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Record crowd sees ATLUTD cruise past Zlatan-less Galaxy (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): It’s tough to win on the road when you concede a pair of own goals before halftime, a lesson duly noted by the LA Galaxy as Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side was handily beaten by defending champions Atlanta United in front of a regular-season record crowd of 72,548 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The visitors were without superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspended) and managed just four shots on targets over 90 minutes (all four came inside the game’s opening 25 minutes). After starting the season slowly under new head coach Frank De Boer, have turned things around and summited the Eastern Conference standings. LA, meanwhile, have just three wins from their last eight games (five losses) and could tumble from third to fifth place in the Western Conference before the weekend is over.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

23′ — Pity forces the own goal by Romney — Own goal no. 1.

43′ — Josef lurks and forces Gonzalez into a desperate situation — Own goal no. 2.

72′ — Martinez ties his own record with a penalty kick — Josef Martinez showed lingering effects of his tragic penalty attempt of two weeks ago.

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Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Romney (23′ – OG), Gonzalez (43′ – OG), Martinez (72′ – PK)

FOLLOW: ATLUTD host LA Galaxy to begin 9-game MLS Saturday

Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Saturday’s slate of MLS fixtures is set to kick off in just under an hour, and the big matchup of the day comes flying out of the starting gate right away: Atlanta United (second place, Eastern Conference) hosting LA Galaxy (third place, Western Conference) in front of an expected crowd of 70,000 fans inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 8 hours ]

The visitors will be without superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspended), though the big Swede might have sat this one out anyway due to the artificial turf playing surface in Atlanta, making the already uphill battle that much tougher. Efrain Alvarez and Diego Polenta are also suspended, leaving Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side somewhat shorthanded to face the defending champions.

The two hottest teams in MLS, New England Revolution (11 games unbeaten) and San Jose Earthquakes (one defeat in 11 games), are also in action on Saturday. The Revs will host runaway Supporters’ Shield leaders Los Angeles FC in the biggest test of Bruce Arena’s tenure to date, while Matias Almeyda’s Quakes will host a quickly sinking Columbus Crew SC side (eight losses in 12 games, including 10 without a win).

Hit the link above to follow along with all of the day’s action, and check back on PST throughout the day for recaps and highlights of the most consequential matchups.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. LA Galaxy — 5 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls v. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. Los Angeles FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. FC Dallas — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. Vancouver Whitecaps 8 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo v. Chicago Fire — 9 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids v. Montreal Impact — 9 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Columbus Crew SC — 10 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake v. New York City FC — 10 p.m. ET

MLS Weekend Preview: Prairie dog plague hits Rapids game

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Well, this is not where we believed we’d begin the Major League Soccer weekend preview, but such is life after the All-Star Game, we guess.

The Colorado Rapids had to cancel a fireworks display and restrict stadium parking for Saturday’s match against Montreal due to, wait for it, the plague.

[ MORE: Newcastle adds Ligue 1 stat star ]

Prairie dog colonies in the area are dealing with plague-infested fleas, and authorities think it’s wise to keep the tailgating on asphalt lots.

As for the fireworks, fleas love fireworks. Kidding, of course. Our best wishes to the people of Colorado for safety and health.

Atlanta United v. LA Galaxy – 5 p.m. ET Saturday

Already across the country, the Galaxy won’t have Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the fold due to yellow card accumulation against a Five Stripes team which hasn’t lost at home since April.

Atlanta is three points off the top of the East and is a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinalist. It also has the Campeones Cup against Club America later this month.

“We want to improve and want to be on top of every game and at the end also on top of the league, especially in our conference at the end of the season,” de Boer said, via AJC.com. “It’s our goal. It’s looking right. We are a team, and we want to be a top team. That means we want to play our best every week.  That’s how top teams work.”

New York Red Bulls v. Toronto FC – 6 p.m. ET Saturday

Both TFC and RBNY are in the thick of the race for the top spot in the East despite lengthy dry spells during this campaign.

Saturday’s match at Red Bull Arena will have the big names to provide fireworks (and probably no prairie dogs): Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kaku… it should be a beauty.

Toronto is seven points out of first and two back of the Red Bulls heading into Saturday’s match.

