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MLS roundup: DCU, Galaxy win big in quest for playoffs

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Saturday’s biggest winners in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs race: D.C. United, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy; and the losers: Montreal Impact, Los Angeles FC and New York City FC.

[ MORE: MLS to consider lowering maximum of DPs in 2019 ]

D.C. United 5-0 Montreal ImpactFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s go back in time three months, when D.C. United were last in the Eastern Conference and more than a dozen points out of the sixth and final playoff place. Wayne Rooney made his MLS debut a few days later, Luciano Acosta morphed into perhaps the best no. 10 in all of MLS and Audi Field opened — all in the span of two whirlwind weeks.

Fast-forward to Saturday’s 5-0 hammering of sixth-place Montreal Impact, and now Ben Olsen’s side sits just two points out of a playoff place with five games left to play (two more than Montreal). Rooney and Acosta continue to terrorize opposition defenses on a regular basis (the duo has combined for an absurd 14 goals and 13 assists over the last 10 games) and the defense is suddenly solid enough (multiple goals conceded just once in the last five).

Rooney scored twice on Saturday and Acosta bagged a goal of his own — to go with two from Paul Arriola. Acosta tallied a hat trick of assists along with a single helper from Rooney. Montreal self-destructed, to be sure, but it was certainly a byproduct of United’s increasingly aggressive tactics which heaped worlds of pressure on them from the opening whistle. When Rooney’s playing passes like this — simple as it may seem, it’s so rarely the ball chosen in MLS — there’s not much you can do to limit his impact on the game.

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Colorado RapidsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Seattle won nine games in a row to drag themselves out of a D.C.-like hole dug in the spring and early summer. They followed that run up with a pair of disappointing defeats to Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy. A visit from Colorado Rapids was exactly what the doctor ordered, though, as Raul Ruidiaz (times two), Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez all got themselves a goal in their 4-0 triumph at CenturyLink Field.

It was enough to temporarily leapfrog Portland Timbers on tiebreakers for fourth in the West before Portland drew with FC Dallas later in the day to reclaim fourth.

Chicago Fire 3-1 Los Angeles FCFULL HIGHLIGHTS

LAFC had a golden opportunity to leapfrog Sporting Kansas City for second place in the Western Conference and apply some real pressure in the race for a knockout-round bye with a win against Chicago, who have already been eliminated from the playoffs.

Djordje Mihailovic scored a stunning volley for his first goal of the season (second of his career), but Diego Rossi did his best to upstage the 19-year-old for goal of the game/day.

LA Galaxy 3-0 Vancouver WhitecapsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

The 2018 season has been one to forget for the Galaxy — from their their own struggles due in large part to a disastrous series of transfer windows, to the dismissal of Sigi Schmid as head coach, to the arrival and successes of LAFC — but somehow they’re within a single point of the final playoff place in the West (though they have played one game more than RSL) following following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Vancouver.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as has been the case for much of the season, willed the Galaxy to victory with a brace to bring his season tally to 20 goals (in just 24 appearances).

Elsewhere in MLS action

Columbus Crew SC 0-0 Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC 4-1 New England Revolution
Minnesota United 2-1 New York City FC
Houston Dynamo 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers 0-0 FC Dallas

Sunday’s MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake — 5 p.m. ET

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Leicester City

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Chelsea host Leicester City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in their home opener, as U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic is handed the first start of his Premier League career.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Frank Lampard will get a great ovation on his homecoming to Stamford Bridge, while Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes will fancy their chance of causing an upset.

In team news Christian Pulisic starts on his home debut for Chelsea as he replaces Ross Barkley on the left, as Olivier Giroud and N’Golo Kante replace Tammy Abraham and Matteo Kovacic from the team which started at Man United last Sunday.

Leicester bring in Christian Fuchs at left back with Ben Chilwell out with a minor injury and the Austrian international coming in.


LINEUPS

Leicester XI: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Fuchs, Ndidi, Perez, Tielemans, Choudhury, Maddison, Vardy. Subs: Justin, Morgan, Albrighton, Ward, Iheanacho, Barnes, Praet.

Sheffield United battle past Crystal Palace

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Sheffield United beat Crystal Palace 1-0 on Sunday, as the Blades’ first home game back in the Premier League ended in victory.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

John Lundstram was the hero at Bramall Lane as his goal just after half time sealed all three points for the Yorkshire club, which was their first PL win since 2007.

Chris Wilder‘s side have now picked up four points from their first two games back in the big time, while Palace have yet to score across their opening two matches.


3 things we learned

1. Bramall Lane can become a fortress: The home fans created a wonderful atmosphere in their first PL home game since 2007, and they dragged their team over the line late on. As hefty challenges flew in and Chris Wilder wound up his players from the sidelines, this will be an intimidating place for teams to play. If the Blades are going to stay up, their home form needs to be very good and it seems like that is going to be the case.

