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MLS 2017 Western Conference preview

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The new Major League Soccer season is approaching fast.

Like, it starts this Friday fast.

[ MORE: MLS 2017 season previews

With that in mind it’s time to take a closer look at all 11 teams in the Western Conference as new boys Minnesota United boost the ranks of the “power conference” which provided six of the top nine teams in MLS in 2016.

[ MORE: MLS 2017 schedule

Below is a what you need to know about each team heading into the 2017 campaign.


Colorado Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 23: Tim Howard #1 of the Colorado Rapids stands in the goal against the FC Dallas at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 23, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)


Record in 2016:
15-6-13 – 2nd in MLS’ Western Conference, 2nd overall in MLS (Knocked out in MLS Cup Conference finals)
Offseason evaluation:
It was a case of not having too much to do after such a successful season. Jermaine Jones leaving was a blow, however bringing in Alan Gordon and talented youngster Bismark Adjei-Boateng will bolster the squad. The Rapids are aiming for another solid season led by a brutish defense and the goals of Kevin Doyle and Shkelzen Gashi. 
Key player:
Tim Howard – Struggling with injury over the offseason, Howard may miss the first few weeks. That said, his presence for an entire campaign should have a huge impact on Colorado’s chances of making another deep run in the playoffs.
Coach:
Pablo Mastreoni – A wonderful season in 2016 for Mastreoni’s men as he took the Rapids from shambles in 2015 to the brink of the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. Just keep on trucking. Things are heading in the right direction in Commerce City, Colo. 
Vague 2017 prediction:
Rapids will start the season well off the back of their 2016 success, then fade badly to just hang onto a playoff spot.


FC Dallas

FC Dallas, 2016 Supporters Shield winners (Photo credit: FC Dallas / Facebook)
Record in 2016: 17-8-9 – 1st in MLS’ Western Conference, 1st overall in MLS (Knocked out in MLS Cup Conference semifinals)
Offseason evaluation:
Dallas had another superb season in 2016 but came up short in their quest for MLS Cup, despite winning the Supporters’ Shield. Losing Fabian Castillo to Trabzonspor was a blow and with Mauro Diaz out long-term they’ll have to rely heavily on Javier Morales and Cristian Colman in the early months of the season. Overall, Oscar Pareja’s plan has been to get in younger talent to replace experience. Let’s see how this works but it promises to be another exciting season in Frisco, Texas. They look incredibly strong once again.  
Key player:
Kellyn Acosta – The young U.S. national team product is growing in confidence and will be a key man for FCD with his versatility. Also, with Diaz out for so long, Dallas need as many contributors as possible to chip in with goals and assists. Over to you, Colman, Akindele and Urruti. Acosta will continue to keep things ticking over. 
Coach:
Oscar Pareja – He is working wonders in Dallas and adding plenty of young attackers in the offseason will add even more intrigue to his team. He’s put together a fun team to watch.
Vague 2017 prediction:
FC Dallas will make another deep run to the playoffs. If injuries are kind to them, MLS Cup is a real possibility.


Houston Dynamo

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 08: Erick Torres #9 of Houston Dynamo works the ball in the second half against the San Jose Earthquakes during their game at BBVA Compass Stadium on August 8, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Record in 2016: 7-14-13 – 10th in MLS’ Western Conference, 19th overall in MLS (Did not qualify for playoffs)
Offseason evaluation:
Lots of change in Houston and it was needed. The Owen Coyle experiment didn’t work out and after moving out Giles Barnes, Will Bruin and Sheanon Williams, the Dynamo will go with a young squad. That’s a lot to ask in a stacked Western Conference but Leonardo and DeLaGarza coming in from LA will provide some experience. Once again, all change at the Dynamo. 
Key player:
Erick “Cubo” Torres – He has returned from his loan spell at Cruz Azul and it looks like he will get his chance to lead the Dynamo’s attack. Now, can he fulfill his obvious potential?
Coach:
Wilmer Cabrera – Promoted from their USL affiliate, the former Chivas USA coach will try to galvanize the group and get them heading in the right direction. He has perhaps the toughest job in MLS.
Vague 2017 prediction:
Houston will finishes in 10th position in the West after making a brief midseason run towards the playoffs.


LA Galaxy

CARSON CA - AUGUST 9: Making his MLS debut Giovani Dos Santos #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy congratulates Gyasi Zardes #11 after he scored a goal against Seattle Sounders during the first half at StubHub Center August 9, 2015, in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Record in 2016: 12-6-16 – 3rd in MLS’ Western Conference, 6th overall in MLS (Knocked out in MLS Cup Conference semifinals)
Offseason evaluation:
It’s been a huge shift in the offseason for LA with Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Alan Gordon and Landon Donovan (after his second coming) all moved on. Plus, Bruce Arena was out the door to the U.S. national team. Simpy put, the times they are a changing. Can LA’s talented youngsters help the transition go smoother than expected? Six Homegrown players are on the roster with Gyasi Zardes the main man, plus Jermaine Jones’ arrival will add some experience alongside Sebastian Lletget and new DP Romain Alessandrini from Marseille to help out star man Giovani dos Santos.
Key player:
Giovani dos Santos – This is his team now. The Mexican star has shown flashes of brilliance after arriving in MLS midway through 2015 but with Keane and Gerrard gone, Gio is front and center. With 20 goals and 21 assists in his 47 games so far for LA, he could be the new face of the league. 
Coach:
Curt Onalfo – Promoted from LA Galaxy II, Onalfo was the safe hire in a time of transition for the five-time MLS Cup champs. It will be intriguing to see how these young players develop under his tutelage. 
Vague 2017 prediction:
LA’s bold new plan will hit a few speed-bumps in the early months but then, predictably, they’ll finish the season strong and make a deep run in the playoffs.


Minnesota United

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 08: Orlando head coach Adrian Heath salutes fans during an MLS soccer match between the New York City FC and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on March 8, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. This was the first game for both teams and the final score was 1-1. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Record in 2016: N/A
Offseason evaluation: 
It has been a busy few months years up in the Twin Cities. They have finally arrived in MLS with plenty of roster changes, a new coach and a new stadium being built and ready for 2018. Like pretty much every expansion franchise, it’s tough to know how this first season will go. There is a real mix of international talent on this roster and no big-name DPs. Kevin Molino links up with Adrian Heath once again and will provide pace and nous, while international defenders Francisco Calvo and Vadim Demidov will play in central defense. 
Key player:
Miguel Ibarra – He burst onto the scene a few years ago with his goals in NASL which earned him a USMNT call up in 2014 but his career stalled after moving to Liga MX. Now, everything is in place for him to lead Minnesota into a new era alongside his potent partner from the NASL days, Christian Ramirez.
Coach:
Adrian Heath – He will be desperate to prove doubters wrong after he was fired by Orlando last season. Heath built an exciting team in Orlando and the hope will be that Ibarra and Ramirez will translate their attacking success seamlessly to MLS. That said, you can clearly see that Minnesota is working on a small budget and with a squad full of players from smaller European leagues it will be intriguing to see how they adapt to the rigors of MLS as the Loons play in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium for the 2017 campaign. 
Vague 2017 prediction:
Early struggles will give way to some key midseason additions and the Loons will finish the campaign challenging for the playoffs.


Portland Timbers

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 6: Diego Valeri #8 of the Portland Timbers celebrates after scoring within the first minute of the first half against the Columbus Crew SC on December 6, 2015 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Portland defeated Columbus Crew SC 2-1 to claim the MLS Cup title. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Record in 2016: 12-14-8 – 7th in MLS’ Western Conference, 12th overall in MLS (Did not qualify for playoffs)
Offseason evaluation:
Portland have added two key players in the offseason in David Guzman and Sebastian Blanco and plenty of experience elsewhere as they try to rebound from not making the playoffs. Nobody really expected that failure but after not winning on the road throughout 2016, the outcome was always clear. Jewsbury, Grabavoy and Borchers all retired to leave Caleb Porter will plenty of work to do to rebuild his roster. 
Key player:
Diego Valeri – The Argentine attacker will have even more freedom this season after the arrival of Guzman and he should link well with Blanco and Nagbe to feed Adi. He has won so many games for the Timbers over the past few seasons.
Coach:
Caleb Porter – A really big year for the former Akron coach as he looks to shake off the tag of the Timbers being “one season wonders” after they won MLS Cup in 2015. Once again, he needs to improve the defensive play of Portland. 
Vague 2017 prediction:
Portland will be an offensive powerhouse, blowing teams away early in games. Expect a trip back to the MLS postseason.


Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Record in 2016: 12-12-10 – 6th in MLS’ Western Conference, 9th overall in MLS (Knocked out in MLS Cup knockout round)
Offseason evaluation:
The big news was Javier Morales leaving RSL after a decade, he will be replaced by young Slovakian playmaker Albert Rusnak. He has a DP deal and big shoes to fill at the Rio Tinto. There were sweeping changes in terms of the roster with Liverpool youngster Brooks Lennon arriving on loan as RSL got a lot younger, but Beckerman, Rimando and Movsisyan are still around. 
Key player:
Joao Plata – He will be the spark in the RSL offense and he is capable of moments of magic. Now, can he string it together for an entire season? 
Coach:
Jeff Cassar – The jury was out after his first season as RSL started well but faded badly in the final few months of the season. The Utah outfit have been loyal to coaches but if Cassar’s side start poorly he could be on the hotseat rather quickly.
Vague 2017 prediction:
RSL will battle through the season and pick up unexpected wins like they usually do. Don’t expect a playoff spot.


San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 06: Chris Wondolowski #8 of San Jose Earthquakes looks to pass the ball towards the goal against Colorado Rapids during the second half of their MLS Soccer game at Avaya Stadium on March 6, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Record in 2016: 8-12-14 – 9th in MLS’ Western Conference, 17th overall in MLS (Did not qualify for playoffs)
Offseason evaluation:
Massive amount of change this offseason as Goodson, Goitom and Emeghura were all let go plus Stewart, Lenhart and Barrett all moved on too. New GM Jesse Fioranelli has big plans for San Jose. Marco Urena will support Chris Wondolowski, while Panamanian defender Harold Cummings will add strength to the backline. 
Key player:
Chris Wondolowski – He just keeps doing it. Wondo is a predator and as long as San Jose create chances he will be there to finish them. 
Coach:
Dom Kinnear – This is a very big season for Dom. After seeing San Jose struggle badly in 2016, especially away from the Avaya Stadium, he has a new GM and it appears a new approach is needed. A veteran MLS coach will need his veteran striker Wondolowski to get him back in the playoffs.
Vague 2017 prediction:
San Jose look likely to struggle once again and they will be outsiders for the playoffs. Wondo can’t do it all, you know.


Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) exults as FC Dallas midfielder Carlos Gruezo (7) lies on the turf at the end of an MLS soccer western conference semifinal playoff match Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 in Frisco, Texas. Though Dallas won 2-1, Seattle advanced in the playoffs on aggregate score. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
Record in 2016: 14-14-6 – 4th in MLS’ Western Conference, 7th overall in MLS (Won MLS Cup 2017) 
Offseason evaluation:
The reigning MLS Cup champs have momentum on their side and Clint Dempsey back fit and ready to roll. They lost plenty of defenders in the offseason with Zach Scott retiring and Tyrone Mears moving to Atlanta United. Adding Will Bruin and Harry Shipp will add depth to their midfield and forward options, but Seattle is set in terms of goals and assists. 
Key player:
Nicolas Lodeiro – What an impact the Uruguayan playmaker made after arriving in MLS last season. He will be handed the keys for the Sounders once again and alongside Dempsey it will be fun to see it all play out.
Coach:
Brian Schmetzer – He’s a hero in Seattle. Simple. Replacing Sigi Schmid in 2016, he had a tough job on his hands but his team gained momentum and were exhilarating to watch throughout their glorious MLS Cup run. 
Vague 2017 prediction:
Seattle will build on their success of 2016 and go deep in the playoffs once again as Lodeiro and Dempsey feed Morris.


Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City's Connor Hallisey, left, and Dom Dwyer react after Dwyer's second-half goal against the Seattle Sounders during the second half of an MLS soccer match Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Kansas City, Kan. (Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star via AP)
Record in 2016: 13-13-8 – 5th in MLS’ Western Conference, 8th overall in MLS (Knocked out in MLS Cup knockout round) 
Offseason evaluation:
Not much changed at SKC over the offseason. Brad Davis retired but Peter Vermes was able to keep the core of his squad together. Gerso Fernandes is the big offseason addition as the striker comes in as a DP with plenty of experience in Europe. 
Key player:
Dom Dwyer – He remains their main man up top after scoring 16 goals in 36 games last season. He needs more support and it looks like he has it this season. Could soon be playing for the USMNT too. 
Coach:
Peter Vermes – He rallied his squad to clinch a playoff spot last season and Vermes will be hoping for much more than that in 2017. Besler and Zusi are his go-to guys and he needs Fernandes to hit the ground running. Level-headed, Vermes knows what he is doing.
Vague 2017 prediction:
SKC will make a run towards MLS Cup and will feed off the disappointment of last season. They’ll get the balance right between defense and attack.


Vancouver Whitecaps

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 6: Kekuta Manneh #23 of the Vancouver Whitecaps looks on as Donny Toia #25 of the Montreal Impact plays the ball during their MLS game March 6, 2016 at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Montreal won 3-2. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Record in 2016: 10-15-19 – 8th in MLS’ Western Conference, 16th overall in MLS (Did not qualify for playoffs)
Offseason evaluation:
They have been trying to rebuild and rebound from a bad 2016 which saw them fade dramatically in the second half of the season. Losing playmaker Pedro Morales was a blow but they have lots of talented attackers this season. 
Key player:
Fredy Montero – If he can get anywhere near the kind of form and production he had in Seattle then Fredy will be a hero in Vancouver.
Coach:
Carl Robinson – A big, big year for Robinson. After a solid start to life as an MLS head coach in 2015, things unraveled in the second half of last season. Badly needs a good start to 2017 to get things going in the right direction. 
Vague 2017 prediction:
Vancouver will be sniffing around the playoff spots all season long. Watching Montero, Bolanos and Manneh play together could be a lot of fun at BC Place.

Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City

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It’s hard to say that Sergio Aguero is an unforgotten man in Manchester City’s loaded lineup of talented attackers, but sometimes it does feel that way.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious, Gunners thrash Palace ]

The 29-year-old striker proved his worth once again though on Saturday afternoon at the Etihad Stadium after scoring his second hat-trick of the 2017/18 Premier League season in Man City’s 3-1 victory over Newcastle United.

Although the match never seemed in doubt that Pep Guardiola‘s side would come out on top, Aguero has a way of finding himself in all the right positions, and more importantly, capitalizing on the chances he has when he gets into those spots.

An overwhelming amount of possession — which exceeded 80 percent in favor of Man City — gave the hosts the opportunities that it needed, and City manager Pep Guardiola has full confidence in Aguero, who continues to light up English football in his 200th PL appearance.

“I said we are not going to buy a striker because we have Sergio Aguero and in 2-3 weeks we will have Gabriel Jesus,” Guardiola said after the match. “We are so happy for him. We need a guy who scores the goals.”

The Argentine international is now tied for sixth-place in England’s top flight with seven career PL hat-tricks in his time with Man City.

The true beauty of what Aguero does though isn’t the fact that he scores so many goals, but instead how he manages to score them.

It certainly helps out when you have creative masterminds in the attack like Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and David Silva, but it’s been Aguero’s genius that has helped pace the Cityzens for so many years now.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The veteran goalscorer kicked things off for City 11 minutes before halftime, after nodding home the slightest header into the far corner.

Aguero then proceeded to score from the penalty spot in the second stanza, before adding his final finish after finding himself in the right position when Sane decided to take on the entire Newcastle backline.

[ MORE: Wenger hails Arsenal, talks Aubameyang move ]

Overall, Aguero’s 16 goals in the PL are third-most this season, only trailing the likes of Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah — who have had superb campaigns in their own right.

One thing is for certain though, if the Cityzens go on to become the “greatest team in PL history” much of the team’s success will — and should be — attributed to its star striker in Sergio Aguero.

PL roundup: Top three all victorious, Gunners thrash Palace at Emirates

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Get caught up on all seven of Saturday’s Premier League fixtures…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle — FULL RECAP

For awhile it looked like a fierce fight, but Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick gave the Cityzens yet another PL win on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium.  Jacob Murphy gave the Magpies a temporary moment of relief, though, as the Newcastle front man finished off a perfectly-executed counterattack. City is once again 12 points ahead of Man United at the top of the table.

