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MLS (afternoon) roundup: Basti scores, Fire win again; Larin downs LA late

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The sixth MLS Saturday of 2017 is nearly halfway complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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Chicago Fire 3-0 New England Revolution

Two wins, one draw — that’s Chicago’s record since signing Bastian Schweinsteiger. Now, an asterisk (or a few): all three games were played at home; in the first game, against the Montreal Impact, Ignacio Piatti was unavailable due to injury; in the second game, against Columbus Crew SC, Gregg Berhalter pieced together one of the worst starting lineups we’ve seen all season; in the third game, on Saturday, Chicago had a man advantage for over an hour.

The answer to “How good are the Fire, exactly?” is coming soon. For now, enjoy Schweinsteiger scoring his second MLS. Nemanja Nikolic also bagged a brace, his third and fourth goals since coming to the league in the winter. So far, it’s been an unbelievable return on signings made during the offseason (Schweinsteiger, Nikolic, Dax McCarty and Juninho, to name a few).

Orlando City SC 2-1 LA Galaxy

The “Cyle Larin is going to Europe, and soon” hype train continues to pick up steam, as the 21-year-old Canadian international bagged his 35th career goal (Orlando have scored exactly 100 in 73 MLS games) and fourth this season, this time an extremely late winner to top LA and preserve the Lions’ 100 percent home record at the brand new Orlando City Stadium.

Will Johnson fired Orlando into the lead in the 9th minute, chesting the ball out of the air and unleashing a powerful volley toward the far post. LA’s Clement Diop — nor any goalkeeper in the world, for that matter — didn’t have a chance. Romain Alessandrini pulled LA level with his fourth goal in three games, in the 83rd minute, but Larin reacted quickest when the ball came to him at the top of the six-yard box, and just like that, Orlando are top of the Eastern Conference (for now).

Montreal Impact 2-1 Atlanta United

Red cards change games, no matter when they’re given, but they change games especially drastically when they’re handed out before halftime. Atlanta’s Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was shown a straight red for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity — it was questionable — in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time. That allowed Ignacio Piatti to score from the penalty spot, canceling out Kenwyne Jones‘ opener, his first MLS goal.

For the majority of the second half — as in, all but the final 30 seconds of extra time — Atlanta were hugely deserving of the draw and would have even felt hard done by given the nature of the dismissal. Alas, “deserve” doesn’t really mean much in soccer, and Anthony Jackson-Hamel scored from what can only be called a fortunate redirect after three and a half minutes of stoppage time.

Atletico Madrid roster for MLS All-Star Game includes Felix

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Major League Soccer fans will get a good luck at one of the hottest prospects in world soccer when the MLS All Stars take on Atletico Madrid in next week’s MLS All Star Game.

Joao Felix, the $142 million 19-year-old, is among the roster announced by Diego Simeone for the match.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

Felix scored 20 times with 11 assists in 40 matches for Benfica before moving to Atleti in the summer. Those numbers include a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinals first leg.

The other stars will be there, too, provided no transfers happen in the interim. Koke, Thomas Lemar, Diego Costa, and Saul Niguez are in the squad.

New Atleti defender Kieran Trippier and longtime El Tri hero Hector Herrera will also be sure to help drive attendance in Orlando City.

The full roster is here.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.