2. Overlapping CBs a joy to watch: Chris Basham and Jack O'Connell marauding down the flanks was a joy to watch, and something we will see a lot from Sheffield United this season. Basham and O’Connell are encouraged to fly down the flanks and join attacks, with the holding midfielders sitting in for them and it certainly gives opponents a very different tactical headache to solve. O’Connell pushed forward down the left wing for United’s opening goal and the overload it created in a dangerous area worked superbly. Pretty soon a lot of other teams will be copying the Blades.

3. Wilfried Zaha not up to speed: In his first start of the season, Zaha spent most of the first half having a row with the home bench and fans. Roy Hodgson was hoping he would be focused after a summer-long saga which saw him state his desire to leave Palace, but moves to Arsenal and Everton both fell through. Zaha’s display on the pitch looked like a player who doesn’t really want to be at Palace. That is very worrying for the Eagles.

Man of the Match: Chris Basham – A dominant force in the air and on the ground, the center back held United’s defensive unit together and he epitomized their gritty display. The Blades’ longest-serving current player stood tall.


After a steady start to the game for both teams, Sheffield United started to cause plenty of problems as David McGoldrick had a shot blocked and Palace managed to scramble clear from a corner as the hosts built up a head of steam in the first half.

Callum Robinson struck an effort over the bar as the Blades dug deep and substitute Luke Freeman (who replaced the injured John Fleck) brought plenty of energy to the midfield battle.

The Blades should have taken the lead just before half time as Lundstram’s perfect cross the back post found McGoldrick but Vicente Guaita saved well.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Sheffield United got off to a perfect start in the second half as Jack O’Connell raced down the left flank and Freeman cut inside and sent a ball across goal which Guaita saved but the ball fell to Lundstram who slammed home to send Bramall Lane wild.

That opening goal sprung the game into life as Andros Townsend‘s deflected shot from distance was pushed out by Dean Henderson and even though Palace tried their best to get into the game, Sheffield United’s defense held firm.

Some meaty challenges flew in late on as substitute Ollie McBurnie made a nuisance of himself, as the home fans roared their team to victory.

Report: Alexis Sanchez pushing for Inter Milan loan

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A report from Italy states that Manchester United are in talks with Inter Milan over loaning Alexis Sanchez for the 2019-20 campaign.

Sanchez, 30, has reportedly asked United to send him to Inter for the upcoming season as the Chilean star has failed to settled at Old Trafford over the last 18 months and scored once in 20 Premier League appearances last season.

He has yet to play this season or over the summer after being injured playing for Chile in the Copa America this summer, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been positive about Sanchez whenever he’s spoken about him this summer and said wants to keep him at Man United.

However, per the report from Fabrizio Romano in Italy the former Arsenal star wants to head back to Serie A — where he started his career in Europe with Udinese — and Inter only want to pay $16.6 million to sign him permanently next summer when he will still have two years left on his contract at United.

With the summer transfer window still open in Germany, Spain and Italy until Sept. 2, this move is something to keep an eye on.

This is a big call for United.

Do they really want an unhappy and lackluster Sanchez around, blocking the pathway for the likes of Mason Greenwood to break into the first team?

Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard will provide goals and will be helped out by Juan Mata and Greenwood, but if one of Rashford or Martial gets injured, Solskjaer’s attacking options diminish quite rapidly.

Selling Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan already has them down a senior striker and if they have to subsidize Sanchez’s huge wages just to send him out on loan, is it really worth it?

After VAR drama, does new handball law need to change?

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The fallout from Manchester City and Tottenham’s wild 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium continues, as late VAR drama stole the show with Gabriel Jesus‘ strike ruled out deep into second half stoppage time.

[ MORE: VAR drama dominates

Jesus’ goal in stoppage time was ruled out for a handball on Aymeric Laporte after being checked by VAR, as the new laws brought in by IFAB this summer were interpreted correctly. The exact same thing happened as Wolves had a goal chalked out against Leicester during the opening weekend of the season.

But do those new laws need to be tweaked?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The new rules state that if there’s a handball in the box from an attacking player which either a) leads to the ball going into the net or b) leads directly to a goal being scored, then it will be called a handball.

However, the same law states that if a defending player handles in the box then it is down to the referees discretion to decide whether or not it was a deliberate handball.

As you’d expected, Man City midfielder Ilkay Gunodgan has strong feelings on this law change, and our broadcast crew discuss whether or not this law needs to be changed in the video above.

The overall feeling is that the law needs to tweaking to state that handballs in the box by either attacking or defending players are treated the same and called a handball.