Five reasons you should watch five MLS games tonight

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Soccer — you just can’t get enough of it, can you?

As the 2015 calendar years wears on and winds down, so too does the 2015 Major League Soccer season. The regular season — which feels like it began just last week, by the way — is very much into its final stretch, as some teams have played as many as 25 games (though, not all teams), meaning the countdown to playoffs is either in or nearing single digits.

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With that in mind, each and every game the rest of the way carries an added tinge of importance. With five MLS games slated for Saturday, Aug. 15 (fire up those MLS Live accounts), here’s five reasons to watch all of them:

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC (7 pm ET, MLS Live)

It would be cheating if I said, “Sebastian Giovinco — enough said,” right here, wouldn’t it? Probably, but this is my workspace, so I can do that. Seriously, watch this guy. He’s scored 16 goals (you can watch them all, right here, in 60 seconds flat) and tallied 11 assists in his first 22 MLS games. The Red Bulls’ defense has given up the third-fewest goals in MLS this season (25), so this will be a tough test for the Atomic Ant. Do yourself a favor: watch this game and find out what all the Giovinco hype is about.

New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

OK, admittedly pinpointing one particular reason to watch this game is significantly more difficult than what we encountered above. So here’s what we’ll go with: major playoff position jockeying in both conferences. The Revs, currently fifth in the East on 31 points, are just five points behind the second-place Red Bulls. The Dynamo, currently seventh in the West on 31 points, are a single point behind the Portland Timbers for the other conference’s sixth and final playoff place. Huge three points on the line. Huge.

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Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (9 pm ET, MLS Live)

On Friday I wrote the following in my weekly MLS preview:

Quick: name a team in MLS with a higher points per game average than Sporting KC (1.76) or the Whitecaps (1.75). That’s a trick question, because there isn’t one.

That’s a nice place to start. If PPG were extrapolated to complete a full 34-game season, these would be the first- and second-place finishers in the whole entire league. Throw in the fact that the Whitecaps are an historically lethal counter-attacking team, alongside the MVP candidate form of Benny Feilhaber (eight goals, 12 assists in 21 games), and I’m feeling extra lucky to be at Sporting Park tonight.

FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy (9 pm ET, MLS Live)

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Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy

Yet again I could take the easy way out right here by saying, “all of the Galaxy’s stars,” but that would be 1) lazy, and 2) horrifically not pun-ny of me. Besides, we’re all extremely familiar with Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos. Instead, how about two teams leading MLS in terms of the “youth movement,” and having massive success while doing so? Playing alongside the above headliners are American stars (in the making) Gyasi Zardes (23) and Sebastian Lletget (22) for the Galaxy, and Fabian Castillo (23), Mauro Diaz (24), Tesho Akindele (23), Matt Hedges (25), Kellyn Acosta (20), Victor Ulloa (23) and Moises Hernandez (23) — all of whom are every-game starters — for FCD. The future of MLS is bright, and that only has so much to do with the guys making 5, 6 and $7 million a year.

[ MORE: NYCFC 3-1 DCU to kick off the weekend | PHI 1-0 CHI (USOC) | SKC 3-1 RSL (USOC) ]

Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers (10 pm ET, MLS Live)

Before the season began, I predicted the near-unthinkable: RSL would not qualify for the playoffs in 2015. Through 24 games, that prediction is looking pretty good (Jeff Cassar’s side trail the Seattle Sounders, sixth place in the West, by three points). Considering Saturday’s opponent is one the teams they’re currently chasing for a playoff place, and the fact it’s very nearly “their season is on the line” time, this is a massive game for a struggling (two wins in their last eight league games) and exhausted (fifth of five games, in 15 days, in three different countries — 1W-0D-3L thus far) Claret and Cobalt bunch.

Przybylko stars again as Union hammer dire DCU (video)

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CHESTER, Pa. (AP) Kacper Przybylko had a goal and two assists in a dominant first half and the Philadelphia Union defeated D.C. United 3-1 on Saturday night.

[ MORE: NYCFC erase early deficit to beat Red Bulls (video) ]

Przybylko scored his 12th goal from point-blank range off a cross from Kail Wagner five minutes in and the Union (14-8-6) were never challenged as they moved within a point of first-place Atlanta.

Brenden Aaronson, who helped set up Przybylko’s goal, had the favor returned in the 16th minute. Przybylko slipped the ball down the middle, Aaronson made the turn and then fired from the top of the box for his second goal.

Przybylko made a similar set up for Ilsinho’s fifth goal in the 36th minute. Ilsinho took the pass at the top of the box, worked his way through the defense before finding room to score.

DC United (10-10-9) didn’t have a shot in the first half. Luciano Acosta bulled his way through the defense for his sixth goal in the 56th minute. United turned the pressure up in the second half with four shots on target but remained in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

NYCFC erase early deficit to beat Red Bulls (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): New York City FC erased an early deficit to beat the New York Red Bulls in the 2019 season’s second and final Hudson River derby, and remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference’s battle for first place, and home-field advantage, in the process. Coming into the weekend, NYCFC sat third and trailed Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union by a single point. Atlanta beat Orlando City SC on Friday, and Philadelphia hammered D.C. United on Saturday. The gap between the top-three and fourth-place Red Bulls is now six points. Maxi Moralez scored from the penalty spot and Heber unleashed some absolute filth on Luis Robles (video below) after Alex Muyl put the visitors ahead inside 10 minutes played.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Man City visit Bournemouth; Spurs host Newcastle ]

Three moments that mattered

10′ Muyl finishes down the left for an early lead — You don’t always get punished for turning the ball over in this area in MLS, but you should be.

43′ — Moralez wins penalty, converts penalty — Moralez was taken down inside the box by Michael Murillo for an unquestionably penalty not long before halftime. The Argentine converted with authority.

