Ireland captain Robbie Keane attends a news conference at Wembley Stadium in London

Friendly Preview: England vs. Ireland

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This one should be  very intriguing contest at Wembley Stadium this afternoon. (2:30pm ET, Fox Soccer)

England and the Republic of Ireland have not squared off at Wembley Stadium since 1991, and the Irish could well seal a shock win at the home of football.

England are missing several regulars for the visit of the Irish, with captain Steven Gerrard (shoulder) out and Andy Carroll (heel), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tom Cleverley (calf) and Kyle Walker all missing.

For fans of Major League Soccer, you’ll get to see Robbie Keane captaining the Irish national team bang in form, after his hat trick against Seattle on Sunday night.

As for Keane’s teammates, they’re struggling through injury too. Wolves striker Kevin Doyle (Achilles tendon), Norwich’s Anthony Pilkington (knee) and Leeds United’s Paul Green (hamstring) are all missing, while Stoke defender Marc Wilson is out with a calf injury.

The rigors of a tough domestic campaign have hit both teams.

No game has been played between these two nations since 1995 when a ‘friendly’ in Dublin had to be abandoned after 27 minutes after England fans rioted at Lansdowne Road. No doubt the English FA will be hoping for calm at Wembley, with the match organized as part of the FA’s 150 year anniversary.

One of the stories ahead of tonight’s clash is Ashley Cole winning his 100th cap at left back. The Chelsea defender will lead the Three Lions out to celebrate the occasion (after much confusion and deliberation) as he joins an elite club of English players to reach a century of games.

(More: What to expect from England vs. Ireland at Wembley)

As for the game itself, there is certainly nothing ‘friendly’ about this. Both teams will be flying into the tackles with their nations pride at stake. That sentiment is often echoed too much. But in this game it is certainly the case.

Roy Hodsgon has refused to call the game a ‘friendly’ and cites the importance of preparing the team for crucial World Cup qualifiers at the end of the summer.

All eyes will be on Wayne Rooney are his recent weeks of unrest with Manchester United, and Arsenal attackers Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should pose Ireland a serious threat.

Giovanni Trapattoni has much more at stake, after Ireland’s disastrous showing at Euro 2012. The Italian manager will be preparing his squad for their crucial World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands on June 7.

A positive result in this crunch match at Wembley would do the men from the Emerald Isle the world of good.

Prediction: I am going for an England win. But I do not think it will be anywhere near as comprehensive as fans are suggesting. Ireland are a stubborn and aggressive side, with almost their whole squad plying their trade in the English leagues, so huge pride is at stake here. If Hodgson can get England’s defense settled, then they should find goals going forward. In an open game, I think 3-1 to England will be the final score.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)