MLS preview: Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas, RSL vs. Sounders headline Week 25

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Week 25 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, and — oh, would you look at that — it’s officially (I decided) time to sound the “Playoffs Are Coming” alarm and watch every game the rest of the way with one eye completely fixated on those league standings.

Even FC Edmonton goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel (at right, frightening Kekuta Manneh) is feeling super pumped.

Predictions record through Week 24: 35-47

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

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)

Oh, baby. First things first, get used to seeing this matchup featured here pretty regularly as the 2015 regular season winds down, because the Whitecaps and FCD will do battle three times over the next nine weeks. Current Western Conference standings: ‘Caps – 2nd, 42 points; FCD – 5th, 38 points (with two games in hand).

With so many games remaining against one another, it’s probably safe to say one of these sides — if not both — will end up in the five-versus-six, knockout-round game the first week of the playoffs. Once you realize who lies ahead in that conference semifinals home-and-away tie three days later — LA, Sporting KC, or maybe even Seattle (more on them in a second) — this game, and the two more between these two teams become more and more and more and more and more important.

Prediction: Whitecaps 2-2

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)

This is it for RSL. This is their entire season. Have a look at the league standings. That’s RSL in ninth place in the Western Conference, six points adrift of the team currently occupying sixth place, the Sounders. Now look at the other five teams currently in the top six — LA, Vancouver, Sporting KC, Portland and Dallas. Which of those are RSL supposed to catch? Let’s be real for a second: the answer is none of them.

With Obafemi Martins back in the fold for the Sounders — and to devastating effect already — and Clint Dempsey not far behind him, the Sounders will rise. Three points for the Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, and RSL are nine points out of a playoff place. MLS is crazy, yes, but it ain’t that crazy.

Prediction: RSL 2-1

[ MORE: Week 24 MLS Team of the Week | POTW | CONCACAF Champions League recap ]

Toronto FC vs. Orlando City SC (Saturday, 4 pm ET, MLS Live)

Remember when TFC were rounding into tip-top form and threatening to take the Eastern Conference by storm with a massive slate of home games remaining a mere two months ago? Have just two wins in nine league games to take a little wind out of your sail. Remember when Orlando City were safely occupying a playoff place and trending upward as the summer began? One win in their last eight league games.

Two teams falling quickly doesn’t exactly make for the most exciting matchup on paper, but in reality it breeds desperation as the playoffs are now barely two months away. Much of OCSC’s early work has been undone and the Lions are in danger of missing out on the playoffs. Meanwhile, TFC’s idea of a trophy in 2015 is currently looking more and more like simply clinching their first-ever playoff berth rather than those shiny silver things they hand out to winners.

Prediction: TFC 2-0 OCSC

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.


“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.

MLS roundup: Timbers end road trip with emphatic win in Philly

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in MLS…

[ MORE: USA topped by Ukraine in U-20 World Cup opener ]

Philadelphia Union 1-3 Portland Timbers [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Just when everyone had begun to take the Union seriously — to give them the respect befitting a first-place team — Jim Curtin’s side fell flat on its face and fell out of the Eastern Conference’s top spot. Saturday’s defeat to the suddenly streaking — and homeward bound — Timbers snapped Philadelphia’s six-game unbeaten run (four wins).

24-year-old attacker Brian Fernandez, signed as a Designated Player earlier this month, made his first MLS start and marked the occasion with two first-half goals (31st and 36th minutes). Diego Valeri added the third (87th) after Kacper Przybylko pulled the Union back to 2-1 in the 47th.

Now, with 14 points from their 12-game road trip to start the season, Portland heads home for 17 of their final 22 games to be played inside a newly renovated — and expanded — Providence Park. The gap between themselves and a Western Conference playoff place is just four points.

New England Revolution 1-1 D.C. United [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

With the Union slipping up and dropping all three points, D.C. United made the most of their opportunity to return to the top of the East on the back of Wayne Rooney‘s 90th-minute penalty kick to snatch a 1-1 draw with (what will soon be) Bruce Arena’s Revolution.

Juan Agudelo put the home side ahead with a header in the 61st minute, and the lead held firm for nearly the final half-hour. Alas, video review reviewed a handball late in the game, which presented Rooney the chance to play the part of hero. He duly obliged and hammered his spot kick past backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who replaced Matt Turner following his 56th minute red card for cleaning out Rooney.

Arena is expected to take charge of Revs training this week and make his debut as head coach next Sunday, when his new side visits… his old side, the LA Galaxy.

Colorado Rapids 3-2 Columbus Crew SC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Don’t look now, but the Rapids have won two straight games under interim head coach Conor Casey and appear set on clawing their way out of the league’s basement.

Sure, they blew a pair of leads at home, but they also hit back with another goal of their own every time Crew SC drew level, culminating in a stunning winner from Nicolas Mezquida.

The gap between Colorado and 23th place is now just three points, as expansion side FC Cincinnati come closer and closer on the horizon.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 1-1 New York City FC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 FC Dallas [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
FC Cincinnati 0-2 New York Red Bulls [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Minnesota United 1-0 Houston Dynamo [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders — 6 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. San Jose Earthquakes — 7:30 p.m. ET