Cahill, Davis, Gonçalves among big fitness questions going into MLS weekend

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The knocks are starting to pile up for Major League Soccer teams entering their eighth weekend of the season, but for four teams in particular, isolated injuries loom large. For Houston, Montréal, New England, and New York, those fitness issues could mean the absence of game-defining talents – players whose include could reverse prolonged slumps or address matchup problems second string players will otherwise have to solve.

Here’s a quick look at the absences that could influence this weekend’s results:

Brad Davis, Houston Dynamo – Davis left at halftime of Houston’s Apr. 5 visit from Dallas having assisted on Ricardo Clark’s goal four minutes earlier. The Dynamo haven’t scored since, a streak that reached 319 minutes after their mid-week loss at New York. Returning home after a three-game road trip, Houston will hope to take advantage of the winless Timbers, but if a right ankle injury keeps the Dynamo captain out of the 18, Dom Kinnear’s team may not be able to exploit that suspect Portland defense.

José Gonçalves, New England Revolution – Jay Heaps’ team missed the 2013 Defender of the Year in Chicago, where Andrew Farrell had trouble containing Quincy Amarikwa. On Saturday, New England welcomes Sporting Kansas City to Gillette, with the tenacity of Dom Dwyer and service of Graham Zusi sure to give its central pairing problems. If Gonçalves’s right quadriceps injury keeps him sidelined for a second straight week (and his return is doubtful), A.J. Soares will have to take command on the myriad of passes Zusi and Sal Zizzo are destined to fire behind the Revolution defense.

Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution – Revs fans don’t need to be reminded that their most creative player’s been missing, but it’s something that gets overlooked when you’re looking at the team from a distance. For example, I didn’t even mention the former Bruin in this weekend’s match reaction. In his absence, Daigo Kobayashi has been fine, and Lee Nguyen’s stepped up, but New England needs to get their puppeteer back in the lineup. Like Gonçalves, he’s unlikely play against Sporting.

Hernan Bernardello, Montréal Impact – Frank Klopas’s winless Impact need all the help they can get, and while their Argentine Designated Player’s yet to have a major impact make a major contribution this season, the ideal version of this team has Bernardello playing a decisive role. At this point, Montréal may need an ideal performance to break into the win column. Right now, Bernardello’s return is questionable.

Tim Cahill, New York Red Bulls – Columbus has a one of the more effective central defense pairings in Major League Soccer, but one thing neither Michael Parkhurst nor Giancarlo Gonzalez offer is size. Get Lloyd Sam behind Waylon Francis, have him hit early crosses for Cahill, and the Red Bulls have a formula for knocking off the Crew. Of everybody on this list, Cahill is most likely to see action on Saturday, though it’s unclear whether he’ll return in midfield or at the expense of Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

[ FOLLOW: Live MLS scores ]

On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET

UCL Playoff Wrap: Liverpool, Sporting CP, CSKA advance to group stage

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It was another memorable European night for Liverpool in front of the Kop at Anfield.

Lifted by three goals in the opening 21 minutes, the Reds cruised to a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim 1899 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League playoff stage Wednesday evening. With the win, Liverpool returns to the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

[ MORE: Champions League scores ]

Sadio Mane set up Emre Can twice and both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino chipped in with goals of their own to lead Liverpool to victory. After Can’s double and Salah’s goal gave Liverpool a three-goal lead, Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann brought Mark Uth off the bench onto the field and he promptly scored in the 28th minute to draw within two.

Firmino again put Liverpool ahead by three goals with a goal into an open net in the 63rd minute. Hoffenheim recorded a consolation goal in the 79th minute through Sandro Wagner but Liverpool was resolute and held on for victory.

Liverpool, and the rest of the winning clubs, will learn their fates for the group stage on Thursday.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Champions League playoff scores:

Slavia Prague 0-0 APOEL (APOEL advances 2-0 on aggregate)

FC Copenhagen 2-1 Qarabag FK (Qarabag advances on away goals, 2-2 on aggregate)

FCSB (Steaua București) 1-5 Sporting CP (Sporting CP advances 5-1 on aggregate)

CSKA Moscow 2-0 BSC Young Boys (CSKA advances on aggregate, 3-0)

VIDEO: A sneak peek of Everton’s Europa League journey – Part 2

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In Part 2 of Everton Unseen, European football returns to Goodison Park as Everton host MFK Ruzomberok in the qualifying round of the Europa League.

Click play on the video below to get a feel for how Goodison Park will be in the second leg of the Europa League in Part 2 of this videos series.

[ MORE: Live Europa League scores

[ WATCH: Part 1 of Everton Unseen ] 

http://www.nbcsports.com/video/everton-unseen-part-2-everton-host-mfk-ruzomberok-europa-league

FIFA to send in emergency team to run Cameroon football

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it is sending in an emergency management team to run the troubled Cameroon football federation.

The panel to be appointed by FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will oversee elections by next March to replace disputed polls in 2015 for the Cameroon federation board.

FIFA’s intervention comes amid speculation Cameroon could be stripped of hosting the next African Cup of Nations in June-July 2019.

CAF President Ahmad this month cast doubt on Cameroon’s ability to prepare for the expanded 24-team tournament.

FIFA says Wednesday it acted after “recent failed attempts … to reconcile the football stakeholders in Cameroon and overcome the current impasse.”