Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

MLS preview: Sounders-Timbers, NYCFC-Galaxy headline Week 24

Leave a comment

Previewing the biggest games across Major League Soccer this weekend…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New York City FC vs. LA Galaxy — Saturday, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

More than $30 million worth of Designated Player stardom will be on the field at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon, assuming Robbie Keane returns to action following an orbital fracture suffered in the Galaxy’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls two weeks ago. Keane said this week he expects to be available and will wear a protective mask. Frank Lampard has scored nine goals in his last 10 appearances, clearing himself of the Worst DP in League History title bestowed upon him earlier this year.

The two sides enter Sunday’s star-studded clash on identical 38-point tallies, with the Galaxy having played two fewer games thus far. NYCFC, however, lead the Eastern Conference by a single point, while the Galaxy trail the Supporters’ Shield- and Western Conference-leading FC Dallas by seven points. The last only time these sides met, the Galaxy throttled the then-expansion side, 5-1 last August. The Galaxy are unbeaten in their last nine league games, which include three straight draws right on the heels of a four-game winning streak (a period in which Keane scored his only three post-EURO 2016 goals).

Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

TFC were supposed to be here — fighting for the top spot in the East, that is. The Union, however, were not. Yet, here we are, with the two sides separated by just three points ahead of Saturday’s massive top-four battle. The Union (4th in the East) bounced back from a four-game winless skid with a 4-0 thrashing of the New England Revolution last weekend, in which Alejandro Bedoya made his MLS debut and one of the league’s deepest squads was realized.

The Reds (2nd in the East), on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last five, including four straight wins before last weekend’s weather-postponed 1-1 draw with the lowly Houston Dynamo. Surprise: Sebastian Giovinco is back to his best, notching seven goals and four assists in his last five games. That’s certainly one way to snap out of an eight-game goalless skid.

D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls — Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

With just one win in their last seven games, United’s season is on the line every time they take the field. With just over two months of the regular season remaining, they’re tied with Orlando City SC for the sixth spot in the East, edged into the lead on tiebreakers.

It’s hardly an ideal time to face a side that’s unbeaten in seven, somehow overcoming the loss of an entire defensive unit in the process. Gideon Baah and Dax McCarty have been out for weeks; Damien Perrinelle and Connor Lade, too; Aurelien Collin became the latest defensive standout to wind up on the injury list in a win over the Montreal Impact last weekend. Fortunately for Jesse Marsch and Co., only the Chicago Fire (22) have scored fewer goals this season than the Red Bulls’ Atlantic Cup rivals.

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers — Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET (FS1)

Not only is Seattle versus Portland the grandest rivalry in MLS, but Sunday’s meeting is suddenly a hugely important fixture in the playoff race. Left for dead just three weeks ago, the Sounders have won seven points from their last three games, halving their 10-point deficit to the sixth-place side in the West in the process. They also have two games in hand, as well Nicolas Lodeiro, who has established himself as one of the league’s elite playmakers in just three games (1 goal, 3 assists).

Five points is hardly an insurmountable gap with 11 games still to play, none of them more important than Sunday’s. The team they currently trail by five points for that sixth and final playoff place? Portland. That, my friends, is the purest form of poetic coincidence.

Nguyen, Rossi help LAFC beat the Rapids 2-0

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) Lee Nguyen and Diego Rossi each scored in the second half to help Los Angeles FC beat the Colorado Rapids 2-0 on Sunday night.

Nguyen scored the opener for LAFC (12-7-6) in the 49th minute, gathering Jack Price’s attempted clearance back into the area, rolling it back with his right foot to evade a defender and spinning around to create an opening for a left-footed finish.

[READ: Josef Martinez scores 27th goal of season]

In the 80th minute, Diego Rossi took Adama Diomande‘s back-heel flick just past midfield, dribbled it up the right side and finished his eighth goal of the season past goalkeeper Tim Howard.

The Rapids (6-13-6) had their three-game unbeaten streak snapped.

With the win, LAFC moved into a tie for second place in the Western Conference standings with Sporting Kansas City as both teams are on 42 points, just three behind first-place FC Dallas. LAFC also has a four-point gap above RSL in fourth place.

The Rapids meanwhile, averaging less than a point per game, sit in second-to-last place in the standings.

Ronaldo’s Juventus debut ends with goalkeeper in hospital

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo’s Serie A debut was marked not by a goal but by accidentally putting the opposing team’s goalkeeper in hospital.

With the score locked at 2-2 late on in Juventus’ match at Chievo Verona, Ronaldo collided with Stefano Sorrentino in a chaotic penalty area.

[ MORE: Juventus win on Ronaldo’s goal-less debut; Napoli chasing again ]

Sorrentino was knocked out cold briefly and there were an anxious few minutes as he received immediate treatment before being substituted.

