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Premier League loans for Rooney, Zlatan?

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This is something which happened a lot in the past but loan deals from Major League Soccer to the Premier League seem to have died down slightly in recent years.

[ MORE: Rooney, DC make playoffs ]

I’m talking Robbie Keane to Aston Villa and Thierry Henry to Arsenal in 2012. Landon Donovan to Everton in 2010 and 2012. David Beckham to AC Milan in 2009 and 2010. That kind of deal. Not quite Frank Lampard from New York City FC to Manchester City, because we all know how that worked out…

But could Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic be the latest MLS stars to head back to Europe for an offseason loan stint?

Given Zlatan’s incredible form in his debut campaign in MLS with 22 goals in 26 games at the ripe age of 37, plus Rooney’s huge impact at D.C. United (12 goals and 10 assists in 19 games) which has dragged them from last place in the East to playoff qualification, surely they could help out a few PL clubs right now?

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson recently said Rooney, 32, left England too soon, and with the Eagles having goalscoring issues, maybe they could an option if the Manchester United captain fancied a stint back in England in January?

While Zlatan’s former club Man United could certainly use a little help given their poor start to the season and with a busy festive season coming up with PL and European action. It has even been suggested by the Spanish media that Real Madrid would be willing to sign Zlatan on a short-term loan. Now, wouldn’t that be something…

But lets think about this. Would D.C. United and the LA Galaxy really want their star players heading overseas to risk injury and burnout after a gruelling MLS campaign?

In Zlatan’s case, probably not. The Galaxy would be correct to be concerned about Zlatan’s injury record and the fact that the Swedish superstar has four years on Rooney suggests he could probably do with a rest. Plus, Zlatan has played an entire MLS season whereas Rooney arrived at the halfway point.

As for Rooney, it seems like December-February would be better spent getting to known the D.C. area better with his family after his move during the season to MLS.

But, as we know with top players, they want to play at the best level possible for as long as possible and both Rooney and Ibrahimovic will no doubt have offers on the table for loan moves in January. It’s not about the money with these two veterans. It is more about proving to everyone than can still do it. And their form in MLS proves they can.

You can scoff at MLS all you want but if you tell me that 15 out of the 20 current Premier League teams wouldn’t jump at the chance to take Rooney and Zlatan on loan in January, then I’d call you a liar right to your face.

Timbers tops RSL to clinch playoffs, Galaxy now controls destiny

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The Western Conference playoff picture has become more clear after the Portland Timbers clinched a playoff spot by topping Real Salt Lake 3-0.

The victory not only secured a berth for Portland, but it also left RSL in a position of vulnerability. The LA Galaxy won at Minnesota 3-1 with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the scoresheet, pulling within a point of RSL, who is done for the regular season, meaning the Galaxy controls its own destiny.

Portland put together a comprehensive performance, disappointing from RSL’s perspective with the playoffs on the line. 15 minutes in, Diego Valeri chipped in a free-kick and defender Larrys Mabiala made a run at the back post for the tap-in. Portland defended well for the rest of the first half, and while the visitors dominated the first part of the second half, they conceded again past the hour mark through another unlikely culprit in Diego Chara. On the counter, Chara made a storming run down the middle, and after collecting a Sebastian Blanco pass, he touched past a charging Nick Rimando and finished cooly. The third came from Blanco with three minutes to go to put the cherry on top of a solid overall performance.

Los Angeles picked up a vital three points thanks to a ruthless attack. Ibrahimovic headed home a beautiful looping cross from Rolf Feltscher right on the half-hour mark, and the Galaxy went up for good.

In the second half, a ridiculous four-minute stretch saw three goals in succession. First, Ola Kamara was denied on the doorstep by Michael Boxall, but seconds later he poked in an Ashley Cole cross at the near post for LA’s second. The third came just one minute later as Minnesota turned it over in their own defensive third, and Ibrahimovic crossed to Roman Alessandrini for an absurd volleyed finish. Minnesota got a consolation just two minutes later through Angello Rodríguez, but it wasn’t enough.

So, the playoff picture is thus: Portland is in with 54 points. RSL is currently in the playoffs, but their regular season is finished with 49 points. The Galaxy, therefore, sit below the cut line on 48 points but have a meeting with Houston next weekend for all the marbles. They need to win to advance to the playoffs, as a draw would leave them with one fewer win, the first tiebreaker.

MLS State of Play: The final playoff spots

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Major League Soccer’s playoff races still carry intrigue heading into the final two weekends of the season, but the midweek matches which threatened to either amp up the excitement or take it down a few notches fell decidedly in the latter category.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Manchester United ]

DC, Seattle, and Real Salt Lake all won their matches, as only eliminated New England and Real have played more than 32 matches.

Here’s what still at play at the bottom of the East and West playoff pictures, with the latter going first:

Real Salt Lake puts its on Rio Tinto, then has to wait

Mike Petke’s men play their final match of the regular season on Sunday, nursing a four-point lead over the LA Galaxy. RSL’s opponents are equally desperate Portland, which has fallen behind Seattle in the race for one of two first round home matches.

Should Real win, it can not be caught by the Galaxy regardless of what Zlatan Ibrahimovic might have up his sleeve. It would put Portland in danger of missing the playoffs by losing out and seeing the Galaxy win both of their matches, as the second tiebreaker would decide it and LA would make amends on its current three goal disadvantage in differential on the virtue of simple math.

Oh, and Vancouver! The ‘Caps need to win out, have the Galaxy gain no more than two points, and have Real lose in Portland on Sunday.

Sunday
LA Galaxy at Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
Vancouver Whitecaps at LAFC

Oct. 28
Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy
Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps

Western
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – FC Dallas 32 16 9 7 51 39 12 10-5-1 6-4-6 57
x – Sporting KC 32 16 8 8 60 39 21 9-5-2 7-3-6 56
x – Los Angeles FC 32 16 8 8 65 48 17 9-6-1 7-2-7 56
x – Seattle 32 16 5 11 47 34 13 9-2-5 7-3-6 53
Portland 32 14 9 9 50 46 4 10-4-2 4-5-7 51
Real Salt Lake 33 14 7 12 55 55 0 11-4-2 3-3-10 49
Los Angeles 32 12 9 11 61 60 1 8-4-4 4-5-7 45
Vancouver 32 12 7 13 50 64 -14 6-5-5 6-2-8 43
Minnesota 32 11 3 18 46 65 -19 10-1-5 1-2-13 36
Houston 32 9 8 15 53 53 0 8-3-5 1-5-10 35
Colorado 32 7 6 19 34 62 -28 5-3-8 2-3-11 27
San Jose 32 4 8 20 48 69 -21 2-5-9 2-3-11 20

Let’s be honest: For seventh place Montreal to make the playoffs, the Impact need either DC United or Columbus to get a really bad team-wide flu.

The Impact are four points back of DC and five behind Columbus with two matches to go.

Columbus plays at Orlando City and home to Minnesota United. Orlando has a single win since May 16, while Minnesota has a win and two draws in 16 away matches this year.

DC is home to New York City and away to Chicago, so this is clearly the club Montreal will be seeing as its target. For as bad as the Fire have been, they’ve beat some decent teams at home (This is MLS, after all, where home teams run free).

So the Impact will want to win out, but at least get four points and hope DC loses out. The Impact is home to struggling Toronto in a derby match and away to New England. It’s not improbable it gets the points it needs, but will it get help.

Eastern
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Atlanta 32 20 6 6 67 39 28 10-4-2 10-2-4 66
x – New York 32 20 5 7 60 33 27 13-1-2 7-4-5 65
x – New York City FC 32 15 8 9 55 41 14 11-4-1 4-4-8 53
x – Philadelphia 32 15 5 12 48 46 2 9-2-5 6-3-7 50
Columbus 32 13 9 10 39 41 -2 10-4-2 3-5-8 48
D.C. 32 13 8 11 57 49 8 12-2-2 1-6-9 47
Montreal 32 13 4 15 45 52 -7 10-2-4 3-2-11 43
New England 33 9 11 13 48 55 -7 7-5-4 2-6-9 38
Toronto FC 32 9 6 17 55 61 -6 7-2-7 2-4-10 33
Chicago 32 8 7 17 47 59 -12 6-3-7 2-4-10 31
Orlando City SC 32 7 4 21 41 72 -31 5-4-7 2-0-14 25

VIDEO: Zlatan meets Thai soccer team rescued from cave

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The Wild Boar football team have met one of their idols.

After being trapped in a cave in northern Thailand on June 23, the 13 youngsters survived and escaped on July 10 thanks to a huge rescue effort with the whole world watching on.

Now, the players have been lauded for their bravery and on a trip to the U.S. they got to meet Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The look on their faces when the big man arrived was priceless.

Appearing on The Ellen Show as a surprise, the LA Galaxy star arrived just after the players from the Wild Boars revealed he was one of their idols.

“I thought that I was brave, but this team is braver than me,” Ibrahimovic said. “They showed their collective team work and had patience… believing in other hands also. This is probably the best team in the world.”

Zlatan also handed the youngsters plenty of LA Galaxy swag and they were invited to an upcoming MLS game.

Take a look at the video below as Zlatan hangs out with the team towards the end.

MLS State of Play: Playoff, Supporters’ Shield races go to wire

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In a season which has very much underlined its superstars, Major League Soccer reaches its home stretch with plenty on the line for the teams of those megawatt names.

[ MORE: Salah injury update ]

Carlos Vela and expansion LAFC are in a race for the West’s top seed, while crosstown rival LA Galaxy are riding Zlatan Ibrahimovic toward the final playoff spot.

In the East, Wayne Rooney and DC United are now in a playoff spot (at the expense of Saphir Taider and Montreal). And Atlanta’s Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez are hoping to maintain their pole position straight into a Supporters’ Shield.

With *most* teams on 32 matches played — eight teams have midweek matches before a busy weekend — here’s the state of play in the East and West. Let’s start with the latter, where there’s plenty more to dissect but no Supporters’ Shield implications.

The race for the top of the West could be thrilling

Sporting KC is four points behind leaders FC Dallas and three back of LAFC but has a match-in-hand on both.

That match is against a Vancouver team desperate to keep its playoff dreams alive (more on that later, because a Caps win over KC would further enliven the race for sixth!).

Sporting heads to Dallas before hosting LAFC in the finale. Making the race even more exciting is the fact that all three teams are rarities in MLS in that they are .500 or better away from home.

Dallas is in the best spot of the bunch, with a match against lowly Colorado in addition to the visit from KC. LAFC also faces Vancouver, in LA, in what will still be a desperate affair for the Caps.

A home first round spot is Cascadian; Sixth is anyone’s guess

Portland and Seattle are fourth and fifth in the table, and likely jockeying for a home match against the other in what would be a fantastic first round match.

And the fixtures set us up for a lot of fun. Here are the remaining matches for teams still alive for a playoff spot.

Most notably: The final day could have Real Salt Lake simply watching the scoreboard due to a bye, while a Cascadian derby could decide plenty.

Wednesday
Seattle Sounders at Orlando City SC

Thursday
New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake
Sporting KC at Vancouver Whitecaps

Oct. 21
LA Galaxy at Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
Seattle Sounders at Houston Dynamo
Vancouver Whitecaps at LAFC

Oct. 28
Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy
Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps
San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders

Western
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
FC Dallas* 32 16 9 7 51 39 12 10-5-1 6-4-6 57
Los Angeles FC* 32 16 8 8 65 48 17 9-6-1 7-2-7 56
Sporting KC* 31 15 8 8 56 38 18 9-5-2 6-3-6 53
Portland 32 14 9 9 50 46 4 10-4-2 4-5-7 51
Seattle 31 15 5 11 45 33 12 9-2-5 6-3-6 50
Real Salt Lake 32 13 7 12 51 54 -3 10-4-2 3-3-10 46
Los Angeles 32 12 9 11 61 60 1 8-4-4 4-5-7 45
Vancouver 31 12 7 12 49 60 -11 6-5-4 6-2-8 43
Minnesota – e 32 11 3 18 46 65 -19 10-1-5 1-2-13 36
Houston – e 32 9 8 15 53 53 0 8-3-5 1-5-10 35
Colorado – e 32 7 6 19 34 62 -28 5-3-8 2-3-11 27
San Jose – e 32 4 8 20 48 69 -21 2-5-9 2-3-11 20

The Shield looks Southern but nothing is certain

Atlanta United has been consistent home and away, and Tata Martino’s men simply need to match the Red Bulls results to gain a first Supporters’ Shield. Atlanta is home to Chicago and away to Toronto in what should be close to certain.

The Red Bulls know they’ll be first or second, and head to tricky Philadelphia before hosting Orlando City SC.

DC can lessen the drama at midweek

The Black-and-Red haven’t lost since Aug. 29, a run of seven matches, and the Wayne Rooney-Luciano Acosta show hosts already eliminated and Michael Bradley-less Toronto FC on Wednesday.

If DC wins, it will have a four-point lead on seventh-place Montreal and be eyeing up fourth. DC then hosts NYCFC before traveling to Chicago.

Montreal hosts Toronto in a derby before traveling to New England, and can max out at 49 points. That means they need either DC to struggle or Columbus to turn into a pool of mush. The Crew heads to Orlando before hosting Minnesota and… yeah… it would take mush. More than a puddle or maybe even a pool. Perhaps a Lake of Mush.

Eastern
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlanta* 32 20 6 6 67 39 28 10-4-2 10-2-4 66
Red Bulls* 32 20 5 7 60 33 27 13-1-2 7-4-5 65
New York City FC* 32 15 8 9 55 41 14 11-4-1 4-4-8 53
Philadelphia* 32 15 5 12 48 46 2 9-2-5 6-3-7 50
Columbus 32 13 9 10 39 41 -2 10-4-2 3-5-8 48
D.C. 31 12 8 11 56 49 7 11-2-2 1-6-9 44
Montreal 32 13 4 15 45 52 -7 10-2-4 3-2-11 43
New England – e 32 9 11 12 47 51 -4 7-5-4 2-6-8 38
Toronto FC – e 31 9 6 16 55 60 -5 7-2-7 2-4-9 33
Chicago – e 32 8 7 17 47 59 -12 6-3-7 2-4-10 31
Orlando City SC – e 31 7 4 20 40 70 -30 5-4-6 2-0-14 25