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MLS Preview: Rooney, D.C. United looking to keep pace atop East

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Major League Soccer closes out the month of March with a number of intriguing matchups, including a Cascadia Cup battle, a chance for FC Cincinnati to set a new MLS expansion record, and D.C. United hosting former teammate Nani and Orlando City.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

In addition, six teams remain unbeaten: Los Angeles FC, the Seattle Sounders, and the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference and D.C. United, Toronto FC and New York City FC in the Eastern Conference.

Here’s a look at some of the top storylines for MLS Week 5:


Orlando City v. D.C. United — Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Wayne Rooney and D.C. United have quietly had a strong start to the 2019 MLS season. D.C. already has wins over both Atlanta United and Real Salt Lake, two playoff teams from a year ago, and comes into this weekend’s matchup with a week to rest. In addition to the seven goals scored in three games is the fact that D.C. United hasn’t allowed a single goal yet. Meanwhile, Orlando is coming off a confidence-building win on the road at the New York Red Bulls, with Sacha Kljestan scoring and Nani making his debut. Now returning home, Orlando City is looking to record another victory and end D.C. United’s unbeaten start.


Columbus Crew v. Atlanta United — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Coming off a bye week, Atlanta United looks to secure it’s first win of the season with a trip to the Columbus Crew. It’s been a rough start to the season for Atlanta United, with struggles in both MLS and earlier in CONCACAF Champions League play. Atlanta United has missed Miguel Almiron but perhaps even bigger, it’s missed manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino. New manager Frank De Boer hasn’t yet figured out his best team, but he may get a good chance to see that against Columbus.

Caleb Porter’s side suffered a surprising 3-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union last week and starting goalkeeper Zack Steffan is recovering from an injury that kept him out of U.S. Men’s National Team camp. Perhaps it could be the first sign of cracks in a Crew side struggling for goals.

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Seattle Sounders are off to a strong start, but the Cascadia Cup can bring out the best in the underdog. Vancouver is winless, 0-3 to start the season while the Sounders are the opposite. Jordan Morris has made a successful recovery from injury while Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro look as good as ever. In Vancouver, with all its offseason changes, it is taking time for their new signings to all gel together. However, Saturday’s game could set a fun new record. Whitecaps designated player In-Beom Hwang could face Sounders midfielder Kim Kee-Hee in what would be a high-profile dual between the two South Korean stars.

Full MLS Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday

Toronto FC v. New York City FC – 8 p.m.

Saturday

Chicago Fire v. New York Red Bulls – 1 p.m.

New England Revolution v. Minnesota United – 2 p.m.

Sporting KC v. Montreal Impact – 3 p.m.

San Jose Earthquakes v. LAFC – 3:30 p.m.

FC Cincinnati v. Philadelphia Union – 7:30 p.m.

Columbus Crew v. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.

Colorado Rapids v. Houston Dynamo – 9 p.m.

Real Salt Lake v. FC Dallas – 9 p.m.

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m.

Sunday

Orlando City v. D.C. United – 6 p.m.

LA Galaxy v. Portland Timbers – 9 p.m.

Charlton wins promotion to Championship in stoppage time

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Charlton Athletic struck a wildly late blow to clinch the final place in the 2019-20 Football League Championship, defeating Sunderland 2-1 in Sunday’s promotion playoff at Wembley Stadium.

A stoppage time free kick in a cagey affair led to a scrum in the box, with Patrick Bauer sliding to strike a shot off a Sunderland defender and into the goal.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The goal came at the 3:55 mark of four minutes stoppage time, and was the 26-year-old defender’s first goal of the season.

Ben Purrington had leveled the score line for Charlton after Sunderland went ahead via an early own goal. The Addicks were relegated from the Championship after the 2015-16 season, while Sunderland went down last year.

It had to feel extra special to manager Lee Bowyer, who played with Sunderland local rivals Newcastle United from 2003-06.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).