Bastian Schweinsteiger

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MLS Snapshot: Kamara records first MLS hat-trick; Fire beat Impact

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The game in 100 words (or less): It’s been an up and down year for the New England Revolution, but Saturday night’s win could help spark a playoff push for Jay Heaps and Co. Kei Kamara recorded his first career MLS hat-trick in the 4-0 win for the Revs against Orlando City, while Lee Nguyen assisted on all four goals. The Lions have now allowed 43 goals this season, the second most in the Eastern Conference, while the team’s offense continues to struggle.

Three moments that mattered

75′ — Close your eyes, Orlando fans — Kamara looks like he’s just toying with the Lions defense tonight.

89′ — Kamara gets his hat-trick — The veteran MLS striker finally has his first career hat-trick in the league, and what a performance it was.

90+2′ — Bunbury adds to the misery — It just hasn’t been Orlando’s year on the defensive side of things…

Man of the match: Kei Kamara

Goalscorers: Kei Kamara (26′, 75′, 89′), Teal Bunbury (90+2′)


The game in 100 words (or less): Simply put, the Fire needed a win. It didn’t matter how it came or what the scoreline was. Bastian Schweinsteiger ensured that victory would come on Saturday night in Montreal when the German netted his third goal of the season for the Fire. The victory gives Veljko Paunovic’s side 44 points on the year, which is good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference, while the Impact remain in seventh place in the East.

Three two one moment that mattered

59′ — The Fire take the lead, don’t relinquish it — Matt Polster makes a great run, and Bastian Schweinsteiger didn’t make any mistakes with his finish. Much needed goal for the Fire.

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

Man of the match: Bastian Schweinsteiger

Goalscorer: Bastian Schweinsteiger (59′)

MLS: Danladi’s double does it for MNUFC; CHI lose 4th straight

Photo credit: Minnesota United / Twitter: @MNUFC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Chicago Fire joined FC Dallas as former Supporters’ Shield contenders/waning MLS Cup favorites to suffer defeat and extend a horrifically long winless skid on Saturday. While FCD dropped to six games without a win, Chicago fell 2-1 at the hands of Minnesota United, their fourth straight defeat and sixth in seven games. Abu Danladi scored each of the game’s first two goals, the no. 1 overall draft pick’s fourth and fifth this season, as the Loons picked up just their second win in nine games (five losses). The victory, Minnesota’s first away from home since enterting MLS, lifts Adrian Heath’s side three points clear of the Colorado Rapids in the race to avoid the Wooden Spoon (last-place finishers league-wide), while Chicago tumble to fourth after Columbus knocked off FCD to go third.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s MLS roundup — TFC dominant; wild Texas derby ]

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Danladi hits an empty net for 1-0 — Ethan Finlay did most of the hard work here, getting forward and picking out Danladi atop the six-yard box; all the rookie had to do was not blow the open-net chance.

45′ — Danladi pokes it past Lampson for 2-0 — Danladi had considerably more to do for his second, as Jerome Thiesson’s cross arrived 10 yards from goal and at full-stretch. A tough, instinctive finish.

77′ – Accam gets in behind, makes it 2-1 — Bastian Schweinsteiger was brilliant not once, but twice, in setting up David Accam’s goal in the 77th minute. Accam’s apart, the finish, wasn’t exactly simple, either.

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

Man of the match: Abu Danladi

Goalscorers: Danladi (36′, 45′), Accam (77′)

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

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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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′)

MLS All-Stars get chance to make statement vs Real Madrid

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CHICAGO (AP) The best team in the world facing off against the local lads sounds like a recipe for disaster – just not when it takes place in the MLS All-Star Game.

Then, it’s a showcase.

For the 13th straight year, North America’s best take on a top international team, this time glamour-boys Real Madrid on Wednesday night at sold-out Soldier Field.

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The game caps a three-day, MLS-styled celebration of the sport – from matches on the sand at Oak Street beach to star-studded endorsements of the town’s deep-dish pizza – that had fans in the City of Big Shoulders following along with their feet.

The payoff for those inside the venerable 61,000-seat stadium, coincidentally the site of the inaugural match of the 1994 World Cup, will be an embarrassment of soccer riches.

[ MORE: Latest MLS standings ]

Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be on hand for what amounts to another preseason friendly, but Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Isco, Luka Modric and nearly all the front-liners who helped every important club championship in sight, will. They’ll encounter some familiar, if aging, faces across the pitch.

They range from World Cup winner, former German national team and current Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, to one-time Real teammate and Orlando City playmaker Kaka, as well former Atletico Madrid rival and New York City FC striker David Villa. Also familiar will be a handful of Americans who logged considerable time with the U.S. national team and European clubs, among them Toronto’s Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, Houston’s DaMarcus Beasley and Seattle goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Expect a competitive match, even though Real manager Zinedine Zidane is expected to reach deep into his bench after the starters played the opening 60 minutes against Barcelona in Miami last Saturday as part of their preseason tour. The MLS team has won seven of the previous matches.

[ MORE: MLS stats ]

“I do not know how the game will go,” said Kaka, “but we have a great team to play a very even match with Real Madrid.”

MLS fans chafe at the perception the league lags well behind their top-tier counterparts in Europe and want their team to show up once again with something to prove. The All-Stars’ 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in 2014, however, may have been too competitive; then-Bayern manager Pep Guardiola left that game without shaking hands, instead wagging his finger at what he considered unnecessarily hard tackles by MLS defenders.

Yet the games have proved worthwhile for both sides, providing MLS with an opportunity to gauge its level of play against top-flight competition and show stadiums packed with passionate and knowledgeable fans to the rest of the world. In return, the international clubs – often English Premier League giants like Manchester United and Chelsea, but also Roma from Italy’s Serie A, Bayern from Germany’s Bundesliga and now Spain’s Real Madrid – have used the exposure from the game and their tours to build their brand with U.S. and Canadian audiences.

No matter the final score, the game offers little more than a snapshot of how far MLS has closed the gap since it was founded as a condition to host the 1994 World Cup. Asked to make the comparison, decorated MLS imports like Schweinsteiger cite the faster pace of play elsewhere and the experience that enables even young teammates to anticipate how attacks will unfold and exploit the smallest vulnerabilities in opposing defenses.

But fans can glimpse now what MLS could become by imagining themselves standing in the boots of Brooks Lennon, or any of the other promising young Americans gathered here for the game. The 19-year-old winger, who joined Real Salt Lake this year on a season-long loan from Liverpool, didn’t make the MLS All-Star squad and instead played Tuesday night in MLS’ “Homegrown Game” against Chivas Guadalajara’s under-20 team.

Lennon has been a force everywhere he’s played so far: as a youngster with Real Salt Lake’s youth development team and then, from 2015-17, in Liverpool’s academy. He progressed to become a regular with the English side’s under-23 team, as well as a member of the U.S. national under-18 and under-20 teams.

But when he looked at the next step, joining Liverpool’s senior club, Lennon saw players like Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino on the roster and realized he needed more seasoning. He returned to Salt Lake and was an immediate hit, but he’ll have to decide his next step at the end of the MLS season.

“The 2 + years in Liverpool were incredible. I matured a lot, as a person and a player,” Lennon said. “My choice will probably be dictated by which situation offers the best chance to continue that.

“Right now, though,” he added, “my focus is here and what my team needs to do to make the playoffs.”

Brian McBride, who coached the MLS “Homegrown” team, understands Lennon’s dilemma. He starred for the U.S. national team and played in Germany and England as well as MLS. He thinks Lennon’s upside will make him a valuable commodity on either side of the Atlantic.

“He’s already learned the basics of how to be a pro. You can see that not just in his play, but the way he conducts himself,” McBride said. “Playing here, or over there, are different experiences. But as long as he continues to grow, there’s really no wrong decision.”

The MLS is drawing better players to these shores than ever, thanks to the improving caliber of play and higher pay. So many mid-level players have come over in recent years, especially from South America, that the number of U.S.-born players starting from MLS clubs has dropped from 51 percent just three years ago to 42 percent in 2017 – even though three more teams and 33 more starting spots were added through expansion.

