• 'We just have to deal with it': Whitecaps' path to playoffs gets a little rockier
    The Canadian Press

    'We just have to deal with it': Whitecaps' path to playoffs gets a little rockier

    VANCOUVER — Facing an uphill battle for the playoffs, Vancouver Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos vows his squad won't go down without a fight. It's been a season full of adversity for the 'Caps (8-13-0) and the club was dealt another blow this week when Major League Soccer announced that post-season berths will be determined by points per game instead of straight points. The move looks to address the unbalanced schedule caused by COVID-19 outbreaks that forced the cancellation of several games. It also leaves the Whitecaps below the playoff bar with two games left on the regular-season schedule. “Nothing’s fair this year. We just have to deal with it," coach Marc Dos Santos said of the decision. “Everything is so unrealistic and unclear. What am I going to say about points per game? We’re going to give our best.” Vancouver heads into the weekend with the eighth-most points in the Western Conference. The top eight teams will make the playoffs.But when post-season berths are determined by points per game, the Colorado Rapids (1.27) leap ahead of the 'Caps (1.14) with two games to go. The Rapids missed five games after several players and staff tested positive for COVID-19. Other teams are also still fighting for their playoff lives in the congested West, including FC Dallas (1.47), the San Jose Earthquakes (1.29) and Real Salt Lake (1.1). The Whitecaps have two decisions, Dos Santos said cry about a "very unbalanced" year or go and fight for every game. And his team isn't about to give up, no matter the circumstances. "The mentality of the guys, it’s still one of belief. At the end of the day, the teams that still have games have to win their games. And we have to try to push and try to be in," Dos Santos said. “Look, if we don’t make it on the last day, at least we’re still going to be standing as a team that fought all the way despite everything. And that’s what we want to do.”Vancouver's next chance to collect crucial points will come Sunday when they meet the Portland Timbers (10-5-5). The Timbers are unbeaten in their last three outings after a tidy 5-2 win over the L.A. Galaxy on Wednesday. When Portland and Vancouver last met on Sept. 27, the Timbers took a 1-0 victory thanks to an early goal by Felipe Mora. The Whitecaps played well defensively but didn't finish their chances in the game, Dos Santos said. “Now what we have to do is keep the same mentality, same mindset, same organization but try to convert our opportunities into goals," he said. The players know exactly what's at stake heading into Sunday's matchup, said 'Caps striker Tosaint Ricketts. “Everything’s on the line. Two games left. We know the situation with the standings … and we know what we need to achieve in these last two games to make the playoffs," Ricketts said.There have been plenty of bumps in the road for the Whitecaps this season, from border restrictions that forced the group to relocate to Portland, to a unwieldy, condensed schedule, and from injuries that sidelined two starting goalies for the season to front-office business that saw the departure of key offensive pieces. “There’s been plenty of obstacles we’ve had to deal with throughout this year. But it’s really shaped our character, it’s really shaped our mentality," Ricketts said."We’re going into Sunday with no excuses. … We feel it’s still in our hands and we’re going to make sure we do our part.”VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (8-13-0) AT PORTLAND TIMBERS (10-5-5)Sunday, Providence ParkGOAL SETTING: The Timbers sit at the top of the Western Conference standings in goals for (44). Meanwhile, the Whitecaps have struggled with offence at times this season and have the fewest goals for (24) in the West.HELPING OUT: Portland's Yimmi Chara tallied four assists Wednesday, becoming the sixth player in MLS history to achieve the feat. HISTORY BOOKS: The rivalry between the 'Caps and Timbers goes all the way back to 1975 when the clubs played in the North American Soccer League. Since then, Portland and Vancouver have played 95 times across all competitions. The Whitecaps hold the edge with a 40-37-18 record.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2020.Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

