MLS Week in Review: Round 34

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Who clinched … and who is now eliminated

As the weekend began, 13 teams were still in contention for 8 unclaimed playoff spots. Some were more “in contention” than others, so to speak. Still, that’s an impressive number, all things considered. But the picture looks much different this morning.

We know the five playoff teams from the West, even if it’s something less than official: Portland, Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles, Seattle and Colorado will take part in the post-season. San Jose maintains a mathematical chance but would have to score a ridiculous number of goals next week, and have help. That won’t happen.

In addition to New York and Kansas City, who have clinched, five teams now remain eligible for three remaining spots out of the East: Montreal, Chicago, New England, Houston and Philadelphia.

Columbus and Vancouver were the teams officially eliminated over the weekend, along with (unofficially) San Jose. Here’s how the standing look; pay attention to that telling red line, which indicates the teams now in playoff position:

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Still much to play for

Even in the West, there’s still plenty to talk about with Round 35 coming up. Much of it is about teams seeking first, second or third. Remember, the fourth- and fifth-place finishers fact an extra playoff round, and one that puts them on the spot in terms of travel and packing matches into a small window going into the next round. That, and for some teams it’s also about …

Supporters Shield race

New York seized the inside track with a resounding (and somewhat shocking) 3-0 win over Houston. Sporting Kansas City and Portland remain within striking distance, but they both finish on the road. New York is the only club that controls its own Supporters Shield fate – and Mike Petke’s team has a winnable contest at home against just-hanging-on Chicago.

One MLS match is up Wednesday, then a full round of (nine) weekend matches will decide it all.

The quick goal – the quickest goal ever in MLS

When Deshorn Brown needed just 14 seconds after kickoff to score a few weeks ago, it was the second fastest goal in MLS history. Of course, Brown’s goal came at a loiterers pace compared to Tim Cahill’s doings. Cahill scored the fastest goal in MLS history, just seven seconds into New York’s 3-0 win at Houston.

Here’s his goal from BBVA Compass Stadium in South Texas on Sunday:

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Yes, Seattle is in the playoffs

There surely wasn’t any car honking in the streets, but Seattle did, in fact, qualify late Sunday night for the playoffs. It probably falls as cold comfort to Sounders fans, who have seen their team struggle so mightily over the last few weeks – and who cannot feel good about their team going into the post-season. (Although getting some players healthy will surely help.) Either way, it brings us to this …

The growing Dempsey debate

We might be talking even more about the Seattle Sounders unbelievable late-season collapse; Sigi Schmid’s struggling club is winless in six, having lost four in a row after yet another setback over the weekend, a 2-0 loss to Dallas. We would be, except that the growing Clint Dempsey discussion is a bit distracting. The count is now up to eight. As in, eight with no goals and no assists for the Sounders. It’s certainly not all the U.S. international’s fault. In fact, not much is his fault. The team looks simply awful. And, yes, expectations were unfairly exaggerated. But that’s what you get with transfer fees well into the millions, and with being the league’s highest paid man.

Two 20-goal scorers … and a great Golden Boot race

Marco Di Vaio and Mike Magee scored Saturday, both moving their goal total to 20 for the season, both still in contention for Golden Boot. And it’s fair to ask if a league MVP will go along with this year’s Golden Boot? It will certainly be an influence on voters.

Then again, Vancouver’s Camilo could still have something to say about it. He also scored on Saturday, although in a loss that saw his Whitecaps officially eliminated.

Best goal in Round 33

Considering not just the technical merit, but also that it was a game-winner for Colorado, Gabriel Torres’ wonderful left-footed strike against Vancouver checked a lot of boxes. It will go a long way toward getting his Rapids into the playoffs. And it put the Whitecaps out.

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Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Report: Man City considering Kingsley Coman as Leroy Sane replacement

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are considering Bayern Munich’s Kinglsey Coman as a replacement for injured Leroy Sane if he were to leave for the defending German champions over the summer, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sane, who is projected to be out until February or March with an ACL injury, was the subject of a $176 million move to Bayern Munich over the summer, but a move never came to fruition, largely due to the aforementioned injury. If negotiations between Sane’s camp and the defending Bundesliga champions pick up again this summer, City have a replacement in mind: 23-year-old Coman.

Coman, who has played in 10 league games for the Bavarian club this season, was managed by Guardiola during his time with the club and flourished during the title-winning 2015-2016 season. In 2017, the Frenchman revealed that the Spaniard’s departure was tough on him, saying, “I found life easier at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

As expected, Coman is not the only option City are exploring.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, who has a reported $82 million release clause, is also on the Premier League giant’s shortlist. Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, has strong ties to La Reala that goes back to his first day in the sport.

At the Etihad, the general feeling from Guardiola’s players is that the German winger is one foot out of England, and is instead focused on a move to Bayern and a return back home. With his contract in the final 12 months this summer, it is expected that the release clause for Sane will not be as lucrative as before. 

In 134 appearances for City, Sane has scored 39 goals, while Coman has scored on 28 different occasions in 139 appearances.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

EURO qualifying wrap: Germany, Austria, Croatia join Netherlands in qualifying

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Like the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Croatia qualified for EURO 2020 after wins on Saturday.

[ READ: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012 ]


Germany 4-0 Belarus

With goals from Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretska, and a second-half brace from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Germany routed an uncompetitive Belarus side 4-0 at Borussia-Park. The scoreline, however, should have been more lopsided, as the home side easily won the possession battle and outshot the visitor’s with a total of 31 shots (10 on target). Leaders of Group C, Germany is an early favorite for next summer’s tournament. Not hard to believe that, right? 

Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Qualifying for Europe’s main tournament is becoming a norm for Austria.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored early while Stefan Lainer added his own three minutes into the second half, as Austria edged North Macedonia 2-1 at Ernst Happel Stadion. Das Team, who stand second in Group G with 19 points after nine games, have now clinched a berth for the EURO on back-to-back occasions.

Croatia 3-1 Slovakia

When all was said and done, Croatia was too much for a 10-man Slovakia, who, initially, broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Bayern Munich’s Ivan Perisic scored the home side’s third and final goal of the match, which punched Croatia’s ticket in next summer’s tournament. Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic also contributed goals in the second half for Croatia.

Elsewhere

Russia 1-4 Belgium

Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Cyprus 1-2 Scotland

Israel 1-2 Poland

Armenia 0-1 Greec