MLS snapshot: Vancouver beat Sporting KC, Chicago down New York

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On Sunday night two games kicked off at 8 p.m. ET with all four teams in the playoff hunt as the second half of the season has arrived.

At BC Place Vancouver hosted reigning MLS champion Sporting KC in what was a hugely eventful game, especially the first half, while Eastern foes Chicago and New York squared off in the Windy City with both teams well in the playoff hunt and the Fire coming out on top.

[RELATED: MLS on NBC schedule]

Lets get to recapping the Sunday night action in MLS, here’s our snapshot of both games.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 Sporting Kansas City

Early on it was all Vancouver as the ‘Caps put SKC under pressure at BC Place. That paid dividends in the 17th minute as a bizarre own goal put the hosts 1-0 up. Pedro Morales clipped a long ball towards the box and Sporting’s Igor Juliao headed the ball back towards where he thought goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was… but he was way off his line and the ball looped into the empty night for to put the ‘Caps ahead. Darren Mattocks added a second for the Whitecaps before half time as the Jamaican forward scored his sixth goal of the season. A bad giveaway from U.S. national team center back Matt Besler saw Morales grab the ball and run at SKC’s defense before slotting in Mattocks to steer the ball home. At half time Jon Kempin (making his MLS debut) replaced Gruenebaum  in goal for KC as Peter Vermes made the unusual decision to pull his ‘keeper. In the second half SKC pushed to get back into the game but Vancouver could have made it 3-0 but Mattocks’ PK was saved by substitute ‘keeper Kempin. Regardless the win was Vancouver’s first victory since June 5 after four-straight draws, while SKC remain top of the Eastern Conference despite their first defeat in 10.

Chicago Fire 1-0 New York Red Bulls

In a first half that ebbed and flowed at Toyota Park, Chicago took the lead on a disputed penalty kick. Ambroise Oyongo Bitolo seemed to drag Quincy Amarikwa to the ground and the PK was awarded despite New York’s protests. Former Red Bull Mike Magee stepped up to take the spot kick but Luis Robles saved his penalty down low, however the rebound rolled back to Magee and he stroked the ball home for the opener. That was Magee’s ninth goal of the season and was also the ninth penalty kick New York have conceded this season. In the second half Chicago kept pressing and Magee’s ball to the back post was almost turned home by Amarikwa but his effort was cleared on the line. New York’s offense tried to click into place and MLS top scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips was thwarted by Sean Johnson with a fine reflex stop at the near post inside the final 25 minutes. Late on both teams flattered to deceive as Chicago looked dangerous on the counter but New York’s stars fired a blank for the first time in 11 games. The Fire recorded their first win in five to put them up to eighth spot and right back in the hunt for a playoff place in the East. New York stay fourth but are just three points ahead of Chicago with a whole host of teams breathing down their necks.

Report: Wenger ready to pay Ozil, Sanchez club record deals

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Arsenal knows its departure from the UEFA Champions League has to be a short one, and that keeping its two best attackers around is imperative.

That’s why Arsene Wenger is preparing to make Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the top paid players in Arsenal history, according to a report from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson.

The contract status of both players has been a touchy one this season, and Sanchez especially has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (including London neighbors Chelsea).

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

But perhaps the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Chelsea has Ozil and Sanchez feeling good vibes about the Emirates Stadium set, and Arsenal is ready to pounce. According to the report:

Wenger has told the board that he thinks he can win the Premier League if this group stays together and is supplemented by no more than two or three key additions. Ozil is understood already to have been offered more than £250,000 a week and the club are ready to go to around £280,000 for both him and Sanchez.

The Gunners need both players healthy and happy heading into next season, and appropriate additions as well (A top striker is a must. Again). Wage structure is important, but Arsenal will have a blessing in disguise if another player can make a legit case he deserves to be paid like Ozil and Sanchez any time soon.

West Ham, Everton, and the superstar striker’s need for the Champions League

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Come up with a list of active elite level strikers, and it’s likely to be a short one filled with names from UEFA Champions League clubs.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Harry Kane, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Rarely do names like these move to a non-UCL club while in their prime, and it’s just as uncommon to see them stay at clubs which have failed to qualify for the UCL.

