As we reach week three of the MLS season, exactly half of the league’s teams are still looking for their first win of the year, including FC Cincinnati, which hosts its first-ever MLS match. Below, we’ll preview the top three upcoming matchups on tap this weekend in MLS:
FC Cincinnati v. Portland Timbers — Sunday, 5 p.m. ET
Major League Soccer fully arrives in Cincinnati this weekend, as FC Cincinnati hosts its first ever MLS game. Like its previous two games, this one will be no easy task for the expansion side, as it hosts MLS Cup finalists, the Portland Timbers. It’s a reunion for Fanendo Adi, who left the Timbers last summer to join FC Cincinnati in a trade between the two clubs, but it’s also a big test for the Timbers. Amazingly, the Timbers are winless in 22 consecutive matches when Diego Chara is out. The Colombian was sent off in last week’s rout at Los Angeles FC, putting his team behind the eight ball early in the season.
Chicago Fire v. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Suddenly, with the acquisition this week of Nicolas Gaitan, on paper at least, the Chicago Fire look like they can be a playoff squad. Veljko Paunovic’s side features Bastian Schweinsteiger dropping deep as a centerback, Dax McCarty patrolling midfield, and then Gaitan, Alexander Katai and Nemanja Nikolic and this team has the spine and talent to make a deep playoff run. They’ll get a chance to test themselves against a team always in the playoff picture, and one that’s benefitted by the return of Jordan Morris. After routing FC Cincinnati and soundly beating the Colorado Rapids how will the Sounders respond to its first road match of the season?
D.C. United v. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
This game may have gone under the radar in the past, but both of these teams have four points from two games and are off to a hot start in the 2019 MLS season. It’s a return to D.C. for Mike Petke, who helped D.C. United win MLS Cup in 2004, while it’s also a chance to see Wayne Rooney against one of the best pair in MLS history, Kyle Beckerman in midfield and Nick Rimando in goal. Real Salt Lake’s young, Homegrown-filled squad could surprise D.C. in Audi Field, unless Rooney and Luciano Acosta have something to say about that.
Full MLS Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Chicago Fire v. Seattle Sounders – 1 p.m.
Columbus Crew v. FC Dallas – 2 p.m.
Houston Dynamo v. Vancouver Whitecaps – 3 p.m.
New York Red Bulls v. San Jose Earthquakes – 3:30 p.m.
Orlando City v. Montreal Impact – 4 p.m.
D.C. United v. Real Salt Lake – 8 p.m.
LA Galaxy v. Minnesota United – 10:30 p.m.
New York City FC v. Los Angeles FC – 3 p.m.
FC Cincinnati v. Portland Timbers – 5 p.m.
Atlanta United v. Philadelphia Union – 7 p.m.
Toronto FC v. New England Revolution – 7:30 p.m.
Colorado Rapids v. Sporting KC – 9 p.m.
In-form striker Duvan Zapata injured on international duty
This international break has been particularly brutal to clubs who have seen a host of key players go down with injuries, and there’s still a few days of matches remaining.
The latest player to succumb to injury is Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata who returned from Colombia duty with an adductor strain and will miss at least three weeks, according to Sky Sports Italia (via FootballItalia). Zapata went down 23 minutes into Colombia’s 0-0 friendly draw with Chile on Friday and was sent back to Italy for tests at his club.
Those tests have reportedly confirmed the initial fears. The loss of Zapata is a massive one for Atalanta, as the 28-year-old has been steadily building for years and is having a breakout start to this campaign, scoring six Serie A goals in seven matches plus one more in Champions League play, currently on a run of four consecutive games with a goal across all competitions. With Zapata’s help, Atalanta sits third in the Serie A table, having bagged the most goals of any team with 18 through seven games.
Zapata becomes the latest high-profile injury from this international break, joining Colombia teammate Alexis Sanchez who went down late in the same match and is reportedly out until 2020 with a serious ankle injury. Chelsea has been hit the hardest, with Andreas Christensen, Mateo Kovacic, and Reese James all pulling up while N’Golo Kante was injured in France warmups but he is expected to be fit for the weekend. Luka Modric may miss time after going down in a Euro qualifier against Wales, while Gareth Bale also picked up a knock in that match. Neymar went down in Brazil’s match against against Nigeria, which forced manager Tite to explain his reasoning for the selection in a friendly. Sergio Aguero is apparently struggling to train with Argentina thanks to a mystery injury confirmed by Lionel Scaloni. Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos withdrew from Spain training earlier in the week with “hamstring overload.” Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson left USMNT camp with a hamstring problem with the MLS playoffs on the horizon.
LONDON (AP) — A prosecutor has alleged that former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne sexually assaulted a woman on a train by “forcibly and sloppily” planting an unwanted kiss on her lips.
Prosecutor William Mousley’s comments Monday came as Gascoigne, who has struggled with alcohol and mental-health problems, went on trial at Teesside Crown Court charged with sexual assault of the female passenger.
Mousley said the former England star “put his hands on her cheeks and kissed her forcibly and sloppily on the lips.”
The 52-year-old Gascoigne denies the charge.
The alleged victim has told the court that she froze when the man, who appeared drunk, kissed her in August 2018. She says she did not realize it was Gascoigne until after the alleged incident.
USMNT looks to build with Nations League visit to Canada
The United States has faced much criticism since failing to miss out on the World Cup two years ago. If Gregg Berhalter is to silence the naysayers, he must use the Nations League as a building block for sustained success with a view towards 2022 World Cup qualifying.
