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MLS at Week 18: Dallas hosts red-hot Toronto, Cali Clasico and more

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MLS Rivalry Week may have officially taken place last weekend, but one of the league’s most-fierce battles will take shape on Saturday, while a cross-conference matchup pits two of the top sides against another.

All eyes will be on Avaya Stadium on Saturday night when the San Jose Earthquakes host California rivals LA Galaxy as both clubs currently sit in playoff positions out west.

Meanwhile, league-leading Toronto FC will travel down to Dallas to face Oscar Pareja’s group.

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Here’s a look at this weekend’s full slate of matches around MLS.

Real Salt Lake vs. Orlando City — 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday

A battle between two of the league’s most-struggling sides takes shape at Rio Tinto as RSL and Orlando desperately seek a win. The Lions enter Friday’s contest having won just one of their last 11 matches, the worst record in that span of any MLS side.

Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 7 p.m. ET on Saturday

Is there anybody hotter than the Chicago Fire right now? Simply, no. Veljko Paunovic is an early leader for Coach of the Year after leading his side from dead last in the East a season ago to within a point of Toronto FC. The Whitecaps — on the other hand — are starting to find their groove as well after picking up a three-match unbeaten run heading into the weekend.

FC Dallas vs. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET on Saturday

In the biggest clash of the weekend we’re served with two of the leagues top sides. Greg Vanney’s men have lost just two matches all season, including a current run of 10 unbeaten in their last 11. Meanwhile, Dallas has hit a bit of a bump in the road after racking up just one league win since May 20. Both sides boast potent attacks, but don’t expect goals galore as Dallas and Toronto are tied for the second-fewest goals allowed in MLS.

Sporting KC vs. Portland Timbers — 7 p.m. ET on Saturday

This one has the makings of a Western Conference final, and it could surely be the case come playoff time. Sporting’s backline continues to shine after allowing just 12 goals thus far through 18 matches, an astounding statistic. The Timbers are hovering at .500 in league play, and with the team struggling to find wins over recent weeks, a win at Children’s Mercy Park would be exactly what the doctor prescribed for Caleb Porter and Co.

Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United — 7 p.m. ET on Saturday

Although these two sides sit at the bottom of the East on 18 points, a win on Saturday could put one of them within three points of the sixth spot. That just shows how clogged the Eastern Conference playoff race is going to be.

Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta United — 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday

See the above match. With the Crew and Atlanta currently in a battle for a playoff position, this is the type of match both would seriously benefit taking three points from, particularly Tata Martino’s men.

Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo — 9 p.m. ET on Saturday

As bad as the Rapids have played this season, they still have two games in hand compared to most of the league, which could prove to be all the difference. Back-to-back losses halted the club’s momentum, and a visit from the Dynamo certainly isn’t a walk in the park.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday

Ah, another Cali Clasico is upon us. The last five times these two sides have met are about as even as you’d expect a rivalry to be, with the Galaxy taking home two wins, the Quakes picking up one of their own and a pair of 1-1 draws to show. With both clubs fighting for another step in the right direction towards the postseason, this match means a lot to the fierce rivals.

Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution — 5 p.m. ET on Sunday

A heartbreaking Open Cup loss is fresh on the minds of the Union, but Jim Curtin’s group will have to turn around quickly in order to get ready for the Revolution — who are losers of two straight against Toronto and Chicago.

Already completed

New York City FC 3-1 Minnesota United (MLS Snapshot)

PL Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle

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  • Newcastle has lost 8 PL away matches in a row
  • Man City last lost at home in PL play to Chelsea in Dec 2016
  • Newcastle has picked up 1 of a possible 30 points vs. PL top half this season

Manchester City has a great chance to rebound from its first loss of the season as they host struggling Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday, live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

The Magpies have picked up their terrible mid-season form of late, but still remain just three points above the drop. They are unbeaten in three, with a win and two draws, and have lost just once in their last five.

Through Newcastle’s losing streak, the Magpies struggled to keep the ball out of their own net, with defensive issues all over the place. They suffered through a nine-game winless run where they conceded 19 goals. However, of late, the roles have reversed, and suddenly they can’t score. In their last four games, they have just two goals.

City, meanwhile, have a few injuries to deal with on the defensive side of things, where they cannot afford them. Fabian Delph went down in the last match and could be out for significant time, along with Vincent Kompany who continues to show his age and history of fitness issues.

INJURIES: Manchester City – OUT: Fabian Delph (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee). QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (illness), Vincent Kompany (fitness). Newcastle – OUT: Jesus Gamez (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: Dwight Gayle (knock).


