Ackera Nugent, the 2023 NCAA 100m hurdles champion, has achieved another milestone by graduating from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Advanced Communication. The 22-year-old track and field standout turned professional in 2023 shortly after clinching the NCAA title and has now successfully completed her academic journey while pursuing her athletic career.

Nugent, who joined the University of Arkansas in January 2023 after two seasons at Baylor University, remained committed to her studies even after signing a professional contract. In an Instagram post celebrating her achievement, Nugent expressed heartfelt gratitude to her mother and shared a message of inspiration.

“No one hustles harder than a first-gen who is paving the way," Nugent wrote. "You will succeed in all you do, and light will shine on your path."

Acknowledging her mother's sacrifices and unwavering support, Nugent continued, "Your selfless love and sacrifices have shaped me into the person I am today. There are no words to fully repay you for all that you have done, but I promise to do everything in my power to ensure that you live a wonderful and fulfilling life ahead."

Nugent's journey to graduation comes on the heels of her outstanding performance at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2023, where she blazed through the 100m hurdles to claim victory in 12.25 seconds. Reflecting on her championship win, Nugent credited her coach's guidance and expressed satisfaction with her performance.

"It feels amazing to know that I've just got to trust my coach, and I follow instruction very, very well," Nugent said back then. "To be able to follow those instructions and see the time, I feel very pleased."

Despite her academic success, Nugent made the strategic decision to turn professional in track and field, aiming to pursue her athletic dreams to the fullest while maintaining her dedication to education.

"I'm staying in school because I feel like getting my degree is very important," Nugent explained during an exclusive interview with Sportsmax.TV.

By going professional, Nugent is poised to embark on a new chapter in her athletic career, leveraging her talent and determination to excel at the highest levels of competition.

Brianna Lyston, the standout LSU sophomore, demonstrated her exceptional talent at the SEC Outdoor Championships on Thursday by running a lifetime best of 22.31 seconds in the 200m, securing her spot in the finals scheduled for Saturday.

 Despite facing a challenging headwind of 1.0m/s, Lyston delivered a remarkable performance to win her heat and surpass her previous personal best of 22.53 set in Kingston two years ago. Her impressive run solidifies her status as a formidable competitor in collegiate track and field.

 Joining Lyston in the finals is Nickeisha Pryce, a senior from the University of Arkansas, who also secured her place with a strong performance, clocking a time of 22.75 seconds.

 In Saturday's final, Lyston will face a stacked field that includes Tennessee's Jacious Sears who ran 22.66 in her heat on Thursday as well as Razorback Amber Anning (22.66) as well as South Carolina's JaMeesia Ford (22.47) and McKenzie Long of Ole Miss (22.37).

 In addition to Lyston's outstanding achievement, Kimar Farquharson and Tyrese Reid showcased their talent in the 800m event, both advancing to the finals.

 Farquharson, representing Texas A&M, clocked an impressive time of 1:47.57, while Reid, representing the University of Mississippi, secured his spot with a time of 1:48.07.

 

The Caribbean will be represented in the final of the women’s 200m at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships through Jamaican University of Texas standouts Dejanea Oakley and Kevon Davis.

Oakley, a former Clarendon College standout, was the fastest qualifier in Thursday’s heats at the Clyde Hart Track & Field Stadium with 23.00 while Davis, a 200m semi-finalist at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, ran 23.32 in the heats to advance to Saturday’s final as the fifth fastest qualifier.

Oakley is fresh off running a new 200m personal best 22.73 at the Texas Invitational on April 26. She competed at last year’s Big 12 Championships, failing to advance from the heats of the 400m.

Davis was a runner up in both the 100m and 200m at last year’s Big 12 Outdoor Championships with times of 11.04 and 22.51. She was beaten by former Texas teammate and current World Indoor 60m champion Julien Alfred in both events.

The men’s 200m saw Jamaican Baylor senior Demar Francis (20.66) and Bahamian Texas Tech sophomore Antoine Andrews (20.74) both advance to the final.

Trinidadian Houston junior Dillon Leacock ran 51.83 to advance to the final of the 400m hurdles.

The West Coast Fever, led by Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard's outstanding performance with 62 goals, secured a resounding 94-58 victory over the Queensland Firebirds to maintain their unbeaten record in the Suncorp Super Netball League on Friday.

