Chicago hopes Razvan Cocis can add punch to team’s midfield

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Fifty international appearances for Romania is nothing to sneeze at. Add a résumé that includes time with Lokomotiv Moscow, and the Chicago Fire’s new midfielder looks like a promising addition. Ravan Cocis maybe 31, and the Fire may be his seventh club in five years, but based on his track record, there’s reason to think he can have an impact.

But as so many MLS clubs have discovered, track record is one thing, actual performance is another. Having spent the last year with Hoverla Ozhhorod near the bottom of the Ukranian Premier League, odds are we won’t see much insight into what Cocis has to offer. Even if we did, the same, timeless question would remain: How will he adjust to Major League Soccer? Until he steps on the field, head coach Frank Yallop’s intuition is our best indicator.

What we do know is the role he’ll be asked to fill. In Chicago’s 4-4-2 formation, Jeff Larentowicz is a lock to play defensive midfield, meaning anybody brought into the middle will be asked to provide the link to forward Mike Magee, playing in support of Quincy Amarikwa.

So far this year, Alex, Benji Joya, Matt Watson and Chris Ritter have had their chance. Now, it’s Cocis’s turn, with Yallop seeing the Romanian as Larentowicz’s attacking complement.

From the Fire’s website:

“That’s the spot where he’s most comfortable,” Yallop said. “He’s a bit more attack-minded than Jeff. We’ll hope to get him forward, get in the box and have him finish chances. He likes to get forward and force the play but if we need to, he’s versatile enough to move around as a second forward or out on the wings.”

If Cocis is seen as somebody who can “finish chances,” then his past goal scoring becomes more telling. Unfortunately, that story isn’t a positive one. Whereas the midfielder was scoring around two-in-five at the peak of his career (winning titles in Moldova with Sheriff Tiraspol, eight years ago), his proaction has waned in recent seasons, at higher levels. Since leaving Sheriff, Cocis has 18 goals in 129 games during stops in Russia, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.

Production waning? League-and club-level beginning to recede? All while a player’s entering the last phase of his career? It’s not exactly a résumé to get excited about, particularly given the fate of Chicago’s other recent imports. Then again, you could have made similar observations about Seattle’s Gonzalo Pineda. He’s become a great complementary piece of the Sounders.

If Cocis works, the Fire may have what they need to close the four-point game between themselves and fifth place New England. If it doesn’t, fans may be left asking why the team didn’t add depth in attack or defense. Or, why they didn’t target a player who had been producing more at a higher levels.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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EFL Cup Rewind: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET