Tonight’s top MLS matches for playoff implications


Every MLS match over the next few weeks that doesn’t pit some combination of D.C. United, Toronto FC and Chivas USA will have something to say about the sensational pileup of a playoff race that has developed.

Some will be a little more influential than others, naturally. Here three tonight and what they will mean:

Vancouver at FC Dallas: As we are in Round 28, some of these will start to look like “elimination matches.” We aren’t quite there yet, but this one is darn close. Martin Rennie’s Whitecaps and Schellas Hyndman’s FC Dallas are dead even in matches played and points (37), tied for sixth in the West. That’s one spot out of the playoffs. FC Dallas simply must get the points at home against a Whitecaps side that isn’t nearly as strong as it was earlier this summer; the Caps are 1-4-2 since mid-July.

source:  Columbus at Sporting Kansas City: Sporting KC is one of the East’s best teams on the road, but if things go sideways from here and Peter Vermes’ team falls out of the playoff picture (or hangs in there but suffers in the positioning), blame a humdrum 7-4-3 record at home. Facing a Columbus team tonight whose playoff fate hangs in the balance, and who are once again without suspended offensive leader Federico Higuain, SKC cannot miss this opportunity for three points. It won’t be easy, however: SKC is without Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, not to mention just-transferred winger Kei Kamara. Time for DP striker Claudio Bieler (pictured left) to step up.

Colorado Rapids at LA Galaxy: The Galaxy will make the playoffs. Book it. Too many of the pursuers have too many issues, and Bruce Arena’s team has that look once again. But Arena and crew don’t just want to make the playoffs; they want Supporters Shield and that top spot in the West, for best chances of hosting a third consecutive MLS Cup. Greedy, perhaps … but thems the rules. Colorado, meanwhile, is in the pack of the hard-trying flawed. Oscar Pareja’s ridiculously young team has to show it can stand the playoff stretch heat; no better place to do so than the StubHub Center against the  two-time defending champs (who are without four key men.)

(MORE: Galaxy-Rapids preview from ProSoccerTalk)


Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.