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MLS Preview: Rooney, D.C. United looking to keep pace atop East

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Major League Soccer closes out the month of March with a number of intriguing matchups, including a Cascadia Cup battle, a chance for FC Cincinnati to set a new MLS expansion record, and D.C. United hosting former teammate Nani and Orlando City.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

In addition, six teams remain unbeaten: Los Angeles FC, the Seattle Sounders, and the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference and D.C. United, Toronto FC and New York City FC in the Eastern Conference.

Here’s a look at some of the top storylines for MLS Week 5:


Orlando City v. D.C. United — Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Wayne Rooney and D.C. United have quietly had a strong start to the 2019 MLS season. D.C. already has wins over both Atlanta United and Real Salt Lake, two playoff teams from a year ago, and comes into this weekend’s matchup with a week to rest. In addition to the seven goals scored in three games is the fact that D.C. United hasn’t allowed a single goal yet. Meanwhile, Orlando is coming off a confidence-building win on the road at the New York Red Bulls, with Sacha Kljestan scoring and Nani making his debut. Now returning home, Orlando City is looking to record another victory and end D.C. United’s unbeaten start.


Columbus Crew v. Atlanta United — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Coming off a bye week, Atlanta United looks to secure it’s first win of the season with a trip to the Columbus Crew. It’s been a rough start to the season for Atlanta United, with struggles in both MLS and earlier in CONCACAF Champions League play. Atlanta United has missed Miguel Almiron but perhaps even bigger, it’s missed manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino. New manager Frank De Boer hasn’t yet figured out his best team, but he may get a good chance to see that against Columbus.

Caleb Porter’s side suffered a surprising 3-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union last week and starting goalkeeper Zack Steffan is recovering from an injury that kept him out of U.S. Men’s National Team camp. Perhaps it could be the first sign of cracks in a Crew side struggling for goals.

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Seattle Sounders are off to a strong start, but the Cascadia Cup can bring out the best in the underdog. Vancouver is winless, 0-3 to start the season while the Sounders are the opposite. Jordan Morris has made a successful recovery from injury while Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro look as good as ever. In Vancouver, with all its offseason changes, it is taking time for their new signings to all gel together. However, Saturday’s game could set a fun new record. Whitecaps designated player In-Beom Hwang could face Sounders midfielder Kim Kee-Hee in what would be a high-profile dual between the two South Korean stars.

Full MLS Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday

Toronto FC v. New York City FC – 8 p.m.

Saturday

Chicago Fire v. New York Red Bulls – 1 p.m.

New England Revolution v. Minnesota United – 2 p.m.

Sporting KC v. Montreal Impact – 3 p.m.

San Jose Earthquakes v. LAFC – 3:30 p.m.

FC Cincinnati v. Philadelphia Union – 7:30 p.m.

Columbus Crew v. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.

Colorado Rapids v. Houston Dynamo – 9 p.m.

Real Salt Lake v. FC Dallas – 9 p.m.

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m.

Sunday

Orlando City v. D.C. United – 6 p.m.

LA Galaxy v. Portland Timbers – 9 p.m.

Nani arrives in MLS, signs for Orlando City

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Nani has arrived in Major League Soccer.

Orlando City SC announced the Portugal national team star has arrived from Sporting Lisbon on a free transfer and has signed a three-year deal as a Designated Player.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Nani, 32, will be a huge draw for Orlando as they look to get things back on track after a rough few years in MLS.

Speaking about Nani’s move to MLS with Orlando, EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi was delighted to welcome the experienced attacker.

“This is an exciting day for our organization,” said O. “Nani brings tremendous experience to our roster. He’s a dynamic winger with quality abilities to move and cross the ball, impact games and lead the offensive play.”

The former Manchester United, Fenerbache, Valencia and Lazio winger won the 2016 European Championships with Portugal and appeared at the 2014 World Cup for his national team. USMNT fans will remember his goal against the U.S. in Manaus…

Nani has scored 24 goals in 112 games for Portugal and although his arrival isn’t as big as Kaka leading Orlando in their first three seasons as a franchise, he is a huge get for a team which hasn’t made the playoffs in their four MLS campaigns and finished way off the pace in each of the last two years in the Eastern Conference.