The Fever established their dominance from the outset, racing to a commanding 26-16 lead by the end of the first quarter. Despite the absence of Kelsey Browne, the team demonstrated versatility with new combinations on court. Captain Jess Anstiss took on the centre position, and Sunday Aryang made her season debut in Wing Defence.

The second quarter saw the Fever extend their lead to 49-28 at halftime, with standout performances from Fran Williams in defense, securing crucial deflections and rebounds. Fowler-Nembhard and Shanice Beckford continued to shine in the shooting circle, further bolstering the Fever's advantage. All together, the Fever shot with 95 per cent accuracy from the field.

Fever's defensive prowess was on full display in the third quarter, with newcomers Olivia Williamson and Ruth Aryang making significant impacts. Williamson, making her start, scored nine goals, including three super shots, while Ruth Aryang showcased her defensive skills with key rebounds and intercepts.

As the game progressed into the final quarter, the Fever maintained their intensity, closing out the match with a decisive victory. The combination of Williamson and Beckford in the shooting circle proved formidable, with Williamson contributing 15 goals and Beckford adding 8 goals to the Fever's impressive final score of 94 points.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Firebirds were led by Donnell Wallam's strong performance, scoring 37 goals in the match.

Alice Teague-Neeld played a crucial role throughout the match, tallying an impressive 45 feeds and 33 goal assists, while also showcasing strong defensive capabilities in the fourth quarter.

With this victory, the West Coast Fever remain undefeated in the Suncorp Super Netball League, securing their fifth win of the season. The team will now shift their focus to their upcoming home game against the Thunderbirds at RAC Arena on Saturday, May 18.

FC Dallas boss Nico Estevez would have preferred not to face both of the club's Texas rivals in back-to-back home games, but he is keen to follow up their victory over the Houston Dynamo with another against Austin FC.

Dallas overcame Houston 2-0 on their last home outing in MLS, though they were then beaten 3-1 by in-form Toronto FC on their travels last week.

Estevez's team sit 13th in the Western Conference with eight points, some eight adrift of Austin in sixth, but he feels there are things they can replicate from the Houston game in their next derby match. 

"It would be nice for our fans and everyone if the games were a little bit more spread out, right?" he said on Thursday.

"When you have back-to-back, I feel like it is difficult to get that assignment and motivation and everything right, but for us, it is important. 

"Austin uses more of the wings and it's a different type of approach. They defend in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-2, which is similar."

Austin, meanwhile, have won four of their last six MLS games (one draw, one loss) to surge up the standings, leaving boss Josh Wolff encouraged ahead of a busy few weeks. 

"There's no way we can look past one opponent and towards the next," Wolff said. 

"We have to see who comes through Dallas in a good way and see where we're at physically and where the opponent is at physically.

"These guys are fit, they're strong and they're in a good space."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Dallas – Sam Junqua

Junqua has recorded a goal contribution in consecutive matches (one goal, one assist), including scoring Dallas’ lone goal at Toronto last Saturday.

Junqua had only recorded two goal contributions in his previous 35 MLS appearances going back to August 2022.

Austin FC – Brad Stuver

Austin’s goalless draw at Vancouver on Saturday was their third consecutive clean sheet, their longest shutout streak in team history. Stuver started in goal in all three games and will be looking to continue that run against Dallas.

Austin had kept just one clean sheet in their previous 25 matches in all competitions dating back to last July.

MATCH PREDICTION – DALLAS WIN

FC Dallas won each of their first three meetings with Austin FC – all in the 2021 season. Since then, Dallas have managed just two wins in seven against Austin (two draws, three losses), including a 2-1 loss at Q2 Stadium on March 30.

With eight points, Dallas are off to their second-worst 10-match start to a season in club history with only their start in 2009 (six points from 10 matches) being worse. However, seven of their eight points have come in their five home matches.

Meanwhile, Austin have collected 13 points in their last six MLS matches after totalling just 10 points in their previous 16 league matches dating back to their return from the Leagues Cup last August. The form book often goes out of the window on derby day, however, so their positive run could end here. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Dallas – 46.4%

Draw – 28.2%

Austin – 25.4%

The Houston Dynamo took a "punch in the face" as they exited the U.S. Open Cup at the hands of Detroit City on Tuesday, but Ben Olsen expects his team to respond when they go to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

Defending U.S. Open Cup champions Houston squandered a 2-0 lead against their USL Championship opponents in midweek before losing a dramatic penalty shoot-out 10-9.

