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DCU win again, look like genuine playoff contenders

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The game in 200 words (or less): No individual — other than Ben Olsen, perhaps — has benefitted from the arrival of Wayne Rooney at D.C. United more so than Luciano Acosta. Through his first 82 games in MLS, Acosta managed to rack up nine goals and 23 assists — a healthy enough haul considering the lack of quality around him since day one in 2016. Still, the frustration and unhappiness were plain to see, every time the Argentine playmaker’s teammates weren’t able to link up or finish one of his brilliant through balls. In United’s last five games (Acosta has played 438 of 450 minutes), including Sunday’s 2-0 win over the 10-man New England Revolution: four goals and three assists. Of course, United, as a whole, have benefitted greatly, too. Their record in Rooney’s eight games: 5W-1D-2L (prior to his debut, the Black and Red won just two of 14 games). Olsen and Co., have risen from last place in the Eastern Conference and reach the dizzying heights of eighth place, where they are now just six points back of fifth and sixth place — a de facto impossibility just a month ago, when they had just 10 points to their name and were 13 off the pace of sixth.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez ties MLS record with 27th goal in 2018 ]

Three moments that mattered

13′ — Acosta finishes with aplomb at the back post — The three Revs defenders, who let the ball run across the face of goal without making any attempt to play or clear it, could have done just about anything else and it would have been preferable to what they did.

73′ — Caldwell gets a second yellow, Revs down to 10 — Scott Caldwell didn’t need to run into Junior Moreno a full second or two after the ball was away, but he did so anyway. No advantage to gain from the “challenge,” and Caldwell’s teammates had to finish the game a man short.

89′ — Stieber gets in behind, makes it 2-0 — Rooney had skied a nearly identical chance just seconds earlier, leaving it up to Zoltan Stieber to put the game to bed.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Luciano Acosta

Goalscorers: Acosta (13′), Stieber (89′)

Josef Martinez ties MLS record with 27th goal in 2018 (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Josef Martinez isn’t quite the single-season MLS goals king, though he will be very soon after tying the league’s all-time mark on Sunday. Martinez bagged the opening goal in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over Columbus Crew SC to take his 2018 tally to 27 goals (tying Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips, chronologically). The calendar still says August, by the way. Atlanta — and Martinez — have played just 25 games this season, meaning Martinez could very well take his tally into the mid-30s. It’s a record that could stand for quite some time, should MLS stick with the current 34-game regular-season schedule. Back to the game itself, Gyasi Zardes brought Columbus level five minutes into the second half, but Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron — just two of Atlanta’s other dynamite South American attackers — each bagged a goal inside the game’s final 15 minutes to push Tata Martino’s side, which is now unbeaten is six league games (four wins, two draws), back atop the Supporters’ Shield race. Their lead is currently three points, though the second-place New York Red Bulls have a game in hand and would retake the top spot (on the wins tiebreaker) with a win over third-place New York City FC on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Report: David Moyes could become new USMNT boss ]

Three moments that mattered

31′ — Gressel sets up Martinez to tie the record — Martinez is lethal enough as a goal scorer without the opposition lazily giving the ball away inside their own half. When they do that, as Harrison Afful does here, there’s not much sense in trying to stop the Venezuelan.

76′ — Villalba goes and goes, until he scores — No one felt it necessary to step up to Villalba and make a legitimate challenge for the ball as he weaved his way roughly 50 yards across the field before tucking his left-footed strike — the game-winner — inside the far post.

82′ — Almiron hits ATL’s third, from distance — Martinez, hunting the record-breaking goal, could have so easily done the selfish thing and taken the ill-advised shot from 20 yards here, but instead he held the ball up, waited for the late-arriving run of Almiron and teed up the Paraguayan to put the game out of reach.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Hector Villalba

Goalscorers: Martinez (31′), Zardes (50′), Villalba (76′), Almiron (82′)

Report: David Villa’s NYCFC tenure will end this season

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According to a report by Spanish outlet AS, NYCFC is not planning to renew David Villa’s contract at the end of this season.

