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MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

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Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.

FOLLOW: ATLUTD host LA Galaxy to begin 9-game MLS Saturday

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Saturday’s slate of MLS fixtures is set to kick off in just under an hour, and the big matchup of the day comes flying out of the starting gate right away: Atlanta United (second place, Eastern Conference) hosting LA Galaxy (third place, Western Conference) in front of an expected crowd of 70,000 fans inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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The visitors will be without superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspended), though the big Swede might have sat this one out anyway due to the artificial turf playing surface in Atlanta, making the already uphill battle that much tougher. Efrain Alvarez and Diego Polenta are also suspended, leaving Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side somewhat shorthanded to face the defending champions.

The two hottest teams in MLS, New England Revolution (11 games unbeaten) and San Jose Earthquakes (one defeat in 11 games), are also in action on Saturday. The Revs will host runaway Supporters’ Shield leaders Los Angeles FC in the biggest test of Bruce Arena’s tenure to date, while Matias Almeyda’s Quakes will host a quickly sinking Columbus Crew SC side (eight losses in 12 games, including 10 without a win).

Hit the link above to follow along with all of the day’s action, and check back on PST throughout the day for recaps and highlights of the most consequential matchups.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. LA Galaxy — 5 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls v. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. Los Angeles FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. FC Dallas — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. Vancouver Whitecaps 8 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo v. Chicago Fire — 9 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids v. Montreal Impact — 9 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Columbus Crew SC — 10 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake v. New York City FC — 10 p.m. ET

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Watford looking to sign Senagal star Sarr

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Ismalia Sarr, one of the rising stars in Ligue 1 and on the international scene for Senegal, could be heading to the Premier League.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Watford is closing in on a club-record $30 million transfer for Sarr, who is currently with Rennes in France. Sarr just finished helping lead Senegal to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final, and having played for Senegal at both the 2018 World Cup and most recent AFCON, he’s likely enough to qualify for a UK work permit.

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Sarr, a 21-year-old winger, can play on either the right or the left, and scored 13 goals last season from those wide positions.

Watford and the Pozzo family have a good history of scouting and signing talented young players. From former Udinese stars such as Alexis Sanchez and Mehdi Benatia (among many others) to Brazilian talent Joao Pedro, who is joining Watford in January, the Pozzo family have a good eye for talent. Sarr should make a good impact for Watford in its effort to rise into the top seven and earn a spot in European competitions in the future.

Here are more transfer stories from across Europe:


Brazilian giant Flamengo reached out to Ribery

For many clubs outside of western Europe, free agent Franck Ribery is a highly coveted prospect.

According to Brazilian TV company O Globo, Brazilian giant Flamengo, with Portuguese head coach Jorge Jesus, even inquired about potential signing the long-time France National Team and Bayern Munich winger to be the team’s new striker. Unfortunately for Flamengo, Ribery’s contract demands were much higher than they could meet, with Ribery reportedly admitting he received a proposal from Brazil but rejecting it.

With numerous European players heading to MLS and even Liga MX, it would have been interesting to see Ribery play a season or two in Brazil, even at age 36. Alas, it may not happen at this point.

Toronto FC negotiating with Guingamp for Benezet

Toronto FC may be making yet another big European signing in the coming weeks, as a Nicolas Benezet is reportedly close to coming to MLS.

The French midfielder scored three goals to go with an assist last season for Guingamp last season wearing the No. 10 shirt. According to L’Equipe, Benezet is in advanced negotiations with TFC.

Of course, TFC already has its full allotment of Designated Players, with Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Pozuelo already under contract. Perhaps Benezet will join as a TAM player, or one of the Designated Players will have their contract bought down with allocation money.

MLS Saturday wrap: Quakes keep firing; Toronto, SKC falter

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MLS doesn’t have too many days like Saturday, with four away teams collecting wins on a seven-match docket.

The surprise is lessened a bit by the identity of the losing hosts: struggling Vancouver, Colorado, and Sporting KC: Wow, that last one is taking some getting used to, isn’t it?).

[ MORE: Where will Bale go? ]

In a league where only two of 24 teams are above .500 on the road (DC United and LAFC), it’s still saying something about a hot weekend in these United States of America (and Canada).

Columbus Crew 2-1 Montreal Impact

The Crew’s early advantage looked like business as usual by halftime, as Caleb Porter’s struggling men conceded in stoppage time, but David Accam netted right after the break to give Columbus a much-needed three points.

Toronto FC 1-3 Houston Dynamo

TFC opened the door for New England or Orlando City to climb into the top seven by going into an early hole and failing to rally. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore came off the bench, the latter scoring, but the Reds did little on Alejandro Pozuelo’s day off and the Dynamo get a big road win to move without touching distance of a playoff position.

This is not adequate defense.

Philadelphia Union 2-0 Chicago Fire

Marco Fabian scored a beauty and Anthony Fontana also netted as the Union assured themselves another week atop the Eastern Conference. Chicago remains winless away from home.

Sporting KC 0-2 FC Dallas

What in the world is going on? SKC could not find the net with more than one of their 17 shot attempts, and fell five points back of a playoff spot. Worse, the hosts allowed sixth-place Dallas to move five points clear of them.

Colorado Rapids 1-2 New York City FC

It didn’t take long for youngster Sebastian Anderson to go from hero to goat, as the soon-to-be 17-year-old gave the Rapids a sixth minute lead before taking a red card 27 minutes later. Heber and Alexandru Mitrita scored late in each half to drive NYCFC’s dreams of the top spot in the East. The visitors are now seven points back of first, but have four matches-in-hand on Philadelphia.

Real Salt Lake 1-1 Minnesota United

Darwin Quintero and Marcelo Silva traded goals in a fair result.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-3 San Jose Earthquakes

Make it three-straight wins for the Quakes, who rode Cali Clasico momentum and overcame an early Doneil Henry goal through Vako, Chris Wondolowski, and the in-form Magnus Eriksson.

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore

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If Jozy Altidore keeps up his current scoring pace, U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter will have no choice but to start him in the future.

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For the second consecutive game since returning from the Gold Cup, Jozy Altidore found the back of the net, and once again it was in tremendous fashion. Taking a cross in from the right, Altidore realized his near-post run was too close to goal. Instead of controlling the pass or letting it by him, Altidore caressed the ball with the inside of his right heel, directing the ball past New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles and in for a goal.

Altidore scored a brilliant free kick last week to help secure all three points. Toronto FC inside ten minutes is already on its way to another three.

Watch the goal below.