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Lodeiro brace gives Seattle’s faint playoff hopes a lifeline

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In Major League Soccer’s forgiving playoff structure, there’s almost always a way back into the mix.

When your team has a talent like Nicolas Lodeiro, your chances get magnified quite a bit.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Lodeiro scored twice, once from the spot, and Seattle debuted its new Designated Player in a 2-0 Cascadia Cup win over Vancouver on Saturday.

Seattle is now eight points back of the West’s final playoff spot with 15 to play in its season. And the Sounders join Portland on three Cascadia Cup points, with the Timbers beating Seattle in the other cup match of the season.

Raul Ruidiaz came off the bench for the Sounders, and showed early glimpses of why Seattle wanted the World Cup participant from Peru.

The ‘Caps finished the match with 10 men thanks to a red card on Efrain Juarez, who saw yellow and then made contact with the referee.

The second goal took a vicious turn on its way to making goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic look capital-A awkward.

Report: Whitecaps teen Davies nears Bayern Munich transfer

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The Vancouver Whitecaps stated on Friday that their teenage star Alphonso Davies might not be available for their clash over the weekend with Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders, and now we may have a better scope of why.

[ MORE: LAFC cleared after Timbers drop U.S. Open Cup appeal ]

The Athletic is reporting that Bundesliga giant Bayern Munich is close to completing a $12 million transfer for Davies, which could increase “with add-ons and clauses contingent on performance.”

Davies, 17, turned professional in 2016 after signing a Homegrown contract with the Whitecaps, and his near-immediate stardom has risen to the point where the Canada international has become a significant talking point across Major League Soccer.

The young attacker is enjoying a strong season thus far for Carl Robinson’s side, with three goals and eight assists, while also being selected to the MLS All-Star team that will take on Juventus on August 1.

Although Davies’ absence from the squad at training on Friday wasn’t explained by the club, his time in Vancouver could be coming to an end as Bayern and several other big European sides chase the promising teen.

The Athletic’s report also suggests that various Premier League clubs have expressed interest in Davies, however, obtaining a work permit could be an issue for the player.

Tim Howard earns 10-save clean sheet as Colorado tops Vancouver

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On the four-year anniversary of Tim Howard‘s masterclass against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, the USMNT veteran once again stood on his head, but this time around he got the win as well.

Howard made 10 saves as the Colorado Rapids profited from a Marcel de Jong own-goal just before halftime to pick up a 1-0 win. The United States international was fantastic as he baffled the Whitecaps attackers in front of net. He no doubt benefitted from poor finishing as numerous point-blank chances were ripped directly at the netminder, but Howard also produced a few acrobatic efforts as well, including one that kept out a fabulous long-range effort by Jordan Mutch in the 83rd minute.

Altogether, Vancouver put 25 shots on net, but struggled to put them in dangerous positions. Kei Kamara had an especially dismal day in front of net, putting eight shots on goal but saw four of those saved and another off the crossbar.

Four years ago today, Howard produced 15 saves against Belgium, the most in a World Cup match in history since saves became an official stat in 1966. He faced 39 shots on that day and kept all but two of them out as the United States lost a heartbreaker in extra-time on goals by Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne.l

The victory this evening pushed Colorado up to 15 points on the season out of 16 matches, still eight points off the 23 points to grab a current playoff spot where Vancouver hangs on in 6th.

VAN 5-2 ORL: 17-year-old Alphonso Davies scores 1, assists 3

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Teenager Alphonso Davies scored a goal and had a team-record three assists to help the Vancouver Whitecaps beat Orlando City 5-2 on Saturday night.

The 17-year-old Davis snapped a 1-1 tie in the 76th minute. Midfielder Jordon Mutch took a shot that goalkeeper Joe Bendik stopped with a diving save. Davies scored on the rebound.

Striker Kei Kamara scored twice for Vancouver (6-5-5), once on a penalty kick in the 85th minute, to break out of a scoring drought. Yordy Reyna and Nicolas Mezquida also connected.

