MLS preview: NYCFC vs. Red Bulls, Timbers vs. Sounders highlight Rivalry Week

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Week 17 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon, and it’s (Again? Already?) Rivalry Week. That means local rivalry after local rivalry on your TV, computer, tablet and/or smartphone all weekend long.

Predictions record through Week 16: 26-33

So, if you’re to watch just four MLS games this weekend — who am I to tell you to watch only four games? — might I suggest the following four:

New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 4:30 pm ET, ESPN)

Not even a month ago, this game would have been a joke to include among this week’s “Rivalry Week” matchups (not least because it’s still not a real rivalry, one game in and all). Then, NYCFC decided it was time to do a little winning (three in a row), while the Red Bulls thought to themselves, “That good start to the season we had? Eh, screw it, let’s throw it away.” (Four straight losses before winning mid-week)

Now, they’re separated by just three points while trending in completely opposite directions. NYCFC’s David Villa has tallied three goals and an assist in his last two games, while RBNY’s Bradley Wright-Phillips had two penalties saved just last weekend. With well over 40,000 expected at Yankee Stadium, Sunday’s second installment of the #NYSoccerWarz is bound to entertain, at the very least.

Prediction: NYCFC 2-2 Red Bulls

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Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

Speaking of teams trending in opposite directions, we’ve also got the Timbers (four straight wins before losing mid-week) and the Sounders (two straight losses after winning three of four) facing off Sunday night.

There will be no Clint Dempsey (suspension), Obafemi Martins (groin) or Osvaldo Alonso (hamstring) for the Sounders. Gonzalo Pineda might also be unavailable (knee). Without their midfield and forward quartet, Sigi Schmid’s side struggled mightily against the San Jose Earthquakes and suffered a rare home defeat. Now they travel 175 miles down I-5 and enter MLS’s most daunting in-stadium atmosphere to face a suddenly-healthy Timbers team. I’ll cut them some slack for Wednesday’s shellacking because, well, it was the Galaxy.

Prediction: Timbers 3-2 Sounders

[ MORE: Atlanta’s MLS team will, unfortunately, be called Atlanta United FC ]

New England Revolution vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

We saw once again last week that the Revolution have trouble controlling and killing off games without Jermaine Jones in the heart of their midfield. We also learned that Jay Heaps still has no desire to dial back his side’s overall tempo and attacking instinct. Coming up against the Whitecaps this weekend, we’re all in store for a treat, because the Whitecaps are still the best counter-attacking team in the league and the Revs, in their current state, provide so many counter-attacking chances.

One promise for this game: goals. Plenty of goals. Who doesn’t love goals?

Prediction: Revs 1-2 Whitecaps

[ MORE: Dempsey given additional suspension for USOC, and it’s a big one ]

Toronto FC vs. D.C. United (Saturday, 5 pm ET, MLS Live)

These two played just three weeks ago, and TFC grabbed a shocking (to some) road victory over the leaders in the Supporters’ Shield race. Fast forward three weeks, and finally we’ve got a matchup with two teams playing equally well at the moment about which to get excited.

Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore combined for five goals scored and assisted on (all three goals scored) in Wednesday’s victory over the Montreal Impact. They’ve found in just three months the kind of chemistry and continuity that usually takes teams years to create. This is the last game for the latter two before departing for the Gold Cup, so keeping that momentum rolling 90 minutes more is vitally important for the Reds.

Prediction: TFC 2-1 DCU

Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

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Netherlands vs Argentina: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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The Netherlands gets a third chance to beat Lionel Messi in the World Cup when the Dutch meet Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinals at Lusail Iconic Stadium on Friday.

Match 57 of the World Cup will be the second of the quarterfinal round and Messi can build on his three goals and assist in Qatar, though the underlying story has been how difficult it’s been to break down the Argentine defense.

STREAM NETHERLANDS vs ARGENTINA LIVE

The CONMEBOL side beat Australia 2-1 In the Round of 16 and now gets a Dutch side that outclassed the USA 3-1 last time out.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Netherlands vs Argentina.


How to watch Netherlands vs Argentina live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Louis van Gaal is looking for arguably the only major trophy to escape his reach with the World Cup, and Virgil van Dijk isn’t too far behind his manager. Jurrien Timber’s joined VVD in a very good back three, Cody Gakpo had been the breakout player of the tournament in all likelihood before Goncalo Ramos captured the world’s attention with his hat trick for Portugal on Tuesday.

Enzo Fernandez has been shining along with Messi, while Nicolas Otamendi has turned back the proverbial clock at center back in a tour de force for the CONMEBOL powers.


Netherlands quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong

Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Morocco vs Portugal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Can red-hot Portugal find a way past Yassine Bounou and Morocco when the World Cup quarterfinals hit Qatar on Saturday?

Match 60 of the tournament will see Bounou riding high after stopping three of four penalties faced in the Round of 16 versus Spain, but Portugal won’t be thinking about going more than 90 minutes after scoring a half-dozen goals against Switzerland.

STREAM MOROCCO vs PORTUGAL LIVE

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a fourth-minute goal to lead Portugal past Morocco in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, but Morocco’s yet to lose in Qatar.

The Atlas Lions needed penalties to beat Spain in the Round of 16, while Portugal had no such trouble in clobbering Switzerland 6-1.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Morocco vs Portugal.


How to watch Morocco vs Portugal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday December 10
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Bounou — spelled Bono on his jersey — was sensational in penalties, but Morocco’s defenders limited Spain to a single shot on target. Romain Saiss has been especially good in the middle of the back line while Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazroui have been effective out wide, going forward and defending.

Portugal put Goncalo Ramos in the Starting XI for Cristiano Ronaldo and the 21-year-old center forward scored three goals and added an assist against Switzerland. Bruno Fernandes has been wonderful for Portugal, while Ruben Neves and Rafael Leao were able to get through the match with small sub roles and should be rested if called upon by Fernando Santos, who is seeking a World Cup to go with his EURO crown.


Morocco quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 22
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF
Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic
Key players: Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss

Portugal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancel

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