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MLS Eastern Conference in for wild finish

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Saturday feels like a big day for the settlement of the MLS playoff picture in the East.

Several teams have been playing catch-up in terms of matches-in-hand for months, with New York City FC, Atlanta United, and even Toronto FC eyeing up goals higher up the table than their standing.

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And the East looks set for a blockbuster run into the playoffs, which begin their new structure this Fall. Only the No. 1 seeds get a bye, and two-legged affairs are joyfully a thing of the past.

As it stands, the playoffs may hinge on the massive advantage of a postage stamp pitch.

New York City FC

NYCFC has taken advantage of its schedule, winning five-straight matches including Saturday’s defeat of New England to climb into first place in the East.

Domenec Torrent now has a better points-per-match than Patrick Vieira’s strong run in charge, and NYCFC has a two-point lead on Philadelphia with a match-in-hand.

NYCFC has six matches left, and there isn’t a simple one in the bunch. Toronto, San Jose, and Atlanta come to Yankee Stadium, while the side travels to Dallas, New England, and Philly.

(A prolonged New York Yankees playoff run is going to wreak havoc on the grass, by the way, as NYCFC faces possible home games on Oct. 23-24 or Oct. 29-30).

Philadelphia Union

The Union took advantage of the international break to take on Pumas of Liga MX, and their second choice team won 3-0.

Jim Curtin’s rise up the table is one of the best stories in the league, the coach rewarding Philly for its trust in him (and understanding that it hadn’t given him a full deck).

Four of five matches left on the docket are brutal, though. There are visits from LAFC and NYCFC, and trip to the Red Bulls and San Jose. If Philly holds out and finishes first, there’s no doubting their acumen for a postseason run.

Atlanta United

Atlanta is five points back of NYCFC, but is on the same amount of matches. Given their schedule, Frank De Boer‘s men may well take the No. 1 see if they can take three points from NYCFC on Sept. 25.

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DC United

The Black-and-Red only have four matches left. Wayne Rooney and Co. visit a desperate Portland next, and they’ve been pretty good about getting results away from home; DC’s nine wins/draws away trail only LAFC and NYCFC.

A Sept. 29 visit to the Red Bulls is DC’s only remaining chance to take points off a positioning rival. Even if they do that, Toronto’s slate means DC may fall out of a first round home playoff spot.

New York Red Bulls

Chris Armas’ team has a brutal road to the postseason. A point back of fourth with a match-in-hand, their standing could take a dive over the next two matches.

RBNY has consecutive matches across the country with Portland and Seattle, then visits from Philly and DC before finishing in Quebec against a Montreal side hopeful of chasing down the pack.

The keys are in their hands, but the Red Bulls have to drive across a mine field. This could end in any number of ways.

Toronto FC

USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter did the Reds a solid by allowing Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez to stay for a pivotal two-match stretch. Greg Vanney got a near Man of the Match performance from Bradley and solid day from Gonzalez while Altidore rested up for NYCFC in a 5-1 drubbing of FC Cincinnati.

Both TFC and NYCFC will go into Wednesday’s game one little rest.

The Reds two brutal matches — away to NYCFC and LAFC — and three manageable outings against Colorado, Columbus, and Chicago. Beating NYCFC on Wednesday would seem to ensure a place in the Top Four, and a home game in Round 1.

The rest

New England‘s next game is critical, a visit to Orlando City. A draw or Revs win stings the Lions’ hopes for a late season push for the playoffs.

Montreal is dangerous on its day but tumultuous and faces a two-legged Canadian Championship with TFC for a place in the CONCACAF Champions League. It might be reasonable to prioritize that.

Orlando City has two points from its last four but also drew LAFC 2-2 this weekend. A win over New England on Saturday leads into a run-in of Houston, Cincinnati, and Chicago.

Chicago needs to win out and get help: Visits from Dallas and Toronto make this very difficult, though a finish against Orlando on Oct. 6 could be a show-stopper.

NYCFC erase early deficit to beat Red Bulls (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): New York City FC erased an early deficit to beat the New York Red Bulls in the 2019 season’s second and final Hudson River derby, and remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference’s battle for first place, and home-field advantage, in the process. Coming into the weekend, NYCFC sat third and trailed Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union by a single point. Atlanta beat Orlando City SC on Friday, and Philadelphia hammered D.C. United on Saturday. The gap between the top-three and fourth-place Red Bulls is now six points. Maxi Moralez scored from the penalty spot and Heber unleashed some absolute filth on Luis Robles (video below) after Alex Muyl put the visitors ahead inside 10 minutes played.

