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MLS at Week 8: Lone unbeaten sides clash in Dallas

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While many of the usual suspects remain in playoff positions after the first several weeks of the MLS season, 2017 has kicked off with quite a few surprises.

As it stands, three non-playoff teams from a season ago and an expansion side sit inside the top 6 in the Eastern Conference, while the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes continue to impress in a congested Western Conference.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 7 ]

Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire – 7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Can we talk about how good Bastian Schweinsteiger has been? On paper, it looked like a pointless move for the Fire after acquiring Dax McCarty in the offseason and boasting a fairly strong attack but the German international has been everything Veljko Paunovic could have hoped for since arriving in the Midwest. The Fire are unbeaten in three and have scored six goals in that span, while only allowing two goals. Toronto finally dropped a decision last week against the Crew, but there shouldn’t be great cause for concern from last season’s runners’ up.

Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact – 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Jim Curtin and his side are running dangerously close to having wholesale changes arrive in Chester. Four consecutive losses have the Union sitting bottom in all of MLS with two points and the team’s lack of finishing has proved to be a massive cause for concern. The Impact haven’t been much better to start, but last week’s effort against Atlanta should give Montreal supporters a glimmer of hope.

Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday

Two of the more surprising sides in 2017 will meet at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, and that provides fans the opportunity to get a closer look at Erick “Cubo” Torres. The league leader in goals (6) is finally living up to the hype, and if the Mexican international can continue to produce up front then the Dynamo will be a very hard out as the season rolls on. Elsewhere, the Quakes are unbeaten in three with three straight draws against quality opposition. Dominic Kinnear will want to turn those ties into wins but it’s been a very strong start for the two-time MLS Cup winners.

Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 4 p.m. ET Saturday

For the first time all season, the Timbers failed to score last weekend against Sporting KC. The Whitecaps will look to contain the rampant Portland attack but that’s easy said than done. Carl Robinson’s Whitecaps earned an important win over the Sounders last week and now Vancouver can earn back-to-back Cascadia victories on Saturday in the Pacific Northwest.

New England Revolution vs. D.C. United – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

D.C. finally came back down to earth against rivals New York Red Bulls, but there’s been better play from Ben Olsen’s group over recent weeks. The Revs have been up and down to say the least and with both clubs sitting on the outside of the top 6 Saturday’s meeting could play an important role later in the season.

New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Red Bulls snapped a four-match winless run against D.C. but the Crew present a much bigger challenge with the East leaders coming to Harrison. After missing the postseason in 2016, it was only a matter of time for Greg Berhalter’s side to return to form given the club’s talent. Plus, you’ve got two of the league’s best strikers in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Ola Kamara matching up.

FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC – 8 p.m. ET Saturday

Saturday night’s clash in Dallas is intriguing for several reasons, most notably because of the fact that these two sides are the only unbeatens remaining in MLS through seven weeks. Both clubs continue to play stingy defense, while their attacks aren’t producing as much as either team would like.

Real Salt Lake vs. Atlanta United – 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Outside of maybe Portland, Atlanta has been the most exciting team to watch over the first seven weeks. Tata Martino’s boys have found the back of the net 14 times and once they get Josef Martinez back into the fold, the expansion side will be that much more dangerous. RSL has picked up its play recently with back-to-back wins over the Whitecaps and Rapids, but Atlanta will pose a bit of a bigger threat.

New York City FC vs. Orlando City – 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday

When these two clubs met on opening weekend it turned out to be quite the wild affair. If anyone thought that Kaka could go down injured in the opening 10 minutes and Orlando would still come away victorious, whoever said that was probably lying. Now, the Lions have several other injury woes, although there’s a chance that the Brazilian could play on Sunday afternoon. NYCFC is coming off an important win over D.C. United last week but Patrick Vieira’s group will have to cope without a key defender as Ronald Matarrita is sidelined with an ankle injury.

LA Galaxy at Seattle Sounders – 4 p.m. ET Sunday

Six points in six matches isn’t exactly what the Sounders had in mind after hoisting MLS Cup five months ago, but if we learned anything from the Cascadia side in 2016 then there shouldn’t be cause for panic. For the Galaxy, Romain Alessandrini has lived up to the billing early with the newcomer netting four goals and adding two assists in the first month-plus of the season.

