MLS Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

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These two clubs are going to get to know each other really well over the course of the next week.

With the playoffs nearly in the clutches of the Colorado Rapids, they have to negotiate a home-and-home series with Vancouver to make it to the promised land.

Colorado sits in fifth place, just a point ahead of the infamous red line, where Whitecaps lurk along with San Jose.

The Rapids are reeling after a tough 1-0 loss at San Jose, but they’ll be happy to return home for such an important game.  They haven’t lost at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since June 15.

“If we lose, we’re out of the playoffs,” said Vancouver’s Jordan Harvey. “If we win, we live to fight another day.”

Colorado’s in a better position, but for Vancouver, that is the reality. Lose and it’s over for the Whitecaps.  Three points back of Colorado, they would be mathematically eliminated with a loss Saturday.

Last week’s 4-1 victory over Seattle was monstrous for not only their playoff chances, but their confidence as well.  Coming off the bench for much of the season, 18-year-old Kekuta Manneh’s hat-trick was from as out-of-nowhere as it gets, but just as impressive – and promising – was the play of secondary striker Diago Kobayashi.

“Daigo is a No. 10” said Nigel Reo-Coker. “I’ve always been a big Daigo fan. Technically he’s such a great player. He’s one of the best technical players I think in the league and a lot of people just haven’t had the opportunity to see that yet consistently. But he can see a pass, he can make a pass and he’s the perfect No. 10. He’s one of the best ones in the league, and hopefully he’ll get a bit more credit for his ability.”

The 30-year-old assisted two of Manneh’s goals last Saturday, and will be vastly important for Vancouver as they try to unlock the Colorado defense.

There’s goals in this match, and with so many playoff scenarios hinging on this result, it will be one of the most exciting matchups of the weekend.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.