David Horst, Jack Jewsbury, Kris Boyd

Drilling down on: at Portland 2, Seattle 1


Man of the Match

Portland center back David Horst (pictured, after his goal) nearly nailed an early opportunity and he wouldn’t miss a second time, escaping his mark to double the Timbers’ early lead. On defense, he was rock solid, especially in the air (with one notable exception, when he failed to deal properly with Eddie Johnson on the Sounders’ goal). Still, he was a bother on offensive set pieces and did his part on the back line as Portland won a biggie.

Packaged for take-away

  • David Horst could be spending his Sunday night in Portland in pain, ruing his missed 11th minute effort, a free header off a corner kick that cracked the crossbar. He got loose from Jeff Parke but couldn’t pull off the early goal. He could be, except …
  • When Portland is finding room to serve from the wings, Portland will always be dangerous. It was happening early Sunday, and Kris Boyd was the beneficiary, opening the scoring in the 17th off a feed from Steven Smith on the left wing.
  • Smith got the start at left back for Portland. Since he spent so much time early in his career with Rangers, having participated in those famous Celtic-Rangers rivalry matches, safe to say he wasn’t too undone by his first Cascadia Cup fixture.
  • A few minutes after his goal, Boyd had a free header from six. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Jeff Parke were having a devil of a time keeping track of Boyd, whose open header shot in the 25th turned into a corner kick. Horst doubled the home team’s lead on the ensuing corner kick, escaping Parke yet again.
  • Parke was taken off in favor of Patrick Ianni at halftime.
  • With a 2-0 lead the Timbers dropped their lines slightly and nearly paid the price. Seattle came out of the back with greater ease and established a toehold on the game. With more chances in the final third, Brad Evans clunked an uncontested header from close-range just before the half; which could have chanced the game, obviously.
  • Troy Perkins needed to be alert on two Osvaldo Alonso shots from long range, both on target.
  • More of the same to open the second half. Portland tried to pressure in higher areas, but Eddie Johnson’s 58th minute goal seemed to unnerve a young-ish Timbers’ lineup, and the game became lopsided. Seattle pressed and Portland countered. Right up to the end, Portland looked nervous and naive, unable to more easily nurse home the result.
  • Darlington Nagbe played ahead of Diego Chara in the Timbers’ diamond midfield but had very little to say about the game. He was caught in possession too often, unable to solve the little problems for which an attacking midfielder needs to plot and plan.
  • Chara, on the other hand, was a presence on offense and defense for his team.
  • Mike Fucito was handed his first start for Portland, coming against his old team, which was probably a good thing for team psyche and for creating the kind of bite and energy a rivalry contest deserves. On the other hand, there wasn’t a lot of chemistry with fellow forward Boyd. Or, perhaps it was just rust for Fucito, who doesn’t play much for John Spencer.
  • Ricardo Salazar did a credible job of keeping a lid on such a potentially volatile match. On the other hand, when Salazar ordered a free kick retaken after Fredy Montero encroached in the 76th minute, blocking a free kick from inside the 10-yard radius, why didn’t he book the Sounders’ striker?
  • Sal Zizzo’s introduction for Portland along the right side in the second half gave Seattle something to think about, dealing with the speedy Timbers’ attacker.
  • Near the end, Fredy Montero and Lovel Palmer were both shown reds for their parts in a fracas that Montero appeared to start.

MLS Playoff Picture: How high, low can every playoff hopeful finish?

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Bradley Wright-Phillips #99 of New York Red Bulls celebrates a goal against the D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Didn’t the 2016 MLS season just start? What do you mean it’s October, and the season started in March?

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As difficult as it is to believe, First Kick was indeed nearly eight months ago, which means this is it. Sunday’s slate of 10 simultaneous finales (4 p.m. ET — full coverage right here on PST) will signal the end of the line for eight sides; the end of the regular season, and the start of the real journey, for 12 others.

Following last weekend’s penultimate round of games, we covered the scenarios for teams yet to clinch a playoff berth. Today, we’ll focus on seeding — how high and how low each of the 14 remaining playoff hopefuls can finish.

Eastern Conference

New York Red Bulls (54 points, 15 wins, +15 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish as low as 2nd.

New York City FC (51 points, 14 wins, +2 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish as low as 3rd. To finish 1st, NYCFC need to win vs. Columbus Crew SC, and RBNY lose vs. Philadelphia Union, doing so by combined margins that make up 13 goals in the goal differential column.

Toronto FC (50 points, 13 wins, +11 GD) — Can finish as high as 2nd; can finish no lower than 3rd. To finish 2nd, TFC need to win vs. Chicago Fire, and NYCFC lose or draw vs. CLB. To finish 2nd, TFC could also draw vs. CHI, and NYCFC lose vs. CLB.

D.C. United (46 points, 11 wins, +8 GD) — Can finish no higher than 4th; can finish as low as 5th. To finish 4th, DCU need to win vs. Orlando City SC. To finish 4th, DCU could also draw or lose vs. ORL, and Montreal Impact draw or lose vs. New England Revolution.

Montreal Impact (45 points, 11 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 6th. To finish 4th, MTL need to win vs. NE, and DCU draw or lose vs. ORL.

Philadelphia Union (42 points, 11 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish as high as 5th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, PHI need to win vs. RBNY, and MTL lose vs. NE.

New England Revolution (39 points, 10 wins, -13 GD) — Can finish as high as 6th. To finish 6th, NE need to win vs. MTL, and PHI lose vs. RBNY, doing so by combined margins that make up 12 goals in the goal differential column.

