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Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

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Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.

2019 MLS Power Rankings, Vol. I

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We are bringing a bit of science to our Major League Soccer power rankings this year, but only a bit.

While dubious items like momentum and look will still play a role in where the MLS sides arrive in our rankings, we’re going to consider some items rather unique to the league:

  1. Away record – The league is infamous for difficulty to win across the country
  2. Defense – MLS’ goals-per-game rate of 3+ makes it one of the most offense-forward leagues in the world.
  3. Schedule congestion – Are you playing twice when others around you are barely breaking a sweat?

So with all teams providing us six-matches or more for sample size, it’s time we mix it up with our first MLSPRs of 2019.

24. Colorado Rapids — Twenty-three goals allowed in eight matches. 0-2-2 at home, 0-4 away. The clear No. 24.

23. New York Red Bulls — Big changes coming to Red Bull Arena?

22. New England Revolution — There isn’t an impressive enough win to overshadow losses to Cincinnati and Atlanta.

21. Atlanta United — It’s messy, real messy, in the post-Almiron and Tata era.

Frank De Boer (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

20. Vancouver Whitecaps — Struggles were expected under a new coach with a big roster flip, so patience should be in long supply especially considering the recent defeat of LAFC (which included a blanking of Carlos Vela). Also worth noting the ‘Caps drew Seattle.

19. Portland Timbers — Still yet to play at home, so getting the benefit of the doubt from us despite a 1-5-1 start.

18. San Jose Earthquakes — Two wins in three could signify an early turned corner.

17. NYCFC — With five draws, are you the pessimist who says, “Only one win,” or the optimist who counters, “Only one loss?”

16. FC Cincinnati — Not quite the tire fire expected by those doubting the acumen of FCC’s lineup. The hope has to be that consistency will come with familiarity.

15. Chicago Fire — Unbeaten in four with NYCFC/Montreal litmus tests next.

14. Minnesota United — Three away wins already and have played just once at home.

13. Orlando City SC — Nani putting together some big performances, but no signature win yet.

12. Real Salt Lake — Streaky side ends four-match losing run by beating Orlando and Cincinnati.

11. Columbus Crew — The defensive record is very impressive under new coach Caleb Porter with just eight goals conceded in eight games. They’ve also only scored eight in a firepower-driven league.

Even on the doorstep, goals have been scarce for Columbus (Eric Albrecht/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

10. Montreal Impact — The 3-0 loss to Philly stings.

9. Philadelphia Union — The only loss in six is courtesy a cross-country trip to face Zlatan and The Galaxy, which is also a good name for a new band. They could tour with Jem.

8. Sporting KC — We’re here to proffer this long, CONCACAF Champions League-congestion considered leash to Peter Vermes. He’s earned it.

7. DC United — Even in MLS, we didn’t think we’d see an early 1W-2L-1T stretch, albeit with Rooney taking a red and sitting one out.

6. FC Dallas — Excited for the first Texas Derby in two weeks time.

5. Houston Dynamo — First loss of the season comes courtesy a trip to the Galaxy. Forgivable.

4. Toronto FC — Pozuelo is the truth.

3. Seattle Sounders — Carlos Vela at home is understandably where their undefeated season went for death.

2. LA Galaxy — Have allowed two goals in their last four matches, and that’s with new signing Giancarlo Gonzalez only making a token appearance.

1. LAFC — Bob Bradley doesn’t relent, having ridden Carlos Vela to wins of 4-1, 5-0, 4-0, and 4-1 (again) already this season.

Fort Lauderdale says Beckham can demolish Lockhart Stadium, build anew

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) David Beckham’s planned Major League Soccer stadium in South Florida is another step closer to reality.

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The Fort Lauderdale City Commission voted Tuesday night to enter into an interim agreement with Beckham’s group, one that will allow the MLS club to demolish Lockhart Stadium as a precursor to building a stadium of its own on that plot of land.

Mayor Dean Trantalis suggested to the commission that the agreement should come with financial assurances that the Beckham group will not simply demolish the existing stadium and then walk away from the project without building something in its place. Other commissioners argued that given the extremely tight timeline – Beckham’s group wants to begin play there in less than a year – the project must be permitted to start as soon as possible.

The vote was unanimous, 5-0. Beckham’s group will have 180 days to complete the demolition.

[ MORE: Gold Cup matches to be played in Kingston, Jamaica ]

Beckham’s group – his team is called Inter Miami – plans to have a stadium in place on the Lockhart site in time to begin an inaugural MLS season in March 2020. Beckham has unsuccessfully tried for years to find a place to put a stadium in Miami, which is why his group announced plans last month to play its first two seasons in Fort Lauderdale.

Beckham’s team also plans to use the Lockhart site as its training center, a home for its team in the lower-tier United Soccer League and its academy programs.

The current Lockhart Stadium opened in 1959 and was the home of more than a half-dozen soccer teams, including the North American Soccer League’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers from 1977-83 and MLS’s Miami Fusion from its launch in 1998 until the team was eliminated by the league after the 2001 season.

Schar to sit out next game after being knocked out, playing on

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Fabian Schar will Switzerland’s 2020 European Championship qualifier against Denmark on Tuesday, three days after the defender was apparently knocked unconscious in a 2-0 victory over Georgia but continued to play for more than an hour and finished the game.

[ MORE: Mourinho “preparing” for next job; expects to start “in June” ]

The Newcastle United center back was involved in a nasty clash of heads in the 24th minute. Georgia’s Jano Ananidze tried to stop Schar from swallowing his own tongue and blocking his airway while unconscious. Following nearly five minutes of treatment and evaluation, Schar was allowed to remain in the game. He has since been deemed — with the help of Schar’s club team, Newcastle United — unavailable for Tuesday’s game due to “medical reasons.”

Afterwards, Schar has the following to say about the collision and his state at the time:

“It looks awful, I can’t remember anything. I was out for a few seconds. My skull is still humming. And I’ve got neck ache and a bruise on my forehead. But it was worth it.”

Schar was directly involved in creating both of Switzerland’s second-half goals.

Swiss defender Schar allowed to continue after being knocked out

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Swiss defender Fabian Schar was clearly knocked out on the pitch in the 24th minute but was allowed to continue the match as Switzerland eventually defeated Georgia in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Saturday.

Schar, who plays for Premier League side Newcastle at the club level, suffered a clash of heads with Georgia’s 23-year-old center-back Jemal Tabidze and went to the ground out cold. He lay motionless on his back with his hands at his side and his eyes closed.

Players from both sides attended to Schar immediately, with Georgia’s Zhano Ananidze reaching into Schar’s mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue, a skill players have learned in recent years due to previous on-field incidents of this nature.

Medical personnel attended to Schar for four minutes before play resumed, turning him onto his side before eventually sitting him up, appearing to administer some form of rudimentary concussion assessment, waving a hand in front of his face. Eventually Schar was allowed to return to the match. Tabidze also received lengthy treatment, requiring a bandage around his head to continue.

There has been a heightened awareness around head injuries at the top level of professional soccer, although clubs and national teams still struggle to make smart in-game decisions. Returning to play after suffering a concussion is extremely dangerous, with the risk of Second Impact Syndrome possibly deadly. Just because Schar was knocked unconscious doesn’t mean he suffered a concussion, but given the possibility and its danger, the look is a bad one for Switzerland.

The 24-year-old has been a fixture in the Swiss national team since mid-2014, earning his 48th cap on Saturday. He has been a regular for Newcastle this season since earning a starting spot in early November, making 18 Premier League appearances thus far.