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.

Zenit face racism charge after banner honors war criminal

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg is facing a UEFA racism charge after its fans displayed a large banner honoring convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic.

Two Serbian clubs, Red Star Belgrade and Partizan Belgrade, were also charged for similar offenses of supporting Mladic at Europa League games on Thursday.

UEFA said Friday that all three clubs faced charges of “racist behavior.” No dates were set for disciplinary hearings.

Zenit fans unfurled the banner, about 10 yards in length, during Thursday’s 2-1 Europa League group-stage win over Macedonian club Vardar Skopje.

The game took place the day after former Bosnian Serb military chief Mladic was convicted by a United Nations tribunal of genocide and other crimes in the wars following the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Mladic and other Serb leaders have broad support from Russian nationalist groups, which often see them as allies.

Red Star fans drew 0-0 at BATE Borisov in Belarus, while Partizan beat Swiss club Young Boys in their Europa League games.

Partizan also faces a range of charges for incidents in Belgrade including “field invasions” and “improper conduct” by fans.

Watch Live: West Ham v. Leicester City

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Friday Night Football under the lights in east London. Beautiful.

West Ham United host Leicester City on Friday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as David Moyes takes charge of his first home game as Hammers boss.

Leicester and Claude Puel will play on the counter and look to Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez for inspiration at the London Stadium, while Moyes is putting all of his faith in Andy Carroll.

After a defeat at Watford in his opening game as West Ham boss last week, Moyes could really do with a win to kick-start his Hammers career.

As for Puel, he’s had one win, one draw and one defeat from his three PL games in charge of Leicester so far but the Foxes have shown plenty of promise in those outings.

In team news West Ham are missing Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez through injury so Carroll starts up top with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini supporting him.

Leicester start with Mahrez just off Vardy with Demarai Gray once again starting out wide in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

LINEUPS

West Ham

Leicester

FIFA reminds World Cup-bound Peru about government meddling

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has reminded the Peruvian soccer federation of rules prohibiting interference by national governments, one week after the South American country qualified for its first World Cup since 1982.

FIFA says the letter reacts to the “current draft of the Peruvian Sports Law” presented to a congressional committee last month. FIFA says the proposed text to lawmakers includes “certain items that, if implemented, would contravene the FIFA Statutes.”

In serious cases, FIFA can suspend a country’s national and club teams, plus officials, from international competitions and meetings.

Peruvian officials are due in Moscow next week for the World Cup draw.

Peru is not likely to be facing any action, but FIFA has promised to “continue to monitor the situation.”

PL Preview: Man United v. Brighton

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  • United have scored 19 goals, 6 wins from 6 at home this season
  • Brighton unbeaten in 5 games
  • Zlatan, Pogba, Rojo all fit for United

Manchester United host newly-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Red Devils aiming to keep their 100 percent home record in the PL intact.

[ MORE: Mourinho hits back at critics

Brighton are on a five-game unbeaten run in their debut campaign in the PL and Chris Hughton‘s side have settled impressively as they sit in ninth-place in the table.

Jose Mourinho’s United sit in second place but are eight points behind crosstown rivals Manchester City who are settling a rasping early-season pace in the Premier League. United and City clash at Old Trafford on Dec. 10 so Mourinho’s men can’t afford any dropped points between now and then.

In team news United are without central defenders Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, while Brighton have no new injury concerns.

What they’re saying

Mourinho on Pogba’s return to fitness: “Paul is still on this process where he cannot reach the fatigue limit, he cannot go more than 65 to 70 minutes because that’s when fatigue normally arrives and with so many matches consecutively we need to protect such an important player for us.”

Chris Hughton on Brighton’s mindset heading to Old Trafford: “There aren’t many teams at our level that are going to go there and win. You’ve got to play at a very high level and you’ve certainly got to have that bit of luck that goes with a win away from home at any one of the big clubs. But these are the days you’ve worked so hard for as a team and it’s what we got promoted for. What we hope to do is to make a good account of ourselves there and we hope we can do that.”

Prediction

I expect a big home win for United who are simply too powerful in attack for most PL clubs to handle. Sure, their direct approach gets criticized by many but they’re second in the PL table for a reason and Mourinho’s squad has extreme strength in depth in attack. 3-0 to the Red Devils.