Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy - Western Conference Championship - Leg 1

MLS playoffs: Top story lines for the post-season

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Ten quick stories to follow through Major League Soccer’s 18th post-season:

1. Can the Galaxy become the league’s first three-time defending champion?

No team has won three MLS Cups consecutively through 17 previous MLS seasons – and here is LA, standing on two in a row. So much of the Galaxy’s chances will come down to the health of DP center back Omar Gonzalez and DP attacker Landon Donovan, both dealing with injuries. By the way, we’ve heard a lot lately about Mike Magee and about Marco Di Vaio and others … but the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane (pictured) is the best player in the MLS playoffs.

2. Will Landon Donovan’s ankle hold up?

The LA Galaxy star says his ankle, injured back in September, needs about six weeks to completely heal up. But he is soldiering through it. So can the league’s all-time leading scorer make it through the post-season? And what of his effectiveness? Seems like he’s one more ankle knock away from being the “Little Donovan” we saw through parts of 2012 and early 2013, not the “Big Donovan” we saw through so much of the summer.

3. For New York, with Supporters Shield in pocket, a bigger prize awaits

Congrats to the New York Red Bulls, who needed 18 years, 13 managers and hundreds of players to lay hands on the club’s first major trophy (Supporters Shield). While the debate rages about where Supporters Shield compares to MLS Cup on the continuum of league-related accomplishment, perhaps we should also consider this: only six Supporters Shield winners have gone on to win MLS Cup.

4. Red Bull leaders Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill

New York’s first two goals Sunday in an impressive 5-2 win over Chicago said it all: one absolute beauty from the stylish Thierry Henry, and one textbook scrapper via Dax McCarty (that dude should be nicknamed “Scrappy”) and impassioned grinder Tim Cahill. That is the perfect picture of this team’s useful blend under manager Mike Petke of substance and style.

5. Can the Seattle Sounders turn it around?

Seattle’s flailing fall, the team’s stunning late collapse, has been the story of October around MLS. The Sounders will tiptoe quietly into playoffs on the anti-momentum of a seven-game winless streak.

But the phrase most often repeated around MLS through the years is surely this: “You just have to get there; anything can happen in the playoffs.” Sounders manager Sigi Schmid sounded pretty sensitive recently as he defended his team for having arrived safely into the post-season, regardless of having backed in.

Yes, Sigi … you did get in. And credit for that. And now …

source:  6. And can Clint Dempsey contribute to any turnaround?

Clint Dempsey (pictured, left), the league’s highest paid man, a splashy summer addition at CenturyLink Field, was nine games into his second MLS go-round before finally getting a goal last Sunday. Who could have imagined it would take so long? But he did break that doggone seal … so can that be a springboard for more?

7. Are we forgetting about Kansas City?

New York swiped a bunch of the final day headlines, and everyone is all aflutter over the Timbers’ evocative turnaround tale. But can Sporting Kansas City, fronted by U.S. internationals Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, really be so far behind? The team is, after all, 7-1-3 over all competitions since a little dip in mid-August. And lessons have presumably been learned over two close post-season calls of the last two years, right?

8. The compressed playoff schedule

It takes eight months to get into the MLS playoffs. They end for two teams just three or four days later. Within 11 days, six of 10 teams will have been eliminated. That’s too quick! Surely there’s a better way to extend the drama.

9. How will the refereeing hold up?

Refereeing in MLS is a hot topic pretty much every week, so there’s no real reason to expect any difference now. I mean, Pierluigi Collina isn’t coming through the door here, right? MLS officiating keeps slowly improving, but mark this down: There will be a highly controversial moment that helps decide a series. Probably more than one.

10. The dark horse in Utah

How can Real Salt Lake be a dark horse? Jason Kreis team won a league championship not so long back (2009). And they were U.S. Open Cup runner-up this year. Still, RSL has lots of young parts, and they just aren’t as fashionable as a championship favorite. Still, Kreis’ team only finished behind the Timbers (everyone’s favorite now) by a single point.

(MLS Week in Review for Round 35)

(MORE: MLS Eastern Conference playoffs are set)

(MORE: MLS Western Conference playoffs are set)

(MORE: MLS playoff schedule and TV times)

AFCON wrap: Ghana books place in quarterfinals, Egypt edges Uganda

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 21:  Asamoah Gyan of Ghana celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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One Group D side has already sealed its fate in the final eight, while another squad moved on step closer to the African Cup of Nations knockout phase on Saturday.

