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MLS Preview: FC Cincinnati hosts first MLS match

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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:

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


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)

Saturday

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.

Sunday

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.

USMNT defender Polster joins Gerrard’s Rangers

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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) United States defender Matt Polster has joined Scottish club Rangers from the Chicago Fire.

The 25-year-old Polster has signed a 2+-year deal with the Glasgow club, which is managed by former England captain Steven Gerrard.

Rangers is second in the league, three points behind Glasgow rival Celtic, which has U.S. forward Timothy Weah on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.

Polster made his debut for the United States in a 0-0 draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina in January 2018. It is his only appearance so far for the national team.

Polster is the latest American to play for Rangers after DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and Claudio Reyna.

Americans Abroad: Polster, Gutman trials in Scotland take Old Firm turn

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The tale of a pair of Chicago Fire products taking their talents to Scotland has taken an interesting turn.

Steven Gerrard brought Matt Polster and Andrew Gutman to Rangers for a trial in December, and was said to be hopeful of signing both. Polster was reported as the less likely to leave the United States, but is now said to be negotiating with the Glaswegian outfit.

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The same report, from The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio, says Rangers’ bitter rivals at Celtic have pulled into pole position to sweep left back Gutman out from under them.

There’s something interesting here aside from Gutman choosing Celtic over his initial trial club Rangers, two of the fiercest rivals in the world: The 22-year-old Fire academy product isn’t as highly viewed by Chicago as he is by several other MLS sides, Celtic, and the league itself.

From The Athletic:

Sources say the Fire initially offered Gutman a minimum-value contract and that Chicago has been shopping the left back’s homegrown rights within the league. Sources indicate MLS has upped the offer to Gutman in order to try to keep him in the league, and there is interest from multiple teams within MLS. Gutman is mulling both offers, but sources indicate he is leaning toward going overseas with Celtic.

So… it’ll be a little alarming for Fire supporters, an already beleaguered bunch, if Gutman turns out to be a starter for Celtic (or another European club) and Chicago simply offered the minimum to keep him.

Gutman won the MAC Hermann Trophy as the best player in college soccer this season, and left back has been a perennial question for the USMNT. That said, the top-heavy Scottish Premiership may be a physical grind, but isn’t a guarantee to be a better testing ground than Major League Soccer. It’s certainly a better gateway to Europe, though.

Veljko Paunovic signs contract extension with Chicago

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The Chicago Fire announced head coach Veljko Paunovic has signed a three-year contract extension at the club.

The club release states the extension is for two seasons, with a club option for a third. Before signing back on, he was out of contract at the end of the 2018 season.

Chicago finished 10th in the Eastern Conference this past season, but it’s clear the Fire ownership group sees its current situation as a work in progress. In fact, Paunovic used the word “project” to describe where he is currently at with the club.

“I feel excited about this project as I was the very first day three years ago when I became a part of the Chicago Fire Football family,” said Paunovic. “I’m also very grateful for this new opportunity with the club and the values that I’m fully aligned and committed to representing in every city and field around the globe and US.”

That said, he’s making some bold predictions for the coming year. “Get ready to lift the trophy this year,” Paunovic said.

“We believe the foundation we are setting and the standards we are demanding are the right ones in developing our championship program,” Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said in the club release. “Continuity is a critical element in that process and retaining Pauno for the next few years as a leader in that effort was an important off-season objective.”

Paunovic’s managerial position is his first with a professional club. Before coming to Chicago, the 41-year-old was in charge of the Serbian national team’s youth squad, managing their U-18, U-19, and U-20 teams at various stages. Before managing, Paunovic was a player with a number of clubs, mostly in the Spanish league with Atletico Madrid, Mallorca, and Oviedo. He also finished his career with the Philadelphia Union, making 17 appearances for the MLS club.

Reports: USMNT’s Weah visits Celtic; Gutman, Polster offered Rangers deals

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As the Old Firm rages this morning, Rangers and Celtic are in the news with some very American subjects.

Celtic’s links with Paris Saint-Germain and USMNT youngster Timothy Weah are quite real.

[ REPORT: Pulisic to Chelsea ]

Weah opted to stay at PSG for the first half of the season under new manager Thomas Tuchel, but has not been in the squad since scoring two goals in three appearances to open the season.

Such is the problem for forwards at the Parc des Princes.

Brendan Rodgers gave a lowdown on the 18-year-old’s recent visit to Scotland ahead of a possible loan for the rest of the season. From Sky Sports:

“He had a great day here. We have good relations with PSG, so he came over. He sent me a lovely message afterwards, thanking everyone and saying he enjoyed it, so we will see.

“PSG clearly want him to go on loan to get experience. He is a good kid, a great boy and a great profile in terms of his game.”

Weah would have a chance to toughen up in the contact-heavy Scottish Premiership, and could just find himself staring across the Old Firm Derby field at a couple of fellow Americans in Andrew Gutman and Matt Polster.

The Scottish Daily Record reported Saturday that Rangers have offered deals to the Chicago Fire products after a trial in Glasgow. The report says Gutman will accept if given a work permit, while Polster is trying to decide whether to make the jump overseas.