MLS preview: Red Bulls vs. D.C. United, Sporting KC vs. Timbers headline Week 3

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Week 3 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season kicks off Friday night, as the Philadelphia Union welcome FC Dallas, the only two-win team in the league, to PPL Park, and finishes with the inaugural game at Avaya Stadium, as the San Jose Earthquakes host the Chicago Fire.

Predictions record through Week 2: 7-4

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:

New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United (Sunday, 5 pm ET, ESPN2)

Why does everyone continue to underrate and not talk about D.C. United when trying to forecast this year’s Eastern Conference? OK, so what if they’re not an exciting team and they don’t play sexy soccer — they’re efficient, hardworking, well-drilled and will finish among the East’s top two again this year.

They’re the exact kind of team who will give the Red Bulls all sorts of fits, given the defensive midfield duo of Davy Arnaud and Perry Kitchen. All that space in front of the Sporting KC backline that Lloyd Sam and Felipe were able to exploit? It won’t be there in this one, and Bradley Wright-Phillips will be stranded on an island once again.

Prediction: Red Bulls 1-3 D.C. United

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

This game is going to be played at a million miles per hour. Portland are all speed up and down the wings, given long-term injuries to Diego Valeri and Will Johnson, and Sporting KC don’t know what system they’re playing from week to week, or who’s playing where.

This one could easily be 4-4 with all goals coming on the counter attack, but poor finishing will make it a tad more frustrating and less enjoyable.

Prediction: Sporting KC 1-1 Timbers

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Orlando City SC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

No one squanders more chances than the Whitecaps, but that’s OK because they create an unreal amount (18 on the road last week). Orlando City have limited opponents to just 7.5 shots per game through two games.

Advantage to the team who plays the lower-tempo game and doesn’t have to fly

Prediction: Orlando City 2-1 Whitecaps

Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas (Friday, 7 pm ET, UniMas)

FC Dallas have been dominant thus far in 2015, but they’ve not yet played away from home, and that’s always a big deal in MLS. They’re a terror when playing from a winning position and the Union weren’t exactly defense-first in last week’s 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake, so they’ll have their chances.

Finally freeing up Mauro Diaz in the middle of the field, where Maurice Edu roams, could mean a ton of chances for Oscar Pareja’s side.

Prediction: Union 2-2 FCD

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

The aforementioned inaugural game at Avaya Stadium is reason enough to tune in to this one, but the ‘Quakes are going to be recommended viewing for much of the season, for two reasons: 1) They’re a much better team this year — organized and full of talent, and 2) Someone is bound to upset the applecart in the loaded Western Conference, and my money is on them.

The Fire are shambolic, making them the perfect opponent for any team’s stadium grand opening.

Prediction: Quakes 3-1 Fire

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Haaland wins first leg after Borussia Dortmund-PSG comes to life late

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Erling Haaland scored twice in a mid-second half flurry as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The hosts also got an assist from teenager Giovanni Reyna, who became the youngest American to appear in a Champions League match.

Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 appearances between Red Bull Salzburg and BVB, 11 of those for his new German employer.

Neymar scored off a Kylian Mbappe goal for PSG, who brings an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for a March 11 second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Neymar had an early free kick, missing just wide of the far post.

Jadon Sancho troubled the keeper twice in the first half hour, first with a cross that Mats Hummels headed over goal. Then, Keylor Navas picked another Sancho offering out of the air.

Sancho kept serving, and Erling Haaland couldn’t turn a promising cross on target.

Dortmund walked into halftime with a scoreless match but a 7-2 edge in shot attempts. Neither of PSG’s shots were on target.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre put in American teen Giovani Reyna in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, it was 1-0 to the hosts through Haaland’s close-range goal.

Neymar replied from close range himself after a powerful, clever dribble from Kylian Mbappe led to a pass through the box.

But Haaland got his second in the 77th minute with a scorching shot that serves as the first senior assist of Reyna’s senior career with Dortmund (Watch it here).