Author: Richard Farley

Get use to seeing more south American players heading to MLS, as Opta's office in Uruguay will help to unearth Latin American gems (see, Diego Valeri) on the cheap.

Watch Live: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Lineups)

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The fight for fifth in the West will take place in Cascadia, with today’s meeting between Portland and Vancouver primed to give one rival an edge on the conference’s final playoff spot. With a one-point lead on their northwest adversaries, the Whitecaps enter today’s game in line for a postseason return, but Portland’s 3-0 win on Aug. 30 in Vancouver suggests the home side will have the advantage in the teams’ final meeting of the season.

Coverage from Providence Park starts on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, with New York and Seattle rounding out our MLS doubleheader tonight at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

[ WATCH: Timbers host Whitecaps on Live Extra ]

Three weeks ago, Portland temporarily wrestled fifth away from the struggling Whitecaps, with goals from Alvas Powell, Maxi Urruti, and Rodney Wallace making amends for the June victory Vancouver earned in Oregon. Though the Timbers have since given fifth back to their rivals, a repeat of last months’ result will put Caleb Porter’s team in position for a second straight postseason berth.

With only six matches left in the season (and a six-pointer in front of them), now’s the time for Vancouver to change course. Since defeating Seattle 1-0 at home in July, the Whitecaps are 2-3-6, with their only wins coming at home against Sporting Kansas City and San Jose. Having since acquired Mauro Rosales from Chivas USA, Vancouver has changed its look, featuring the former Sounder as a focal point last week against Dallas. The extent to which Carl Robinson can fit him next to Pedro Morales may determine the Whitecaps’ playoff future.

For the Timbers, so much comes down to the play of playmaking star Diego Valeri, but in Darlington Nagbe and Rodney Wallace, the Timbers have threats across the middle of the park, often leading to Fanendo Adi and Urruti’s names on the scoresheet. With the team’s leaky defense, those talents are often left trying to outscore the opposition, but against a Whitecaps side Portland shutout in Vancouver, the defense will be looking to post its fourth clean sheet of the season


Portland: Ricketts; Powell, Kah, Ridgewell, Villafana; Chara, Johnson, Valeri; Nagbe, Adi, Wallace

Vancouver: Oustead; Beitashour, O’Brien, Waston, Harvey; Rosales, Laba, Morales, Teibert; Fernandez, Hurtado

Mic check: Clint Dempsey takes the stage at FIFA15 event

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MLS and FIFA15 had a little get together on Thursday night in New York, one that looked like a typical promotional event. New brand for the league and a new product from Electronic Arts put synergy on the menu. It was all about two brands being brand buddies.

That is, it was all about the brands until the U.S. Men’s National Team captain took the stage for a few bars.

You know: Just Clint Dempsey things.

Taking a quick detour after winning U.S. Open Cup Tuesday in Philadelphia, the Sounders’ star emerged from backstage with mic in hand to show off his second most-renown talent, one made famous by “Don’t Tread.” The former Fulham star also released the single “It’s Poppin'” earlier this year off his album “The Redux.”

On Thursday, Dempsey appearance was brief, but although the emcee dropped some peavy hints before he took the stage, “Deuce” still drew a reaction from the crowd when he took his turn.

Check out the video, above.

CCL: Two goals from Toni push Sporting Kansas City past Saprissa

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Two Toni Dovale goals later, Sporting Kansas City has control of its CONCACAF Champions League group. After MLS’s champions and visiting Deportivo Saprissa went into half time at 1-1, the Spanish winger scored twice in the span of seven minutes, giving the home side the 3-1 victory that vaulted it into a tie for first in Group 2.

Dom Dwyer opened the night’s scoring from the spot in the 13th minute only to see Saprissa’s Juan Bustos put his 28th minute equalizer into Andy Gruenebaum’s upper-left corner. In the middle of the second half, however, Toni pushed Sporting past its group’s toughest competition, scoring in the 69th and 76th minutes to give the home side its decisive result.

Still with a game in hand on Saprissa (Costa Rica) and Real Esteli (Nicaragua), Sporting will advance to Champions League’s quarterfinals with four points in its last two games. While Peter Vermes’ team must still venture to San José next month, a win at home over Esteli (Sept. 23) and a draw at Saprissa puts Sporting into the next round.

Sporting carried a home team’s energy out of the locker room, eventually earning a penalty kick in the 12th minute after Saprissa goalkeeper Danny Carvajal took down Benny Feilhaber. Finishing into the right of goal, Dwyer gave his team an early lead, albeit one Kansas City would eventually give back.

That moment came in the 28th minute, when a layoff from Saprissa’s Daniel Colindres found Bustos just inside the Sporting penalty box. The midfielder finished high into Gruenebaum’s net to spark Saprissa’s hopes of taking an edge out of Sporting Park.

Dwyer and Toni nearly combined to quell those hopes before halftime, barely missing a go-ahead goal in the 40th minute. Mid-way through the second half, however, Toni made amends for the close call.

In the 69th minute, Toni took a cross from right back Igor Juliao an volleyed home the game-winning goal, with an easy finish off a Dwyer ball seven minutes later giving the Spaniard his third goal of the competition. Whereas one moment the Costa Ricans had hope of seeing out a 1-1, the 77th minute arrived with the match decided.

That decision leaves Vermes’ team in prime position to move on. Two-goal winners over Group 2’s stiffest competition, Sporting has reason to think they can get at least a point at Saprissa. Couple that with a home win over Esteli, and MLS’s champions are back in CCL’s final eight.