History-making Jamaican Olympian Toni-Ann Williams has expressed her excitement and optimism at being appointed Technical Director of the Jamaica Gymnastics Association. Nicole Grant, the association’s president made the announcement this past weekend about the appointment of Williams, who in 2016 became the first ever gymnast to represent the country at an Olympic Games.

In an exclusive interview with Sportsmax.TV, Williams detailed her vision for the future of the sport in Jamaica.

“Yeah, I'm really excited about the position,” Williams shared. “I think it's something we've not had before in the organization, especially when I started there. I want to be able to bring a level, a little more organization, a little more direction, put some values and some motives behind the organization.”

Williams, 28, is determined to leverage her extensive experience and educational background—including degrees in Legal Studies, Social Welfare, and a Master’s in Sports Ethics and Integrity—to enhance the structure and support within the association. “I think before, we've had really great representatives of the movement, but I think now we have more people supporting Jamaica gymnastics to be able to facilitate from the smallest things, helping to make sure they get to their hotel on time, and who's able to go to competitions and, you know, to the big things, like, you know, helping to find funding and things like that.”

Reflecting on her own journey, Williams is committed to giving back to the sport and aiding its development in Jamaica. “Being able to have a support system, especially from people who've been there, done that, is, I would have really appreciated as an athlete. And so this is my way of being able to give back to the athletes and being able to help Jamaica gymnastics get to the vision that we see.”

Adding to the excitement, the appointment of her former coach, Mladen Stefanov, a former Bulgarian Olympic gymnast, as Head Coach, promises to further elevate Jamaica’s gymnastics program. “Mladen has been the head coach on and off throughout the years, even since when I was a gymnast, and he always brings such a great energy. All the athletes from past and present love working with him,” said Williams.

Williams and Stefanov’s combined expertise is expected to drive significant advancements. “We already have a great foundation, so we communicate super well, and he understands, obviously, the technical coaching side, and I being able to bring my experience as an athlete, so both of our experiences come together really well, and being able to help the athletes and being able to figure out what's best for what competition should we go to, what skills work, what routines don't work and that's not something we've had before.”

  

Looking ahead, Williams is hopeful about the potential for growth despite the resource challenges. “Of course, we have a long way coming, and, of course, we need more resources, but being able to have people like myself being able to help Nicole Grant, being able to pilot these initiatives, I'm really excited about, and really, I think it's really great for the future of Jamaica Gymnastics.”

Williams believes this strategic leadership is a crucial step towards elevating Jamaica’s presence in the gymnastics world. “We have a lot of powerhouses like USA and Brazil; of course, they have the resources, but they also have people who know the sport really well and have people that support. And I think that's a great start for Jamaica, to start having people in the corner who understand the sport, understand what's needed, understand the athlete's point of view, to be able to support them, and hopefully that's a step forward towards more resources and more opportunities for the athletes,” she opined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nico Estevez feels FC Dallas have made big strides as they prepare to embark on a tough three-game road stretch, starting with Wednesday's visit to the LA Galaxy. 

Dallas are unbeaten in five games in all competitions (three wins, two draws) after only winning one of their previous nine (two draws, five defeats).

They visit Dignity Health Sports Park on Wednesday before going to Los Angeles FC and Minnesota United for their next two games in MLS.

Though Estevez was furious to see his team squander a 3-0 lead in a 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake last Saturday, he is convinced things are moving in the right direction overall.

"We have to recover because we have three away games in a row. It's going to be challenging, we go to LA and then we go to Minnesota," Estevez said. 

"It's going to be hard, but there's been improvement of the team against Austin, Houston, and now, against RSL. We're going in the right direction. 

"We'll review things, we'll try to find the things we have to improve, but also it's about the mentality. Some of the mistakes we made were too much like youth players, we cannot do that at the pro level."

The Galaxy, meanwhile, ended a run of four straight draws by beating the Houston Dynamo 2-1 last time out, with Gabriel Pec scoring as they went within four points of the Western Conference summit. 

"The team is getting better little by little. After three ties in a row, getting back home and getting a result, the feeling is very good," Pec said.

"The team has been doing great. Also, myself. I hope I can help my team moving forward."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

La Galaxy – Gabriel Pec 

Pec has scored in his last four home games for the Galaxy, becoming the first player to do so since Javier Hernandez in 2022. 

