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. 

 

Jamaica's senior Reggae Girlz winger Jody Brown inked her first professional contract, having agreed to join Benfica of Portugal on a three year deal.

The former Florida State University standout, officially announced her move on her social media on Thursday, as she expressed delight about her transition to the professional realm.

"Becoming a professional players 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," Brown posted on her Instagram account.

"I am proud and honoured to sign my first professional contract for such a big institution as Benfica. I would like to thank my family, MVA [Montverde Academy], FSU, Hue Menzies and everyone who helped me get to this point," she added.

Brown, 22, has represented Jamaica at every level, including at two FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments and has scored 12 goals for Jamaica at the senior level.

She 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. Benfica are the current champions of Portugal and have also secured Champions League football for next season.

More to come.

The disciplinary hearing for Jamaican sprinter Tyquendo Tracey has been adjourned indefinitely, casting uncertainty over the two-time national champion's future in athletics. The decision came as a surprise after Tracey's attorneys had been expecting to receive a crucial statement on Monday, ahead of the scheduled June 25 hearing.

The suspension of the hearing was communicated in a letter received by Tracey's legal team on Wednesday, June 19. The letter, issued by the Chairman of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association's (JAAA) disciplinary committee, stated: "The Chairman of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association's disciplinary committee has further reviewed the complaint against him and decided that the matter be adjourned sine die."

Tracey faces charges for two breaches of the JAAA's disciplinary policy following his public criticism of the selection process for Jamaica's 4x100m relay team at the World Championships in Budapest last year.

His allegations, made in a 15-minute YouTube video in August 2023, accused Maurice Wilson, the technical director of Jamaica's delegation to the World Athletics Championships, of “bias” and “favouritism.” Tracey claimed Wilson favoured Kadrian Goldson, a sprinter from GC Foster College, where Wilson serves as principal, for the relay team despite Goldson not qualifying through the National Championships.

Tracey finished fifth in the men's 100m final at those championships, while Goldson placed seventh. According to established protocol, the top six finishers are typically selected for the relay pool. In his video, Tracey alleged a pattern of such behaviour by Wilson and labelled him "a very evil and vindictive person."

The fallout from Tracey's video was immediate and severe. He reported that after discussing the issue with reporters in Budapest, he was approached by Security Liaison Officer Steve McGregor, who informed him that his accreditation would be withdrawn and he would be asked to leave the team village.

Wilson, responding to Tracey's accusations, described them as “libellous and defamatory.” He stated, “My family is coming under attack on social media. The posts are out there. There is no way I will not have to seek redress in reference to my reputation. Track and field is a part of what I do. I’m also involved with youngsters that I mentor and try to assist so there is no way that I can allow this to just be a passing fire.”

The disciplinary hearing was initially set for over a week ago but was postponed until June 25, two days before the start of the Jamaica National Championships on June 27, where the team for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games will be selected. With the hearing now suspended indefinitely, the situation remains unresolved, leaving Tracey's immediate athletic future in limbo.

Ian Fray made a scoring return from his long injury lay-off, helping Inter Miami to a 2-1 victory over Columbus Crew in the MLS on Wednesday.

Miami, who are without Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez due to their Copa America participation, ensured they stayed top of the Eastern Conference with their second win on the bounce.

Making his first appearance since July 2023, defender Fray marked his comeback with an early goal, flicking Julian Gressel's corner into the back of the net after just 10 minutes.

The Herons cemented their control just 11 minutes later when Leonardo Campana latched onto the rebound of his own saved shot to put them 2-0 up.

However, Cucho Hernandez halved the deficit just before half-time, poking a low effort past Drake Callendar into the bottom-left corner.

Despite Miami's dominance in the second half, Columbus almost got the deciding goal, but Callendar prevented Cucho from getting a second with a sharp save to ensure the hosts did not drop points.

Data Debrief: Herons on scoring run

Miami have now scored in each of their last six matches in the MLS, their longest run since a seven-game streak between March and May earlier this year.

Gressel has played a key part in that run, contributing to goals in each of his last three appearances for the Herons (one goal, two assists).

John Herdman wants to see the real Toronto FC take to the pitch when they welcome Nashville to the BMO Field on Wednesday.

The Reds were comfortably beaten by Chicago Fire last time out, continuing their recent poor form which has seen them lose three of their last four games in front of their home supporters.

Toronto sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Colombus Crew, who have the advantage of three games in hand in the coming weeks.

Herdman was animated following the full-time whistle last Saturday, and is looking for his side to be harder to beat as he looks for his side to return to the one he has managed for much of the season.

"While there was effort there and opportunities, we're too soft. We gave goals away tonight," said Herdman. "We've discussed this. We've got to be harder to beat, at home there's got to be an identity that fans can be proud of. That's the first night in my time where I've really shared the disappointment of the fans.”

"I always look for that silver lining, whether it's the effort, being tough, creating opportunities, but tonight we were flat," Herdman levelled. "It's very raw at the moment. We've had some conversations in the dressing room, but we can’t see that again."

"We've got three days to turn this around," he added. "And as I've said to them, 'The real us has to show on Wednesday.' The real us, because that wasn’t us."

Meanwhile, Nashville have the opportunity to close the gap to their opponents should they emerge victorious away from home, something they have been incredibly successful at in recent weeks.

Their draw against New York Red Bulls last time out saw them remain unbeaten in their last three games away from Geodis Park but they will be hoping for a better attacking display from their plethora of forward options.

Nashville attempted six shots against the Red Bulls, failing to register one on target, with those in Rumba Munthali’s ranks not having more than one shot during proceedings.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Toronto FC – Lorenzo Insinge

The experienced Italian will once again be pivotal in Toronto's forward line as the 33-year-old looks to add to his goal against Chicago Fire last time out.

Since arriving in the MLS in 2022, Insigne has scored twice against Nashville, the joint-most he has scored against any other side he has faced.

Nashville – Hany Mukhtar

Hany Mukhtar has once again been in fine form for Nashville, and he will once again look to be the creative spark for the visitors.

The German has notched two assists and a goal in his last three MLS appearances.

MATCH PREDICTION: NASHVILLE WIN

Nashville come into the encounter as favourites and will be hoping to continue their impressive form away from home, having gone unbeaten in their last three away matches (W1 D2), keeping clean sheets in all of those games.

This is the second time Nashville have kept clean sheets in three straight away games, last doing so in 2021, and they look set to continue that record this time around.

Meanwhile, Toronto have won just one of their last seven league games following a three-game unbeaten run, losing three of their four home fixtures in that time.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Toronto – 30.1%

Draw – 24.9%

Nashville – 45%

New York Red Bulls head coach Sandro Schwarz insisted he is not worried about his side's lack of firepower as they travel to the Stade Saputo on Thursday.

The Red Bull Army failed to find the back of the net in their encounter against Nashville last time out, registering 14 shots with only six on target in front of their home supporters.

Schwarz's side sit third in the Eastern Conference table, six points behind second-placed FC Cincinnati, but are hopeful of closing the gap with a win over their opponents.

The Red Bulls head coach has said he will pass on his own experiences he went through as a player to try and combat their recent struggles in front of goal, but is confident his side can create those moments against Montreal.  

"I am not worried about that," Schwarz said. "The only way, and this is my experience as a player and as a head coach, is to create every time in the next situation and to try it again in the next situation.

"To come into the box position, this is what we have to do. I am sure, and I think this season we have scored a lot of goals, but against Nashville it was 0-0.

"It is good that if you don’t score it is not necessary you didn’t concede a goal. Now, we have to create these moments against Montreal on Wednesday."

Meanwhile, Montreal played out the same scoreline in their encounter with Real Salt Lake last time out but remained in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

Laurent Courtois' side are now unbeaten in their last four matches (W1 D3) in all competitions for the first time since a six-match winning streak between April and May last year.

Montreal had lost five of its previous six games (D1) and will be looking to continue their recent momentum in front of their home supporters.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Montreal – Joaquin Sosa

Sosa won five of the nine tackles he attempted against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, which is the most tackles won in a match by a CF Montreal player this season.

Sosa had won just 10 tackles in his first nine appearances for the club.

New York Red Bulls – Elias Manoel

With top scorer Lewis Morgan away with Scotland at Euro 2024, and Emil Forsberg out with a foot injury, it offers the chance for Elias Manoel to take centre stage.

The Brazilian has scored three goals in 17 appearances this season, with his last coming in May against DC United.

MATCH PREDICTION: NEW YORK RED BULLS WIN

It looks set to be a tightly contested affair at the Stade Saputo on Thursday, but NYRB should have enough to edge the contest away from home.

The Red Bulls' defensive rearguard was a big positive from their goalless draw with Nashville, not allowing their opponents a shot on target – the fourth time they have managed this since 2022.

Schwarz's side reached the 30-point mark on Sunday with their draw at home to Nashville, reaching that total in fewer games just twice in the club's history, which came in the 2012 and 2018 campaigns, taking just 16 games to achieve.

The two sides have alternated wins over the last eight meetings, with New York winning the last match 2-1 in May 2023. None of the last 17 regular-season meetings between the sides have ended in a draw.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Montreal – 31.6%

Draw – 25.3%

NYRB – 43.1%

Latanya Wilson, affectionately known as "Latty," has emerged as a leading contender for the Suncorp Super Netball MVP Award, thanks to her exceptional performances this season for the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Despite facing significant personal challenges, including a devastating fire last August that destroyed her home in Kingston and most of her belongings, Wilson has shown remarkable resilience and determination on the court.

Wilson, a Jamaican defender, has been a standout player in her fourth Super Netball season. She has been instrumental in the Thunderbirds' success, particularly in her role as a wing defender. Known for her light footwork, closing speed, and vertical leap, Wilson has excelled in intercepts, leading the competition with 37. Her defensive prowess has made her a nightmare for opposing wing attacks and a critical asset in the Thunderbirds' lineup.

In addition to her success in wing defense, Wilson has also proven to be a formidable option in the goal defense circle. Teaming up with fellow Sunshine Girl and last year's Super Netball MVP, Shamera Sterling-Humphrey, Wilson has helped create one of the most formidable defensive units in the league. Sterling-Humphrey, who is second behind Wilson for intercepts with 33, leads the league in defensive rebounds (23) and deflections (68). The duo's combined efforts have lessened the Thunderbirds' reliance on Sterling-Humphrey as the last line of defense, allowing the team to pressure opponents higher up the court.

Wilson's outstanding play this season is even more impressive given the personal adversity she has faced. Last August, a fire, suspected to be arson, swept through her Kingston neighborhood, destroying multiple homes and leaving up to 50 people homeless or displaced. Wilson lost all her belongings, including her original World Cup bronze and Commonwealth Games silver medals. Despite this tragic setback, she has maintained her focus and elevated her game to new heights.

On Saturday, Wilson delivered another stellar performance against the Giants, earning the Player of the Match award. Her game-changing presence and ability to disrupt opponents' plays have made her a vital part of the Thunderbirds' strategy, contributing significantly to their success.

The last six seasons have seen the overall MVP award go to a Jamaican player (Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard/Sterling-Humphrey) and Wilson is poised to continue this trend. Her resilience, skill, and impact on the court make her a strong candidate for this prestigious honor.

 

 

Dean Smith will hope to utilise the experience of former Orlando City midfielder Junior Orso when his new team Charlotte FC host them in MLS on Thursday.

Charlotte head coach Smith says the influence of Orso, who spent four seasons with Orlando, could benefit the home side at Bank of America Stadium.

"It helps," Smith said of Orso's knowledge. "Little insights of information that can help.

"The fact that Junior will know a lot about them will certainly help us as well."

The Crown are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, too, owing to their remarkable defence that has helped them to ninth in the Supporter's Shield rankings.

"Defense wins championships,” said Brandt Bronico, reflecting on the team's success this season. "If you can get the defense right, you can [then] start creating and having fun on the offensive end.

"The collective defense-first mindset is probably the most important thing in the locker room."

Orlando are struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, sitting just one point ahead of New England Revolution, who still have a game in hand.

Oscar Pareja's side were beaten 3-1 by Los Angeles FC last time out, extending their winless streak to four games.

The Orlando head coach acknowledged improvements are needed.

"We need to have a deeper analysis about what's happening on the pitch," Pareja said.

"But once again, it's not enough at this point. We need to win games and that's not happening."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Kristijan Kahlina

Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five straight home matches for the first time in club history, thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.

With a shutout against Orlando, Charlotte would become the sixth team in MLS history to keep six straight home clean sheets within a single season, equaling the second-longest run in league history.

Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

Nicolas Lodeiro completed 107 of 115 pass attempts on Saturday against LAFC, a new career high in his 208th regular-season match after never completing more than 88 passes in a match before.

It was the most passes ever completed by an Orlando player in an MLS match, though Lodeiro may not have as much control for this meeting.

MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE FC WIN

The pre-match predictions fall in the favour of the home side as Charlotte appear the most likely victors on Thursday.

Charlotte FC went unbeaten in all three meetings with Orlando in all competitions last season (W2 D1), after Orlando won both matches in 2022.

Expect another nervy encounter, however, as all five matches between this pair have been decided by one goal or drawn.

Yet the hosts will be confident as Charlotte have lost only one of their last 19 regular-season home matches, dating back to the beginning of June 2023 (W9 D9).

Only last season's MLS Cup finalists Los Angeles FC (40) and Columbus Crew (38) have earned more points at home than Charlotte (36) over that span, and Orlando are struggling heading into this one.

The visitors have lost eight matches in the 2024 season, one more than they had all of last year.

Yet not all hope is lost given the Lions have lost only one of their last six away from home (W3 D2).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Charlotte FC – 42.8%

Orlando City – 30.5%

Draw – 26.7%

FC Dallas interim head coach Peter Luccin will continue to give his players freedom as they welcome Minnesota United to the Toyota Stadium on Thursday.

The Frenchman earned a victory in his first game in charge of the Toros over St. Louis City last Sunday, ending a run of five games without a win.  

