Portland 1-0 Dallas: Beautifully exciting match erases controversy of another headbutt

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I’m not so sure it’s possible to ask for more from a match and receive it.

With the top of the Western Conference getting tighter and tighter, the two teams certainly played like it mattered.

The game had everything: attackers fired missiles as the goals, goalkeepers launched themselves for world-class saves, dribbling and runs, terrible misses, and a goalazo out of nothing made all the difference.

Darlington Nagbe hit a blast into the top right corner on a 180-degree turn for the goal that gave the conference lead to the Portland Timbers, grabbing all three points at home over FC Dallas.

It wasn’t the only exciting moment though.

Diego Valeri headed off the crossbar. Donovan Ricketts saved a howitzer from Dallas’s Jackson. Raul Fernandez made possibly two of the saves of the season on shots from Diego Chara, and the midfielder missed a gaping opportunity on a third following a breakaway. Michel continued his set-piece prowess with a scathing free kick shot just wide.

It was a gut-check for the Timbers after scoring their goal, with their midfield controlling the action and their goalkeeper pressed into a few clutch saves. Unfortunately, their forwards choked multiple times in front of goal to get a second, but it didn’t come back to hurt them.

The win pushes Portland one point shy of Real Salt Lake and two shy of Dallas in the lead. It appears the top three pull further and further away from the rest of the pack in the conference with each passing week.

The only issue with the match was the shroud from another headbutt in the MLS. Jair Benitez popped Frederic Piquionne in the nose with his forehead, and you can bet your britches he’ll face some discipline. The problem is, the referee did nothing about it. The assistant referee waved his flag furiously after the incident, and the head referee had a chat with him, but nothing came of it.

It’s deja vu all over again for Major League Soccer, but fortunately, this time around, the excitement far outweighed the stain.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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League Cup wrap: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET