MLS Preview: Midweek matches for Chicago, Montreal set tone for weekend tie

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It’s easy to look at a league season on its own, with fixture lists omitting other fixtures and rewards only counting for the league table.

As Montreal and Chicago are about to find out, a season is a timeline, with every competition having an effect on the rest.

The Montreal Impact have just six points from their last seven league matches, but their CONCACAF Champions League match with San Jose midweek wasn’t polished but their 1-0 escape put the Impact atop their group and can provide some good feelings as league play continues.

Not so much for Chicago – it’s completely the opposite.

Since losing three straight MLS matches in the beginning of May, the Fire have picked up 21 points in 11 games, bringing them back into the playoff hunt.  Unfortunately, they fell flat midweek to a slowly improving D.C. United squad in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal, a competition which Chicago always put a large amount of work into.

Montreal manager Marco Schallibaum knows the effect the 2-0 Cup loss for Chicago could have on this weekend’s match. “The fact that they’ve lost, that they had the opportunity to reach the final and that they missed it, it will have angered them” said Schallibaum.

The Impact coach was happy about his club’s recent victory outside of league play, but knows they need consistency because the wishy washy form is taxing mentally. “This morning, I also asked for that stability we had at the beginning of the season,” Schällibaum said. “We can’t go up and down all the time. We need the points from this game, which is very important and requires defensive sturdiness.”

The key for Montreal – and Chicago – will be the play of Mike Magee.  The in-form Chicago native has blasted in 11 goals in 14 matches since joining the Fire in April – perfectly coincided with their points surge.  He’s scored in three-straight MLS matches, and needs one more to match his four-game streak from when he was first acquired.

Fittingly enough, Thursday was Magee’s first U.S. Open Cup match with Chicago out of the four he’s played that he didn’t score – and they lost.

Despite the midweek results, Chicago are still one of the hot teams in Major League Soccer, while Montreal is slipping. Wins for either side would be major steps forward, but a loss could open a rather serious wound.

No points taken could see the Impact drop down to the final playoff spot, while the same result for Chicago could potentially make it an 8-point gap between them and the 5th position in the East, largely nullifying all their success since May. Expect a tight contest, but given the risks associated with losing, a draw would be acceptable for either side.

Impact midfielder Davy Arnaud summed up what both clubs are experiencing recently in a relatively defensible statement. “It’s hard to win 34 straight games.”

Really?  Who would have thought.

Mabil: Memorable celebration was to support mental health

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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It turns out there was a bit more to say about the outstanding goal from Australia’s Awer Mabil at the Asian Cup, thanks to his celebration.

Mabil held his hand over his mouth and two fingers in front of his forehead after scoring the left-footed rip, and said his idea is to help spread the word that it’s okay to talk about mental health issues.

[ MORE: 2019 Asian Cup news ]

The two fingers represent peace to the mind, while Mabil says the covering of the mouth is a plea to speak freely. From the BBC:

“The reason [people] go quiet is mainly because they don’t know what the reaction is going to be from the mainstream society,” he said.

“A lot of people worry about what others think but I honestly think you should not be afraid of what others think. Those people who are afraid to open up, this is for them, for them to open up and make them feel this is okay.”

Mabil, 23, plays for Danish power Midtjylland, where has five goals and nine assists this season.

The BBC notes that Mabil was born at a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Australia as a child as part of a resettlement program.

PSG signs American defender Alana Cook from Stanford

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team has signed American defender Alana Cook from Stanford University.

The 21-year-old Cook, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, has signed until June 2022. She was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year this season for her performances with Stanford and has represented the U.S. at Under-20 level.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

She played 93 games and scored five goals for Stanford.

PSG’s women’s team is second in the French first division and sits two points behind five-time European champion Lyon after 15 rounds.

Cook says “I really wanted to play in a European club and to play against the best teams in the world.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS notes: Zimmerman spurns Europe, Vazquez sold, DC youngster in remission

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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Let’s sweep up some good, somewhat-expected, and wonderful news from around Major League Soccer.

DC United defender and Maryland product Chris Odoi-Atsem announced that he is in remission after a fight with Stage Two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Odoi-Atsem was expected to undergo four months of chemotherapy, and the announcement comes just under three months into the journey.

At 23, Odoi-Atsem hopes to rejoin the team after his final round of chemo later this month. He was the 12th overall draft pick in 2017.

Another defender is extending his stay in Los Angeles.

USMNT center back Walker Zimmerman was a huge part of LAFC’s success as an expansion club following his arrival from FC Dallas, and was reportedly ready to test the waters of European soccer with interest from the Premier League, Ligue 1, and the Bundesliga.

But Bob Bradley pushed the right buttons and LAFC will have its 25-year-old mainstay back in the fold via a Targeted Allocation Money contract running through the 2022 season.

Finally, one of the key pieces to Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS Cup triumph is on his way out of Ontario.

Victor Vazquez is going to be sold to an unnamed Qatari club, pending a physical according to TSN’s Kristian Jack.

The 32-year-old scored posted 18 goals and 15 primary assists for TFC.

Transfer rumor roundup: Pellegrini to Man Utd? Dabbur wants Liverpool

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As Arsenal might be losing its head of recruitment, other Premier League movers and shakers are looking to bring big names to the Top Four fight.

If Northern Ireland is the hub for transfer movement, January is going to be a wild ride for one of the Premier League’s flagship clubs.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that Manchester United is pursuing young Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini in addition to the whispers linking the club to former Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho.

Pellegrini, 22, has two goals and six assists for Roma this season, having become a regular call-up for Italy. He reportedly has a $35 million release clause in his contract, though he is cup-tied in the Champions League (Roma next faces Porto).

His 2.6 key passes per game lead Roma and only AC Milan’s Suso and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez average more across Serie A. Pellegrini is second on Roma in crosses with 1.5.

How does $115 million sound for an elite 27-year-old defender? That’s what Napoli would reportedly accept from Real Madrid to bring Kalidou Koulibaly west to Spain.

The report, which also links Real with interest in Roma’s Kostas Manolas and Porto’s Eder Miliato, says United remains interested in the player despite the exit of admirer Jose Mourinho.

Anything more than $97 million, the fee Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk, would break the world transfer record for a defender.

Meanwhile, Israeli striker Munas Dabbur is angling to bring his 20-goal season to Anfield.

Reports that Dabbur has turned down a move to Valencia in the hopes of joining Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.

The Red Bull Salzburg striker has scored half of his 20 goals in the Champions League and Europa League, and has 11 Israel caps.

The cost for Dabbur is said to be $28 million, but is there any guarantee Dabbur can produce at a level that would demand playing time. Divock Origi has three goals in six matches and can hardly get time for the Reds, and Daniel Sturridge has only found 576 minutes in the first half of the season.