It was a hugely disappointing defeat for Steven Gerrard and Liverpool.

Gerrard deployed deeper to boost Liverpool’s Champions League hopes

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Liverpool host Aston Villa in Saturday’s late Premier League kickoff, with a win against the suffering Birmingham side almost a certainty. Those three points will be necessary to keep Everton and Tottenham from sneaking into fourth, with the sides a point and two points behind the Reds, respectively.

With Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea filling the top three spots in the Premier League, Brendan Rodgers knows it will be difficult to gain ground – but the Liverpool manager is not about to give up hope of playing in next year’s Champions League. To better his side’s chances, Rodgers has decided to shift club captain Steven Gerrard into a deeper midfield role, allowing him greater opportunities to orchestrate the game and control its flow.

Cynics might believe this is simply a move to extend the 33 year old’s playing career, but Rodgers insists he’s taking Gerrard’s playing style into account: “It’s not as simple as putting him back into that role because he’s Steven Gerrard; it’s because I think he’s got the qualities to play and operate in that position at a very high level.”

And with Daniel Sturridge and, of course, Luis Suárez racking up the goals for Liverpool, Gerrard doesn’t need to expend as much energy getting forward and trying to score. Instead, Rodgers will foster the captain’s other traits, looking to model him after Serie A stars Andrea Pirlo, who is 34, and Javier Zanetti, aged 40. From his deeper role, Gerrard will have better opportunities to coordinate his side, picking out passes to launch attacks while doing defensive work to break up opposition play.

Having their best players on the pitch will undoubtedly help Liverpool secure a Champions League position. But there’s no denying this move was made to help prolong Gerrard’s career as well. Does it matter? Of course not. The midfielder is still a quality player, and if changing his position both keeps the captain at his club longer and helps strengthen the side, it matters little what the main motivation is.

You decide: Liverpool face Villa at 12:30 p.m. ET. Catch it live on NBC, or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-1 Los Angeles Galaxy

Robbie Keane
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Los Angeles Galaxy became the second team in the Western Conference to clinch a berth in the playoffs following a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders. A terrible mistake from Seattle defender Zach Scott led to an easy goal for Robbie Keane, and it looked like that would be the winner until deep into stoppage time. In the 93rd minute, Chad Barrett got his knee on a corner kick to save a draw for Seattle, although the point was enough for LA. The Galaxy join FC Dallas as the two Western Conference teams headed to the postseason.

[ RELATED: Who will take over as Liverpool manager? ]

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Robbie Keane capitalizes on Seattle’s mistake — Zach Scott misplayed a ball across the Sounders’ back line, as Robbie Keane intercepted the pass and finished one of the easiest goals he’s going to score. A true striker’s goal, Keane doesn’t miss ones like this.

64′ — Steven Gerrard denied by the woodwork — Los Angeles nearly made it 2-0 right after the hour mark, but Steven Gerrard was just inches off. Gerrard rose up to meet a corner kick from Juninho, but his header took a deflection and hit the crossbar before being cleared out of the box by Seattle.

90’+3′ — Chad Barrett finds a late, late equalizer — Just when it looked like LA was going to leave Seattle with a win, Chad Barrett stole a point for the Sounders. Marco Pappa whipped in a corner kick to the near post, which was flicked on by Brad Evans. Barrett surged into the box and got a knee on the ball as the match ended in a draw.

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

Man of the match: Steven Gerrard

Goalscorers: Keane (36′), Barrett (90’+3′)

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

SANDY UT - MARCH 14: Olmes Garcia #13 of Real Salt Lake celebrates his goal during their game against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 14, 2015 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.

[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.

33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.

43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.

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

Man of the match: Luke Mulholland

Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)