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MLS roundup: Sounders win again; FCD, LAFC pacing the West

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September is here, which means the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs are less than two months away.

[ MORE: No Pulisic on USMNT roster for Brazil, Mexico ]

Points won in September and October count just the same as points won in March and April, but these are the advantageous positions — and predicaments — in which the 17 teams still realistically chasing a postseason berth now find themselves…

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Sporting Kansas CityHIGHLIGHTS

Seattle’s winning streak now stands at eight games after Brian Schmetzer’s side overcame an early deficit at home to knock off the similarly hot (four straight wins) Sporting KC on Saturday.

Diego Rubio scored his fifth goal in five games, after just two minutes, but the visitors’ lead was wiped away just 10 minutes later when Raul Ruidiaz tapped the ball into an empty net on the business end of Brad Smith‘s seeing-eye cross. 1-1 was the score at halftime, but it didn’t last much longer than that.

Harry Shipp’s cross deflected off of Graham Zusi and floated over the helpless head and hands of Tim Melia to make it 2-1 in the 52nd minute, and Sporting’s unraveling was complete four minutes later when Ike Opara played the ball with his upper arm. Nicolas Lodeiro stepped up to the penalty spot and converted with ease.

The win sends Seattle even further up the table, into fifth place in the Western Conference, after their torrid start to the season which saw the two-time defending West champions take just 12 points from their first 15 games. Since their current 11-game unbeaten streak began, the Sounders have won 29 of a possible 33 points.

Montreal Impact 3-0 New York Red BullsHIGHLIGHTS

Just about every week, MLS throws its viewers an unexpected curveball — a surprising result that not a single soul saw coming. This week, it was the Supporters’ Shield-leading New York Red Bulls going up to Stade Saputo and losing 3-0 to the Eastern Conference’s sixth-place side, Montreal Impact.

Rod Fanni (30th minute), Bacary Sagna (38th) and Ignacio Piatti (94rd) scored the goals for Remi Garde’s side which now sits six points clear of seventh place, though they have played three and two more games, respectively, than the seventh and eighth-place D.C. United and New England Revolution (both on 30 points).

FC Dallas 4-2 Houston DynamoHIGHLIGHTS

Back in the West, Dallas extended their lead to three points — over now-second-place Los Angeles FC — with a 4-2 home victory over Houston. It was 3-0 after 51 minutes, before Houston woke up and made a cursory effort to get back into the game.

Michael Barrios opened the scoring in the 10th minute, then Santiago Mosquera bagged a three-minute brace beginning in the 48th. Two minutes later, Mauro Manotas pulled a goal back for the visitors, but Reto Ziegler converted from the penalty spot just five minutes after that to restore the three-goal advantage. Alberth Elis’s 72nd-minute penalty conversion was as close as Houston would get as Wilmer Cabrera’s side fell to 13 points out of the West’s sixth and final playoff place.

Toronto FC 2-4 Los Angeles FCHIGHLIGHTS

LAFC’s 4-2 victory away to defending champions Toronto FC might appear equally perplexing to New York’s debacle in Montreal, but perhaps it shouldn’t anymore. After 27 games played, TFC have just 27 points and they trail the aforementioned Canadian side by nine points for a playoff place.

Like Houston, it was 3-0 — albeit on TFC’s home turf — before Greg Vanney’s Reds put up a fight. Carlos Vela (23rd minute), Diego Rossi (47th) and Lee Nguyen (49th) established the lead for Bob Bradley‘s expansion side before Jozy Altidore scored in the 74th and 93rd minutes to make things more than a little interesting. Vela sealed the three points with his second goal of the game just a minute later, though, and LAFC moved one point ahead of Sporting for second in the West.

Elsewhere in MLS action

D.C. United 3-1 Atlanta United
Columbus Crew SC 2-1 New York City FC
New England Revolution 1-1 Portland Timbers
Orlando City SC 2-2 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 6-2 LA Galaxy
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

La Liga roundup: Casemiro’s brace earns injury-riddled Real Madrid win (video)

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Casemiro’s heroic performance against Sevilla highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla

Real Madrid’s goalscoring hero on Saturday wasn’t Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, or even Sergio Ramos.

