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Kaku blast guides Red Bulls past DC United

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Harrison, NJ — Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra’s fourth goal of the season propelled the New York Red Bulls to their 16th win of the season on Sunday, as the hosts dispatched of their I-95 rivals, D.C. United, for the second time in 2018.

By virtue of the victory, the Red Bulls captured the Atlantic Cup for the ninth time in storied rivalry against D.C. United.

Despite a flurry of chances in the opening 45 minutes, including a Wayne Rooney attempt that struck the crossbar, the Red Bulls pulled ahead in the 56th minute when Kaku gathered the ball at the top of the penalty area and blasted a left-footed effort into the far corner beyond goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

Rooney boasted several quality chances on the night for the visitors, including a free kick that forced a tough save out of Luis Robles in the ninth minute.

The Red Bulls nearly made DC pay just two minutes after, when Derrick Etienne Jr. led a counterattack for Chris Armas’ side, which ended with a Daniel Royer shot that skied over the crossbar.

DC’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes though may have come in the 24th minute, when Oneil Fisher’s point-blank header sailed over the bar, following a cross from Yamil Asad.

The former Atlanta United attacker was lively in the first half for DC, however, a strong tackle from Kemar Lawrence towards the latter stages of the half forced Asad out in the 47th minute.

The two clubs will meet one more time in the regular season on September 16 down at Audi Field in the nation’s capital.

MLS Live: Red Bulls host Rooney, DC; Timbers-Sounders battle

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Two of Major League Soccer’s biggest and oldest rivalries resume on Sunday as Rivalry Week comes to a conclusion.

 [ LIVE: MLS scores ]

The New York Red Bulls are coming off of a thrilling (and probably disappointing) 1-1 draw to New York City FC on Wednesday night, but will have to remove thoughts of that game as D.C. United arrive at Red Bull Arena.

[ MORE: TFC rolls over Impact, RSL puts six on 9-man Rapids ]

D.C. has emerged as a contender in the Eastern Conference playoff race since the arrival of Wayne Rooney, and Ben Olsen’s attack has quickly become one of the most deadly in MLS with Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad and Rooney leading the way.

Rooney and Co. enter the weekend unbeaten in their last five matches, including four victories in that span, making the playoffs a much more realistic goal after the team’s early-season struggles.

For the Red Bulls, they enter the match unbeaten in their last four, however, Wednesday’s draw against NYCFC was a chance wasted by Chris Armas’ group after playing up a man (and eventually two men) against their bitter rivals.

Nonetheless, the Harrison side remains in solid standing in the Eastern Conference, just four points behind leaders Atlanta United and a game in hand over the first-place side.

Following the Atlantic Cup affair, a classic Cascadia battle resumes as the Portland Timbers host the Seattle Sounders, who have once again found a way to get hot at the right time.

The Sounders have been the best team in MLS since July 1, winning seven of their nine matches and going unbeaten during that span.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ] 

Despite that fact, Seattle sits two points out of the West playoffs, but a victory Sunday night would propel the 2016 MLS Cup champions above the red line.

The Timbers, on the other hand, have cooled off significantly as of late with three consecutive losses. In that span, the club has scored just two goals, which falls well below the team’s production from earlier in the season.

Sunday MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United — 7 pm ET
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 pm ET

Porter: I should be “in the mix” for USMNT job after Vermes

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Caleb Porter is feeling recharged after a season away from soccer, and would be interested in the United States men’s national team job if the federation is interested in hiring him.

The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio spoke with Porter about leaving Portland, his decision to decline the Orlando City job, and the vacant USMNT.

[ MORE: Austin approves MLS stadium ]

As for his level of interest, the canny operator only put the thinnest veneer on it. Look no further than his endorsing Peter Vermes, who has signed a new Sporting KC deal since the American job opened up. From The Athletic:

“If you’re going American, Peter Vermes, for me, he is the guy that deserves the shot,” Porter says. “I believe that. That guy deserves to carry the torch of our national team. Peter Vermes, in my opinion, based on what he’s done in our league, he’s proven it as an American coach. If you don’t go with Peter Vermes, I think, based on what I’ve proven, I’m in the mix with another two or three guys who deserve consideration and I’d be open to talking.”

Porter says he doesn’t know what his next job is, though he’s assumed it will be in club soccer, and used some salty language to say there’s only job he wouldn’t take: Portland’s Cascadian rival, the Seattle Sounders.

