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MLS at Week 5: Crew picking up steam, Sounders face Atlanta

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With international fixtures over for the time being, MLS is ready to get back into full swing, starting with a pair of Friday night matches. Here’s a look at this weekend’s action:

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Toronto FC vs. Sporting KC – 7:30 p.m. ET Friday

The visitors have only allowed one goal so far in the new season, however, Sporting KC’s attack hasn’t lived up to the billing yet, with just two finishes in the first three matches. Both sides come into Friday’s contest unbeaten to start, however, TFC has done so in its opening three fixtures all on the road. Greg Vanney’s side will have their home opener at BMO Field on Friday.

Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United – 10 p.m. ET Friday

Clint Dempsey and the Sounders impressed their last time out against the New York Red Bulls, and now another hot Eastern Conference side is coming to the Pacific Northwest on Friday. Atlanta has been one of the most exciting teams to watch over the first few weeks of the season, particularly the club’s attack led by Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba. The team’s 11 goals scored are the second most in MLS, trailing only the Portland Timbers (12).

New York City FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 2 p.m. ET Saturday

The Earthquakes have yet to beat NYCFC in their first two tries, but the Western Conference side has looked revamped to start the 2017 season. Currently fourth place in the West, the Quakes are unbeaten in their first two home matches, but Saturday will give the club an opportunity to get its first point(s) away from Avaya Stadium. Meanwhile, NYCFC has had its share of ups and downs to start the season, mostly because of its lack of finishing despite having plenty of chances.

Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact – 3 p.m. ET Saturday

It’s been a tough start for the Impact, and without Ignacio Piatti it leaves a tremendous burden on the rest of the attack. For the Fire, it has been an up and down start after making a lot of intriguing moves during the offseason.

Columbus Crew vs. Orlando City – 4 p.m. ET Saturday

The Crew have revamped after a disappointing 2016 season and the new addition of Kekuta Manneh should make their side’s attacking presence all the more dangerous. Meanwhile, Orlando has started well out of the gate, however, the Lions continue to play without captain Kaka, who was injured in the team’s first match against NYCFC.

D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union – 7 p.m. ET Saturday

D.C. is the only team in MLS without a goal so far this season, which should be good news for the Union, who are also trying to get their 2017 campaign off on a higher note. Both sides are seeking their first win.

Minnesota United vs. Real Salt Lake – 8 p.m. ET Saturday

If there’s a week that Minnesota might sneak out their first win it could be Saturday night when they face RSL. The Loons have started off very poorly, especially defensively, with 18 goals allowed in four matches. However, RSL has struggled mightily to score goals, with just two to show thus far.

Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls – 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Red Bulls will be happy to get Sacha Kljestan back from international duty after drawing with RSL last weekend, while the Dynamo hope to continue their early-season success. Romell Quioto’s three goals leads the club thus far, however, the striker will miss time after suffering a shoulder injury for Honduras.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy – 10 p.m. ET Saturday

It’s been a slow start for the Western Conference sides for different reasons. The Galaxy have had to cope with a multitude of injuries through the opening four weeks, while the Whitecaps have failed to find success in the attacking third. With just two goals thus far and now the loss of Kekuta Manneh through a trade to the Crew, Carl Robinson’s side must find a way to pick up the offensive slack.

Portland Timbers vs. New England Revolution – 9 p.m. ET Sunday

The Timbers are coming off their first loss of 2017 last weekend, while the Revs put on a show against Minnesota (even though most teams are having that same success). Caleb Porter’s side currently leads MLS with 12 goals in the first four matches, and the Timbers look capable of scoring a lot more goals this season with their crop of attacking talent.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

[ MORE: Go behind the scenes at NYCFC’s new training facility ]

Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.

Report: USMNT likely to face Brazil, Mexico in September friendlies

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The U.S. Men’s National Team won’t have a busy schedule throughout the summer, but Dave Sarachan and his side will get a tiny taste of the World Cup in September.

[ MORE: Chivas’ Almeyda exhales after CCL title win ]

ESPN FC is reporting that the USMNT will likely face Brazil and Mexico — both of whom will travel to Russia in June — later this year, as the U.S. Soccer Federation is in the process of finalizing both friendlies.

The matches are set to be played during the September international window, which runs from Sept. 3 through Sept. 11.

Both fixtures will reportedly be played in the United States, although venues haven’t been determined yet.

The U.S. has already begun booking a slate of difficult matches to round out 2018, with England and Italy already confirmed opponents for the Yanks in November.

The Yanks are 1-17-0 all-time against Brazil in all competitions, while the U.S. hasn’t faced Mexico since its 1-1 draw at the Estadio Azteca in June 2017 during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Men in Blazers: Jurgen Klopp talks loss of Coutinho and more

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Roger Bennett talks with manager Jurgen Klopp about revolutionizing Liverpool, his Greatest Show on Turf-esque offense, the loss of Philippe Coutinho and how he keeps football in perspective.

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