Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes wants to see a better defensive display when they travel to Columbus Crew in the MLS on Saturday.

Sporting KC sit second from bottom in the Western Conference, having won just three of their 19 games so far.

After back-to-back losses to LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake in which they conceded four goals in both, Vermes admitted they needed to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

"I can't deny the fight of the guys, but defensively, it's too soft," he said. "Unfortunately, it's similar to what happens in a lot of games.

"We can be fighting back in a game and give away a nothing goal. There's a ton of chances that could put us way ahead, but we can't be giving up the goals that we give up. That's it; that's the game."

Columbus, meanwhile, are right in the mix in the Eastern Conference, sitting sixth with 27 points.

A 2-1 defeat to Inter Miami snapped their four-match winning streak in the MLS, but head coach Wilfried Nancy is confident they can quickly put that result behind them.

"It has been good games, good performances," head coach Wilfried Nancy said. "[The last game] was also a good performance, but we were not good at certain moments. This is again something that we did well. We have grown a lot regarding these kinds of games."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Columbus Crew – Cucho Hernandez

Cucho attempted 10 shots in the Crew's defeat to Inter Miami on Wednesday, his third game with at least 10 shots since making his MLS debut in July 2022.

All other players in MLS have three total games with 10+ shots in that time (Raul Ruidiaz, Hany Mukhtar, Julian Carranza, one each).

Sporting Kansas City – William Agada

Agada scored two of Kansas City's three goals on Wednesday, his fifth multi-goal match for Sporting. Only five players have recorded more multi-goal games in the team's history.

MATCH PREDICTION: COLUMBUS CREW WIN

This will be the Crew's first regular-season home match since losing to FC Cincinnati on May 11. Columbus are winless in four straight MLS home matches after winning 12 of their previous 14 home league games.

Kansas City have lost nine of their last 10 regular-season matches (W1), including losing six in a row on the road in league play. This is the first time in the post-shootout era (since 2000) that Sporting have lost nine times in a span of 10 such matches.

However, Kansas City have lost just one of their last 12 matches against Columbus (W7 D4) dating back to October 2012, though three of the last four meetings have ended in draws. This will be the first meeting between the sides in Columbus in one day short of five years (June 23, 2019).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Columbus Crew – 64.2%

Draw – 19.1%

Sporting Kansas City – 16.7%

Two-time World Championship bronze medalist and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sada Williams headlines a star-studded list of Barbados’s top athletes set to compete at their National Track and Field Championships from June 21-23.

Williams, who trains at the MVP Track Club in Jamaica under the tutelage of Stephen Francis, is her country’s biggest medal hopeful for the upcoming Paris Olympic Games having already qualified.

The 26-year-old will contest the women’s 400m event at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex in Bridgetown.

The Bajan national record holder has, so far, had a sub-par 2024 season by her lofty standards, failing to dip below 50 seconds in all five of her 400m races.

Her season’s best 50.71 came at the Oslo Diamond League on May 30.

Williams created history at 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon by winning 400m bronze in a then-personal best and national record 49.75 seconds.

Later that year, Williams became the first woman to run under 50 seconds at the Commonwealth Games with 49.90 to capture gold. She closed out 2022 with a third-place finish at the Diamond League Final in Zurich in 49.98.

She followed up that fantastic season with another bronze medal at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest.

Williams produced a personal best and national record 49.58 in the semi-finals before returning to run slightly slower in the final, 49.60, to claim consecutive bronze medals.

Also confirmed for the Barbados nationals are Olympians Mario Burke and Tristan Evelyn who are expected to contest the men’s and women’s 100m events respectively.

Burke, 27, has a personal best of 9.98 done back in 2019 and was an Olympian in Tokyo in 2021. In 2016, he took home 100m bronze at the World Junior Championships in Poland in 10.26. He has a season's best of 10.22 done at the Last Chance Sprint Series on June 7 in Sherman Oakes, California.

Hurdlers Tia-Adana Belle and Rasheeme Griffith are also among the big names, along with quarter miler Desean Boyce and former CARIFTA sprinters Julian Forde and Kishawna Niles.

Griffith, a senior at the University on Tennessee, established a new 400m hurdles national record of 48.79 in the heats at the SEC Championships on May 9.

CARIFTA Games gold medalist Layla Haynes and Hannah Connell as well as national javelin record holder Kayla Thorpe are also set to compete.

 

Many-time Jamaica Premier League (JPL) champions Portmore United have added United Sports Group (USG) and Garwin Tulloch to its ownership group, as the club continues to chart a course towards reclaiming its glory days at the pinnacle of the nation’s top-flight league.

USG is a consortium comprising Tina Matalon, Ryan Reid, Khary Robinson, Duncan Stewart and Jackie Lechler, all prominent and successful Jamaican business leaders across various sectors, while Tulloch is a director of Kemtek Development & Construction Company Limited.

Kemtek, a family business, and one of Jamaica’s leading home construction companies, boasts major investments in the development of commercial and residential properties across various Jamaican communities including the sprawling metropolitan Portmore community.

For Portmore United, the addition of these new investors will strengthen the operational and financial capacity of the club, which is one of Jamaica’s marquee clubs and the most successful in the JPL, having won seven titles –the first two as Hazard United in 1993 and 2003.

The JPL has increased in popularity over the years and even more so in the post pandemic period, under the Chris Williams-led Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL).  During this time, the PFJL has seen tremendous growth in the League’s commercial viability and the economic prospects of the Clubs.

This expansion of an increasingly sophisticated investor pool facilitates the collective vision of the PFJL and the JPL clubs, which is to enhance the financial and operational capacity of the Clubs. The path to achieve that includes leveraging existing revenue streams like sponsorships, player sales, broadcasting, digital media, merchandizing and increased gate receipts, through additional investments in infrastructure, something that USG’s Khary Robinson is pleased to be a part of.

“United Sports Group believes that this strategic investment will further empower Portmore United Football Club to achieve even greater football success and become a catalyst for positive community development. Our leadership group is committed to delivering the time, strategic support and capital to enable the PUFC brand to maximize its potential in the sporting industry commercial space,” Robinson said.

Tulloch echoed similar sentiments.

“Football has remained one of my great passions and the desire to give back to the community through the sport has always been a driving force for me personally. My association with the JPL through Kemtek sponsorship of the League, led me to an association with the principals of Portmore United Football Club,” Tulloch shared.

“From the onset I was impressed with the vision and professionalism across the organization and the decision to invest was a no brainer for me. It is an association that I’m confident will yield great benefits to the various stakeholders of the Club,” he added.

Consequent on the additional ownership compliment, Portmore United’s new Board of Directors, will see Tulloch serving as chairman, with Garfield Sinclair, Peter Baker, Khary Robinson, Clinton Brooks and Garth Pearce, the memebers.

Troy Lesesne knows his D.C. United team must improve in possession if they are to end their miserable run of form when the Houston Dynamo visit Audi Field on Saturday.

D.C. have slipped to 11th in the Eastern Conference standings by failing to win any of their last seven matches, their last victory coming against Atlanta United on May 12.

They were beaten 1-0 in a rematch with the Five Stripes in midweek, leading Lesesne to lament their failings with the ball.

"It's a tough position to be in right now," Lesesne said. 

"Everyone's frustrated — that's clear to see — but at the same time we're not doing enough to earn ourselves points, and that's the truth. We have to demand more.

"When you're playing at home you can't allow a team to come into a game. There are periods in the games where we just don't do enough and that's disappointing.

"We defend quite well and press quite well, but with the ball right now we need to be better, we need to be more composed in certain areas of the game."

Houston, meanwhile, are eighth in the Western Conference after registering three successive 2-2 draws, the latest seeing them blow a 2-0 lead against the Seattle Sounders.

Head coach Ben Olsen was infuriated by the way they failed to make a positive performance count in that match, saying: "It was a poor result and it's happened too many times where we've done so much good, then shot ourselves in the foot.

"We don't score the extra goal and then we let them back into the game through complacency, it's a recurring thing."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

D.C. United – Christian Benteke 

Benteke won 10 of 12 aerial duels for D.C. United last time out, his 11th match this season with at least 10 aerial duel wins. All other MLS players combined have four such games.

Houston Dynamo – Latif Blessing 

Blessing scored both of the Dynamo's goals in their draw with Seattle on Wednesday and has now scored five goals in his last five games. 

He had managed just three goals in his previous 110 regular-season appearances dating back to the start of the 2020 season.

MATCH PREDICTION: HOUSTON DYNAMO WIN

Houston could become just the second team in MLS history to play out four draws in a row while scoring more than once in every game, but they will be hopeful of going one better with a win.

D.C. have lost five of their last seven matches (two draws), including their last two in a row.

They had only lost five of their previous 20 (six wins, nine draws) in a run dating back to the beginning of September 2023. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

D.C. United – 33.8%

Houston Dynamo – 40.5%

Draw – 25.7%

A disappointing first innings batting effort proved too much to overcome for the West Indies Academy as they went down by 72 runs to Emerging Ireland on day four of their first of two four-day encounter at The Green in Comber on Friday.

Chasing 344 for victory on Friday, the tourists were eventually dismissed for 271 in 56.4 overs.

Openers Kadeem Alleyne and Ackeem Auguste did the bulk of the scoring with a 151-run opening wicket partnership but their wickets in quick succession dashed the hopes of the West Indians pulling off a successful chase.

Alleyne fell narrowly short of a maiden first class hundred with an 84-ball 93 including nine fours and four sixes while Auguste hit a patient 82-ball 47.

Joshua Bishop was also a key contributor with the bat with 42 off 40 balls including six fours and a pair of sixes.

Leg spinner Gavin Hoey was the pick of the Emerging Ireland bowlers with 4-81 from 19 overs while Matthew Humphreys and Liam McCarthy took 3-44 from 8.4 overs and 3-49 from 17 overs, respectively.

Earlier in the game, Emerging Ireland batted first and posted 283 from 91.3 overs in their first innings after being put in to bat before the West Indies Academy replied with a disappointing 214 in 49.1 overs.

The Irish responded to that with 274 off 74 overs in their second innings leaving the West Indies Academy needing 344 for victory.

The second Four-Day game takes place from June 25-28 in Belfast.

Full Scores:

Emerging Ireland 283 off 91.3 overs (Christopher De Freitas 88, Morgan Topping 45*, Thomas Mayes 42, Johann Layne 4-84, Nyeem Young 3-73) & 274 off 74 overs (Cade Carmichael 92, Stephen Doheny 41, Gavin Hoey 37, Johann Layne 5-39, Onaje Amory 2-88)

West Indies Academy 214 off 49.1 overs (Nyeem Young 48*, Kadeem Alleyne 47, Jordan Johnson 33, Thomas Mayes 4-61, Liam McCarthy 3-62, Matthew Humphreys 2-44) & 271 off 56.4 overs (Kadeem Alleyne 93, Ackeem Auguste 47, Joshua Bishop 42, Gavin Hoey 4-81, Matthew Humphreys 3-44, Liam McCarthy 3-49)

Tai Baribo did not feel he could fully enjoy scoring his first league goals for the Philadelphia Union, as he set his sights on helping the team turn around their form.

The Union slipped to a second straight defeat in MLS as they went down 4-3 to FC Cincinnati in midweek, despite Baribo's double.

Indeed, Philadelphia have now gone without a win in their last five MLS games.

That run has seen the Union drop to 10th in the Eastern Conference, five places behind Charlotte FC, their opponents this weekend.

"I mean, it's hard to enjoy," Baribo said after the defeat to Cincinnati.

"Of course, I'm happy because I scored, but we lost again. The team is the most important thing, and if we lose I can't be happy.

"Thank you to the coach for giving me this opportunity and I'm happy that I took it. I felt good in the game, but in the end, we lost, so it doesn't matter."

Union coach Jum Curtin was full of praise for Baribo's display.

Curtin said: "He's worked hard to get this start, and now, he’s certainly left a really good impression with the coaches, put in a great shift, and will certainly get more playing time.

"Tai worked hard in training and we rewarded him. He stepped on the field and gave us everything and did a really good job for us.

"He earned the start and like a good professional, he took advantage of his opportunity. So, I’m happy for Tai. It was something to build on, but I know he would trade the two goals for some points as well. He did a good job finishing his plays off in the box like a good striker and hopefully there's more of that in the future."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union - Kai Wagner

Wagner assisted two of the Union’s three goals on Wednesday against Cincinnati, his seventh career MLS match with multiple assists, more than any other defender since he joined the league in 2019.

Charlotte FC - Kerwin Vargas

Vargas scored Charlotte's opener in their 2-2 draw with Orlando City last time out, taking his tally to the season to four goals in MLS. He is their leading scorer.

MATCH PREDICTION: PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN

Charlotte earned a draw against Orlando on Wednesday despite Scott Arfield receiving a red card in the 38th minute. The 52 minutes playing a man down were the longest by a team that avoided defeat in an MLS match in over two years, since the Houston Dynamo against Nashville SC in May 2022 (55 minutes).

Dean Smith's team have lost only one of its last nine matches (W5 D3) dating back to the beginning of May, one of six teams with fewer than two defeats in that time (Real Salt Lake, FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami, LA Galaxy, Los Angeles FC).

Philadelphia have won only one of its last 12 matches (D5 L6) including losing the last two in a row. The Union have not lost three straight regular-season matches within a single season since May 2017.

However, they are backed to win this one by Opta's model.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union - 50.7%

Charlotte - 24.3%

Draw - 25%

In a dominant display, Sri Lanka Women's cricket team crushed the West Indies Women by 160 runs in the third ODI in Hambantota on Friday, securing a comprehensive 3-0 series sweep. Sri Lanka's innings, led by half-centuries from Chamari Athapaththu, Nilakshika Silva, and Anushka Sanjeewani, set an imposing target of 275 for 6, before Sachini Nisansala's maiden five-wicket haul dismantled the West Indies, who were bowled out for a meager 115.

After being put into bat, Sri Lanka started strongly with an opening partnership of 93 runs between Athapaththu and Vishmi Gunaratne. Gunaratne fell just six runs short of her half-century, miscuing a lofted shot to Aaliyah Alleyne at mid-off. Despite losing two more quick wickets, Sri Lanka's captain Athapaththu steadied the innings with a vital 57-run partnership with Nilakshika Silva.

Athapaththu's innings came to an end at 91 off 106 balls when Afy Fletcher spun one through her bat and pad, leaving Sri Lanka at 156 for 4. However, any hopes West Indies had of restricting the hosts were dashed by Silva and Sanjeewani. The duo added 117 runs for the fifth wicket, propelling Sri Lanka to a formidable total. Silva scored 63 off 78 balls, while Sanjeewani contributed a quick-fire 55 off 46 balls. The pair's efforts saw Sri Lanka plunder 93 runs in the final 10 overs, ensuring a challenging target for the visitors.

In response, the West Indies struggled from the outset, losing both Rashada Williams and skipper Shemaine Campbell within the first six overs. The only resistance came from Chedean Nation and Stafanie Taylor, who put together a 57-run partnership off 82 deliveries. However, Taylor's dismissal, edging behind off Oshadi Ranasinghe, left the West Indies in dire straits.

Nation, who top-scored with 46 off 57 balls, was bowled by Athapaththu, reducing the West Indies to 69 for 4. From there, Nisansala took over, exploiting the grip and turn of the surface with her slow left-arm orthodox deliveries. She trapped Zaida James leg before and accounted for Chinelle Henry, Afy Fletcher, and Qiana Joseph, all of whom fell attempting aggressive shots.

Nisansala completed her five-for by dismissing Aaliyah Alleyne, who chipped a return catch after a brief cameo of 27 off 27 balls. The West Indies' innings folded for 115, with Nisansala finishing with figures of 5 for 28, marking her first five-wicket haul in ODIs.

This victory marks Sri Lanka's second series whitewash against the West Indies and highlights the stark difference in form and execution between the two sides. The West Indies will need to reassess and regroup after a disheartening series, while Sri Lanka can take confidence from their dominant performances as they look ahead to future challenges.

The Jamaica Bodybuilding and Fitness Association (JABBFA) officially launched its Novice, Junior, and Elite Bodybuilding Championships on Thursday, marking the start of an extended 2024 season. The launch event took place at the headquarters of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) on Cunningham Avenue in Kingston, setting the stage for an exciting year of bodybuilding and fitness competitions under the theme "Strong Minds, Strong Bodies: A Synergy of Physical Strength and Mental Wellness."

The 2024 Novice, Junior, and Elite Bodybuilding Championships will take place on Saturday, June 29th, 2024, at the Courtleigh Auditorium in Kingston. The event will commence at 7:00 pm, featuring 45 athletes from 12 gyms across eight parishes competing for top honours in their respective divisions.

Participants will vie for a range of prizes, including trophies, gift baskets, gift certificates, and gym memberships. The overall winners will qualify for the Elite Category and advance to the National Senior Championships later in the year, offering them a chance to further establish their prowess in the sport.

Kirk Frankson, President of JABBFA, highlighted the significance of the Novice, Junior, and Elite Championships as the season opener. "We've decided to extend our season; we're actually looking at having two new events. So in addition to our usual Novice, Junior and Elite Championships happening June 29 at the Courtleigh Auditorium, we're having on August 25, the Western Regional Championship at the Negril Tree House, September 28 is our regular National Senior Championships, and then on October 26, we're having our Jamaica Invitational. So that's our entire season," Frankson told Sportsmax.TV.

The Jamaica Invitational, in particular, is poised to become a major event on the bodybuilding calendar. JABBFA aims to make it a pro-qualifier, akin to prominent competitions in St. Maarten and Barbados. Frankson noted the challenges faced by Jamaican athletes in accessing pro-qualifier competitions in Europe and the USA, and emphasized the strategic shift to establish a local pro-qualifier.

"One of the difficulties that JABBFA struggles with like most sporting associations, is that the athletes had a challenge getting to pro-qualifier competitions in Europe, the USA, so we recognized that rather than trying to exert all of our energies by sending smaller teams, we're actually trying to re-direct our energies into having a pro-qualifier locally," he explained.

JABBFA has begun laying the groundwork for the Jamaica Invitational by training judges and setting up the necessary framework to host a pro-qualifier event. The long-term goal is to attract not only Caribbean athletes but also competitors from Europe and North America, thereby contributing to sports tourism in Jamaica.

Frankson mentioned the success of the Roger Boyce Championship in Barbados as a model they aim to replicate. "Barbados indicated that they started the Roger Boyce (championship) as an invitational and it's now the major pro-qualifier in the Caribbean, so we're replicating that where we are starting the Jamaica Invitational, as an invitational offering prize money and we are hoping that within the next three to five years it will be a pro-qualifier," he said.

 A pro-qualifier is a contest that serves as a gateway to the IFBB PRO League, allowing competitors in each of the nine divisions to compete for a coveted IFBB PRO League card. This development promises to elevate the standard of bodybuilding in Jamaica and provide local athletes with greater opportunities to achieve professional status within the sport.

The championship is made possible by the support of sponsors including the Sports Development Foundation, Hyundai, Wisynco, Vitamalt and Gustazos among others.

Reggae Girlz head coach Hubert Busby Jr has expressed strong confidence that forward Jodi Brown will develop into a world-class player following her recent signing with Portugal's SL Benfica. Brown, 22, announced her three-year deal with the prestigious club on Instagram on Thursday, marking a significant milestone in her budding soccer career.

Busby, reflecting on Brown's transition from collegiate to professional soccer, stated, "Obviously she's come from a good program, but it's a lot different when you're a pro every day and you're responsible and you're in a different environment with other pros. It's going to be a little bit of a reset for her as well, similar to when she kind of started college, where she's going to come in as a rookie and she'll have to deal with those expectations coming in as a talented freshman into Florida State."

However, Busby remains confident in Brown's potential. "But she's a quality player and more importantly, a quality human being," he said. "So I've no doubt she'll, you know, she'll be in that there'll be an adjustment period, but I have no doubt she'll go on to be a great pro."

 Brown's journey to this point is a testament to her dedication and talent. She recently graduated from Florida State University (FSU) with a Bachelor's degree in Humanities. During her time at FSU, she was instrumental in the team's success, helping them secure NCAA Division 1 Women's Soccer titles in 2021 and 2023. Additionally, Brown's contributions were pivotal in FSU's consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference titles from 2020 to 2023.

 Internationally, Brown has been a key player for Jamaica's national team since 2018. Her participation in two FIFA Women's World Cups has highlighted her skill and tenacity on the global stage. In 2023, she was part of the historic Jamaican squad that advanced to the round of 16, an unprecedented achievement for the Reggae Girlz. Brown's efforts in the group stage were particularly noteworthy as she helped secure 0-0 draws against powerhouse teams France and Brazil and contributed to Jamaica's first-ever World Cup victory with a 1-0 win over Panama.

In her Instagram announcement, Brown shared her excitement and gratitude, stating, "I am proud and honored to sign my first professional contract for such a big institution as Benfica. I’d like to thank my family, MVA, FSU, Hue Menzies, and everyone who helped me get to this point. Becoming a professional player has been my dream since I started playing soccer as a kid in Jamaica, and I can’t wait to win many titles with this club ❤️"

 

Pat Noonan insists FC Cincinnati must improve defensively ahead of welcoming the New England Revolution to the TQL Stadium on Sunday. 

Cincinnati edged a seven-goal thriller in their latest MLS fixture against the Philadelphia Union, with Luciano Acosta scoring in the 10th minute of injury time to secure a 4-3 win. 

Noonan's side have now won nine of their last 10 league games and sit second in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Inter Miami. 

But there were some concerns at the back, with Cincinnati having now conceded eight goals in their last four games, something Noonan is keen on addressing. 

“Certainly, how we have gotten results has shifted to scoring goals and struggling defensively from an early stretch when defensively we were much stronger and didn’t need four goals to win a game,” Noonan said.

“We gave another set-piece goal which has been a little bit of a theme. Against Philadelphia, it was defending crosses.

“We will continue to look at the best combination of guys to help us from the frontline to the backline to be better defensively because I think right now, with how we are creating chances, that hasn’t been a concern. But we need to get better defensively.”

Meanwhile, New England continued their impressive recent form with a 3-2 win over Vancouver Whitecaps last Sunday and have now won three in a row. 

The Revolution have closed the gap at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and are now two points behind Orlando City and the Chicago Fire. 

Head coach Caleb Porter was pleased with his side's reaction to conceding late in their latest fixture and believes the mentality within his squad has significantly shifted. 

“We have still got to score more though,” Porter said. “But I loved that we scored three goals and I loved that we responded after conceding to take the game to 1-1.

“That shows mentality is changing. I also loved that the guys were a little ticked off at the end of the game. We have won three in a row, and they were kind of mad that they didn’t score more and they conceded.

“That’s a great mentality to have. We’re not relieved to win; we’re expecting to win now. If we play like we did against Vancouver, we can beat anybody in this league.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

The Argentine took his assist tally to 13 in MLS this season during Cincinnati's win over Philadelphia, more than any other player in the division this season. 

Acosta has now assisted 92 goals since arriving at Cincinnati in 2021, moving up to ninth in the all-time assist charts in MLS. 

New England – Giacomo Vrioni

The Albanian scored his second goal in three games during New England's victory over Vancouver, taking his tally to 16 for the club since arriving in 2022.

Of his 10 goals scored in the MLS, Vrioni has scored against just seven sides, with Cincinnati being one of those. 

MATCH PREDICTION: CINCINNATI WIN

The Revs should enter this game in high spirits, having won three straight matches after only collecting seven points from their first 13 games in MLS this year. 

Their last four-game winning streak came in August 2021, and the fourth win in that run came against Cincinnati.

A repeat is not expected here, though, with Cincinnati winning nine of their last 10 matches (one defeat). No team in the post-shootout era has ever won 10 games in a span of 11 regular-season outings before. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Cincinnati – 64.6%

Draw – 18.9%

New England – 16.4%

Portland Timbers head coach Phil Neville has urged his players to raise their performance levels against the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS on Saturday.

Portland are currently on a five-match unbeaten streak in the competition and made a winning return from their mid-season break by beating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on Wednesday.

They sit seventh in a tightly contested Western Conference, and Neville admits they need to improve if they want to keep their current form going.

"Even though we got the win against San Jose, the performance was nowhere near good enough," Neville said. "We had 10 days off, and I hope that kind of performance is out of the way.

"Saturday's a big game against Vancouver, and we can't play to that level. We have to keep raising the level. We need to keep pushing and stay in the pack by winning games.

"We're developing a mentality of not accepting defeat, making people accountable for what they're doing, and guys are stepping up."

Meanwhile, Vancouver sit one place and one point above Portland but suffered a disappointing 3-2 defeat to the New England Revolution last weekend.

Having won back-to-back games by 2-1 scorelines before that loss, head coach Vanni Sartini is hopeful his side can make some big improvements ahead of this week's Cascadia derby.

"The challenge is to play better than we did in the last game," he said. "Offensively, we will need to do a lot of things that we normally do well, creating chances and getting men in the box.

"I didn't like the performance of last week, so this week we're focusing on the things that we can do better."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Portland Timbers – Jonathan Rodriguez

While Evanilson is a constant threat for Portland (and their joint-top scorer of the season with eight goals), Rodriguez is close to equalling his tally.

He scored the winner against San Jose on Wednesday, netting his seventh goal of the campaign.

Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

Gauld was a bright spark for Vancouver in their disappointing defeat to New England last weekend, scoring both goals.

He was clinical; despite amassing an xG of just 0.09, he had the joint-most shots (three), scoring with both of his attempts on target and also creating three chances.

MATCH PREDICTION: PORTLAND TIMBERS WIN

The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last five Cascadia rivalry matches against Portland and the Seattle Sounders (three wins, two draws), their longest such run since a seven-match streak between 2013 and 2014.

They have also won their last two games against the Timbers, recording 3-2 victories both home and away in August 2023 and March 2024.

However, Portland are in great shape, going unbeaten through their last five matches (three wins, two draws), and netting multiple goals in 13 different MLS games this year. Only Inter Miami, with 14, have recorded more such matches.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Portland Timbers – 43.6%

Draw – 23.8%

Vancouver Whitecaps – 29.6%

Petar Musa scored a hat-trick in FC Dallas’ thrilling win over Minnesota United in midweek, and he is thrilled with the attacking set-up under interim coach Peter Luccin.

Dallas beat Minnesota 5-3 at home on Wednesday, making it three games unbeaten.

The club dismissed Nico Estevez on June 9, and Musa suggested Luccin has let the team off the leash from an attacking standpoint.

“I think we play more vertically towards the goal,” said Musa.

“We are more offensive now, we have a lot of players who run behind and we started playing more attacking football.

"We scored five goals at home so you can see from the build-up that we play attacking soccer. I am very happy about the new style we are implementing.”

Luccin added: “I’m thankful and grateful for the effort from the players. It’s very important for me that the effort has been fantastic. I’m very pleased with some of the sequences that we had, playing good football and very vertical.

“Overall, the goals that we conceded, sometimes we need to be a little bit smarter. All the players have been fantastic. Five goals at home, I think the fans were very happy.

“I’m sure they would’ve liked fewer goals conceded but it’s part of the game. We are making progress. It’ll be step-by-step but you can see the attitude from the players is excellent. They want to play, they understand. Now we need to adjust to find that balance. I really think we deserved to win.”

Next up for Dallas is a trip to the northwest, to face the Seattle Sounders.

Dallas are one place and two points below Seattle in the Western Conference.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Seattle Sounders – Jackson Ragen

Ragen scored his first MLS goal in Seattle's 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo last time out. He is the seventh different player from the United States to score for the Sounders in MLS play this season, equalling their number from all of last season.

FC Dallas – Petar Musa

Musa’s hat-trick took him onto eight MLS goals for the season, four more than any other team-mate.

He is the sixth Dallas player with a hat trick for the team since the beginning of 2017, tying them with D.C. United for most such players with a hat-trick in that time.

MATCH PREDICTION: SEATTLE WIN

The Sounders are unbeaten in 20 straight home matches across all competitions against Dallas (16 wins, four draws), in a run dating back to August 2011.

They could equal the longest ever unbeaten home run by one MLS team against another here (21, achieved twice).

With Dallas winless in 11 MLS road games dating back to last October (three draws, eight defeats), we expect the Sounders to claim a slice of history.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Seattle Sounders – 47.5%

FC Dallas – 26.4%

Draw – 26.2%

Since assuming operations of Caymanas Park in 2017, Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL) has invested billions of dollars in rebranding and revolutionizing the park as well as improving the commercial route to market strategy. The company’s latest investment comes in the form of a strategic partnership with market research company Bluedot Insights to conduct a comprehensive survey to gain insights into the industry locally.

According to Solomon Sharpe SVREL Executive Chairman, the company’s unwavering vision is to make making the premier destination of racing and entertainment in the region.

“Over the past seven years we’ve consulted with our stakeholders and made significant investments into improving the overall racing product. We’re very proud of what we have achieved so far. Even with the success and the enduring popularity of Caymanas Park and horseracing in Jamaica, we know there’s still more work to be done. Understanding our customers is at the core of our strategy. With that as our mission, we’ve engaged Bluedot Insights to conduct a comprehensive island wide consumer survey on our behalf.

"This survey is aimed at providing us with verifiable data from sports bettors, racing stakeholders and the general public that will further guide our strategic decisions and investments that will bring us further towards our ultimate goal – to make Caymanas Park the premier destination of racing and entertainment in the Caribbean,” said Sharpe.

“Our vision for Caymanas Park and the horseracing industry in Jamaica is one of growth and innovation. We will continue to invest in the park, introducing new features and enhancements that elevate the experience for all our visitors. Our commitment to the community and the sport remains steadfast, and we are excited about the future,” he added.

It was disclosed that Bluedot will provide a comprehensive report presenting quantitative and qualitative findings that details consumer profiles highlighting demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics. This will be done in three phases.

"Bluedot aims to use our skills and expertise to provide SVREL with comprehensive insights that will be pivotal in allowing SVREL to refine their marketing strategies, customize their offerings to align with consumer preferences, and nurture stakeholder relationships essential for advancing the horse racing business," stated Bluedot CEO Larren Peart.

SVREL's investments in Caymanas Park have spanned various areas, from infrastructure upgrades like the installation of the largest digital tote board in the Caribbean and implementation of AmTote totalizer system, improved product offerings such as the new bet type options like Reggae-6 and Ketch-9 as well as fixed odds betting, to the integration of cutting-edge technology like the recently launched GMax digital timing system.

To say that Jody Brown’s signing of her first professional contract with Portuguese women’s top-flight club, SL Benfica, is a milestone achievement for both her career and Jamaican football would be a great understatement.

Not only will she be the first player from Jamaica or the Caribbean to parade her skills for the club, which is one of Europe’s most prestigious setups, but she will also realize a lifelong dream on a journey that started on the streets of Lime Hall, St Ann, where she honed her skills with a makeshift ball and an insatiable passion for the game.

It was during that time, when she rubbed shoulders with the boys in her community, that her talent quickly became evident, resulting in her inclusion in local teams and, eventually, Jamaica’s national programme.

Now, the 22-year-old takes a significant step forward in her career with the three-year move to Benfica, where her athleticism and nippy footwork will certainly be an asset.

“Signing with Benfica is a dream come true," Brown told SportsMax.TV, the pride and emotion evident in her tone.

Brown puts pen to paper

“I remember when I just started playing football with the boys in my community, I always aspired to play professionally, and to do so with a club like Benfica is an incredible honour. It’s a nice club, with a lot of history and I always strived to ensure that whichever club I join is one where I can improve and develop my game at a different level. So I’m really excited to join Benfica and can’t wait to get started,” she declared.

Brown's rise in football has been somewhat meteoric, as she first captured international attention at the Under-15 level and she hasn’t looked back since.

In fact, Brown is one of only a few players who have so far represented the country at all four levels — Under-15, Under-17, Under-20 and now the senior level. And she has done so with distinction, as she played a crucial role in Jamaica's historic qualification for the 2019 and 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cups.

"Being a part of Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz has been an amazing experience. It's where I learned to handle pressure and developed my game against some of the best players in the world and I can say that those experiences have prepared me for this next step in my career,” she shared.

“If I should attribute my rise to this level to anything, I would say it is a testament of all the hard work, dedication, and support from my family, coaches, and teammates over the years,” added Brown, who recently assisted Florida State University to the NCAA Division 1 Women's Championship and their retention of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship title last season.

Brown shares the occasion with former Reggae Girlz Head coach Hue Menzies.

Standing at a shade over 5ft 2in, Brown’s physical presence is by no means imposing, but when the ball is at her feet, she is bound to cause all kinds of problems. It is that explosiveness and the ease at which she glides past opponents on occasions that will make the Reggae Girlz winger a key factor at SL Benfica.

Beyond that, Brown, who has a Bachelor's degree in Humanities, believes the club’s strong commitment to developing talent, coupled with the fact that the Portuguese league is known for its technical style of play, provides the perfect environment for her to continue her growth.

“The opportunity to train and play at such a high level is something I'm really looking forward to as I always aim to grow more as a player and a person, so I can't wait to learn from my new teammates and coaches and to contribute to the team's success. Benfica has a fantastic reputation, and I'm excited to be part of this club's journey,” she noted.

⁠Still, Brown is aware that adjusting to live in Portugal and her club will by no means be easy, but she remains grounded and focused, with a stubborn determination to make a positive impact both on and off the field.

Benfica, the current champions of Portugal, will be involved in Champions League football next season.

“⁠I’m just ready to get settled and hopefully achieve all the goals of the team. I’m ready to adapt in every way possible because that’s a part of the journey of wanting to be the best person or player in an environment where you are not afraid to be yourself. I know what I’m capable of doing and I’m just going to continue learning and improving,” the soft-spoken player said with an air of confidence.

Brown shows off her team scarf.

Meanwhile, former Reggae Girlz Head coach Hue Menzies, who along with Lorne Donaldson, Andrew Price and others were instrumental in Brown’s move from Jamaica to an overseas university, pointed out that her signing is not only a personal achievement, but also a significant moment for Jamaican women's football.

For him, it highlights the growing opportunities for talented players from the island to make their mark on the global stage, as he expressed optimism that Brown’s success will serve as an inspiration to young footballers in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

“It shows that with talent and determination, they too can reach the pinnacle of the sport. We knew she was going to be a special player, so we invested the effort to get her through the process, because she was only 14, so we had to get her acclimated academically and then get her into the youth club system.

“From there, we got her into high school academically and then having opportunities to go to a four-year school immediately after. And then into a really good programme at Florida State where she won two national titles, and four conference titles and she's now becoming a professional player,” Menzies explained.

“So everything that we kind of set forward for her has come through so far, and we are very optimistic that she will continue. We can't take credit for Jody’s football development because she is a natural, we just assisted in the environment that we got her in, and then she took it from there with the goals that she set for herself,” he ended. 

 

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