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Five takeaways from MLS Week 1

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Major League Soccer returned with (mostly) glorious wonder this weekend, with several eye-opening surprises and some dead-on certainties.

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1) Houston can be electric — Mauro Manotas didn’t start up top for Wilmer Cabrera’s new Dynamo, and he may not get the chance after Erick “Cubo” Torres lined up between Honduran wingers Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis.

The Mexican striker scored, Quioto added a second, and each man could’ve easily had a brace as Houston picked up a 2-1 home win over the reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders. The three-man attack was a CONCACAF nightmare for Seattle, especially without Brad Evans. Barring injury, Houston’s a must-watch.

2) Resilient Red Bulls prove a spoiler — Atlanta United’s raucous debut crowd saw Yamil Asad put the hosts up 1-0 in a match designed for a Georgian win; The Red Bulls had played three nights earlier out in Vancouver, and this would’ve been a forgivable 0-1 start to the season.

But Daniel Royer made it 1-1 in the 76th minute before Spurs loanee Anton Walkes, prodded by Mike Grella and Kemar Lawrence, turned an own goal into the Atlanta net six minutes later. It was a rude welcome to MLS for United, and another reminder that Jesse Marsch is not to be overlooked.

3) Dallas looks the part — There are a lot of folks who expect FC Dallas to take another Supporters’ Shield, and their 2-1 road win at the new-look Galaxy isn’t going to change too many of those minds.

We’d watch this duo tangle on a week-to-week basis. FCD had the answers. New LA captain Jelle Van Damme had a standout night at center back, but it wasn’t enough as Maxi Urruti and Kellyn Acosta sandwiched Dallas goals around a Gio Dos Santos tally to take three points back to Texas.

4) Minnesota “Outshined” — Chris Cornell wasn’t doing any favors to the Northern state when he described a bout of low confidence as ‘Looking California but feeling Minnesota’ in the Soundgarden hit, but United’s first MLS match fit that description a bit too easily.

Aside from Christian Ramirez’s feel-good goal, the Loons were battered by a veteran Portland side. Two goals for Fanendo Adi and two more from Diego Valeri highlighted the 5-1 win, one that could put hopes too high in Oregon. As for whether it will make the outlook unrealistically bleak in Minnesota, that’s another story.

5) Orlando pride — While Atlanta debuted a new team, its new stadium won’t be ready until later in the year. Orlando City SC, meanwhile, rolled out a new home. In a way, it was the perfect projection of where many hope MLS will one day arrive: soccer-savvy supporters packing pristine, cavernous homes. And Orlando City Stadium was rowdy, wonderful, and victorious. Now will it see many more wins with Kaka out for six weeks?

LIVE, UCL last 16: Atletico v. Liverpool; Dortmund v. PSG

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and Atletico Madrid host Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain head to Borussia Dortmund in what should be two epic battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool are the first Premier League club to get going as Jurgen Klopp locks horns with Diego Simeone’s Atleti, who are a very dangerous team to play and they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. With Sadio Mane back fit, he could be the difference for Liverpool as the runaway Premier League leaders return to the stadium where they win their sixth European title at the end of last season. Madrid holds fond memories for Klopp’s boys. Atletico Madrid are struggling along in La Liga but they have played the underdog role very well in recent seasons and this encounter will be full throttle from the start.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain in the other UCL last 16 first leg clash on Tuesday and that should be a cracking game between two very evenly-matched teams as former Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel takes PSG to the Westfalenstadion. Kylian Mbappe v. Jadon Sancho equals chef’s kiss.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Atletico Madrid v. Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund v. Paris Saint-Germain

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two finalists from last season, are first up and both will be happy enough with their draws in the last 16.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool know that Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a very dangerous team to play as they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, the news that Heung-min Son has broken his arm and could be out for the rest of the season is a huge blow but they host an inconsistent RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta host Valencia in the other last 16 ties this week and both should be cracking encounters between two very evenly-matched teams.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 PSG

Wednesday
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 RB Leipzig
Atalanta 2-1 Valencia

Lampard issues Chelsea injury update; Pulisic remains out

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard issued a lengthy injury update after their 2-0 defeat against Man United and USMNT fans will not be happy to hear that Christian Pulisic remains out.

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Ahead of Chelsea’s pivotal top four clash at home against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Lampard could be without as many as five key players.

Andreas Christensen broke his nose and came off at half time against United, while N’Golo Kante was subbed off early after yet another leg injury for the French superstar.

“Callum, no. Pulisic, no. N’Golo, no, from that today. Tammy is a maybe. It is not going our way with injuries at the moment but the players who come in they have to show that. That is what the squad is there for. It is frustrating,” Lampard told Chelsea TV when asked about availability for Saturday.

Lampard then gave an extra update on Kante, who walked through the mixed zone after the game looking okay and told the French journalists who were assembled that it wasn’t too bad.

“It is an adductor injury,” Lampard confirmed. “We will have to assess it and scan it. It doesn’t look great. It is on the same leg [as he injured before].”

With four wins in their last 14 Premier League games Chelsea are not in good form and are just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham ahead of their game this weekend.

They also have a nasty habit of dominating matches but are failing to put multiple chances away and with these injuries piling up it certainly makes Chelsea’s decision to not spend in the January window to strengthen their squad, especially in terms of strikers, very surprising.

With Bayern Munich coming up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie next week, Lampard will hope Chelsea’s luck turns and plenty of players return from injury.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.