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MLS Roundup: Seattle wins fourth in a row; Three move even atop Eastern Conference

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The uneven nature of Major League Soccer’s opening schedule often makes it difficult for teams to separate themselves from the pack, but after the ninth week of the 2014 season, three teams’ form has created a group of early title favorites. This weekend, Real Salt Lake, the Seattle Sounders, and Sporting Kansas City all found different ways to show why they currently make up that top tier:

  • The Sounders fell behind early against Philadelphia but never let the game leave their grasp. Even though the team’s goals didn’t come until the game’s final 30 minutes, there was little doubly Seattle would overcome its hole.
  • Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, tempted a series of doubts by taking a two-goal deficit into the final 20 minutes against Chicago. The Western Conference champions responded, however, to stay unbeaten.
  • And Sporting Kansas City pulled an SKC special, scoring the first goal before keeping its opponents at arm’s length, with only one moment in Sunday’s first half casting doubt upon the champs’ eventual victory over Columbus.

Particularly with World Cup camps approaching, MLS’s pecking order is bound to change. Through nine weeks, however, three teams are raising the bar. Last year’s conference champions have been joined by the surging Sounders as standard-setters going into the season’s third month.

Here what happened in Week 9:

Toronto FC 1-2 New England Revolution

A tough return for Doneil Henry saw the Canadian international play a major part in both New England goals. Thanks to the defender’s first half giveaway and second half handball, the Revolution were able to claim the franchise’s first victory ever at BMO Field, earning three points that temporarily put Jay Heaps’ team alone at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes

Three goals in the match’s first 20 minutes dug a hole San Jose couldn’t climb out of. Pedro Morales’s early brace and Kekuta Manneh’s opener ended up being too much for Chris Wondolowski’s double to overcome, with the San Jose captain scoring in injury time of each half to leave the visitors within one.

Chicago Fire 2-3 Real Salt Lake

First half goals from Mike Magee and Juan Luis Anangonó allowed Chicago, in search of its first win of the season, to enjoy a two-goal lead for most of the match. Starting with João Plata’s 72nd minute goal, however, the Fire embarked on a collapse that snapped the team’s six-match unbeaten streak, with late goals from Álvaro Saborío and Plata allowing RSL to stay the league’s only undefeated club.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 LA Galaxy

Vicente Sánchez’s clever chip in the 20th minute gave Colorado an early lead over their sluggish visitors, but come the hour-mark, LA had a chance to extend its four-game unbeaten run. For the second time this season, however, Robbie Keane failed to convert a potential equalizer from the spot. Pushing his attempt wide right, LA’s captain relegated his team to its second loss of the year, allowing the Rapids to recover from last week’s loss at Seattle.

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Philadelphia Union

Brad Evans returned to the starting lineup with an early own goal, a score that allowed the Union to carry a one-goal edge into the second half. Obafemi Martins, however, took Seattle’s first step toward a fourth straight win, scoring in the 61st minute. When Chad Marshall headed home the winner from a 84th minute corner, the Sounders were back on top of the Western Conference.

Portland Timbers 3-2 D.C. United

Bookend dramatics allowed the Timbers to claim their first victory of the season. Gastón Fernández, 34 seconds into the game, scored Portland’s opener, a goal that was eventually pulled back by Davy Arnaud. A converted corner and an own goal from Futty Danso left the teams tied at two going into injury time, where Maxi Urutti’s 94th minute winner got Portland into the win column.

Chivas USA 1-4 Houston Dynamo

Erick Torres’s early goal from the spot went for naught as Houston piled on four goals over the ensuing hour, the last of which came from the spot after Dan Kennedy’s understudy, Tim Melia, was sent off. Winning for the first time since mid-March, Houston also broke a 512-minute goalless drought from open play. Chivas USA is winless in eight.

FC Dallas 0-1 New York Red Bulls

Je-Vaughn Watson’s 10th minute red card seemed to doom Dallas, but over the next hour, the home side generated the better chances. In the 71st minute, however, a long through ball from Dax McCarty put Thierry Henry behind the Dallas defense, where the Red Bulls playmaker set up Bradley Wright-Phillips’ sixth goal of the season.

Sporting Kansas City 2-0 Columbus Crew

Jacob Peterson put the home side up after 10 minutes, but a header from Bernardo Añor that was inches from crossing the line nearly brought Columbus back before halftime. In the second, Columbus’s closest chance was whistled dead after Jairo Arrieta was judged offside, with a late goal Claudio Bieler providing insurance. Sporting is back on top of the Eastern Conference.

Video: City clinical on set piece to double lead

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Manchester City has lived up to the billing early on in the Pep Guardiola era, and the first half of Sunday’s match against West Ham has been everything the Spaniard could hope for.