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Three moments that mattered

10′ Muyl finishes down the left for an early lead — You don’t always get punished for turning the ball over in this area in MLS, but you should be.

43′ — Moralez wins penalty, converts penalty — Moralez was taken down inside the box by Michael Murillo for an unquestionably penalty not long before halftime. The Argentine converted with authority.

53′ — Heber backheel-nutmegs Robles for 2-1 — Yes, really.

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Man of the match: Maxi Moralez

Goalscorers: Muyl (10′), Moralez (43′ – PK), Heber (53′)

RBNY come back to beat NYCFC on bizarre call by refs (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): The New York Red Bulls erased a very early deficit to come from behind and beat New York City FC in the 2019 season’s first Hudson River derby, but it’s the circumstances in which they did so that will be talked about most over the next few days. For video, and few possible theories about what actually happened and what the referees decided, head to the 60th minute below. For further context about what Sunday’s result means, keep reading. The victory sends the Red Bulls (31 points) all the way up to third place in the Eastern Conference, up from sixth where they began the day. The trail the first-place Philadelphia Union by five points. NYCFC (29), on the other hand, tumble down to sixth place.

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Three moments that mattered

7′ — Heber sneaks in at the back post for 1-0 — Anton Tinnerholm served a dangerous ball into the box, and Heber timed his run perfectly to arrive last and on the right side of the nearest defender. Perfectly executed all around.

45’+1 — Royer converts from the spot just before halftime — Maxime Chanot got it all wrong when he went for an acrobatic clearance of a long ball into the box, instead kicking Brian White and giving away an easy penalty decision.

60′ — Royer makes it 2-1 in the most confusing fashion — There’s a lot going on here. The assistant referee appeared to point to the corner flag, yet Red Bulls took a throw-in and scored immediately after the restart. This should be something that can very easily be reversed and Red Bulls forced to restart with a corner kick, at 1-1. Perhaps the center referee over ruled the assistant and called a throw-in. Perhaps neither of the above theories are true.

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Man of the match: Daniel Royer

Goalscorers: Heber (7′), Royer (45’+1, 60′)

FOLLOW LIVE, MLS Sunday: Seattle v. Atlanta, Red Bulls v. NYCFC

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This weekend’s slate of MLS action is set to end with a bang with two games on Sunday, featuring four sides all comfortably occupying playoff places in their respective conference.

[ FOLLOW: Sunday’s MLS action ]

First up, Seattle Sounders host Atlanta United at CenturyLink Field. Seattle currently sits fourth in the Western Conference, just two points out of second, while Atlanta has clawed its way back from a poor start to the season and occupies third place in the East, also two points out of second.

Then, it’s the first (of two) Hudson River Derbies of 2019: New York Red Bulls host New York City FC. One point separates the two sides heading into Sunday’s showdown at Red Bull Arena — NYCFC are fifth, just one point out of third and three points out of second (prior to Atlanta’s result); Red Bulls are sixth, two points out of third. Red Bulls lead the all-time series, 6W-2D-4L.

Sunday

Seattle Sounders v. Atlanta United — 4 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls v. New York City FC — 6:30 p.m. ET

Hit the link above to follow along with the scores today, and check back on PST for full recaps of each game.

Borussia Dortmund announces long-anticipated add of U.S. teen Reyna

Giovanni Reyna
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One of the next big hopes for Americans Abroad, Giovanni Reyna is now formally a member of Borussia Dortmund.

Reyna, the 16-year-old son of USMNT legend Claudio, was an attacking midfield prospect for New York City FC and has worn the red, white, and blue of his country at the U-17 level.

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Claudio Reyna is the sporting director at NYCFC, a centurion with the USMNT who won the Scottish top flight as a player with Rangers and also played for Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Sunderland, Manchester City, and the New York Red Bulls.

Reyna helped the U.S. qualify for the U-17 World Cup and has since been called up to the U-23 team for camp ahead of Olympic qualifying. A November birthday, reports of his destination being BVB emerged late last summer.

The Bundesliga site released a bio on Giovanni comparing his style to that of David Trezeguet. Sounds good to us.