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Four takeaways from MLS Week 2

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Four teams are 2-0 and just two are winless after two weeks of MLS 2017, and there are several surprises amongst that sextet with zeroes in one column.

That’s where we’ll begin our look around Major League Soccer following another wild weekend.

[ MORE: Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd | 3 things from JPW ]


Awful dismissal puts LA in (more) unfamiliar territory

Embellishing Portland Timbers players sold referee Baldomero Toledo on a pair of yellow cards for Jelle van Damme in what effectively doomed the Galaxy’s comeback bid in California.

That leaves the Galaxy at 0-2 for the first time since 2001, and both of these losses came at home. In a league where home losses have been rare, it’s shocking to see LA staring down that mark.

They’ll be fine — both sides were missing stars on Sunday, and the Galaxy still nearly found a point — but perhaps LA faces a tougher road to the playoffs than previous seasons as new manager Curt Onalfo and several new Galaxy players learn each other.

Minnesota United is in a heap of trouble

Either of the Loons’ season-opening 5-1 losses could be chalked off as relatively insignificant, but the fact that both the debut defeat at Portland and Sunday’s battering by visiting Atlanta United showcased woefully inept defending says Minnesota has a legit shot at one of the worst records of all-time.

No team has won less than six matches in a season since DC United won three in 2013. Minnesota will be hard-pressed to hit the six figure, though perhaps the MLS experience of Bobby Shuttleworth — thrust into the lineup after a Sunday injury to John Alvbage — can help stem the bleeding.

Two-and-oh-my

Three of the four teams to start the year 2-0 missed the playoffs last season.

Perhaps none is more impressive than the start from Wilmer Cabrera’s Houston Dynamo, but since we covered that last week let’s deal with the others. We’ll also leave Portland be for now.

There was supposed to be an adjustment process for the New York Red Bulls without Dax McCarty, but Jesse Marsch is proving that doubting him is futile.

[ MORE: Conte is becoming what Mourinho was ]

New York’s bunch now boasts a win on little rest (and cross-continent travel) in a rambunctious Bobby Dodd Stadium as well as a 1-0 win against Colorado. Credit Sean Davis for a lot of that, as the 24-year-old has a league-best 7 tackles.

Then there’s San Jose, who went full “Goonies” in erasing Vancouver’s 2-0 lead on Saturday, one week after toppling Montreal 1-0. Yes, the Quakes were aided by a 23rd minute red card to Vancouver keeper David Ousted, but they also needed to come out of the gates well for embattled boss Dominic Kinnear. They are doing just that, and Anibal Godoy has been a massive part of San Jose’s success.

Philly’s very secret weapon

The Union have a pair of draws to open the season, and both are impressive for any number of reasons. Keeping Vancouver to a 0-0 result in British Columbia on Opening Weekend was nice, but dealing with blowing a lead against Toronto only to fight back for a point is next level.

One player who’s been hard to miss in both matches in 20-year-old center midfielder Derrick Jones, the Ghana-born U.S. U-20 man who’s come through the Union system from academy to USL to MLS. Sure there will be growing pains for the 6-foot-3, lightning quick Jones, but through two games he’s looking like a bonafide USMNT prospect.

BONUS: David Villa is still really, really good

When he came over from La Liga off a 13-goal season, we shouldn’t have been looking at his age. We’ll leave the rest of this takeaway to Andy Edwards’ recap of New York City FC’s 4-0 defeat of DC United.

Baroni fired by Serie A basement club Benevento

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) Benevento fired Marco Baroni and named Roberto De Zerbi its new coach after becoming the first squad in Serie A history to lose its first nine matches of the season.

The southern Italian club is the only team in Europe’s five major leagues without a point.

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Benevento also announced it fired sporting director Salvatore Di Somma.

The moves on Monday came a day after a 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Benevento will have to pay Baroni 800,000 euros (nearly $1 million) as part of an anti-firing clause in his contract.

Baroni guided Benevento up from Serie B last season.

De Zerbi last coached Palermo nearly a year ago before being fired by the Sicilian club.

It’s the second coaching change in Serie A this season, after Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli at Cagliari last week.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

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34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

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All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in dual nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.