Five reasons you should watch five MLS games tonight


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.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Brighton, Sheffield Utd v. Newcastle

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Matchweek 15 of the 2019-20 Premier League season wraps up on Thursday, with two more midweek clashes featuring two mid-table sides, and two more from much nearer to the relegation zone, in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

First up, PL new boys (and 9th-place side) Sheffield United will host 14th-place Newcastle United, who sit just two points outside the relegation zone ahead of kickoff. 45 minutes later, 10th-place Arsenal will host 16th-place Brighton & Hove Albion in Freddie Ljungberg’s first home game as Arsenal interim manager.

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The schedule for Thursday’s two games is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.

2:30 p.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Newcastle United [STREAM]
3:15 p.m. ET: Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion [STREAM]

Atleti escapes major punishment for fans’ Griezmann threats

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid escaped major punishment Wednesday after its fans made threatening chants against former player Antoine Griezmann during last weekend’s La Liga match against Barcelona.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

The Spanish league had denounced the club after some fans chanted “Die Griezmann” in Sunday’s match, won by Barcelona at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

The Spanish soccer federation said it would fine Atletico $333 because the game was disrupted, but it did not cite the chants against Griezmann. The fine was prompted mainly because fans threw objects — including an umbrella — onto the field.

The Spanish league had denounced the club to the federation’s anti-violence committee, saying about 2,000 fans from Atletico’s “ultras” section made the chants for about 20 seconds before the start of the second half, and again later in the game.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Griezmann left Atletico for Barcelona at the end of last season in a transfer worth more than $132 million.

The France forward was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball at the Metropolitano on Sunday. It was his first match at Atletico’s stadium since leaving the club.

Klopp to take first team to Club World Cup, leave youth for EFL Cup

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Jurgen Klopp has chosen his strongest possible Liverpool squad to take to the Club World Cup later this month, leaving a reserve- and youth-laden team behind to compete in the EFL Cup during the same period.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Liverpool will head to Doha, Qatar, for the Club World Cup, where they’ll play their semifinal fixture against one of Monterrey (Mexico), Al-Saad (Qatar) or Hienghene Sport (New Caledonia) on Dec. 18. The day prior, on Dec. 17, the Reds will also play away to Aston Villa in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. With the club’s star-studded first team in Qatar, progression to the semifinals of the League Cup will be down to a team full of teenage prospects.

Only defender Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho, both of whom are currently injured and unavailable, were left out of the Club World Cup squad.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Players suffering from illness or injury prior to Liverpool’s first Club World Cup game can be replaced in the squad up to 24 hours before kickoff.

Liverpool’s Club World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Andy Lonergan

Defenders: Virgil Van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Midfielders: Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams

Forwards: Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri, Rhian Brewster, Divock Origi

Hazard has muscle tear, could miss El Clasico

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid midfielder Eden Hazard has a more serious right-leg injury than the bruise that was first diagnosed, and it could rule him out of El Clasico against Barcelona on Dec. 18.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Madrid said Thursday that new tests found a micro-tear of a muscle that had gone undetected since the injury occurred on Nov. 26 in a 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain.

Hazard joined Madrid from Chelsea this year on a club-record transfer of $113 million, plus add-ons. He missed the first three games of the season after injuring a thigh muscle in the preseason.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Madrid said it will also likely be without left back Marcelo for Saturday’s home game against Espanyol because of a muscle injury.

Madrid is in second place in the Spanish league behind Barcelona on goal difference.