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MLS preview: Prepare for the rare, 11-game midweek slate

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When the 2017 Gold Cup set to kick off on Friday, Major League Soccer will go into hibernation mode for two weeks — but not before a full round of midweek games with so many of the league’s stars already away on international duty.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Timbers are winless in four and have just two wins from their last 11 games, while the Fire have dropped all of four points in nearly the same length of time (10 games). Chicago’s Nemanja Nikolic (16 goals, four ahead of second-place Erick Torres) is running away with the 2017 Golden Boot after scoring two more in a 4-0 thrashing of Vancouver on the weekend. For the first time since July 2005, Chicago sit atop the league table.

Don’t expect to see: David Guzman (int’l duty), Liam Ridgewell (injury), Diego Chara (injury), Dax McCarty (int’l duty), Bastian Schweinsteiger (injury)

Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union — Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET

No team has been hit as hard by the combination of international call-ups and injuries as Sporting KC, who’ll be without arguably their four best players this season when the Union visit Children’s Mercy Park on Thursday. Peter Vermes’ side managed a 1-1 draw with Portland on the weekend, but they lost star winger Gerso Fernandes, who’s set miss a few weeks after separating his shoulder and suffering structural damage, in the process. Sporting’s home unbeaten streak in MLS play reached 18 games with the result, which bodes well against a Philadelphia side with just one win away from home this season.

Don’t expect to see: Dom Dwyer (int’l duty), Matt Besler (int’l duty), Graham Zusi (int’l duty), Gerso Fernandes (injury), Alejandro Bedoya (int’l duty), Andre Blake (int’l duty)

FC Dallas vs. D.C. United — Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The FC Dallas of the 2017 season’s first half was largely unspectacular in the absence of Mauro Diaz. Now, fully recovered from the achilles injury which cost him the 2016 playoffs and the first three months of 2017, Diaz showed in FCD’s 3-1 victory over then-first-place Toronto FC that he’s still the same game-changing playmaker he’s always been. Already one of the deepest teams in the league, FCD would have gotten by without Diaz’s return and finished first or second in the Western Conference anyway. But, with the Argentine magician back in the fold, a second-half sprint to the top of the table is almost certainly in order for Oscar Pareja’s side.

Don’t expect to see: Kellyn Acosta (int’l duty), Matt Hedges (int’l duty), Walker Zimmerman (injury), Patrick Mullins (injury)

Full MLS schedule

Tuesday

Atlanta United vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 7 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. Columbus Crew SC — 7 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake — 10:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday

New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. Montreal Impact — 8:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New York City FC — 10 p.m. ET

MLS weekend preview: Busy Saturday following the World Cup

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You won’t have to wait too long after the final World Cup game of Saturday to get more soccer.

Major League Soccer is back with a busy night of fixtures.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Here are some 1-2 liners to get prepared for what’s in store.

Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 5 p.m. ET

Carl Robinson’s rising visitors will hope the inconsistent side of the Union hits the field in Pennsylvania.

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas — 6 p.m. ET

Dallas’ seven-match unbeaten run includes four-straight wins, but RBNY has not lost at home since late April.

Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

Orlando has not gained a point of its last available 18, while Montreal is slowly finding form.

Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo — 8:30 p.m. ET

The Western leaders host a Houston side with a tough 1-3-3 mark away from home.

Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United — 9 p.m. ET

Two-win Colorado has been much better at home than away, and the Loons can’t afford to give the Rapids win No. 3 if they want to stay in the playoff picture.

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 10 p.m. ET

Real has won six of seven at Rio Tinto, and San Jose has just two wins this season (So, MLS rules dictate this will go in the Quakes’ win column).

Seattle Sounders vs. Chicago Fire — 10 p.m. ET

The Sounders’ awful season gets a Chicago with points in five of six.

LAFC vs. Columbus Crew — 10:30 p.m. ET

Traveling across the country without Carlos Vela and beating a very solid Crew side is asking a lot of Bob Bradley‘s expansion side.


Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers — 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday

Gio Savarese has manufactured some fine away performances for Portland, but this is a long flight and a tall ask in a possible MLS Cup Final preview.

NYCFC vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET Sunday

TFC has yet to climb back into the East’s Top Six, but will like its chances to make a statement against Patrick Vieira-less NYCFC on the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium.

WATCH: Spurs’ Son scores sensational consolation goal for South Korea

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South Korea has not had a good World Cup, but the Taegeuk Warriors have a fine goal for their tournament highlight reel.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son was frustrated by Mexico’s stifling defense for most of the day, but El Tri had little hope of stopping his stoppage time stunner.

Son took a lay-off and then used a pick into his yard of space to rip into a shot in the third minute of extra time.

South Korea must hope for Germany to beat Sweden, then for Mexico to beat Sweden while it beats Germany and builds goals for tiebreakers.

As unlikely as that is, at least Son had this moment.

Lozano, Vela keep Mexico rolling

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Mexico is nearly onto the knockout rounds with plenty of time to spare.

Carlos Vela converted a PK and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez also scored in a 2-1 win over South Korea on Saturday in Rostov-on-Don.

Heung-Min Son buried a shot in stoppage time for South Korea’s goal.

El Tri got another decent performance from Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who also scored Mexico’s goal in a 1-0 win over Germany.

A Swedish win or draw against Germany at 2 p.m. ET moves Mexico onto the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

A handball allowed Vela his chance from the spot, and Mexico had its lead after 26 minutes.

Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa made several decent stops for Mexico in the win, though South Korea were admittedly wasteful in the final third.

Lozano then cued up Mexico’s insurance goal from Chicharito, who danced around a defender before bounding a ball home.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Son scored a beautiful goal in the third minute of stoppage time to put South Korea on the board.

Hazard hails red-hot Lukaku after Belgian blowout

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Belgium was lethal for the second-straight game, mostly doing as it wished in toppling Tunisia 5-2 in Moscow.

The win comes on the heels of a 3-0 defeat of Panama, and “Big Rom” has been the man for the Red Devils.

[ RECAP: Belgium 5-2 Tunisia ]

Romelu Lukaku has four goals in two games, and was a force against Tunisia. His two-goal performance could’ve been four, the highlight a perfectly-timed run to chip home his second off a feed from Thomas Meunier.

Eden Hazard also scored twice, once from the penalty spot, and he marveled at his mate.

“It’s easy to play with Romelu Lukaku, pass him the ball and he scores every time. He was fantastic.”

Belgium advances to the knockout rounds, and will face England in its final match (likely with the group on the line). The winner of the group gets the runner-up of Group H with Japan, Senegal, Poland, and Colombia, and the second place team plays the winner.

“This game we won so we are happy today. We played well and scored five goals. We conceded two, we can improve on that but now we enjoy the next four days and then we play England for the top of the group.”

The England-Belgium match is Thursday in Kaliningrad.