MLS Preview: Philadelphia Union at Chicago Fire

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With both teams struggling to get any kind of form going this season, Saturday afternoon’s showdown on NBC Sports Network (1:30pm ET) is sure to be a pulsating clash.

The Philadelphia Union have won just one of their last six games and have struggled to score goals all season. While the Chicago Fire have won just twice this campaign. Something has to give.

In recent weeks the Fire have been bullish in improving their form on the field. Two wins from their last four games is an improvement. But in all honesty, it couldn’t have got much worse. A 3-1 home win over New York was their first of the season and they then defeated Columbus 1-0 in their next match at Toyota Park. But either side of those home wins they suffered defeats on the road to Houston and Montreal.

Last year these two sides met three times, twice at Toyota Park. Chicago won two out of three, but the Union’s lone win came courtesy of a 3-1 victory in Illinois on October 3. The Fire will soon be sick of the sight of Philadelphia, as they face the Union at PPL Park (May 18) in their next game after Saturday’s match up. The Union have a home tie with LA Galaxy sandwiched between their two bouts with the Fire. These games will be lively, that’s for sure.

The Fire have improved going forward after only scoring once during their first four games of the season, with Sherjill MacDonald struggling to get his season going after being publicly criticized by Frank Klopas. However Maicon Santos exploded into life during the 3-1 win over New York and Chicago will be hoping the Brazilian can repeat that form this weekend.

Philadelphia could ring the changes for the key clash, as fans favorite Sebastien Le Toux is pushing for a start and so is new DP Kleberson and attacker Antoine Hoppenot. John Hackworth certainly has a plethora of options off the bench as he looks to bring solidity to the Union’s results. The young back line has performed well this season with Amobi Okugo a real gem at center back and Raymon Gaddis continuing to grow into the full back role. However they will be up against a wily veteran in Fire forward Chris Rolfe. Young lads, you’ve been warned.

This game could easily be a high-scoring draw. 2-2 or 3-3 would be my prediction. Both sides are due offensive breakouts and will see this as an opportunity to chalk up another three points on the way to challenging for the playoffs. Expect plenty of tackles, passion and goals. Famous last words.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.