Only six players in club history have scored in five consecutive regular-season home appearances, with only three (Dejan Joveljic, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robbie Keane) doing so in the last 20 years.

FC Dallas – Asier Illarramendi 

As well as being one of just three Dallas players with more than one goal to his name in MLS this year (two), Illarramendi has played 15 key passes, a tally only bettered by Paul Arriola (16). That is despite the Spaniard only making six league starts this season. 

MATCH PREDICTION – LA GALAXY WIN

Dallas have collected just two points on the road this season (two draws, four defeats), tied for the fewest in MLS alongside Nashville SC. 

They have just two wins in their last 17 regular-season road games, though one of those two victories came at the Galaxy last October. 

A repeat is not expected on Wednesday, though, with the Galaxy unbeaten in six straight home matches (three wins, three draws). They have lost only one of their last 16 regular-season games at Dignity Health Sports Park (seven wins, eight draws).  

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

LA Galaxy – 47.5%

FC Dallas – 26.3%

Draw – 26.2%

Vanni Sartini has asked Vancouver Whitecaps to take a more “aggressive” approach to beat Sporting Kansas City in MLS on Wednesday.

Vancouver sit seventh in the Western Conference with 19 points but after a run of six matches without a win in the competition, the teams below them are catching up.

The Whitecaps failed to mount a comeback in their latest defeat to Inter Miami, losing 2-1 at home, causing them to also lose ground on the teams above them.

Sartini expects a tough game against the side bottom of the table, saying: "It's a team that are behind us in the standings and we know how important it is to win those games to put more distance because we're still in a playoff position that we need to keep.

"It's always very hard to play there, the atmosphere, with the fans on top of you, it's very intense. We need to be good, and play our soccer and be even more aggressive.

"We need to score more goals and finalise our chances. We have six games that we could've won three of them and I think we deserved that, but we didn't win any of them.

"Of course, being more clinical is an issue and we need to be better. We're working on that."

Sporting KC have just 11 points having won only two of their league games so far this season.

They have failed to win any of their previous eight MLS matches, losing each of their last five.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sporting KC – Alan Pulido

Pulido has scored five goals in four regular-season matches against the Whitecaps. Pulido’s 1.34 goals per 90 minutes against Vancouver is the second-best ratio of any Sporting Kansas City player against a single opponent (min. 300 minutes played versus opponent).

Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

Gauld scored the Whitecaps’ lone goal on Saturday from the penalty spot, his 10th penalty goal since the start of the 2022 season. Only three players in MLS have scored more goals from the spot over the last two-plus regular seasons than Gauld.

MATCH PREDICTION – SPORTING KANSAS CITY WIN

Sporting KC have won four of their six home matches against the Whitecaps (one draw, one defeat including playoffs) scoring at least three times in all four wins. Vancouver have totalled just three goals over the six matches combined.

However, Kansas City have lost five straight regular-season matches for the first time since April-May 2011. Sporting’s last losing streak of six or more league matches was a seven-match run in 2006.

Vancouver are winless in six straight MLS matches (three draws, three losses) after a 2-1 loss to Inter Miami on Saturday. The Whitecaps have totaled three goals in the six games after averaging 2.1 goals per match (17) in their first eight league matches this season.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Sporting KC – 44.8%

Draw – 27.9%

Vancouver Whitecaps – 27.3%

Phil Neville is pleased with the Portland Timbers' recent form but admits they still have a lot to work on as they prepare to face Austin FC on Wednesday.

After a run of nine games without a win in MLS, Portland have now won two of their last three outings, beating Sporting Kansas City 2-1 on Saturday.

That win moved them up to 16 points in the Western Conference, and the Timbers are now just one point behind the ninth-placed Seattle Sounders in a playoff place.

Neville was pleased with his side's reaction to a recent defeat to Minnesota United and is looking forward to building on their upturn.

"We've got two wins out of [last] three and it's what we expect, what we want. We want to keep improving. I think we've seen improvements over the last two or three weeks," he said.

"This group cares, this club cares for its players. And you can never kid a supporter and I think ours realise that we need their help - they did it against [Sporting Kansas City].

"We're building some momentum and it's a nine-point week, a week where you can move. It's a week where you can gain momentum.

