MLS Preview: Seattle Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire

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• The Chicago Fire is 0-4-3 all-time in Major League Soccer matches against Seattle Sounders FC, including a 0-2-1 record in the Northwest.

• The Sounders are 7-1-3 at home this season, while the Fire is 2-6-3 on the road.

• Chicago’s Joel Lindpere (Estonia) and Arévalo Ríos (Uruguay) and Seattle’s Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson (United States) will be on international duty. Meanwhile, Seattle’s Brad Evans and Obafemi Martins are fighting through injuries.

The upstart Seattle Sounders FC, in the quest for Major League Soccer’s Supporters’ Shield with six wins in seven games, hosts the Chicago Fire on Saturday (10 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Chicago is just two points behind the playoff field in the Eastern Conference after conceding a 90th-minute goal to the Houston Dynamo last week in a disappointing 1-1 tie.

Meanwhile, Seattle went away to Columbus last Saturday, and despite losing defender Leo González to a seventh-minute red card, the Sounders beat the Crew 1-0. Then on Wednesday, they found another narrow 1-0 win, at home over Chivas USA.

Seattle is starting to look like a team that can get a result every time it steps on the field, in stark contrast to earlier in the season, when it would seemingly alternate between dominant 4-0 and 4-2 wins over the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas and 4-0 and 2-0 losses to the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.

Despite Obafemi Martins missing Wednesday due to injury and Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson on international duty, the Sounders got a solid showing from goal-scorer Lamar Neagle (pictured). It was the Sounders’ 10th straight match unbeaten at home, a run that started after a surprising opening-day 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact.

With its 2013 road woes, Chicago will likely find it difficult to snap the streak. The last time the Fire won on the road before Aug. 3 at Philadelphia Union was June 22 at Columbus, and those are the only two away wins on the season for Chicago.

In a long MLS season, experienced teams and coaches often put their emphasis on peaking at the right times. The Houston Dynamo made a late push into the 2012 playoffs and ended up making it to the MLS Cup final. The Los Angeles Galaxy won the competition after making it as a No. 4 seed in the West.

Both Chicago and Seattle are heating up, but one is hotter than the other. A Chicago win on Saturday would even the situation out a bit, but Seattle still has two games in hand on the first-place RSL in the West.

What they’re saying

Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid on what he expects out of the Fire: “They’re a team that is in desperate need for points. They want to stay in the hunt in the East. So for them, it’s a very important game. I think it’s a team that’s going to play pretty tight to the vest in terms of opening themselves up defensively. … You have to be sharp and alert and be prepared for a lot of place changing [among players].”

Prediction

Seattle is on a roll, especially at home, and Chicago is still struggling to find consistent results on the road. Even though the Sounders are missing a few national team players, Chicago will likely feel its two losses more, and Seattle has enough quality and depth to step up and beat the Fire at home.

Raiola: Zlatan to “100 percent” stay in Europe for two seasons

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be 35 and coming off major knee surgery, but that isn’t stopping suitors from lining up across Europe.

Ibrahimovic’s agent, Mino Raiola, says that MLS is not an option for the Swede over the next two seasons. From Sky Sports:

“Many clubs have asked for Zlatan. He can play two more years and will stay in Europe, 100 per cent.”

It would make sense for Ibrahimovic to stay around Manchester United, where he is admired by Jose Mourinho and coming off a season that showed he’s still capable of contributing at a high level.

But he remains beloved in Italy, and would be effective for most clubs in the Top 5 leagues should he return at even 75 percent of the Zlatan we’ve seen regularly.

Report: Manchester United, Inter Milan keen on Perisic deal

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Manchester United wants Ivan Perisic, and both the player and his current club are all about it.

Perisic, 28, is ready to leave Inter Milan, and the Serie A mainstays are happy to accept $46 million for his services according to Sky Sports.

[ MORE: No China for Costa ]

Primarily a left winger, Perisic moved to Inter from Wolfsburg at the start of the 2015-16 season. He scored 10 goals and added nine assists in Serie A play this season, and has kept up his production pace since moving from the Bundesliga to Italy.

United needs stars and depth for its Champions League campaign, and Perisic would buttress an attack with Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan amongst others. He was a difference maker for Croatia at EURO 2016, and can do the same at Old Trafford.

Celtic secures trophy treble, ends Scottish season unbeaten

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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) Celtic completed a trophy treble in Scottish soccer and finished the domestic season undefeated after beating Aberdeen 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final thanks to an injury-time goal on Saturday.

Midfielder Tom Rogic scored from an acute angle in the second minute of stoppage time at Hampden Park to ensure Celtic added the cup to the Scottish Premiership and the Scottish League Cup.

[ MORE: No China for Costa ]

Brendan Rodgers became the third manager, after Jock Stein (1967, 1969) and Martin O’Neill (2001), to lead Celtic to a treble of domestic titles.

Celtic hasn’t lost any of its 47 games across in the league and both cups, and is the first team to go through the whole of a Scottish domestic season unbeaten.

No China for Costa: It’ll be Chelsea or Atletico Madrid

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Blues striker Diego Costa offered some insight into his future following Chelsea’s FA Cup Final loss to Arsenal on Saturday.

The combustible striker was subject to a head-turning bid from the Chinese Super League this winter, but is only looking at two European locations for his future.

Those are his current club, Chelsea, as well as former home at Atletico Madrid.

[ JPW: Poignant FA Cup Final reflects English mood ]

The 28-year-old Costa has kept his scoring pace level since arriving in the Premier League. He scored 64 goals in 134 matches for Atleti, and has notched 58 goals for Chelsea in 120 appearances.

Costa reportedly said, “No, no, no” when asked about China, as well as the following: