Longtime USMNT player Jermaine Jones announces retirement

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Longtime Bundesliga and USMNT player Jermaine Jones announced his retirement from soccer on Friday, 11 months after last taking the pitch.

Jones, 36, spent last season captaining the ill-fated LA Galaxy season.

[ MORE: PST’s one-on-one with Jones in 2016 ]

A colorful and outspoken character, Jones made his senior debut for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2000. He won the German Cup in 2011 with Schalke.

He spent 13 seasons in Germany, playing for Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen aside from a loan to Blackburn Rovers in 2011 — 15 appearances with eight yellow cards! — before moving to Besiktas in 2014.

[ MORE: Who is on Stewart’s USMNT list? ]

Jones earned his first USMNT cap in 2010 under Bob Bradley, and scored four goals, none more memorable than the rocket to level a World Cup match against Portugal in 2014.

Moving to MLS, Jones helped spearhead turnarounds at New England and Colorado, leading the former to the MLS Cup Final.

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

Ramirez makes instant impact in first start for LAFC

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Christian Ramirez showed Minnesota United FC exactly what it is missing.

Back home in Southern California, Ramirez scored twice in his first start for Los Angeles FC as the expansion side comfortably held on to a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake in mid-week MLS action. It was his first MLS goals since he scored a brace against LAFC four weeks ago.

Once LAFC heard Ramirez was on the market, Bob Bradley and co. quickly snapped him up, and he is already paying dividends.

Playing as a lone striker, Ramirez found himself between two RSL defenders as LAFC took control of the ball off a turnover. Carlos Vela cut inside and delivered a perfect pass to Ramirez, who made a diagonal run away from the nearest defender and then back to the ball. All Ramirez needed was to loop the ball over Nick Rimando’s head in goal to give his side an early lead.

When someone is in good form, the ball seems to just find its way to you, and that’s exactly what happened for Ramirez’s second. Waiting at the far post, Ramirez side-stepped a couple of times to his left before slotting home easily. It showcased solid awareness and anticipation for the 27-year-old striker, who could still have a future with the U.S. Men’s National Team, especially with September friendlies coming up.

Ramirez has always seemed like he was destined to play on a bigger platform, and with LAFC’s impressive first year and numerous placements on national television, Ramirez may finally be getting the respect he’s due.

FOLLOW LIVE: West contenders LAFC, SKC face off; POR vs. VAN

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As August begins to fly by and September pokes its head over the horizon, the realization that the playoff race has begun in MLS grows clearer and clearer.

[ MORE: Austin MLS stadium vote delayed until next week ]

Saturday’s two biggest games feature four sides from the Western Conference, where the jockeying for playoff position has already begun. Take, for instance, Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles FC, who after 22 games each find themselves level on 36 points in third and fourth place, respectively, tied with 10 wins and separated by just two in the goal-differential column. Peter Vermes’ and Bob Bradley‘s sides face off on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET) at Banc of California Stadium. The winner could apply real pressure, if not leapfrog, the team just one point ahead of them in second place. Krisztian Nemeth is expected to make his re-debut for Sporting KC, as a center forward, after he was re-acquired in a trade on Monday.

That team just so happens to be the Portland Timbers, who have one of their Cascadia rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps, visiting Providence Park tonight. More so than the other three, Vancouver find themselves fighting for their playoff lives, as they’d be watching from home if the postseason began today. The gap between seventh-place Vancouver and sixth-place Real Salt Lake is currently four points. On the other side, the 11 p.m. ET kickoff represents a massive opportunity for the Timbers to make good on one of the two games in hand they currently possess over first-place FC Dallas. A win would cut the gap to just two points.

Full MLS schedule

Columbus Crew vs. Houston Dynamo — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 9 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Montreal Impact — 10 p.m. ET
Los Angeles FC vs. Sporting Kansas City — 10:30 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Minnesota United — 10:30 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 11 p.m. ET

MLS Preview: Atlanta United hosts last season’s MLS champion, and more

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Coming off an exciting All-Star week, week 23 of MLS action resumes with 11 matches, 10 of them taking place on Saturday. Here are some storylines to keep an eye on this weekend…

[READ: Premier League season previews]

Atlanta hosts defending champions

Since Toronto FC fell in the CONCACAF Champions League final at the end of April, the team has been spiraling out of control. Long-term injuries have kept Victor Vasquez, Jozy Altidore, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavalata among others off the field, and the team’s fortunes have suffered. Now, Toronto FC heads into the lion’s den to face the current Supporters Shield leaders.

Josef Martinez is coming off four goals in a week, including one against Juventus in the MLS All-Star game. While Toronto FC has won two-straight games, Atlanta United has four wins in its last five and has one loss in it’s last 11 as the incredible firepower has overcome any defensive liabilities. With Drew Moor still out, can Martinez continue his incredible goal-scoring form?

Can the Loons keep winning?

It appears we need to split the history of Minnesota United in MLS as pre-Darwin Quintero and post the day Quintero signed for the club.

Since joining, Minnesota United has been arguably the hottest team in MLS. with three wins in their last four that including three goals in that same span from Quintero. In fact, when Quintero and Christian Ramirez play together, they average an impressive 1.8 goals per 90 minutes. The duo were shut down though last week against Vancouver, and that’s a tactic the Sounders are likely to try this Saturday when they visit Minnesota.

Seattle meanwhile is beginning to play much better and has won three-straight games, including a six-game unbeaten run. Nico Lodeiro has played a big role, with three goals and four assists in the Sounders’ last 11 games.

Battle of the stars

Bradley Wright-Phillips and the New York Red Bulls host Carlos Vela and LAFC in Sunday’s national TV matchup.

It’s a first matchup between Red Bulls coach Chris Armas and his former coach, Bob Bradley, where the two teamed up for the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double in Chicago. Meanwhile, both teams have been successful in the attack this year. The Red Bulls and LAFC are two of just five teams averaging 1.9 expected goals per game or more, per Opta.

One of the big battles to keep an eye on is Adama Diomande against Aaron Long. The young centerback is returning from a confidence-boosting All-Star game appearance but Diomande has been one of the best strikers in MLS since joining.