Minnesota United vs. Colorado Rapids – 6 p.m. ET Sunday

The bottom sides out West meet in the weekend’s final matchup, and each club could really learn something from the other. While Minnesota has managed to score at a solid pace over recent weeks, the Loons have struggled mightily out of the back, allowing a league-high 24 goals in seven matches. Meanwhile, Pablo Mastroeni’s side continues to search for goals and its defense remains the strongest aspect of the Rapids squad.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 7: A new No. 1 (with a bullet)

Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP
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Given the early stages of the season and a week off from Power Rankings, this week’s edition sees several big jumps and precipitous falls.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

22 (19)

21 (20)

 

20 (11)

Philadelphia Union: Four-straight losses have to be testing Earnie Stewart’s resolve when it comes to coach Jim Curtin.

Minnesota United: Now seeing results, Minnesota has still yet to allow less than two goals in an MLS game.

Colorado Rapids: The league’s stingiest defense in 2016, Colorado hasn’t kept a clean sheet since Week 1.

19 (18) Montreal Impact: Yes the return of Ignacio Piatti helped, but so did a pretty bogus red card to Atlanta. Problems in Quebec?
18 (7) Seattle Sounders: With one win through six matches, Seattle’s 2016 title follow-up is looking a lot like Portland’s 2015 effort.
17 (16) New England Revolution: Improved results took a hit from a blowout loss to Chicago.
16 (21) DC United: Was looking more like the team that finished 2016 red-hot before a loss to the rival Red Bulls.
15 (14) LA Galaxy: Big litmus test as Seattle visits this weekend.
14 (14) San Jose Earthquakes: Winless in four yet still unbeaten at home, the Quakes head back to the road this week.
13 (4) Vancouver Whitecaps: Held serve against Seattle to rebound from a loss against charged up Real Salt Lake.
12 (12) New York Red Bulls: Restored confidence with a confident win over DC United.
11 (8) Houston Dynamo: Blowing a 2-goal lead to Minnesota stings.
10 (14) Toronto FC: The latest victim of Justin Meram’s phenomenal start, the Reds fell from the ranks of the unbeaten against Trillium Cup rivals Columbus.
9 (22) Real Salt Lake: Petke bump! The Power Rankings are taking a leap of faith on RSL, who looks like a much different and improved team after a coaching change.
8 (9) Atlanta United: Winless in three, all on the road, though that last one could’ve been different were it not for a questionable red card.
7 (5) New York City FC: David Villa is going to finish his time in MLS one day, and he’ll be discussed along with Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan as one of the best ever to play in the league.
6 (4) Columbus Crew: Back to winning ways following a blip against the Fire.
5 (17) Chicago Fire: Who would’ve thought adding a world class midfielder and one of MLS’ best to the engine room would’ve worked out so well? In the case of the former, Bastian Schweinsteiger, there were plenty of age skeptics. In the case of the latter, Dax McCarty, nearly everyone did.
4 (2) Portland Timbers: With one win in its last four matches, Caleb Porter’s crew is getting some leniency from our power rankings thanks to their incredible start.
3 (3) Orlando City: No team is winning more points-per-game than Orlando, though no team has played fewer matches than the Lions.
2 (1) FC Dallas: The West’s leader in points-per-game remains unbeaten but has yet to put up a result worthy of their pedigree.
1 (12) Sporting KC: Unbeaten, with wins at Portland and draws against Toronto FC and FC Dallas, KC looks prepared to deliver on last season’s preseason promise.

MLS Week 7: Trio of Friday matches kickoff busy weekend

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Week 7 of the Major League Soccer season plans on providing for your Friday with three matches kicking off the weekend to avoid any Easter Sunday matches.

Three sides — Toronto, Dallas, and KC — remain unbeaten in league play heading into the season’s seventh week, while Philadelphia and Montreal are both looking for their first wins of the campaign.

[ REPORT: Arsenal wins race for Chelsea target ]

Which zeroes, if any, look likely to fall this weekend? One or two, though we’re more excited for the consecutive hours with at least one match on the docket. Between MLS and the Premier League, it’s almost nonstop.

