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MLS Expansion: Cincinnati, Sacramento both deserve spots

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With Nashville to be named as a new Major League Soccer expansion franchise in a ceremony in Music City USA later on Wednesday, the race for the final expansion spot is well and truly on.

[ MORE: MLS Expansion rankings ]

It is too close to call between Sacramento and Cincinnati who are both worthy of an MLS team in this round of expansion.

So, why wait?

MLS asked 12 cities to submit their bids for an MLS franchise in January and since then they’ve evaluated all 12, named four finalists (Nashville, Sacramento, Cincinnati and Detroit) and they’ve said they’ll name two cities who have won the expansion franchises in this round.

That means one of Sacramento or Cincinnati will miss out and their bid for an MLS franchise will have to wait for at least another year as two more MLS teams are expected to be added at some time during 2018.

Surely MLS can add three teams right now instead of two, right?

To deny Sacramento or Cincinnati seems ridiculously harsh.

Some of the rumblings behind-the-scenes suggest that there are concerns about how much money those behind the Sacramento bid are willing to put into the MLS franchise despite their impressive stadium plans and obvious success with a Sacramento Republic FC, while Cincinnati’s ongoing battle to secure land for a soccer-specific stadium continues (a “must have” for expansion teams, at least in most circumstances) even though Nippert Stadium would surely be a wonderful home for the franchise.

With both Sacramento and Cincinnati currently having successful USL franchises as the center pieces of their bids, life will go on whatever happens and they’ll both continue to get big crowds and attract interest.

That is perhaps why MLS has left it down to one from those two bids for the final spot. If either Sacramento or Cincinnati doesn’t get a franchise now, they’re nailed on to join a year later.

When it came to Nashville, many will argue there isn’t a professional soccer team in Nashville right now and it is a risk to award an expansion franchise to the Tennessee city first. That’s a valid argument.

However, it also suggests that getting a team up and running is more time sensitive compared to the situation in Sacramento and Cincinnati. Nashville having two wealthy owners behind the bid, plus a rock solid soccer-specific stadium plan at the fairgrounds site sealed the deal.

Yes, Nashville SC have a U-23 team playing in the USL PDL league for the 2017 season and then stepping up into the USL proper for 2018, but that will simply be a stop gap until the team likely joins MLS for the 2019 season and their success will have no real bearing on how the MLS franchise does in Year One and beyond.

Then there is the Miami factor. With David Beckham’s ownership group changing up a significant part of its financial backing last month, is the Miami bid in danger of collapsing? Why can’t MLS to Miami be put on hold and an extra team be added in this round of expansion so Sacramento, Cincinnati and Nashville will all join in 2019?

With the future of the Columbus Crew moving to Austin, Texas also up in the air, it may actually help for MLS to expand quicker to help negate any impact of not having Miami or a Columbus/Austin franchise in the league in 2019.

Is it really that hard for MLS to change its mind on the rules for this round of expansion? It shouldn’t be. Both Sacramento and Cincinnati deserve to join Nashville in the MLS party. Now.

Everything is in place and ready to roll in both cities and they’ve proved themselves in USL.

MLS Three Things: RBNY beats Atlanta, is a special club right now

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At this point, Jesse Marsch could take the USMNT job, Tyler Adams could bolt for the Bundesliga, and we’d still have to select the New York Red Bulls to finish with a home playoff game.

[ MORE: Willian’s shot at Conte ]

That’s how well run RBNY is these days, which is to take nothing away from their coach and 19-year-old star, but considering they navigated a solid CONCACAF Champions League run en route to this start… well…. wow.

On a night when Luis Robles’ ironman streak ended, Kaku recorded two assists, and Ezequiel Barco bagged his second goal in three matches, they don’t even meet the requirements of our three things.

Form giants deliver more goals

Marsch’s men have been shutout once this season, and most multiple goals in four-consecutive wins. Three of those four wins have come on the road, at LA, Colorado, and now Atlanta.

RBNY has the best points-per-game in Major League Soccer, has scored the joint-most goals despite playing in the second-fewest games, and is allowing barely more than a goal-a-game.

Bet against ’em. We dare ya.

BWP delivers the goods

RBNY’s 33-year-old English star scored twice and won a penalty that Daniel Royer converted as he continued his assault on all future Red Bulls’ hopes of becoming the club’s leading scorer.

Bradley Wright-Phillips has almost 50 more goals than his nearest competitor, Juan Pablo Angel, and he makes headers look like child’s play.

Victory comes with a price

Kemar Lawrence was lost with a scary-looking face-plant on a clearance, and needed to be stretchered off the pitch. Hopefully it’s not long-term for the Jamaican back.

Willian “edits” Conte out of FA Cup champions photo

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Willian is not a fan of Antonio Conte.

Come to another conclusion if you like, but it’s hard to argue the Brazilian wizard’s feelings following his Instagram post after Chelsea beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: Matic wants squad changes at Man Utd ]

Willian covered his manager in trophies following the win, and it’d be a stretch to call that a tribute to the Italian’s tactical brilliance.

The player recorded seven goals and six assists despite playing less than all but 12 Chelsea players in league play (12th place Alvaro Morata had 11 and 6).

We’re accepting alternative explanations for the since-deleted Instagram photo below:

Elis scores twice as Dynamo beat Fire 3-2

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Alberth Elis scored two second-half goals to help the Houston Dynamo beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 on Sunday for their first road win of the season.

Elis, on a one-on-one breakaway, cut back to evade defender Johan Kappelhof and ripped a right-footer from the center of the box into the back of the net to give Houston (4-3-3) a 3-2 lead in the 74th minute.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Dynamo’s Romell Quioto opened the scoring in the fourth, running onto a long through ball from Tomas Martinez and rolling the finish past sliding goalkeeper Richard Sanchez. Nemanja Nikolic tied it in the 14th minute and then fed Diego Campos for a goal about two minutes later. Elis converted from the spot to make it 2-2 early in the second half after Mauro Manotas drew a foul in the area conceded by Sanchez.

Chicago (3-6-2) has lost three of its last four games.

 

Inter Milan back in the Champions League after late heroics (video)

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It’s been more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League, an infamous run that ended on Sunday.

Inter scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-place Lazio and advance into the Top Four via head-to-head record.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

Lazio held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but could not get the job done at home, collecting red cards in the 79th minute and stoppage time.

Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino scored his third goal of the season, redirecting a corner kick home in the 81st minute, as Inter clinched fourth place in Serie A.