PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Montréal’s Jack McInerney

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Not all Players of the Week are created equal. Some rounds you get a Clint Dempsey hat trick delivered on a platter. Other weeks you’re left holding slides to the sun trying to see the difference between stars.

The return of Major League Soccer presented that challenge. Coming back after two weeks off, MLS gave us a couple of multi-goal performances (Montréal’s Jack McInerney; Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux), while Dillon Powers gave another glimpse of his bright present and future. Gyasi Zardes was on the end of multiple chances in Palo Alto, Seattle’s midfield duo (Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda) were both strong, and Erick Torres … what more can se say about Cubo Torres?

Ultimately, there wasn’t a clear front-runner for this week’s honor, which is when the little things matter more. For example, say you not only scored twice, helped your team to a win, and set up a couple of chances (or, near-chances), but one of the goals you scored had no business going in. With one inspired moment, you took a pedestrian play and changed the scoreboard, giving your time vital breathing room.

Consider that Jack McInerney’s tiebreaker. His first goal? That’s what forwards are supported to do, especially when opposing defenses don’t both picking them up. Running onto Eric Miller’s first half cross, the Impact forward headed Montréal in front against visiting Houston.

In the second half, though? McInerney had no right scoring, but finding a moment’s inspiration, the former Union striker turned his back on goal to get his foot to the ball, his touch sending an unlikely shot looping inside Tally Hall’s right post, doubling the Impact’s lead:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Du5wLUIl8]

Did he mean to do it? Of course. That doesn’t mean he’ll ever be able to do it again, or it was the right choice to begin with. But sometimes distinguishing yourself from the competition means being foolish enough to see the absurd as possible. And every time you watch that Jack McInerney goal, you can’t help but think it’s a little absurd.

What’s the phrase: Crazy like a fox? To paraphrase Napoleon, sometimes the fox is a lion, and on Sunday, Jack McInerney was the king of Stade Saputo. With two goals against the Dynamo, the 21-year-old not only helped his team to a 3-0 victory, he won our Player of the Week honor.

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Nice-Napoli headlines action

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With Celtic (just about) booking their spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday, four more teams will join them.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Napoli, Olympiacos, Sevilla and Hapoel Be’er Sheva all have narrow leads heading into the second legs which sets things up rather nicely for the winner takes all second legs. Olympiacos and Be’er Sheva will be feeling particularly nervous after conceding at home in the first leg.

On Wednesday five more ties takes place across Europe with Liverpool looking to book their spot in the UCL group stage against Hoffenheim.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all four matches.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff second legs

Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Astana 4-3 Celtic (Celtic advance 8-4 on aggregate)
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel Be’er Sheva lead 2-1 on aggregate)

LIVE – Premier League clubs enter League Cup

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Seven Premier League teams enter the League Cup second round on Tuesday with plenty of potential upsets lined up.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

All 13 PL clubs (six more are in action on Wednesday) face teams from the lower leagues with the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Swansea City all on upset alert.

U.S. national team players to watch out for include Lynden Gooch who starts for Sunderland and Emerson Hyndman who is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Below is the schedule for the League Cup games on Tuesday with all games to kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 2:30pm
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
QPR vs. Brentford
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Doncaster vs. Hull City
Grimsby Town vs. Derby County
Brighton vs. Barnet
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Watford vs. Bristol City
MK Dons vs. Swansea City
Reading vs. Millwall – 3pm
Bolton vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 3pm

Celtic qualify for UEFA Champions League group stage

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Celtic survived a scare in Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second season on the trot.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Brendan Rodgers‘ side beat FC Astana 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff last week at Celtic Park but the trip to Kazakhstan proved much trickier with Astana leading 4-1 late in the game which had pulled the score back to 6-4 on aggregate.

However, Scott Sinclair had scored a priceless away goal to make it 1-1 at half time and despite a late flurry of goals for the hosts Olivier Ntcham scored a deflected effort and Leigh Griffiths wrapped things up late on as Celtic lost 4-3 on the night but went through 8-4 on aggregate.

Last season the Scottish champions went out in the UCL group stage after being drawn with Manchester City, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time around.

Premier League clubs on League Cup upset alert

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The second round of the League Cup (known as the Carabao Cup in 2017-18 for sponsorship reasons) kicks off on Tuesday with 13 Premier League clubs in action.

[ MORE: League Cup scores live ]

All 13 have been drawn against lower-league opposition and those klaxons you can hear signify upset alerts.

Below is a look at how each Premier League club will get on as they enter the competition on Tuesday and Wednesday with a ranking on each game out of 10, with 10 being the most likely for an upset to occur.

Remember: the seven PL teams in European competition will enter the League Cup in the third round.


Upset alert ranking for PL clubs

Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 8/10
Brighton vs. Barnet – 4/10
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom – 7/10
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City – 6/10
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth – 7/10
Watford vs. Bristol City – 5/10
MK Dons vs. Swansea City – 5/10

Wednesday
Newcastle United vs. Nottingham Forest – 6/10
Southampton vs. Wolves – 7/10
Huddersfield Town vs. Rotherham United – 7/10
Cheltenham vs. West Ham United – 8/10
Stoke City vs. Rochdale – 6/10
Blackburn Rovers vs. Burnley – 6/10