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MLS Snapshots: TFC’s lead restored to 9 as NYCFC, CHI falter

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Toronto FC 4-0 San Jose Earthquakes

The game in 100 words (or less): TFC have taken all the excitement out of the final days and weeks of the regular season… with two months of the regular season still to go. Saturday’s 4-0 victory, their fifth straight win, over San Jose not only sent a(nother) clear message to the rest of the league that 1) they’re hellbent on MLS Cup vengeance, and 2) they might just be the best team in league history, but also re-established Greg Vanney’s side’s nine-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and in the Supporters’ Shield race (with thanks to results elsewhere — see below). Jozy Altidore bagged a pair of second-half goal, doubling and tripling the lead established by league-leading assist man Victor Vazquez. Jonathan Osorio competed the scoring with TFC’s third in 21 minutes to start the second half. Sebastian Giovinco left the contest at halftime with tightness in his quad.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Vazquez fills an empty net after Tarbell’s blunder — Andrew Tarbell made every effort imaginable in an attempt to get a touch on Steven Beitashour’s cross, but the second-year ‘keeper only wound up looking a fool as Vazquez bagged his sixth goal of the season (to go with 14 assists).

48′ — Altidore slots home for 2-0 — Goals don’t come much easier than this one, for which all Altidore had to do was not send his shot 20 rows into the stands, and he’d make it an even dozen on the season. (Scratch that earlier note — 15 assists for Vazquez)

64′ — Altidore heads past Tarbell for 3-0 — So it’s a baker’s dozen for Altidore, and four goals in TFC’s last three games.

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Man of the match: Victor Vazquez

Goalscorers: Vazquez (26′), Altidore (48′, 64′), Osorio (66′)


New York City FC 0-1 Portland Timbers

The game in 100 words (or less): Three short days after cutting TFC’s lead to six points, NYCFC crashed and burned their own Shield dreams as they lost at Yankee Stadium for just the second time all season, falling to Portland, 1-0. Diego Valeri scored the game’s only goal and made a bit of history in the process (see below). The victory pushes Caleb Porter’s side two points clear of the Seattle Sounders for the Western Conference’s top spot (though Seattle now have two games in hand). Portland become the first West side to reach a dozen wins on the season, and extend their current unbeaten run to four games (three wins). TFC are the only side to beat Portland in the Timbers’ last eight games.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

44′ — Valeri hammers past Johnson for 1-0 — No one pressured Valeri and he fired past Sean Johnson to give himself a goal in seven straight games, which ties the Argentine for the all-time record in MLS history.

47′ — Brilliant nearly scores from his stomach — Frederic Brilliant so nearly scored the weirdest goal of the 2017 season, a pool-ball tap-in from his belly, but the Frenchman couldn’t quite hit the corner pocket.

84′ — Johnson makes a spectacular save to keep NYCFC in it — This is just absolutely ridiculous from Johnson, who’ll very likely ride this one to Save of the Year glory.

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Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (44′)


Chicago Fire 1-1 New York Red Bulls

The game in 100 words (or less): Chicago’s tailspin might very well be over, but Veljko Paunovic’s side still dropped a pair of points at home on Saturday, in a 1-1 draw with New York. After putting a four-game losing skid to bed last weekend, Chicago were made to scrap their way to a point against a side four points (and two spot) below them in the East. Now 14 points back of TFC (they were the only side within three of the Reds a month and a half ago) and five back of NYCFC for second, the dreaded knockout round is looking a likelier destination everyday for Chicago. Two positives for Chicago: a loss would have meant just one point stood between themselves and New York (and three from falling out of the top-four, thus the right to host the knockout round game), and Nemanja Nikolic scored his first goal since July 1, a stretch of 10 games without the Hungarian finding the back of the net.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three Two moments that mattered

8′ — BWP’s in the right place at the right time, and it’s 1-0 — That describes, what, roughly 80 percent of BWP’s goal in MLS. That’s not a slight on the Englishman, because always popping up in the right spot is 99 percent skill and 1 percent luck.

66′ — Nikolic breaks his drought, makes it 1-1 — Nikolic gets the goal, but Michael de Leeuw should get all the attention for this delicate touch. As the ball came falling out of the sky, the Dutchman so carefully laid it across the face of goal and gifted Nikolic a chance he couldn’t miss.