They now turn their attentions back to MLS, sitting eighth in the Western Conference with 14 points from their first 10 games of the year, and Olsen expects them to bounce back.

"It's a good punch in the face. But I think they'll respond," Olsen said.

"We have a good group in there and I think we have the right character to turn this into a positive."

Sporting KC trail Houston by just three points in the standings, but they made it through their own U.S. Open Cup tie against Union Omaha in midweek, winning 2-1 in extra time.

Boss Peter Vermes is not overly concerned by the physical toll taken by having to play 120 minutes, pointing out Houston did likewise only one day earlier.

"Houston had to do the same yesterday. The only thing is they have a day extra rest," he said.

"We have just got to do the best we can to recover and get ready for that game. It was good. We used all of our subs. 

"Everybody's getting minutes and now we just have got to get ourselves recovered and get ready for Houston on Saturday."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sporting KC – Johnny Russell

Russell has scored eight goals against the Dynamo in all competitions, more than against any other opponent in his Kansas City career. He has scored against Houston at least once in each of the last six years.

Houston Dynamo – Ibrahim Aliyu

The Dynamo had a combined 22 shots on goal during their 0-0 draw with St. Louis City last Saturday, with top scorer Aliyu having five of those – the most by a Houston player in an MLS game this season.

The Nigerian has three goals this campaign and will be looking to get back on the scoresheet at the weekend.

MATCH PREDICTION: SPORTING KANSAS CITY WIN

Kansas City have won five straight home matches against Houston in all competitions and have only lost twice in their last 19 at home against the Dynamo in all competitions (11 wins, six draws) dating back to 2012.

However, Kansas City are winless in four straight home matches (two draws, two defeats) for the first time since a five-match drought between July and August in 2021. Sporting have conceded three times in each of their last four home matches, equalling the second-longest such streak in MLS history.

The Dynamo’s goalless draw with St. Louis City last week was their third straight regular-season match without a goal. Houston had been shut out in only two of their previous 18 regular-season matches dating back to last August. Their attacking issues mean Sporting go in as favourites. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Sporting Kansas City – 47.7%

Draw – 27.7%

Houston Dynamo – 24.6%

Wilfried Nancy questioned why limits should be placed upon his Columbus Crew side after they reached the CONCACAF Champions Cup final.

Having taken a narrow 2-1 lead into the second and away leg, Columbus then impressively won 3-1 in Monterrey to secure their place in the final against Pachuca in June.

Columbus are also sitting fifth in the MLS' Eastern Conference, and Nancy believes his side can keep pushing the boundaries of their potential.

"For me, this is about trying to be limitless, and this value for me is so important," Nancy told reporters. "Why are we going to put limits on what we do?"

Nancy's men turn their attentions back to domestic football this weekend, hosting FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

Cincinnati are flying themselves having rattled off three straight MLS victories to leave them second in the East and three points behind leaders Inter Miami with a game in hand.

Despite winning 1-0 at Orlando City last time out, Noonan was not impressed with his side's showing, saying: "I don't think anybody in there is doing cartwheels because of their, and our, performance.

"We won a game on the road and did things well enough to get a win, but didn't perform anywhere near what we know we're capable of.

"Hopefully, we use this as a chance to learn a little bit about ourselves and grow from it and then hopefully, have a good week and a strong performance in Columbus."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Columbus Crew – Cucho Hernandez

Hernandez leads the Crew for goals so far this season, netting four times in eight appearances. His tally is twice as many as his team-mates have managed, and Hernandez looks the most likely to lead his team's attacking threat this Saturday.

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta scored 17 seconds into Cincinnati’s 1-0 win over Orlando last weekend. It was the earliest goal ever scored in a 1-0 win in MLS history, and if his team are to pick up three points again this weekend, another fast start from Acosta could prove helpful.

MATCH PREDICTION – COLUMBUS CREW WIN

Columbus have lost only two of their 13 all-time MLS meetings with Cincinnati (seven wins, four draws), including winning the last two in a row. The Crew have scored multiple goals in 11 of those 13 matches, including each of the last seven in a row (incl. playoffs).

Cincinnati, meanwhile, have won three straight matches in all competitions for the first time since a four-match winning run in May-June last season. Two of those wins have come on the road with Cincinnati winning seven of their last 11 away matches in all competitions dating back to last September.

Columbus are unbeaten in 27 consecutive home matches in all competitions dating back over a year, though, with only two longer home unbeaten streaks in all competitions by an MLS club before, and they look the favourites to claim victory on Saturday.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Columbus – 52.5%

Cincinnati – 21.2%

Draw – 26.3%

New England Revolution head coach Caleb Porter wants his team to focus on their own game as they prepare to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

The Revs sit bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with just seven points, though they ended a three-match losing run with a narrow 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire last weekend.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls sit in fourth, though they are winless in their last four outings after last week's 6-2 thrashing at the hands of a Lionel Messi-inspired Inter Miami.

Asked how he would prepare to face a side coming off the back of such a heavy defeat, Porter turned the focus back to his own team, saying: "I think we have to be more focused on our mentality.

"That was, last week, a point of emphasis: ‘Let’s work on our execution.’ In the game of football, if you do what you want to do, that's half the equation or more, and I thought we did that in the latter stages of the first half and the entire second half, and I think that was a big reason we won the game."

Youngster Esmir Bajraktarevic echoed his coach’s thoughts, noting how the Revs have caused some of their own problems this season.

He said: "I think the main thing is just playing our game. I think when you look back at most of our games, it's kind of us beating ourselves rather than the other way around.

"So, it's kind of just making sure that we're doing the best that we can, and the results will come."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New York Red Bulls – Dante Vanzeir

Vanzeir recorded his eighth goal contribution of the season with the opening goal against Inter Miami on Saturday, the joint-most for the team this season with Lewis Morgan.

Only one player, Fabio in 2021, has recorded eight or more goal involvements in the Red Bulls’ first 11 matches of a season between 2019 and 2023.

New England Revolution – Tomas Chancalay

Chancalay scored the lone goal in New England’s win over Chicago Fire last Saturday. Since his debut last April, he has scored more MLS goals than any other Revs player, netting eight.

MATCH PREDICTION: NEW YORK RED BULLS WIN

The Red Bulls have lost only one of their last 19 regular-season home matches against New England (12 wins, six draws) dating back to September 2007 – a 3-2 defeat in July 2021 – scoring at least once in all 19 games.

Indeed, the Red Bulls are unbeaten in seven straight home matches in all competitions (four wins, three draws) including last season’s playoffs. New York, who have two wins and two draws on their own turf this year, haven’t started a season unbeaten in their first five home games since 2017.

However, New England ended a 17-match away winless streak in MLS play (incl. playoffs) with a 1-0 win over Chicago Fire on Saturday. The Revs have only won consecutive games on the road once since the start of the 2022 season, doing so in May-June 2022.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

New York Red Bulls – 44.4%

Draw – 28.7%

New England Revolution – 26.9%

Jim Curtin is calling for his Philadelphia Union side to improve ahead of the visit of Orlando City this weekend.

The Union are on a run of four games without a victory, needing to come from two goals behind to salvage a 2-2 draw away at D.C. United last weekend.

The poor run has left the Union eighth in the Eastern Conference, already 10 points behind leaders Inter Miami.

Curtin knows his side must get better ahead of back-to-back home games, telling reporters: "We still have a lot we can improve.

"We go back home for two games and we have to play with confidence. That's really when this group are at their best."

Orlando, meanwhile, are in the midst of their own underwhelming start, winning just two of their first 10 MLS games to leave them 14th in the East.

Oscar Pareja's men went down 1-0 at home to FC Cincinnati last weekend, and the Orlando head coach was disappointed with the performance and defeat.

"It's another frustrating night because of the result," Pareja said. "Obviously, at this point we are needing urgency to get points."

Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese added: "We’re trying to push a certain way instead of being ourselves. This team just has to fix that and try and be ourselves."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

Gazdag has started the season impressively in front of goal, netting six times in nine matches to kick off the campaign. If Philadelphia are to get themselves back up towards the top of the East, Gazdag may be the man to fire them to it.

Orlando City – Duncan McGuire

Orlando have found it tricky in front of goal so far this term, and McGuire leads the team's scoring charts with four, double what any of his team-mates have managed. It will likely fall upon him to provide his team's main goal threat again on Saturday.

MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA WIN

The Union have lost back-to-back home matches after losing just two of their previous 51 at Subaru Park in all competitions. Philadelphia have never suffered a three-match home losing streak in all competitions in club history.

Orlando faced just seven shots in the defeat to Cincinnati last weekend as they've conceded a league-low 9.7 shots per match this season. Opponents have converted a league-high 18.6% of their shots into goals against the Lions this season, however.

Orlando won 2-1 at the Union in the last meeting between the sides in Chester in March 2023, but the Lions have never avoided defeat in consecutive away matches against Philadelphia in all competitions and the Union look the favourites to earn the three points this weekend.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia: 54.2%

Orlando: 19.7%

Draw: 26.1%

Bradley Carnell has warned his St. Louis City side they can't get comfortable despite a four-game unbeaten run.

Carnell's men last lost in March, since winning one and drawing three to leave St. Louis ninth in the Western Conference, just three points behind sixth-placed Austin FC.

As his team prepares to host the Chicago Fire this weekend, Carnell has cautioned his players not to become complacent.

"We can speak so many nice positives, especially with our three clean sheets in four and there are so many good moments," Carnell said.

"But I also don't want to get comfortable with that. I don't want to be used to getting draws. I don't want to hype up getting ties."

Carnell's side will look to extend their unbeaten run against a Fire team winless in four, currently 13th in the East after a poor start.

Chicago head coach Frank Klopas hopes his team don't lose faith, telling reporters: "Our focus is to continue to stay positive with the group.

"It's a process of evaluating and looking at how we can improve as a team, and then making sure once we analyse the games we look at certain things we did well and our mistakes to look to improve.

"It's a long season. I feel the team has been playing well, but we have to find a way to get points."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

St. Louis City – Joao Klauss

No St. Louis player has managed more MLS goal contributions than Klauss so far this term, scoring three and adding an assist. He will likely lead the line on Saturday and will hope to score the goals that start turning draws into wins.

Chicago Fire – Brian Gutierrez

Despite his team's poor collective start, 20-year-old midfielder Gutierrez has performed well and leads his team with three MLS goals so far this season, while also registering an assist. He will look to build on that and try to turn his side's fortunes around, starting this Saturday.

MATCH PREDICTION – ST. LOUIS WIN

St. Louis have kept clean sheets in three of their last four matches, including in the scoreless draw with the Houston Dynamo last time out. St. Louis had managed just two clean sheets in their previous 23 matches in all competitions dating back to last July.

The Fire, meanwhile, have failed to score in four straight matches. This is the fifth time Chicago have gone four or more consecutive league matches without scoring since the start of the 2021 season.

Six of St. Louis City's last eight matches have ended in draws, but home advantage should be enough to see off a struggling Chicago team on Saturday.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

St. Louis: 55.5%

Chicago: 19%

Draw: 25.5%

Greg Vanney believes the LA Galaxy are in a good spot both physically and mentally ahead of Saturday's clash with fellow Western Conference high-fliers Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy sit third in the West through 11 matches of the season, though they have failed to win back-to-back road games against Austin FC (0-2) and the Seattle Sounders (0-0).

They are, however, unbeaten in all four of their home league games this term (two wins, two draws), and Vanney is looking forward to returning to Dignity Health Sports Park next time out.

"Physically, first and foremost, we're in a pretty good spot. We have a few guys coming back from issues that were pretty minor," Vanney said.

"It's good. We've been able to stay in that space for a while and now we're going into a busy part of the schedule we can make some choices about how we want to attack the week.

"Where are we mentally? We're good. It's nice to be home, it's a challenge to play a lot of games on the road early doors.

"We like the spot we're in and we want to keep building, but we've got to get through this tough stretch of games."

Real Salt Lake are top of the Western standings with 21 points, only losing twice in 11 league games this year.

However, they were dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup by New Mexico United on Wednesday, Pablo Mastroeni shuffling his pack for a 4-2 road loss.

"We completely tuned out," Mastroeni said after watching his team go 2-0 down within 20 minutes.

"The emotion is like, 'poor me,' and when you operate from that space, you can never think reasonably."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

LA Galaxy – Gabriel Pec

The Galaxy (12 shots) and Seattle (19) combined for 31 shots in their scoreless draw last time out.

Pec – who has two goals in 10 league appearances since joining the Galaxy in the offseason – recorded six of his team's attempts, but only hit the target once. He will be targeting an improvement here.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango 

Arango is the first Real Salt Lake player to contribute to at least one goal in five straight regular-season away matches, recording four goals and five assists during his streak.

He is just the second player since the start of last season to record a goal contribution in five straight MLS away matches, after the Columbus Crew's Cucho Hernandez.

MATCH PREDICTION – LA GALAXY WIN

The Galaxy have lost only one of their last 13 home matches against Real Salt Lake (nine wins, three draws) including going unbeaten through the last seven in a row. 

The last two meetings in Carson have both ended level, though, after the Galaxy won nine of the previous 11 (one draw, one defeat).

However, Vanney's team have only lost one of their last 14 regular-season home matches dating back to last June, winning six and drawing six while averaging 2.2 goals per game throughout this run.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

LA Galaxy – 44.8%

Real Salt Lake – 27.8%

Draw – 27.4%

CF Montreal coach Laurent Courtois has been delighted by the way his players have adapted to his methods this season, though he joked he would still swap any of them for Lionel Messi ahead of Saturday's clash with Inter Miami.

Montreal sit 11th in the Eastern Conference standings with 12 points from their first 10 league games under Courtois, 12 adrift of early pacesetters Miami. 

However, plenty of outside factors have impacted their start to the season, not least the fact they have played eight of their matches – including each of their first six – on the road.

Courtois is proud of the way his players have learned on the job, though he still believes there is more to come from them. 

"I keep telling them that I have no in-between. I'm either going to be your biggest fan, or really tough and really demanding. Because we don't have time to play. We don't have time to lose," he said.

"At the same time, I'm such a fan of what they've been doing, accepting the stuff that I've been asking them to do, while being on the road for three months. 

"I think they want to play soccer in the right way. I have a few codes that I think can be helpful. 

"We need together to come up with common ground to execute in this way. They're still far from what I think they can do."

However, Courtois does see one area for improvement ahead of Saturday's clash with the Herons, quipping: "I wouldn't change any of my players for any others – except Messi."

Miami trounced the New York Red Bulls 6-2 last week, with Messi scoring once and laying on five assists in an incredible performance. 

That display left coach Gerardo Martino in disbelief, as he said: "I always say this, and it's redundant at this point, but he always does something new. 

"To have an involvement in all six goals of a team's goals in a 6-2 is something that will be difficult to see again."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

CF Montreal – Jonathan Sirois

Last week's 4-1 defeat at Nashville SC was the seventh time Montreal have conceded four or more goals in a regular-season MLS game since the start of 2023, more than any other team.

Only two MLS goalkeepers have faced more shots than Sirois (55) in 2024, though he has conceded 2.1 goals fewer than Opta's expected goals on target (xGoT) model suggests he should have. He will need a big performance against Messi and company.

Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

Messi has 10 goals and 12 assists in eight league matches this season. No player in MLS history had reached 10 goals and 10 assists in fewer than 16 appearances in a season before.

The Argentine has also reached 25 goal contributions in 14 MLS matches overall, seven fewer than any other player in MLS history required to bring up that figure.

MATCH PREDICTION – CF MONTREAL WIN

Montreal have won six of their nine all-time meetings with Miami (one draw, two defeats), including a 3-2 victory over the Herons on March 10. 

Only New York City FC (2.22) and the Chicago Fire (2.17) average more points per match against Miami than Montreal (2.11) among teams the Herons have faced five or more times.

While Montreal are winless in their last three league games, the last two of those were played on the road.

On home soil, they are a different proposition, going unbeaten through their last six games (two wins, four draws), including a win and a draw in their first two home matches of 2024. They have only lost three of their last 17 regular-season home games dating back to last April (10 wins, four draws).

Miami, despite their star quality, have been vulnerable this campaign, trailing in nine MLS games – a joint-high alongside the San Jose Earthquakes. They cannot keep relying on rescue acts.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

CF Montreal – 47.2%

Inter Miami – 25.7%

Draw – 27.1%

Gary Smith believes his Nashville side's thumping of CF Montreal last weekend is a step in the right direction as they look to build their "belief".

