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Altidore withdraws from USMNT camp with injury

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The United States men’s national team announced that star striker Jozy Altidore has withdrawn from camp ahead of CONCACAF Nations League matches against Cuba and Canada, meaning he’ll miss the chance to play for the squad at the home of his club.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger retiring ]

Altidore, 29, has the ninth-most caps in American history (115) and his 42 goals are 15 shy of the record shared by Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. He was set to feature along with Michael Bradley when the Yanks meet Canada at BMO Field on Tuesday.

When healthy, he’s still a force for the Stars and Stripes and scored 11 times with eight assists in 22 MLS appearances for Toronto FC this season. The Reds have a playoff date looming with DC United on Oct. 19, and are 4-4-4 when Altidore doesn’t play this season (9W-6L-7T when he does).

Altidore went uncapped in 2018 and missed plenty of the Copa America Centenario in 2016. He has a goal and an assist for Berhalter in five appearances.

His injury means more playing focus on Josh Sargent and Gyasi Zardes, and perhaps an increased role for Corey Baird. Jordan Morris has been excellent as a wing, but could also play as a center forward if needed.

2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: LAFC v. the field

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The 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs field is set. With the league going to a single-elimination format for every round of the postseason, the working theory is that the better team will prevail more frequently, thus adding a bit more weight to pre-playoff Power Rankings.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic reacts to assist, being back in Chelsea team ]

With the higher seeds set to host the one-off matchups, don’t be surprised to see the below rankings read a lot like the final regular-season standings…

LAFC v. the field

1. Los Angeles FC

No matter how you wish to frame any discussion around this year’s playoffs, you have to first ask yourself, “Is it even worth talking about a team not named LAFC?” There’s a case to be made that, no, it’s not worth taking about any other team, but for the sake of this exercise we’ll say that there is. Very quickly, the case for LAFC:

  • Single-season MLS points record (72)
  • MVP-to-be Carlos Vela’s single-season goals record (34 – in a 34-game season; he played in 31) and 15 assists
  • Single-season goals scored record (85 – tied for most)
  • Fewest goals conceded (37)
  • +48 goal differential (2nd-best is +21, followed by +15 and +9)

Simply put, LAFC’s level of dominance rewrote the MLS history book from front to back. If they don’t win MLS Cup, it’ll mostly likely be because they found a (silly) way to beat themselves.


Strong upset contenders

2. Atlanta United
3. New York City FC
4. Seattle Sounders

Atlanta spent all season lying in the weeds, perhaps realizing the Supporters’ Shield was an unrealistic target given LAFC’s pace, before hitting their stride in the final two months of the regular season (eight wins from their final 12 games). What’s more frightening, Josef Martinez is on fire after bagging an astounding 22 goals during his 15-game goalscoring streak from mid-May to mid-September. Assuming he’s healthy (he missed games no. 32 and 33 before returning on Sunday), there’s no one in the Eastern Conference who can take over a game — or an entire postseason — like he can.

There’s not a more tactically flexible team in MLS than NYCFC, who’ll spent most of the season morphing from a three-man backline to a four-man unit and vice versa. After jostling with Philadelphia and Atlanta most of the summer, Domenec Torrent’s side finished nine and six points clear, respectively. With just one loss in their last 11 games, NYCFC, though devoid of the global superstars they’ve been known to recruit, might just be the most in-form team at the right time of year.

[ MORE: Carlos Vela sets single season MLS goalscoring record ]


The wild, wild cards

5. Philadelphia Union
6. LA Galaxy
7. Toronto FC
8. Real Salt Lake
9. Portland Timbers

No team in MLS history has ever entered the playoffs with a greater range of outcomes than the 2019 Galaxy. Given the fact they’re yet to lose to LAFC in two seasons of meetings, they might be the most likely (if undeserving) side to slay the giant. If they can get by Minnesota in the first round (a big if, away from home), they’ll get their chance in the next round. Oh, the things Zlatan Ibrahimovic would do to be at the center of that conflict. Sure, the Galaxy concede the most goals of any playoff team this year, but between Ibrahimovic and Cristian Pavon they might actually have the best 1-2 punch in all of MLS right now. In a knockout scenario, they only need one moment each to make their mark.

10 games unbeaten to finish the regular, but only four of them wins — are Toronto FC in great form or just a so-so run? There’s something to be said of securing results down the stretch, but drawing Orlando, Columbus and Chicago in that same period is hardly a ringing endorsement. Then there’s the quad injury to Jozy Altidore, suffered on the final day of the season. He’ll have an MRI and almost certainly skip USMNT camp in hopes of being ready in two weeks, but given his injury history it seems a long shot. Like most of the East’s non-Atlanta teams, TFC’s best path forward might just be to play for clean sheets and take very few risks, and hope.


Long odds worth a look

10. Minnesota United
11. D.C. United
12. New England Revolution

How did Minnesota, the West’s fourth-place team, end up down here? Their 3W-3D-3L record down the stretch of the regular season was hardly impressive and left more questions than answers. Osvaldo Alonso’s influence has been plain as day in recent weeks; same goes for Ike Opara, who’s been excellent and thoroughly deserving of Defender of the Year should he win it again. They’re great, but who else has shown they’re cut from the same cloth when the games get tense and tight? As stated above, the Galaxy could no-show or score six at Allianz Field, and neither outcome would have a whole lot to do with Minnesota’s performance on the night. Adrian Heath’s team got the worst draw of all the home sides in the first round, and their reward for a potential win is to go play the other team from LA. Woof.

[ MORE: Orlando City fire James O’Connor after 1.5 dreadful seasons ]


Long odds for a reason

13. FC Dallas
14. New York Red Bulls

One of these teams will reach the conference finals, because this is MLS at the end of the day.

2019 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

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With Decision Day in the rear view mirror, the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs bracket is all set.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Round 1 action starts on October 19-20, following the international break. Just days later, first seeds NYCFC and LAFC join the playoffs as the Conference Semifinals take place.

On October 29-30, the Conference Finals will be played, which will decide what two teams will feature in the 2019 MLS Cup final on November 10.

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full. Who will go the farthest?

Montreal wins Canadian Championship; Toronto woeful in penalties

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The Montreal Impact are going back to the CONCACAF Champions League after overcoming a blown first leg lead to outlast Toronto FC in penalties at BMO Field on Wednesday.

Jozy Altidore missed a penalty, Patrick Mullins saw his saved by Clement Diop, and Jonathan Osorio banged his effort off of the post as Montreal needed just three conversions to win the Voyageurs Cup.

[ MORE: NYCFC moves closer to No. 1 seed ]

The penalties sure do look awful for the three-time defending Canadian champions, who are obviously no longer defending that title.

Ignacio Piatti’s goal in the first leg staked Montreal to a 1-0 lead, but Tsubasa Endoh scored in the 70th minute of the second leg to push this to kicks. Chris Mavinga saw a straight red in the 84th minute for denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

It’s Montreal’s first win since 2014, and it comes in the biggest Canadian Championship yet (13 teams). The Impact’s four titles are now three behind leaders TFC.

Montreal joins Atlanta United and LAFC as MLS clubs to clinch spots in the 2020 CCL. Mexico’s teams are Cruz Azul, UANL Tigres, Club America, and Leon. Jamaica will send Portmore United, six teams will join from the 2019 CONCACAF League, and two more MLS spots will be awarded by the time the MLS Cup playoffs are complete.

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

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Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7 hours ]

Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET