Major League Soccer

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Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

Rooney lambasts MLS over domestic salaries

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It is quite clear Wayne Rooney is leaving Major League Soccer in December to head back to England.

Before he leaves for a player-coach role at Derby County, he’s hellbent on having his say. He is keen to air some grievances.

Like a free-spirited floor manager who is working out his notice before moving on, Rooney has once again taken a shot at MLS. This time he has hit out over salaries domestic players in the U.S. and Canada receive.

In an interview with ESPN, Rooney, 33, doubled down after his recent criticism of travel issues regarding charter flights not being available for all away trips.

“I feel that American players get underpaid,” Rooney said. “I feel they deserve to get more money to stay in line with football in the rest of the world and in terms of the American sports. I’m not saying it to benefit me, I obviously won’t be in the league next season. I think it’s only fair to those players who are putting in the same work as all have to earn the right to earn more money for doing it.”

Has Rooney got a point? He has, but it is a complex area to delve in to.

With more money set aside in recent seasons for Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), it is easier for MLS franchises to spend more money on overseas additions, and they often do that rather than use it on domestic players.

If you are a non-Designated Player in MLS, the maximum salary you can earn is $10,192-a-week. Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others clearly don’t have to worry about their salary as DPs, but it is commendable that they are lending their voices to the cause. Rooney could just sit their and take his DP salary, but he’s not. So, he’s obviously seen something that needs to be addressed.

Do MLS players deserve to be paid higher? Of course. But it is still a growing league and is far away from the average salary in Europe’s top leagues. The average wage in MLS is around $7,000 per week, while in the Premier League it is around $70,000 per week.

With MLS expanding to new markets and attracting new interest from all over the globe, you’d expect the players who helped make the league what it is, the veteran U.S. and Canadian players, to be rewarded for their loyalty. But in the current system, it doesn’t work like that.

Why is Rooney speaking out now? The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) runs out on Jan. 31, 2020 and there is talk of a strike unless more charter flights and freedom of movement between MLS teams is granted.

Given his profile, having Rooney lead the charge makes sense. Expect to hear a lot more about the MLS’ upcoming CBA talks with the MLS Players Association (MLSPA).

Galaxy hammer Sporting KC; Zlatan: ‘I’m the best ever in MLS’

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LA Galaxy smashed Sporting Kansas City 7-2 on Sunday, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick then called himself the best player in MLS history.

Just a casual Sunday for Zlatan, then…

Ibrahimovic, 37, scored a hat trick as LA raced into a 7-1 lead after falling 1-0 behind early on as Felipe Gutierrez scored both of Sporting’s goals.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Ibrahimovic was typically humble after his hat trick which means he now holds the record for the highest scoring season in Galaxy history with 26 goals.

“I think I am the best ever to play in MLS. And that’s without joking,” Ibrahimovic said. “Scoring goals is easy, you just have to be like Zlatan and it’s coming.”

Zlatan is now two goals behind Carlos Vela in the race for the Golden Boot in MLS with four games remaining, and he’s now scored 48 goals in 52 games since arriving in MLS.

Joe Corona, Uriel Antuna and Sebastian Lletget grabbed the Galaxy’s other goals as they won for the first time in five MLS games to boost their chances of making the playoffs in the congested Western Conference.

With the defeat Sporting KC’s hopes of reaching the playoffs is all but over.

Check out the highlights in full below. It will take quite a while to sort through the nine goals, so set down and soak in Zlatan’s brilliance.

MLS: Battling for playoff seeding or a berth, it’s desperation season

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With five weeks to go, the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs field is beginning to take shape. Realistically, there are just two spots — one in each conference — still up for grabs…

[ MORE: Chicago Fire announce sale of club, stadium move to Soldier Field ]

Playoff positioning

New York City FC v. San Jose Earthquakes — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET

For NYCFC, home-field advantage through the Eastern Conference final is on the line. Domenec Torrent’s side sits three points clear of second-place Philadelphia and six up on Atlanta, who have a game in hand. Unbeaten in their last six games (five wins), NYCFC appear to be peaking at precisely the right point in the season. San Jose’s up-and-down season has led them to this point: two points above the playoff cut line with precious little security given the Western Conference’s general volatility.

Portland Timbers v. D.C. United — Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Portland’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Sporting KC last weekend put Gio Savarese’s side on the right side of the playoff cut line, but only be a point. Riding back-to-back victories against fellow playoff hopefuls, the Timbers could end the weekend anywhere from second place to eighth place. DCU, on the other hand, desperately need to break out of their worst run of results all season. Ben Olsen’s side has won just two of their last eight games (five losses) and is in real danger of finishing fifth or lower, meaning no home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference.

Minnesota United v. Real Salt Lake — Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET

Speaking of desperate needs, Minnesota must bounce back from a disastrous 2-0 defeat in Houston on Wednesday, otherwise they could be the team that finds itself suddenly in eighth come weekend’s end. Adrian Heath’s side has just one win from its last four games and has shown signs of running out of gas in recent weeks. Losing the U.S. Open Cup in heartbreaking fashion won’t have helped their psyche one bit, and now they have to right the ship against second-place RSL, who could fall as far as seventh if everything goes against them this weekend.

[ MORE: Report: LAFC hot in pursuit of Juventus, Croatia star Mario Mandzukic ]

Playoff places

LA Galaxy v. Sporting Kansas City — Sunday, 10 p.m. ET

The weekend’s final game pits perhaps the league’s two most desperate teams against one another. The Galaxy sit just a point outside the West’s seventh and final playoff place, but Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side has been anything but convincing in recent weeks with just one win from their last eight games (five losses). To miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the roster, would be one of the biggest failures in recent memory. And then there’s Sporting KC, who are six points out of seventh and have to run the table in their final five games just to have a chance of reaching the playoffs for the ninth straight year (second-longest active streak, behind Seattle).

Report: LAFC hot in pursuit of Juventus, Croatia star Mandzukic

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The rich are (reportedly) about to get much richer.

[ MORE: Chicago Fire announce sale of club, stadium move to Soldier Field ]

Los Angeles FC, the team set to claim the MLS Supporters’ Shield by a record margin in the next few weeks, are in “advanced negotiations” with star Juventus and Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic, according to a report from Sky Sport Italia.

Because, if there is a team that needs to add a veteran of two World Cups and two European Championships with 33 career international goals to his name, it is the team that needs 10 more goals (in five games) to break the league’s single-season goals record. Mandzukic retired from the national team shortly after helping Croatia to final of the 2018 World Cup. He scored three goals during the tournament, including one each in the semifinals and final.

[ MORE: Lionel Messi still out injured, makes cryptic comments about future ]

According to the report, Mandzukic, who Juventus desperately tried to sell during the recently completed transfer window, has received a few gaudy offers from clubs in Qatar, but it would appear that the 33-year-old feels he still has more to give in a more competitive league. Mandzukic’s highly productive career has taken him from NK Zagreb and Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia, to Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich in Germany, to Juventus in Italy.

While Mandzukic has not appeared in either of Juve’s two competitive fixtures this season and they would be happy to move his salary off the books tomorrow, MLS’s secondary transfer window recently closed as well, therefore he wouldn’t be able to join LAFC until preseason 2020.

12 months from now, we might be counting down the goals needed for LAFC to break their own record.