MLS Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo

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Things are heating up down the stretch of the MLS season, and matchups become more and more critical.

None more critical than those between two teams hanging on to their playoff lives, and struggling to do so.

The Philadelphia Union have hung tough in or around the fourth position in the Eastern Conference standings for a while now, and with eight points in their last five home matches, the PLL Park crowd seems to be a cure for most of their woes.

Philadelphia have really struggled to score in the recent going, having managed just a single goal in their last four matches, but three of those have been on the road.  Jack McInerney, who looked like the next big thing a few months ago, has been stuck on 10 goals since June 2nd.  Yes, it’s been three months since their main striker has scored.   That’s 11 matches, 14 if you count the three he missed on international duty.

The Houston Dynamo have almost entirely wasted their franchise-best start to the season.  Having fallen out of the playoff position entirely, the defense especially has been sluggish of late, as evident by Thierry Henry’s goal last week when he quite literally waltzed between the two central defenders.

However, they have won five of the last six meetings between these two teams, and seem to have the Union’s number.  Last time out, it was the Dynamo who pulled it off at BBVA Stadium.

One thing to note, Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear will not appear in the match, as he did not make the trip to Philadelphia after being ejected from Sunday’s loss.  Also suspended is Boniek Garcia.

It’s quite clear this match means the world for both teams.  A win for either could mean a vault into a position not only securely into the playoff hunt, but with six matches remaining, the potential room for error three points would provide would mean each side could relax, take a deep breath, and look ahead to the home stretch.

“We’ve got to get back on the right track,” said Houston defender Brad Davis. “We’ve got to go out and put our best foot forward. It’s that time of year where it doesn’t matter anymore; it’s time to win games.”

Can anyone pull it off?

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.