What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on build-up of injuries: “In these situations, it always depends on the mentality of the players, if they can make a step forward. If they can they play in positions that are not natural positions and the other guys help them, everything is going well.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on not having a full squad: “When you have a short blanket, if you pull it to your face, your feet are cold, if you cover your feet, your top half is cold.”

Prediction

Newcastle has been ok of late, but not nearly enough to keep Manchester City out of the back of the net. This could get ugly, with the Citizens looking to rebound from their season’s first loss. 3-0 Man City with the possibility that it could get much worse if Newcastle gives up.

PL Preview: Burnley vs. Manchester United

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  • Burnley has 1 win vs. Man United in last 23 meetings
  • Manchester United has not conceded a goal in 2018
  • Paul Pogba is joint-top of the league with 9 assists

A critical top of the table battle comes our way from Turf Moor (!!) on Saturday as Manchester United travels to Burnley live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

Since losing at Chelsea back in early November, Manchester United in unbeaten away from home and has won four of the five road matches. Burnley, meanwhile, has lost three matches in a row to start the new year and has not won in Premier League play since December 12th against Stoke City.

The goalscoring form of each team is also in stark contrast. Manchester United has not allowed a goal in any competition in 2018, and last conceded back on Boxing Day in a 2-2 draw with this Burnley side. The Clarets, meanwhile, have just one goal in their last three Premier League games and just three goals in their last six.

INJURIES: Burnley – OUT: Chris Wood (knee), Stephen Ward (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Chris Taylor (ribs). Manchester United – OUT: Daley Blind (undisclosed), Eric Bailly (ankle), Michael Carrick (heart), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on the gap in riches between clubs: “I don’t think any of us are surprised by the gap in the Premier League – I think it’s been there a long time and it’s getting harder year on year since the business model of football has changed.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on focusing despite transfer rumors: “In this moment, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan our player, [Alexis] Sanchez an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow, I want to switch off and focus on the most important thing, which is the match.”

Prediction

Burnley may be coming back down to Earth, but they are still a formidable team with great organization, and Manchester United will be once again held to a draw, this time 1-1.

Alexis Sanchez in Arsenal squad, could play vs Crystal Palace

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Ahead of his nearly imminent move away from the Emirates, Alexis Sanchez could make an appearance for Arsenal against Crystal Palace this weekend as he was with the squad at the team hotel on Friday night, according to reports in England.

According to the reports, Arsene Wenger has not decided if he will play Sanchez against Palace or not, as any potential injury could seriously jeopardize any outgoing transfer in the works. However, naming him to the bench and allowing Sanchez to make one last appearance in front of the home fans would be a nice touch before he leaves, likely for Manchester United.

It probably doesn’t help Wenger’s selection that oft-injured Danny Welbeck will miss the match after picking up a muscle problem in training.

Sanchez did not travel with the team to Bournemouth last weekend as Arsenal lost 2-1 in stunning fashion. Sanchez has missed four Premier League games this season, and Arsenal has lost three of them.

The reports state Sanchez trained with the Arsenal first team on Friday, but only because the youth team he trained with the day before had left for a road trip.

Reports: LA Galaxy trades Gyasi Zardes to Columbus for Ola Kamara

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According to a reports by the LA Times and by ESPN, the LA Galaxy have traded US international Gyasi Zardes along with allocation money to the Columbus Crew for striker Ola Kamara.

Both reports state that Columbus will receive $400,000 in guaranteed allocation money in the deal, plus another $100,000 should Kamara score 12 goals next season to trigger the incentive.

Zardes was once a force along the wing for Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, but the 26-year-old has declined heavily in the last two seasons as injuries and poor form have held him to just eight goals over the last two seasons, including just two last campaign. Meanwhile, Kamara has been a star for Columbus in his first two years in Major League Soccer, scoring 16 goals in 2016 before netting another 18 last season, leaving him third in the league in goals scored over those two seasons.

The LA Times report states that Kamara will earn a new contract after the trade, giving him a raise over his current $482,500 yearly salary.

Zardes is an interesting case who shouldn’t be given up on just yet. A homegrown player for the Galaxy, he scored 17 goals in the 2014 season, including on in the MLS Cup Finals as the Galaxy won it all. He earned a seemingly permanent place on the USMNT as a result, and has 37 caps to this date. However, his goalscoring form has since evaporated, leaving him with no more than six goals in an MLS season since, and has just six goals in those 37 caps for the national team.

The Galaxy will need to acquire an additional international roster spot in order to activate Kamara for the season opener on March 4th against Portland, as they have filled up their seven spots as of now.