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Breakfast Links - May 30, 2022

Dynamo fall in Salt Lake, Dash grab a point, a busy weekend in MLS, Real Madrid become champions of Europe, and much more.

MLS: Houston Dynamo FC at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Memorial Day. We hope you’re enjoying some time off from work, here are some links for your reading pleasure.

Houston

The Houston Dynamo were all but embarrassed at the hands of Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening. There were goals scored by both RSL forwards, Bobby Wood (29th minute) and Sergio Cordova (55th minute), and even one from center back Justen Glad (90+2 minutes) with a header in the waning moments. This one added a little extra sting to the end of this away stint.

There were a few positives to be had in this one earlier in the game and to start the 2nd half with several opportunities that were ultimately wasted. The Dynamo were able to create 13 shots, 8 of which came inside the box, and registered a 1.06 xG on the evening, but were unable to find the back of the net. Overall, the Dynamo simply were not clinical enough in their decision making or finishing and RSL were able to make the most of their chances when it mattered most. They will need to go back and evaluate exactly what needs to be done to bring back that team style of play they had been displaying more recently, with a solid back line, overlapping runs from the wings and a more controlled midfield.

Coach Nagamura tried something different up top to try and get a spark, speaking on the matter after the game at the press conference. “There’s a lot of things that play into these last few hours, last few days. A couple of guys that could not be available. A couple of guys with illness. A couple of guys with the health and safety protocol, they had to stay home. So, we had to shuffle a little bit in the last few hours, last few days. A few of the things that we had planned at the beginning of the week, but it is what it is. Players are getting opportunities. Players are getting chances and again, we always say we praise the strength of our group. Today, the guys that started the game, they didn’t take the opportunity in the best way they could.”

The Dynamo were missing several key pieces from the lineup and that contributed to some of the lackluster play but that is no excuse for the sloppy possession in and around the midfield. After winning the ball, the Dynamo struggled to maintain any balance or forward momentum and giving the ball away with poor touches or improperly weighted passes too often when the team was already struggling to create to begin with. The defense was not great overall in this one having to try and get back to defend constantly with the team struggling to keep possession to get forward, consistently and still lacking that final pass or touch around the opposing box. Far too many unanswered questions and not challenging of the opposing keeper enough and not enough threatening play from out wide. The Dynamo will use the break to recover and prepare for another away match against Orlando City on June 18th at Exploria Stadium.

The Houston Dash played North Carolina Courage on Sunday evening at PNC Stadium, back home after a lengthy away schedule. Both teams would put the pedal to the metal early and the start of the game saw some exciting end to end soccer. Nichelle Prince was lightning quick up top causing all sorts of issues with her speed and agility, creating several early attempts. The Dash were defending their box very well through the first quarter-hour and were extremely quick in making the correct passes to get forward and break the press. The Dash were unable to take advantage of their opportunities and a mistake out of the back would leave rookie Diana Ordonez in on goal. She would beat Jane Campbell to give the Courage the early lead.

The Dash had been playing well and would not look to make any tactical changes, confident in their game plan being successful. Rachel Daly got on the end of a perfectly weighted pass by Prince and in world class fashion took it right around the keeper and smashed it over the last defender and into the top center of the goal right at the halftime whistle. The Dash caught the Courage ball watching and were able to maintain focus all the way through the half and pull one back.

In the 2nd half the Courage came out with most of the possession, by design as they so often do, and again the Dash were able to defend their box well and spring forward with pace and quality in transition causing trouble for the Courage back line for the duration. Neither team were able to get another goal across the line and this one ended in a 1-1 draw.

Nichelle Prince was the player of the match as she was constantly getting through on goal or into dangerous areas as well creating space for others with the quick and efficient combo play. She Completed 80% of her dribbles (4/5), won all 3 of her tackles (100%) and won 8/11 (73%) of her ground duels. She was quick and precise on both sides of the ball Sunday evening in the draw, unlucky not to have led the Dash to a 2nd half winner on several occasions.

The Dash will look to bring the same energy their next time out when they face the Orlando Pride at home, Friday June 3rd at 7:30 PM. A big congratulations to Rachel Daly on her 100th NWSL appearance and capping it off with a beautiful strike for her 36th league goal.

Houston Dynamo 2 won their midweek match against Real Monarchs, seeing new addition Micael dos Santos Silva score on a beautiful header in the 72nd minute. HD2 are one of the most dangerous teams in the league going forward and coach Kenny Bundy has spoken about creating chances and not necessarily worrying about maintaining possession, but quickly getting forward after winning possession in the midfield. Dynamo 2 are atop the Western conference standings with 22 points, which is the highest of either conference. Dynamo 2 will be back in action for an away match against St Louis City 2, Saturday June 4th at 7PM.

Major League Soccer

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LAFC, missing their top goal scorer Carlos Vela and several key pieces, still managed to eke out a narrow win in front of their home crowd on Saturday afternoon. The fireworks started early in this one. LAFC would earn a penalty in the 7th minute and Cristian Arango would tuck that one neatly way into the bottom right corner of the net, giving LAFC the early lead. Jeremy Ebobisse would collect an impressive brace on the afternoon for San Jose, but it wouldn’t be enough as LAFC saw goals from Ryan Hollingshed (13th minute ) and Brian Rodriguez (47th minute) to close this one out. With this win LAFC remain at the top of the western conference standings with 29 points.

