Getty Images

MLS preview: First v. Second in the East, a logjam in the West

Leave a comment

A number of high-powered matchups dot the landscape as this weekend’s Major League Soccer action takes the field. Here’s all you need to know regarding the games to come on Saturday and Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Philadelphia Union v. Atlanta United — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

A first vs. second matchup in late August? Yes please. Some have tabbed it as “the biggest regular season game in Union history.” An exaggeration? Probably not. Philly sits just level with Atlanta on points, behind only on goal differential, meaning the club could gain full control of the Eastern Conference standings with a victory at home, where they are unbeaten all season long. Meanwhile, Atlanta United comes in having won seven straight games across all competition, so what gives?

But don’t take our word for it. “I’m not going to lie and say it’s the same as any other week because it’s not. The stakes are higher.” That’s Philly head coach Jim Curtin. Yeah, it’s a big game.

New England Revolution v. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

A good ol’ playoff six-pointer. New England, with 38 points, sits uncomfortably in a playoff position, while Toronto FC sits just outside the cut line with 37 points, behind the Montreal Impact on goal differential. This game will reshape the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture should either side come away with all three points.

Both these teams struggled mightily in league play in the past, and both have enjoyed monumental turnarounds. New England has lost just once in its last 15 games, and captain Carles Gil has been a machine during that stretch, scoring five goals and assisting five more over their last eight. Meanwhile, Toronto has put its eight-match winless run in the rear-view mirror with four wins over its last eight, including five points over its last three games. Last time out saw Toronto top Montreal in comeback fashion, and now they search for just their third winning streak of the season. With two games in hand on the rest of the playoff race, can either side gain an advantage over the other?

Portland Timbers v. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake may be in second place in the West, but that position is far from safe. In fact, their playoff safety is far from guaranteed, with the gap between second and seventh just a stunning three points. Portland, meanwhile, remains one of the streakiest teams in MLS, and will be looking to turn around a two-game losing streak that followed a stretch of four wins in five. The most recent came to Seattle in a gut-punch Cascadia Cup loss, and dropped points at home are devastating no matter who they come against. This may be a second vs. eighth matchup, but with just six points of separation, there’s plenty on the line.

Seattle Sounders v. LA Galaxy — Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Cristian Pavon got his first LA Galaxy assist, then picked up his first LA Galaxy goal, and heading into his fifth league match, he could be looking for his first LA Galaxy goal streak as they visit Seattle. Still, the goalscoring headlines have stuck with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has a three-match brace streak to give him 22 goals on the season, just five behind Carlos Vela on record pace. As mentioned before, the Western Conference is a total logjam, and the third-placed Sounders sit just a point above the fourth-placed Galaxy. Both teams are just one game above the cut line, and every point matters.

Full MLS schedule

Saturday

New York Red Bulls v. Colorado Rapids — 7:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact v. D.C. United — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union v. Atlanta United — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas v. FC Cincinnati — 8:00 p.m. ET
Sporting KC v. Houston Dynamo — 8:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps v. NYCFC — 10:00 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers v. Real Salt Lake — 10:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Orlando City SC — 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday

Seattle Sounders v. LA Galaxy — 6:30 p.m. ET
LAFC v. Minnesota United —10:30 p.m. ET

Serie A roundup: Immobile nets hat-trick, Lazio runs over Sampdoria (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lazio’s record-extending 11th straight Serie A win highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 5-1 Sampdoria  

Like Lazio’s season, Ciro Immobile continues to make strides with each passing day.

The 29-year-old’s hat-trick powered Simone Inzaghi’s side past Sampdoria 5-1, extending his goal count to 23, nine more than Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaka.

 

Lazio, who are three points behind top-of-the-table Juventus and one behind second-place Inter Milan, were up three goals by the 20-minute mark. By the 65th minute, Immobile reached the three goal mark, converting from the spot.

“We would need too much time to count his records,” coach Simone Inzaghi said on Immobile’s magnificent run of form. “We are talking about an extraordinary team player. He has shown that so many times. Immobile has been doing extraordinary things for four years, I’m not surprised.”

Full of confidence, Lazio turn one of the most challenging corners of the season, as they take on rivals AS Roma defend the Italian Cup against Napoli.

“We’ll enjoy this 11th win but we have to already be thinking about the next matches,” Inzaghi said. “We know what a derby means but I can’t allow myself to think about Roma.

“We play Napoli on Tuesday, we know what the Italian Cup means for us, what it meant last year, we have it on our shirts and we will fight for it again.”

When it comes to Sampdoria, things are going from bad to ugly, quick.

“Tonight I’ll add salt and pepper and I’ll eat them alive,” Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri said of his players.

“Lazio was too good for us, you could clearly see the difference between the two teams, but it was without doubt the worst Samp performance since I’ve been here.”

Elsewhere

Sassuolo 2-1 Torino

Napoli 0-2 Fiorentina

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.