Mexican referee in charge with 8 U.S. players on warnings, Mexico up next

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Eight players on yellow cards loom among other concerns for United States head coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s squad heading into Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica. Another is Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodríguez, who will officiate the game before the U.S. takes on Mexico.

“I don’t doubt that Marco Antonio Rodríguez is a great referee,” Klinsmann told Radio Fórmula on Wednesday. “Without a doubt, he applies the rules well, but at the same time, it’s something I can’t get out of my head. I have eight players on yellow cards, and four days later, we play Mexico. Truthfully, I don’t like it.”

Klinsmann reiterated to American media on Thursday that he found the assignment “unfortunate.”

Rodríguez — who has come to be known by the nickname Chiquidrácula, or Chiquimarco after the Protestant priest objected to the name because of his Christian faith — is known for his propensity to dish out cards indiscriminately. In four World Cup matches he has officiated, Rodríguez sent off three players, including Australian Tim Cahill in what was a highly questioned decision.

In Liga MX, he was once suspended for five matches after issuing two yellow cards at the same time, one in each hand, during a January 2012 playoff series between Tigres and Santos:

During the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup, Rodríguez took charge of AC Milan’s 4-2 win over Boca Juniors, where he showed five yellows and two red cards.

The knowledgeable site Transfermarkt has Rodríguez handing out a steady five yellow cards per game over 70 games in eight seasons. His 20 straight red cards during that time rank top of the table in Liga MX.

USMNT, Schalke MF McKennie injures leg in loss to Bayern

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was injured in the Bundesliga game against Bayern Munich and had to be helped leaving the pitch on Saturday.

The 20-year-old American received an unintentional kick in the leg from James Rodriguez as he won possession from the Colombian star. While the free kick was awarded, McKennie was unable to continue and he was replaced by Nabil Bentaleb in the 54th minute.

Bayern was leading 1-0 at the time.

McKennie, who has six appearances for the United States, missed Schalke’s defeat to Borussia Moenchengladbach last weekend after returning from international duty with a bruised knee from the Americans’ 1-0 win over Mexico in a friendly.

McKennie has made 26 league appearances for Schalke.

The 2 Robbies: Mourinho criticizes his players’ attitude

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle get stuck into an eventful Saturday in the Premier League. They ask who is responsible for the questionable attitude of Jose Mourinho’s men (00:30), comment on Mauricio Pochettino and his methods at Spurs (14:00), recap comfortable wins for Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola (19:00), and wrap up by reviewing the four new managerial appointees and who is top of the class (28:00).

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.

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NWSL: NC Courage complete regular-season, playoff double

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Jess McDonald scored two goals and the North Carolina Courage won the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns on Saturday.

The victory was a bit of revenge for the Courage, who lost 1-0 to the Thorns in last year’s title match.

The Courage (17-1-6) won the league’s Supporters’ Shield for best record and never dropped a game on the road. The team also set NWSL records this season for the most wins, points and goals.

The match was played before a sellout crowd of 21,144 at Portland’s Providence Park. That was a record for the final of a women’s pro league championship in the United States.

Brazilian Debinha scored on a header in the 13th minute, and McDonald followed with her own in the 40th. Shortly thereafter, Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch appeared to teak her ankle, but she returned for the second half.

Portland came out energized in the second half, but Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland denied a Tobin Heath blast in the 55th minute.

McDonald struck again with a header in the 64th minute that Franch got a hand on but couldn’t stop.

McDonald, a 30-year-old vet who has played for five teams in six years, led the league with eight assists in the regular season. She has three goals in the postseason.

“It feels absolutely amazing. This is what we worked so hard for,” McDonald said. “Every single minute, every single day that we put work into – it counted today,” McDonald said.

FOLLOW LIVE: ATL chasing Shield; NYCFC desperate to end 5-game skid

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Atlanta United could take another massive step toward the 2018 Supporters’ Shield with a home win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, despite New York Red Bulls’ victory over Toronto FC in the day’s earlier game.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: 6 games in MLS, beginning at 7 p.m. ET ]

The Five Stripes entered the day with a four-point lead on the Red Bulls (it has since been reduced to one) with five games left to play (four for RBNY). RSL, on the other hand, are riding a four-game unbeaten run and have lost just twice in the last 12 times out. That run has seen them rise from near the bottom of the Western Conference to fifth place, five points clear of the playoff cut line.

In the Eastern Conference, the story of the last month has been New York City FC’s slide: five games without a win, and just one win in their last eight games. Domenec Torrent enjoyed a strong start after taking over for Patrick Vieira, but everything has turned sour in the last six weeks. From Shield contenders, to just another member of the chasing pack. Their opponents, Montreal Impact, are currently clutching the East’s sixth and final playoff place, thought D.C. United have cut the gap to just four points with a game in hand.

Today’s MLS results

Los Angeles FC 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes
New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — underway

Tonight’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United vs. Real Salt Lake — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact vs. New York City FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Colorado Rapids — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC vs. Houston Dynamo — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. Portland Timbers — 8 p.m. ET

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City — 1 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders — 7 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas — 7 p.m. ET