Wayne Rooney‘s time in MLS ended on a low as DC United were crushed 5-1 after extra time of their play-off clash against Toronto.
The 33-year-old former Manchester United and England forward, who is joining Championship side Derby as a player-coach in January, sent over the stoppage-time corner from which Lucas Rodriguez turned in a dramatic equaliser.
But Rooney will not have fond memories of his last game in the US, with Jonathan Osorio’s brace adding to Richie Laryea’s 93rd-minute effort and Nick DeLeon sealing the win with a stunning curling shot in time added on at the end of the first period of extra time.
Reigning champions Atlanta progressed with a 1-0 win over New England Revolution, with Franco Escobar scoring the only goal of the game with 20 minutes remaining.
United States international Jordan Morris scored a hat-trick to help Seattle Sounders to a thrilling 4-3 extra-time victory over FC Dallas.
The home side were 2-0 up after 22 minutes, only for New England to pull level with goals from Reggie Cannon and Matt Hedges.
Morris’ second of the game from close range put Seattle back in front, but Bryan Acosta’s 82nd-minute header forced extra time.
Another header at the end of a scruffy passage of play in the 113th minute secured Morris his hat-trick and Sounders a place in the next round.
Jefferson Savarino’s late strike snatched Real Salt Lake a 2-1 win over Portland Timbers after Dairon Asprilla had cancelled out Damir Kreilach’s opener for the hosts.
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Bad decisions are inevitable. By anyone, any group or any organisation, it’s almost a given that bad calls will be made. However, how they are reacted to is often just as important as the good decisions.
When the Netherlands failed to qualify for the European Championships in 2016 after finishing fourth in their qualifying group – behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey – huge changes were required.
This was a side that had finished third at the World Cup just two years prior, but now finished fourth in a group behind nations they would ideally have been expected to overcome with ease.
After Louis van Gaal left his role following the World Cup, the Dutch had a merry-go-round of managers.
Guus Hiddink first tried but resigned a year into his role and his replacement, the inexperienced Danny Blind, failed to inspire with failure to qualify for Euro 2016 following.
Dick Advocaat came in temporarily and oversaw the failure to make it to the 2018 World Cup, although that was largely down to his predecessor’s ineptness.
Recognising the need for a massive overhaul, the KNVB went for a man long chased and out of work.
Ronald Koeman took charge of the national team in February 2018 and has overseen a Dutch revolution.
CHANGES APLENTY UNDER KOEMAN
The most notable change under Koeman is the team’s style.
Hiddink, Blind and Advocaat’s teams were directionless but Koeman has sought to keep Dutch traditions of ‘totaalvoetbal’ alive.
Koeman initially experimented with the 3-5-2 formation used by Van Gaal at the World Cup but quickly ditched it for a smooth 4-3-3 when the Nations League began in September 2018.
A confidence-boosting victory against World Champions France arrived in November as they dominated possession, moved the ball quickly and maintained a firm structure.
The numbers provide a window into the improvement. His side score an average of 2.11 goals per game and concede one and in 11 competitive fixtures, they’ve averaged 59 per cent possession.
Those competitive fixtures have seen results such as a 4-2 and 3-0 success against Germany in European Championship qualification and the Nations League respectively, the 2-0 success against France, a 3-1 win over England in the Nations League semi-final and the come-from-behind 3-1 win over Northern Ireland last week.
They have shown resilience and they are growing in confidence.
Koeman has also blended youth and experience while replacing iconic figures like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder and transferring responsibility to the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum.
De Ligt, in particular, has been impressive. Having led a wonderful Ajax side last season, he has proven his quality for the national side as well, flourishing with the helping hand of Van Dijk next to him.
THE RESURGENCE OF MEMPHIS DEPAY
No player has scored more goals under Koeman’s management than Depay. When Koeman took over, however, he was a forgotten man.
He had a bust-up with Robin van Persie in 2015 and then Danny Blind dropped him in 2017, raising questions about his attitude. However, since the forward’s move to Lyon, not picking him for the national side has been an inconceivable.
The 25-year-old has scored 11 goals under Koeman, six of which have come in 2019. In addition to that, he has also provided eight assists in 2019, becoming the first Dutch player in the 21st century to be involved in 14 or more goals in a calendar year.
Modern attackers are dynamic and the evolution of Depay over the past year is worthy of high praise. Since leaving Manchester United, he has adapted well to a more central role improving vastly in his link-up with his creative team-mates.
A big change has been his willingness to drop deep and create chances for teammates, spending much of his time in creative zones around the box and averaging 3.4 key passes per game.
The forward has matured well on and off the field. Gone are the days inconsistent wing-play – he is now the focal point of the Dutch attack, leading the charge down the middle and getting support from the wings through Steven Bergwijn and Ryan Babel.
His technique and excellent reading of the game makes him one of the key components.