The rest

New England v. LAFC – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Orlando v. FC Dallas – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday
FC Cincinnati v. Vancouver Whitecaps – 8 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado v. Montreal – 9 p.m. ET Saturday
Houston v. Chicago – 9 p.m. ET Saturday
Real Salt Lake v. NYCFC – 10 p.m. ET Saturday
San Jose v. Columbus – 10 p.m. ET Saturday
Minnesota United v. Portland – 4 p.m. ET Sunday
DC United v. Philadelphia – 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday
Seattle v. Sporting KC – 10 p.m. ET Sunday

MLS Notes: Inter Miami announces first signings

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David Beckham’s club has a name, logo, new stadium, and finally, now, players.

Inter Miami CF announced on Friday its first two official signings, and both are Argentina teenagers. First comes 19-year-old Matias Pellegrini, who joined in a transfer from Estudiantes de la Plata and is signed as a Young Designated Player. Second came Julian Carranza, who joined in a transfer from Banfield. Both players have been loaned back to their Argentine clubs until January 2020, when they join the MLS side for preseason training.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

“It’s important for us that we found young, exciting attacking players that are on the upside of their career and have the potential to be really good players in this league,” Inter Miami CF Sporting Director Paul McDonough said in a statement. “We will continue to build and add quality players that are the right fit for our Club. We started with youth, but we know it’s also important to have veteran players who come from both overseas and within the league to balance out the roster over time.

“Both Julián and Matías showed us they really wanted to take the next step of their career with Inter Miami CF. We liked that Pellegrini can play inside and out wide, has very good aerobic capacity and can cover a lot of ground, while Julián is a very grounded player with an impressive work rate. He’s the player that strives to score goals and is very good in the box.”

Both players have featured for Argentine youth national teams, and are the latest in a constant pipeline of young Argentina players heading to MLS. It’s obviously unclear and a bit too early to know exactly what to expect from the two players in MLS, but if they’re anything like Diego Rossi and other recent new Young Designated Player acquisitions, they should be players to keep an eye on moving forward.

Here are some more transfer stories from across MLS:


Report: Galaxy inch closer to $18 million Pavon transfer

Guillermo Barros Schelotto is reportedly on the verge of completing a massive transfer to bring in one of his former players.

Fox Sports Argentina reported on Friday that it would take $18 million for the LA Galaxy to sign Boca Juniors winger Cristian Pavon. According to the report, the transfer is supposed to be wrapped up in the next few hours.

The 23-year-old started for Argentina at the last World Cup and has been linked for years with a move to Europe.

While it’s a massive investment by the Galaxy, it may be one that will be hard to be recouped one day. Pavon has really struggled over the past 12 months. From struggling at the World Cup, Pavon in 2019 has mostly been used off the bench in important Copa Libertadores matches, just starting in Superliga games and becoming a bit of an afterthought.

For Boca, to sell a backup for $18 million would be a coup.

Zlatan tired of criticism, says he feels ‘hunted’

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic feels as if he has played with a target on his back during his time in Major League Soccer, and that he doesn’t get the same treatment as other players in the league.

After being officially warned for an elbow to the side of Mohamed El-Munir’s head during LA Galaxy’s 3-2 win over LAFC, Ibrahimovic wants to be judged on the whole of his resume and not for every minute detail of his game.

“I feel like I am hunted,” Ibrahimovic told ESPN. “But when you are the best, you’re hunted. That I feel a little bit hunted in that way, that is not OK, because I play my game and I need to feel free in my game and not feel after the game people will look at me and look [at the] detail at everything I do.”

As the highest paid player in the league, Ibrahimovic will obviously have eyes on his every move, but he feels the concept of a Disciplinary Committee to punish players after the fact is excessive.

“That is not part of the game,” Ibrahimovic said. “We have a referee, the referee does his thing. If it goes beyond that, I understand, we have this Disciplinary Committee, but [what is] worse than [being] reviewed every game? I’m professional like everybody else. I should get treated like everybody else. If they cannot stop you on the field, that’s it, you cannot do nothing about it.”

The argument is an odd one from Ibrahimovic, as most leagues around the world have some form of judicial panel meant to apply suspensions and enforce rules that were either missed on the field or require further, more excessive punishment. In the Premier League, where Ibrahimovic played at Manchester United, the FA has a committee to dish out post-match punishment and suspensions.

Still, Ibrahimovic was blunt when it comes to extra punishment off the field. “If you try to do something outside [the field], that for me is not part of the game. That is not professional.”

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