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace — FULL RECAP

The scoreline indicates a rout, and that’s exactly what it was at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners found themselves up 4-0 inside the opening 22 minutes, and that spelt absolute disaster for the Eagles, who haven’t won at Arsenal since October 1994. Arsene Wenger‘s side remains five points outside of the top four, however, that deficit could be increased to eight with Liverpool holding a match in hand.

Manchester United 1-0 Burnley — FULL RECAP

Burnley’s defense is always tough to break past, but Anthony Martial‘s second-half blast off the underside of the crossbar proved to be the difference for Jose Mourinho’s men. The Red Devils are now unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions, including Saturday’s PL win.

Brighton & Hove 0-4 Chelsea FULL RECAP

When the Blues are at their best, they’re so, so fun to watch. Willian‘s brilliance shone through on the day with a brilliant finish that came after one of the better combination plays you’ll see. Meanwhile, an Eden Hazard brace in the opening six minutes set the tone for Chelsea on the road, while Victor Moses gave Antonio Conte‘s side a fourth in the game.

West Ham United 1-1 Bournemouth — FULL RECAP

West Ham’s improvement under David Moyes has been noted, but they’ll need more goals from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in order to sustain their success. The Mexican international scored his first goal for the home side in nearly three months at the London Stadium, which proved to be critical after Ryan Fraser‘s superb strike had given Bournemouth the lead nearly a minute prior.

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Leicester City 2-0 Watford — FULL RECAP

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez came up big on Saturday for the Foxes, who pulled themselves up to seventh place in the PL. Leicester has now held five consecutive clean sheets, as Claude Puel‘s club continues to find its best form in the second half of the season. Meanwhile, Watford’s struggles just carry on with the Hornets winless in 10 of their last 11 matches.

Stoke City 2-0 Huddersfield Town — FULL RECAP

Paul Lambert‘s Stoke picked up their first win under their new manager, after goals from Joe Allen and Mame Biram Diouf gave the Potters a much-needed victory to put the side into 17th place. The loss for Huddersfield leaves the PL newcomers just three points above the relegation zone.

Everton 1-1 West Bromwich AlbionFULL RECAP

The result did no favors to relegation side West Brom, however, the discussion of the match was undoubtedly James McCarthy‘s gruesome leg injury, which halted the match for over seven minutes. Theo Walcott made an instant impact in his Toffees debut, setting up Oumar Niasse for the game’s equalizer. West Brom had gone ahead with a Jay Rodriguez finish after just seven minutes after the attacker timed his run in on goal perfectly.

Bundesliga wrap: RB Leipzig slips; USMNT’s Chandler scores

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There’s congestion at the top and bottom of the Bundesliga table, as RB Leipzig fell to Freiburg and Koln continued its long climb back from a horrible start to the season.

[ RECAP: Man City 3-1 Newcastle ]

Schalke can go second with a Sunday win, while Bayern’s table lead could be as much as 16 if it wins its match.

Freiburg 2-1 RB Leipzig

The hosts moved further clear of relegation danger and put the race for second place into severe congestion with a comeback win against third place RB Leipzig.

Timo Werner had put the visitors ahead in the 65th minute, but Janik Haberer and Robin Koch scored four minutes apart to boost all three points for the hosts.

Freiburg is now seven points clear of the relegation playoff spot, while RBL’s 31 points makes it one of six teams within one point between second and seventh.

Mainz 3-2 Stuttgart

Yoshinori Muto scored on both sides of halftime as Mainz came back from 1-0 down and held on to move four points clear of 16th while Stuttgart is ahead of the victors by a single goal of differential.

Wolfsburg 1-3 Eintracht Frankfurt

American midfielder Timmy Chandler scored for the first time in three Bundesliga seasons and Eintracht Frankfurt pulled into a tie for fifth place with a win at Wolfsburg. Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic also scored for the visitors.

“It’s not such a difficult thing whether it’s my right or left, because I can also play with my left,” Chandler joked after the win.

Hamburg 0-2 Koln

Simon Terodde scored his second and third goals in two matches for Koln, and the visitors continued their climb out of the Bundesliga basement with a third-straight win.

