term keeping Leeds above the dotted line.

    Whether that can be achieved remains to be seen. But if we have learned anything about Leeds throughout the Premier League era, it is that it will certainly make for entertaining viewing either way.

  • Safety the primary aim for crisis club Juventus as Allegri targets 40 points Safety the primary aim for crisis club Juventus as Allegri targets 40 points

    Massimiliano Allegri says Juventus' primary aim is to reach 40 points and ensure their place in Serie A for next season, with their 15-point deduction appearing to dash any top-four hopes.

    Juventus were considered one of the sides capable of challenging leaders Napoli before an investigation into their historic transfer dealings led to their sanction being handed down last month.

    Having picked up just one point from their last three league games, Juventus now sit 13th in the table, 10 points clear of the bottom three but 15 adrift of fourth-placed Lazio. 

    Speaking ahead of Tuesday's trip to 16th-placed Salernitana, who would leapfrog the Bianconeri with a win, Allegri was cautious when asked about his hopes for the remainder of the campaign. 

    "Right now the fact is that they have taken away 15 points and we must think about reaching 40 to save ourselves," Allegri said.

    "It's laughable, but we have to think about this goal first and proceed step by step. Setting ourselves goals now is unthinkable. 

    "Now we have to reach the teams in front of us and climb slowly. Tomorrow we have to win, because in the last three league games we have only scored one point."

    Juve will again be without Paul Pogba in Salerno after a minor injury delayed his second Bianconeri debut, while Leonardo Bonucci is also sidelined after suffering from a bout of flu.

    "Everyone is available apart from Bonucci who has had the flu for three days, Pogba as before, and [Leandro] Paredes has a foot injury and won't be there," he said. "All the others are present."

    Juve will likely need striker Dusan Vlahovic to return to top form if they are to climb the table, as he continues to chase his first goal of 2023.

    Vlahovic has failed to score in his two appearances since returning from the World Cup with a groin injury, with his last club goal coming at the home of neighbours Torino in mid-October.

    The Serbia international has thus scored each of his last eight Serie A goals in Turin (seven at the Allianz stadium and one at the Olimpico Grande Torino), last netting outside the city in a win at Cagliari last April.

    Asked whether the striker will start Tuesday's game, Allegri said: "I haven't decided yet, but I'll make the assessments. Physically he's fine, he's much lighter and more dynamic than when he arrived.

    "Let's hope he scores tomorrow. Vlahovic has never been as good physically as he is now, not even when he arrived from Fiorentina." 

  • LaLiga to investigate after Vinicius suffers more racist abuse in Mallorca loss LaLiga to investigate after Vinicius suffers more racist abuse in Mallorca loss

    LaLiga has launched an investigation after Vinicius Junior was again the target of "intolerable" racist abuse in Real Madrid's defeat at Real Mallorca on Sunday.

    Social media footage showed racist insults being shouted at Vinicius during Madrid's 1-0 loss at Son Moix, marking the latest in a string of similar incidents involving the Brazilian this season.

    Vinicius has been subjected to racist abuse before and during both of Madrid's meetings with cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid this season, while individuals were charged after similar incidents occurred at December's fixture against Real Valladolid. 

    A statement released by LaLiga on Monday read: "Given the events that occurred in the RCD Mallorca-Real Madrid match, in which once again intolerable racist insults were observed against Real Madrid player Vinicius Junior, LaLiga is putting all the technical means at its disposal and working with the local club to identify those responsible, with the aim of taking the appropriate legal measures.

    "LaLiga firmly condemns what happened and, as on previous occasions, will file the necessary complaints and appear in person to continue fighting, within its powers, against any type of racist act, behaviour or incident.

    "LaLiga has spent years fighting against this kind of behaviour and promoting the positive values of sport, not only on the pitch, but also off it."

    The league also called for supporters with any knowledge pertaining to the events to get in touch via a dedicated email address. 

    In December, Vinicius took to social media to accuse LaLiga of "doing nothing" to combat racist abuse from the stands, comments which drew a response from league president Javier Tebas.

    Tebas described Vinicius' complaints as "unfair and untrue" on Twitter, adding: "I've been fighting racism for years. We are at your disposal so that together, we can walk in the same direction."

    In the build-up to Madrid's Copa del Rey win over Atletico last month, social media images showed a mannequin, wearing a Vinicius shirt, hung by the neck from a bridge in the Spanish capital.

    Both clubs and the Confederacao Brasileira de Futebol (CBF) condemned the incident, with Los Blancos describing it as a "repugnant act of racism, xenophobia and hatred".

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