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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

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.

NASL weekend preview: Miami, Minnesota meet playoff fortunes head on

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There are still two full months of soccer to go in the NASL’s Fall Season, but this weekend could be a major day for the title fortunes of one squad in particular.

Miami FC and Minnesota United are level on points with 15 heading into Saturday’s match at FIU Stadium.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

If you’re unfamiliar, the NASL Playoffs involve four teams: the Spring champion (Indy Eleven), the Fall champion, and two other teams with the best combined record between seasons.

Miami’s played one fewer game, and both it and Minnesota — fresh off the news it’s headed to MLS in 2017 — are seven points shy of first-place FC Edmonton.

But Minnesota is on pace to make the playoffs through combined schedule, while Miami had a poor first half and would be better served to win the Fall Season if it wants a shot at the NASL Soccer Bowl Trophy.

Saturday
Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos
Rayo OKC at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Minnesota United at Miami FC

Sunday
Indy Eleven at Ottawa Fury
Puerto Rico at FC Edmonton

Arsenal reportedly set for $69 million double Friday buy

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger‘s much-maligned transfer business is about to take the “much” off the verb.

Lucas Perez of Deportiva de la Coruna is reportedly going to be joining Arsenal on Friday, and the Gunners are also close to finally landing Valencia center back Shkodran Mustafi.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Perez, 27, broke out for a career-best 17 goals last season, and scored on debut last weekend. He’s set to cost $22.5 million, while Mustafi makes up the other $46.5 million.

The 12-times capped German center back stands 6-foot, and would bring stability to a Gunners unit which has (again) been beset by injuries.

From the BBC:

Spaniard Lucas, 27, scored 17 goals in 37 games last season and Arsenal will meet a 20m euro (£17.1m) buyout clause.

Germany international Mustafi, 24, is set to join for a fee in excess of £35m.

Is this, coupled with the Granit Xhaka buy, enough to help Wenger right the ship? Mustafi, especially, would be a key piece. Perez is a bit of a lesser-known quality.

MLS Weekend Preview: Desperation mounts as rivals meet in Oregon

Portland Timbers defender Vytas Andriuskevicius, second from right, trips up Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, right, in the second half of a MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Seattle. Andriuskevicius was called for a foul on the play, and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey scored a goal on the resulting penalty kick. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Desperation is up-and-down the schedule this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the playoff race really heats up.

The calendar turns to September next week, and teams will end this weekend with a clear view of their runs into the season’s final Sunday: Oct. 23.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).

Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:

Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).

Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.

Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.

Schedule

Friday
Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT

Saturday
Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT

Sunday
New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT