MLS’s Western Conference playoff picture is set

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Even though all five of the West’s playoff teams were decided before Sunday’s games, matches in Seattle and Vancouver left some doubt. Even though the Timbers and Real Salt Lake had claimed the conference’s top two spots, nobody knew where the Galaxy, Sounders and Rapids would end up.

Yet despite eventful games at BC Place and CenturyLink, the teams finished as they started. LA will go straight into the conference semifinals after claiming the third seed, while the Sounders are set welcome Colorado to Seattle mid-week. That four-five match will decide who meets the conference champion Timbers in the West’s semifinals.

Colorado’s fate was sealed by Camilo Sanvezzo, whose hat trick claimed the Golden Boot and relegated the Rapids to the five-seed. While Colorado certainly didn’t want to end their season with a 3-0 loss, they can content themselves with a 35th game few predicted they’d see.

[MORE: Hat trick allow Camilo to claim the Golden Boot.]

In the regular season’s last game, Seattle needed a win to claim the West’s third spot, a result they were 12 minutes away from after Clint Dempsey’s first Sounders goal. But Robbie Keane’s volley off an attempted clearance kissed the turf before flying past Michael Gspurning, giving LA the result they needed (1-1) to skip this year’s four-five game.

[MORE: Seattle ends losing streak, but not without controversy.]

That leaves us with these postseason matchups:

Who: Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids
What: First Round (Four-Five game)
How: One-game, winner take all
When: Wednesday or Thursday

The teams split their three regular season meetings, leaving the series’ most dramatic result for last. Seattle won the season’s first match 1-0 in Colorado before the teams drew 1-1 at CenturyLink. On October 5, Colorado handed Seattle the loss that pushed them into this free fall, beating them 5-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Either Seattle avenges that loss or Colorado exploits the vulnerability they exposed.

Who: Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy
What: Conference Semifinal
How: Two-legged series, RSL hosting game two
When: Saturday or Sunday; then Nov. 6 or 7

A huge matchup between teams that haven’t met since August. Los Angeles has won two of three meetings, outscoring RSL 7-5 along the way. With Jason Kreis likely to approach leg one looking to limit damage on the road, scores are unlikely to be that high. Still, this is an MLS Cup final-caliber matchup in the conference semifinal round – the cost of living life in the Western Conference.

Who: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle/Colorado
What: Conference Semifinal
How: Two-legged series, Portland hosting game two
When: Saturday or Sunday; then Nov. 6 or 7

A Portland-Seattle semifinal would produce the atmosphere MLS has tried to showcase since Pacific Northwest soccer came to the league.  That matchup would feature two teams who split their season series, Portland winning the last derby at JELD-WEN after taking one point from two games in Seattle. If Colorado comes through, the Timbers will meet a team who’s only taken one point from the teams’ three-game series.

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.

Report: Aubameyang hands in transfer request at Dortmund

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According to German publication Bild, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has handed a transfer request to the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy.

Arsenal is the latest club linked with the Gabonese striker, with reports earlier this month of a deal to send Aubameyang to China. He has reportedly asked to leave Dortmund multiple times this January, and has been turned down thus far, and it’s causing problems. Aubameyang was suspended by the club for one match for missing a meeting last week, a match that ended in a goalless draw with Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

“We had a very heated discussion,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after the suspension was announced. “He hasn’t behaved like this for years, he’s always been very professional. What has happened is very tolerable, there will be some fines, too. It’s not necessary to talk about a transfer, but it’s clear that things can’t continue like this because some important things are in jeopardy, and that there is tension inside the squad.”

The price tag, according to recent reports, would be around $76 million, and he would be purchased with money from the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal transfer guru Sven Mislintat is reportedly driving the deal, having signed Aubameyang at Dortmund during his days as a scout from Westfalinstadion. However, there is buzz among the British media that Arsene Wenger is unimpressed by Aubameyang’s recent insubordination and has expressed his concerns.

Emre Can says new Liverpool contract still a possibility

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Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is out of contract this summer, but says he could still sign back on at Anfield despite heavy rumors of his departure.

Still just 24 years old, the German came over from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014 and has improved in each of his four years at Liverpool, flourishing under Jurgen Klopp as a strong passer and versatile player who can be used in midfield or defense. With that, he has reportedly turned down a number of new contract offers, and Juventus is reportedly in the lead to sign him to a free transfer.

[ MORE: Arsenal should follow Liverpool’s rebuilding example ]

Can is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with anyone from now until the end of the season, but he says that doesn’t mean he will leave.

“My agent is looking after everything but I am here until the summer,” Can said. “I haven’t signed anything with anyone. I am talking with everyone. Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”

The loss of Philippe Coutinho this winter is an obvious blow to the Reds, but an argument could be made that the loss of Can would hurt just as much if not more, as stout defensive midfielders are hard to come by. However, the arrival of Naby Kieta this summer could ease the blow of the German’s potential departure. Should Can stay, partnering with Keita in midfield could prove masterful as Liverpool looks to continue building towards a title challenge. Currently, Can has paired with Giorgino Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks, and the club is on a five-match win streak that has seen them shoot into third place in the Premier League table.