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USMNT’s next World Cup qualifier headed for New Jersey

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We have a home for the United States men’s national team’s next 2018 World Cup qualifier.

The Yanks will tangle with Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on Sept. 1. U.S. Soccer says it’s the first WCQ at the venue.

That match is four days ahead of an away qualifier in Honduras. The U.S. lost 4-0 in Costa Rica, and defeated Honduras 6-0 on American soil.

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Los Ticos are in second place in the Hex through six matches with 11 points, three points behind leaders Mexico and three ahead of the U.S.

Panama sits fourth with seven points.

ProSoccerTalk’s MLS playoff picks and predictions

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Major League Soccer’s 18th playoff season begins Wednesday. ProSoccerTalk’s writers have a few thoughts on how they might play out:

Who will come out of the East?

Liviu Bird: The New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls have proven that they are actual contenders this year. They have only briefly relinquished first place and deserved to win the Supporters’ Shield.

Kyle Bonn: Sporting KC

With the Red Bulls getting all the attention, Sporting KC quietly won six of their last eight matches, conceding just four goals. For all the goals NY is scoring, KC have it in them to be the team that stops the NY hot streak.

Steve Davis: Sporting Kansas City

I know New York is the hot pick, but SKC has the better defense and better goalkeeper. Plus, lessons learned over the last two years – when good Sporting KC teams got so close – will pay off now.

source:  Richard Farley: New York Red Bulls

As much as I want to pick Kansas City, I think New York has enough to defend that number one spot.

Joe Prince-Wright: New York Red Bulls

Expect Sporting KC and New York to battle it out for the Eastern Conference, but New York gets it done.

Mike Prindiville: New York Red Bulls

I love to watch Sporting KC play and think a potential matchup against NYRB in the Conference Semifinals will be an absolute blockbuster. But as long as the Red Bull’s play up to their potential, they are the superior team.

Who will come out of the West?

Liviu Bird: Portland Timbers

My pick is based on their strong season from start to finish. The turnaround Caleb Porter has engineered is nothing short of sensational, and they are the most consistent team in the league.

Kyle Bonn: LA Galaxy

LA did just enough to get in, and I’ll take experience over youth in crunch time any day of the week.

Steve Davis: L.A. Galaxy

The asterisk here is whether Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez are healthy. If they are, the Galaxy and all that collective playoff knowledge will be hard to beat. Plus, Robbie Keane is the best player in the MLS post-season.

Richard Farley: LA Galaxy

As hard-to-call as the West looks, I’ll take the proven commodity.

Joe Prince-Wright: Portland

I think the Timbers will get it done. Of course they’ve tailed off a bit, but I think they’ll come up big when it matters.

Mike Prindiville: Real Salt Lake

In a wide open and unpredictable West, those who grind the hardest, prevail.

Where we would PREFER to see MLS Cup (based on “best atmosphere,” or “not LA again,” or whatever):

Liviu Bird: Somewhere in Cascadia

Not just because it’s the shortest trip for me — the atmosphere here is the best in the country, and if you want to advertise MLS to the rest of the world, the Timbers Army is probably the best conduit.

Kyle Bonn: New York

What better way to complete the redemption story than in your own house? New York proved this weekend the stadium and atmosphere have what it takes.

source:  Steve Davis: New York

The Big Apple? As Christmas approaches? I mean, it’s so darned romantic! Plus, the Red Bulls were Supporters Shield winners, so there is a beautiful symmetry to it … in addition to all those pretty lights!

Richard Farley: Seattle

It’s all about the numbers. Also, Seattle’s not a bad place to throw a party.

Joe Prince-Wright: New York

It’s about time the Red Bulls won MLS Cup, and I think a sold out RBA would be a great advert for MLS.

Mike Prindiville: New York

A number of other stadiums are considered better atmospheres but to have Red Bull Arena finally filled to capacity and rocking-out for a final would be a thing of beauty.

Where are the dark horse favorites?

Liviu Bird: Seattle

It’s hard to call them dark horses because of the star power on the team, but Seattle could still make a run at the Cup. The Sounders have proven they can beat teams 5-0, be beaten 5-0, and everything in between. Anything can happen in the MLS playoffs.

Kyle Bonn: Portland

It’s not often first-place teams fall under the “dark horse” category, but with everyone off the bandwagon thanks to their poor(er) form down the stretch, they qualify. First order of business in playoffs: don’t lose. They don’t.

Steve Davis: Real Salt Lake

Alvaro Saborio’s scoring rate (52 goals in 97 MLS matches) is prodigious. Nick Rimando is tops in goal. Kyle Beckerman commands that strong midfield and some of those “kids” are going to be something else.  So remind me again why we aren’t talking about this team a little more?

Richard Farley: Portland

Only five losses all year.

Joe Prince-Wright: Colorado Rapids

On their day they can beat anyone in the league. So many good young players, and having come up against Dillon Powers and Tony Cascio in their college days, I know how good those guys are.

Mike Prindiville: Colorado Rapids

Probably the darkest of all dark horses but with Seattle’s poor form, Portland’s playoff inexperience and a little bit of luck, it could happen.

The 18th MLS Cup champion will be …

Liviu Bird: Portland

It’s Portland, for all the reasons I listed above. One final nugget: on only five occasions in 2013 have the Timbers failed to get at least one point on the road and all three at home — and that’s a formula for playoff success if I’ve ever heard one.

Kyle Bonn: LA Galaxy

It’s that experience thing again. So hard to pick against. I know, I know. I hate myself for going here too, but with having put New York out in the semifinals, the Galaxy get it done.

source:  Steve Davis: Sporting Kansas City

The league’s best road team (8-5-4 away in 2013) won’t mind playing in New York, so they’ll get through to the final … and they’ll host MLS Cup in KC.

Richard Farley: LA Galaxy

In the absence of a truly convincing alternative, I’m picking three-peat.

Joe Prince-Wright: New York Red Bulls

I just don’t think the big boys out West, Seattle, LA, and RSL, are in top form heading into the playoffs and the Red Bulls are flying.

Mike Prindiville: New York Red Bulls

The time has come. Mike Petke’s passion and dedication is what this squad has been in dire need of for a long time. Most importantly, this is a team that’s peaking at the right time. The stars have aligned in New York.

(MORE: Are there too many playoff teams?)

(MORE: MLS playoff schedule and TV times)

(MORE: Top story lines for the MLS playoffs)

(MORE: MLS Week in Review for Round 35)

(MORE: MLS Eastern Conference playoffs are set)

(MORE: MLS Western Conference playoffs are set)

Highlights: Own goal decisive as New York rises to top of Supporters’ Shield chase

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The week-in, week-out results haven’t been overwhelming, but group them all together and you have a team that’s now leading the Supporters’ Shield race. After their 1-0 win this evening at Red Bull Arena, that’s where New York sit, a four-game winning streak leaving Mike Petke’s team one point clear at the top of the league.

Credit the first year coach for getting his team re-focused after Aug. 25th’s loss at Chivas USA, with wins over D.C. United, Houston, and Toronto preceding today’s 1-0 over Dallas. But to get today’s result, New York needed some unexpected help from FCD midfielder Erick, whose inexplicable play of a Jonny Steele cross made his 76th minute own goal the decider. As you’ll see in the highlights, above, it was one of the most beguiling touches you’ll ever see, with some kind of lack of balance, spasm, or brain cramp leading to New York’s only goal.

To New York’s credit, they were the slightly better team throughout, but there are a number of games you saw that about a team can’t claim more than a point. On Sunday, Red Bull needed some unexpected help from a particularly generous source.

With the result, New York are now three points clear of Sporting KC in the East. Still, the only win they have over a playoff team since Aug. 3’s 3-2 at Sporting Park is their victory over the then-collapsing Dynamo. In that sense, Red Bull’s rise hasn’t been particularly impressive, even if all the points count the same.

When they visit West-leading Seattle next Sunday, we’ll get a better idea of what Petke’s team’s capable of, but until then, the Red Bulls have the league’s second best attack, a defense that’s allowing 1.20 goals per game, and the most points in Major League Soccer.