Villa has become one of the most decorated Designated Players in Major League Soccer history since arriving in 2014, scoring 74 goals over the course of his NYCFC career. Villa won the 2016 MLS MVP and finished one goal behind Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips in the scoring rankings that season. He then came up two goals short of the 2017 Golden Boot order behind Nemanja Nikolic.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Week 2 picks ]

The report states that, at 36 years old, Villa could potentially contemplate retirement at the end of the season, having already hung up his international boots four years ago just two caps shy of the 100 mark. According to the report, NYCFC could potentially offer him a front office role, either as a coach or executive.

Villa has missed some time this season due to injury, with knee problems sidelining him for three matches early in the campaign and a knee injury troubling him of late, but he played 71 minutes last weekend against Toronto and scored the opening goal, and is apparently good to go this weekend against Philadelphia. Despite the injuries, Villa is still second on NYCFC in scoring with nine goals, one behind Ismael Tajouri-Shradi for the team lead.

The Spaniard’s career has seen him win titles at the highest level, with a Euro 2008 victory, a World Cup title in 2010, a Champions League victory in 2010/11 with Barcelona, and La Liga championships with both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

Report: La Liga regular season matches in U.S. not a done deal

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That announcement from La Liga and Relevant Sports regarding league games coming to the United States?

Despite every reason to trust the league as a major authority on the matter, that’s a bit premature.

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre says that the Spanish players union has yet to agree to such a move, and that it’s unclear whether La Liga’s clubs are all on board.

In fact, there’s a laundry list of parties — including MLS commissioner Don Garber and the United States Soccer Federation — who could get in the way of it. From Yahoo:

And even if FIFA did greenlight the plan, others could still stop it. CONCACAF, which oversees the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean, has the jurisdiction to say no. CONCACAF has in the past balked at the idea of teams from the English Premier League and Mexico’s Liga MX playing meaningful games on U.S. soil. Both of those circuits have since essentially abandoned the idea. UEFA, Europe’s governing body, would also have to approve any deal that involved teams from Spain or any other European country.

Money sure talks, and certainly CONCACAF, MLS, and the USSF might be moved by it, but the more you read into it, the longer the odds.

Orlando City add Peruvian international centerback Ascues on loan

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Orlando City may finally have an answer for its leaky defense all season.

The club announced the loan signing of centerback Carlos Ascues, reportedly after his exit clause was triggered while playing for Peruvian giants Alianza Lima. Born in Venezuela to Peruvian parents, Ascues has made 21 appearances for the full Peruvian National Team, including playing every minute of action during the team’s 2015 run to the Copa America semifinals. Ascues joins fellow Peruvian Yoshi Yotun on Orlando City’s squad.

Ascues’ performances at the Copa America earned him a contract in the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg, but he failed to make the grade and ended up returning to his former club Melgar. Only in the last eight months has he found his form again for Lima, but his decision to return home drew the ire from Peru National Team manager Ricardo “El Tigre” Gareca.

Ascues comes to Orlando in a desperate time for the club. The club has continued its poor defensive displays even under new coach James O’Connor, who now holds a record of 1-5-1, with 20 goals allowed in that span. Lamine Sane, signed from Werder Bremen in February, hasn’t played under O’Connor and it appears the club were looking for an international-level player. Despite the end of the transfer window in early August, it appears that Orlando City was able to push this deal through with the help of FIFA.

“Carlos brings valuable experience from Europe and South America. He fits the profile we’re looking for in a defender, and we also value his versatility to be able to play in the midfield,” Lions general manager Niki Budalic said. “We welcome him to Orlando and look forward to his contributions.”

Should Ascues prove a good signing, Orlando City has the option to keep him on loan for the 2019 season. It won’t be easy for Ascues to quickly adjust to MLS, considering it’s a new language and culture, but he has 10 games left to make a difference and possibly even get Orlando City into the playoffs.