“That’s a healthy sign,” said Alexi Lalas, a TV analyst for FOX who played for the U.S. national team, in Italy’s Serie A and the MLS. “It tells you there’s more talent here now – and more competition for every spot. And we’re looking at a generation of kids who grew up watching MLS teams and maybe dreaming someday about playing for them.

“We need to keep getting better. But we’re clearly headed in the right direction. You know the perception and more important, the reality, has changed when a guy like (All-Star midfielder) Diego Valeri chooses to play in Portland during the prime of his career,” he added. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

MLS All Star Game preview: Surprise us, please?

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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I’ll just say it: I’d rather watch Real Madrid play almost any singular MLS playoff team in a friendly than spy Wednesday night’s MLS All Star Game in Chicago.

Realizing that it’s a terrific event for Chicago and not a bad thing for some younger All Stars hoping to catch the eye of new fans or suitors — cough, Miguel Almiron and Kellyn Acosta — I have a hard time thinking casual sports fans are aiming to lock themselves in for two hours or even 45 minutes of TV time.

[ MORE: Costa to Atleti through Milan? ]

It’s not even particularly special for the All Stars themselves. Nemanja Nikolic played against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last season. David Villa has lined up across from Real on numerous occasions, and the same can be said for Giovani dos Santos, Kaka, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Heck, ol’ Basti knocked Real out of the UCL, period:

So forgive me if my excitement level for watching the match on television is linked directly to my pleasure at having a live match to monitor during my PST shift (and for that early August opportunity, MLS, I applaud you). Now in person? Heck yes, live soccer!

I’m neither the fun police nor a hater of All Star Games in general, but honestly I think we’re past this.

Consider this same premise, but now conducted intra-league. Sure it’s going to be harder to fill up a giant venue, but you’re still talking about Kaka, Villa, Schweinsteiger, and Giovinco in the same building, a clarion call for MLS, soccer, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Italy, and American fans.

Now would I prefer Real vs. the MLS All Stars in a Best of Three super series with the All Stars given more than five minutes to train together? Sure.

[ MORE: Adu pulls out of trial after manager’s blast ]

Would I sign up for an in-game gimmick that leads to must-see TV? Yeah, sure (How about: if the All Stars win, they get to actually participate as Real in the club’s first group stage game against a European minnow. Almiron, get ready to meet FC Astana of the Kazakhstan Premier League!).

I don’t blame MLS for having the event, but I’m far past the point of “This’ll be great.” And I think 99 percent of American soccer fans and a strong number of sports fans are past the point of needing primers on who Real Madrid is, or will be sold on this game “mattering” as some sort of MLS litmus test.

Major League Soccer is so, so much better than when Michael Parkhurst, a 2017 All Star, trotted out for the All Stars’ 2-0 win over Celtic in 2007. Much better. It’s even much improved from the highly-publicized waxings doled out by Manchester United in the 2010 and 2011 editions.

I get why Real Madrid wants to play the game and boost their global brand. I get why the host cities want in, and why MLS feels like “It ain’t broke so we won’t fix it.”

Yet as those of us who watch MLS regularly can often wonder how Toronto FC or New York City FC might fare in meaningful matches against low-tier teams from the Bundesliga, La Liga, or the Premier League, or as part of a ‘our best 20 versus your best 20’ showcase against the Football League Championship or 2.Bundesliga, I can guarantee you even the biggest MLS honk doesn’t think anything about this game merits projecting the result in a single meaningful way.

Pardon me for not shining my shoes.

Now I suppose this year is as good as any to project MLS All Stars rebounding from a loss to Arsenal to claim a fourth win in six years. The men are in better shape and form thanks to the unorthodox MLS season, Cristiano Ronaldo is not available, and Real didn’t exactly shrink from the weekend’s Stateside Clasico versus Barca.

Being one week from Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup Final against Manchester United in Macedonia, Zinedine Zidane will have his eye on putting his squad in well-oiled order, so perhaps that will provide more fire in Real’s belly.

Call it 3-2 to the All Stars, and we’ll see you in Astana.