San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers - Portland Timbers Tournament

Five important numbers to know about the MLS playoffs

  • Balanced scoring in Portland

Only one MLS playoff club has four men with nine goals or more – the Portland Timbers. This gets important as the scouting and tactical approach intensifies for the post-season, because you don’t want your team’s offense to shut down because they can strangle off service into one man.

Diego Valeri (pictured) has 10 goals; Will Johnson, Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe have nine each.

Compare that to Montreal, where Impact leading scorer Marco Di Vaio has 20 goals; no other Montreal man has more than five.

  • Four matches in 15 days

Life is tough on these fourth- and fifth-place finishers. Teams advancing from the mid-week elimination matches into the conference finals are asked to navigate four matches over 15 days. (If they catch a little break, if might be 16 days.) Either way, that’s a tough slog. Oh … and watch those yellow cards, boys! They add up quick.

  • Supporters Shield winners and MLS Cup champs

Congrats to New York and all for the organization’s first chance to hold real, meaningful silverware. But only six of 17 previous Supporters Shield winners have gone on to claim MLS Cup.  Last to do so: LA Galaxy in 2011.

  • Seattle Sounders and an issue with goals

If you think the Sounders have a good shot at MLS Cup even after the recent skid (a seven-game winless streak is no way to plow into the post-season, after all), they’ll have to do something about this messy goals situation … on both sides of the ball.

Seattle comes into the 2013 playoffs ranked 9th among 10 teams in goals scored (42, just one better than 10th-ranked Houston). And the Sounders are 9th among the 10 playoff teams in goals allowed (also 42, seven better than 10th-ranked Montreal)

  • Landon Donovan … Does the man have to lead in everything?

Lots of us know that Landon Donovan is now the co-leader in all-time MLS goals, recently matching Jeff Cunningham’s 134. The LA Galaxy star will hold the record on his own early next year, assuming nothing crazy happens in the interim.

And lots of good, sweet, clean U.S. Soccer supporters know Donovan is the U.S. national team’s all-time scoring leader and assist leader. But …

It’s a great time to remind everyone that he’s also Major League Soccer’s all-time leader in playoff goals. Donovan has 22 goals, six more than second-place Carlos Ruiz.

Among active players – well, depending on whether we call Ruiz, used ever so sparingly this year at D.C. United, “active” – no active player is anywhere near the same ballpark. Brian Ching and Mike Magee have eight each.

(MORE: MLS playoff schedule and TV times)

(MORE: Top story lines for the MLS playoffs)

(MORE: MLS Week in Review for Round 35)

(MORE: MLS Eastern Conference playoffs are set)

(MORE: MLS Western Conference playoffs are set)

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia