6. Houston Dynamo – A win and two draws over eight days is commendable for a club with so much going on. The stadium is open, the hard road slog is behind them and Dominic Kinnear’s team even has a little breathing room for a few days. Now, the season can really start.
5. New York Red Bulls – It’s just hard to make sense of these crazy kids. Few teams are as beat up, and yet this is Major League Soccer’s hottest team (statistically speaking) with five wins in a row. We know what they are saying around Red Bull Arena: “Why ask why? Just keep the party going!” Heath Pearce debuted at center back in the latest victory, Saturday over Montreal (while playing a man down for half an hour, no less.)
4. D.C. United – Two home games brought two fairly comfortable wins (over Colorado and Toronto). Dwayne De Rosario is on one of his signature tears with three goals in Round 11. And don’t look now, rest of league, but Andy Najar and previously muted DP striker Hamdi Salihi are starting to feel it.
3. San Jose Earthquakes – Alan Gordon (pictured) to the rescue. Again! For the second consecutive week, the ‘Quakes fell behind at home to a side they probably shouldn’t have (this time to Columbus). And for the second consecutive week, Gordon came off the bench to strike late, helping his side split the points. It’s exciting, but clearly the Buck Shaw bunch would like better on home grass.
2. Seattle Sounders – Everyone gets excited about bicycle kick goals, and I get it. They’re cool and all. But what gets my little soccer shorts going are goals like Fredy Montero’s late equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Vancouver. The ability to make space and then to perfectly, skillfully draw a curling arc with the ball around a stranded, helpless goalkeeper? Yeah, that does it for me. (And it’s the kind of goal that Montero manufactures from time to time, hardly his first artistic maneuver.)
1. Real Salt Lake – Unbeaten in five and well-rested (idle in Round 11) ahead of a home match this weekend? Yeah, the Western Conference leaders will certainly take that. They probably will have to deal with the absence of midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando (although it’s possible Rimando could be released back to the club.)
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.
The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.
“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.
[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]
Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.
“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.
Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”
Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.
Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.
The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.
After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.
Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.
After their devastating defeat two seasons ago, Atletico Madrid looks for revenge and their first UEFA Champions League title on Saturday against Real Madrid.
Milan will be the site for the action, as Zinedine Zidane and Real are seeking their 11th title in the competition and have the opportunity to knock Atleti out in the title match for the second time in three seasons.
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Real Madrid: Navas, Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Carvajal, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema Subs: Casilla, James, Nacho, Lucas Vasquez, Jese, Isco, Danilo
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Filipe Luis, Godin, Savic, Juanfran; Gabi, Fernandez, Koke, Saul Niguez; Griezmann, Torres. Subs: Moya, Tiago, Correa, Hernandez, Thomas, Ferreira-Carrasco, Gimenez.
With Atlanta United FC set to make their MLS debut in 2017, the club is reportedly set to make a major splash with one or possibly two Mexican stars.
[ MORE: Agent: Zlatan Ibrahimovic may not join Man United ]
ESPN FC‘s John Sutcliffe reported from the team’s future home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on Friday, saying that the team is targeting both Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela.
[ MORE: Edgar Castillo to replace Timmy Chandler for USMNT ]
Guardado, who currently plays for PSV Eindhoven, has long been a staple of the El Tri midfield, making 124 appearances for the Mexican national team.
While Vela wasn’t included in Mexico’s Copa America Centenario roster, the Real Sociedad striker has every bit of talent you’d want from a future Designated Player, which is likely what either Guardado or Vela would be.
Atlanta currently has three players on their roster. Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tabakis, Junior Burgos and Jeffery Otoo currently round out the squad.
The potential addition(s) of an Andres Guardado or Carlos Vela would prove to be not only big for Atlanta but for MLS as a whole, more so with Vela though. MLS’ growth over recent years has brought young DPs like Sebastian Giovinco and Giovani Dos Santos to Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy, respectively.
Another league addition who is in the prime of their career will only continue to build the league’s reputation, and immediately put Atlanta on the map next season.