53′ — Heber backheel-nutmegs Robles for 2-1 — Yes, really.

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Man of the match: Maxi Moralez

Goalscorers: Muyl (10′), Moralez (43′ – PK), Heber (53′)

PL Sunday preview: Man City visit Bournemouth; Spurs host Newcastle

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After six Premier League fixtures on Saturday, and one on Friday, three more remain in Matchweek 3. Roll on, Sunday…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Bournemouth v. Man City — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester City’s directive for the 2019-20 season is clear, and comes from 31 miles west of Manchester: if you’re not perfect — or very, very close to it — Liverpool will win the title. After dropping a pair of points at home to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, Man City find themselves in the chaser’s position, though it’s far from foreign to them after trailing the Reds by 10 points at one point last season. A trip to Bournemouth appears to be just what the doctor ordered: since the Cherries returned to the PL four seasons ago, City have trounced the south-coast side, winning all eight contests by a combined score of 25-3.

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is trying to see his side’s dismal record in a slightly more positive light.

“I think we know historically that if we perform our very best, we’ve got a chance of beating anybody. I think that’s been the story of our Premier League journey. We’ve had to play very well to get anything from the top teams. Every time we’ve played against them, and I’ve said this before, we’ve come from the pitch learning more about ourselves. And what we have to do to grow and become better.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth —  OUT: Lewis Cook (knee), Simon Francis (knee), Junior Stanislas (hamstring), Dan Gosling (hip), Lloyd Kelly (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Arnaut Danjuma (foot) | Man City  — OUT: John Stones (thigh), Benjamin Mendy (fitness), Leroy Sane (knee)


Tottenham v. Newcastle — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Tottenham are set to put their undefeated start to the still-young season on the line when Newcastle United visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A week after taking last weekend’s unlikely point, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side continues to get a little deeper and stronger with each passing day, with the exception of one fresh injury concern. Deadline-day arrival Giovani Lo Celso is yet to start for his new club, but the Argentine made his debut as a second-half substitute last weekend. Fast-forward a week and Lo Celso could be in line for that first start with fellow summer signing Tanguy Ndombele a doubt with what the club is calling a minor thigh injury. Son Heung-min, a double-digit goalscorer in three straight PL seasons, is also due back in the team after serving the final two games of his three-game suspension dating back to last season. So long as Harry Kane‘s ankle ligaments remain structurally sound, Pochettino has a real embarrassment of riches at his disposal (by Spurs’ standards), including the likes of Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, both of whom started the first two games on the bench.

As for Newcastle, life under new manager Steve Bruce is off to a far worse start than Pochettino’s sixth season at Spurs. Not only are the Magpies without a point from their first two games, but they were roundly played off the park by newly promoted Norwich City in a 3-1 defeat last weekend. There’s also the small matter of the supporters’ discontent over owner Mike Ashley’s operation of the club, chief among their concerns being his failure to retain Rafa Benitez. Miguel Almiron and Joelinton, Newcastle’s headlining attacking duo, are yet to find one another on the same page and have managed just one shot on target between them through two games. Newcastle’s six shots on target rank second-to-bottom in the PL.

INJURIES: Spurs —  OUT: Dele Alli (hamstring), Juan Foyth (ankle), Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Tanguy Ndombele (thigh) | Newcastle  — OUT: DeAndre Yedlin (groin), Florian Lejeune (knee), Andy Carroll (fitness), Dwight Gayle (calf), Jack Colback (groin)


Wolves v. Burnley — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSports.com

At this point, you’re probably wondering which is the only side with fewer shots on target than Newcastle. This might come as a shock to some, but it’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, last season’s seventh-place finishers and Europa League qualifiers. The night-and-day difference between the two sides being Wolves’ ability to still grind out results when they’re far from their very best. It’s true that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side has scored just one goal through two games, but it’s also true that they’ve conceded just once as well, and they have two points to show for their efforts against the likes of Manchester United and Leicester City. After picking up a 3-2 victory away to Torino in Europa League action on Thursday, Espirito Santo is likely to once more rotate a handful of starters and make use of his rather deep, and expensive, squad.

After spending much of last season near, or inside, the relegation zone, Sean Dyche‘s Burnley has looked one of the most improved sides in the PL. They followed up an opening-day dismantling of Southampton with a hard-fought 2-1 defeat away to Arsenal last weekend. Ashley Barnes is in fine form with three of the Clarets’ four goals scored this season.

INJURIES: Wolves —  QUESTIONABLE: Matt Doherty (illness) | Burnley  — OUT: Steven Defour (calf), Danny Drinkwater (fitness)

La Liga: Real Madrid disappoint in home draw with Valladolid

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Real Madrid 1-1 Real Valladolid

With Barcelona losing on the season’s opening day, and now Real Madrid dropping points on Saturday to the side that finished 16th last season, the 2019 La Liga title race appears to be wide open.

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid 1-0 up after 82 minutes, and Los Blancos appeared to have avoided a disappointing start to their home campaign. However, Sergi Guardiola (no relation to Pep) had other ideas when he bagged an unlikely equalizer in the 88th minute.

Eden Hazard remained out with a thigh injury and the $113-million Belgian isn’t expected to make his Madrid debut until after the season’s international break which takes place the first full weekend of September. James Rodriguez made his return to Real Madrid after two seasons on loan to Bayern Munich, but the Colombian was subbed off after 57 minutes to be replaced by Vinicius Junior.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-0 Valencia
Getafe 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna 0-0 Eibar

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Mallorca v. Real Sociedad — 11 a.m. ET
Alaves v. Espanyol — 11 a.m. ET
Leganes v. Atletico Madrid — 1 p.m. ET
Barcelona v. Real Betis — 3 p.m. ET