[ MORE: All AFCON 2017 coverage ]

Ghana 1-0 Mali

The Ghanaians ensured their place in the knockout round after Asamoah Gyan scored for the Black Stars.

Gyan, 31, nodded home a Jordan Ayew cross in the 21st minute, giving Ghana its second straight win in the competition.

Mali will need a victory in its final group stage match against Uganda in order to have a shot at advancing to the last eight.

Egypt 1-0 Uganda

Abdallah El Said played hero on Saturday for Egypt after scoring in the 89th minute to lift Héctor Cúper’s side past Uganda.

The Al Ahly forward finished off Mohamed Salah‘s cross in the game’s dying moments to give Egypt a strong shot at advancing out of Group D.

The Egyptians currently sit second in the group on four points, while Uganda has officially been eliminated from advancing.

Sunday’s AFCON schedule

Cameroon vs. Gabon — 2 p.m. ET
Guinea-Bissau vs. Burkina Faso — 2 p.m. ET

PL Saturday roundup: City, Spurs finish level; United drops points at Stoke

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City walks off after the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium on January 21, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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League leaders Chelsea weren’t in action on Saturday, but things couldn’t have possibly gone any better for the Blues.

With Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United all dropping points in their respective matches, Antonio Conte‘s men have the opportunity to widen the gap atop the Premier League on Sunday as Chelsea faces Hull City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Here, we take a look back at Saturday’s action from around England’s top flight.

Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham — RECAP

The Citizens will surely feel disappointed in referee Andre Mariner’s lack of a penalty decision, and more so both sides are feeling the affects after finishing level at the Etihad Stadium. Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris had a rough go of it early in the second stanza after two goals to Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne just four minutes apart. Luckily for the visitors, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son each netted for Tottenham to give Mauricio Pochettino‘s side a share of the points.

Liverpool 2-3 Swansea City — RECAP

It was bound to end some time but Liverpool certainly wasn’t expecting a fight from the Swans on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, that’s exactly what they got. And more. Swansea picked up its first ever top-flight win at Anfield, and the victory couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Fernando Llorente netted twice for the visitors, while Gylfi Sigurdsson played hero on the day for the Swans. The loss for the Reds snapped a 25-match unbeaten streak at home, while also opening the door for Chelsea to extend its lead at the top of the PL.

Stoke City 1-1 Manchester United  — RECAP

Wayne Rooney was the star of the show, but the veteran attacker’s moment of achievement was overshadowed by his side’s failure to pick up three points. Rooney’s 250th goal was surely the day’s biggest talking point, but Juan Mata‘s earlier own goal ensured United that a draw was their fate on the day. The Red Devils currently sit 11 points out of the top spot in the PL, while the draw keeps Stoke in ninth.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Seamus Coleman of Everton (R) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with Mason Holgate of Everton (L) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Everton at Selhurst Park on January 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Everton 1-0 Crystal Palace — RECAP

The Toffees have found new life a recent string of victories but it’s Palace that has become the bigger story on Saturday after falling into the depths of the relegation zone. Seamus Coleman sealed the victory for Everton after Tom Davies picked out the veteran Toffee for the match’s lone finish. Outside of Crystal Palace’s FA Cup victory over Bolton, the Eagles have lost eight consecutive PL fixtures, prompting the team’s fall into 18th place.

West Brom 2-0 Sunderland — RECAP

Goals from Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt kept the Baggies on the top half of the table as Sunderland continues its relegation woes. The Black Cats now sit three points buried at the bottom of the PL following Saturday’s defeat.

West Ham 3-1 Middlesbrough — RECAP

The Hammers moved into the top half of the PL courtesy of goals from Andy Carroll and Jonathan Calleri, while the Boro couldn’t keep up with Slaven Bilic‘s surging side. West Ham has now moved up to 10th place after winning five of its last seven league matches. Christian Stuani managed Middlesbrough’s lone tally on the day, however, the club now sits just four points above the bottom three.

Bournemouth 2-2 Watford — RECAP

Four straight draws between the two sides have left very little between the mid table clubs but Saturday’s encounter surely had its share of entertaining moments. The Hornets led twice on the day with goals from Christian Kabasele and Troy Deeney, however, Bournemouth managed to fight back on both occasions to record the draw. The Cherries currently have a two-point advantage over Watford in the table, with the two clubs sitting 11th and 14th, respectively.

Bundesliga wrap: RB Leipzig keeps pace, BVB rises

Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer, right, challenges for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
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Neither Werder Bremen nor Hamburg could ease historic relegation fears as 12 more Bundesliga sides played their first matches since the winter break.

