Federico Higuain, Chris Korb

MLS Preview: Columbus Crew vs. Sporting KC

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Three straight wins haven’t been enough to propel the Columbus Crew into the playoff scenario – yet.

But at just a point away, this weekend provides them with a chance to collect another three points and, maybe more importantly, make a statement to the rest of Major League Soccer that Columbus will be a forced to be reckoned with in the playoffs.

Sparking the mini revolution in Columbus is Federico Higuain, whose returned from suspension/injury three matches ago has exactly coincided with their winning streak.

The Argentinian has picked up two goals and three assists during that span, directly contributing to five of their eight goals in the timeframe.

This fixture a month ago – at Sporting Park – ironically saw Kansas City throttle Columbus 3-0, and saw them sink deeper into the muck of the East’s bottom.

Then something happened.

Higuain returned, and interm manager Brian Bliss has pushed all the right buttons since that low moment.

But they’re not there yet. “The ball’s in our court a little bit” said Bliss. “We’re putting some pressure on the teams ahead of us. Our guys feel good about our game, they feel good about each other, they feel good about themselves individually. We’ve just got to carry this momentum and keep going.”

For Kansas City, they’re in no real danger, but this season they’ve been known to drop points in odd spots, such as last week at home against Philadelphia.

Clinching shouldn’t be an issue, but with upcoming matches against teams who are motivated by the playoff race (Houston, Philadelphia again, and here with Columbus), they need to bear down and get the job done.

With the home stretch in full swing, it’s now or never for clubs like Columbus – make a statement in front of your home fans, or pray for help.

Newcastle’s Krul on crutches after injury in Dutch win

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03:  Tim Krul of Newcastle United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Newcastle United’s horror start under Steve McClaren just got worse.

Magpies No. 1 goalkeeper Tim Krul is on duty with the Netherlands, and was forced from the Dutch’s 2-1 win at Kazakhstan in Euro qualifying action.

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Krul left the game after landing awkwardly on his knee, and left the stadium on crutches.

Newcastle’s back-up keepers are Karl Darlow, new from Nottingham Forest, and veteran Rob Elliot.

The Magpies are in 20th place, without a win through eight Premier League matches.

McClaren’s crew just finished a brutal run of matches that saw Newcastle face Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.

VIDEO: Marco Verratti plays a brilliant pass to Eder for Italy goal

PALERMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Marco Verratti of Italy in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Italy and Bulgaria on September 6, 2015 in Palermo, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.

The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.

The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.

Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.


Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.