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MLS (late-night) roundup: SKC win in Portland; RSL, Crew SC comebacks

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With six MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 28 more to go…

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Portland Timbers 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

Two teams remain unbeaten to start the 2017 MLS season: FC Dallas, the defending Supporters’ Shield winners, and Sporting KC. As far as statement wins go during the first month and a half of the season, few, if any, look better right now than Sporting’s 1-0 victory in Portland on Saturday.

Through six games played, Portland led the league in points (13), goals scored (16) and goal differential (+8). They were the unstoppable force. Through five games played, Sporting had conceded just two goals (fewest in MLS) — neither of which were scored prior to second-half stoppage time during games in which three points had already been safely secured — en route to securing the aforementioned unbeaten start (two wins, three draws).

With a defensive record like that, Peter Vermes’ side typically only ever needs to score one goal, and what a beauty they managed to score in this one. Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber and Jimmy Medranda were heavily involved in the build-up around the 18-yard box, and Dom Dwyer headed home expertly for his second goal of the season. As is customary now, Tim Melia made one unbelievable save to secure all three points and send Sporting to within a point of Portland and Columbus Crew SC (both of whom have played one more game than them) in the (very early) Shield race.


Houston Dynamo 2-2 Minnesota United

The exciting, young attacking talent was on full display in the first half, as Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis pushed Houston out to a 2-0 halftime lead, but leaky spells at the back indicated trouble was always lurking just around the corner.

Barely 90 seconds into the second half, that trouble came to full fruition, as Cristian Ramirez finally converted on his fourth chance on the night to make it 2-1. 12 minutes later, everyone in orange fell asleep and stood around the penalty area watching the ball, and Johan Venegas slammed home a deserved equalizer.


Columbus Crew SC 2-1 Toronto FC

If you’ve managed to work out the narrative surrounding Toronto this season, please do tell. They’re a confounding bunch at the moment: while they entered Saturday’s game as one of three teams unbeaten to start the season, they’ve got just one win in seven games, and they blew an early 1-0 lead in Columbus. Jozy Altidore headed home the opener, and TFC looked to finally have found their stride.

In the space of seven minutes just before halftime, they threw it all away and found themselves a goal down, which is where they’d finish. Niko Hansen set up Ola Kamara with a spectacular ball into the box, and Justin Meram popped up at the near post to slot home past Alex Bono.


New York Red Bulls 2-0 D.C. United

D.C. should be thankful for Minnesota and the Philadelphia Union, as they’re the only two sides who somehow manage to make Ben Olsen’s side seem a cohesive squad. (At least Minnesota are extremely watchable, and Philadelphia… well, OK, never mind.)

A visit from their I-95 (Atlantic Cup) rivals was exactly what New York, winless in four games entering the weekend, needed. Alex Muyl made it 1-0 less than a minute into the second half, and Bradley Wright-Phillips continued his march toward 100 MLS goals (currently at 72 in fewer than four full seasons).


Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

The 2016 Rapids were a mirage, perhaps even a figment of our imagination from beginning to end. The difference is night and day. 1-0 victories were the hallmark of last year’s Supporters’ Shield runners-up.

As for RSL, that’s two wins in two games under new head coach Mike Petke. On Saturday, they trailed 1-0, thanks Kevin Doyle‘s 29th-minute opener, heading into the 85th minute. Then, Colorado’s Jared Watts gave away a penalty and got himself sent off at the same time, and Brooks Lennon rifled a low laser past Zac MacMath three minutes later.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Montreal Impact 2-1 Atlanta United
Orlando City SC 2-1 LA Galaxy
Chicago Fire 3-0 New England Revolution

LIVE — USMNT seeks ‘payback’ v. Canada in CONCACAF Nations League

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The USMNT’s CONCACAF Nations League hopes are on the line when it meets Canada in Orlando at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: USMNT on Twitter ]

The Yanks seek to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Canucks in Toronto last month, one that heaped pressure on coach Gregg Berhalter.

If the USMNT fails to win on Friday, a match Canada also needs for its World Cup qualifying hopes, it will bow out of the tournament before the semifinal round.

There’s no place for DeAndre Yedlin in the back line, as Tim Ream‘s been chosen to play right back with a center back pairing of John Brooks and Aaron Long. Sergino Dest starts on the right.

The midfield will have Jackson Yueill lying deep, with Weston McKennie and Sebastian Lletget also getting the call.

Gyasi Zardes starts at center forward with Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola on the wings.

EURO qualifying wrap: Sweden joins Finland in qualifying

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Finland and Sweden have qualified for EURO 2020 after posting big wins on Friday, the former doing it at home to relative minnows Liechtenstein while the latter scored an impressive win away to Romania.

[ WATCH: G. Jesus’ comical penalty miss ]


Romania 0-2 Sweden

Marcus Berg and Robin Quaison scored first half goals as Sweden qualified for its sixth-straight EURO. Both are having decent starts to the club season. The veteran Berg has scored five times for Krasnodar, while the 26-year-old Quaison has scored four times for Mainz this season.

Spain 7-0 Malta

The Spanish had seven different goal scorers beginning with Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla providing a 2-0 halftime lead. Spain out shot Malta 25-1, with Pau Torres, Pablo Sarabia, Dani Olmo, and Gerard Moreno also scoring for an experimental squad.

And what if we told you Jesus Navas scored? Cause he did.

Denmark 6-0 Gibraltar

Christian Eriksen scored twice in the final five minutes after Robert Skov’s brace came sandwiched around Christian Gytkjaer and Martin Braithwaite goals. The Danes climbed to the top of Group D, one point better than the Swiss and three better than Republic of Ireland (who it meets on the last match day).

Switzerland 1-0 Georgia

Granit Xhaka went 90 minutes and Cedric Itten scored the game’s lone goal as the Swiss joined the Danes in climbing above Republic of Ireland.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-3 Italy

The Azzurri were clinical on Friday, with Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne, and Andrea Belotti bagging

Elsewhere
Norway 4-0 Faroe Islands
Finland 3-0 Liechtenstein — RECAP
Armenia 0-1 Greece

WATCH: Gabriel Jesus comically misses penalty; Messi pots winner on Argentina return

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As long as Lionel Messi is on the field, Argentina and Brazil is going to be must-watch no matter the location.

Messi converted a rebound of his own won and saved penalty to score his 69th international goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win in a Saudi Arabia-hosted friendly on Friday.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

It was Messi’s first match with Argentina since the summer, when he was banned three months for claiming the 2019 Copa America tournament was fixed for hosts Brazil.

Let’s be real, though: You should be here for this terrible penalty miss from Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazilian also won his penalty, but his miss was a dreadful dribble wide of the frame. It clicked three boxes of terrible: no direction, no conviction, no technique.

Pique: Griezmann growing into Barca role “little by little”

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This summer, there was plenty of talk that Barcelona’s players wanted Neymar in town and quite the opposite regarding Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid star was the player purchased by Barcelona.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

Griezmann, 28, has four goals and three assists in 15 matches, but the bulk of that outlay came in two matches and he’s without a goal or assist in the UEFA Champions League.

A bit different from his 21 goals and 10 assists in 48 matches last season, at least on the goals end, but the Frenchman is settling into a new club and city.

While it’s not like his new teammates think he’s garbage, they aren’t sugarcoating their opinion of his transition nor downplaying their lofty opinion of Barca.

Here’s Gerard Pique, via AS.com:

“Real Sociedad and Atlético were teams who played for Griezmann. That’s not the case at Barca, because the level is higher and he has to find his place in the side. Little by little he’s finding it. He’s got the quality and talent for it.”

Pique also blew off Barca’s extra rest before the new El Clasico date, and talked about Leo Messi’scontract talks as well as his relationship with Sergio Ramos. It’s all here.