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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

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.

Clark County “declines to prosecute” Ronaldo for rape

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not face sexual assault charges for a June 2009 incident in the United States, attorneys say.

An American woman filed a civil lawsuit against the Juventus superstar last year, claiming that Ronaldo forced himself upon her while she was in a prone position in his hotel room.

[ MORE: Bayern keen on Zaha ]

Ronaldo had expressed belief that he would be cleared of the claims, and claimed that graphic documents produced by German publication Der Spiegel were altered and fabricated.

Las Vegas police issued a warrant in a bid to get Ronaldo’s DNA, and the DA’s office says the woman’s refusal to name her attacker stopped them for collecting “vital evidence.” The woman reached a civil settlement with Ronaldo in 2010.

From News3LV.com:

“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the D.A.’s office said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”