CONTROL AND BALANCE IN MIDFIELD
Every great Dutch team has always had a great midfielder. Whether it was Johan Cruyff or Sneijder, the midfield has provided the X-Factor.
In the current era, Georginio Wijnaldum is stepping up to be that spark.
His role for the Dutch largely contrasts his one for Liverpool as he is tasked with getting high up the pitch.
This more advanced role has always suited Wijnaldum. In his final season at PSV Eindhoven in 2014/15, when they won the Eredivise, he was involved in 18 goals and six assists. The next season at Newcastle he recorded 11 goals and five assists.
These have been his two best individual seasons from a goal production perspective and it’s been replicated at international level as he both creates and scores, as seen in the most recent qualifier against Belarus, where he netted twice.
His partner in midfield, Frenkie de Jong, has been just as good. De Jong hasn’t quite hit the heights for Barcelona but for the Dutch he dominates, although in Oranje he plays in a more suited No6 slot as opposed to further forward in Blaugrana.
The 22-year-old is key to the fast-moving transitions that Koeman wants to deploy. Smooth as silk on the ball, he can move, pass and direct play with ease.
These two midfield pieces are vital, but they are joined by the hard-working Marten de Roon, another key component. His defensive work-rate and adherence to Koeman’s pressing system aids De Jong in the double pivot as he does much of the dirty work.
A TEAM OF LEADERS
Following the retirements of players like Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt, new leaders had to emerge.
While Van Dijk dons the armband for the nation, others such as De Ligt (20), De Jong (22), Depay (26) and Jasper Cillessen (30), have shown great composure and made the transition between coaches, eras and players much easier.
In tough situations, the team steps up collectively and shows the character that is required to succeed. Together, they are a united bunch hungry to succeed and make it back to a major tournament for the first time since the 2014 World Cup.
We saw in the Nations League semi-final against England, where the team went into extra-time, held their own and came out with a victory whilst their success against Germany in a qualifier in September was another testament to their character, as they dug deep and came from behind to win 4-2 in Hamburg.
The leadership of Van Dijk at the back has done them wonders and the fact that he has been in the running for top individual honours will be of great inspiration.
Having won both their qualifiers this month, they are in a strong spot and only need a draw in their next game away against Northern Ireland to seal qualification for the European Championships next year.
Should they succeed, they will be place in Group C, where they will have a fair bit of home support, seeing as that group will be shared between the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam and Arena Naționala in Bucharest, Romania.
Maarten Wijffels, a journalist for Algemeen Dagblad, recently said of the team: “Back then it was difficult to find faces for a billboard or poster because the public was fed up with them. Now with Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Depay, De Jong & De Ligt the public likes the national team again.”
And he is right, the Dutch now have so much to be proud of, and come next year, a strong performance in the Euros – perhaps even going as far as the semi-finals – should not be a surprise.
Al Ahly have made a blistering start to the season and currently sit top of the Egyptian Premier League having won their opening three fixtures. Last Saturday the league leaders put five past Aswan in a rampant 1-5 away victory. A much tougher test is expected next for Rene Weiler’s men as they take on Zamalek, who are also unbeaten this season and currently sit fourth in the table.
As things take shape on the field, the club also revealed its new home shirt for the 2019-2020 season and celebrated Al Ahly’s partnership with British football brand Umbro, which began back in 1979. The new kit is inspired by the jersey worn at the beginning of the partnership, “Earlier in the year, when we were planning on the kit, we ran into some archive images of Al Ahly wearing Umbro back in 1979,” says Tom Fonti Grzelak, Brand Manager, Umbro. “Just then we realised that this will be our story line and the design inspiration for the 19/20 kit”
“To be back as Al Ahly’s technical supplier after 40 years comes with lot of pride and responsibility. The club is one of the biggest and most successful in the world, so we need to set our standards high in everything we do for them and their fans. This season’s jersey is a tribute to the origin of our partnership and a symbol for future success,” adds Grzelak.
The traditional red home kit, available at the Umbro showroom in Al Quoz, has the brand’s logo along the shoulders and is finished with a white trim around the collar in sleeves. Following the launch came the announcement of the club’s new black away kit and striking green third kit. The launch campaign built around the notion ‘Back to Origins’ highlighting key moments from the club’s past.
Umbro sponsors more than 120 clubs around the world including Everton, West Ham United, FC Schalke 04 and PSV Eindhoven. The company began life in 1924 in the cupboard of the Bull’s Head Hotel, owned by the parents of the Humphreys brothers, Wallace and Harold. The pair had little experience in business, although two years prior to starting the brand, Harold had launched his own sportswear retail business. Arguably the sports brand’s finest moment in their 95-year history came when 15 of the 16 teams in the 1966 World Cup wore Umbro kits, including England – who continued to don the Humphreys brothers’ creation until 2012.