After taking an early lead through Raheem Sterling after seven minutes, Fernandinho doubled the City lead in the 18th minute after a stellar set piece situation.

Kevin De Bruyne‘s stepped up for a free kick before the Belgian curled his effort directly into the path of Fernandinho, who headed home the hosts for the 2-0 lead.

Even though West Ham is understandably undermanned with Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll and others, City is putting on a show right now at the Etihad.

West Brom 0-0 Middlesbrough: Guzan holds Baggies scoreless

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Cristhian Stuani of Middlesbrough takes on Brendan Galloway and Claudio Yacob (R) of West Bromwich Albion  during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough at The Hawthorns on August 28, 2016 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t the most attractive perfromance all around but Middlesbrough remained perfect on Sunday after finishing level in their 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion from The Hawthorns.

Brad Guzan earned his second start in net on Sunday since joining Middlesbrough, and the U.S. Men’s National Team keeper was active early on, making two key saves in the first half to keep the match scoreless.

Despite Boro’s success in possession, the team lacked a final touch early on and failed to register a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes. West Brom was successful in limiting Alvaro Negredo’s touches early on, which prevented the road side from getting any sort of offensive rhythm.

West Brom continued to press for the opener in the second stanza, however, the home side’s remained limited and largely unthreatening. Craig Dawson had an opportunity to open the scoring in the 63rd minute with a header from close range, but the attempt missed wide of net after Matt Phillips played in the service.

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. West Ham (Lineups, Live Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City battles with Aaron Cresswell of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola remains perfect in his early run in the Premier League and looks to continue that trend on Sunday as Manchester City hosts a difficult West Ham United side at 11 a.m. E.T. from the Etihad Stadium on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Joe Hart has been the talking point for weeks now at City, but with the new signing of Claudio Bravo finalized earlier this week the attention turns to whether or not the Englishman will be offloaded before the transfer window closes next week.

WATCH LIVE: Manchester City vs. Sunderland live online

West Ham needed a late winner a week ago to edge Bournemouth at home, however, Slaven Bilic‘s side has battled hard in both of their fixtures to start the season.

The Hammers will be extremely undermanned on Sunday as Dimitri Payet headlines the group of players that haven’t travelled with the team to Manchester. Striker Andy Carroll won’t be at the Etihad either, leaving West Ham lacking with depth up front.

Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyate will play key roles for the Hammers as they look to fill the voids left by Payet and Carroll.

Meanwhile, City will keep Will Caballero in net while Bravo finishes his transition into the squad. Nolito also gets the start alongside Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero up front, which will give West Ham fits defensively.

LINEUPS

Manchester City – Caballero, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Clichy, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Nolito, Aguero.
Bench – Hart, Fernando, Nasri, Kolarov, Delph, Iheanacho, Navas.

West Ham – Adrián, Ogbonna, Reid, Masuaku, Collins, Noble, Kouyate, Antonio, Tore, Enner Valencia, Fletcher.
Bench – Randolph, Byrum, Burke, Oxford, Obiang, Lanzini, Calleri.

Serie A roundup: Khedira earns Juventus three points as Napoli defeats AC Milan

ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 27:  Sami Khedira #6 with his teammates of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and Juventus FC at Stadio Olimpico on August 27, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Sami Khedira hasn’t found the field much since moving to Juventus two summers ago, but when he does, he has a striker’s eye.

The German bagged his eighth goal for Juventus in just his 28th appearance as the Italian giants went on the road and defeated Lazio 1-0.

A poor clear attempt by Lucas Biglia saw Paulo Dybala’s lofted ball over the top fall to Khedira, and he skittered the ball across the face of goal into the far corner. The win is the second of the year for Juventus after they took down Fiorentina in their opening match.

There was a goal-fest at Stadio San Paolo as Napoli defeated AC Milan 4-2 braces from Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon. Milik’s came in the first-half, with the opener in 18th minute, a lucky bounce as Dries Mertens’ shot clattered off the post and fell in Milik’s lap. He doubled Napoli’s lead in the 33rd minute with a beautiful header into the far corner, out-jumping Juraj Kucka.

The second half saw a flurry of action. A pair of goals four minutes apart saw Milan tie things up as M’baye Niang and Suso brought them level. Then, the yellow cards came flying. As a result, Kucka and Niang were both sent off for second cautions. Jose Callejon took advantage, bagging his first in the 74th and doubling his tally in stoppage time in a ridiculous bit of play that saw Alessio Romagnoli try to swat Mertens’ cross away from the goal line…yes, as in with his hands.

It’s a wonder Romagnoli wasn’t sent off for his actions. Napoli