MLS Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

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Colorado are undefeated in their last eight matches.  Vancouver have lost just twice in their last 10.

Let’s go baby.

With around 10 matches to go and the Western Conference playoff picture as muddy as a 6-year-old playing in the pouring rain, all eyes remain on Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Will anyone be able to snatch the points and grasp the opportunity to pull away from the pack?

If you haven’t sneaked a peak at the MLS table lately, the difference between second and seventh place in the West is a miniscule, minute, tiny three points.  One win.  Theoretically, if everything falls into place, FC Dallas could win and find themselves jumping from seventh to third in one fell swoop.

So if, with double digit matches to go in the season, you don’t think this match matters that much – you’re sorely mistaken.

But don’t take my word for it.

“We can neither avoid nor hide the importance of this game, we all know it,” Rapids coach Oscar Pareja said. “That brings a normal pressure to everyone, but it’s a good pressure. It’s actually beyond pressure. It’s the responsibility that we have and feel in facing Vancouver with all those elements. We have to win.”

Have to win. Now there’s a new concept this early down the home stretch.

Pareja will have Colorado’s first-ever designated player Gabriel Torres to help him for the first time.  The 24-year-old Panamanian forward is set to make his full debut for the club on Saturday, boosting an attack that’s just ninth in the MLS in scoring.

For Vancouver, their recent success has come thanks to a not-so-usual source.  Former Premier League talent Nigel Reo-Coker has burst onto the attacking scene, despite playing out of the defensive midfield slot.  He teed up both goals against San Jose last week, and admits his teammates are the ones who deserve most of the credit.

“I’m not like a Lionel Messi who can dribble past people” said Reo-Coker. “I’m more power driven because of my physical attributes. But it’s about doing it at the right time. My drive forward won’t make an impact unless I have teammates around me making the run.”

I’m glad he admits he’s no Messi (who is?) but his moves forward are causing other teams problems.  Whether he’ll continue to do that against Colorado or be forced back to defend more remains to be seen, but coach Martin Rennie did admit whether Reo-Coker ends up with the assist or not, “he drives us forward.”

Oh yeah, and Camilo Sanvezzo is back atop the Golden Boot standings with 14, having scored 11 goals in their last 11 matches.

There are goals in this match for sure, but whether anyone can cement themselves into that number 2 spot in the West is the overriding question.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.