Western Conference

FC Dallas (59 points, 17 wins, +10 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish as low as 2nd. To finish 1st FCD need to win or draw vs. LA Galaxy. To finish 1st, FCD could also lose vs. LA, and Colorado Rapids draw or lose vs. Houston Dynamo.

Colorado Rapids (57 points, 15 wins, +7 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish no lower than 2nd. To finish 1st, COL need to win vs. HOU, and FCD lose vs. LA.

LA Galaxy (51 points, 12 wins, +15 GD) — Can finish no higher and no lower than 3rd.

Real Salt Lake (46 points, 12 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish no higher than 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, RSL need to win vs. SEA. To finish 4th, RSL could also draw vs. SEA, and Sporting Kansas City draw or lose vs. San Jose Earthquakes, and Portland Timbers draw or lose vs. Vancouver Whitecaps.

Seattle Sounders (45 points, 13 wins, 0 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, SEA need to win vs. RSL.

Sporting Kansas City (44 points, 12 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, SKC need to win vs. SJ, and RSL and SEA draw with one another, and maintain a goal differential advantage over POR if POR win vs. VAN.

Portland Timbers (44 points, 12 wins, -2 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, POR need to win vs. VAN, and RSL and SEA draw with one another, and overcome a goal differential disadvantage over SKC if SKC win vs. SJ.

FOLLOW LIVE: Man United, Southampton face Fenerbahce, Inter in UEL

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates with Anthony Martial as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford on May 17, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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It’s the most … wonderful day … of the week — Thursday afternoon Europa League.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Thursday’s Europa League action ]

Following Monday’s mostly dull affair at Anfield, Manchester United return home to Old Trafford, where they’ll host Fenerbahce (3:05 p.m. ET) for the first time since 2004. Man United (3 points) enter matchday no. 3 as the third-place side in Group A, a single point off the pace of Thursday’s opponent for the top spot. United captain Wayne Rooney will be desperately hoping (one can only assume) to start a game for the first time in a month (Sept. 21, versus Northampton Town — just 66 minutes played in four games since).

Two hours before kickoff at the Theater of Dreams, Southampton are set to visit another of the world’s famous venues, the San Siro, as they take on Inter Milan for the first time ever. Claude Puel‘s side (4 points) currently sits atop Group K, ahead of Hapoel Beer Sheva and on goal differential. Inter, on the other hand, are in search of their first point in the group stage.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge ]


Hit the link up top to following along with all the afternoon’s action in Europe’s “other” competition. For a firsthand look at the scene in Milan, PST’s lead writer and editor, Joe Prince-Wright, is tweeting up a storm outside and inside the San Siro.

Atletico Madrid accepts January transfer ban amid ongoing appeal

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 02:  Atletico de Madrid manager Diego Pablo Simeone reacts during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and Atletico de Madrid at Mestalla Stadium on October 02, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) Atletico Madrid has accepted it will not sign players in January while it fights a FIFA transfer ban at sport’s highest court.

[ MORE: Ozil won’t sign new Arsenal contract until Wenger does the same ]

FIFA and Atletico jointly say in a statement they agreed a timetable for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to give a final ruling on the Spanish club’s appeal by next June.

Atletico could have sought to freeze its one-year ban pending the verdict but has “waived its right” to try, the statement says.

Still, Atletico “completely maintains its position that the transfer ban is unjustified.”

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge ]

FIFA imposed one-year sanctions on Atletico and city rival Real Madrid for signing underage players in violation of transfer rules.

During an appeal to FIFA in the offseason, Atletico signed several players including France forward Kevin Gameiro and Argentina midfielder Nicolas Gaitan.

Bradley calls on players to honor Swansea fans, shirt when they play

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Bob Bradley is tugging on some serious heartstrings ahead of his Liberty Stadium debut, against Watford, on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Just over 48 hours before making his Swansea City home debut, the Premier League’s first-ever American manager called on his players to represent the club’s fans in a positive way, and remember what the Swansea shirt means and has meant to so many who came before them, will remain after them, and will come after them — quotes from Swansea’s official website:

“With all the things that go on in the lives of footballers, sometimes you have to be reminded of what a club was all about before you arrived on the scene. It is worth remembering that it didn’t all start when you pulled the Swansea City Football Club jersey on for the first time. Sometimes it’s good to have reminders about how much a club means to people and the responsibilities you have.

“That part has never changed for me — it’s the same whether you are coaching a national team or a club team. I want to make sure the players understand the responsibility of wearing that jersey.

“When you come to a club, I think that responsibility is at the heart of the kind of environment you create every day. You have to understand the people who are going to live and die by every kick of the ball in every match. You have to understand that the fans want to see something they are proud of, and of course at the same time you have to get results.

“It’s not something you can talk about in long speeches with the players, but I think it’s important to remind the players of some of these things. I think the players here are good guys — they are not unaware. But sometimes in football it is easy to think you came first.”

It’s a wise move by Bradley, playing the tune the fans would want to hear. Any new manager would do well to get the club’s fans on his side, to get behind the team and breed positivity and belief — especially a new manager who’s just parachuted into a relegation battle.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge ]

There’s also a practical point behind what Bradley said in the above quotes: barely a decade ago, Swansea were competing in League 2, the fourth division of English soccer. Their meteoric rise, which shouldn’t be overlooked in great rags-to-riches stories, was built on the back of players with ties to the club, many of which came through the club’s youth academy.

As they’ve established themselves as a perennial PL side, many of those players were left by the wayside as they no longer made the grade, replaced by professionals in the truest sense of the word — someone paid to do a job — the majority of inarguably higher footballing quality, but lacking any semblance of a personal bond with the club’s history and its supporters.