MLS weekend preview: Sounders meet Galaxy again, Caps and Timbers jostle for playoff spot

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It’s the last weekend of MLS regular season, and the playoff picture is almost complete. All five postseason spots in each conference have been clinched, except for fifth place in the West. The Vancouver Whitecaps will try to save that spot, and the Portland Timbers, only a point behind the Caps, will attempt to surpass Caleb Porter’s side.

Here’s a quick preview of each match.

Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo: Both teams are out of the playoffs, so there are zero postseason implications. But it will definitely be interesting to see how these two teams close out the season. Houston and Chicago both regressed from a year ago, with encouraging play coming from young Fire midfielder Harry Shipp and the Dynamo’s 26-year-old goalkeeper Tyler Deric. It will be Dominic Kinnear’s last game after eight years as Houston’s manager.

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy: Two of Major League Soccer’s best teams with some of the best attackers in the league will continue their showdown on Saturday. Last week, the Galaxy gained a 2-0 lead at the StubHub Center, but Dempsey and Co. stormed back to salvage a 2-2 draw. The Supporter Shield is at stake, though for unbiased viewers, interest will arise from watching Clint Dempsey combine with Obafemi Martins for Seattle, or the wizardry of Robbie Keane and burgeoning talent of Gyasi Zardes on LA.

Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United: The East’s first-place squad, D.C. United, will face the conference’s last-place team, the Montreal Impact, in what will be Marco Di Vaio’s last competition for the Impact prior to his retirement at the end of the year. United never has any tricks up their sleeve; they just play fundamentally-sound soccer, and they should extend their unbeaten run to six matches.

New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC: A very disheartening season (missing the playoffs) for Toronto took place following their signings of two marquee Designated Players—U.S. international Michael Bradley and former Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe. On the other side, the Revolution will make the playoffs for the second-straight year, and the combination of MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones, a mid-year acquisition,  have propelled the Revs to second place in the Eastern Conference.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers: The Timbers have a lot more at stake in this scenario than the Toros do, as Portland sits in tight contention for the West’s last playoff position. If they grab three points on the road, Vancouver must draw or lose to keep the MLS Cup dream of Porter and Co. alive. Nevertheless, the magnificent performances of Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo have bolstered Dallas’ attack and carried the squad to the playoffs on the heels of a weak 2013 campaign. Diego Valeri has been a key component to the Timbers, and his play will certainly help decide the result.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids: Vancouver’s wealth of attacking players hasn’t made the biggest of impacts this season, but the Canadian crew has managed a four-game unbeaten run that has guided it into strong playoff contention. The Rapids, meanwhile, haven’t won since July, and having one of the worst statistical defenses in MLS moved Colorado in the wrong direction. Deshorn Brown, who leads the Rapids in goals with 10 scores, has been the only player to supplement their offensive end.

Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union: The Union beat the reigning champion Sporting Kansas City last week, 2-1, but that victory wasn’t enough to keep them in the race for fifth place in the East. With interim manager Jim Curtin supposedly staying in Philly for the long run, there won’t be any efforts from players to retain his job. Columbus is secure for the playoffs, and has lost only two our of their past eight competitions. For purely the spectacle, let’s hope Federico Higuain buries a well-taken free kick for the Crew.

Chivas USA vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Chivas and San Jose just didn’t have the magic this season, and we’ve come to expect the poor record from the Goats. In 2013, however, the Quakes almost slid into the playoffs. Chris Wondolowski has scored more goals this season, too, but his supporting cast hasn’t contribute much on the attacking side. The same goes for Chivas. Erick Torres is surely a top striker in MLS, but once he stopped putting the ball in the net, he had no secondary support in addition to a dreadful defense.

Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls: To cap off the series of MLS contests this weekend, Sporting KC will enjoy home-field advantage when the Red Bulls, coming off a tough 3-1 defeat to the Crew last weekend. All eyes will examine Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips, as the dynamic duo is set to face the strongest defense in league anchored by U.S. center back Matt Besler. Dominic Dwyer will look to overshadow the Red Bulls’ stars and snag a win that prevent the Red Bulls from overtaking KC in the standings.

Live, UCL: Ajax in action as playoff round begins

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The first legs of the UEFA Champions League playoff round kick off on Tuesday, as Ajax, Club Brugge and Slavia Prague all head on road trips as they hope to clear the final hurdle and reach the group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

It is rather outrageous that Ajax, the reigning Dutch champions who reached the semifinal of the UCL last season, have to qualify for this tournament, but here they are. Dusan Tadic (fresh from signing a new seven-year contract) is once again leading the charge for this young Dutch side who have lost Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt over the summer, and edged past PAOK 5-4 on aggregate in the last round. Ajax head to APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus in the first leg and hope to have a healthy advantage to take back with them to Amsterdam for the second leg next week.

