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CONCACAF Champions League Roundup: Champions fall in Panama; Sporting slips at Estelí

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Portland’s 2,500-mile trek from Boston to Guyana did not go unrewarded. On a discolored ground in Providence, Guyana, the Timbers made a resounding CONCACAF Champions League debut, defeating Alpha United, 4-1.

The game played to the expectations that have grown from MLS’s meetings with the regions’ minnows. While trips to Costa Rica, Honduras, and, of course, Mexico can still haunt U.S. and Canadian teams, visits to the regions’ less-established leagues tend to be more forgiving.

Coming off a loss last week to Olimpia, United proved just as accommodating to their MLS guests. Steve Zakuani scored his first of the season in the 18th minute, while Maxmiliano Urruti doubled the advantage in the 34th. Through a wonderful free kick from Barbosa Murilo pulled the home side within one moments before the break, second half goals from Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell gave Portland the lopsided result.

Despite the convincing performance, the Timbers merely stayed on par. The real challenge in Group 5 will be Olimpia, who also have three points after one match. Where the winner of the teams’ head-to-head battles will likely reach the quarterfinals, it’s imperative to get three points from Alpha United.

Club América 6-1 Bayamón FC

Even without Raul Jiménez in tow, Club América remain one of the tournament favorites, a fact they hammered home at a largely empty Estadio Azteca. With goals in the sixth (Moisés Velasco), 12th (Michael Arroyo), 14th (Ventura Alvarado), and 20th (Martín Zuñiga) minutes, Antonio Mohammed’s teamtook advantage of a shaky Adrian Krul, putting the match away before the Puerto Ricans had a chance to settle.

Gil Burón’s goal just before halftime sent América into intermission up 5-0, though Nicholas Walker would pull Bayamón within four on the hour. In stoppage time, Zuñiga’s second of the game make it 6-1 – Bayamón’s second straight five-goal loss.

Real Estelí 1-1 Sporting Kansas City

A potential setback saw MLS’s champions drop points in Nicaragua, failing to take advantage of the same slip from Saprissa a week ago. Now Sporting may need to take four points from the Costa Ricans to guarantee a knockout round return.

Estelí broke through early, with a sixth minute save from Jon Kempin deflecting off midfielder Jorge Claros and in for an own goal. Ten minutes later, Peter Vermes’ side responded, with a free kick buried by Toni making it 1-1.

Estelí would go on to outshoot Sporting 11-5 on the night, prompting Vermes to eventually call on Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer to spark the attack. Ultimately, neither team was able to break through, leaving both sides reason to rue the final score at the Estadio Independencia.

Chorrillo 1-0 Cruz Azul

The upset of the night saw the tournament’s defending champions give Panama’s Chorrillo its first points in Champions League, simultaneously ruining La Maquina’s perfect record (6-0-0) against Panamanian sides. Putting home the rebound of a 70th minute penalty kick, Justin Arboleda authored Chorrillo’s little piece of history, leaving the holders bottom of their group through two matches.

Luis Fernando Tena’s team also slipped up last week, drawing at home to Costa Rica’s Alajuelense. Tuesday’s performance offered more of the same, with the Cementeros allowing the hosts to have the better of play early on.

Though the holders slowly started exerting more control, attempts by Marco Fabián, Fausto Pinto, and Gerrado Torrado failed to come good, leaving Chorrillo within a whistle of their history-making upset.

In the 69th minute, that whistle finally came, putting the pressure on goalkeeper José de Jesús Corona to keep his team even. After saving the initial try, however, Corona couldn’t prevent Arboleda from converting the rebound, leaving Cruz Azul with one point through two matches.

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

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Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Whitecaps acquire U.S. defender Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City

Toronto FC v Orlando City SC
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With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.

[ MORE: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018 ]

The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.

“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”

Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.

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Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.

Report: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen & Mexico
AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.

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According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.

Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.

Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.

ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.

In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.

PL Sunday: Spurs look to regain second against Stoke

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Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.

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Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.

Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.