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MLS Snapshots: Fire break losing skid; Sounders extend unbeaten run

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Chicago Fire 4-1 New England Revolution

The game in 100 words (or less): The Chicago Fire have risen from from a very brief slump (back-to-back losses for just the second time all year, coming right on the heels of an 11-game unbeaten run), thanks to a comfortable 4-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday. Unlike Chicago, most MLS sides would struggle mightily when their top striker is not only kept off the scoresheets, but limited to just one shot on the night. That’s the extent to which the Revs managed to shut down Nemanja Nikolic, the league’s leading scorer (16 goals), but it wasn’t nearly enough, as Matt Polster, Juninho, Michael de Leeuw and Luis Solignac stepped up as less likely scorers (left back Patrick Doody assisted on three of the four) to run the Fire’s sterling home record to 10W-1D-0L on the season. The victory moves Veljko Paunovic’s side to within three points of Toronto FC, who drew last-place D.C. United on Saturday, in the Supporters’ Shield (and home-field advantage) race.

[ MORE: Sunday’s MLS schedule is chock-full of important matchups ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Polster puts a bit of bend on it for 1-0 — Who needs a left foot when you can do this with the outside of your right?

24′ — Alley-oop to Kamara, and it’s 1-1 — There’s (still) no one in MLS that can compete with Kei Kamara in the air, so Chicago decided they wouldn’t even try.

39′ — Juninho hits it low, through traffic for 2-1 — Bastian Schweinsteiger draws everyone’s attention, only to fool them with a clever dummy. Juninho keeps the strike low, but with power, and Cody Cropper couldn’t do anything about it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Patrick Doody

Goalscorers: Polster (8′), Kamara (24′), Juninho (39′), De Leeuw (49′), Solignac (90+2′)


Minnesota United 0-4 Seattle Sounders

The game in 100 words (or less): Don’t look now, but the Seattle Sounders are unbeaten in seven games (four wins) following Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of expansion Minnesota United, and Brian Schmetzer’s side have climbed all the way up to third place in the Western Conference (even if only for the time being) as a result. Clint Dempsey had himself a night in this one, bagging a brace and an assist in 90 minutes of work. That’s five goals and two assists for Dempsey in his last four games, bringing his season tallies to nine and three. Perhaps more importantly, Jordan Morris scored his third goal of the season, and his first since April 23. More importantly of all, though, is the clean sheet, Seattle’s third straight game without giving up a goal (while scoring seven themselves).

[ MORE: Sunday’s MLS schedule is chock-full of important matchups ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Bruin leads, finishes the counter for 1-0 — Bruin and Demspey played the two-man game to perfection, and the latter fed the former through for an easy opener.

18′ — Dempsey heads it from a yard out for 2-0 — Gustav Svensson served it up, Chad Marshall sent it back across the face of goal, and Dempsey could have headed this one home with his eyes closed the entire way.

71′ — Morris gets in behind, makes it 3-0 — Nicolas Lodeiro timed his pass perfectly, just as Morris did his run. When the pass and the run sync up like this, you’re bound to hit pay dirt.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Clint Dempsey

Goalscorers: Bruin (9′), Dempsey (18′, 72′), Morris (71′)

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham