Inter Miami boost playoffs hopes with Toronto win, LAFC clinch postseason berth despite defeat

By Sports Desk August 20, 2022

Inter Miami claimed a crucial three points in the race for the MLS playoffs with a 2-1 victory over star-studded Eastern Conference outfit Toronto on Saturday.

The win means Phil Neville's side are unbeaten in five games and have won three of their past four to move up to fifth spot in the east.

All the goal scoring action occurred in the first half, with Inter going ahead after Toronto goalkeeper Alexander Bono's inexplicable error from Jean Mota's hopeful long-range strike in the 24th minute.

Italian recruit Lorenzo Insigne produced a moment of magic with a low right-foot volley to equalise four minutes later.

But Inter restored their lead in the 44th minute with a classy set play from a free-kick ending with Damion Lowe nodding back for Ariel Lassiter to stab home from close range.

Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley forced a save in the 72nd minute while Filippo Bernardeschi had a 94th-minute penalty shout waved away for the visitors.

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union flexed their muscle with Julian Carranza netting a hat-trick in a 6-0 away win over struggling DC United.

Philadelphia were in a ruthless mood although it was scoreless until Mikael Uhre got free and squeezed in the opener in the 37th minute.

Daniel Gazdag netted a penalty won by Uhre on half-time, before Carranza scored three goals inside 27 second-half minutes capitalizing on some inexplicable passing from the United defence. Cory Burke curled in the sixth in the 79th minute.

Reigning MLS Cup champions LAFC went down 2-1 at San Jose Earthquakes but became the first side to book their playoffs spot by virtue of other results.

Colorado Rapids drew 1-1 with Houston Dynamo, who found a late equaliser from Sebastian Ferreira, while Vancouver Whitecaps could only draw 1-1 at Real Salt Lake, locking in LAFC.

Kei Kamara moved into outright third in the MLS goal scoring charts with his 135th career league goal as Montreal defeated New England 4-0.

Matt Miazga marked his return to the MLS with a goal in his second game for FC Cincinnati as they drew 1-1 at his former club New York Red Bulls.

Minnesota United boosted their playoffs' hopes with a 2-1 win over Austin thanks to Franco Fragapane's 62nd-minute winner.

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    Amrabat, 26, had his first taste of Serie A football when he was loaned from Club Brugge to Hellas Verona for the 2019-20 season, catching the eye of Fiorentina, who scooped him up the following year.

    The defensive midfielder has steadily increased his role at Fiorentina, making 10 starts and three substitute appearances in the league this season.

    He played every minute of Morocco's three group games, guiding his side to an undefeated record (W2 D1) with clean sheets against both Belgium and Croatia, and now he is reportedly wanted by the English elite.

     

    TOP STORY – AMRABAT EMERGES AS LIVERPOOL AND TOTTENHAM TARGET

    According to Sky Sports Germany, Liverpool believe Amrabat can address their midfield depth issues, and could be available for €30million in January.

    An earlier report from La Repubblica claimed Tottenham had enquired about a potential deal last January, and his terrific tournament has only strengthened their interest. 

    With a blockbuster last-16 clash booked against Spain on Tuesday, another standout performance could have Amrabat packing his bags for an impending move to England.

     

    ROUND-UP

    – Calciomercato is reporting 23-year-old Barcelona target Martin Zubimendi is also on Manchester United's radar, although the Spaniard's contract ties him to Real Sociedad until 2027.

    – Calciomercato is also reporting Cristiano Ronaldo is "very interested" in joining Chelsea if the Stamford Bridge side will have him.

    – According to Fichajes, Inter would like to bring Barcelona midfielder Franck Kessie back to Serie A, but cannot afford to purchase him outright in January, while the Spanish side are not willing to let him leave on a loan deal.

    – 90min is reporting Real Madrid would need Kylian Mbappe to agree to certain conditions – including a pay cut and significantly less behind-the-scenes influence – if he wants to come to the club in the near future.