Philadelphia Union vs. New York City FC
7 p.m. ET Friday

Philly began the season with a pair of draws but has since lost all three of their matches ahead of Friday’s visit from NYCFC.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders
10 p.m. ET Friday

The first Cascadia Cup match of the season pits the 2016 holders against the reigning MLS Cup champs. The ‘Caps have allowed multiple goals in four-straight league matches following a scoreless draw vs. Philadelphia to open the season.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas
11 p.m. ET Friday

The Quakes haven’t won in three tries and look to break that streak against a Dallas team which has yet to lose in league play.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Montreal Impact vs. Atlanta United
1 p.m. ET Saturday

Quebec’s MLS side gets just its second home match of the season but a visit from the league’s second-most productive attack. Miguel Almiron has been a lot of fun for expansion Atlanta, completing almost 86 percent of his passes despite being a fairly adventurous player.

Orlando City SC vs. LA Galaxy
2:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Galaxy scoots across the country to face an Orlando team which has won three of four to start the season.

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
5 p.m. ET Saturday

The Revs are unbeaten in three following back-to-back losses to start the season, and now get a trip to a Chicago team that’s been finding itself but shown glimpses of really strong play.

New York Red Bulls vs. DC United
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Red Bulls are reeling, winless in four, and get a visit from a DC team boasting back-to-back 2-1 wins.

Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC
8 p.m. ET Saturday

The Trillium Cup sees a TFC side that has yet to lose but has four draws in five outings, while Columbus just saw a three-match win streak halted at Chicago. There will be no Drew Moor for the Reds, as the defender was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia.

Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota has yet to allow less than two goals in an MLS match, and gets a Houston team with plenty of firepower. The Dynamo will be itching to make amends for their first “0” of the season.

Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake
9 p.m. ET Saturday

Last year’s stingiest side has shown problems at the back in consecutive games. Colorado will now get a test from Mike Petke’s dangerous RSL attack.

Portland Timbers vs. Sporting KC
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Timbers are back in the win column after a pair of tough outings. KC is unbeaten, deep, and looking like the club we thought we’d see last season.

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 0-0 Sporting KC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): The chances weren’t pouring through Friday night’s clash at BMO Field, but when they come mount for the visitors, Alex Bono was there to save the day for Toronto FC. The TFC goalkeeper entered the match after starter Clint Irwin went down with an apparent knee injury. Sporting KC was the more threatening of the two sides, but the Western Conference club continued its struggles to find a final finish, which the team has only done twice so far this season.

Three moments that mattered

53′ — Bono keeps game scoreless after unexpected entrance — Dom Dwyer was gifted a chance from Michael Bradley after giving it away out of the back but keeper Alex Bono made himself big and kept the shutout.

59′ — Giovinco nearly breaks the deadlock — The Atomic Ant typically does what he wants when he wants, and this was nearly one of those occasions.

70′ — Bono does it again — Sporting KC definitely had the better chances of the two sides but the TFC keeper was always in the right spot to make the save.

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

Men of the match: Alex Bono

Goalscorers: N/A

Dom Dwyer gains U.S. citizenship, eligible for USMNT

Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star via AP
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Well Bruce Arena, you’ve got another striker on your hands.

[ MORE: Geoff Cameron — American patriot in the Premier League ]

Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer gained his U.S. citizenship on Thursday, making the 26-year-old striker eligible to be selected for the U.S. Men’s National Team moving forward.

Dwyer has lived in the U.S. since 2009 and is married to U.S. Women’s National Team star Sydney Leroux, however, Thursday’s news gives the USMNT another solid MLS option to consider for future international matches.

“I am extremely happy to have completed the process of becoming a U.S. citizen,” Dwyer said. “This country has given me a lot over the past five years, and I look forward to giving back as much as possible. I want to thank everyone who has supported me on this journey, most importantly my family and my club. This was a very meaningful day for me, and I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life as a U.S. citizen.”

Dwyer was born in England, however, the striker has been in MLS since 2012 when Sporting KC first selected him in the MLS SuperDraft.

In that span, Dwyer has notched 52 goals in MLS play for the Western Conference side and helped Sporting KC win MLS Cup in 2013.

Over the years, the U.S. has brought in more and more foreign talents into the national team fold, with dual-citizens Darlington Nagbe and Kekuta Manneh being two of the most recent USMNT players to make the transition into the team.

Previous U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann was known for calling in dual-citizens for his squads, which included players like Fabian Johnson, Aron Johannson and Julian Green.