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DCU beats FCD late, takes over East’s final playoff spot

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The game in 200 words (or less): With four games still to play in the regular season, it’s looking more and more likely D.C. United will complete their unlikely comeback to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference, thus sneaking into the playoffs as the red-hot team with momentum that no one wants to play. Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Western Conference-leading FC Dallas put Ben Olsen’s side into the sixth spot, with a game in hand on now-seventh-place Montreal Impact. 13 points out of the playoffs (and last place in the East) before Audi Field opened on July 14, Wayne Rooney has received a healthy share of credit for the turnaround, but it’s the breakout performances of two players in particular — Luciano Acosta (8 goals, 9 assists since the end of July) and Russell Canouse (defensive work rate mixed with a stellar passing percentage in central midfield), most notably — which have elevated the Black and Red to their current standing. Canouse bagged the only goal of the game on Saturday, when it was just beginning to look like United would lose a bit of their momentum on home soil.

[ MORE: Crew SC to remain in Columbus under new ownership ]

Three moments that mattered

2′ — Rooney pulls his shot wide early on — The first touch let him down a bit, which made the subsequent corralling, not to mention the actually shooting, of the ball all the more difficult.

62′ — Gonzalez tips Rooney’s free kick wide — Inches from the opening goal.

86′ — Canouse turns a mad scramble into a goal — No one in a white shirt could get near the ball, therefore no one in a white shirt could clear the ball from danger. Canouse got a second crack at it after his first effort his the crossbar.

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Man of the match: Russell Canouse

Goalscorers: Canouse (86′)

MLS roundup: DCU, Galaxy win big in quest for playoffs

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Saturday’s biggest winners in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs race: D.C. United, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy; and the losers: Montreal Impact, Los Angeles FC and New York City FC.

[ MORE: MLS to consider lowering maximum of DPs in 2019 ]

D.C. United 5-0 Montreal ImpactFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s go back in time three months, when D.C. United were last in the Eastern Conference and more than a dozen points out of the sixth and final playoff place. Wayne Rooney made his MLS debut a few days later, Luciano Acosta morphed into perhaps the best no. 10 in all of MLS and Audi Field opened — all in the span of two whirlwind weeks.

Fast-forward to Saturday’s 5-0 hammering of sixth-place Montreal Impact, and now Ben Olsen’s side sits just two points out of a playoff place with five games left to play (two more than Montreal). Rooney and Acosta continue to terrorize opposition defenses on a regular basis (the duo has combined for an absurd 14 goals and 13 assists over the last 10 games) and the defense is suddenly solid enough (multiple goals conceded just once in the last five).

Rooney scored twice on Saturday and Acosta bagged a goal of his own — to go with two from Paul Arriola. Acosta tallied a hat trick of assists along with a single helper from Rooney. Montreal self-destructed, to be sure, but it was certainly a byproduct of United’s increasingly aggressive tactics which heaped worlds of pressure on them from the opening whistle. When Rooney’s playing passes like this — simple as it may seem, it’s so rarely the ball chosen in MLS — there’s not much you can do to limit his impact on the game.

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Colorado RapidsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Seattle won nine games in a row to drag themselves out of a D.C.-like hole dug in the spring and early summer. They followed that run up with a pair of disappointing defeats to Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy. A visit from Colorado Rapids was exactly what the doctor ordered, though, as Raul Ruidiaz (times two), Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez all got themselves a goal in their 4-0 triumph at CenturyLink Field.

It was enough to temporarily leapfrog Portland Timbers on tiebreakers for fourth in the West before Portland drew with FC Dallas later in the day to reclaim fourth.

Chicago Fire 3-1 Los Angeles FCFULL HIGHLIGHTS

LAFC had a golden opportunity to leapfrog Sporting Kansas City for second place in the Western Conference and apply some real pressure in the race for a knockout-round bye with a win against Chicago, who have already been eliminated from the playoffs.

Djordje Mihailovic scored a stunning volley for his first goal of the season (second of his career), but Diego Rossi did his best to upstage the 19-year-old for goal of the game/day.

LA Galaxy 3-0 Vancouver WhitecapsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

The 2018 season has been one to forget for the Galaxy — from their their own struggles due in large part to a disastrous series of transfer windows, to the dismissal of Sigi Schmid as head coach, to the arrival and successes of LAFC — but somehow they’re within a single point of the final playoff place in the West (though they have played one game more than RSL) following following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Vancouver.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as has been the case for much of the season, willed the Galaxy to victory with a brace to bring his season tally to 20 goals (in just 24 appearances).

Elsewhere in MLS action

Columbus Crew SC 0-0 Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC 4-1 New England Revolution
Minnesota United 2-1 New York City FC
Houston Dynamo 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers 0-0 FC Dallas

Sunday’s MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake — 5 p.m. ET

FOLLOW LIVE: DCU host Montreal in race for 6th; Portland vs. FCD

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The end of the 2018 MLS regular season is officially under one month away — by one day, to be exact — which means it’s now or never for teams currently sitting either side of the playoff cut line.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: 7 games in MLS, beginning at 7 p.m. ET ]

D.C. United were bottom of the Western Conference — more than a dozen points out of the sixth and final playoff place — in mid-July, prior to the arrival of Wayne Rooney. Since Rooney’s debut, not only has England’s all-time leading scorer been the catalyst for the Red and Black’s unlikely turnaround, but midfielder Luciano Acosta has put up superstar numbers for two and a half months: seven goals and six assists in DCU’s last 11 games. They enter Saturday’s titanic clash with sixth-place Montreal Impact just five points below the playoff cut line, and could be as close as two when the final whistle blows at Audi Field

Over in the Western Conference, Saturday’s headliner is the final game of the day. FC Dallas reclaimed first place from Sporting Kansas City last week, and hope to apply all the world’s pressure before Sporting KC take the field on Sunday. A win over Portland Timbers would extend their lead to five points over Sporting. On the other side, Portland have slipped to fifth in the West — now behind the late-charging Seattle Sounders — and sit just two points ahead of Real Salt Lake, Sporting’s opponent on Sunday.

Tonight’s full MLS schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union — 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. New York City FC — 8 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 8:30 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas — 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday’s MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake — 5 p.m. ET

Report: FCD’s Pareja interviewed for vacant USMNT job

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Earnie Stewart said earlier this month that he intends to hire the next U.S. men’s national team head coach by the end of the 2018 calendar year, which means the USMNT general manager needs to get a move on.

[ MORE: USMNT, Schalke MF McKennie injures leg in loss to Bayern ]

According to a report from the Dallas Morning News, the interview process is underway after FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja was interviewed by U.S. Soccer representatives — the report doesn’t list Stewart specifically — while in Vancouver ahead of the Hoops’ MLS game against Vancouver Whitecaps.

Pareja is someone who has been rumored and coveted as a long-term candidate for USMNT boss, largely due to his preference for, and history of, working with and playing young talent with the first team.

[ MORE: Walker Zimmerman has interest from Premier League, Europe ]

FC Dallas released the following statement following Monday’s report:

“The entire FC Dallas organization, including Oscar Pareja and his coaching staff, is solely focused on finishing the MLS regular season strong and putting us in the best position possible for a long playoff run.”

FOLLOW LIVE: Sounders go for 9 straight wins; TFC’s last stand?

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Saturday night’s slate of MLS fixtures gets under way at 7:30 p.m. ET, when Toronto FC begin what can only be described as their last chance at securing a 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs berth, at home against LA Galaxy. With seven games remaining, Greg Vanney’s side — the defending champions — trail Montreal Impact by nine points. D.C. United and New England Revolution must also be leapfrogged in the process, meaning TFC sit ninth in the Eastern Conference halfway through the month of September.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: 8 games in MLS, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET ]

Later in the evening, the Western Conference’s top three seeds — FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles FC, in that order, for now — are all in action. FCD will host Columbus Crew SC at 8 p.m. ET; Sporting KC will visit San Jose Earthquakes at 10:30 p.m. ET; LAFC will host New England in the same late-night time slot.

The last time Brian Schmetzer’s Seattle Sounders lost a game was June 30. That was a dozen games ago. Since then, the Sounders have won nine of 11, including the last eight in a row. The two-time defending West champs go for nine straight against their Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver Whitecaps at 10 p.m. ET.

Click the link above to follow along in real-time, and check back with PST early Sunday morning for a full recap of all of the action.

Tonight’s full MLS schedule

Toronto FC vs. LA Galaxy — 7:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas vs. Columbus Crew SC — 8 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers — 8:30 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United — 9:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders — 10 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Sporting Kansas City — 10:30 p.m. ET
Los Angeles FC vs. New England Revolution — 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday’s MLS schedule

D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls — 1 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City SC — 5 p.m. ET