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MLS Preview: FC Dallas, Chicago Fire look to return to winning ways

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It’s an international week, so you can be forgiven if you’re not fully focused on Major League Soccer, but there are a trio of intriguing matchups this weekend.

FC Dallas hosts the New York Red Bulls, the Chicago Fire travel north of the border to take on the Montreal Impact and the LA Galaxy host the struggling Colorado Rapids.

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Here’s a breakdown of the top three matchups in MLS action this weekend:

FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls — Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

Headlining the four-match weekend lineup is FC Dallas hosting the New York Red Bulls.

FC Dallas has been slumping, winless in its last six games including three straight defeats on the road. If the season ended today, FC Dallas, which at one point this season was leading the conference, would be out of the playoffs, a precipitous slide over the past two months.

The Red Bulls on the other side are winless in two games after winning five out of six games in July and August. The Red Bulls themselves are just three points above the red line and are in need of picking up points on the road.

Making life more difficult for Dallas is the fact that its without five starters including U.S. Men’s National Team callups Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges. The Red Bulls on the other hand are only missing three players due to international call-ups, with Kemar Lawrence the only notable absence.

Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire — Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

Similar to FC Dallas, the Chicago Fire are in a major slump and have dropped down the MLS standings.

The Fire have lost six of their last seven games and when star forward Nemanja Nikolic doesn’t score, the Fire have won just two games out of 14 (eight losses, four draws).

The Montreal Impact meanwhile saw their four-game winning streak snapped last weekend to rival and Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC. But the Impact are on the upswing, with Ignacio Piatti recently being named MLS Player of the Month for August and leading the team up the standings.

Both teams will be missing starters due to international call-ups and injuries but it should still be a pretty entertaining game in Quebec.

LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids — Saturday, 11 p.m. ET

It’s a battle of two teams with two new coaches after rough first halves of the season.

The Galaxy notably sacked Curt Onalfo and brought back Sigi Schmid to be the team’s next coach. The Rapids then quietly showed club legend Pablo Mastroeni the door after his team was sitting in the bottom half of the standings most of the season.

Now, both Schmid and new Rapids coach Steve Cooke look to get their first wins of the season and try and turn the season around, even though both team’s chances of making the playoffs are minuscule at this point.

With Tim Howard and the Dos Santos brothers all missing on international duty, the game misses some star power. However, it will be a great chance to look at the tactics of the two coaches and how they’re setting up their team for the rest of the season.

Full MLS schedule


New England Revolution vs. Orlando City SC — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire — 7 p.m. ET
FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls — 9 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids — 11 p.m. ET

MLS Snapshot: POR carve up 9-man ORL, keep pace with VAN, SKC

Pete Christopher//The Oregonian via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): All of a sudden, the Western Conference has sprung to life as the 2017 regular season winds down — Vancouver Whitecaps, winners of five of their last seven games (unbeaten); Portland Timbers, winners of four of their last six following Sunday’s 3-0 victory over 10-man nine-man Orlando City SC at Providence Park; Sporting Kansas City, losers of just two of their last 15 games; Seattle Sounders, who had their 13-game unbeaten run snapped on Saturday; and Real Salt Lake, winners of four of their last five. With fewer than a handful of games remaining, Vancouver’s lead on Portland and Sporting KC remains one point after all three sides won this weekend; RSL and Seattle are separated by just three points, three points back of second and third. As for Saturday’s game, Diego Valeri is now a top-two candidate for MVP after scoring two more goals (his 19th and 20th, to go with 9 assists) against 10-man Orlando.

[ MORE: TFC’s Shield celebration delayed | RSL end Seattle’s run at 13 ]

Three moments that mattered

15′ — Valeri extends his streak, makes it 1-0 — The last time Valeri failed to score in a game, the date was July 23.

29′ — Mattocks taps it home after Asprilla’s cross — Huge credit to Diego Chara for the through ball to spring Dairon Asprilla into acres of space. The ball to Mattocks was simple, and he got it right.

