Toronto FC v Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC wraps up the East crown – but at a cost

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Now one around Sporting Kansas City could deny that Roger Espinoza’s ankle injury would dent the team’s playoff chances – contingent on how fast the club’s engine room in the center of the park could get back on the  went down with an ankle injury.

The one saving grace was Paulo Nagamura; while he’s not quite the energetic, non-stop presence that Espinoza supplies, the Brazilian central midfielder does help fill the void in sharp edge and bite.

So Nagamura’s first-half removal due to his own ankle injury is certainly concerning.

Sporting Kansas City did manage to close out the regular season successfully without either of them, finishing with a 2-1 win Wednesday at Philadelphia in the only league match. With the win, Sporting KC wrapped up the Eastern Conference crown, providing the best odds of hosting MLS Cup should they find their way into the league’s 17th championship match.

Only San Jose will finish with more points. So, a title contest between Kansas City and San Jose would be played out West in the Bay area.

But if Kansas City makes it through the East, any other match-up would be at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Of course, we may be getting ahead of ourselves.

They have about 10 days now to get Espinoza, Nagamura or both healthy. Otherwise, that Sporting Kansas City midfield won’t be exactly “unrecognizable,” but it sure won’t look much like the one that helped guide Peter Vermes’ team through the East so successfully this year.

Newcastle’s Krul on crutches after injury in Dutch win

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03:  Tim Krul of Newcastle United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Newcastle United’s horror start under Steve McClaren just got worse.

Magpies No. 1 goalkeeper Tim Krul is on duty with the Netherlands, and was forced from the Dutch’s 2-1 win at Kazakhstan in Euro qualifying action.

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Krul left the game after landing awkwardly on his knee, and left the stadium on crutches.

Newcastle’s back-up keepers are Karl Darlow, new from Nottingham Forest, and veteran Rob Elliot.

The Magpies are in 20th place, without a win through eight Premier League matches.

McClaren’s crew just finished a brutal run of matches that saw Newcastle face Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.

VIDEO: Marco Verratti plays a brilliant pass to Eder for Italy goal

PALERMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Marco Verratti of Italy in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Italy and Bulgaria on September 6, 2015 in Palermo, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.

The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.

The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.

Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.


Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.