Step 1 was completed Friday with a 7-0 demolition of lowly Cuba, and Step 2 comes Tuesday evening as the USMNT heads to Toronto to meet Canada at BMO Field, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
The United States did the job at hand, soundly beating a far inferior opponent, allowing the squad to move forward quickly and emphatically. There is plenty more to prove, but the engine is revved and the gas pedal pressed. Still, Berhalter and company must remember this is a marathon not a sprint, and even the slightest slip in Nations League play will open the floodgates of criticism.
Seeing the bigger picture
The biggest thing for the USMNT to piece together in the Nations League is a sustained run of success that builds not just positive feelings but true momentum born by consistency. It will be fascinating to see the team chosen by Gregg Berhalter as he looks to put together consistent starting lineups that help build not just victories on the scoresheet but also chemistry between players who have a legitimate chance of seeing future lineups in more high leverage matches.
Against Cuba, positive performances can lend themselves to more opportunities down the line, but Berhalter must also be realistic about who has a chance to be contributors not just against the minnows of CONCACAF but also against teams the United States has aspirations of competing with. Against Cuba, Jordan Morris continued his revival as a winger, and he should be given more opportunities to build a relationship with Josh Sargent and Christian Pulisic up front. Jackson Yueill is another player who can earn his way into long-term contention, but it remains true that Michael Bradley is still the team’s best option at holding midfielder and requires minutes with the other consistent starters (although it would be interesting to see if the two can play together coherently). Reggie Cannon played well at right-back but incumbent DeAndre Yedlin deserves the chance to prove he’s still the correct choice after returning from a long injury layoff.
A view towards the future must be in the back of Berhalter’s mind, not just looking to achieve results but also achieve results with the right players. Meshing the correct squad now will unquestionably pay dividends down the road as the United States hopes to turn around recent negative results against teams like Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, Italy, and Colombia which fans aspire to be competitive against. With the start of World Cup qualification less than a calendar year away, the time is now to end the wild experimentation and begin dividing up the precious minutes between players who are considered legitimate possibilities for the potential 2022 squad.
Switching gears to Canada
Canada will no doubt present a tougher test than Cuba, but the United States will still be expected to emerge victorious, and anything less will represent yet another two steps back after one step forward.
The northern neighbors have high aspirations, hoping to challenge for World Cup qualification. Head coach John Herdman said in the run-up to Tuesday’s match that the United States may be a rival, but they’re also “standing in the way” of the ultimate goal, confident speech ahead of such a difficult test. LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye took it a step further, saying his play with the Canadian national team over the next few years “is going to help shape the foundation of how Canada is going to be in the next 10 years.”
Canada has a crop of young talent with Kaye joined by 18-year-old Bayern Munich winger Alphonso Davies and 19-year-old Gent youth product Jonathan David.
Still, they have not defeated the United States in their last 17 tries, dating back to 1985. Their last match was a measly 1-0 victory over the same Cuba squad that was obliterated by the US, forced to play 35 minutes a man down after Vancouver Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry was sent off. Canada still managed to hold a whopping 81% possession in that match, but worked just a single shot on target, which resulted in Davies’ 9th minute opener. They will need to be both more disciplined and more dangerous if they wish to pull off the upset in Toronto.
— Steffan —
— Yedlin — Long — Ream — Lovitz —
— McKennie — Bradley — Roldan —
— Morris — Sargent — Pulisic —
Brad Guzan started the Cuba match in goal, but Zack Steffan is the true long-term option here and it would be natural to see him return to the lineup against the tougher opponent. Gregg Berhalter loves Aaron Long and his return could also be expected. As stated above, Bradley is a contentious selection among many fans but his presence calms the midfield, and he delivers a long ball forward like nobody else on the roster. The front three played exceptionally well against Cuba and it would be questionable to see anyone but those players start again with Jozy Altidore injured.
The United States will no doubt face a tougher challenge, and the young attacking talent will test the in-flux back line. Yedlin at right-back will have the toughest test matching up with Davies defensively which could force him back more than Berhalter wants. It will be imperative for the midfield trio to establish control of the central areas and work forward from there. It can be expected that the United States will control the tempo, and if they stay calm, cool, and collected when Canada counters, they should come away with a nervy 2-1 victory.
Olympique Lyonnais has announced they have hired Rudi Garcia as manager, replacing the fired Sylvinho.
Lyon has struggled mightily to start the Ligue 1 season, winning just two of its first nine league games and sitting 14th in the table with nine points. Sylvinho, who was only hired at the end of May, was let go last week.
Garcia has formerly taken charge of Roma, Lille, and St. Etienne, and most recently managed Lyon rivals Marseille for three seasons before departing this summer. He left with Marseille having failed to claim a Champions League place amid the Ligue 1 top three.
L’Olympique Lyonnais informe de la nomination de Rudi Garcia au poste d’entraîneur à compter de ce jour.https://t.co/gtPd3YCgYB
“I chose Rudi Garcia because he is a fighter who, like us, has the ambition to win titles and succeed on the European stage,” said Lyon sporting director Juninho. The Brazilian had chosen his countrymate Sylvinho this summer, but made a change just nine matches into the season with the club winning its first two matches of the season and failing to win since. They have lost three of the last four, with all three defeats coming via a 1-0 scoreline. They have scored just five goals in the seven-match winless run, shutout on four different occasions.
The 55-year-old Frenchman will have plenty of proving to do to Lyon fans. Coming straight over from a direct rival, . Fans were outspoken about their cautious feelings, as the introductory tweet was ratio’d by those expressing a distaste for the hire.
“He is an experienced coach who has already won trophies,” added Juninho.“Wherever he has been, he has had above-average performances and has always managed to make the most of what he had at his disposal.”
Garcia’s first match in charge will be a home league match this weekend against Dijon, followed by a Europa League visit to Benfica.