The Bundesliga weekend so far: Dortmund, Bayern and Bayer all win

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The Bundesliga is always good for a few goals, and with two matches left to play this weekend, we’ve already seen 26 find the back of the net. The biggest culprits? Dortmund, who were clearly preparing for their midweek Champions League fixture by putting five past relegation-ready Freiburg. Bayern, meanwhile, took it easy, gently playing their way to a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg. Bayer Leverkusen are still lurking close behind, their 2-0 win over Hannover keeping them within a point of the league leaders.

Friday

Augsburg 2-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach

It seemed as though Gladbach were going to come from behind and take all three points on Friday evening. André Hahn had put the hosts ahead in the 27th minute, but Gladbach equalized just five minutes later, off a goal from Max Kruse, his fourth of the season. Branimir Hrgota, on for just three minutes, put the visitors ahead in the 71st minute. But Augsburg came back with their own game-changing substitution, and Arkadiusz Milik grabbed the equalizer in the 88th minute. That leaves both sides even on points, although Gladbach have a better goal difference.

Saturday

Hoffenheim 3-3 Schalke

Schalke are clearly stretched thin, with the squad unable to cope with the demands of the Bundesliga, Champions League and Cup play. They currently sit 13th in the table, while Sunday’s results could push them even lower. But their missteps certainly lead to fun games. Schalke led 3-1 at the break, thanks to goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng, Joel Matip and Marco Höger. Hoffeinheim added to Anthony Modeste’s first half goal with a penalty conversion by Roberto Firmino, and further componded Schalke’s woes with a goal from David Abraham around the hour mark. The visitors seemed too stung to fight back, although Jens Keller’s late substitutions prompted a flurry of attempts in the dying minutes of the match.

Bayern Munich 1-0 Wolfsburg

You’d think, when one of the top sides in the league comes out to play, you might see an exciting, interesting or intriguing match. Not so much here, as Bayern kept the majority of the possession but rarely made any real threats. Their single goal came courtesy of Thomas Müller in the 63rd minute. Perhaps Pep Guardiola simply told his boys to set the cruise control and ride it out, with an eye ahead to the midweek match against Manchester City.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Hannover 

Leverkusen had their win before they’d reached the 40th minute, thanks to goals from Simon Rolfes and Sidney Sam. Hannover may be in third but they’re six points behind Bayer, and this match showed the gap in quality. Apart from a flurry of shots just before the halftime break, it was Bayer that controlled the match, continuing to press for a third even after it was clear they’d collect all three points. The win keeps Bayer just a point below league leaders Dortmund and Bayern.

Hertha Berlin 3-1 Mainz

It’s not often you see a freshly promoted side challenging for Europe — at least, not after the first couple weeks — but after seven rounds, Hertha Berlin are in fifth, a mere point behind Hannover. It was actually Mainz that took the lead, through Nicolai Müller (who, impressively, found himself carded for a foul on Hajime Hosogai before the first minute was up), but a second half brace from Sami Allagui put Hertha in front. Allagui’s second was followed immediately by a goal from Änis Ben-Hatira, after which the hosts settled down, content with three goals and three points.

Borussia Dortmund 5-0 Freiburg

Champions League match? What Champions League match? Jurgen Klopp’s side looked absolutely unafraid of wearing themselves out before the midweek clash with Marseille. It helped, of course, that poor Freiburg were down to ten men by the time the halftime whistle blew, with Fallou Diagne sent off for a foul on Robert Lewandowski. Marco Reus took the resulting penalty, giving himself a brace in the first half.  Lewandowski put himself on the board with his own brace in the second half, and Jakub Blaszczykowski added the final goal with ten minutes to spare. Freiburg are left languishing in the relegation zone, with just three points thus far.

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-2 Hamburg

Hamburg pulled off a late draw against Eintracht, earning themselves a massive point in the process, a point that lifts them out of the drop zone — barring, of course, a shock victory by Nurnberg against Werder Bremen on Sunday.  Johannes Flum gave the hosts the lead, but Pierre-Michel Lasogga equalized for Hamburg just before the interval. Marco Russ reinstated Eintracht’s lead before the hour was up, and the hosts must’ve thought they were cruising to all three points until Marcell Jansen scored with five minutes left to play.

Still to come

Werder Bremen vs. Nurnberg

Braunschweig vs. Stuttgart

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.