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MLS at Week 8: Lone unbeaten sides clash in Dallas

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While many of the usual suspects remain in playoff positions after the first several weeks of the MLS season, 2017 has kicked off with quite a few surprises.

As it stands, three non-playoff teams from a season ago and an expansion side sit inside the top 6 in the Eastern Conference, while the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes continue to impress in a congested Western Conference.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 7 ]

Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire – 7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Can we talk about how good Bastian Schweinsteiger has been? On paper, it looked like a pointless move for the Fire after acquiring Dax McCarty in the offseason and boasting a fairly strong attack but the German international has been everything Veljko Paunovic could have hoped for since arriving in the Midwest. The Fire are unbeaten in three and have scored six goals in that span, while only allowing two goals. Toronto finally dropped a decision last week against the Crew, but there shouldn’t be great cause for concern from last season’s runners’ up.

Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact – 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Jim Curtin and his side are running dangerously close to having wholesale changes arrive in Chester. Four consecutive losses have the Union sitting bottom in all of MLS with two points and the team’s lack of finishing has proved to be a massive cause for concern. The Impact haven’t been much better to start, but last week’s effort against Atlanta should give Montreal supporters a glimmer of hope.

Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday

Two of the more surprising sides in 2017 will meet at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, and that provides fans the opportunity to get a closer look at Erick “Cubo” Torres. The league leader in goals (6) is finally living up to the hype, and if the Mexican international can continue to produce up front then the Dynamo will be a very hard out as the season rolls on. Elsewhere, the Quakes are unbeaten in three with three straight draws against quality opposition. Dominic Kinnear will want to turn those ties into wins but it’s been a very strong start for the two-time MLS Cup winners.

Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 4 p.m. ET Saturday

For the first time all season, the Timbers failed to score last weekend against Sporting KC. The Whitecaps will look to contain the rampant Portland attack but that’s easy said than done. Carl Robinson’s Whitecaps earned an important win over the Sounders last week and now Vancouver can earn back-to-back Cascadia victories on Saturday in the Pacific Northwest.

New England Revolution vs. D.C. United – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

D.C. finally came back down to earth against rivals New York Red Bulls, but there’s been better play from Ben Olsen’s group over recent weeks. The Revs have been up and down to say the least and with both clubs sitting on the outside of the top 6 Saturday’s meeting could play an important role later in the season.

New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Red Bulls snapped a four-match winless run against D.C. but the Crew present a much bigger challenge with the East leaders coming to Harrison. After missing the postseason in 2016, it was only a matter of time for Greg Berhalter’s side to return to form given the club’s talent. Plus, you’ve got two of the league’s best strikers in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Ola Kamara matching up.

FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC – 8 p.m. ET Saturday

Saturday night’s clash in Dallas is intriguing for several reasons, most notably because of the fact that these two sides are the only unbeatens remaining in MLS through seven weeks. Both clubs continue to play stingy defense, while their attacks aren’t producing as much as either team would like.

Real Salt Lake vs. Atlanta United – 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Outside of maybe Portland, Atlanta has been the most exciting team to watch over the first seven weeks. Tata Martino’s boys have found the back of the net 14 times and once they get Josef Martinez back into the fold, the expansion side will be that much more dangerous. RSL has picked up its play recently with back-to-back wins over the Whitecaps and Rapids, but Atlanta will pose a bit of a bigger threat.

New York City FC vs. Orlando City – 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday

When these two clubs met on opening weekend it turned out to be quite the wild affair. If anyone thought that Kaka could go down injured in the opening 10 minutes and Orlando would still come away victorious, whoever said that was probably lying. Now, the Lions have several other injury woes, although there’s a chance that the Brazilian could play on Sunday afternoon. NYCFC is coming off an important win over D.C. United last week but Patrick Vieira’s group will have to cope without a key defender as Ronald Matarrita is sidelined with an ankle injury.

LA Galaxy at Seattle Sounders – 4 p.m. ET Sunday

Six points in six matches isn’t exactly what the Sounders had in mind after hoisting MLS Cup five months ago, but if we learned anything from the Cascadia side in 2016 then there shouldn’t be cause for panic. For the Galaxy, Romain Alessandrini has lived up to the billing early with the newcomer netting four goals and adding two assists in the first month-plus of the season.

Minnesota United vs. Colorado Rapids – 6 p.m. ET Sunday

The bottom sides out West meet in the weekend’s final matchup, and each club could really learn something from the other. While Minnesota has managed to score at a solid pace over recent weeks, the Loons have struggled mightily out of the back, allowing a league-high 24 goals in seven matches. Meanwhile, Pablo Mastroeni’s side continues to search for goals and its defense remains the strongest aspect of the Rapids squad.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

5th-place San Jose parts ways with Kinnear after 2.5 seasons

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Dominic Kinnear is out after two and a half seasons as head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, despite leading the club to a hugely improved standing 17 games into the 2017 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The move comes 17 hours after San Jose put to bed a three-game winless skid with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, a result which propelled them into fifth place in the Western Conference, just two points off second place. After seventh- and ninth-place finishes in Kinnear’s first two seasons back in Northern California (he managed the club in 2004 and 2005 before the club was relocated to Houston, where he would remain for nine seasons, through the 2014 season), this year’s team seemed to be moving in a positive direction quicker than most had previously expected.

[ MORE: Accam scores a backheel (video) | Opara scores a CB bicycle ]

The club has named Chris Leitch head coach and Alex Covelo as assistant coach. Current assistant coach Steve Ralston and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley will remain in their current roles.

“First and foremost, we would like to thank Dominic for his hard work, professionalism and contributions to this club over the years,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said in a release. “He worked hard this year and was a first-class person all the way. This decision was made after a lot of thought and evaluation. We decided that we wanted to go in a different direction as we continue to build the identity of this club.”

Kinnear is the second MLS coach to be relieved of his duties this season, suffering the same fate as RSL’s Jeff Cassar, who lasted just three games before being fired in March.