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MLS at Week 6: Atlanta meets Toronto in giant East clash

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While many of last year’s top sides continue their reign near the top of the MLS conference tables, newcomers Atlanta United have quickly put themselves on the national spotlight. Here’s a look at this weekend’s action:

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LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact – 10:30 p.m. ET Friday

Neither side has had the ideal start to 2017, however, it’s the Impact that are still searching for their first win as MLS enters Week 6. The Galaxy are coming off of allowing four goals to the Vancouver Whitecaps, while the Impact look to bounce back quickly after being eliminated in the CONCACAF Champions League against Tigres.

Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew – 2 p.m. ET Saturday

Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s debut couldn’t have gone better for the Fire but Veljko Paunovic’s side didn’t get their desired result. The Fire will welcome one of the hottest teams in MLS to start the season in the Crew, who have appeared to find their form from 2015, when the Eastern Conference side finished runners’ up to the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup.

New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo – 2 p.m. ET Saturday

The Dynamo have been one of the season’s biggest surprises thus far, and the club’s attack has proven to be among MLS’ best through five weeks with 11 goals. Erick “Cubo” Torres leads the league with six goals of his own, while the Dynamo continue to play without dangerous winter signing Romell Quioto. The Revolution have picked up their act over the last two weeks with a win over Minnesota and draw in Portland.

D.C. United vs. New York City FC – 4 p.m. ET Saturday

D.C. picked up its first win of 2017 last week against the Philadelphia Union, while NYCFC managed to pull off a comeback victory at home against a difficult San Jose Earthquakes side. David Villa’s two goals and three assists thus far have paced the NYCFC attack but it is the team’s backline that has stepped up its game from a season ago.

Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers – 7 p.m. ET Saturday

The Timbers remain atop the West following last weekend’s draw against the Revs. Meanwhile, the Union have struggled out of the gates and are one of three teams in MLS that have gone winless over the first month of competition.

Toronto FC vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

In arguably the game of the weekend, these two Eastern Conference sides will duel at BMO Field in Toronto. Since Atlanta’s opening day defeat against the Red Bulls, the expansion side hasn’t lost and they have looked quite impressive in the process. Even without top goalscorer and March’s Player of the Month, Josef Martinez, Gerardo Martino’s side has quickly become one of MLS’ most dynamic attacks.

FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United – 8 p.m. ET Saturday

Fresh off of the team’s first MLS victory, Minnesota faces a much more challenging test as the Loons head to Toyota Stadium to meet FC Dallas. The Loons are coming off of a four-goal outing against Real Salt Lake, but Dallas presents a stronger foe as Oscar Pareja’s side sits third in the West after playing three matches.

Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Even with an early season coaching change, RSL’s struggles have coupled after falling last week to Minnesota United. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps fell out of the Champions League during the week after losing in the dying moments to Tigres after having scored four goals against the Galaxy last weekend.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders – 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Sounders are unbeaten in this matchup since September 2015, winning once and drawing twice in the last three meetings. Brian Schmetzer’s side will continue to be without Brad Evans defensively, while the Quakes will be missing a number of players, including Victor Bernardez, who is suspended after picking up a red card last week against NYCFC.

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls – 4 p.m. ET Sunday

The Red Bulls have hit a bit of a rough patch after last weekend’s thrashing suffered down in Houston, while the Lions are coming off of their first loss of the season. Jesse Marsch’s side has enjoyed success against Orlando since the club entered the league in 2015, winning three of the last five matchups.

Sporting KC vs. Colorado Rapids – 7 p.m. ET Sunday

Peter Vermes’ side is now just one of three left unbeaten in MLS, and although Sporting KC’s attack has had some issues finishing off its chances, the Western Conference side’s backline has been among the league’s best, only allowing one goal. The Rapids have been steady as well through three matches with four points.

Miguel Almiron knew nothing about MLS, everything about Tata

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Miguel Almiron’s future is going to be a big part of the story for as long as he’s in Atlanta United, but his past is in focus following another cool post in The Players’ Tribune.

It’s a cool read, for sure, to examine Almiron’s rise from “too skinny” kid without a club to one of the top prospects this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but the story of why he came to Atlanta is an argument for the “big name” manager (Tata Martino in this case).

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

Before the Paraguayan youngster was the talk of the transfer market, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the No. 1 jersey sale in the league, he was being recruited to the Georgian expansion outlet.

“I didn’t know much about MLS. I didn’t know where Atlanta was. I didn’t know anything. But Tata was manager, and that was all I needed to know.”

Given that Martino arrived not too long before Almiron, the following Tweet makes the point I’ve been trying to make as well as anyone:

Sevilla manager reportedly told team of cancer diagnosis at half

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When it comes to locker room tales, few compare to this one.

Any big comeback, especially one as high profile as Sevilla’s stunning second half against Liverpool, inspires the question, “What was said in the team room at halftime?!?”

Down 3-0 at halftime and in danger of bowing out of the UEFA Champions League, Sevilla manager Eduardo Berizzo gave his team some very serious news.

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

According to Spanish reports relayed by The Telegraph, Berizzo informed his players of his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Sevilla confirmed that Berizzo is battling adenocarcinoma, saying, “Future medical tests will determine a course of treatment. Sevilla FC wants to show maximum support to its manager in these moments and wishes him a prompt recovery.”

It adds extra weight to Ever Banega’s postgame comments:

“We have to go out there with that attitude, for the fans that always back us and for the coach who has turned this around. He is the most important of all of us, he has us on the right path and we are with him to the hilt.”

Our best to Berizzo, and — sorry Reds supporters — it’s pretty cool Sevilla was able to rally after such stunning news.

Liverpool releases statement after Sevilla stadium supporter outcry

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Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.

Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.

[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]

Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.

The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:

Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.

Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.

As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.

Sounders in firm control after Leg 1

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.

28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.

42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.

Man of the Match: Joevin Jones