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Major League Soccer’s Week 4 preview: Crew, Sounders stare down tough slump stoppers

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Last week saw just a trio of MLS games due to the international break, but we get a full slate of games this weekend.

[ MORE: Stock up/stock down after USMNT’s wild qualifiers ]

That features two perceived powers, Columbus and Seattle, aching to end early season slumps despite very tricky inter-conference competition.

FC Dallas vs. Columbus Crew — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

We live in a world where there is a very real possibility that the Eastern Conference champion Crew will be without a win after four matches.

That’s because Dallas has looked very good while Columbus has not only failed to cure its MLS Cup hangover, but also has Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp returning from very busy international breaks.

This is MLS, of course, so it stands to reason that Columbus will pick up a huge win. We won’t pick that, though, because Fabian Castillo, Matt Hedges and stuff.

Prediction: Dallas 2-1.

Seattle Sounders vs. Montreal Impact — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

Montreal is flying halfway across a continent for this, which is good for struggling Seattle. Teams tend to find real trouble on these long trips, and Montreal won just one of its five Western roadies last season. Seattle went 5-0 when an Eastern Conference foe came calling in Washington.

So do you bet on form, which would have Montreal picking up three points? Or do you bet on a combination of geography and biology? We’ll meet this one halfway.

Prediction: 1-1

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

Two teams many figured to be competing for the Supporters Shield tangle in British Columbia with the risk of sinking further off the pace.

The ‘Caps are 2-2 after four matches, while L.A. is 2-1. Vancouver will be without Masato Kudo, who was suspended for his game-winning penalty dive against Houston but has won two-straight, and swept its season series with the Galaxy last season.

Robbie Keane is out 4-6 weeks, and that could help the Canadian side. In fact, coupled with L.A.’s week off while the ‘Caps beat the Dynamo, we bet it’ll make the difference.

Prediction: ‘Caps 2-1.

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, left, and Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston fight for a head ball in the second half of an MLS soccer game at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., Saturday, June 6, 2015. The Whitecaps won 1-0. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

[ Q&A: NASL commissioner Bill Peterson ]

Picking the rest
New England 1-0 New York Red Bulls — Friday
Chicago Fire 2-2 Philadelphia Union — Saturday
Colorado Rapids 1-2 Toronto FC — Saturday
Sporting KC 1-0 Real Salt Lake — Saturday
San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 DC United — Saturday
Orlando City 1-1 Portland Timbers — Sunday

PSG signs American defender Alana Cook from Stanford

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team has signed American defender Alana Cook from Stanford University.

The 21-year-old Cook, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, has signed until June 2022. She was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year this season for her performances with Stanford and has represented the U.S. at Under-20 level.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

She played 93 games and scored five goals for Stanford.

PSG’s women’s team is second in the French first division and sits two points behind five-time European champion Lyon after 15 rounds.

Cook says “I really wanted to play in a European club and to play against the best teams in the world.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS notes: Zimmerman spurns Europe, Vazquez sold, DC youngster in remission

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Let’s sweep up some good, somewhat-expected, and wonderful news from around Major League Soccer.

DC United defender and Maryland product Chris Odoi-Atsem announced that he is in remission after a fight with Stage Two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Odoi-Atsem was expected to undergo four months of chemotherapy, and the announcement comes just under three months into the journey.

At 23, Odoi-Atsem hopes to rejoin the team after his final round of chemo later this month. He was the 12th overall draft pick in 2017.

Another defender is extending his stay in Los Angeles.

USMNT center back Walker Zimmerman was a huge part of LAFC’s success as an expansion club following his arrival from FC Dallas, and was reportedly ready to test the waters of European soccer with interest from the Premier League, Ligue 1, and the Bundesliga.

But Bob Bradley pushed the right buttons and LAFC will have its 25-year-old mainstay back in the fold via a Targeted Allocation Money contract running through the 2022 season.

Finally, one of the key pieces to Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS Cup triumph is on his way out of Ontario.

Victor Vazquez is going to be sold to an unnamed Qatari club, pending a physical according to TSN’s Kristian Jack.

The 32-year-old scored posted 18 goals and 15 primary assists for TFC.

Transfer rumor roundup: Pellegrini to Man Utd? Dabbur wants Liverpool

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As Arsenal might be losing its head of recruitment, other Premier League movers and shakers are looking to bring big names to the Top Four fight.

If Northern Ireland is the hub for transfer movement, January is going to be a wild ride for one of the Premier League’s flagship clubs.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that Manchester United is pursuing young Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini in addition to the whispers linking the club to former Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho.

Pellegrini, 22, has two goals and six assists for Roma this season, having become a regular call-up for Italy. He reportedly has a $35 million release clause in his contract, though he is cup-tied in the Champions League (Roma next faces Porto).

His 2.6 key passes per game lead Roma and only AC Milan’s Suso and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez average more across Serie A. Pellegrini is second on Roma in crosses with 1.5.

How does $115 million sound for an elite 27-year-old defender? That’s what Napoli would reportedly accept from Real Madrid to bring Kalidou Koulibaly west to Spain.

The report, which also links Real with interest in Roma’s Kostas Manolas and Porto’s Eder Miliato, says United remains interested in the player despite the exit of admirer Jose Mourinho.

Anything more than $97 million, the fee Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk, would break the world transfer record for a defender.

Meanwhile, Israeli striker Munas Dabbur is angling to bring his 20-goal season to Anfield.

Reports that Dabbur has turned down a move to Valencia in the hopes of joining Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.

The Red Bull Salzburg striker has scored half of his 20 goals in the Champions League and Europa League, and has 11 Israel caps.

The cost for Dabbur is said to be $28 million, but is there any guarantee Dabbur can produce at a level that would demand playing time. Divock Origi has three goals in six matches and can hardly get time for the Reds, and Daniel Sturridge has only found 576 minutes in the first half of the season.

Arsenal to reportedly lose head of recruitment Mislintat

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The man expected to usher in an era of exciting new young talent at Arsenal may be leaving the club after less than 14 months.

Arsenal head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, 46, has been hailed as the man who discovered Christian Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Well-connected reporter Raphael Honigstein says Mislintat is frustrated by a change in recruitment policy since Ivan Gazidis left the Emirates Stadium. Gazidis hired Mislintat to use analytics and stats to find diamonds, whereas new head of football Raul Sanllehi prefers to work his own network for players.

Mislintat is considered the key to bringing in Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, as well as clear connections like former BVB center back Sokratis Papastathopolous.

His departure would be a shot across the bow of an organization which enjoyed stability under Gazidis and Arsene Wenger for years.