The 39-year-old goalkeeper was immediately taken to the hospital and released on Sunday morning with a fractured nose, bruising to his left shoulder and whiplash.

Sorrentino was able to joke about the incident, posting a photo on Twitter with the caption: “Thanks for your messages of support, affection and esteem. We are a fantastic group and yesterday we almost achieved the feat: while CR7 got me in full!”

He also later revealed on the social media site that Ronaldo had been in touch: “I received a message of support and wishing me a speedy recovery from Cristiano Ronaldo. Thanks legend!”

[ MORE: Edin Dzeko starts Roma off right with stunning winner ]

Sorrentino pulled off several fine saves to deny Ronaldo and his Juventus teammates – although Chievo went on to lose the match 3-2 following Federico Bernardeschi’s stoppage-time winner.

“Before coming onto the pitch I told myself I would have to try to stop him in every way possible,” Sorrentino said on Italian television. “I did that in the real sense of the word.”

During the commotion Juventus was awarded a goal using goal-line technology, then it was disallowed a few minutes later on video review.

[ MORE: Lazio ultras want to ban women from “sacred space” in stadium ]

Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini celebrated when the goal was given, causing widespread outrage as Sorrentino was still receiving urgent treatment.

“Paulo wrote to me, apologizing because he hadn’t realized the seriousness of the situation and he was celebrating for a goal that I didn’t even know I had conceded,” Sorrentino said.

DCU win again, look like genuine playoff contenders

AP Photo/Nick Wass
Leave a comment

The game in 200 words (or less): No individual — other than Ben Olsen, perhaps — has benefitted from the arrival of Wayne Rooney at D.C. United more so than Luciano Acosta. Through his first 82 games in MLS, Acosta managed to rack up nine goals and 23 assists — a healthy enough haul considering the lack of quality around him since day one in 2016. Still, the frustration and unhappiness were plain to see, every time the Argentine playmaker’s teammates weren’t able to link up or finish one of his brilliant through balls. In United’s last five games (Acosta has played 438 of 450 minutes), including Sunday’s 2-0 win over the 10-man New England Revolution: four goals and three assists. Of course, United, as a whole, have benefitted greatly, too. Their record in Rooney’s eight games: 5W-1D-2L (prior to his debut, the Black and Red won just two of 14 games). Olsen and Co., have risen from last place in the Eastern Conference and reach the dizzying heights of eighth place, where they are now just six points back of fifth and sixth place — a de facto impossibility just a month ago, when they had just 10 points to their name and were 13 off the pace of sixth.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez ties MLS record with 27th goal in 2018 ]

Three moments that mattered

13′ — Acosta finishes with aplomb at the back post — The three Revs defenders, who let the ball run across the face of goal without making any attempt to play or clear it, could have done just about anything else and it would have been preferable to what they did.

73′ — Caldwell gets a second yellow, Revs down to 10 — Scott Caldwell didn’t need to run into Junior Moreno a full second or two after the ball was away, but he did so anyway. No advantage to gain from the “challenge,” and Caldwell’s teammates had to finish the game a man short.

89′ — Stieber gets in behind, makes it 2-0 — Rooney had skied a nearly identical chance just seconds earlier, leaving it up to Zoltan Stieber to put the game to bed.

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

Man of the match: Luciano Acosta

Goalscorers: Acosta (13′), Stieber (89′)

Lazio ultras want to ban women from “sacred space” in stadium

Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images
2 Comments

ROME (AP) Lazio’s “ultra” fans have caused outrage by telling women to avoid their “sacred space” in the club’s Stadio Olimpico.

The die-hard supporters distributed flyers ahead of their team’s Serie A opener at home to Napoli.

[ MORE: Juventus win on Ronaldo’s goal-less debut; Napoli chasing again ]

“The Curva Nord represents for us a sacred space, an environment with an unwritten code to be respected,” read the flyer. “The first few rows, as always, have been experienced like the trenches. In the trenches, we do not allow women, wives and girlfriends, so we invite them to position themselves from the 10th row back.

“Those who choose the stadium as an alternative to a carefree and romantic day in (Rome’s) Villa Borghese (gardens), should go to other sections.”

Lazio spokesman Arturo Diaconale told Italian news agency Ansa on Sunday that “it is not the position of the club, we are against any discrimination.”

He added: “Moreover, there is an enormous number of Lazio fans, this instead is an initiative from a few fans. We can’t always intervene to avoid politically incorrect displays like this.”

[ MORE: Edin Dzeko starts Roma off right with stunning winner ]

Some Lazio fans caused outrage last season when they littered the Stadio Olimpico in Rome with images of Anne Frank — the young diarist who died in the Holocaust — wearing a jersey of city rival Roma. Lazio was fined $63,000 by the Italian soccer federation because of the anti-Semitism displayed by the team’s fans.

It was the latest in a series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents, with Lazio previously having its stadium fully or partly closed for European and domestic matches as punishment.