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.

EFL Cup Rewind: 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:

(more…)

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.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

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.

[ FOLLOW: Live MLS scores ]

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

UCL Playoff Wrap: Liverpool, Sporting CP, CSKA advance to group stage

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It was another memorable European night for Liverpool in front of the Kop at Anfield.

Lifted by three goals in the opening 21 minutes, the Reds cruised to a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim 1899 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League playoff stage Wednesday evening. With the win, Liverpool returns to the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

[ MORE: Champions League scores ]

Sadio Mane set up Emre Can twice and both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino chipped in with goals of their own to lead Liverpool to victory. After Can’s double and Salah’s goal gave Liverpool a three-goal lead, Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann brought Mark Uth off the bench onto the field and he promptly scored in the 28th minute to draw within two.

Firmino again put Liverpool ahead by three goals with a goal into an open net in the 63rd minute. Hoffenheim recorded a consolation goal in the 79th minute through Sandro Wagner but Liverpool was resolute and held on for victory.

Liverpool, and the rest of the winning clubs, will learn their fates for the group stage on Thursday.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Champions League playoff scores:

Slavia Prague 0-0 APOEL (APOEL advances 2-0 on aggregate)

FC Copenhagen 2-1 Qarabag FK (Qarabag advances on away goals, 2-2 on aggregate)

FCSB (Steaua București) 1-5 Sporting CP (Sporting CP advances 5-1 on aggregate)

CSKA Moscow 2-0 BSC Young Boys (CSKA advances on aggregate, 3-0)