Elsewhere
Hertha Berlin 1-1 Borussia Dortmund — Friday
Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 Augsburg
Hoffenheim 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen
Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Schalke vs. Hannover 96 — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 18 14 2 2 40 12 28 7-1-0 7-1-2 44
 Bayer Leverkusen 19 8 7 4 39 27 12 4-4-1 4-3-3 31
 RB Leipzig 19 9 4 6 31 28 3 6-2-1 3-2-5 31
 Mönchengladbach 19 9 4 6 30 30 0 6-2-2 3-2-4 31
 Borussia Dortmund 19 8 6 5 40 25 15 4-2-3 4-4-2 30
 FC Schalke 04 18 8 6 4 29 24 5 5-3-1 3-3-3 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 19 8 6 5 24 20 4 2-3-4 6-3-1 30
 FC Augsburg 19 7 6 6 28 25 3 4-4-2 3-2-4 27
 1899 Hoffenheim 19 7 6 6 29 27 2 5-3-2 2-3-4 27
 Hannover 96 18 7 5 6 27 28 -1 5-3-1 2-2-5 26
 Hertha BSC Berlin 19 6 7 6 27 27 0 4-3-3 2-4-3 25
 SC Freiburg 19 5 8 6 20 33 -13 4-5-1 1-3-5 23
 VfL Wolfsburg 19 3 11 5 22 24 -2 2-6-2 1-5-3 20
 VfB Stuttgart 19 6 2 11 16 24 -8 6-1-2 0-1-9 20
 FSV Mainz 05 19 5 5 9 24 33 -9 5-1-4 0-4-5 20
 Werder Bremen 18 3 7 8 14 21 -7 2-3-4 1-4-4 16
 Hamburger SV 19 4 3 12 15 28 -13 3-2-5 1-1-7 15
 1. FC Köln 19 3 3 13 14 33 -19 2-1-6 1-2-7 12

Man City 3-1 Newcastle: Aguero with perfect hat trick

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  • Aguero nets thrice
  • Bags second half PK
  • City table lead at 12 points
  • Newcastle two points clear of 18th

Sergio Aguero scored three times to continue his mastery of Newcastle United as Manchester City bounced back to post a 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Jacob Murphy scored a second half goal to pull Newcastle to within one before Aguero finished his second hat trick of the season. The Argentine scored three and posted an assist against Watford on Sept. 16.

The win gives Man City 65 points, 12 more than second place Manchester United, and improves their goal differential to 51.

Newcastle sits 15th with 23 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle high-pressed to start, and troubled Ederson was happy to see Oleksandar Zinchenko defy a Christian Atsu cross in the first 90 seconds.

The Magpies had a 3-5-2 which was five at the back when City had the ball (which was often). Leroy Sane seemed most poised to trigger a City goal, but it remained scoreless after a quarter hour.

Raheem Sterling scored an offside goal to complete a lightning counter attack, with David Silva‘s splendid pass denied an assist by the linesman’s rightly raised flag.

Silva was fouled on the edge of the 18, and Kevin De Bruyne presided over a dangerous free kick from the right only to rifled the ball over the goal.

Newcastle backstop Karl Darlow made a save a moment before City went ahead, as Aguero just deflected — we’re talking hair not head — a De Bruyne cross home.

Darlow made a fine save on De Bruyne in the 40th minute, and another just before the break as Newcastle limited the damage to 1-0.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

City again had trouble coming through Newcastle’s tight defense, and Isaac Hayden stopped a promising pass from Sane in the 61st minute.

Paul Tierney awarded a penalty to City in the 62nd minute when Raheem Sterling dove under a Javier Manquillo challenge, and Aguero placed a perfect penalty past a correctly guessing Darlow.

Murphy then got his first goal for his club on the counter, chipping Ederson after a seeing-eye pass from Ciaran Clark put the ex-Norwich man 1v1 with the goalkeeper.

Darlow denied Sterling with an outstanding diving save after Sane’s terrific cross was turned toward the Magpies’ goal.

Newcastle could’ve had it at 2-2 when Ederson stopped Mo Diame’s hard shot but spilled the ball back to the Magpies, only to save Ayoze Perez’s rebound work.

De Bruyne and Aguero both missed curling far post efforts in bids to restore the two-goal cushion. Aguero completed his hat trick thanks to a terrific Sane assist in the 83rd minute.