"Every game in this league is difficult and now we've got to go on the road to one of the top teams and get a result there."

Austin are unbeaten in their last three matches and sit in fifth place with 23 points. Josh Wolff's side can keep the pressure on the teams above them with another three points at home.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Austin FC – Brendan Hines-Ike

Austin attempted just five shots in their draw with San Jose on Saturday, scoring with their only shot on target, a Brendan Hines-Ike header in the 44th minute. It was the first goal the defender has scored this season.

Portland Timbers – Evander

Evander recorded a goal and an assist in the Timbers' win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, his fourth game with at least one of each this year.

He is the second Timbers player with four games with a goal and an assist in a single season after Diego Valeri, who did so three times (2013, 2017, 2019).

MATCH PREDICTION – AUSTIN FC WIN

Austin have won five straight home matches for the first time in club history. Austin have scored in 20 straight home matches in all competitions dating back to last May 31, also the longest streak in club history.

Portland have won four of their last five matches against Austin (one draw) after the Verde won each of the first two meetings. The Timbers have won on their last two visits to Austin, having only managed two wins in their other 30 regular-season matches in Texas.

However, the Timbers are winless in seven straight away matches (two draws, five defeats) including losing the last three in a row. Portland have not had a longer road losing streak in over five years, since losing five straight on their travels in March-April 2019.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Austin FC – 42.4%

Draw – 24.8%

Portland Timbers – 32.8%

Oscar Pareja has admitted Orlando City's lack of goals in recent weeks is a cause for concern as they aim to change that against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.

The Lions have won two of their last five matches but alternated between hitting the back of the net and failing to score during that run, getting shut out by Columbus Crew on Saturday.

Orlando are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points off the playoffs, and Pareja hopes his side can add a more clinical edge against Chicago to close that gap.

"[Not scoring] is a concern, especially when you don't have the accuracy to cross or to find somebody in the box. Or if somebody is in the box but isn't precise to finish it off," Pareja said.

"The concern in the week is how can we polish them. But we have scored before, and we were collecting some games where the strikers start scoring. It's day by day, but today we need to be worried about it."

Chicago sit second from the bottom with just 11 points after only winning two games this season.

The Fire have failed to win any of their previous eight matches but snapped a four-game losing streak with their 1-1 draw against D.C. United at the weekend.

"It's about consistency now to keep going," Frank Klopas said. "We have the level, we've shown it.

"We've got to do it consistently, but [Saturday] was a step in the right direction with the attitude, the mentality, the fight with the group and playing really good football and creating good chances.

"[One] step at a time, we take it, we regroup, and now we need to come out with even more energy on Wednesday."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chicago Fire – Kellyn Acosta

Acosta scored his second goal for the Fire on Saturday, with both coming from outside the box. The American has scored eight goals from outside the box in his regular-season MLS career, with four coming from his right foot and four from his left.

Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

Orlando have scored nine goals on the road this season, with Lodeiro recording assists on five of them. Lodeiro has 38 career regular-season assists on the road, the most among active MLS players and seventh-most in MLS history.

MATCH PREDICTION – ORLANDO CITY WIN

Orlando have won four of their last five meetings with the Fire (one draw), including the last three in a row. Prior to this run, Orlando had won just three of 14 matches against Chicago (five draws, six losses) in all competitions since joining MLS in 2015.

Orlando have also won three of their last four regular-season road games (one draw), including back-to-back wins over the Philadelphia Union and San Jose Earthquakes. This is the Lions' ninth set of consecutive away wins in MLS league play, though they've never won three in a row on the road before.

Meanwhile, Chicago ended a four-match losing streak with a 1-1 draw against D.C. United on Saturday. Still, the Fire have a club record-low 11 points after 15 matches, a total only one team since 2000 has overcome to reach the playoffs: Inter Miami in the extended playoffs of 2020.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Chicago Fire – 32.1%

Draw – 27.9%

Orlando City – 40%

Djordje Mihailovic believes the Colorado Rapids should be grouped among the best teams in the Western Conference as they prepare for a trip to the Houston Dynamo.

The Rapids have won just one of their last four games, but a point against Minnesota United in a 3-3 draw was enough to keep them sixth in the table.

Colorado are now looking to get back to winning ways, and Mihailovic is hoping their form against the rest of the top six can translate against Houston.