With two crucial goals in the second half, Casemiro single-handedly earned three points at the Santiago Bernabeu, days removed from cathartic Spanish Super Cup win against arch rivals Atletico Madrid.

With Bale, Hazard, Ramos injured, Benzema on the bench far from match-fit, and Federico Valverde suspended, Los Blancos were in dire need of someone to lead the way, and place pressure on struggling co-leaders Barcelona, who are now under Quique Setien’s tutelage.

By the time the first 45 minutes came to a close, the overall impression was that it would take a miracle for the home side to earn much-needed three points.

That all quickly changed in the second half as the Brazilian midfielder chipped Tomas Vaclik after a picture-perfect backheel from Luka Jovic. Madrid were edging Julen Lopetegui’s side, and Casemiro foreshadowed what was to come.

With the score level, the Brazilian leaped inside the box and headed home a lofting ball from the right flank, catching Sevilla’s defense completely off guard.

Casemiro’s brace came just five minutes after Luuk De Jong‘s left-footed goal in the 64th minute.

League leaders with 43 points, Madrid prepares for their Copa del Rey bout against third-division side Unionistas midweek. Sevilla, on the other hand, host Levante in the same tournament.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 2-0 Atletico Madrid

Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-1 Alaves

16-year-old Cherki scores 2 as Lyon advances in French Cup

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PARIS (AP) Two goals and two assists from 16-year-old forward Rayan Cherki helped Lyon win 4-3 at Nantes and reach the last 16 of the French Cup on Saturday.

But the run of Reunion Islanders JS Saint-Pierroise ended with a 1-0 loss away to Epinal, which scored deep into extra time.

Cherki put Lyon ahead in the first minute, deftly rounding goalkeeper Alban Lafont and then clipping the ball beyond a defender. He made it 2-0 in the ninth, slotting the ball through Lafont’s legs after being set up by right winger Bertrand Traore.

New signing Renaud Emond headed in Moses Simon’s cross from the left to pull a goal back for Nantes in the 16th. Cherki then showed great awareness to release forward Martin Terrier with a fine pass from midfield in the 37th for 3-1.

Cherki shaved the crossbar with a shot in the 60th and won a penalty in the 67th after robbing the ball off Thomas Basila. He generously allowed striker Moussa Dembele to take it, but Lafont saved Dembele’s attempt.

Two minuter later, Cherki threaded the ball down the right to Dembele, who slotted in, and the irrepressible Cherki set up another chance for Terrier.

Lyon’s defense remains vulnerable and Simon set up Imran Louza’s goal before heading in late on to ensure a tense finish.

Saint-Pierroise had caused an upset in the previous round by knocking out second-division Niort and the players again traveled 6,000 miles (around 9,700 kilometers) from the small island in the Indian Ocean, located off the east coast of Africa.

Saint-Pierroise, the former club of France midfielder Dimitri Payet, was looking to become the first club from the Reunion Islands to reach the last 16 and almost forced a penalty shootout, despite having forward Jean-Michel Fontaine sent off in the 15th minute.

But substitute Adel Berkane rifled home a half-volley for fourth-tier Epinal with two minutes left in extra time.

Also, there were wins for first-division sides Nice, Lille, Saint-Etienne and Strasbourg.

Lille won 2-0 at fifth-division Gonfreville thanks to goals from forwards Loic Remy and Victor Osimhen, while coach Patrick Vieira’s Nice side held on to beat third-tier Red Star 2-1.

Saint-Etienne won 3-2 at Paris FC, a team fighting relegation in the second division.

Paris FC led 2-1 with goals from former Paris Saint-Germain forward Jeremy Menez and ex-Rennes winger Jonathan Pitroipa. Teen forward Charles Abi equalized for Saint-Etienne with 20 minutes left before veteran right back Mathieu Debuchy netted the winner.