The money, the prestige, the endorsements; All are amplified by the world stage. Given the massive import of their domestic stage and spotlight, Premier League sides have bucked this trend on occasion — see Romelu Lukaku — but it’s the exception to the rule.

That’s what puts an ambitious club like West Ham United between a rock and a hard place. The Irons have been vocal about their desires to bring in a top-end striker, and it’s likely they’d be happy to spend what it takes to attract Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, or Cavani to town.

Lyon reportedly rejected a $45 million bid for Lacazette last season, admitting that ultimately the player’s desires would determine his future. Higuain, too, was linked to chairman David Gold’s wallet before moving to Juventus. Carlos Bacca also saw his future connected to the Irons.

Instead, Gold landed Andre Ayew from Swansea, and had to hope Andy Carroll could stay healthy or Enner Valencia would deliver. Not a striker, Dimitri Payet apparently decided to skip town soon after West Ham’s Europa League exit at the hands of Astra Giurgiu.

Now it’s Kelechi Iheanacho being linked to the London Stadium, another hopeful swing from the Irons that points a strong finger at the problem: West Ham can be as ambitious as it likes, but it’s going to need a miracle to pull an elite striker to London without European football.

And it shouldn’t happen, but what if Everton is bumped from the UEL in the third qualifying round or playoff next year? Will Lukaku follow Payet’s lead and sink another team from joining the discussion? Though an argument can be made it’s better for Everton to lose those summer games, the Toffees very much need to succeed in the UEL qualifying and also show signs of strength in the early PL docket. That’s the unforgiving life of sitting on the outskirts of the powerful tier.

Every team at every level is searching for the next elite striker. Some, like West Ham, will need to luck into a young buck on the rise or a flawed striker finding his potential. And how do they hold onto that player, one who will have alerted the big boys to his arrival, without qualifying for Europe? It’s improbable.

The ability of teams like Chelsea and Liverpool to compete for a European slot in the PL standings thanks to missing out on the UCL the year before signals hope for clubs like Everton and West Ham. And five Premier League sides competing in the UCL this year could extend an invitation to stay longer in the Top Seven discussion for sides like Southampton and Leicester City, too.

So this summer’s striker captures are huge for Slaven Bilic and David Gold. This is a window the league’s “next group” won’t have open annually, and West Ham’s hopes of barging into the discussion again hinge on who shows up by August.

Toure reportedly set for another year with Man City

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Never say never.

Yaya Toure looks like his season-long peace with Pep Guardiola will stretch into a new season, with Toure’s combustible agent admitting talks with Manchester City regarding a new contract.

Dimitri Seluk is among the worst agents on Earth Toure’s agent, and said, “We are talking. We will see what happens but City is a club that is in Yaya’s heart.”

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

But Seluk has not been in City’s heart, having made numerous poor decisions on when to open his mouth, deepening a rift between Toure and Guardiola that kept the player off the pitch for some time. Earlier this Spring, Seluk also suggested that Toure could join Manchester United.

So, yeah, smart guy. Hates microphones and publicity.

Toure turned 34 this month, and became a fixture for Guardiola once he broke into the lineup. The midfielder made nine-straight starts around the turn of the calendar, scoring five goals in the Premier League.

Wolfsburg holds off Braunschweig with Vieirinha blast (video)

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Outworked and outperformed in the first half of their playoff second leg at Eintracht Braunschweig, Wolfsburg needed a wake-up call to steady its hopes of staying in the Bundesliga.

That came off the boot of longtime right back Vieirinha, as the Portuguese veteran ran onto a rebound and fired a 17-yard arrow into the goal to boost Wolfsburg aggregate lead to 2-0.

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

That would mean the 2.Bundesliga hosts would need three goals to give the second tier a third promotion this season. An 82nd minute red card to Braunschweig’s Maximilian Sauer effectively ended those far-off dreams.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt were relegated in the season, and Stuttgart and Hannover were promoted from 2.Bundesliga.