Where MLS teams stand in CONCACAF regional play

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Here’s the long and the short of it for Major League Soccer’s group of contenders as CONCACAF Champions League group play is set to conclude over the next two nights … who is “in,” “out,” or otherwise for the coming quarterfinals:

  • Houston Dynamo: IN
  • Los Angeles Galaxy: IN
  • Seattle Sounders: IN
  • Real Salt Lake: OUT
  • Toronto FC: Hanging on, soon to be OUT

Houston is in following last night’s white-knuckler, a 1-1 draw against Olimpia of Honduras that was just enough to get Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo into the tournament quarterfinals.

(MORE: Houston advances amid chaos far too typical in CONCACAF matches)

Los Angeles was already in. The team is down in El Salvador to finish out group play Thursday night, and there is positioning still to be determined. But Bruce Arena’s team, with MLS playoffs more in focus now, will surely lean on reserves for this one against Metapan.

Same for Sigi Schmid’s Seattle Sounders, who also has their quarterfinal place booked. (The quarters will be played early next year.)

(MORE: Precious little awareness among broader audiences in this tournament)

Alas, for MLS supporters, Real Salt Lake could not get the job done. Minus leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, the Utah side could not find a single goal against defensively dug-in Herediano last night in the cold and rain at Rio Tinto.

RSL outshot the visitors from Costa Rica by an 18-6 margin but could never find a way through with 10 and all 11 men generally working to get behind the ball.

It is surely an organizational blow considering all the emphasis and attention RSL put on this tournament. The Rio Tinto men were, after all, came closer than any other MLS outfit to claiming CONCACAF Champions League glory, finishing second two years ago. Still, manager Jason Kreis was upbeat in his final assessment.

Really, really proud of the men out there. At halftime, I told them their performance was spectacular. We did all the things that we need to do to win these big games, except for that final touch. I really felt like it would come tonight, and I’m a little bit shocked that it didn’t.”  

One final MLS side, Toronto FC, remains in the Champions League running.  Paul Mariner’s side meets Mexico’s Santos Laguna two countries to the south in Torreon. In order to advance, the Reds need to win by a 3-0 score, or win by two goal with a minimum of four scored.

Considering that Toronto is traveling without some of its top players, and considering that Santos prevailed by a 3-1 margin when the teams met in Canada, let’s file this one under: Not. Gonna. Happen.

Why PSG’s Alexis, Neymar pursuit fits in a (relatively) smart space

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Paris Saint-Germain’s run of four Ligue 1 titles ended last season, a campaign which also saw exciting league-winners Monaco go two rounds further into the UEFA Champions League.

Monaco looks set for a step back this season, with Bernardo Silva off to Man City and Tiemoue Bakayoko signing for Chelsea. Kylian Mbappe could join Monaco’s list of departures, and reports say Man City had a bid accepted for Benjamin Mendy.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

While Monaco is loading up on young talent again, PSG clearly sees its chance to surge back into the title seat and Les Parisiens may just make themselves European favorites as well if they can pry Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Neymar from Barcelona.

That would be a South American trident nearly as potent as the one Neymar current shares with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and the Brazilian would not be second or third fiddle.

PSG has so far been relatively quiet this summer, with the addition of Dani Alves the lone new buy. Aside from money, how was Alves lured to Paris over Man City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola? The idea of a reunion with Neymar and several Brazilian mates — Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura — may’ve been enough and surely that conversation would’ve happened between the two Barca stars.

The French side has to make a big chance at some point soon, unless they’ve been able to unload their money bags and actually buy a fountain of youth. Thiago Motta is 34, Blaise Matuidi 30, Silva 32, and Edinson Cavani 30.

It’s calculated aggression from PSG to splash cash in hopes of rivaling Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barca in pursuit of the UCL title. The Neymar move weakens one of those rivals. If Marco Verratti isn’t part of a swap deal, the signings of Sanchez and Neymar would meet the Italian star’s ambitions well up the road.

De Boer: West Brom was out to injure Palace star Zaha

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No shrinking violet, new Crystal Palace boss Frank De Boer was left fuming at West Bromwich Albion players following the PL Asia Trophy third place match on Saturday in Hong Kong.

While the focus could’ve been on Luka Milivojevic‘s gorgeous free kick (watch here), De Boer couldn’t get past the hard fouls aimed at his key attacker.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

West Brom gave away the free kick that led to the aforementioned goal by chopping down Zaha, and the foul was not an isolated incident.

From the BBC:

“They were looking for him, to injure him,” said De Boer.

“He’s one of the exciting players in the league. I don’t want to think he’d be out for two weeks or months.”

De Boer is no stranger to rough play, so this is not coming from a soft place. We doubt it’s going to change anything from Tony Pulis‘ men, though.

Chelsea hammers Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing (video)

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Chelsea struck twice early and Michy Batshuayi put the cherry on top as the Premier League champions cruised past Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing on Saturday.

The Blues started a lineup they’d use on any occasion in the PL, while Arsenal had unproven prospects Cohen Bramall and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the XI.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

Willian‘s quick goal put the Blues up 1-0 at the Bird’s Nest, and Batshuayi scored the second and third. Both were pretty classy, especially the second.

Marcos Alonso did the lion’s share of the work to produce the second chance for Batshuayi, who is threatening to carry over his fine late season form to this campaign. What a smash.

Coutinho rocket helps LFC to PL Asia Trophy (video)

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Goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool come back from an early deficit to win the PL Asia Trophy on Saturday in Hong Kong.

Islam Slimani gave Leicester City an early lead in front of a heavy pro-Liverpool crowd at Hong Kong Stadium, but Coutinho delivered the goods on both goals in a 2-1 win.

The tournament win is Liverpool’s first in its second trip to the PL Asia Trophy Final.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

First he crossed for Salah to head home, and then he scored the above goal by cutting in from the left and lashing a shot past a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.

We’ve seen this one before from Coutinho, just not on this particular continent. The Brazilian remains a Barcelona target, but looks prepared for the season in whatever land he sets foot.