Kleberson 2

MLS Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City

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• For Sporting Kansas City to win the Supporters’ Shield, it has to defeat the Philadelphia Union on Saturday and hope that the New York Red Bulls tie or lose to the Chicago Fire on Sunday.

• The Philadelphia Union must win to give itself a chance to make the playoffs. In addition, the Houston Dynamo must lose to D.C. United on Sunday or tie without scoring more than one goal. Also, the New England Revolution must lose to the Columbus Crew on Sunday (a tie would also do, as long as Philadelphia scores eight more goals than the Revs on the weekend).

• Kansas City and Philadelphia have split two meetings this season, with Kansas City winning 3-1 on opening day and Philadelphia winning 1-0 on Sept. 27. On both occasions, the away team has been victorious.

Having won five of its last seven league games, Sporting Kansas City is one of a handful of teams at the top of the Major League Soccer standings that heads into the final day of the season with a chance to win the Supporters’ Shield. Nothing less than a win (and some help elsewhere) on Saturday at the Philadelphia Union (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN or streaming online on NBC Live Extra) will do.

The Union finds itself in a similar must-win situation, but Philadelphia is fighting for its playoff life, not the first-place trophy. It needs even more help if it is to come through an up-and-down season with a playoff berth. Captain Brian Carroll will be suspended for the match through yellow-card accumulation, making the task more difficult.

On the other side of the ball, the Union has scored just four goals in the last nine games, with Designated Player signing Kléberson (pictured) having a hand in three of them. Without his game-winning goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time against Toronto FC on Oct. 5, his team would not have a chance at the playoffs right now.

Scoring just two goals in its last five games in all competitions, Kansas City is in the same spot offensively. That stretch includes the 1-0 loss to the Union last month, as well as scoreless draws with the Houston Dynamo and Olimpia, in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday.

What they’re saying

Union head coach John Hackworth on his team’s playoff chances: “We need a little help from people on Sunday, but we have to take care of business on Saturday. We have to get three points. We have to beat a very good Sporting Kansas City team. So that allows to us to focus in, if you will, and just take care of what we can. We can’t worry about anybody else.”

Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg on Wednesday’s Champions League match and the quick turnaround: “It’s a quick turnaround. We have a game this weekend. But we’ll be happy about it tonight, but tomorrow it’s right back to work and we’re thrilled to be through to the knockout round. I feel like we expected to be through, and it’s good to accomplish that goal.”

Philadelphia defender Sheanon Williams on the mentality of a must-win game: “The only way for us to even think about playoffs is winning the game, so we’ll definitely do our best, I guess, trying to gamble safely, which sounds stupid, but we can’t throw all caution to the wind and go down two goals. That’s not going to help us. We’ll have to do it smartly.”

Prediction

With the attacking troubles both teams have had recently, Saturday’s matchup doesn’t look to be a high-scoring, entertaining clash, despite its importance to both teams. It may not be the most attractive of results, but perhaps predicting a scoreless tie would ensure that the opposite happens.

FIFA disbands racism task force ahead of World Cup in Russia

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behavior in 2018 World Cup host Russia.

FIFA wrote to members of the task force to say that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.”

“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The Associated Press on Sunday. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.

“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a different position.”

The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world soccer’s governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American investigation into soccer corruption.

Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was replaced exactly a year ago as task force chairman by Congolese federation president Constant Omari, who also sits on FIFA’s ruling council.

“We never had a single meeting under his chairmanship,” Obayiuwana said. “I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”

Obayiuwana, a journalist, broadcaster and qualified lawyer, received the letter from FIFA on Friday announcing the end of the task force.

“The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA,” wrote Gerd Dembowski, FIFA’s diversity and anti-discrimination manager.

“We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing.”

FIFA pointed to the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a “Good Practice Guide ,” starting a team of footballing legends and a new diversity award. Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s first female and non-European secretary general, will present the award on Monday at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester.

FIFA also told task force members that its own initiatives “actually exceed the working group’s recommendations” – trumpeting its “Say No to Racism” campaign, women’s leadership conferences and programs in Russia. There are less than nine months until Russia stages the Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.

The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

Joseph Maiorana/USA Today Sports
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The game in 100 words (or less): It was mostly the Crew from start to finish, and Ola Kamara’s brace helped ensure Greg Berhalter’s side that the team will remain in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. While the other Kamara — Kei — and his Revolution teammates were largely limited for chances on the evening, the Crew backline did an admirable job to prevent their opposition from testing them. For the Crew, it was the team’s first shutout since the two sides last met on August 20, ironically also a 2-0 victory for Berhalter’s group.

[ MORE: David Villa discusses MLS playoffs, Guardiola and more ]

Three moments that mattered

42′ – Ola smashes one past the Revs on the stroke of halftime — The Crew attack has sputtered a lot in 2016, but Ola Kamara continues to keep the team’s bleak playoff hopes intact.

67′ — Afful’s effort smacks against the post, stays out — The Crew attacked and attacked and attacked some more. Harrison Afful was definitely a bit unlucky that this chance didn’t end up in Brad Knighton’s goal.

84′ — Questionable penalty seals the points — It looked a bit soft to be given, but Kamara makes no mistake with the finish.

 

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

Man of the match: Ola Kamara

Goalscorers: Ola Kamara (42′, 84)

Watch: Dario Benedetto scores audacious blast for Boca Juniors

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When there’s little support up the field, what should you do?

Just ask, Dario Benedetto.

The Boca Juniors man broke Sunday’s 4-1 win over Quilmes wide open after a quarter hour when Benedetto smashed a 40-yard attempt into the back of the net, leaving the opposing keeper speechless.

The 26-year-old did just about everything right on the day, as Benedetto finished off the match with a hat-trick before halftime.

Serie A roundup: Torino knocks off Roma, Fiorentina-AC Milan finish scoreless

TURIN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Andrea Belotti (L) of Torino and Federico Fazio of Roma compete for the ball during the Serie A match between FC Torino and AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on September 25, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)
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Joe Hart and Torino earned a 3-1 win over Roma on Sunday after two second-half finishes from Iago Falqué separated the hosts from the Giallorossi. Andrea Belotti struck for Torino after just eight minutes to give Siniša Mihajlović’s men the early lead. Meanwhile, Francesco Totti attempted to get Roma back in the match after halftime as the veteran striker converted from the penalty spot with 35 minutes remaining. For Totti, the goal marked his 250th in Serie A with Roma.

[ MORE: Schalke misery continues, Leipzig earns road point ]

Fiorentina drew AC Milan, 0-0, as the latter managed just one shot on target throughout the afternoon. Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced into five saves on the day, however, the Viola couldn’t find a way to break through the Milan backline.

Goals from Mattia Destro and Ivan Perisic cancelled out as Bologna picked up a point on the road against Inter Milan. Frank de Boer’s Inter currently sit third in Serie A, trailing only Juventus and Napoli, while holds the seventh spot.

Despite going down to nine men in the second half, Genoa managed a 1-1 draw against Pescara on Sunday afternoon. Giovanni Simeone’s opener gave the hosts the advantage just two minutes after the halftime whistle, however, Rey Manaj tapped in from close range in the 85th minute to secure a point for Pescara.

A pair of finishes from Balde Diao Keita and Senad Lulic helped hand Lazio a 2-0 win over Empoli to propel the Biancocelesti to fifth place in Serie A. The defeat leaves Empoli in the relegation zone through six matches.

Gregoire Defrel lifted Sassuolo past Udinese, 1-0, after knocking home the game’s lone finish in the 34th minute. Udinese fought until the very last minute, nearly finding an equalizer in the 90th minute when Felipe’s header struck the cross bar.