"Last year wasn't great, and we're trying to move on, but we can't forget - it's the club's history," Mihailovic said.

"To know we're good against the top six in the West [only losing once], I think it shows we belong in that conversation. I know people won't say that on the outside, but we believe that in our group.

"It says a lot when we weren't happy with a draw [against Minnesota]. Now we go to Houston and Vancouver before our break, and it's a good opportunity to move up in the standings."

Houston sit four points behind Colorado in eighth place, but the teams below them are staying within touching distance.

After failing to win any of their last three matches, head coach Ben Osborn was asked what was missing from the team’s performances.

He said: "Goals are missing - finishing off some of these chances and I think the other part that's missing is understanding how to win games, or tie them, and find these moments where we are just more disciplined at times, so I think it's a combination of those two."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston Dynamo – Latif Blessing

Blessing scored his first goal of the season on Saturday, the tenth different Dynamo player to find the net this season. He is one of nine to have just one goal this year, as only Ibrahim Aliyu (four goals) has scored multiple times for Houston in regular-season play in 2024.

Colorado Rapids – Rafael Navarro

Navarro has the longest active goalscoring streak in MLS, having found the net in five straight appearances. Navarro is the third Rapids player to score in five straight regular-season matches after Omar Cummings in 2010 and John Spencer, who did so in six straight games in 2003.

MATCH PREDICTION – HOUSTON DYNAMO WIN

Houston have won consecutive matches against Colorado after winning just two of the previous 16 meetings dating back to 2016 (seven draws, seven defeats). This is the Dynamo's first set of consecutive wins over Colorado since 2008-09.

However, the Dynamo's 2-1 defeat at the LA Galaxy on Saturday was their fifth loss in their last nine regular-season matches (two wins, two draws). Houston had suffered just two defeats in their previous 17 league matches dating back to last July.

Colorado came from 3-1 down in the final 30 minutes to draw Minnesota 3-3 on Saturday, ending a run of 19 straight losses when trailing by multiple goals. It marked the sixth time in team history, and first at home, that the Rapids had avoided defeat despite trailing by multiple goals after the hour mark.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Houston Dynamo – 55.2%

Draw – 24.3%

Colorado Rapids – 20.4%

Charlotte FC head coach Dean Smith says his team will continue to work on their lack of goal threat as they prepare to travel to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday.

Charlotte sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the Red Bulls after going unbeaten in their last five matches.

However, their last two outings have finished 0-0 against LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union as they managed just six shots on target combined in those games.

Asked how he approaches a situation like that, Smith said: "We talk openly, review all the games and the fact is that we probably haven't worked the goalkeeper enough.

"We've spoke about that and what we feel we can do to improve that. We've had chances, and we probably haven't done as well as we could do with those, so that's something we'll continue to work on

"It's going to be a tough game [against the Red Bulls] because they're a tough team."

The Red Bulls are coming off a 10-day break after their derby defeat to New York City FC on May 19, and sit fifth in the table.

Head coach Sandro Schwarz said: "The performance [against NYCFC] wasn't the best, and we weren't able to create chances to score and to get three points.

"We want more, and we have to improve a lot, but this is normal. We need time, but the mentality, the behaviour, they adapt very quick and very well.

"We were disappointed to lose the derby game, but that happens. Heads up, we have to come back stronger and take the next opportunity."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New York Red Bulls – Cameron Harper

Harper scored New York's lone goal in their last match, his third straight match with a goal. He is the first Red Bulls player to score in three straight regular-season matches since Patryk Klimala in 2021, and the last Red Bulls player to score in four straight league games was Bradley Wright-Phillips in July-August 2017.

Charlotte – Kristijan Kahlina

Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five consecutive regular-season matches, the only team to do so in MLS this season. The only team since 2008 to keep a clean sheet in six straight games within a single regular season was New York City FC in May 2022, and Kahlina will be looking to equal that record.

MATCH PREDICTION: NEW YORK RED BULLS WIN

The Red Bulls have lost only one of their six all-time meetings with Charlotte in all competitions, a 2-0 road defeat in June 2022. New York have won three of their four home matches against Charlotte (D1), scoring multiple goals in each match, including a 5-2 win in last year's playoffs.

The Red Bulls are unbeaten in eight straight home matches dating back to last season (W5 D3, incl. playoffs). New York have not had a longer home unbeaten run in MLS play since a nine-match run from August 2018 to March 2019.

Meanwhile, Charlotte won 1-0 at Chicago in their last away match after a seven-match winless run on the road in all competitions. Charlotte have never recorded back-to-back away wins in all competitions before.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

New York Red Bulls – 53%

Draw – 23.9%

Charlotte – 23.1%

Toronto FC head coach John Herdman admits his team still have some growing to do as they travel to Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.

Despite losing three of their last four MLS games – winning the other 5-1 at home to CF Montreal – Toronto sit sixth in the Eastern Conference on 22 points with a very balanced record.

They have won seven and lost seven of their league games, drawing the other one, and have both scored and conceded 24 goals.

After conceding late in their 4-3 loss to Cincinnati, Herdman says his team need to put more work into their defensive side of the game.

"It's that level of concentration, that level of discipline that championship teams are able to bring to games," Herdman said.

"Knowing your job and delivering your job in high-pressure moments where you stay concentrated for long periods of time, that was the message [this week].

"I think collectively as a group they recognized it. And they welcomed it. They know we're growing. They know we’re on a bit of a journey."

Philadelphia are four points off a final series place in eighth with 18 points and are unbeaten in their last two matches after failing to win any of the previous six.

Asked about the test his side will face against Toronto, the Union head coach Jim Curtin said they are a "much-improved team.

"Really well organized, really well coached. A dangerous team."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

Gazdag has been involved in eight goals (four goals, four assists) in three home matches against Toronto FC, recording multiple goal contributions in each match.

Toronto FC – Lorenzo Insigne

After recording two assists against Montreal last week, Insigne had a goal and an assist on Saturday, the second player, along with Federico Bernardeschi, to contribute to multiple goals in consecutive matches for Toronto this season.

MATCH PREDICTION: PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN

The Union have won each of their last four home matches against Toronto by a combined score of 16-2. Philadelphia had won just four of their first 11 home matches against the Reds (D3 L4).

However, the Union have lost four consecutive home matches for the first time in club history. Philadelphia had suffered three defeats in their previous 59 matches at Subaru Park before this run.

Meanwhile, Toronto nearly drew with FC Cincinnati on Saturday, losing 4-3 to a goal in the third minute of stoppage time. Toronto have drawn only one of their last 36 matches in all competitions dating back to last June (W11 L24).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union – 67.7%

Draw – 18.9%

Toronto FC – 13.4%

Defender Aaron Long has praised Los Angeles FC's recent defensive strength as they prepare to welcome Minnesota United to BMO Stadium on Wednesday.

LAFC have won their last four in all competitions without conceding a goal, with Saturday's 1-0 victory over Atlanta United their 100th MLS regular-season win.  

They currently sit fourth in the Western Conference with 24 points and can leapfrog opponents Minnesota United if they continue their winning streak.

"We touched on it a little bit earlier in the year when I was asked about giving up a lot of goals in a lot of weird ways," said Long.

"We pride ourselves on being a good defensive team with a good structure and getting 11 guys behind the ball and working hard.

"More than anything, I think we have strikers, forwards and midfielders who can score a lot of goals. If we can hold zeros, we can win a lot of games. We held four zeros in a row, four wins, so let's try and keep the ball rolling."

When asked about reaching the milestone of their 100th win last Saturday, Long added: "To be the fastest to 100 or tied as the fastest to 100, is a huge, monumental step. I think it's something that the club should be proud of."

Meanwhile, Minnesota are second in the table, just four points behind leaders Real Salt Lake City after a 3-3 draw with Colorado Rapids last weekend.

They have not lost any of their last seven matches, and forward, Tani Oluwaseyi is looking forward to facing off against a tough opponent.

He said: "You always want to face the great teams and LAFC is a marquee team with a lot of really good players, really big players. Hopefully, we can put a great game plan together to go into that game."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

LAFC – Mateusz Bogusz

Bogusz scored LAFC's lone goal in their win in Atlanta on Saturday. Only four players have scored Los Angeles FC's 15 goals since the beginning of April (excluding own goals): Denis Bouanga (six), Mateusz Bogusz (four), Cristian Olivera (three) and Timothy Tillman (two).

Minnesota – Tani Oluwaseyi

Oluwaseyi scored the second of Minnesota’s three goals on Saturday at Colorado, scoring for the third-straight MLS road game. Oluwaseyi is the second Minnesota player to score in three straight regular-season away matches after Franco Fragapane did so in June-July 2022.

MATCH PREDICTION: LOS ANGELES FC WIN

LAFC have won five straight matches in all competitions, keeping clean sheets in the last four. This equals their second-longest all-competition winning streak (seven straight in 2022) while it's the second time LAFC have kept clean sheets in four straight matches (April 2023).

Meanwhile, Minnesota are unbeaten in six straight matches following a 3-3 draw at Colorado on Saturday (W4 D2). The Loons have scored multiple goals in all six games during that run.

Indeed, Minnesota ended a seven-match winless run against LAFC with a 2-0 home victory on March 16. Each team has won three times against the other with five of the 11 meetings ending in draws.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

LAFC – 51.5%

Draw – 25.3%

Minnesota – 23.2%

President of Boys' Town Football Club Andrew Price says he is struggling to come to grip with the brutal slaying of former player Rafiek “Fari” Thomas, who was gunned down at his home  in Denham Town on Tuesday.

It is reported that about 4:40am, unknown assailants gained access to Thomas’ residence, in the troubled West Kingston community, and shot him several times in his bed. Another man was also injured during the home invasion.

Thomas, 40, was well-known for his goal scoring exploits in local football, especially during his time at Boys’ Town and Tivoli Gardens. He also represented Harbour View, Waterhouse, and Humble Lion throughout his career, before returning to the Boys’ Town. He scored the match-winning goal for the Collie Smith Drive-based club when they copped the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) Wray and Nephew Championship last season.

They retained the title with a penalty shoot-out win over Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) on Sunday, but their celebrations were cut short by the tragic news, which has plunged the football fraternity  into mourning.

Price expressed condolence to Thomas’s family and friends, as he remembered the player as passionate, inspirational and humble.

“It is so sad when you hear another life snuffed out through crime and violence in inner city communities. Rafiek Thomas was an inspirational player, very skillful, and a prolific goal scorer. I enjoyed coaching him. He was a gem to coach, always unassuming, humble individual, so I'm taking this very, badly to awake to this type of news after the club's triumphant Sunday night it is just really disheartening and gut-wrenching,” Price said.

“Such a talented individual; he was always willing to assist, to impress, to guide the youngsters and even at his age, he was still a prolific goal scorer. One of the last goals he scored was a year ago in the finals of the Championship against Constant Spring. So we will remember Rafiek for how passionate he was both on and off the field. It's sad to hear that his life has ended in this tragic manner and it reinforces the need to engage football as a socializing effect in communities,” he added.

Laurent Courtois was pleased to see CF Montreal "stop the bleeding" with Saturday's goalless draw against Nashville SC, but he knows more is needed when they host D.C. United on Wednesday. 

Montreal are winless in their last nine matches across all competitions (four draws, five losses) and sit 13th of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference.

They did at least snap a four-game losing streak with that stalemate, and Courtois wants them to use that result as a platform.

"I heard a couple of guys talking about 'stopping the bleeding' and I hate it, but it's the reality of the moment," said Courtois.

"We're happy in the sense that we were able to get back to our standards of commitment and competitiveness, but we know that we need more at home, so we have to get back to work."

D.C. were also held to a draw last time out as their own winless run stretched to three matches, being pegged back in a 1-1 home tie with the Chicago Fire.

Coach Troy Lesesne was less than pleased with his team's performance in that match, saying: "In the end, we were fortunate to get a point out of that, and that's not good enough.

"Maybe there wasn't enough service. I think it was to do with how we went out. 

"In the first half you could see our identity by the way we went out, but you could not see that in the second half." 

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

CF Montreal – Josef Martinez

Martinez has scored eight regular-season goals against D.C. United, equalling the most he has scored against any opponent in his MLS career (also eight versus the New England Revolution and Orlando City).

D.C. United – Christian Benteke

D.C. have won 347 aerial duels this season, over 100 more than any other MLS team and almost three times as many as Montreal. 

Montreal have won 122 aerial duels this year, the second-fewest in MLS and 42 fewer than Benteke alone (164).

MATCH PREDICTION – CF MONTREAL WIN

D.C. have won two straight matches against Montreal in all competitions, but the only three-game winning streak achieved by either team against the other came in 2016-17 (three victories for Montreal).

Montreal's nine-match winless run is their joint-longest across all competitions since they joined MLS in 2012 (also nine in 2013-14).

However, D.C. have failed to win any of their last three matches (one draw, two losses) and have only won one of their last 13 on the road (seven draws, five defeats).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

CF Montreal – 46.9%

D.C. United – 25.7%

Draw – 27.4% 

Jamaica’s Gymnastics Association (JAGA) president, Nicole Grant says securing hosting rights for the inaugural Carifta Gymnastics Championships not only marks another milestone achievement for her administration, but more importantly, signifies the country’s continued growth in the sport.

Though the region has been known for the Carifta Games and Carifta Swimming Championships, where rising stars showcase their athletics and aquatic prowess across various age groups, there has never been an outlet for gymnast.

That prompted Grant and others to work with the Pan American Gymnastics Union (PAGU) to conceptualize the Carifta Gymnastics Championships, which is set for November 29-30 at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

“Hosting the inaugural Carifta Gymnastics Championships is a significant achievement for Jamaica Gymnastics. It showcases Jamaica's commitment to the sport and its ability to organize a major regional event. Carifta has been around for many years but gymnastics hasn’t been part of it and because of the technicality of the sport,” Grant told SportsMax.TV.

“This event provides a platform for gymnasts in the Caribbean region to compete and showcase their talents. It also helps to promote gymnastics in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, inspiring more young athletes to take up the sport. Overall, hosting such a prestigious event is a great honor and a testament to Jamaica's growing presence in the gymnastics community,” she added.

Olympian Toni-Ann Williams and Coach Mladen Stefanov.

Grant explained that Jamaica found favour with the PAGU since last year’s successful staging of the Pan American Hopes tournament, and she is eager to deliver another fine spectacle.

“We were seen as a country that has the capability of hosting tournaments of this level and therefore we were given the nod. There were three other countries in the running to host the tournament, which included Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Bahamas,” Grant shared.

“I can tell you that Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are already confirmed to participate, and each country is expected to bring about 20-30 athletes, at a minimum. So while we wait on other countries to confirm their participation, we are focused on delivering what we hope will be a memorable first staging,” she declared.

On another note, Grant revealed that Jamaica has also secured the services of Olympian Toni-Ann Williams as Technical Director with her former coach Mladen Stefanov, set to guide the country’s team which begins preparation next month.

“Toni-Ann will be working with us on a monthly basis. She will begin in July with a camp for the team competing at the Carifta Gymnastics Championships and Mladen Stefanov will be the Head Coach for the senior male and female teams. He was Toni-Ann’s coach throughout her years as gymnasts and has worked with us over the years, so we are pleased to have them both on our technical team,” she noted.

Prior to the Carifta Gymnastics Championships, Grant pointed out that Jamaica’s athletes will engage two overseas training camps, in Canada and China, to fine-tune techniques and routines.

“The China camp is a part of the bilateral agreement between both ministries of sports and is the final leg of that camp. Also, our higher level local gymnasts will have a four-week camp in Canada to also prepare for the tournament,” she ended.

Pat Noonan believes being able to win in different ways has been the key to FC Cincinnati's fine run of form, as the Orange and Blue look to make it eight straight victories against Nashville SC on Wednesday.

Cincinnati have won their last seven league games to surge up the Eastern Conference standings, and they currently sit just one point adrift of leaders Inter Miami with a game in hand.

They overcame fellow high-fliers Toronto FC by a 4-3 scoreline in a thriller last time out, and Noonan has praised his players for being adaptable in the face of different challenges. 

"It's hard to win in this league and it's hard to win consecutively like we've done," Noonan said. 

"I think what we're able to do is adapt in games and win in different ways. When we need to have the quality with the ball and score goals, we were able to do that. 

"We've seen the one-goal wins, and finally being able to win a game by two goals last week against St. Louis City. So we can win in different ways, which is important."

Nashville, meanwhile, are still awaiting their first win under interim coach Rumba Munthali, having played out back-to-back draws with Atlanta United (1-1) and CF Montreal (0-0) since they fired Gary Smith.

"It's been good, it's been positive," Munthali said of the team's work on the training ground. 

"The guys have done the work that was asked of them and have been really positive and receptive, especially at a tough time in this transition."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta assisted Cincinnati's winner last Saturday, his ninth straight regular-season match with a goal contribution, equalling the longest run in MLS since the start of the 2023 season. 

Since 2000, only six players have recorded a double-digit streak of regular-season games with a goal contribution.

Nashville SC – Hany Mukhtar 

Mukhtar created five chances for team-mates in Nashville's draw with Montreal last time out, his most in a match this season. 

Nine of the 19 chances Mukhtar has created this year have come in two games against Montreal, with just 10 in his other 10 matches. Will that performance be a turning point? 

MATCH PREDICTION – FC CINCINNATI WIN

Nashville have only won only one of their last 16 MLS away matches (six draws, nine defeats including playoffs), including going winless in their last eight (four draws, four losses). 

Nashville's last road win over an Eastern Conference foe came over a year ago, a 2-1 victory at Charlotte FC on May 20, 2023.

Cincinnati's 4-3 win at Toronto last time out was their 31st victory in their last 50 regular-season matches dating back to October 2022, the most wins in a span of 50 regular-season matches in MLS in the post-shootout era (since 2000).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

FC Cincinnati – 56.5%

Nashville SC – 21.6%

Draw – 21.9%

Gonzalo Pineda remains confident things will turn for Atlanta United after nine MLS games without a victory, as the Five Stripes prepare to visit Inter Miami on Wednesday.

Atlanta sit 12th in the Eastern Conference, 21 points adrift of pacesetters Miami, after failing to win any of their last nine matches since the start of April (four draws, five defeats).

Sporting Kansas City (two) are the only team in MLS to earn fewer than the four points Atlanta have picked up in that span.

However, Pineda believes the fact Atlanta are still creating chances is a major positive, saying Thiago Almada's return to full fitness will surely lead to an upturn.

Speaking after Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Los Angeles FC, he said: "I'm very confident in the team, honestly. 

"Once again I thought we created some big chances, and we didn't have Thiago available for more than 30 minutes. With that, we have our backline being stable again and we'll have our best attacking pieces together again.

"That's the confidence I have. We're creating chances and we just need to be a little bit more clinical."

Miami, meanwhile, continued their strong form with a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps last time out, despite Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets all being rested.

While Messi's absence infuriated many of the 55,000 fans present in Vancouver, coach Gerardo Martino says it was important to give the Argentina great a breather, and he is expected to feature on Wednesday.

"It must be stressed that he has played a lot of minutes this season, so we had to find a moment to give him a break and to rest him for a match," Martino said of Messi.

"In this specific case, the trip to Vancouver made the most sense. We understand people's frustrations, especially because of the desire these fans have to see these players. 

"But as coaches, we have to make these decisions that are uncomfortable and that will frustrate people. Ultimately we have to look after our players and the team."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Leonardo Campana

Prior to missing last week's trip to Vancouver, Messi had gone consecutive starts without a goal contribution for the second time since joining Miami last year. 

Fortunately for the Herons, Campana has stepped up, hitting back-to-back winners against D.C. United and the Whitecaps. He has four goals in MLS this term, despite only making six starts.

Atlanta United – Brooks Lennon

No Atlanta player has recorded more key passes in MLS this year than Lennon's 33, a tally only Almada can match. 

If the Five Stripes are to end their dismal run of form, he could have a key role to play.

MATCH PREDICTION – INTER MIAMI WIN

Atlanta are winless in 13 straight away matches in all competitions (seven draws, six defeats), and have now managed just four wins in their last 43 road games.

Miami, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 10 MLS matches, winning seven of the last eight. They even showed they can cope without Messi on Saturday, recording just their third win in 14 matches without the Argentine since his arrival last July (five draws, six losses).

Miami have never lost a home game against Atlanta, winning four and drawing two versus them, including winning each of the teams' last three clashes in Fort Lauderdale.

The only road win in the 12-match history of the teams' series was a 2-1 victory for the Herons at Atlanta in September 2020.

Martino's team enter Wednesday's game as big favourites, regardless of the status of their stars.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami – 51.2%

Atlanta United – 25.7%

Draw – 23.1%

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