Diego Valeri

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MLS weekend preview: Quakes look to stay alive, Revs one win away from playoffs

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It’s the penultimate weekend of MLS regular season, and the playoff picture is nowhere near being completed, especially in the Western Conference. With two Sundays to go, four teams remain in the hunt for the final spot in the East. In the West, the fifth, sixth and seventh spots are yet to be decided.

Here’s a quick preview of each match being played this Sunday:

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders: Will the San Jose Earthquakes’ miraculous turnaround under Matias Almeyda go the next level with the clinching of a playoff spot? Only a point away from surpassing the red line, San Jose are statistically forced to win against a playoff-destined Seattle Sounders, who look to move as high as second in the Western Conference with two games to play, on Sunday if they want to make an already laudable reconfiguration into a generational one. With the return of Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza, the Quakes’ chances will be as good as they’ll get at this point of the season: a coin flip.

New England Revolution vs. NYCFC:  NYCFC’s visit to Gillette Stadium is the Eastern Conference’s biggest game of the weekend. Domenec Torrent’s side are in a comfortable position – six points clear of second place Philadelphia Union. The New England Revolution, however, are a win away from clinching a playoff berth. Then again, with Bruce Arena leading the Revs, one can assume that the home team will sneak into the postseason.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers: After a rocky start to their season, the Portland Timbers are in the driver’s seat to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Timbers’ followers, clinching playoffs is not the topic of interests. After six years, Diego Valeri is reportedly playing his final days in Rose City, as contract talks between both parties have hit a roadblocks. The question now becomes: will Valeri’s  uncertain future affect the Timbers’ on the field starting this Sunday against an eliminated Sporting KC?

Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC: After 13 years, countless goals and memories, the Chicago Fire say goodbye to Bridgeview, Illinois. The Fire, who are relocating to Soldier Field next season in the hopes of drawing interest from proper Chicago’s large soccer fanbase, are not entirely out of the playoff race either. With a loss from the Revs and win at home, Veljko Paunovic and company would be only a point removed from New England. Chicago’s latest result – a scoreless draw against a poor Cincinnati – doesn’t give the impression that they’ll be able to edge a balanced Toronto, who are in the postseason yet again.

Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo: Real Salt Lake continue to produce, despite their internal turmoil. On Friday, the club parted ways with general manager Craig Waibel in the wake of a lawsuit raised by former coach Mike Petke, who made a reference that Waibel was critical of owner Dell Loy Hansen and said he was resigning from his position at the end of the season. Recent history indicates the team will respond positively to such self-inflicted roadblocks. But with only a foot across the red line, it will be interesting to see how they show up against a crumbling Houston Dynamo.

Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas: Robin Fraser’s new-look Colorado Rapids aren’t out yet, but their playoff chances hang on by a thread, if that. On the other side, FC Dallas – a point above San Jose – look to win out and, as a result, sneak into the playoffs. They’ll have to do so against a new Rapids scheme in which attackers and defenders alike are scoring. No easy task for a Dallas team that has allowed five goals in their last three games.

FC Cincinnati vs. Orlando City: While Carlos Vela actively looks to break the league record for the most scored goals in a season, FC Cincinnati hopes not to be the team to allow the most goals in a single season. They’re one away from doing so. With Orlando City, who need to win out in order to have any last-minute chances to qualify, Ron Jans’ side’s probabilities are slim.

Montreal Impact vs. Atlanta United: Montreal Impact are one of the four teams fighting for a spot in the Eastern Conference’s big party. With midweek Canadian Championship celebrations still fresh, the Impact may have plenty of inspiration to pick up the reaming six points (or not). Jose Martinez-less Atlanta United, on the other hand, look to bounce back from a crushing loss to NYCFC that cost them the second spot in the East.

Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union: Fresh off a win against the Quakes, Jim Curtin and company look to separate themselves from Atlanta United, and seal second place in the East. The Crew, who have proven to be a threat time and time again this season, will put up a fight.

Minnesota United vs. LAFC: With a Supporters’ Shield to point towards, LAFC have every reason to take things slow until the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. That said, given that Vela is one goal away from tying Martinez’s league record, though, the Black-and-Gold will likely continue moving forward at full speed until the Mexican writes his name in the record book. If that holds true, LAFC and second place Minnesota United will be a must-watch.

New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United:  A rivalry with two games left in the regular season is never a bad thing, especially when both teams are looking to climb the standings before the playoffs. To add to a thick plot, both teams are already in good form, and only a point apart in the Eastern Conference standings.

LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Just a couple of months ago, the LA Galaxy were in serious trouble of making the playoffs. But with the improvement of their backline and the non-stop dominating play from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy now find themselves playoff bound. It’s the type of transformation the Whitecaps were looking for but were never able to accomplish in Marc Dos Santos’ first year at the helm. As expected, the home side will look to exploit that and aim for the West’s second spot.