The club that lands the MLS Cup and NCAA College Cup winner will have a fantastic and inspired coach, but let’s hope that USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart goes in a different direction. Porter may ultimately succeed in such a role, but already carries USSF baggage after failing to lead the U.S. U-23s into the Olympics before he took the Portland job.

MLS roundup: SKC, VAN get huge road wins; RBNY trim the gap

Photo credit: Sporting Kansas City / @SportingKC
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Between now and the end of the regular season, with every game comes a bit of added pressure of consequence as the MLS playoff race is officially underway…

[ MORE: Austin MLS stadium vote delayed until next week ]

Los Angeles FC 0-2 Sporting Kansas CityFULL HIGHLIGHTS

“Six-pointers” don’t get much more obvious than Saturday’s matchup between LAFC and Sporting KC, two sides who entered the weekend in fourth and third place, respectively, with the same points total (36) and numbers of wins (10). Thanks to results elsewhere, the winner would climb into second place — just three points back of Western Conference leaders FC Dallas — and the loser would tumble to fifth place, suddenly just three points clear of the wrong side of the playoff cut line.

Sporting got goals from Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sanchez (penalty kick) either side of halftime to hand the expansion side its first-ever loss at Banc of California Stadium. After fighting through an injury crisis for the better part of the last two months, Peter Vermes’ side is nearly 100 percent healthy at the right time of the season — Felipe Gutierrez and Johnny Russell returned from injuries; Roger Espinoza returned from suspension; and Krisztian Nemeth returned to KC in a trade this week. The West is far from over.

Portland Timbers 1-2 Vancouver WhitecapsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Speaking of the West being a jumbled mess, Portland’s home loss to Vancouver means the Timbers dropped from second to third, and just four points now separate third and sixth place. Most notably, their unbeaten run of 15 games is no more, and at the hands of a Cascadia rival. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, moved to within two points of sixth-place Real Salt Lake after extending their current run to three games without defeat (two wins).

Kei Kamara (14th minute) and Cristian Techera (43rd) gave the visitors a 2-0 halftime lead, and though Diego Valeri converted a penalty kick in the 71st minute, Carl Robinson’s side left Providence Park with all three points.

Chicago Fire 0-1 New York Red BullsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the only goal (the 101st of his MLS career) in a drab affair (13 total shots, 4 on target) at Toyota Park. A win is a win, though, and this particular win moves Chris Armas’s side to within one point of Atlanta United (48), leaders in the Supporters’ Shield race. The Red Bulls have a game in hand on the Five Stripes.

Elsewhere in MLS action

LA Galaxy 2-2 Minnesota United — HIGHLIGHTS
Columbus Crew SC 1-0 Houston Dynamo — HIGHLIGHTS
New England Revolution 2-3 Philadelphia Union — HIGHLIGHTS
Real Salt Lake 1-1 Montreal Impact — HIGHLIGHTS
Colorado Rapids 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes — HIGHLIGHTS

FOLLOW LIVE: West contenders LAFC, SKC face off; POR vs. VAN

Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images
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As August begins to fly by and September pokes its head over the horizon, the realization that the playoff race has begun in MLS grows clearer and clearer.

[ MORE: Austin MLS stadium vote delayed until next week ]

Saturday’s two biggest games feature four sides from the Western Conference, where the jockeying for playoff position has already begun. Take, for instance, Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles FC, who after 22 games each find themselves level on 36 points in third and fourth place, respectively, tied with 10 wins and separated by just two in the goal-differential column. Peter Vermes’ and Bob Bradley‘s sides face off on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET) at Banc of California Stadium. The winner could apply real pressure, if not leapfrog, the team just one point ahead of them in second place. Krisztian Nemeth is expected to make his re-debut for Sporting KC, as a center forward, after he was re-acquired in a trade on Monday.

That team just so happens to be the Portland Timbers, who have one of their Cascadia rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps, visiting Providence Park tonight. More so than the other three, Vancouver find themselves fighting for their playoff lives, as they’d be watching from home if the postseason began today. The gap between seventh-place Vancouver and sixth-place Real Salt Lake is currently four points. On the other side, the 11 p.m. ET kickoff represents a massive opportunity for the Timbers to make good on one of the two games in hand they currently possess over first-place FC Dallas. A win would cut the gap to just two points.

Full MLS schedule

Columbus Crew vs. Houston Dynamo — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 9 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Montreal Impact — 10 p.m. ET
Los Angeles FC vs. Sporting Kansas City — 10:30 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Minnesota United — 10:30 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 11 p.m. ET