At least temporarily, Clint Dempsey is the joint-MLS leader in goals, his hat trick in Portland, Ore., vaulting him to four on the season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Three from Dempsey, two from Chara leave Seattle tied in Portland, 4-4

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Eight goals and a hat trick from the player who has quickly become a focal point of the Portland-Seattle battle made the season’s first meeting between Cascadia rivals an all-time classic, even if the Timbers and their fans left Providence Parks with misgiving about the team’s late collapse. Giving up goals in the 85th and 87th minutes to complete a Clint Dempsey hat trick, the Timbers saw a two-goal lead descend into a 4-4 draw, a result that leaves Caleb Porter’s team winless on the season.

Portland now sits 0-2-3 after five matches, having yet to win or lose at home. Seattle, on the other hand, overcame last week’s late heartbreak against Columbus to inflict some disappointment of their own, with Dempsey’s late conversion from the spot leaving the team 2-2-1 on the season.

Seattle’s Kenny Cooper opened the scoring in the third minute as the Sounders covered their first corner kick, but goals in the ninth and 14th minutes from Diegos Chara and Valeri gave Portland its first lead before the quarter-hour mark. Clint Dempsey’s second goal of the season in the 24th minute allowed Seattle to go into halftime tied, 2-2, but early second half goals from Chara and Maxi Urruti handed the hosts a 4-2 lead.

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At least temporarily, Clint Dempsey is the joint-MLS leader in goals, his hat trick in Portland, Ore., vaulting him to four on the season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

In the 85th minute, a cross from Lamar Neagle saw Obafemi Martins find Clint Dempsey at the edge of the six-yard box, with the U.S. captain’s third goal of the season bringing his team within one. Two minutes later, after DeAndre Yedlin was brought down in the penalty area by Ben Zemanski, Dempsey’s third goal of the afternoon salvaged a point for the Sounders.

Dempsey, who arrived in Seattle in the middle of last season, has become a lightning rod for fans of a team that sat atop the league’s Allocation Order at the time of his arrival. Now the target of Timber fan derision, Dempsey’s three-goal statement marks his first salvo to the opposition support, with Portland’s crowd left stunned after he engineered Seattle’s response.

Seattle was on the board with the first good chance of the match in the minute when a corner from Gonzalo Pineda found Jalil Anibaba unmarked just beyond the far post, 10 yards from the byline. The defenders volley was headed into the right side of goal before Kenny Cooper touched it, but with the former Timber creeping in a the far post, Anibaba’s teammate tapped home the game’s first goal.

Just before the nine-minute-mark, however, an unlikely source brought the Timbers even. On a ball played toward the middle just inside Portland’s attacking third, Chara won possession from Pineda and drove toward goal. Pulling up just outside the penalty area, the Colombian beat Stefan Frei into the left of goal, a soft right hand from the Sounders keep unable to stop the midfielder’s first goal in three years.

Two minutes later, Cooper nearly had his second of the match, drawing a leaping save from former Sounder Andrew Weber that kept the ball from finding his upper-right hand corner. It was a stop that proved especially valuable two minutes later as Portland look its first lead of the season.

source: Getty Images
Diego Valeri’s first goal of the season made it 2-1 on Saturday in Portland, Ore. (Photo credit: Getty Images.)

Off a Chara-forced turnover in the center circle, the Timbers quickly found Darlington Nagbe on the left, who played wide for the oncoming Michael Harrington.  The Portland left back’s pass to Diego Valeri found the Argentine with Anibaba at his back, something that proved irrelevant as the Timbers’ creator turned on a left-footed shot that found the top of Frei’s goal, making it 2-1.

Ten minutes later, the Sounders were back even. A Norberto Paparatto giveaway in his defensive third allowed Cooper to play the ball back in to Osvaldo Alonso, who headed toward the middle of the field for Obafemi Martins. Caught out after the bad giveaway, Portland had nobody to mark Clint Dempsey, who Martins found in the middle of the area for Seattle’s second goal.

Chances for Cooper (who forced another diving stop from Weber), Max Urruti, and Dempsey saw a first half primed for goals end with four, something the changed early in the second. With two goals within 12 minutes of kickoff, Portland had the day’s first two-goal lead.

In the 55th minute, it was Chara again, this time with help from Alvas Powell and Kalif Alhassan. The end product, however, was much the same as his first half goal. Allowed to carry the ball toward the edge of Seattle’s penalty area, Chara again beat Frei into the left of how, his court Major League Soccer goal giving his team their second lead of the day.

Two minute later, Seattle handed Portland a four. After an ill-advised back pass from Cooper, Anibaba had the ball taken off him by Urruti on the edge of his defensive third. The Argentine forward went in alone on goal, with Chad Marshall trying in vain to catch up as the 23-year-old curled his shot inside the right post, giving the Timbers a two-goal lead.

In the 85th minute, after the Timbers seemed destined to claim victory, Dempsey recovered one of Portland’s second half goals, finishing from close range after a buildup down the right found him in front of Weber’s goal.

Two minutes later, Seattle’s unlikely comeback was completed. After a run behind the defense saw Yedlin pulled down by Zemanski in the right of the penalty area, Dempsey finished in the middle of Weber’s goal, his hat trick leaving the Sounders on even footing after the eight-goal shootout.

The result also snaps Seattle’s three-match losing streak to their arch rivals, who had eliminated them from last year’s playoffs. Meanwhile, Portland’s winless run to start the year is at five, with the team’s defense continuing to prove a liability.

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

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With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.