With playoffs in mind, Timbers fall to inspired D.C. United (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  This not the time for the Portland Timbers to lack attacking ingenuity, or to lose games in which they were clearly the superior side. However, those are the issues Giovanni Savarese and Co. will have to resolve in the week upcoming, following a 1-0 loss to a D.C. United side that has now won two consecutive games on the road. Wayne Rooney was back from suspension for the nation’s capital side, but, ironically, it was an own-goal from Bill Tuiloma that earned the Eastern Conference team three points. Diego Valeri and Co. had chances throughout the 90 minutes, but couldn’t crack the visitors. With three regular season games to play, United are five points clear of the playoff line. The Timbers, on the side, are only a point clear of missing out on playoffs. It’s time to buckle up if you support either team.

Three moments that mattered

25′ – D.C. United goes up — Bill Tuiloma scored it, but with playoffs in mind, D.C. United doesn’t care.

 

 Ball crosses the line, is not reviewed — It’s time for MLS to adopt goal-line technology, no? 

82′ — Steve Clark keeps Portland alive — Take a bow, Clark.

 

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Man of the match: Frederic Brilliant

Goalscorers: Tuiloma (25′- OG)

Inspired Timbers outdo SKC with last-minute goal (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): A lot was on the line at Providence Park on Saturday night. Visiting Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers, separated only by three points prior to kickoff, were equally as desperate for a three points as the playoff race intensified. When the first whistle blew and the team’s got settled in, it was obvious that there was a lot at stake. Despite approaching the game in a conservative manner, Peter Vermes and Co. were destined to win a four straight – until a late Timbers surge occurred. Hampered with a a slew of officiating decisions going against them, Portland caught their first break when Jeremy Ebobisse struck late in the game. It would be turn out to be two in the final 10 minutes, though, as substitute Brian Fernandez delivered the game-winning goal for a Timbers that are now sixth in the West with six games to play. What a night in Portland.

Three moments that mattered

65′ — Feilhaber adds to his list of frame-worthy goals  — When it comes to scoring stunners, very few do it like Feilhaber.

83′ — Ebobisse levels the score — Just by the way Ebobisse decided to “celebrate,” one could tell last-minute magic was on the way.

90′+4 — Fernandez earns Portland valuable victory  — Brian Fernandez for the win, of course.

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Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Feilhaber (65′), Ebobisse (83′), Fernandez (90’+4)

Sounders overturn poor run, outlast rival Timbers in victory (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  After a 2-1 win against the Portland Timbers, the Cascadia Cup belongs to the Seattle Sounders, and so do three points. Having not won in the last four, the three points, although not hoisted like the cup following the game, are sweeter than any silverware. Seattle, with seven regular-season games left to play, need every point they can get to remain second behind a historic LAFC. Raul Ruidiaz, scoreless throughout the aforementioned run, proved to be the difference, with one goal and assist throughout the night. The Timbers, who hang on by a thread in the playoff race, fell back on Diego Valeri’s genius in the second half, but it wasn’t enough this time around. They remain in the seventh spot with 37 points.

Three moments that mattered

10′ — Cristian Roldan opens the scoreline — Awkward assist from Ruidiaz, simple tap-in from Roldan.

60′ — Ruidiaz makes it 2-0  — Chances are Ruidiaz will score inside the box on a first-time strike.

54′ — Valeri gives Portland life — We’ve seen him do better before, but Valeri likes to show up against the Sounders.

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Man of the match: Raul Ruidiaz

Goalscorers: Roldan (60′), Ruidiaz (47′), Valeri (54′)

Portland topples Seattle 2-1 in first playoff leg

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The Seattle Sounders knew their 2-seed meant nothing in a Cascadia matchup between two heated rivals. The Sounders took an early lead but squandered that not long after and slumped to a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Major League Soccer playoff matchup.

Still, the early strike could prove valuable as the Sounders head home with an away goal as Christian Roldan somehow squirted a cross through the legs of Bill Tuiloma just 10 minutes in and found Raul Ruidiaz who roofed it with the side of his foot at the near post.

[ MORE: Columbus tops NY Red Bulls 1-0 ]

That proved valuable as the Sounders struggled to contain Portland on the counter, which would prove fruitful for the hosts seven minutes later. On the run, Diego Valeri threaded in Jeremy Ebobisse who dinked it over a charging Stefan Frei. With the scoreline all tied up, Seattle continued to control possession, but coughed it up on the break again on the half-hour mark.

Valeri somehow found a gap straight down the heart of the Seattle defense and while his run was finally stopped by Chad Marshall at the penalty spot, it trickled to Sebastian Blanco who stepped past a defender onto his left foot and awkwardly skidded the ball across the face and inside the far post.

There was little of note in the second half, as Portland locked things down. Seattle maintained 56% possession throughout the match and out-passed Portland 531-425, but could only muster nine shots, three on target. The Sounders now head back home with a valuable away goal but still with work to do. In their only meeting at CenturyLink Field during the regular season, Portland took home a 3-2 win on a 74th minute Larrys Mabiala goal.