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Man of the match: Sacha Kljestan

Goalscorers: Wright-Phillips (8′), Nikolic (66′)

Americans Abroad: Gall scores; Weah returns from injury

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Two USMNT names resurfaced over the weekend – for all the right reasons.

It’s been an overall quiet year for Romain Gall in Sweden, but the 25-year-old managed to challenge the narrative by scoring in Malmo’s cup bout.

While in France, Timothy Weah made a much-anticipated return from injury in Lille’s 2-1 loss. The 19-year-old played 10 minutes after being out for six months.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic is still recovering from his injury and will miss Monday’s game against Manchester United.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin didn’t dress in Newcastle’s 4-0 loss to Arsenal on Sunday.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa — Vassilev didn’t dress in Aston Villa’s last-minute 3-2 loss to Tottenham on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic —  For a second weekend in a rown Robinson did not dress for Wigan. The failed move to AC Milan is apparently still haunting him.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes started and played 29 minutes before leaving with an ankle injury on Saturday.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old is out with a hamstring injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The defender is out for the season after sustaining an injury.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender started and played 90 minutes in QPR’s 4-2 win over Stoke City.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 3-0 loss to Barnsley on Saturday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luton Town (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started and played 90 minutes in Luton’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt Chandler started and played 90 minutes in Franjfurt’s 4-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund.

John Brooks, Wolfsburg – The 26-year-old defender started and played 90 minutes for the time since January 18. Wolfsburg won 3-2 over Hoffenheim.

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started and played 90 minutes in Schalke’s 0-0 draw with Mainz.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is out with an injury, while Morales started and played 90 minutes on Saturday.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent came off the bench and played 25 minutes in Werder Bremen’s 3-0 loss.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams is out with an injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson dressed but didn’t feature for Borussia Monchengladbach.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started and played 90 minutes in Ajax’s 3-0 win over RKC Waalwijk.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker was on the bench but didn’t feature on Friday.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — After a six-month absence, Weah featured for Lille in official competition. The attacker played the final 10 minutes in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Marseille.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu started and played 56 minutes in Rennes’ 1-0 loss to Stade Reims.

Honorable Mentions

Romain Gall, Malmo — Gall played the final 31 minutes in Malmo’s 8-0 thumping of Syrianska and contributed a goal.

Richard Ledezma, Jong PSV — Ledezma played 60 minutes and scored a goal in Jong PSV’s 1-1 draw with FC Eindhoven. The attacker missed out the final 30 minutes after seeing a straight red card. 

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Manchester United

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Manchester United look to leave a poor three-match streak behind as they travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea  (Watch live at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The last time both teams faced off was during the season’s opening matchweek, which saw the Red Devils steamroll Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Since, United’s quality hasn’t been the same, slipping to ninth in the league, while the Blues have maintained themselves in the European competition conversation throughout the majority of the season.

A win for either side at this point of season will provide a huge morale boost, as both teams go into Monday’s match without a win in three bouts.


Injuries/suspensions

Chelsea: OUT —  Pulisic (groin), Van Ginkel (knee) QUESTIONABLE — Abraham (knock), Giroud (knock), Loftus-Cheek (calf)

Manchester United: OUT — McTominay (knee), Tuanzebe (thigh), Pogba (ankle, 5 Mar), Rashford (back), Fosu-Mensah (match fitness), Grant (surgery) QUESTIONABLE — Ighalo (match fitness)


Probable lineups

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Tomori, James; Kante, Jorginho; Hudson-Odoi, Mount, William; Abraham.

Manchester United: De Gea; Williams, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Fred, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, James; Martial


What they’re saying

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on dropping Kepa Arrizabalaga last weekend: “It wasn’t about giving him a jolt. It was just a selection on that day. I want everyone’s reaction spot on. I know how it will feel for him. I had it in my career, it is part and parcel. I am pleased with the reaction.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Odion Ighalo: “As a striker you get thrown on out there and it might be he’ll have to come off the bench, give us a goal and he does whatever he does.”


Prediction

Chelsea will be in front of their supporters on a Monday night with Manchester United in town. That scenario tends to go well for the Blues more often than not. Chelsea, 2-1.

Mexicans Abroad: Rodolfo Pizarro’s goalscoring start headlines handful of debuts

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A handful of Mexicans abroad debuted with their respective clubs over the weekend, but none were at par with Rodolfo Pizarro’s.

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder scored on his fourth touch as an Inter Miami player, two minutes after coming off the bench. Pizarro’s right-footed strike proved to be historic, as it became the first official goal in club history.

Also on Saturday, in different regions of the United States, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Alan Pulido, respectively, made their debuts. Chicharito played 78 minutes in Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2-1 preseason loss to Toronto FC, while Pulido logged 61 minutes in Sporting Kansas City’s scoreless bout.

Qatar’s new marquee star, Marco Fabian, debuted in Al-Sadd’s hard-earned cup win.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Jimenez started and played all 90 minutes in Wolves’ 0-0 draw against Leicester City. The forward registered four shots off target and one blocked.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid —  Herrera was not called up by Diego Simeone for Atletico Madrid’s draw against Valencia on Friday.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado dressed but didn’t take the field on Sunday.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old was is out after undergoing appendicitis surgery.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo played a vital part in La Liga’s most surprising outcome of the matchweek – Celta’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid. The defender recorded eight clearances, one interceptions and two tackles throughout the 90 minutes.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  Lozano, Napoli’s most expensive player in team history, was not called up by Gennaro Gattuso on Sunday. The 24-year-old and the Italian manager seem to be on different pages, and the situation doesn’t appear to be getting better with time. It might be time to panic for Lozano’s development in Italy.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played 84 minutes in Porto’s 2-1 victory over Vitoria, which was marred by racist abuse towards Moussa Marega by Vitoria supporters.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez played the final five minutes of PSV’s 3-0 thumping of AOD Den Haag.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — After several weeks of little activity, Alvarez seems to be making his way back into Ajax’s starting lineup. On Sunday, the Mexican defender played his second set of 90 minutes in four days.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea played 76 minutes in Zulte’s 2-1 loss on Sunday.

Major League Soccer

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, LA Galaxy – In front of a semi-full Dignity Sports Park, Chicharito made his Los Angeles Galaxy debut. The storied forward, however, failed to score despite seeing a decent amount of chances. Galaxy open the MLS season against Houston Dynamo on February 29.

Rodolfo Pizarro, Inter Miami – It took two minutes for an Rodolfo Pizarro to score on his unofficial Inter Miami debut. Ironically, the brand-new MLS franchise has yet to announce the signing of the 26-year-old from Monterrey.

Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City – Pulido played 61 minutes in SKC’s scoreless, preseason draw against Real Salt Lake.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Ulises Davila, Wellington Phoenix – Davila played all 90 minutes in Phoenix’s 1-0 victory over Melbourne City. The attacker also managed to pick up a yellow card throughout the match.

Marco Fabian, Al-Sadd – Fabian debuted for Xavi’s Al-Sadd on Saturday, playing all 120 minutes in his team’s win via penalties.

Hector Moreno, Al-Gharafa – Moreno and Al-Gharafa were inactive this weekend.

La Liga roundup: Celta spoil Hazard’s return in Real Madrid draw

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Real Madrid’s draw against relegation-battling Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Real Madrid 2-2 Celta Vigo 

Celta’s Santi Mina scored in 85th minute to give a depleted Celta Vigo a precious point at the Santiago Bernabeu, spoiling Eden Hazard‘s return to Real Madrid’s lineup after a notable absence.

Madrid’s eighth draw of the season moves champions Barcelona just one point behind Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Returning from ankle injury that kept his out of action for three months, Hazard returned to the pitch in fine style, leading all players on the field in chances created with three and earning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Real Madrid ahead.

Hazard – and all of his flair – left the field in the 70th minute, granting Vinicius Junior the final 20 minutes of the match.

Ramos’ sixth goal of the season builded on Toni Kroos’ left-footed strike early in the latter half of the match. Real Madrid, more or less, were cruising against Celta, who had a goal to their name following Fyodor Smolov’s early opener.

Celta, who had arrived in Madrid in 18th place and had lost their last seven at the host’s home, were destined to do the unthinkable. Denis Suarez and Mina – both utilized as substitutes – paired up for the equalizer with five minutes to go, spoiling Hazard’s return.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 2-2 Espanyol

Leganes 0-0 Real Betis 

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Osasuna