Strasbourg won 5-1 at fourth-tier Angouleme.

On Sunday, Rennes plays at fifth-tier Athletico Marseille and PSG travels to face second division league leader Lorient.

Rennes beats PSG in last year’s final.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

‘I’m very happy for this’: Jimenez becomes Wolves all-time leading PL goalscorer

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Raul Jimenez has carved his name in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ history books.

“I want to say thank you to all my teammates, to the staff, to the coach, because without all of them, I can’t achieve this goal,” Jimenez said following Wolves’ come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Southampton on Saturday.

Just minutes earlier, in front of a fervent stand of Wolves supporters at St. Mary’s Stadium, Jimenez scored his 23rd Premier League goal for Midlands side, becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer in the Premier League era. The Mexican surpasses Steven Fletcher‘s record of 22 goals, which stood since 2012.

“I’m very happy for this, and I want to keep scoring,” he added.

With Wolves disputing Europa League qualifying matches in August, the 28-year-old began to build early on what is now a monstrous campaign – 19 goals and 9 assist in throughout all competitions. Half a year down the road, there are no signs of Jimenez’s magic running out. In fact, his brace against the Saints is clearest indicator of why that’s the case.

With his divine hold up play, well-calculated pressing and hunger for redemption, Jimenez emotionally inspired Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side comeback. And in the 65th minute, his trademark penalty overturned a two-goal deficit, turning emotional to physical inspiration.

“[Coming back] was very important for us after a very bad first half,” he told Wolves reporters following the match.

Jimenez was full of praise for his team’s collective grit. He lauded his team’s “fantastic” second half – full of pressing and chances created. The tactic alterations implemented by Nuno Espirito Santo influenced Adama Traore’s run that led to Jimenez’s third and winning goal.

“In the end, we know that it depends on us – what we want to do, what we want to achieve. So, we need to keep going until the last minute. Keep trying to score, keep going with our football that makes us Wolves.”

We now know that Jimenez is Wolves’ all-time Premier League goalscorer, too.

Lampard calls for Chelsea to finish chances: ‘We know where we need to strengthen’

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Chelsea’s dramatic last-gasp loss to Newcastle United was, in a way, a blessing in disguise for Frank Lampard and company.

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The Blues conceded their first first loss since Boxing Day, dropping crucial points in the league’s top-four race. With plenty of chances to score at hand, the visit to St. James’ Park is one of sheer frustration.

But at the same time, the London side learned an invaluable lesson: Chelsea are in dire need of a new striker before the January transfer window comes to a close. Chelsea registered 19 shots (4 on target) on Saturday but squandered most, while Newcastle’s netminder Martin Dúbravka did his job and saved a few.

“We know we have problems at the top of the pitch in terms of we don’t get enough goals,” Lampard said following his team’s 1-0 loss, via the BBC.
“If you don’t score you are always liable for a sucker punch and they got it.”

“If we are looking for people to bring in to the areas to win games when you are controlling it, it is scoring goals.”

From RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner to Lyon’s Moussa Dembele, Chelsea has been linked to a striker all winter long. With Olivier Giroud a signature away from sealing a move to Inter Milan, a replacement is necessary.

Sure, Tammy Abraham‘s return to Stamford Bridge is an outright success – 13 goals and two assists in 22 league appearances – but rotation is visibly needed. Michy Batshuayi replaced Abraham, but failed to show any promising signs. The 26-year-old has scored just once in 13 matches this season.

“We can’t work anymore in training on finishing,” the 41-year-old manager added. “You need to have that killer instinct in front of goal. We need to score more goals from front-line areas if we are going to get to where we want to be.”

Lampard gave no indicator that his side are on the brink of landing a new goalscorer up top. With the transfer window open for just 13 days, however, Chelsea are going to have to get intentional on their search.

“It’s quite clear from what I am saying now that we know where we need to strengthen but we shall see.”