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CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying: Excitement abounds in South America


There are just two matches left to play in South American World Cup qualifying, yet just one team has qualified thus far — Argentina. Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay will be at home watching the matches in Brazil, preparing for 2018. But for Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and even Venezuela, there’s still all to play for. And with most of those sides eager to attack and not afraid to show some trickery, CONMEBOL just might be the confederation to be watching on Friday night.

(MORE: An overview of World Cup qualifying)

CONMEBOL Matches (Friday, October 11)

Colombia vs. Chile (6 p.m. ET)

This match has to be counted as one of the highlights of this round of qualification — not just in South America, but throughout the world. Colombia and Chile are separated by just two points, and between them, they’ve scored 46 goals thus far. Chile, currently in third place, go all out in attack and refuse to back down, producing a side that’s yet to record a draw. La Roja must stick to their score-and-score-again philosophy, as their defense is rather suspect, having conceded 21 goals thus far. That’s in marked contrast to Colombia, who’ve conceded just nine in fourteen matches (the lowest in CONMEBOL) and haven’t given up a goal at home in their last five games.

The winner in Barranquilla, should there be one, gets their ticket punched to Brazil. Colombia has the advantage in that even if they draw, they’re through to the World Cup — and even a loss is good enough if Ecuador or Uruguay manage a win.

Ecuador vs. Uruguay (6 p.m. ET)

You have to feel a bit sorry for Ecuador. With Uruguay performing so poorly in the first half of qualification, La Tricolor looked to be on the verge of booking their spot at Brazil. Now, they’re just barely hanging on to fourth place, sitting above Uruguay by virtue of a positive goal difference. But it’s La Celeste that have the advantage going into this game in Quito. Having finally turned themselves around, Uruguay have picked up three straight wins, a marked contrast to Ecuador, who haven’t won in their last four matches. But Ecuador can console themselves with the fact that they’re unbeaten at home and, should that not work, the knowledge that it’s practically impossible for Venezuela to creep in to fifth place.

Should this match produce a winner, and should Chile lose to Colombia, that winner is rewarded with a trip to the World Cup.

Venezuela vs. Paraguay (6 p.m. ET)

Venezuela’s hopes may be dim, but the point is, they’re still there, flickering dimly like a candle amidst a hurricane. This is Venezuela’s last qualifier, so not only must they beat already-eliminated Paraguay, La Vinotinto must hope that luck falls in their favor. Either Uruguay or Ecuador must lose both of their final two matches to allow Venezuela to slip into fifth place…and they’ll also have to make up a lot of goals, seeing as right now they have a -6 goal difference. Start lighting those candles, Venezuela!

Argentina vs. Peru (8 p.m. ET)

Ah, the meaningless match. Yes, yes, no matches are meaningless when there’s a World Cup to be prepared for, but let’s face it, this one is about as meaningless as it gets. Argentina have qualified. Peru are out. Thank goodness it’s the late game and everyone can tune in!

MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake (video)

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme (37) congratulates forward Alan Gordon (9) for scoring against the Real Salt Lake during the first half of a knockout round MLS playoff soccer match in Carson, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy are through to the conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs, where they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids beginning Sunday, for the seventh time in eight years with a 3-1 knockout-round triumph over Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center on Wednesday. Alan Gordon put the home side ahead inside the first quarter-hour before RSL drew level seven minutes later, but Emmanuel Boateng bagged a quickfire brace to complete a pair of brilliant individual exhibitions of dribbling inside the penalty area. With Steven Gerrard unavailable and Robbie Keane only fit to feature off the bench, Bruce Arena turned to Gordon, who gave way to Keane early in the second half after picking up an injury of his own, to play the fulcrum of the Galaxy attack, and it worked to near-perfection during the opening half-hour. Landon Donovan started the game and played 87 minutes, providing the kind of defensive work rate that’s been missing up and down the flanks of LA all season. Sebastian Lletget put in a near-flawless passing performance while playing deep in midfield. Don’t look now, but those are the Galaxy’s biggest question of 2016, all just about answered as the playoffs begin. I won’t say, “I told you so” if/when they win MLS Cup 2016, but…

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

14′ — Gordon finishes from close range for 1-0 — Landon Donovan -> Giovani dos Santos -> Alan Gordon. Just like Bruce Arena drew it up in preseason midseason last month this week this morning.

21′ — Plata converts from the spot after Morales’ dive — Javier Morales was angling for a penalty from the moment he entered the penalty area. All Emmanuel Boateng had to do was look at him, and Morales was going down.

26′ — Boateng weaves through to make it 2-1 — Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Boateng took advantage of some poor defending, and the Galaxy were back in the lead.

34′ — Boateng cuts inside, blows past his man, makes it 3-1 — There’s playing in top gear, and there’s having an extra gear that you rarely have to use because no one else on the field has it. Boateng falls into the latter category.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Emmanuel Boateng

Goalscorers: Gordon (14′), Plata (21′), Boateng (26′, 34′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): 10 years later, Toronto FC are MLS Cup Playoffs victors. For eight seasons, the playoffs eluded them altogether. Last year, they were one-and-done in embarrassing fashion at the hands of their local rivals. In 2016, it was  their year — a proclamation we’d heard plenty times before — and so far, they’ve lived up to the hype. Wednesday’s 3-1 home victory over the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round gets the monkey off the Reds’ back, but more importantly, afforded Sebastian Giovinco, who bagged a goal and an assist on the night (his second straight game with such a line), 90 more minutes of game time after missing more than a month through injuries as the regular season wound down. After 270 minutes of action, the Atomic Ant looks sharp as ever, and destined to terrorize New York City FC, whom TFC will face in the conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Atlidore feeds Giovinco for 1-0 — The first playoff goal in TFC’s 10-year history. Poor goalkeeping, ball-watching defending, terrible touches, an overhead cross, and a strike off the crossbar. There’s a lot going on here. Watch it all right here.

49′ — Osorio slams home from the corner for 2-0 — The Union have been bad at defending set pieces all season, so is it at all surprising a set-piece gaffe effectively ended their season? No, it’s not.

73′ — Bedoya puts the loose ball home for 2-1 — Speaking of failing to effectively clear a corner kick, the Union were gifted a lifeline 15 minutes before full-time.

85′ — Altidore puts it out of reach, seals it for TFC — Ken Tribbet did not have the best night a center back has ever seen. His final blunder resulted in Jozy Altidore reclaiming TFC’s two-goal lead, and ending the Union’s 2016 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Giovinco (15′), Osorio (49′), Bedoya (73′), Altidore (85′)

Men In Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s Chelsea return; Bradley’s 1st point

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea with Manchester United, another stumble for Manchester City and Bob Bradley’s first Premier League point.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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VIDEO: Altidore, Giovinco combine for TFC’s first-ever playoff goal

Sebastian Giovinco
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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It’s been 10 years in the making, and Toronto FC finally have their first-ever goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

After failing to qualify for the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons, 2015 saw the Reds venture into the postseason for the first time ever, only to be thumped in the knockout round, 3-0, by their 401 derby rival Montreal Impact, of all sides.

This is the year, though, or so we’ve said and been told all season long. While it remains to be seen how deep of a run TFC can muster in 2016, they’ll always have the Jozy Altidore‘s terrible first touch; Altidore’s wayward second and third touches; Altidore’s overhead cross; and Sebastian Giovinco’s strike, all of which you can watch in all its hilarity glory below.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Playoffs edition | MLS Cup predictions ]