Club Brugge head to LASK Linz from Austria as USMNT goalkeeper Evan Horvath now faces real competition for his starting spot as Belgian national team and former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet arrived over the summer. LASK shocked FC Basel in the third qualifying round

As for the other game on Tuesday, CFR Cluj host Slavia Prague in Romania in a clash between two teams who have been making waves in Europe over the past few years. Cluj knocked Celtic out in the last round and it will be quite the occasion in Transylvania, as Slavia’s star man is Romanian international Nicolae Stanciu.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. Three more UCL playoff games take place on Wednesday.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have you covered with a roundup of the action right here on Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday
APOEL Nicosia v. Ajax
CFR Cluj v. Slavia Prague
LASK v. Club Brugge

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Matchweek 2 is in the books and there is plenty of movement in our latest Premier League player Power Rankings.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Players from Man City, Liverpool, Leicester and Man United dominate our list, while there are a few surprise names from some of the teams who have surprised us all in the opening weeks of the new season.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
2. Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) – New entry
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 3
4. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – New entry
5. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – Down 2
6. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Down 4
7. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 6
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) Down 3
9. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 1
10. James Maddison (Leicester City) – New entry
11. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Up 7
12. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
13. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 2
14. Ashley Barnes (Burnley) – Down 7
15. Chris Basham (Sheffield United) – New entry
16. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City) – New entry
17. Jordan Pickford (Everton) – Up 2
18. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – Up 2
19. Alexander Lacazette (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Leandro Trossard (Brighton) – New entry

St. Louis awarded MLS expansion franchise

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Major League Soccer is heading to soccer’s spiritual home in the United States of America.

St. Louis, Missouri was awarded an MLS expansion franchise on Tuesday, as it became the 28th team in the rapidly expanding league.

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The franchise is expected to enter the league in 2021, along with Austin FC as Inter Miami and Nashville SC are schedule to arrive for the 2020 season.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber was on hand in downtown STL to make the announcement.

Garber was alongside Mayor Lyda Krewson, plus the ownership group led by Andy Taylor and Carolyn Kindle Betz of Enterprise Holdings and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology and Saint Louis FC, who celebrated their success of bringing top-tier soccer to St. Louis. Kindle Betz will be joined by other female members of the Taylor family, which will make STL the first female majority-owned team in MLS history.

“After two decades of discussion about St. Louis becoming part of Major League Soccer, we are here today to announce it,” Garber said. “Saint Louis, with its incredibly rich soccer history, not only deserves an MLS team but has earned one.”

With the owner of Saint Louis FC, the USL franchise in the Midwest city, also involved in the arrival of MLS it is believed the team name, badge and colors will now be selected.

“Our ownership group has come a long way since we first announced our bid last October at Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and it’s an incredible feeling to now be able to say, St. Louis is home to the first official majority female-led ownership group in MLS,” Kindle Betz said. “Our MLS team and stadium will only add to St. Louis’ renaissance currently underway and will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community, uniting people in their love for the game.”

St. Louis’ Downtown West district is now set to be transformed with the stadium kickstarting a larger development which will include mixed-use retail, restaurants and gathering spaces open year-round to the public.

The ownership group have previously released plans for a 22,500-capacity stadium in the West Downtown neighborhood. Not having a solid stadium plan curtailed the efforts of others to bring MLS to St. Louis in the past, with the city council voting against partial funding for a stadium near Union Station in 2017.

But just when it looked like St. Louis would miss out on the MLS expansion race, they’re in.

With St. Louis losing the NFL’s Rams to Los Angeles, this is a shrewd move from MLS and follows their model of placing teams in major U.S. cities which do not have major league franchises across all sports. It takes the league to 28 teams, with Sacramento, Phoenix and Charlotte said to be among the favorites for the next two franchises as the league aims to expand to 30 teams.

It also helps to link up Midwest cities, as FC Cincinnati, the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Sporting Kansas City and Nashville SC now have a new rival.

STL has brought in very good crowds for their USL side Saint Louis FC and also USMNT and USWNT friendlies, plus international friendlies between European clubs in recent summers.

Many of the USA’s top talents hail from the STL region (Taylor Twellman, Tim Ream, Brad Davis and Steve Ralston to name a few) and there is a rich soccer heritage in the city, with five of the 11 starters for the U.S. side in their historic 1950 World Cup win against England from St. Louis.

College soccer, amateur teams and former pro teams from St. Louis have all had a major impact on soccer in the USA.

There is now an MLS team to build on that legacy and create new iconic moments in St. Louis.

Report: Beckham stadium site has unsafe arsenic levels

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MIAMI (AP) An environmental analysis shows the proposed site for David Beckham’s Major League Soccer stadium in Miami is far more toxic than previously expected.

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The Miami Herald reports the analysis found arsenic contamination reaching more than twice the legal limit, and surface-level soil samples containing hazardous debris at the Melreese golf course site, where people have played golf for more than 50 years.

The consultant’s report says almost the entire site near Miami International Airport is contaminated by ash from a municipal incinerator shut down long ago.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Monday night that team officials said the findings could increase cleanup costs to $50 million at the site.

The sprawling $1 billion commercial and stadium complex would serve as home to Beckham’s MLS team, Inter Miami .