[ WATCH: Lewandowski wins it on Friday ]

RB Leipzig 3-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

The winter break didn’t slow RB Leipzig, who leapt off the mat to bury Eintracht Frankfurt in a battle of surprise top-end contenders.

Defender Marvin Compper put Leipzig ahead in the sixth minute before Timo Werner netted his 10th of the season. A late own goal finalized the score line, as Leipzig kept pace with Bayern.

Werder Bremen 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

Andre Schurrle scored early for BVB, and a 39th minute red card to Bremen’s Jaroslav Drobny seemed to indicate that the visitors would be well on their way to three points.

Yet Fin Bartels scored in the 59th minute to put a bit of unease on Thomas Tuchel’s crew. Lukasz Piszczek found the winner a minute after a pair of attacking substitutes entered the game.

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic went 90 minutes for the victors, and had the most runs of any player in the match with 95. He puts three shots on target.

BVB pulls to within a point of third place, still 12 behind Bayern Munich.

Wolfsburg 1-0 Hamburger SV

Mario Gomez’s 82nd minute boosted Wolfsburg six points clear of 16th place in a relegation six-pointer.

Elsewhere
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — RECAP
Augsburg 0-2 Hoffenheim
Schalke 1-0 Ingolstadt
Darmstadt 0-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 17 13 3 1 40 10 30 7-2-0 6-1-1 42
 RB Leipzig 17 12 3 2 34 15 19 7-1-0 5-2-2 39
 1899 Hoffenheim 17 7 10 0 30 17 13 4-5-0 3-5-0 31
 Borussia Dortmund 17 8 6 3 37 20 17 5-3-0 3-3-3 30
 Hertha BSC Berlin 16 9 3 4 24 16 8 7-0-1 2-3-3 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 17 8 5 4 22 15 7 5-3-0 3-2-4 29
 1. FC Köln 16 6 7 3 21 15 6 4-4-0 2-3-3 25
 SC Freiburg 17 7 2 8 22 29 -7 5-0-3 2-2-5 23
 FC Schalke 04 17 6 3 8 21 19 2 5-1-3 1-2-5 21
 Bayer Leverkusen 16 6 3 7 23 24 -1 3-2-3 3-1-4 21
 FSV Mainz 05 16 6 2 8 26 30 -4 4-1-2 2-1-6 20
 VfL Wolfsburg 17 5 4 8 16 24 -8 2-2-5 3-2-3 19
 FC Augsburg 17 4 6 7 13 19 -6 2-3-4 2-3-3 18
 Mönchengladbach 17 4 5 8 15 25 -10 4-3-2 0-2-6 17
 Werder Bremen 17 4 4 9 21 36 -15 3-1-5 1-3-4 16
 Hamburger SV 17 3 4 10 14 32 -18 2-2-4 1-2-6 13
 FC Ingolstadt 04 17 3 3 11 14 28 -14 1-2-5 2-1-6 12
 Darmstadt 17 2 3 12 11 30 -19 2-3-4 0-0-8 9

Walker, Guardiola, Pochettino react to non-PK call in Man City-Spurs

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A thrilling match has ended with an unfortunate focus on officials.

Kyle Walker shoved Raheem Sterling on a second-half breakaway, but a stumbling Sterling still poked the ball at Hugo Lloris.

Referee Andre Marriner didn’t make the call, and moments later a potential 3-1 became 2-2 when Heung-Min Son equalized at the other end.

[ RECAP: Man City 2-2 Spurs ]

Man City boss Pep Guardiola was furious, and went off on the fourth official. Walker, it seems, knows he was guilty.

“I wasn’t going to get him otherwise,” Walker said. “You just have to try to put him off as much as possible.”

Then there’s Pep, who tried to avoid speaking about the penalty.

“We made an outstanding performance. It’s a pity what happened. … We’re upset, sad at what happened, but I am so, so proud of what we did.”

Later he was told that Walker admitting to pushing Sterling, and said with a smirk, “In this country you appreciate honesty. Thank you to Walker for being honest.”

Finally, Pochettino seems to think there wasn’t a problem at all, except when City was allowed to score when Hugo Lloris headed a ball off Leroy Sane’s hand before Sane scored.

Cheeky.

“The first goal we conceded was handball. We can’t start to see every single detail, in England it’s different. It wasn’t a penalty. From my side, there’s no complaint about from me about the referee.”

Sure, Mauricio. Sure.