MLS

MLS: Henry's Montreal start with win, Hernandez and Galaxy held

By Sports Desk March 01, 2020

Thierry Henry made a winning start as Montreal Impact coach in MLS, while Javier Hernandez's LA Galaxy debut ended in a draw on Saturday.

At the helm of Montreal, Henry's Impact came from behind to beat the New England Revolution 2-1 on the opening day of the MLS season.

The Arsenal great's side had fallen behind after just 13 minutes at Stade Olympique, where Teal Bunbury volleyed in a Cristian Penilla cross.

However, Romell Quioto headed in from close range to bring Montreal level just eight minutes before half-time.

And the hosts found an 80th-minute winner as Maximiliano Urruti spectacularly lobbed stranded New England goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Hernandez made his LA Galaxy debut in a 1-1 draw away to the Houston Dynamo.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward played 90 minutes as Houston came from behind, Mauro Manotas cancelling out Cristian Pavon's opener.

Atlanta United spoiled Nashville SC's first MLS game with a 2-1 victory at Nissan Stadium.

Walker Zimmerman scored Nashville's first goal to cancel out Ezequiel Barco's opener, but Emerson Hyndman's 37th-minute strike proved to be the winner in front of a crowd of 59,069.

Elsewhere, Oswaldo Alanis' brilliant 95th-minute free-kick helped the San Jose Earthquakes hold Toronto to a 2-2 draw.

The Colorado Rapids recorded a 2-1 win over DC United, Dallas beat Philadelphia Union 2-0, Orlando City and Real Salt Lake played out a 0-0 draw and Sporting Kansas City overcame the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1.

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     “A situation like this calls for compromise, it calls for mediation, it calls for some level of consultation between parties and we never had that,” Nakhid said in an interview with the SportsMax Zone.

    “What we had was a lot of hotspot meetings and disjointed efforts by parties here and parties there,” he added.  In the mind of the former Soca Warriors captain, however, Wallace was far from the only one deserving of criticism. 

    As such, he also turned his attention to the world governing body FIFA, for whom he had some particularly strong words.  He accused the global football organisation of being ‘hypocrites’ and seeing the Caribbean region as just part of a voting bloc and not much else.

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    On Thursday, FIFA suspended the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) for its failure to withdraw a case that is currently before the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago, within the prescribed timeframe that came after a previous extension.  The ruling will see the twin-island republic immediately deprived of all its rights as a member of FIFA, which comes with other consequences.

  • UEFA thrilled as fan-attended Super Cup runs 'smoothly' UEFA thrilled as fan-attended Super Cup runs 'smoothly'

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    Pep Guardiola seems desperate to reinforce his centre-back options before the transfer deadline early next month, and it appears his primary targets are Ruben Dias of Benfica and Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

    Media reports on Friday suggested that City have offered approximately €55million, plus Nicolas Otamendi, for Dias having apparently had a similar offer turned down for Kounde last week.

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    City had previously seemed focused on Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly, while Kounde's partner at Sevilla, Diego Carlos, was also said to have been considered.

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    With Dias and Kounde looking the likeliest to bolster Guardiola's defensive ranks, we used Opta data to compare the two players.

    Adapting to City's style

    Given he is a year-and-a-half older than Kounde, it's fair to suggest Dias is slightly further ahead in his development than Kounde, while he is also playing for one of the top teams in a less competitive league than LaLiga.

    But there is a lot to like about the Portugal international's game and he does look well-suited to City's possession-based style of play.

    He completed 1,934 of his 2,184 passes last term, and though that statistic in isolation doesn't prove a huge amount – many will have been simple and under no pressure – it does show he is used to seeing a lot of the ball.

    Of those, 927 were in the opposing half and 81 per cent found a team-mate, whereas Kounde attempted 491 in the attacking half and completed 76.6 per cent.

    It's a similar story with regards to passes ending in the final third, where play is likely to be more congested. Dias made 364 passes into such an area and was accurate 68.4 per cent of the time, while Kounde found a team-mate in the attacking third with 66.3 per cent accuracy from 160 passes.

    As a base for comparison, City's current centre-backs are reflected much better by the data in this area – Otamendi's passing accuracy in the opposing half is 87.9 per cent, Aymeric Laporte's is 90 per cent, while in the final third their respective figures are 76.8 per cent and 84.6 per cent.

    With respect to Kounde, it is worth bearing in mind that Sevilla play far more direct than either of the other two teams in question. They played 2,594 long balls in the league last term, while City registered 1,978 and Benfica attempted 1,581.

    Where Kounde does come out on top, however, thus proving his ability on the ball and ease at bringing it out from the back, is the fact he attempted 22 dribbles and completed 81.2 per cent of them – of the defenders (that's centre-backs and full-backs) in LaLiga to try 20 or more dribbles, only one had a better success rate.

    Dependable defenders?

    As possession-oriented as City are, even a team like that has to do a bit of defending now and again – and although they only conceded two more goals than Liverpool in 2019-20, it was widely felt the centre of defence was their biggest issue.

    Otamendi proved unreliable, Fernandinho isn't a natural centre-back, John Stones was unconvincing when fit and Laporte – undoubtedly their best option – missed a chunk of the season with an ACL injury.

    The hole left by Laporte and Vincent Kompany's departure to Anderlecht was gaping and resulted in City looking flimsy, particularly when put under pressure – seven of their nine defeats were away from home.

    Dependable, hard-working centre-backs capable of playing with the ball at their feet are seemingly what Guardiola is after, and both Dias and Kounde proved to be just that for their respective teams.

    Kounde was a standout performer as recently as Thursday for Sevilla, impressing in spite of a 2-1 UEFA Super Cup defeat to Bayern Munich. He made three tackles and nine clearances, also winning each of his six aerial duels.

    In a straight comparison between Dias and Kounde with regards to standard defensive metrics, the former does generally come out on top, as he won possession back more times (175 to 108) than the Frenchman, and bested him in terms of interceptions (30 to 23), overall clearances (101 to 88), tackles (44 to 23) and duels (254 to 229).

    But Kounde, though less of a domineering physical specimen than Dias in appearance, does tend to be more effective aerially, suggesting his stats against Bayern were no fluke.

    Despite playing four fewer matches than Dias, he made more headed clearances (56 to 50), engaged in a greater number of aerial duels (149 to 141) and won more as well (94 to 86).

    The verdict

    Both players fit the general mould of centre-backs that Guardiola likes, but to suggest either is the finished article or a world-class player yet would be premature.

    Kounde did very well in his first season in LaLiga, but he only truly found consistency in his performances at the start of 2020 – a talent, certainly, with his ceiling seemingly very high, but prising him away could cost City well over £60m.

    Dias appears the easier to sign given he will likely be slightly cheaper than Kounde, while in most cases in this statistical comparison, he has the edge.

    But, with Victor Lindelof impressing for Benfica but struggling to convince with Manchester United, City may want to take note of a warning from across town.

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