Brad Davis 3

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.

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton extend unbeaten run in Saturday’s PL play ]

Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Whitecaps acquire U.S. defender Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City

Toronto FC v Orlando City SC
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With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.

[ MORE: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018 ]

The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.

“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”

Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.

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Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.

Report: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen & Mexico
AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.

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According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.

Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.

Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.

ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.

In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.

PL Sunday: Spurs look to regain second against Stoke

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Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.

Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.