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.

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Neymar reportedly tells Barca teammates he’s off to PSG ]

Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

Vertonghen: “We need to level up” like rest of PL contenders

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Tottenham put up a heck of a title fight in 2016/17 as the club attempted to chase down Premier League champions Chelsea, but Spurs have been inactive this summer as Mauricio Pochettino‘s group gears up for next month.

[ MORE: Striker Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

The London side finished second in the PL a season ago — a record-high for the club during the modern Premier League Era.

[ VIDEO: History of the North London Derby ]

However, Pochettino and Co. have made no moves in the transfer market this summer, while its competitors — Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. — have all made significant roster additions to bolster their lineups.

Defender Jan Vertonghen says that Spurs must compete with the rest of the PL’s elite in the transfer market if the club is to finally realize its goal of finishing atop England’s top flight.

“The way our rivals are strengthening this season, we need to be aware of that and we need to level up as well,” Vertonghen told ESPN FC.

“I’m not saying with new players, but we need to take our levels up and I think we can. I’m the oldest outfield player in the team and I feel very fit. The younger guys can improve even more. It can definitely be our year and we want it to be our year.

“Luckily we almost kept everyone from this year. Obviously the window is not closed yet but if we can keep these guys, we can do the same thing again. It’ll be a bit harder because we play at Wembley! [The pitch] is a lot bigger but the training pitches have already been adapted.

While Spurs certainly benefit from having one of the strongest young groups of players in England, the club’s lack of spending is a bit concerning, especially after its recent loss of Kyle Walker — who joined Manchester City for a record fee.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.