Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 31

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Goalkeeper:

  • FC Dallas’ Kevin Hartman

Rationale, motive and intent: Hartman contributed seven huge saves, each as valuable as the other (and a couple to be stamped “spectacular”) as he single-handedly kept a little playoff breath going in the FC Dallas body. They are just barely in the hunt – but he did his part and then some.

Back line:

  • Real Salt Lake’s Nat Borchers
  • Chicago’s Arne Friedrich (pictured)
  • Philadelphia’s Carlos Valdes

Rationale, motive and intent:

Borchers helped settle things down and then forcefully lock things down for Real Salt Lake after the visitors were nearly overrun in the first 20 minutes by the sizzling Galaxy.

Friedrich delivered when its team had to have it, keeping things tidy in the back against Thierry Henry and the offensively stacked Red Bulls. Friedrich also made an impact on the Fire attack with his selective bursts forward.

Valdes was his steady self, delivering the goods in two wins while keeping young, continually emerging center back Amobi Okugo pointed in the right direction.

Midfield:

  • Vancouver’s Dane Richards
  • San Jose Marvin Chavez
  • Seattle’s Christian Tiffert

Rationale, motive and intent: Richards was nearly unstoppable as the Whitecaps finally looked like a playoff team in a resounding 4-0 win over Chivas USA.

Chavez had a goal and an assist as the Earthquakes went into Denver and picked apart the home side.  And Tiffert was a force in the wide areas for Seattle in the 3-0 crusher over Portland, one witnessed by quite a few folks.

Forwards:

  • Chicaco’s Sherjill MacDonald
  • San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski
  • Real Salt Lake’s Fabian Espindola
  • Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney

Rationale, motive and intent: We covered MacDonald’s two-goal night in the Player of the Week post from about an hour ago.

Wondolowski moved closer to the single-season goal mark with his 23rd, 24th and 25th goals this year, those in a 4-1 destruction of the Colorado Rapids outside Denver. Two more games to catch Roy Lassiter’s all-time MLS mark.

Espindola hit twice as the visitors upset David Beckham and the Galaxy outside L.A.

McInerney, barely 20 years old now, had two goals and an assists as the Union won twice last week. Too bad more of this didn’t happen around PPL Park earlier this year – the winning that is, not necessarily McInerney’s late-season exploits.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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EFL Cup Rewind: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET