It’s so difficult to overestimate how valuable Lionard Pajoy’s goal was Saturday for D.C. United. Same for all the big saves Bill Hamid made in goal for United, which clinched second place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-1 draw at Chicago.
It’s not second place, per se. There’s no cash prize involved for finishing second best to Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference.
It’s what Saturday’s result in Chicago does for D.C. United’s playoff route.
Rather than face a mid-week match, D.C. United will get a few more days to rest and prep for a weekend playoff opener against New York.
Further, Ben Olsen’s club gets to avoid Sporting Kansas City to open its first playoff account since 2007. Put those two elements together, here’s what you get.
They could have faced a mid-week elimination contest, followed by a quick turnaround and very difficult contest against a far-better rested Eastern Conference champion, Sporting KC.
So, here are your Eastern Conference playoff matchups, which are now set. (Houston’s match tonight against Colorado is suddenly irrelevant in the playoff picture.)
We will update the post with dates as times as soon as MLS sets those.
Midweek opening round:
Houston at Chicago
(First leg this weekend)
New York vs. D.C. United
Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston-Chicago winner
Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs
Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.
Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.
But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.
Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.
And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.
He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.
Voted “the best right back” in Europe between 1962-64, the former England and Blackpool captain also had a successful management and broadcasting career.
Armfield was a member of the 1962 and 1966 World Cup squads, though a toe injury kept him from his place in the starting lineup when England won the tournament.
He spent his entire playing career with Blackpool before managing Bolton Wanderers to promotion and Leeds United to the European Cup Final, righting the ship after Brian Clough’s infamous spell in charge of the club.
There’s a statue outside Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, and the club legend has a stand named after him inside the venue.
While Zach’s night was certainly a memorable one for many reasons, it was Julie that arguably had the better performance — which included a goal in the 19th minute off of a close-range volley.
The USWNT had trailed through 14 minutes, but a combination of goals from Alex Morgan and Ertz in a span of two minutes quickly erased the deficit.
For Morgan, it was her 80th goal for the Stars and Stripes.
Meanwhile, a second-half brace from teenage sensation Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn’s finish with nine minutes to play proved to be the icing on the cake for Jill Ellis’ side, who kicked off 2018 with a bang.