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PL Sunday Preview: Leicester with tough West Ham test while Arsenal, Liverpool look to build momentum

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Leicester City is getting into a Sunday groove, with its third straight Sunday league match, but this one proves to be much tougher than the last two.

Meanwhile, both Arsenal and Liverpool are in a groove, but both have work to do after Manchester City, Manchester United, and Southampton all picked up points on Saturday.

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Leicester City vs. Sunderland — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

With a seven-point advantage at the top of the table and a magic number of eight, the Foxes can put one hand on the title with a win on Sunday. A win over West Ham would give them six straight top flight victories for the second time in club history, and first since 1963. It would also mark 22 league wins for them this campaign, a club record for top-flight competition.

However, the Hammers have motivation themselves. With Manchester City’s demolition of Chelsea on Saturday, Slaven Bilic and company must earn three points to keep pace and hold onto any hope of sneaking into a Champions League place. Lose, and they would be four back of Manchester United in fifth and a whopping eight points adrift of the top four, which would leave them all but eliminated.

Squad health has been vital to Leicester’s title run, having named the same starting lineup in 11 of its last 13 matches, and they are primed to do so again with an entirely fit group of players. 11 Foxes have logged 1,900 or more minutes league minutes this season, with a clear pecking order undisturbed by injuries. Their opponents today have also found themselves in solid position in that regard.

INJURIES: Leicester — None | West Ham— OUT: Diafra Sakho (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Winston Reid (hamstring)

[ MORE: Saturday PL Roundup – Manchester clubs win ]

Bournemouth vs. Liverpool — 8:30 a.m. ET, on Live Extra

The Reds are fresh off their all-timer in the Europa League, and here is where it will be determined whether Jurgen Klopp can translate that boost of energy to the Premier League, or if a run in European competition will come at a cost. Liverpool still sits just three points back of Southampton with a whopping three games in hand, and the Hammers are just a point above that. Liverpool will want to put league play on the back burner, considering they could end up next season out of European competition altogether should they fail to qualify through either venue. The loss of Emre Can to a serious ankle injury is a big one going forward, but they were without him in this match anyways due to yellow card suspension.

Bournemouth, meanwhile, has just about reached safety, having reached the 40-point threshhold, but with a pair of embarrassing losses to top teams only buoyed by a 1-goal win over Aston Villa last weekend, things teeter on edge, with season-ending form often a foreshadow of what will come next August. Their end-of-season schedule is packed with good teams, so it will be a tough road here on out.

INJURIES: Bournemouth— OUT: Adam Smith (hernia), Harry Arter (achillies), Benik Afobe (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE: Junior Stanislas (hamstring)| Liverpool— OUT: Emre Can (suspended, ankle), Jordan Henderson (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Christian Benteke (knee)

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace — 11:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

With Manchester City’s win Saturday, the Gunners have dropped into fourth and must win on Sunday to regain their spot in third, lest they be pulled into the vortex that is the battle for next year’s Champions League. With both Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain close to returns to fitness, the club can finish the season strong, and will need to for Arsene Wenger‘s Champions League streak to stay intact.

Unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches, the Gunners have good history with Crystal Palace. The Eagles have beaten Arsenal just once in league play, back in 1994, and Arsenal has a six-game winning streak in this fixture. But they face an Eagles side also in good form, having kept two straight clean sheets after 12 games in a row without a single one. Arsenal’s end-of-season schedule appears soft, but that seems to be when they stumble most.

INJURIES: Arsenal OUT: Jack Wilshere (leg), Santi Cazorla (achillies), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Crystal Palace OUT: Dwight Gayle (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE: Wilfried Zaha (shoulder)

Ibrahimovic scores twice, 10-man Galaxy ties Sounders 2-2

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half and the LA Galaxy tied the Seattle Sounders 2-2 on Saturday night despite playing nearly the entire match down a man.

The Galaxy’s Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for the denial of obvious goal opportunity.

Ibrahimovic tied it at 1 for the Galaxy (13-11-2) with a header in the 45th minute. In the 65th minute, he was taken down by Kim Kee-hee while going for a header in the area and converted the penalty, making it 2-1 with his 20th goal of the season.

LA defender Jorgen Skjelvik scored an own goal in the 82nd minute when he inadvertently deflected goalkeeper David Bingham’s attempted clearance into the Galaxy net.

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for the Sounders (11-8-7). Harry Shipp hustled to round up a loose ball and fed it to an open Ruidiaz, who slotted it home.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

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Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.

Sporting KC earn valuable win against Quakes (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  While the San Jose Earthquakes continue to drop in the playoff race, Sporting Kansas City are slowly creeping their way into contention after their 2-1 victory against San Jose. The Quakes, who have lost their last two games, are now sixth in the Western Conference and depending on the Portland Timbers’ result, can fall right above the red line. Surely, it’s not what Matias Almeyda desires, despite being the master of overcoming adversity. Peter Vermes’ side, on the other hand, is now six points out of the playoffs, a reachable distance with eight games left. The Quakes had the game in their hands in the first half, though, controlling the pace of the game. The home side’s finishing in the final 45 that got the job done, however. Moving forward, turnaround for both teams will have to be instantaneous as the Quakes travel to LAFC and Kansas City hosts Minnesota United, respectively.

Three moments that mattered

25′ — Wondolowski sets MLS record —

Whatever you do, don’t leave Wondolowski unmarked unless you want to get scored on.

48′ — Feilhaber rips it into the back of the net  —

Benny Feilhaber still has it, obviously.

73′ — Smith seals a massive victory for Sporting  —

Not who one expected to earn Kansas City three points, but soccer is all about surprises.

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Chris Wondolowski sets another MLS record in historic career

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Just months removed from becoming MLS’ all-time leading goalscorer, Chris Wondolowski is putting pen to the record book once again.

The 36-year-old is the league’s first player to ever score 10 goals (or more) in 10 consecutive seasons. His tenth of the season came against Sporting Kansas City, who, for one reason or another, left him unmarked in the box on a corner kick – an imprudent defensive strategy.

Wondolowski’s regular-season tally is now at 154 goals, 31 goals clear of Kei Kamara‘s 123, who is the second highest active goalscorer in the league.

The San Jose Earthquakes captain’s record run began in 2010. He was 27.