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MLS preview: Contenders clash in NY derby, SKC-ATL, POR-LA

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Previewing the three biggest games (all on Sunday) this weekend, the first with video-assistant referee (VAR), in MLS…

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New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls — Sunday, 6 p.m. ET

After ending up on opposite ends of separate 4-0 drubbings last weekend, the Red Bulls enter Sunday’s showdown at Yankee Stadium winners of four straight (and five out of six), far and away their best run of form this season after a torrid time in April and May. NYCFC, meanwhile, find themselves in the midst of indifferent form (just one win from their last four, conceding 10 goals during that stretch) the likes of which they’ve rarely seen this year.

The last time these sides met, a month and a half ago at Red Bull Arena, it was the visitors who ran rampant en route to a 2-0 victory. Since that defeat, the lone loss in five games, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch altered his tactical approach, opting to go with three in the back, a loaded midfield with five bodies surrounding playmaker Sacha Kljestan, and Bradley Wright-Phillips the spearhead beneficiary (three goals in four games) of last year’s assist king (20) having his defensive duties drastically reduced. Wright-Phillips has an unbelievable scoring record in this Hudson River derby, bagging eight goals in seven games against the blue side of New York.

[ MORE: VAR to make its debut this weekend — what can we expect? ]

Sporting Kansas City vs. Atlanta United — Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

The post-Dom Dwyer era got off to a roaring start in KC last week, as Sporting knocked off the red-hot Chicago Fire thanks to an unexpected offensive explosion. With Dwyer no longer in the fold, Peter Vermes’ side is now able to play the expansive, possession-dominant soccer he’s coveted since the arrival of Ilie Sanchez last winter. The foundation remains the league’s best defense, though, (17 goals conceded in 22 games) now that Ike Opara is back from injury (concussion), as are Matt Besler and Graham Zusi following the Gold Cup. The month of August has proven Sporting’s undoing each of the last three years, as injuries and fatigue finally caught up to a hard-worked bunch. Contrary to popular demand, the rationing of minutes remains very heavily weighted toward the squad’s top 14 players.

As for Atlanta, they’ll attack with the same tempo and openness that ultimately proved Chicago’s undoing last week — it’s the only way they know to play, and it’s the reason their tied for most goals this season (41, level with Supporters’ Shield-leading Toronto FC). Unbeaten in five (four wins), Tata Martino’s can push the tempo beyond any opponent’s comfort level, even a control-crazed side like Sporting. In terms of entertaining soccer, this is the game of the weekend.

[ MORE: Miami (finally) close to stadium deal, expansion team ]

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy — Sunday, 2 p.m. ET

Finally, let’s talk about two teams in need of a victory in the worst possible ways. Portland, winners of one of their last eight (four draws), host LA, winners of zero of their last six (five losses). Caleb Porter’s Timbers, by virtue of little more than their strong start to the season, currently occupy the fourth spot in a very weak Western Conference. By the time kickoff rolls around on Sunday, it’ll be nearly two months to the day since their last clean sheet.

With the clearly stated objective to get the Galaxy into the playoffs, Sigi Schmid has his work cut out after taking over for Curt Onalfo last week, as his new side currently sits seven points adrift of the sixth and final playoff place. The streak of eight straight seasons competing in the playoffs is in serious danger. Jonathan Dos Santos is highly unlikely to be available as he awaits his U.S. visa, which means another week of Jermaine Jones patrolling central midfield for the Galaxy. LA have won just nine points in the 11 games Jones has played this season (14 from 10 games without him).

Full MLS schedule

Saturday

D.C. United vs. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact vs. Orlando City SC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. Seattle Sounders — 8 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution — 8:30 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo — 10 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Columbus Crew SC — 10:30 p.m. ET

Liga MX wrap: Xolos beats Chivas as Apertura begins

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Liga MX’s Apertura season is off and running with all 18 clubs partaking in a match this weekend.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

Club Tijuana 2-1 Chivas Guadalajara

Scoreless at the half, the weekend’s marquee match sprang to life in the final 45. Juan Martin Lucero gave TJ a 54th minute lead before Jose Van Rankin knotted it up five minutes later.

Lucero assisted Jose Rivero’s 75th minute winner, which was helped in its status when Michael Perez took a red card in the 80th.

Cruz Azul 3-0 Puebla

Elias Hernandez scored a goal and added an assist, and Milton Caraglio put one of his five shots on goal into the net. Andres Renteria also scored in the win.

Tigres 2-0 Leon

Andre-Pierre Gignac scored, and Lucas Zelarayan marked a goal and an assist in the win.

Elsewhere
Necaxa 2-1 Club America
Toluca 2-0 Morelia
Santos Laguna 2-1 Lobos BUAP
Pachuca 0-1 Monterrey
Veracruz 0-2 Pumas UNAM
Atlas 0-0 Queretaro

Report: Colorado acquires USMNT mid Acosta for Badji

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The West’s first place team is switching it up in a big way.

FC Dallas is sending Homegrown Player and USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta to Western foes Colorado Rapids in exchange for striker Dominique Badji, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.

[ MORE: Pulisic rips up Liverpool ]

Acosta, 22, has 17 caps and a goal for the U.S., and is primarily a defensive midfielder. He’s also played right and left back.

He’s appeared 139 times for Dallas, scoring 13 times with nine assists, but had fallen out with head coach Oscar Pareja. He’s also struggled mightily on the field, according to WhoScored.

Badji, 25, has seven goals and three assists in 16 matches for the Rapids this season, building on an eight-goal, five-assist campaign last season.

FCD has gotten six goals out of forward Maxi Urruti, and there’s been little production from anyone else. Cristian Colman is out with an ankle injury and managed just a pair of goals in 399 minutes.

The risk of trading Acosta is mitigated by the continued speculation that he may test the waters of European soccer. Badji’s a quality player, but Colorado may’ve gotten a bargain in its push to escape the dregs of the West.

Quintero, Loons pick LAFC apart in five-star win (video)

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Minnesota United throttled LAFC on Sunday, using a Christian Ramirez brace to batter the hot expansion team 5-1 in Minnesota.

Darwin Quintero had a goal and two assists for the Loons, who took advantage of LAFC’s decision not to start dominant forward Adama Diomande and center back Walker Zimmerman.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

Quintero ripped off seven shots, putting five on goal. He now has 10 goals and five assists since joining the Loons after scoring two and eight in 29 matches for Club America last year.

Miguel Ibarra recorded a goal and an assist, while Rasmus Schuller also scored. LAFC’s goal came courtesy Benny Feilhaber.

Minnesota’s Bobby Shuttleworth and LA’s Tyler Miller each made six saves in their goals.

LAFC fails in a bid to make up points on Western Conference first seed FC Dallas, while the Loons now can eye a playoff spot in the West.

Already-thin Liverpool center back corps loses Matip to quad injury

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Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund featured an injury to a position with very little depth.

The Reds lost Joel Matip to what Jurgen Klopp said could possibly be a “small tear” in one of his quads.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

If Matip, 26, needs any significant time to heal up, he’ll put a major question mark into Liverpool’s opening day center back pairing.

Virgil Van Dijk, who scored against BVB on Sunday, already won’t have Dejan Lovren as a partner thanks to a post-World Cup vacation.

That leaves Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan as options next to Van Dijk.

Matches at Crystal Palace and home to Brighton and Hove Albion follow the Aug. 12 visit from West Ham.