Another Saturday matchup that came flying out of the gate was Atlanta and Columbus. Atlanta have had problems dealing with set pieces all season and Columbus punished them from an early corner in the 1st minute. Pedro Santos’ cross into the box found Jonathan Mensah and the center back was able to place his header down and into the back of the net. Erik Hurtado would extend the lead in the 45th when he got on to the end of Derrick Eteinne’s long ball and diced up Alex De John and keeper Bobby Shuttleworth with a clinical finish. Atlanta United showed plenty of fight and had 69% of the possession but Eloy Room took Atlanta’s 1.9 xG and held them to 1 goal. That one they did manage to pull back was in the 90+1 minute, a bicycle kick from Dom Dwyer. This was one to see, he fully committed himself physically and made contact just before the defender could reach it and blasted into the bottom left corner of the net. It would not be enough as Atlanta United fell to the Crew 2-1.

The LA Galaxy and Austin FC started out with a rarely missed PK from Chicharito in the 3rd minute. Austin, having been on a hot streak this season, struck first in the 53rd minute with a goal from Diego Fagundez in the top left corner of the net from the center of the box. Chicharito would get his shot at redemption and scored in the 61st minute to help spark the 4-goal onslaught that he and the Galaxy brought in the 2nd half. Dejan Joveljic became the first player in MLS history to be involved in 4 goals after coming off the bench, bagging two goals and two assists.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Gabriel Slonia and the rest of the Chicago Fire were in Ontario on Saturday trying to steal 3 points on the road against Toronto FC. Toronto would score first in the 13th minute with a goal from Deandre Kerr and hold the lead going into the 2nd half. Chicago would have 2 goals after the break, Carlos Teran (52nd minute) and the ever-dangerous Kacper Przybylko (66th minute) as the two battled it out to down to the wire. Both teams would score twice in the 2nd half, but Toronto was able to hold off the late push from Chicago and win 3-2. Chicago registered a 3.30 xG compared to just 1.07 for Toronto. Alejandro Pozuelo’s brace (71st, 78th minute) helped bring an end to a thrilling match, taking all 3 points for Toronto in front of their home crowd.

Around The World

Real Madrid celebrate 14th Champions League win Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Kings of Europe.

After a grueling season of league play, multiple tournaments, the recently crowned La Liga Champions finished off an extraordinarily admirable season with the prestigious Champions League final against Liverpool on Saturday afternoon at the famous Stade de France. Millions all over the world stopped what they were doing for 2 hours or more to watch these 2 pillars of the soccer world come face to face in one of the most anticipated matches of the year. The match would not disappoint one bit, with the excitement and anticipation down to the final whistle. This match left many Liverpool fans scratching their heads, wondering how they did not capitalize on all the opportunities the team created and there was several to speak of. Liverpool registered a robust 2.19 xG compared to Real Madrid’s 0.92 xG and out shot Madrid overall 24-4.

The first half Liverpool had more of the chances but neither team wanted to make a mistake. In the second half it was Vinicius Junior who would sneak in behind the back line and he was in the right place at the right time on a ball directed goalward and Junior buried it from close range giving Real Madrid that all-important lead in this epic title match. Liverpool would attack from all angles, throwing everything they had at them trying to get an edge and break through the line. Mohamed Salah was in dangerous positions all game long and he registered a 1.01 xG on his 6 shots on goal (100% on target) but was unable to find the equalizer. He completed 33 of 37 of his passes and was dangerous in and around the box. Several times he thought he had beaten Thibault Courtois but repeatedly he would be denied.

Liverpool never slowed down on the attack, but Courtois made 9 saves with 5 of them diving and 7 were inside the box. He completed the monumental task of keeping Liverpool off the score sheet and in doing so, against all statistical odds, kept the clean sheet to give Real Madrid their record-extending 14th Champions League title. Depending on your point of view, either the better team lost on this day, or the better team took advantage of their opportunities and had their keeper put them on their back when he was called upon. Regardless, history was written once again with Real Madrid clearing more space on their overwhelmingly full trophy shelf for this latest piece of coveted Silverware.

Manchester United, coming off an abysmal season, have announced that Ralf Rangnick will no longer remain at the club. He was supposed to stay on a multi-year deal as a consultant but the two have mutually decided to part ways with MU saying, “we would like to thank Ralph Rangnick for his efforts as interim manager over the past six months” and “we would like to wish Ralf the best of luck in the next chapter of his career.” Erik ten Hag will get a clean slate going forward in that regard and Manchester United fans will hope that he and whatever squad adjustments that can be made over the summer transfer window will be more competitive next season. Having not won a trophy since 2017 and finishing in 6th place, fans will welcome ten Hag and get behind their new manager 100%, especially with rumors flying around that ten Hag is looking to add massive pieces like Jurrien Timber and Darwin Nunez to jumpstart this rebuild. A welcome sight indeed.

Mohamed Salah won the Premier League’s goal of the year award in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw against Man City earlier in the season, finishing the season with a robust 31 goals and 15 assists in all competitions.

Nottingham Forest won the promotional play-off against Huddersfield Town on Sunday to earn their spot in the Premier League. The first half was all Forest with their .42 xG against Huddersfield’s .06 xG. Nottingham Forest was able take the lead in the 43rd min off a Levi Colwill own goal. He tried to clear a cross that came screaming in, but it took a miscued deflection into his own goal, leaving keeper Lee Nicholls glued to his spot with no chance to react.

The second half, Huddersfield Town were able to rally the momentum and really started bringing the pressure on both ends of the pitch. There were several controversial calls in this one, adding to the excitement of the final. The 74th minute was the most controversial call. Harry Toffolo appeared to be fouled in the box but was given a yellow card for simulation instead. After a lengthy VAR review the call stood and Nottingham Forest dodged a bullet. Ethan Horvath had to come on for Forest in the 89th minute when keeper Brice Samba picked up an injury. Nottingham Forest was able to hold off the onslaught from Huddersfield Town in the final 6 minutes and solidify the historic season, gaining promotion.

Nottingham Forest is the first team ever to win promotion after being at the bottom of the league after 8 games. After 23 long years the wait is over, the fans finally get to root for their club in the Premier League next season.