Game On: Lineups & more as Ecuador and Honduras look for bounce-backs to stay alive in Group E

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With France emphatically staking its claim to the top spot in Group E, the fight continues for the second spot into the knockout round.

Honduras and Ecuador both fell in their first round matchups – albeit in very different fashions – and with Switzerland falling hard, there is an opening for either of these sides to try and gazump the seeded team.

The Hondurans are the only CONCACAF team without a win, let alone a point, and could complete an outstanding group stage start for the federation with a win over a South American side.

Ecuador, however, will be favored in this match as they nearly kept up with the seeded Swiss in their opener.

[ MORE: France destroys Switzerland | Swiss pip Ecuador at death ]
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LINEUPS:

Ecuador – Dominguez; Guagua, Erazo, Paredes, Ayovi; Noboa, Minda, Montero, Valencia; Caicedo, Valencia.

Honduras – Valladares; Figueroa, Benardez, Izaguirre, Beckeles; Garcia, Espinoza, Garrido, Claros; Bengston, Costly.

Talking points:

1. Can Honduras shed their weakest link status? As mentioned above, the Hondurans are the only CONCACAF team without a win, and should that change, they would add themselves to the surprising start Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States have contributed to this World Cup.

2. How muddy does Group E get? A win for either of these sides gives Switzerland real concern, and could set up a do-or-die scenario in the final round. Having their goal difference shattered by France, either of these sides tonight could jump on the opportunity to pressure the Swiss and get themselves into contention for the knockout stage. Even a draw would suit either side, requiring Switzerland to get points its final game with Honduras to move through.

Expectations: Ecuador proved they have attacking power against Switzerland, as well as the quality needed to get past a side like Honduras. Los Catrachos looked to be struggling against France, although we now know that’s not saying much after what happened to the Swiss. If they don’t lose a man to a red card early like last time out, they could turn some heads. This is a statement game for Honduras to show the world what they’re really made of after a throw-away first time out.

One blogger’s prediction: This is a tough game to pick, without knowing truly what Honduras is made of. Riding the CONCACAF wave, they could get a point out of this one or even more, and for lack of a better option, we’ll stick with Los Catrachos to put CONCACAF at an all-time high with a 2-1 win.

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.