MLS preview: Earthquakes vs. Galaxy, Sounders vs. Timbers headline Rivalry Week

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Buckle your seat belts, everybody, it’s time once again for Rivalry Week in Major League Soccer. (Yes, branding “rivalry week” is still somewhat annoying, but do you remember how great the actual games were last time around? We’ll all take that 10 times out of 10.)

Predictions record through Week 25: 37-48

There’s an added bonus this time around, too: so much jockeying for playoff position.

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 three:

San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy (Friday, 11 pm ET, UniMas)

Clear-cut favorites to win the Supporters’ Shield as well as the hottest team in the league right now (Galaxy — four straight wins), versus the other hottest team in the league currently blitzing the Western Conference’s six playoff teams at present (Earthquakes — three straight wins).

Everything is clicking for the Galaxy after the additions of Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos, though the ‘Quakes’ mid-season acquisitions, Anibal Godoy and Quincy Amarikwa, are having just as much of an impact on their new side, at a fraction of the price. The ‘Quakes went on the road last week and beat Sporting Kansas City (3rd, West) and D.C. United (1st, East) on Wednesday and Saturday by a combined score of 7-0.

Prediction: Quakes 2-2 Galaxy

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

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers (Sunday, 4:30 pm ET, ESPN)

Neither the Sounders or Timbers come into MLS’s marquee rivalry in dazzling form (six losses in seven for the Sounders; just two wins in seven for the Timbers), which means both sides are sliding toward the bottom of the West’s playoff places as those above mentioned ‘Quakes catch fire. A Sounders loss and any positive result by the ‘Quakes puts the Rave Green on the wrong side of the playoff cut line.

Diego Chara is suspended for this one, and that’s likely to hurt the visitors a great deal. Whether Will Johnson drops deeper in midfield to shield the backline or George Fochive starts in Chara’s place, it’s a huge drop in athleticism at the defensive midfield spot against a side that relies on Obafemi Martins to make driving runs and combinations through that very area of the field. I’m expecting another big day from Oba, which is just enough to put the Sounders over the top.

Prediction: Sounders 2-1 Timbers

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann struggling to get USMNT players released for Olympic qualifying ]

New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

The top two teams in the Eastern Conference renew unpleasantries for the final time this season (United won the first meeting, 2-0, and drew the second, 2-2) with so much more than three points and pride on the line this time. United currently hold a five-point advantage over the Red Bulls, but the latter have three games in hand with less than two months to the end of the regular season.

Thus, this sets up as a massive, massive, massive swing game in the race for home-field advantage in the East. A win puts the Red Bulls two points back with three games in hand, whereas a loss necessitates winning all three games in hand to make up an eight-point deficit. I feel pretty confident in saying that the winner of this weekend’s finale will finish top of the East at season’s end.

Prediction: Red Bulls 2-1 United

[ MORE: Week 25 Team of the Week | Player of the Week ]

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact (Saturday, 4 pm ET, MLS Live)

Didier Drogba made his Impact debut last weekend in a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, and in doing so picked up an injury that sounds all but certain to keep the Ivorian striker out of Saturday’s 401 Derby. An even bigger loss for the Impact than Drogba’s absence? That of Ignacio Piatti.

Without the Argentine playmaker, the Impact are a dire attacking team, capable only of hitting on the counter. Against TFC, they’ll find the center third of the field squeezed into about a 20-yard section where Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou will corral them and cut off the circulation of passing, turning them over again and again, thus springing Sebastian Giovinco into counter-attacking with very little ground to cover. TFC takes this one in a rout.

Prediction: TFC 3-0 Impact

Man City vs Man United: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester City vs Manchester United: Erling Haaland is set for his Manchester derby debut when the two-time defending champions host the rapidly improving Red Devils at Etihad Stadium on Sunday (watch live, 9 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE MAN CITY vs MAN UNITED

Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm with an absurd 11 goals scored in his first seven games after (ostensibly) choosing Man City over Man United before leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer.

Six weeks ago, Manchester United had not a single point from their first two games, including a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of tiny Brentford, but Erik ten Hag has since switched tactical course en route to four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over PL leaders Arsenal last time out, to set up this hugely intriguing showdown on Sunday.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Man City vs Man United

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Despite a pair of disappointing draws (Newcastle and Aston Villa), it’s been an unbeaten start to the 2022-23 season for Man City, who still lead the PL in possession (66.4 percent per game) while also becoming an unstoppable offensive force from last season (14 goals in their first seven games) to this season (23). That’s not to say it’s been easy as Manchester City go through a tactical shift of their own to better appeal to the big Norwegian’s poaching abilities. Though they have been forced to grind out results a few times already this season, it’s highlighted a newfound spontaneity for a side that’s been as regimented as any in the world. Will that freedom be what ultimately lands Pep Guardiola his first Champions League trophy since 2011, and perhaps a third straight PL title (and a fifth in six years) to boot?

As for Manchester United, the Ten Hag era has been a wild roller-coaster ride already, short as it’s been. The back-to-back defeats were one thing, but the abject performances were the real cause for discontent. While picking up the four straight victories, the Dutchman has also settled on a midfield setup with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen operating in (effectively) a double pivot with Bruno Fernandes the most advanced of the three. It has brought defensive stability, of course, but more importantly the change has revealed a deadly counter-attacking side. Each of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes have scored twice during the winning run, with new boy Antony also getting in on the fun on his debut. With space in behind (and the proper service from deep), Ten Hag might just have his first winning formula (albeit quite unlike him).


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee)

Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE, Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

Follow @AndyEdMLS

WATCH: Lionel Messi spins gorgeous free kick goal past Nice’s Schmeichel

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Lionel Messi got the better of Kasper Schmeichel with an outstanding free kick as Paris Saint-Germain outlasted Nice 2-1 on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

The world’s greatest scorer was fouled to set up a free kick just inside the arc. Nice, of course, got into a wall and former Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel arranged it to his liking.

As he does so many times, however, Messi spun a free kick just over the wall. The ball, which came so close to taking a slight turn off a leaping wall member (actually, did it?), tumbled down and right into the side netting to give PSG a 1-0 lead before the match was a half-hour old.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi scores relentless Groningen goal ]

Gaetan Laborde tied the match before halftime, and Nice’s revamped roster looked set to hold tight for a point (The club’s signed familiar Premier League names Schmeichel, Ross Barkley, Aaron Ramsey, and Mario Lemina).

Even that wouldn’t be enough, though, as Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to replace young Hugo Ekitike to finish a Nordi Mukiele assist for a 2-1 win.

PSG has eight wins and a draw this season, good for a two-point lead on second-place Marseille. Messi has five goals and a joint-league-best seven assists, tied with Neymar. Mbappe and Neymar are tied for the league goals lead with eight.

Lionel Messi free kick goal video

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi defies xG with relentless goal (video)

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USMNT forward Ricardo Pepi’s goal while trying to will Groningen back into an eventual 4-1 loss to AZ Alkmaar on Saturday will not be one of the expected variety.

The 19-year-old striker, on loan from Augsburg, ran onto an audacious long pass from 20-year-old defender Neraysho Kasanwirjo but had plenty of work to do with AZ leading 2-0.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez scores audacious overhead goal ]

Pepi sees one defender fall in a race to the ball, then bodies up AZ’s Sam Beukema a little outside the six-yard box.

Hand-to-hand combat sees both players hit the turf, and Pepi probably could won a penalty.

But the World Cup hopeful spins while on the pitch and snaps a shot past charging AZ goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst to make it 2-1.

Video after the jump.

Ricardo Pepi
fotmob.com

Ricardo Pepi goal video: Fantastic start to Groningen loan

Pepi now has a goal or an assist in his first three Eredivisie outings, not unlike his fantastic start to life in a USMNT shirt.

His goal contributions have taken a dive since his first two USMNT matches — World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Jamaica — and he only has one assist from the following 10 outings in a U.S. shirt.

Still, Pepi is clearly one of Gregg Berhalter’s favorite options for the upcoming World Cup, and his performances will be measured against Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok, FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, and others.

In a tournament where every moment matters, his work for this scrappy finish will be well-noted by the USMNT staff.

Josef Martinez scores vicious overhead kick in Atlanta United loss (video)

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If this is the last goal of Josef Martinez’s (likely) final season with Atlanta United, it will be very appropriate.

So for Martinez, even in a losing effort, to go airborne for an overhead kick that is a simply sensational feat of athleticism and power, well, it just feels right.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan forward joined the Five Stripes in 2017 in what seemed a massive capture for the club at the time and now seems downright gargantuan, but he’s fallen out with current manager Gonzalo Pineda and was even suspended for a match last month.

[ MORE: West Ham beats Wolves | Klopp reacts to latest setback ]

Martinez has nine goals and four assists in an injury-abbreviated 25-game season, giving him 111 goals in 156 appearances for ATL UTD. The former Torino and Young Boys striker is still being capped for Venezuela and would leave with an MLS Cup, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and Campeones Cup as well as a boatload of individual honors.

Atlanta lost 2-1 to New England on Saturday and returns home for their season finale next weekend versus New York City FC. The Five Stripes won’t make the playoffs unless at least two teams decide not to field teams, so if the NYCFC game doesn’t go well, let’s pretend this one was his final appearance for the club.