    – Newcastle United are not planning any moves in January, and are open to parting ways with 28-year-old winger Ryan Fraser, according to the Telegraph.

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    Lionel Messi will walk out the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium tunnel on Saturday with the expectations of millions on his shoulders when Argentina face Australia in the last 16 of Qatar 2022.

    That is nothing new, of course, for this will be the 1,000th match of a remarkable career that may yet to have peaked – though that will depend on whether Messi can inspire his country past Australia and all the way to World Cup glory.

    Now aged 35, Messi has already accepted this will be his final chance to lift the most famous trophy of them all, a little over a year on from helping La Albiceleste end their 28-year wait for a major title with Copa America success.

    Ahead of the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's milestone match, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind his previous 999 appearances for club and country – and why the next two weeks could yet define his career.

    Barca Breakthrough

    October 16, 2004. It would not be hyperbolic to suggest this was a day that football as we know it changed, with a 17-year-old Messi replacing Deco from the substitutes' bench in Barcelona's 1-0 win over city rivals Espanyol.

    In a sign of the mini maestro's longevity, he has since played alongside two players born after his Barcelona debut – Warren Zaire-Emery and El Chadaille Bitshiabu, born in March 2006 and May 2005 respectively.

    Both teenagers are on Paris Saint-Germain's books, where Messi is now plying his trade after ending his two-decade association with Barcelona in emotional circumstances in August 2021.

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    He made more appearances against Real Madrid than any other opponent, playing 47 times against Barca's fiercest rivals.

    Good times under Guardiola

    Barcelona's inability to offer Messi a new contract due to their dire financial situation allowed PSG to pounce. After an underwhelming first campaign in Paris, the superstar forward has found his form this term.

    Messi has featured 53 times for the Parisians to date and has scored (23) and assisted (28) a combined 51 goals – just short of one goal involvement every match on average.

    He has already had two different managers at the Parc des Princes, with Christophe Galtier having replaced Mauricio Pochettino in the hot seat. That takes the number of head coaches Messi has worked under to 19.

    It was under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, between 2008 and 2012, that Messi played his most games as he featured on 219 occasions under the Catalan and scored 211 times.

    Luis Enrique is next on that list (158 games), followed by Ernesto Valverde (124) and Frank Rijkaard (110), the man who gave him his debut against Espanyol.


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    Some 18 years and 48 days on from that first appearance comes match number 1,000 for club and country – and what a truly huge occasion it is for Messi and Argentina, who recovered from a slow start in the group phase to advance.

    Messi has featured in 22 previous World Cup matches – one more than Diego Maradona as the most ever for an Argentina player – scoring eight times and assisting six more. 

    Incredibly for a player of his game-changing quality, Messi has yet to score in the knockout stages of the World Cup – 23 efforts, zero goals. Interestingly, the same is also true of archenemy Cristiano Ronaldo (25 shots without a goal).

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    And while it will be a special occasion for Messi, the man many consider to be the greatest of all time will hope to make it to 1,003 matches before Argentina's Qatar campaign concludes.

    Should that be the case and Argentina go on to lift the World Cup for the first time since 1986, a centre-stage Messi will have the defining moment of a truly special career that still has some way to go yet.

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    Defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley was a crushing blow to England, who felt they were on the brink of a first major title in over 50 years.

    Gareth Southgate's team also went mightily close to reaching the 2018 World Cup final, missing out after losing to Croatia in the semi-finals.

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    The Reds finished as runners-up in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League during Henderson's time at Anfield before laying their hands on each of those trophies, and he can see why England's situation is comparable.

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    His former Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane was ruled out by the Africa Cup of Nations champions just before the tournament began, after a cruel injury blow, but Senegal still beat Ecuador and Qatar in the group stage.

    They are a team to be taken seriously, and Henderson, quoted in the Guardian, said: "We can say they are missing Sadio Mane, but they got into the knockout stages without him and they will be feeling confident.

    "They are used to winning. We have just got to keep focused on what needs doing, not get too carried away, not look too far ahead."

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