Arsenal Open US Tour With 3-0 Friendly Win In Colorado

Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli scored in his Arsenal debut Monday as the English Premier League club launched their pre-season tour of the United States with a 3-0 friendly win over the Colorado Rapids.

Bukayo Saka and James Olayinka also scored for the Gunners, who cruised to the victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Denver.

Martinelli, the 18-year-old forward signed from Ituano on July 2, was given a surprise start in attack by Unai Emery and sent an early chance wide.

Saka, 17, was an energetic presence and put Arsenal up 1-0 in the 13th minute as he collected a through-ball from Eddie Nketiah.

Another teenager — 18-year-old Olayinka — doubled the score in the 29th, seizing a stray pass from defence and racing into fire into the top left corner of the net.

READ ALSO: Man City Set For Pre-Season Tour After Frustrating Delay

Martinelli, having missed his early chance, capped the scoring in the 61st when he slotted home a cross from close range.

The Rapids, in the midst of the Major League Soccer season, fielded a mostly reserve side that featured several players from the lower-rung Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

Arsenal, too, started a reserve team as they begin their build-up to the Premier League season after again failing to secure a Champions League berth.

The tour hasn’t started without controversy. Captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel to the US, and a group of influential Arsenal supporters’ organisations published a statement on Monday hitting out at Stan Kroenke’s “passive ownership”.

Under a hashtag “WeCareDo You” the statement decried a “soulless” atmosphere at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and a lack of transfer strategy.

Kroenke, who began investing in the club in 2007 through his company Kroenke Sports Enterprises and took full ownership in 2018, also owns the Rapids as well as the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

AFP

Dempsey Raring To Go As Sounders Eye MLS Repeat

Dempsey Raring To Go As Sounders Eye MLS Repeat
SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 30: Clint Dempsey #2 of the Seattle Sounders takes a shot on goal past Juan Cabezas #5 of the Houston Dynamo during the second leg of the MLS Western Conference Finals on November 30, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images/AFP

 

Clint Dempsey is looking forward to playing a leading role as the Seattle Sounders prepare to revisit history in a repeat Major League Soccer Cup final showdown against Toronto FC on Saturday.

Twelve months after stunning Toronto in a penalty shoot-out to lift the MLS crown for the first time, Seattle will again line up against their Canadian rivals as the curtain comes down on the North American season.

A year ago, USA international Dempsey was a frustrated spectator as Seattle ground out a 0-0 draw before prevailing on spot-kicks.

The diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat earlier in 2016 forced the former Fulham and Tottenham striker into an extended spell on the sidelines with some wondering if his health would ever allow him to return.

Fast-forward 12 months, however, and the 34-year-old Texan is desperate to help Seattle retain their crown once more at Toronto’s 30,000-capacity BMO Field.

“It’s tough to be on the sideline and not on the field battling with your teammates,” Dempsey said this week as he reflected on last year’s final.

“But in saying that, they fought hard all through the playoffs, they deserved to be in the final and then they fought hard in the final…But I’m happy to be playing with the team this time and hopefully play a part in it.”

Dempsey’s presence provides Seattle with a proven cutting edge in attack, a year after they went 120 minutes in the 2016 final without registering a shot on goal.

The arrival this season of Spanish forward Victor Rodriguez has also given Seattle a more potent look while Will Bruin found the net 13 times in 24 starts after signing from Houston in the close season.

– Scoring groove –

“In terms of depth, I feel like there’s a lot here,” Dempsey said. “I think with the weapons that we have, we should be able to create chances. But it’s a matter of doing it, it’s not talking about it.”

A 5-0 aggregate victory over Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference finals suggests Seattle have got into a scoring groove at the right time.

Nevertheless, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer is adamant that Toronto, who had the best regular season in MLS, hold the edge for Saturday’s final.

“Toronto is the home team, they are the favorites, they are the ones playing in front of their fans,” Schmetzer told reporters on a conference call.

“We will just do the best we can and try and match up and give everybody a good final.”

Schmetzer’s caution is justifiable. Toronto, too, have improved as an attacking unit this season, lengthening the odds on another scoreless draw this year.

Toronto averaged 2.2 goals per game in the regular season, scoring 74 times in 34 matches, an improvement of 23 goals on their 2016 total of 51. It is the second highest goals tally in MLS history, behind Los Angeles Galaxy’s total of 85 in 1998.

“I think we have evolved as a group, we have more ways that we can win games than we did last year,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “This year I think we have shown an ability through different ways to get results and score goals.

“To me that is the difference we feel like we can gain an edge in more than just one way where as last year we had a pretty precise vision in order to give us the greatest margin to win.”

Toronto striker Jozy Altidore, meanwhile, doesn’t care where the goals come from — as long as he is celebrating the first MLS Cup win by a Canadian team on Saturday.

“I would love to try and make a difference, I think every player would love to make the difference, it’s a final,” Altidore said.

“But at this point, it doesn’t matter how we win it just matters that we win.”

AFP

MLS Cup: Seattle Sounders Beat Toronto On Penalties

Seattle SoundersThe Seattle Sounders have claimed their first Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup after beating Toronto FC 5-4 on penalties.

The MLS title showdown between the two sides ended goalless on Sunday morning after extra-time as they proceeded into penalties.

Seattle defender, Roman Torres stepped up and coolly slotted home the winner after Justin Morrow hit the crossbar for Toronto.

The game was the first ever scoreless MLS Cup after extra-time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Confirms Offers From EPL

Zlatan-IbrahimovicSweden captain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has confirmed he has gotten offers from the English Premier League (EPL) ahead of the new season.

Ibrahimovic’s contract with French champions, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) runs out in the summer.

The Swede had been linked to a move to Major League Soccer earlier in the season but his brilliant form has opened up other possibilities.

He has scored 35 goals in 40 games for PSG so far this season.

Ibrahimovic helped the French side progress to the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions league after beating English side, Chelsea 2-1 both at the Parc des Princes stadium and Stamford Bridge.

Obafemi Martins Joins Chinese Club Shanghai Shenhua

Obafemi MartinsNigerian striker Obafemi Martins has moved to China.

The 31-year-old joined Shanghai Shenhua in a multi-million dollar deal from Seattle Sounders.

Obafemi Martins joined the MLS club from Spanish side Levante in March 2013 scoring 43 goals and adding 23 assists in 84 appearances.

Martins was named the Sounders’ team MVP each of the past two seasons and was the runner-up for the league MVP in 2014.

The Sounders will open the MLS regular season at home against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, March 6.

He scored 18 goals in 41 international appearances for the Super Eagles and was voted Africa’s most promising talent in 2003 and 2004.