This time of year, New York vs. Philadelphia is more than just a rivalry

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“Obviously it is Philly and I think their fans travel, so yeah, it makes it extra special” said Thierry Henry, New York’s legendary striker. “It is a rivalry in any sport in the US; when a team from New York plays against a team from Philly or New England or DC you have that type of rivalry and that’s the way it is.”

The players wouldn’t have it any other way. But that’s not the only way it is.

When Philadelphia travels a short way to Red Bull Arena, the 2nd place and 3rd place teams in the East will be duking it out for a shot at first place and pole position for the season’s stretch run.

Henry acknowledges that. “For us it’s not only the rivalry and winning the game against Philly; it’s getting three points because we need three points right now.”

Ok, maybe a bit of an overstatement.  They don’t need three points, but they sure could use ’em (who couldn’t?).  While the Eastern Conference isn’t nearly as jumbled as the West, overall parity in the league this season means any slip ups could be lethal.

The Red Bulls have been wildly inconsistent this season, but remain in second place.  June and July saw an incredibly weird 4-match stretch where New York either dominated their opponent or got dominated.  Since, their last three matches have given them two crazy, signature wins against each conference’s leader, and one disappointing home loss to the slumping Columbus Crew.

(MORE: MLS Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia Union)

Despite the inconsistency, one thing is for certain: when New York come home, they score goals.  Despite just five away goals since the beginning of May (three in one game), the Red Bulls have smashed home 18 goals in front of their home fans over the same time period.

The player news is great for New York as well – both Henry and Tim Cahill could be returning from injuries.  Coach Mike Petke said he “100 percent” believes Henry will play after missing last week with Achillies inflammation (nothing to scoff at). Cahill has returned to full training, but it’s unclear whether he will take part Saturday.

For Philadelphia, they come in on the heels of a win, but they haven’t won two in a row since June 23 when they beat Columbus and New York a combined 6-0.  It’s been spotty since then, with striker Jack McInerney’s goalless drought now at seven full matches.  However, Conor Casey is beginning to pick up the slack.

Casey’s double last week sank lowly D.C. United, and he now has four goals since McInerney last got his.  In fact, of the seven matches Casey’s scored in this season, Philadelphia has lost just one and won five.

With much to gain from a win at Red Bull Arena, it’s clear the players have a job to do. But there’s still an element of hostility in the air as always present during such a heated rivalry.

But don’t take my word for it.

yeah of course, it’s a rivalry the minute that they came in the league.  The players, and coaches, feel it too.

Petke: “It’s something that I take pleasure in when we get good results and I sulk in when we get bad results against these teams.”

By the way, New York has never lost to Philadelphia at Red Bull Arena. Food for thought.

Gold Cup Highlights: Honduras post opening match win over Haiti

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Business-like. Haiti put up a more fight fervent fight than many expected, but Honduras ultimately posted a very business-like win over their Caribbean nation, their 2-0 result at Red Bull Arena giving them sole possession of first place after one round of Group B play.

El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago, having drawn in the night’s opening match, sit tied for second, with Haiti occupying the group’s cellar.

Honduras got off to a near-ideal start when potentially former-Sounder Mario Martínez set up his namesake Ronny in the fourth minute, the Honduran forward’s right-footed blast from the middle of the box giving the group favorites an early lead.

That lead persisted through most of an uneventful match, with the Hondurans failing to put another shot on Frandy Montrévil until Marvín Chavez’s insurance tally in the 78th minute. The San Jose midfielder opened his left foot on a weak shot from inside the arc, a ball Montrévil either failed to pick up or misjudged as it rolled toward him. Unable to kick out in time, the Haitian goalkeeper allowed Honduras to double their lead and seal the match.

Despite the lackluster performance, the Honduras posted the first multi-goal win of the tournament, becoming the first favorite to hold serve. With Mexico still struggling and the United States recalling a diminished squad, it’s worth asking whether nations like Honduras, Panama, or Costa Rica could break through and become the fourth nation to win this tournament (Canada is the only other country besides Mexico and the U.S. to claim a title).

If the Hondurans are going to be that team, they’ll have to play better than they did tonight, because although they recorded a two-goal victory, their underlying form was not that impressive.