The 4-1 victory over Montreal, which saw striker Sam Surridge net a hat-trick, ended a run of five games without a win and moved Nashville up to 12th in the Eastern Conference.

As Nashville look to push further up the table when they travel to Charlotte FC this weekend, Smith is looking for his players to build on the Montreal performance.

"[The Montreal victory was] the first step in a long journey for us to get back to some rhythm, some success, put ourselves back in a position where there’s some belief here again that we can get results," Smith told reporters.

"We've seen we can score goals. I think that belief that we can win games again, this is the first step on that road.”

Charlotte also tasted victory last time out, beating the Portland Timbers 2-0 at home to leave them sixth in the East.

Midfielder Ashley Westwood hopes he and his team-mates can carry on the momentum from that triumph, saying: "It was a complete performance.

"During the game it felt comfortable. We felt like were in control with the ball and without the ball. We need to push on from that now."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Nikola Petkovic

Petkovic scored his first goal of the season against Portland, becoming one of 10 different players to score a goal for Charlotte this term, the most of any MLS team. Having netted his first of the campaign, he will be hungry for more this weekend.

Nashville – Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar has scored four goals in four career regular season matches against Charlotte FC, one of five opponents he's scored at least four times against in his MLS career. Though Surridge got the plaudits last time out, Mukhtar may be the main goal threat against a side he seems to have success against.

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

Charlotte have lost only two of their last 24 home matches in all competitions since March last season (13 wins, nine draws). Every MLS team besides Charlotte and the Columbus Crew (one loss) have at least four home losses in that time.

Nashville's 4-1 win over Montreal was just the club’s second win since the beginning of March in all competitions. Nashville's only other win in that time was a victory over Charlotte on March 16.

Charlotte won their first meeting with Nashville, a 4-1 home victory in July 2022. However, Nashville are unbeaten in the three meetings since, and though they are on the road, they may have enough to earn a point this weekend.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Charlotte: 38.1%

Nashville: 32.2%

Draw: 29.7%

Gonzalo Pineda hopes his Atlanta United side's 3-0 win over the Charlotte Independence in the US Open Cup on Tuesday gives them confidence after a tricky recent run.

Atlanta had gone five MLS games without a win prior to Tuesday's victory, leaving them 10th in the Eastern Conference after 10 matches.

However, with his side now heading into a home game against D.C. United off the back of a dominant display, Pineda is hoping that will spur his players onto better things in the league.

"When you win and have a solid performance like we did today, that brings confidence to the players," Pineda told reporters.

"I think at times there are certain games like this that can be a game changer or system changer."

Meanwhile, D.C. have only won one of their last five outings themselves and are just two points and a place above Atlanta having played a game more.

D.C. appeared to be on their way to victory against the Philadelphia Union last weekend, but they let a two-goal lead slip to instead be held to a draw.

Despite letting the Union escape with a point, D.C. head coach Troy Lesesne believes it was still an impressive showing.

"It may have been our best performance of the year," Lesesne said. "I'm very proud of what we put together.

"At the end of the season, this will be a point against a really good side."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Atlanta United – Giorgos Giakoumakis

Giakoumakis attempted six shots against Minnesota United last weekend with all of them coming from inside the box. Giakoumakis has averaged 4.1 shots in the box per 90 minutes this season, the highest rate in MLS (min. 400 minutes), and he will be hoping to add to his impressive tally of five goals in seven MLS appearances this Saturday.

D.C. United – Christian Benteke

Benteke has already netted eight MLS goals so far this season and is very much on course to beat his output of 14 that he managed last term. He is a constant threat in attack for D.C., and Atlanta will have to keep a watchful eye on the former Liverpool man.

MATCH PREDICTION – ATLANTA WIN

Atlanta have suffered consecutive regular season home losses for the first time since July 2021. This is only the club's fourth two-match home losing streak in regular season play as they've never lost three in a row at home.

Meanwhile, D.C. lost a two-goal lead in their 2-2 draw with the Union. D.C. have dropped 12 points from winning positions this season, tied for the second most in the league this season (Sporting Kansas City – 14).

D.C. are winless in 10 straight away matches in all competitions dating back to early August, and Atlanta could extend that poor run by taking the three points on Saturday.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Atlanta: 55.2%

D.C.: 19.8%

Draw: 25%

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