Forward Sacha Kljestan scored for Orlando (6-7-1) when the Lions were playing with just 10 men. Mohamed El-Munir was sent off after receiving his second yellow card in the 58th minute. Dominic Dwyer scored Orlando’s other goal four minutes into injury time.

Davies made a pretty run to set up Kamara’s goal in the 36th minute. He stole the ball near midfield, made several nifty moves to get past three Orlando players, then passed to Kamara. Davies also made pretty passes to set up goals by Reyna in the 87th and Mezquida in the 90th.

Balance between club and country gets tricky with World Cup

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Kendall Waston was surrounded by Vancouver Whitecaps teammates when the club’s coach, Carl Robinson, informed him he had made Costa Rica’s 23-man World Cup roster for the first time.

The applause, warm wishes and water-bottle shower that followed were a sign of respect and admiration. Waston is Vancouver’s captain, and his play with the Whitecaps is largely why he’s headed to Russia.

Of course, the moment Waston made that Costa Rican roster, his priorities changed.

Waston says the Whitecaps “treat me like a family” and “have helped me a lot,” providing the exposure and experience necessary to crack a World Cup roster. But like many other Russia-bound MLS players, the last thing he wants is to invite any needless risks that might jeopardize his participation in Russia. Keeping the club competitive and staying fit and healthy to represent your country can become a delicate balance.

While most leagues around the world cap their play in early-to-mid May, the MLS schedule marches on, and many players headed to Russia stuck with their MLS teams through the last weekend of May before joining their national teams.

“I think that each day you have to work harder to be in good standing with the club, first of all,” Seattle Sounders and Panama defender Roman Torres said through an interpreter. “Each day with the club, I am training to the fullest to obtain the triumphs that we’re trying to achieve. … It’s important to be physically fit and mentally strong as you arrive from the club to your national team.”

Torres is a prime example of how tenuous the balance can be for both players and their club teams as the World Cup nears. During pregame warmups on April 29, Torres strained his hamstring. In the days after Torres was hurt, Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said, “it’s not good. It’s not good.”

What Schmetzer meant was the wide impact Torres’ injury had. It was significant to Seattle in the short-term and had a trickle-down effect for Panama. Torres had to sit out four games to properly rest the injury at a time Seattle could have used it’s staring defender. He spent most of May rehabbing instead of joining Panama in top form. And he’s at greater risk for aggravating the injury trying to slow down Eden Hazard or Harry Kane during the World Cup.

“It’s always challenging and it’s been challenging for us as a club because we’ve always had a lot of internationals on our roster,” Schmetzer said.

Injury is typically the primary concern, and the fallout can be significant. In Europe, England’s Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlin and France’s Laurent Koscielny were lost from World Cup consideration due to major injuries suffered late in their club seasons. A final capper to the international club season were the injuries suffered by Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Dani Carvajal (Spain) in the UEFA Champions League final and have put their status for Russia in question.

For others who sit on the cusp of making their national teams, the consideration of injury and overall health isn’t allowed to be a factor. Give less than 100 percent effort, and performance could diminish, and selection for the World Cup might not happen.

“It’s not an easy time for the players, because that’s obviously on their minds,” said LAFC and former U.S. coach Bob Bradley.

Gustav Svensson has seemed a lock for Sweden after he played significant minutes in its World Cup qualifying playoff win over Italy. And while the thought of what lies ahead in Russia would sometimes creep into his mind during training, he did his best to push it aside when it came to games for Seattle.

“I think it’s dangerous to start thinking about that,” Svensson said. “I think it’s dangerous if you start not going into 100 percent in every challenge. I think easier to get injured if you start lacking in a little bit of some things.”

Clint Dempsey played in three World Cups for the U.S., two while playing in MLS and one while in England. He said that either way, the top concern for players this time of year is the challenge of staying in top shape.

“I couldn’t say which one is more difficult because you have a short career you want to make the most of it,” Dempsey said. “You don’t want to complain and you make the most of what your situation is whether you play domestically for club or playing in Europe. You want to be playing well because if you’re playing well for your club you’ll always get called into the national team.”

AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.