  • Wolves share EPL lead after beating Crystal Palace 2-0
    The Canadian Press

    Wolves share EPL lead after beating Crystal Palace 2-0

    WOLVERHAMPTON, England — Wolverhampton earned a share of the English Premier League lead after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 on Friday.Teenage defender Rayan Ait-Nouri's scored on debut for Wolves and Daniel Podence's other first half effort highlighted their most complete performance in the league.Wolves sit third, level on points with Everton and Liverpool, in their best start to a top-flight since 1979.“It's massive for us. Huge,” Wolves captain Conor Coady told BT Sport. "We never put targets on where we want to go because you create unwanted pressure. We've got a long week now, we’ll enjoy the rest.”Palace had a penalty correctly overturned by VAR, and a Michy Batshuayi strike was disallowed for offside but they were well beaten, and Luka Milivojevic was dismissed with four minutes left for a tackle on Joao Moutinho after referee Martin Atkinson's video review.Wilfried Zaha struggled to make an impact as Palace missed their own chance to make a mark among the pace-setters.The 19-year-old Ait-Nouri, who joined from Angers in the summer, scored from Cheik Kouyate's cross with a first-time drive in the 18th minute.“I was smiling because football is like this: It's your first game and you score,” Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo told BT Sport. "To have goals all over the team is important. It’s what you need.”Podence finished Pedro Neto's cross at the far post in he 27th.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press

  • MATCHDAY: Barca 3-game Liga winless run; Liverpool in action
    The Canadian Press

    MATCHDAY: Barca 3-game Liga winless run; Liverpool in action

    A look at what’s happening around European soccer on Saturday:SPAINBarcelona visits Alavés looking to build momentum from its victory at Juventus and end a three-game winless streak in the Spanish league. Ronald Koeman’s side lost to Real Madrid in the last round and can ill afford another slip. The club travels to Alavés after a convincing 2-0 victory at Juventus in the Champions League that Koeman called his team’s best performance yet. Also, Real Madrid hosts a promoted Huesca that has lost only twice in seven games. Atlético Madrid visits Osasuna after a standout showing by João Félix with two goals in a 3-2 win over Salzburg in the Champions League. Sevilla also visits Athletic Bilbao after three rounds without a win in the domestic competition.ENGLANDAfter drawing with Tottenham and Manchester City, West Ham plays champion Liverpool looking to become the first side to win a Premier League game at Anfield since April 2017. But the London club will be without injured forward Michail Antonio. Liverpool also has injury problems with defender Virgil Van Dijk recovering from knee ligament surgery and replacement Fabinho out with a hamstring injury. Manchester City will also be without key players for the trip to Sheffield United as Pep Guardiola blamed injuries on the shortened summer break, the intensity of the pandemic-affected calendar and the Premier League reverting to permitting only three substitutes, rather than the five allowed in the closing stages of last season after the lockdown. Guardiola says defender Nathan Ake and striker Gabriel Jesus are “getting better” but defender Benjamin Mendy is still not training and there is still no indication when record goalscorer Sergio Aguero will return from a hamstring injury. An unusually quiet Saturday in England, with only three games, also sees Chelsea visit Burnley seeking a fourth successive clean sheet.GERMANYBundesliga leader Leipzig visits Borussia Mönchengladbach for a game between teams determined to make up for Champions League disappointment. Leipzig, which leads by a point from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund after five rounds, was thrashed by Manchester United 5-0 on Wednesday for the young club’s heaviest ever defeat. Gladbach was minutes away from recording a memorable win over Real Madrid on Tuesday, but conceded two late goals to draw 2-2. Gladbach is desperate to atone, particularly as it will be celebrating 120 years of existence. The team, sixth in the league, will be wearing special commemorative jerseys against Leipzig, which in contrast was formed only in 2009. Bayern and Dortmund will be waiting to take advantage of any slipups from Leipzig, which was also leading at the same point last season before going four games without a win and dropping to sixth. Bayern visits lowly Cologne, while Dortmund travels to promoted Arminia Bielefeld. Eintracht Frankfurt hosts Werder Bremen, and Mainz hopes to end its five-game losing start in Augsburg.ITALYInter Milan is without key striker Romelu Lukaku for a match against Parma. Lukaku, who has five of Inter’s 13 goals in Serie A, is dealing with a left thigh muscle issue. Atalanta visits promoted Crotone looking to build off its comeback draw with Ajax in the Champions League. Also, Bologna hosts Cagliari.FRANCELeader Paris Saint-Germain looks for a seventh straight league win when it travels to play inconsistent Nantes. After losing the first two matches, the wins are piling up for defending champion PSG. But so are the injuries. Star forward Neymar became coach Thomas Tuchel's latest injury concern when he hurt his groin playing in the Champions League on Wednesday. That means Moise Kean could start after netting four goals in his first two games since joining on loan from Everton. Rennes is three points behind PSG in third place and, contrary to PSG, has dropped points after making a strong start. Coach Julien Stephan's team needs to bounce back with a home win against Brest.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press