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.

Watch Live: West Brom v. Liverpool

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West Bromwich Albion host Liverpool on Saturday at the Hawthorns (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League’s bottom team aim to pull off another shock win to keep their faint survival hopes alive.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

The Baggies won 1-0 at Manchester United last time to delay their impending relegation as well as hand Manchester City the title and interim boss Darren Moore will want to grab another big win as the Baggies aim to try and pull off the greatest of escapes. Anything other than a win could see West Brom relegated this weekend.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp‘s men have cemented their spot in the top four and will have one eye on a big week of European action.

In team news West Brom have Jonny Evans back fit and on the bench but are unchanged from the win at Man United, while Liverpool rest several players ahead of their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.

Andrew Robertson, Roberto Firmino, Alexander-Arnold and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all on the bench with Joe Gomez returning to the starting lineup.

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West Brom

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VIDEO: Sporting KC’s Medranda scores wonder goal in win over Vancouver

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Sporting KC showed again on Friday night why they’re the rightful leaders at the top of the Western Conference, pulling four points ahead of the LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps with a dominating 6-0 win over the Whitecaps at home.

Scottish forward Johnny Russell bagged a hat-trick in the game, all by the 48th minute, but the highlight of the night came off the foot of 24-year-old Jimmy Medranda. The Colombian scored an absolute worldie from a ridiculous angle, taking the space given to him outside the top-left corner of the box and sailing it over the head of Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.

It was, of course, massively beneficial to Sporting KC that Vancouver went two men down in the 40th minute after a huge skirmish that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both sent off. Reyna earned his marching orders for throwing Russell to the ground, while Juarez reportedly used unacceptable language.

Still, KC was already up 3-0 when the incident occurred, and credit must go to teams that take advantage of what has been handed to them. Sporting KC certainly did that as Russell becomes the first Scotsman to score an MLS hat-trick since Colorado’s John Spencer in 2001, and Medranda’s wonder goal sealed the deal past the half-hour mark.

Jurgen Klopp already wants a piece of Man City next season

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Manchester City may have run away with the Premier League title this year, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can’t wait for a clean slate to try and challenge City’s title defense next season.

The Reds are into the Champions League semifinals and also looking to finish the Premier League season strong in a battle for positioning in the top four, but when asked about next year, Klopp was giddy.

“Of course I don’t fear the challenge,” Klopp said in his prematch press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League visit to West Brom on Saturday morning.

The German made it clear he wants a piece of Manchester City next season. “This year, if City plays a normal season – which they didn’t do – then it would have been really close until the end because we are now all close together.”

“United is four points ahead [of Liverpool], Tottenham is two points behind. It’s a real fight for these positions. All big six pretty much delivered this year but City delivered the best. We will see. It’s difficult to deal with success as it is difficult to deal with other things in football but I’m pretty sure they will be strong again.”

Liverpool is one of only two teams to beat City in league play this year, with Manchester United being the other. Klopp and company torched the City back line in a wild 4-3 victory that ended City’s 22-match unbeaten run. Ultimately, though, Klopp knows they have to look at the entire season as a whole to best the defending champs next year, not just their matches against each other.

“It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points, plus the points we got so far again,” he said. “That’s the job to do. That is why it is always possible that it is closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending and all that stuff so I don’t know.”

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

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Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.