MLS preview: Galaxy vs. Earthquakes, Timbers vs. Whitecaps headline Week 20

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Week 20 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, which means we’re now well past the halfway point and ready to start counting down the weeks until the MLS Cup Playoffs kick off (it’s 15, by the way). Yes, the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup is still going on, but as we’re all well aware by now, there’s no stopping this MLS train.

Predictions record through Week 19: 31-40

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:

LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Friday, 10 pm ET, UniMas)

Steven Gerrard’s MLS debut — need we say more? No matter what you think of his arrival to MLS, hate him or love him, you know you’re tuning in to see how Stevie G fares in his first league game (he played 45 minutes each in a friendly vs. Club America last Saturday and a US Open Cup quarterfinal vs. Real Salt Lake on Tuesday).

As for his Galaxy teammates, the acclimation and integration process begins now, as the surging defending champions begin their second-half push up the standings and chase their fourth MLS Cup in five years. How quickly Gerrard — and Giovani dos Santos — find their place within the team will likely go a long way toward deciding Bruce Arena’s side’s fate in 2015.

Prediction: Galaxy 2-1 Earthquakes

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Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

Cascadia Cup, round 6 (of 9, which is a lot, isn’t it?). The Seattle Sounders currently hold the Cascadia Cup lead (6 points from 4 game), with the Timbers (4 points from 4 games) and Whitecaps (4 points from 3 games) closely behind. In short, a loss in this one means the Timbers will experience no Cascadia glory for a third year running.

In regular league play, the Whitecaps and Timbers currently find themselves second and fourth in the Western Conference, respectively, with either side capable of taking over the top spot with three points. Vancouver won the first meeting of the season, 2-1 in March, before the two sides played to a scoreless in May.

Prediction: Timbers 2-1 Whitecaps

[ MORE: Giovinco dominating MLS in first 6 months, but is that a good thing? | Cubo in Houston ]

FC Dallas vs. D.C. United (Saturday, 9 pm ET, MLS Live)

Two teams couldn’t be anymore different than one another if they tried. FCD — lightning quick, flashy and often times porous at the back; DCU — slow, methodical, yawn-inducing and the definition of “organized.”

It’s easy to say “whichever team better dictates the tempo of this one will come out on top,” but it’s true. FCD have won three in a row without conceding a single goal (eight goals scored), while United haven’t scored in nearly 200 minutes. Thursday’s trade which netter the latter side striker Alvaro Saborio won’t come into effect in this one (international duty), but he’s the kind of game-changing forward the Black and Red have been crying out for.

Prediction: FCD 1-1 DCU

[ GOLD CUP: Quarterfinals set | MEX 4-4 T&T — the craziest GC game ever? CUB 1-0 GUA

Orlando City SC vs. New York Red Bulls (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

Last weekend’s results — OCSC 0-2 FCD; RBNY 4-1 NE — couldn’t have been any more opposite of one another. That would suggest momentum favors the visitors from Harrison, NJ, right? Wrong.

Kaka returns to the lineup for the Lions, while Aurelien Collin will be available from the start in this one and Darwin Ceren could make his triumphant return from the Gold Cup to anchor OCSC’s stout midfield once again. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are still thin at the back due to the Gold Cup, which bodes well for a rest Kaka and a game to be played in the thick summer humidity of Central Florida.

Prediction: OCSC 2-1 RBNY

LIVE, UCL last 16: Atletico v. Liverpool; Dortmund v. PSG

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and Atletico Madrid host Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain head to Borussia Dortmund in what should be two epic battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool are the first Premier League club to get going as Jurgen Klopp locks horns with Diego Simeone’s Atleti, who are a very dangerous team to play and they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. With Sadio Mane back fit, he could be the difference for Liverpool as the runaway Premier League leaders return to the stadium where they win their sixth European title at the end of last season. Madrid holds fond memories for Klopp’s boys. Atletico Madrid are struggling along in La Liga but they have played the underdog role very well in recent seasons and this encounter will be full throttle from the start.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain in the other UCL last 16 first leg clash on Tuesday and that should be a cracking game between two very evenly-matched teams as former Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel takes PSG to the Westfalenstadion. Kylian Mbappe v. Jadon Sancho equals chef’s kiss.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Atletico Madrid v. Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund v. Paris Saint-Germain

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two finalists from last season, are first up and both will be happy enough with their draws in the last 16.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool know that Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a very dangerous team to play as they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, the news that Heung-min Son has broken his arm and could be out for the rest of the season is a huge blow but they host an inconsistent RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta host Valencia in the other last 16 ties this week and both should be cracking encounters between two very evenly-matched teams.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 PSG

Wednesday
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 RB Leipzig
Atalanta 2-1 Valencia

Lampard issues Chelsea injury update; Pulisic remains out

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard issued a lengthy injury update after their 2-0 defeat against Man United and USMNT fans will not be happy to hear that Christian Pulisic remains out.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Ahead of Chelsea’s pivotal top four clash at home against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Lampard could be without as many as five key players.

Andreas Christensen broke his nose and came off at half time against United, while N’Golo Kante was subbed off early after yet another leg injury for the French superstar.

“Callum, no. Pulisic, no. N’Golo, no, from that today. Tammy is a maybe. It is not going our way with injuries at the moment but the players who come in they have to show that. That is what the squad is there for. It is frustrating,” Lampard told Chelsea TV when asked about availability for Saturday.

Lampard then gave an extra update on Kante, who walked through the mixed zone after the game looking okay and told the French journalists who were assembled that it wasn’t too bad.

“It is an adductor injury,” Lampard confirmed. “We will have to assess it and scan it. It doesn’t look great. It is on the same leg [as he injured before].”

With four wins in their last 14 Premier League games Chelsea are not in good form and are just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham ahead of their game this weekend.

They also have a nasty habit of dominating matches but are failing to put multiple chances away and with these injuries piling up it certainly makes Chelsea’s decision to not spend in the January window to strengthen their squad, especially in terms of strikers, very surprising.

With Bayern Munich coming up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie next week, Lampard will hope Chelsea’s luck turns and plenty of players return from injury.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.