MLS preview: New York Red Bulls at D.C. United

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Neither of these MLS heavies are where they want to be seven weeks into the season. Yes, there is still much soccer ahead. But there’s a lot of deflated return on high expectations so far in 2013 – and the pressure builds for something more with each passing week.

D.C. United cannot score.

One of the team’s prized young midfielders, Nick DeLeon, is hurt. The other, Chris Pontius, just isn’t delivering as expected. Dwayne De Rosario sat out United’s first pair of matches for some preseason foolishness, and now he’s hurt. Throw in Lionard Pajoy’s continued inability to find goal and get a five-game opening series with a lousy two goals.

That puts United 9th in the 10-team Eastern Conference, which is hardly the place anyone expected to find Ben Olsen’s team, one that missed a trip to the MLS Cup final by just a single goal last year.

Mike Petke’s Red Bulls are just a little better at 7th in the East. They are doing OK scoring goals – no surprise considering a roster filled with the likes to Thierry Henry, EPL veteran Tim Cahill and MLS A-lister Fabian Espindola. The Red Bulls’ obvious weakness is preventing them.

They might be a little higher today in the standings but for last week’s late, defensive collapse at Toyota Park. About to cruise Chicago with a 1-1 draw, the Red Bulls allowed two late goals to drop a 3-1 result, which was Chicago’s initial win this year.

As this preview piece points out, New York is therefore responsible for 75 percent of the goals that offensively challenged Chicago has put away in 2013. Not good.

This is one of Major League Soccer’s heavyweight rivalries. In fact, it’s their second meeting this year after an early (and rather peculiar) 0-0 draw back in Week 3. The Red Bulls did pretty much anything they wanted that day to the Olsen’s team, except for score. Petke’s group outshot United 24-5 that day at Red Bull Arena.

United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was quite The Man in that one.

(MORE: MLS rivalry backstories – New York and D.C. United)

Otherwise, Perry Kitchen has been big in United’s midfield. And center back Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald have been solid.

Dax McCarty has continued to impress in the Red Bulls’ midfield. Henry is still a game-changer, although he’s been limited with injuries again this year. He should have a big role today, apparently likely to start for the first time since these teams’ last meeting, back on March 16.

The full, fact-stacked match preview from MLSSoccer.com is here.

Marco Verratti crushes teammates in PSG ultimatum

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When asked if he wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain, Marco Verratti gave an answer sure to turn the heads of his teammates in the French capital.

Transfer rumors have swirled around the Italian midfielder all summer, and he finally addressed the situation in Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport. When asked if he wanted to leave, Verratti said he’d like to stay, but if he is to do so, the club must come through in the transfer window.

“It’s not that I want to go at all costs,” Verratti said. “It’s just I want to see if they really do build a great squad this time. In that case, I would be happy to stay.”

“Each year they say they are going to build a great squad, but we’ve seen the results. Promises are not enough. If, on the other hand, this time PSG with [sporting director Antero] Henrique stick to what they say, then I will be absolutely happy to stay. At the end of the day, nobody is forcing me to leave.”

It’s one thing for a player to say he thinks the club needs reinforcements in the summer, but Veratti goes all in here. For the Italian to claim that promises had been broken and good players were not brought in, that’s a ruthless aside to his current teammates.

Media reports have linked Verratti with a move away from Parc de Princes all summer. The 24-year-old has been most heavily linked with Barcelona, although clubs like Bayern Munich and Chelsea have been mentioned. According to a number of reports, Verratti turned down a new PSG contract as recently as last week in a meeting with the sporting director.

MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-1 FC Dallas (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It ended scoreless when the two sides met for the first time this season, and although there were goals in this one, it finished with the same outcome. The Dynamo and Dallas remain equal on points following the draw, with each team boasting 25 at the midway point through the MLS campaign. Goals from Erick “Cubo’ Torres and Maxi Urruti cancelled one another out at BBVA Compass Stadium, but it was the Dallas that had more of the chances in the match. The Dynamo remain one of the top sides in MLS at home, boasting a record of 7-0-2 in their opening nine matches in Houston.

Three two moments that mattered

19′ — Torres makes it 11 on the year! — Give Erick Torres an inch this season… Well, you know the rest of the saying…

59′ — Urruti makes Dynamo pay for missed chance on other end — The Dynamo were so close to making it 2-0 just a minute sooner, but Maxi Urruti had other plans for the visitors.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Maxi Urruti

Goalscorers: Erick Torres (19′), Maxi Urruti (59′)

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC was without some of its regulars on Friday night, but that didn’t matter much as Greg Vanney’s side avenged their loss to the Revolution from two weeks ago. Coming off of just two days’ rest, TFC continued its push towards an Eastern Conference title at BMO Field behind Drew Moor’s first goal of the season. Sebastian Giovinco was held in check most of the evening, but the Italian scorer did what he does best in the final minute of stoppage time to seal it for the home side with his seventh goal of the year. The Revs pushed and pushed during the second half for an equalizer but TFC’s resilience defensively proved superior as they kept the visitors off the scoreboard for their eighth shutout of 2017.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Moor taps in for early Toronto advantage — Even on two days’ rest Toronto looks like this…

57′ — Cheeky Nguyen keeps Revs in match — Lee Nguyen is typically known for his creativity in the offensive half but it was this clever play defensively that kept the Revolution down just one goal.

83′ — Kamara comes so close! — It’s just not meant to be on the night for the Revs.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Alex Bono

Goalscorers: Drew Moor (11′), Sebastian Giovinco (90+6′)

Video: Orlando City product scores crazy bicycle kick

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Goals like this one below never grow old.

Orlando City academy product Alejandro Pereira scored a brilliant bicycle kick for his Under-17/18 side in their 2-0 win on Thursday night during the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs.

Orlando will continue its path in the Academy Playoffs on Saturday when they face off against Players Development Academy (PDA) U-17/18, before meeting Indiana Fire U-17/18 on Monday.