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San Jose, Colorado play to their second scoreless draw of the season

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When San Jose visited Colorado two-and-a-half weeks ago, the teams left the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park having combined for as many red cards (one) as shots on target. The 0-0 served as one of the first indications that the diamond formation Pablo Mastroeni had installed in the Rapids’ midfield could send the team in a much more conservative direction.

Tonight in Santa Clara, both teams had a chance to redeem that performance, and by some measures, hey managed to do so. Due in part of San Jose playing more aggressively at home, the teams combined for 11 shots on target, with the Earthquakes nearly claiming an opening goal on three occasions. And with Mastroeni having moved away from the diamond over the last two games, Colorado also played a more open game, with Charles Eloundou and Chris Klute providing width this year’s Rapids had been lacking.

All of which meant nothing at the final whistle. Ninety more minutes, zero more goals, and the Earthquakes and Rapids had played out another scoreless draw. San Jose remains mired near the bottom of the West, their seven points in eight games besting only Chivas USA, while Colorado stays fourth, seven points off league-leading Seattle.

I’ll admit my immediate reaction to this game was “I don’t want to see round three” (Sept. 28, in Colorado). After some time to think about it, these first games feel like two very different, coincidentally 0-0 results. The introductions of Eloundou and Kemani Hill gave the Rapids a completely different look, while San Jose started a new, more balanced midfield (Khari Stephenson and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi as opposed to Sam Cronin and J.J. Koval). Both teams are evolving. There’s no telling what we’ll see in September.

In the interim, Colorado gets a valuable road point, continuing what’s been a strong start. If this team really is evolving, improving as Pablo Mastroeni grows into the head coach’s job, 15 points from nine games will look like a boon come October (particularly since they’ve already played six times within the Western Conference).

For San Jose, the performance is another example of why the team is better than its record (1-3-4). At some point, though, the Earthquakes have to translate their competitiveness on the field into points in the standings. The season’s nearly at the quarter, and while they’re only six points back of a playoff spot, it’s a spot that Galaxy and the Timbers are also on the outside looking in on. The Earthquakes not only have to make up the gap, but they have to outplay three good teams over the next 26 games if they’re to return to the postseason.

The West, as predicted, is hyper-competitive, and while other teams will have spells like San Jose’s, the Earthquakes need to prove theirs is temporary. Form is nice. Points are better.

Argentine star Messi leaves Honduras match with back injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  (L-R) Jose Juan Vazquez #23 of Mexico and Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during a international friendly at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.

The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.

“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.

“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.

Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”

Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.

Hull City secures PL position next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ross Wallace of Sheffield Wednesday make a break during Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.

The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.

After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.

Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.

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UCL FOLLOW LIVE: Lineups as Atleti, Real duel in finale

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, fights for the ball with Atletico Madrid's Tiago Mendes during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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After their devastating defeat two seasons ago, Atletico Madrid looks for revenge and their first UEFA Champions League title on Saturday against Real Madrid.

Milan will be the site for the action, as Zinedine Zidane and Real are seeking their 11th title in the competition and have the opportunity to knock Atleti out in the title match for the second time in three seasons.

To follow live, click here.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Navas, Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Carvajal, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema Subs: Casilla, James, Nacho, Lucas Vasquez, Jese, Isco, Danilo

Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Filipe Luis, Godin, Savic, Juanfran; Gabi, Fernandez, Koke, Saul Niguez; Griezmann, Torres. Subs: Moya, Tiago, Correa, Hernandez, Thomas, Ferreira-Carrasco, Gimenez.

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Atlanta United actively pursuing Mexican duo Guardado, Vela

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 07:  (L-R) Former professional soccer player Carlos Bocanegra, MLS Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, rapper Ludacris, Commissioner of MLS Don Garber, and former professional soccer player Darren Eales attend the MLS Atlanta Launch Event at SOHO on July 7, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta)
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With Atlanta United FC set to make their MLS debut in 2017, the club is reportedly set to make a major splash with one or possibly two Mexican stars.

[ MORE: Agent: Zlatan Ibrahimovic may not join Man United ]

ESPN FC‘s John Sutcliffe reported from the team’s future home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on Friday, saying that the team is targeting both Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Edgar Castillo to replace Timmy Chandler for USMNT ]

Guardado, who currently plays for PSV Eindhoven, has long been a staple of the El Tri midfield, making 124 appearances for the Mexican national team.

While Vela wasn’t included in Mexico’s Copa America Centenario roster, the Real Sociedad striker has every bit of talent you’d want from a future Designated Player, which is likely what either Guardado or Vela would be.

Atlanta currently has three players on their roster. Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tabakis, Junior Burgos and Jeffery Otoo currently round out the squad.

The potential addition(s) of an Andres Guardado or Carlos Vela would prove to be not only big for Atlanta but for MLS as a whole, more so with Vela though. MLS’ growth over recent years has brought young DPs like Sebastian Giovinco and Giovani Dos Santos to Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy, respectively.

Another league addition who is in the prime of their career will only continue to build the league’s reputation, and immediately put Atlanta on the map next season.

Follow @MattReedFutbol