MLS Preview: FC Dallas at Philadelphia Union

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  • Philly’s Jack McInerney is tied for the league scoring leadership with 10 goals
  • Half of Dallas’ starting back line is out
  • The Union is 7-1-1 in all competitions since mid-May

About to face the best young striking prospect in Major League Soccer, this is a bad, bad time for FC Dallas to miss its rock in defense.

Jack McInerney vs. George John would have stood among the league’s best matchups this week. The man they call “Jack Mac” has 10 goals, and at 20 years old he is easily the youngest of the three men tied atop the league scoring leadership.

John is the FC Dallas center back who guides young Matt Hedges alongside him and helps faithfully steer a back line that has been better this year than most expected. Except that he’s out for this weekend’s trip to PPL Park outside Philadelphia. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network) as Schellas Hyndman’s team faces John Hackworth’s steadily emerging young side.

Dallas has recently tumbled out of the top spot in the West. And it tumbled out of the U.S. Open Cup earlier this week at home, the Portland Timbers’ latest victim. Still third in the West and just a point off the lead, FCD remains in good shape heading into the second half of MLS 2013. Then again, who wants to waste all that early success?

So it looks like second-year starter Matt Hedges and well-regarded rookie Walker Zimmerman will need to deal with the Union’s rising attack. See, it’s not just McInerney (pictured on the right), whose finishing has lost its edge lately, but who continues to put himself in good scoring spots.

It’s also Conor Casey, who has now rallied past that big Achilles injury do his part in forming such a nifty one-two scoring punch around the team’s suburban Chester ground. And don’t look now, but is that hard-working Union attacker Sebastien Le Toux leading the league in assists? Yep … seven of them.

Zach Loyd will also apparently miss the match; like John, he remained back in Dallas as the team traveled Friday.

Jair Benitez is back after serving a one-game suspension. That improves the midfield more than the defense; Versatile Brazilian utility knife Michel was at left back for last week’s 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City but will presumably re-occupy his holding midfield spot.

Hackworth’s Union is 7-1-1 in all competitions since mid-May, and the latest win is among the team’s best moments of 2013. An emphatic 3-0 win over New York (a rival, no less) was a real confidence builder for a team that includes other promising prospects, 22-year-old center back Amobi Oguko foremost among them.

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

AP Photo/Matt Dunham
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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”

Spurs’ Alderweireld won’t return until February

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Spurs finally got a bit of good news this weekend with a blowout of Stoke City.

That was a followed by a tough draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, and bad news on an old injury.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Center back Toby Alderweireld is going to be gone into February, extending his time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 1 against Real Madrid.

Spurs were 6-2-2 in league when Alderweireld went down, and are just 2-2-2 since the injury. The Belgian has missed losses at Arsenal and Leicester, draws against Watford and West Brom, and wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Tottenham did win both of its UCL matches since the injury.