D.C. United's Eddie Johnson scored for the first time since being traded to the club this winter. His 84th minute goal left his team's game with Montréal tied, 1-1. (Photo: AP Photos)

MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 3-0 Toronto FC

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJjIdK5HA4Q]

One game, 100 words (or less): The teams may be next to each other in the Eastern Conference standings, but Wednesday at RFK Stadium, D.C. United and Toronto were worlds apart. Though United generated fewer chances on the night, their play in the final third proved more efficient, with an early score and a strong night from Bill Hamid allowing them to complete a July double over Toronto.

With goals from Eddie Johnson, Chris Rolfe, and Nick Hagglund (own goal), the Black and Red took a convincing 3-0 win from Toronto, closing their gap with Sporting Kansas City atop the Eastern Conference.

Goals:

D.C. United: Johnson 8′, Rolfe 59′, Hagglund (o.g.) 67′
Toronto FC: None.

Three moments that mattered:

8′ – E.J. with No. 4 – This is the type of goal D.C. may have imagined when they committed Designated Player money to Eddie Johnson. On a ball in from the right, Johnson gets in front of newly acquired Warren Creavalle, meeting Perry Kitchen’s cross to finish into the left of goal. Moments after Dominic Oduro missed a chance to open the scoring, D.C. had its opener, the “E.J.” providing more reason to believe he’s heating up.

46′ – Hamid comes up big on Moore – Strong saves on Luke Moore and Oduro make Bill Hamid a big part of United’s first half success, but early in Wednesday’s second half, the D.C. goalkeeper was called on to make his biggest save of the night. Put behind the United defense by Jermain Defoe, Moore had a chance to equalize from six yards Too casual, perhaps not anticipating Hamid would read the play so well, Moore ended up playing the ball into the oncoming keeper, failing to convert what would have been a game-tying goal.

67′ – Own goal ends hope – Nick DeLeon was involved in D.C.’s last two scores, but it was his part in the third that ended Toronto’s hopes. Coming in from the right flank, DeLeon moved through Toronto’s defense before putting a shot on Bendik. Though the Reds’ keeper got a hand on it, rookie Nick Hagglund’s attempted clearance ended up in his own goal, giving D.C. its insurmountable lead.

Lineups:

D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud (Jared Jeffrey 82′), Chris Rolfe (Conor Doyle 74′); Luis Silva (Lewis Neal 69′), Eddie Johnson
Toronto FC: Joe Bendik; Warren Creavalle, Bradley Orr (Daniel Lovitz 65′), Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro (Jonathan Osorio 65′), Collen Warner, Michael Bradley, Jackson; Luke Moore, Jermain Defoe (Gilberto 73′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Toronto may not have another gear – We remember their start, we look at their talent, and we think the Reds can another level, but after the last two performances against United, Toronto doesn’t look like a team ready to compete with the East’s top two.

2. The potential of Eddie Johnson – The numbers still aren’t great, but Johnson’s playing better, and with his early goal against Toronto, he gave D.C. fans reason to think their team can still get better. While you can chalk his opener up to a poor night from Warren Creavalle, Johnson’s value is in a versatility that allows him to take advantage of mismatches across the defense. If he starts converting more of the chances those match ups allow, D.C. won’t have to play out as many close games.

3. All-Star Bill Hamid – When Caleb Porter’s selections were announced, we (read: I) intimated a few goalkeepers were having similar seasons, but Hamid’s selection was a decent reward for a strong D.C. defense. On Wednesday, Hamid flashed a true All-Star’s form, making eight saves while leading United to their 11th win of the season.

Where this leaves them:

  • With 37 points, D.C. is only one point back of Sporting Kansas City in the East. They’re also one point back in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
  • And with the loss, Toronto stays in third place, albeit 11 points back of second place United.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.