MLS

Heber helps NY City to win but Union stay top in East

By Sports Desk July 13, 2022

Philadelphia Union maintained top spot in the Eastern Conference in the MLS, securing a 2-1 win away to Inter Miami on Wednesday.

Goals to Daniel Gazdag and Cory Burke handed the Union the three points to put them on 36 for the season, leading the Eastern Conference by a solitary point.

Gazdag's penalty in the 26th minute was critical, because from there the Union could absorb pressure, and the best defence in the MLS were able to grind out another win.

With only 35.7 per cent possession in the second half, their job was simpler after Burke doubled the margin in the 66th minute, heading in Kai Wagner's dead ball at the back post.

In only his second start since Inter's 3-1 loss to Houston Dynamo in April, Gonzalo Higuain bagged his third goal of the season – smashing the ball into the top corner from distance on the run, and on his opposite left foot – but it was mere consolation in the 82nd minute.

New York City remain hot on their heels, however, maintaining the one-point gap in the Eastern Conference after claiming a tough 1-0 win away to FC Dallas.

Heber was left with a simple tap-in in the 29th minute after Santiago Rodriguez was able to drive into space from the second ball, and he coolly finished for the eventual three points.

Elsewhere in the East, a Jhon Duran brace handed Chicago Fire a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC, while D.C. United twice equalised in the final 10 minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw at home to Columbus Crew.

Cincinnati and Orlando City dropped critical points in the playoff race with respective draws to the Vancouver Whitecaps and Colorado Rapids, while a Ronaldo Cisneros brace gave Atlanta United a big 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake, putting them three points behind seventh-placed Charlotte.

Most of the chasing pack in the Western Conference were not able to capitalise on Dallas and RSL's slip-ups, with Minnesota United playing out a 1-1 draw with Sporting KC, while the San Jose Earthquakes scored a 3-2 win away to Los Angeles Galaxy.

Nashville SC did capitalise and moved to third in the West though, claiming a 1-0 win at home to the in-form Seattle Sounders.

Hany Mukhtar scored the eventual winner in the 44th minute with the interval beckoning, scoring in transition after Randall Leal snatched the ball and released CJ Sapong.

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    Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said his players were born to handle high-pressure World Cup contests after Lionel Messi led them to a 2-1 win over Australia in the last 16.

    Messi scored his ninth World Cup goal – and his first in a knockout tie – as Argentina edged out Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday, with Julian Alvarez also getting on the scoresheet following a mistake from Mathew Ryan.

    Argentina will now face the Netherlands for a semi-final place on Friday, a prospect which appeared unlikely when they began their campaign with a stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia 11 days ago.

    Asked how the Albiceleste had managed to turn their tournament around, Scaloni said: "What I said before the Mexico match was that these guys were born to play these games.

    "Argentina have played three games which were very intense, where being knocked out was a reality. But these players are capable. Sometimes the urgency and anxiety makes you feel different.

    "Even if things happen like the Saudi Arabia game or the Australia goal today, we have to keep believing in our football. 

    "There is no pressure in football, that's how I see it. Pressure is something else.

    "If you've watched Argentina today, these are memories which will stay with you forever. You've seen these young players, and also Leo, playing beautifully."

    The next hurdle for Argentina to overcome will be a heavyweight tussle with the nation they beat in both the 1978 World Cup final and the 2014 semi-finals.

    While Scaloni acknowledges the Oranje's current crop may not be as easy on the eye as some of their predecessors, he expects a tough test against Louis van Gaal's men.

    Asked about Van Gaal's qualities, Scaloni said: "I was a young player at Deportivo La Coruna when he was coaching at Barcelona. He's a great coach and many have to try to take a page from his book. It's a pleasure to face him at a World Cup.

    "Today we saw the Netherlands match. They probably don't play as beautifully as some older Dutch teams, but they have very strong points that they will try to use.

    "It will be a beautiful game between two historic national teams, and one will be knocked out, unfortunately."

    Argentina are hopeful of receiving a fitness boost ahead of Friday, with Scaloni revealing Angel Di Maria – who was an unused substitute on Saturday after suffering a thigh injury – could return.

    "I didn't think we were going to help anyone by bringing him on today," he said of Di Maria. "We hope that in the next few days he keeps evolving and he can make it for the next match."

  • Messi overtakes Maradona with ninth goal, but Argentina legends are amazingly tied for two World Cup stats Messi overtakes Maradona with ninth goal, but Argentina legends are amazingly tied for two World Cup stats

    Lionel Messi has now gone past Diego Maradona for World Cup appearances and goals – and the Argentina number 10 has pulled exactly level with his predecessor on two important statistics that showcase their creative brilliance.

    Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win over Australia carried Argentina into the quarter-finals, with Messi scoring the ninth World Cup goal of his career to put Lionel Scaloni's team 1-0 in front in the first half.

    That nudged Messi ahead of Maradona's career haul of eight goals, while he has moved to 23 World Cup appearances during this tournament, two ahead of his late compatriot and fellow number 10 shirt wearer's previous national team record.

    Messi is just one behind Gabriel Batistuta's record of 10 World Cup goals with Argentina, and he may have that in the back of his mind ahead of Friday's last-eight clash with the Netherlands.

    The Paris Saint-Germain forward is picking off records as he goes during this tournament, and he will surely overtake two more Maradona marks in that clash with Louis van Gaal's team.

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    They have both created 67 chances, and with each man, 48 of those chances have come about in open play, Opta data shows.

    Messi created four chances in all against Australia, including a golden opportunity for Lautaro Martinez that the substitute ballooned wastefully late in the game as Argentina looked to put the game beyond their gallant opponents.

    Where Maradona beats Messi is in goal assists. Maradona's eight from 1982 to 1994 beats Messi's haul of six assists to date, since his World Cup debut at the 2006 finals.

    Maradona was the driving force behind Argentina's 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico, and later coached the national team, notably at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

    He died in November 2020 at the age of 60.

    Saturday's game against Australia was the 1,000th of Messi's career for club and country.

     

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    Lionel Messi celebrated his first World Cup knockout stage goal on his 1,000th career appearance by showing appreciation for Argentina's fans as he helped his country reach the quarter-finals in Qatar.

    Messi opened the scoring in Argentina's 2-1 win against Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday, with Julian Alvarez doubling the lead before an Enzo Fernandez own goal caused some late nerves.

    Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) has scored more World Cup goals for La Albiceleste than Messi's nine, and the captain praised the efforts of travelling fans as his team advanced to face the Netherlands in the last eight.

    "I am very happy for taking another step forward and achieving another objective," Messi said at a post-match press conference. "[Australia] were very strong and it was a difficult match, we knew it would be this way.

    "We played very recently and didn't have much time to rest up, so we were concerned as we knew it would be a very physical match. Luckily we found the goal, and then at two goals ahead it was easier for us.

    "I am very happy to share these beautiful moments with all the fans, I know the efforts they have made to be here with us in every match. The whole of Argentina would like to be here."

    Messi made his 169th appearance for Argentina, to go with 778 at Barcelona and 53 at Paris Saint-Germain. To date, he has 789 goals and 338 assists across those 1,000 games, and Australia were the 129th team he has scored against in his career.

    "This bond or union that we have with the fans is something beautiful, and that's what the national team should be," Messi said.

    "We were excited and eager to be together with the people again. It's unbelievable, the passion and energy they transmit."

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