59′ — Valeri gets no. 20, makes it 3-0 — Joe Bendik managed to deny Mattocks’ initial effort, but Valeri followed up when everyone in white had already quit on the play.

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

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (15′ – PK, 59′), Mattocks (29′)

The 2 Robbies: City Sparkle, Chelsea Shine, Liverpool Hold On

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe take a look at some of the weekend’s biggest storylines, including Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur’s frantic win away to West Ham United and Manchester City’s demolition of Crystal Palace.

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

Ederson harbors no ill will after Mane’s personal apology

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As far as Ederson is concerned, Sadio Mane‘s studs-to-face assault is a thing of the past — save for, the elongated scar he’ll likely wear on the left side of his face for the rest of his life, of course.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Goals galore on a wild Saturday ]

The Manchester City goalkeeper, who was forced from his side’s 5-0 victory over Liverpool on Sept. 9 after his face was raked by the studs of the Reds’ star attacker, revealed this weekend that he received — and accepted — Mane’s personal apology in the days immediately thereafter — quotes from

“Yes, I had contact with him, he sent me a message. I told him to stay calm, those things happen inside the pitch, it could happen anytime. I told him to not worry and wished him a good season.”

“I ended up having a hard hit in the face, but in the same week, I was ready to play in Champions League. I felt a strong kick, but I was always conscious. I knew it had been a long cut. I wanted to keep playing but, for medical issues, I couldn’t keep playing.

“But I was always conscious, even if I had my face a little bit swollen. But after a week it was normal again. In the same week, I was ready to play in Champions League. I faced that game full of confidence again, without any fear and happy for the result we achieved.”

Bundesliga: Leverkusen throttle HSV; Hannover remain unbeaten

Marius Becker/dpa via AP
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BERLIN (AP) Three days after being cleared to play by FIFA, Argentine striker Lucas Alario scored one goal and set up another on his debut for Bayer Leverkusen to beat Hamburger SV 3-0 in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Alario struck midway through the first half, converting a cross from Leon Bailey, who also set up Kevin Volland’s opening goal just three minutes before.

A moment of class from Julian Brandt sent Alario through with less than 10 minutes remaining, and the Argentine had the awareness to spot the better-positioned Volland to seal the win.

Alario went off moments later to warm applause from fans.

“The goal is the cream on top. He played very well, scored the goal and combined with others. He worked well coming back and his first goal wasn’t so easy to score,” Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich said.

Alario’s first appearance for Leverkusen was held up when previous club River Plate objected to his transfer through the Argentine soccer association (AFA), which denied his playing rights.

The Buenos Aires-based club contended that Alario’s transfer was invalid as Leverkusen paid his release clause of $28.6 million on Aug. 31, after the Argentine season began, which it said was against FIFA rules.

Leverkusen then took the case to FIFA, which ruled in its favor on Thursday.

Leverkusen’s second win in six games eased the pressure on new coach Herrlich after a difficult start.

Counterpart Markus Gisdol remains in need of a change in fortune, however, after four straight defeats. Hamburg next faces Werder Bremen, Mainz and Bayern Munich.

Cologne fought its way to its first point in a 0-0 draw at promoted Hannover after starting the Bundesliga with five straight defeats.

Now the last-place side hopes it can build on the point.

“The luck will come back and the chances we had today will go in,” Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn said. “We’ll start winning the games again. But the precondition was this performance that we delivered today.”

Peter Stoeger’s side, which has scored only one goal all season, hasn’t netted in its last four league games. That highlighted the extent to which Cologne relied on French striker Anthony Modeste, sold in the offseason in a big-money move to Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian.

Modeste scored 25 Bundesliga goals for Cologne last season. His replacement, former Mainz striker Jhon Cordoba, is yet to score in six games.

“We all have to be satisfied with the draw,” said Hannover general manager Horst Heldt, whose fourth-place side remains one of three unbeaten in the Bundesliga this season.

Hannover coach Andre Breitenreiter remained unbeaten in 15 games across two divisions.