MLS Week 2 preview: Timbers vs. Galaxy, Crew SC vs. Toronto FC headline 8-game weekend

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Week 2 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season kicks off Friday night, as the Houston Dynamo host Orlando City SC (more on that game in a bit) at BBVA Compass Stadium, and finishes up with the defending champions visiting Providence Park to face the Portland Timbers (again, more on that in a bit).

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]

Predictions record in Week 1: 5-1

If you’re to watch just five games this weekend — not that you’re limited to five, of course — might I recommend the following five:

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

Caleb Porter vs. Bruce Arena — of all the head coaches in MLS, perhaps no two have the personality and bravado of the young grasshopper (Porter) and old master (Arena). Pervious matchups between the two have given us timeless gems like this beauty.

On the field, the Galaxy are somewhat in transition after last year’s MLS Cup triumph and Landon Donovan’s retirement. They labored to a 2-0 victory over Chicago on opening night, but never, ever looked like losing. Meanwhile, Darlington Nagbe impressed as the Timbers’s attacking focal point in a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake last weekend. How Juninho tracks Nagbe’s varying positions and runs will be a telling battle on one end, while Robbie Keane looks to drop into midfield and exploit a unit missing Will Johnson (broken leg) and a questionable Diego Chara (calf).

Prediction: Timbers 1-1 Galaxy

Columbus Crew SC vs. Toronto FC (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

If there’s one game this weekend that has the potential to turn into a shootout, it’s this one. For starters, TFC put three past Vancouver last week, away from home. Also, there’s the matter of Crew SC midfielder Tony Tchani being suspended for this game, which leaves a massive hole in front of the Crew defense. Think Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley might try to exploit that? Yeah, probably.

The Crew could have/should have put three or four past Houston last week (also away from home), so they’ll have their fair share of chances as well.

Prediction: Crew SC 2-2 TFC

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FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

A pair of sides with frightening attacking units and solid-to-good defenses, but still trying to figure things out in the midfield. Balance is important, as always, and while FCD and Sporting KC work to figure that one out, we’ll enjoy a wide open game with plenty of chances each way.

While Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza figure out how to coexist in the same midfield, Mauro Diaz seems a safe bet to have a huge game pulling the strings for FCD, providing plenty of chances for Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo.

Prediction: FCD 2-1 Sporting KC

Houston Dynamo vs. Orlando City SC (Friday, 7 pm ET, UniMas)

This one is sure to be a cagey affair as both sides struggled to create chances in Week 1, but a single goal opens the game up for both teams. Owen Coyle may be the man in charge these days, but the gameplan is still very much the same for Houston: attack down the flanks.

How Brek Shea, who’s played only a handful of games at left back, deals with Boniek Garcia will be a deciding factor. On the other hand, Boniek will have his hands full, protecting Kofi Sarkodie, as Shea surges forward time and again.

Prediction: Dynamo 1-0 Orlando

Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)

The Earthquakes deserved something from their 1-0 loss to FCD last week. They really did. They were the better team for 92 minutes, looked extremely organized in defense and broke quickly on the counter. That’s the hallmark of a Dom Kinnear-coached team, and they’ll be much better this season for it.

Those components will be of the utmost importance this week as they hope to slow down the Sounders’ potent attack, which was in mid-season form in Week 1. And in that endeavor, good luck to them.

Prediction: Sounders 2-0 Earthquakes

Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup
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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.

Man arrested after English soccer player reports homophobia

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TRANMERE, England — A footballer in England’s third tier reported being subjected to homophobic abuse from the stands, leading to police making one arrest.

Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop told the referee of the abuse at halftime of the League One soccer game at Tranmere as his team won 2-0.

Tranmere says it is very disappointed to learn of a homophobic comment made.

In a statement, Merseyside Police condemned abhorrent incidents.

Police Chief Inspector Jason Crellin added that “hate crime has no place in our communities, and not least at a showcase sporting event attended and watched by many people.”

Brazil beat Mexico to win U-17 World Cup (video)

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Brazil became Under-17 world champions for a fourth time in dramatic fashion as Lazaro Vinicius Marques’ scored a 93rd-minute winner to edge Mexico 2-1 at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

Brazil’s comeback started in the 84th minute when Kaio Jorge converted from the penalty spot, following VAR’s decision which ruled contact on the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, Gabriel Veron, inside the 18-yard box.

With Brazilian legends Ronaldo and Cafu in attendance, the host’s had the better of chances throughout the first 45 minutes. Without any luck, however, Brazil were unable to get the ball past Eduardo Garcia, instead hitting the bar on several occasions.

Then in the 66th minute, Mexico – winners of the tournament in 2005 and in 2011 – stunned the home crowd when Bronze Ball winner Eugenio Pizzoto’s cross into the box was headed into the back of the net by Bryan Alonso Gonzalez Olivan, breaking the deadlock between two sides that had met in the same game back in 2005.

What was going to be a stunning, underdog victory for El Tri, turned into a heartbreaking night for Marco “Chima” Ruiz and company.

Brazil, on the other hand, are now only one championship away from tying Nigeria’s record of five championships.