Bradley, short-handed Toronto give Columbus loss number one (video)

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Major League Soccer’s final perfect side has fallen, with a hamstrung Toronto FC overcoming the absences of Jermain Defoe, Jonathan Osorio, and Steven Caldwell to take a somewhat surprising 2-0 result out of Columbus. Then again, with Michael Bradley in tow, perhaps the result shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The U.S. international, coming off a big night on Wednesday against Mexico, is starting to make the league his own, helping his team overcome its slew of absences to claim its third win of the season.

Granted, his team did take some its lumps last Saturday at Real Salt Lake, but quietly, Bradley was still very good at Rio Tinto. This week, against a second straight tough challenge, Bradley took matters into his own hands early, going five-hole in the 11th minute on Steve Clark for his first goal since returning to Major League Soccer.

From there forward, the match reportedly played out as you would expect a Crew-TFC game where the Reds claim an early goal. The Crew dominated possession but often saw a Bradley-led midfield create chances and get into transition. As the game went on and Toronto became more conservative, Columbus was able to push its guest toward its own goal, yet Júlio César was still relatively untested. Despite some late pressure, a punch on a Bernardo Añor direct kick may have been the Brazilian’s biggest test of the match.

Late, after Ryan Nelsen had brought on reinforcements, TFC sprung the counter that sealed the game. Set up by Álvaro Rey, Issey Nakajima-Farran scored his first Major League Soccer goal in the 85th minute, giving the Reds their 2-0 result.

Given how these teams matched up and who was missing for Toronto, the result is a bit of an eye-opener. Columbus should have been expected to use their numbers and skill in midfield to take a better, earlier control of play. But in the rare case early goals don’t change matches, great players do. On Saturday, Toronto had both.

They also had a steady performance from their understudies in central defense. With Caldwell and Doniel Henry both out, Bradley Orr and rookie Nick Hagglund started in the middle, levying Toronto with a potential weakness. But that weakness never materialized. Instead, one week after conceding three times in Utah, Toronto kept its second clean sheet of the year, going joint-top of the Eastern Conference in the process.

MLS Playoff bracket, dates set: Chicago, Vancouver host Tues.

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Major League Soccer’s playoff bracket is set. Our staff predictions are coming Tuesday before the first round match-ups, but here’s what we’ll be watching…

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The chase begins with Chicago and the Red Bulls, and San Jose heading to Vancouver. The Quakes drew the ‘Caps just over a week ago, on Oct. 15.

First round
(E3) Chicago vs. (E6) New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(W3) Vancouver vs. (W6) San Jose — 10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(E4) Atlanta vs. (E5) Columbus — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
(W4) Houston vs. (W5) Sporting KC — 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Conference semifinals
(W1) Portland vs.  San Jose, Houston, or Sporting KC
(W2) Seattle vs. Houston, Sporting KC, or Vancouver
(E1) Toronto vs. New York Red Bulls, Atlanta, or Columbus
(E2) New York City vs. Atlanta, Columbus, or Chicago

Conference finals
Eastern Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 or 29
Western Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 30

MLS Cup Final
At finalist with best record — 4 p.m. ET Dec. 9

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Who will replace Koeman at Everton?

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Where will Everton turn in search of their next manager?

U23s coach David Unsworth is the front-runner to take over, according to several betting sites — not that we’d partake in such madness — and the 44-year-old boasts 312 career appaearances for the Toffees.

[ MORE: Everton sacks Ronald Koeman ]

As for who else could be in frame for the gig, there are names (quite) familiar and new.

David Moyes — This one is an eyebrow-raiser, as Moyes has had little if any success since leaving Everton and ended his time at Sunderland with a sexist takedown of a journalist. But the 54-year-old Scot spent more than 11 years at Everton before leaving for Manchester United, and it’s not like the Toffees wanted him to skip town. He was thrice League Manager of the Year at Goodison Park.

Sean Dyche — The Burnley boss has overachieved time and again at Turf Moor, and the Clarets are one of the smallest outfits the Premier League has ever seen. A move to Everton could be a big and safe enough step to warrant his affection.

Carlo Ancelotti — He’s said he’s not returning to a manager’s seat this season, but the Italian may relish the chance to take a skillful team and organize it into its rightful potential. And we think he’s do a magnificent job.

Chris Coleman — He’s waffled on staying in his position at Wales, and the club’s absence from this summer’s World Cup must have him eyeing the club scene. He’s hasn’t led a club since 2012, having led AEL, Coventry City, Real Sociedad, and Fulham.

Phil Neville — The Manchester United and Everton playing legend doesn’t have first chair experience, but may be able to rally the troops. His latest stint was as an assistant in brother Gary’s tough, short campaign at Valencia.

Although… his recent prediction record isn’t hot.

Longshots: Mikel Arteta, Luis Enrique, Eddie Howe, Thomas Tuchel, Sam Allardyce, Manuel Pellegrini, Frank De Boer.

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Three seriously injured, 120 detained in Bruges hooligan riot

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BRUSSELS (AP) Authorities are investigating a hooligan riot which seriously injured three people and forced Brugge police to detain 120 following the match between Club Brugge and Antwerp.

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Local police chief Dirk Van Nuffel says one policeman was among the seriously wounded as authorities sought to contain a brawl between Belgian fans reinforced by others who had come from the Netherlands.

By Monday morning all were released but investigators were still seeking to see who was at the core of the fighting. Van Nuffel says such hooligan fighting “hadn’t been seen for years.”

Everton fires Ronald Koeman

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A 5-2 home loss versus Arsenal sent Everton into the Premier League drop zone, and that’s apparently a bridge too far for the Toffees when it comes to their managerial position.

Ronald Koeman is out at Goodison Park.

[ MORE: Who will replace him? ]

Everton sits 18th in the Premier League with eight points, it’s minus-11 goal differential second-worst in the top flight. Its 18 goals conceded are third-worst, and only three clubs have scored fewer goals than its seven.

The Toffees won two rounds in the Europa League, beating Ružomberok and Hajduk Split, but have lost to Atalanta and Lyon while drawing Apollon Limassol in Group E play.

Everton faces Chelsea in League Cup play on Wednesday before a critical early season match at Leicester City on Sunday.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

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