Manager James O’Connor has a mix of youth and experience in this Orlando squad but he must make a fast start in 2019 after winning just two of his 17 games after arriving midway through the 2018 campaign.

Orlando need a total rebuild and Nani’s arrival should shake things up a little, even if a veteran winger may only solve a few of their problems for a few seasons.

Reports: Ex-Manchester United winger Nani to MLS

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TFW the Sporting Lisbon player to MLS report you posted earlier isn’t even the most notable Sporting Lisbon player to MLS report in a 24-hour period.

Sure, Fredy Montero is likely to return to Vancouver, bringing a two-time MLS All Star resume with him.

But Nani won the EURO and the Champions League, you know?

Multiple reports say Nani, 32, will join Orlando City this summer, giving the club its biggest star since the retirement of Kaka.

The longtime Manchester United man has 112 caps with 24 goals for Portugal — including a goal against the USMNT at the 2014 World Cup — and has won six leagues between the Premier League and Portugal’s top flight.

He can also count the 2007-08 Champions League title on his resume, as well as Portugual’s EURO 2016 crown. He scored three times in that run.

Arsenal top Sporting Lisbon for 11th-straight win

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  • Leno faces zero shots in clean sheet
  • Both teams attempt 14 shots
  • Welbeck scores winner

Arsenal picked up three points through an opportunistic Danny Welbeck in a 1-0 win Europa League win at Sporting Lisbon on Thursday.

The Gunners played a solid if unspectacular away match in their toughest test of the group stage.

Arsenal leads Group E with nine points, three points better than Sporting Lisbon and six clear of Vorskla Poltava.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]

Sporting keeper Renan Ribeiro had more to do than his Arsenal counterpart in the first stanza of the game, but the Portuguese hosts did come to life as the half wore on.

Nani whizzed a shot over the goal at the half-hour mark, taking advantage of a Rob Holding error.

A quick free kick from Nani early in the second half cued Fredy Montero for a chance that missed the frame.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s rip at the other end may have been headed wide, but Ribeiro palmed it away.

The visitors were ultimately the better team on the night, and would’ve felt aggrieved to not find the winner had former Sunderland and Liverpool man Sebastian Coates not put the ball on a platter for Welbeck.

That’s no slight to Welbeck, who lashed a shot between Ribeiro’s legs.

Stephane Lichtsteiner injured his shoulder in stoppage time, and later took a head-first challenge from Coates.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Serie A: The Napoli-Juventus title race is getting good

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

Napoli 3-1 Sassuolo

Juventus went top of the table on Saturday, courtesy of two Gonzalo Higuain goals in a 2-0 victory over a struggling AC Milan side, just edging past Napoli on goal differential. On Sunday, Napoli responded with a 3-1 victory over 16th-place Sassuolo.

Brazilian midfielder Allan forced a turnover atop Sassuolo’s penalty area and slotted home with ease after 22 minutes, but the visitors hit back through Diego Falcinelli’s powerful header four minutes before halftime.

The scoreline would remain 1-1 for fewer than three full minutes, though, as Jose Callejon helped to bundle the ball over the goal line from a corner kick in the 44th minute. Nine minutes into the second half, Dries Mertens bagged his 10th goal of the season (third this week) to put the game to bed.

After 11 games played, Napoli top the league table on 31 points, three ahead of the six-time defending champs from Turin. The season’s first meeting between the two sides is scheduled for Dec. 1, at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo.

Benevento 1-5 Lazio

Juventus will actually finish the weekend in third place, level on points with Lazio but behind the capital club on head-to-head results. Simone Inzaghi’s side thrashed newly promoted Benevento on Sunday, after going 3-0 up inside the opening 25 minutes — Bastos, Ciro Immobile and Adam Marusic got the early goals, followed by a fourth from Marco Parolo to make it 4-1.

Sunday’s most notable scorer, however, bagged his goal inside the final five minutes to complete the scoring — former Valencia Fenerbahce Sporting CP Manchester United winger Nani, whom Portugal could very well heavily rely upon at next summer’s World Cup, scored his first goal for the club (and tallied the assist on Parolo’s goal) after coming on as a 71st-minute substitute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Crotone 2-1 Fiorentina
Sampdoria 4-1 Chievo
SPAL 1-0 Genoa
Udinese 2-1 Atalanta
Torino vs. Cagliari — in progress