Dallas occupy 12th in the Western Conference table and will be looking to win consecutive matches within a single league season in over a year on home turf.

Luccin was pleased with his new side returning to winning ways, and insists that allowing his players freedom on the pitch is equally as important as the tactics he implements.

"In the end, I think that is the only way," Luccin said. “I think you saw that the best way is to give them the freedom to play.

"We are talking so much about tactics, and tactics are very important, but the freedom, I will say sometimes, with the ball, is even more important.

"We have some players who are very creative. I am not going to tell them how to pass a ball, but the only thing I can help them with is to read moments and what phase we are in."

Meanwhile, Minnesota suffered just their fourth defeat of the season in a 2-0 defeat away to Seattle Sounders, leaving them in fourth place and two points behind LA Galaxy with a game in hand.

The Loons travel to Dallas unbeaten in their last five visits to North Texas, winning twice and drawing three times and will be looking to continue that run this time around.

But an uncharacteristic part of their most recent defeat was their failure to find the back of the net. It was just the fifth time in Minnesota's last 40 league matches that they did not score.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Dallas – Petar Musa

The Croatian is Dallas' top scorer this season with five goals, but has failed to find the back of the net since their draw with Houston in May. However, he will be hopeful of returning to the scoresheet in front of his home supporters.

Minnesota United – Robin Lod

Lod has continued to impress for Minnesota, not only in the wide positions but centrally too. The 31-year-old has five goals and eight assists this season for Ramsay's side.

MATCH PREDICTION: DALLAS WIN

Having gone five games without a win, Dallas halted their winless run with a victory over St. Louis last time out but have failed to win consecutive matches in a single season in over a year against Austin and Vancouver, but are well-placed to buck that trend.

Nkosi Tafari's headed goal against St. Louis was the sixth time Dallas have scored from a corner this season, tied for the second most in the MLS and two behind San Jose Earthquakes.

But Minnesota will be confident of returning to winning ways against their opponents, having lost one of their last 11 games against Dallas. The Loons are also unbeaten in their last five visits to Dallas (W2 D3), the club’s longest road unbeaten run against a team in the MLS.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Dallas – 41%

Draw – 26.7%

Minnesota – 32.3%

FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan expects a tough test against the Philadelphia Union despite their recent form, as he faces his former side this Thursday.

The Orange and Blue come into the contest as the overwhelming favourites having won eight of their last nine matches, the latest coming in a 4-2 win over San Jose Earthquakes last time out.

Noonan's side are just two points behind the Eastern Conference league leaders, Inter Miami, but have played two games less than the side directly above them.

However, Noonan was quick to look past the two sides' differing recent form, insisting the game will be a tougher encounter than many will expect.

“They've been stable for a long time, and when you're stable and at the top of the league for so long, anytime there's a stretch where you're not winning games, you're not getting results, there's going to be criticism,” Noonan said.

“That's a part of what we're all dealing with. So I think the compliment there is it's been so long since we've seen them have struggles. But I can tell you, with Jim (Curtin) and with some of those leaders, they're going to be fine.”

“That's my view of it, and it doesn't make me any more comfortable about Wednesday. If there's anything that you know, anytime their backs are against the wall, these guys step up. Jim knows how to lead that group, so we have to be very cautious about an opponent that, while they might be struggling with results, has been in these situations before and come out on top.”

The Union come into the encounter at the TQL Stadium having won one of their last 11 league matches, leaving them in eighth place in the East table following their 2-1 defeat to Inter Miami last Saturday.

Their recent meetings with their opponents have also ended on the wrong end of the scoreline, losing their last three meetings.

Prior to this run, the Union were unbeaten in their first seven meetings with Cincinnati (W5 D2) and they will be hopeful of gaining a much-needed triumph to gain some belief back into their squad.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta's creative spark shone in Cincinatti's win victory over San Jose, recording three assists for the second time in his MLS career, last coming in September 2018 with DC United.

The Argentine became the 13th player in MLS history to have two such games, something no player has done three times, hoping to add to 19 goal contributions from 17 league games this season.

Philadelphia Union – Mikael Uhre

Uhre netted his sixth goal of the season on Saturday, becoming the third different Union player with six or more goals (Daniel Gazdag – 10, Julian Carranza – six).

The only other team with three players with six or more goals this season are Portland (Felipe Mora, Evander, Jonathan Rodriguez).

MATCH PREDICTION: FC CINCINNATI WIN

FC Cincinnati have won three of their last five matches against the Union (D1 L1), including eliminating Philadelphia from last season's playoffs.

FC Cincinnati have won eight of their last nine matches (L1), and are looking to become just the fourth team in the post-shootout era (since 2000) to win nine times in a span of 10 league matches.

Meanwhile, The Union have won one of their last 11 league matches (D5 L5) following their loss to Inter Miami on Saturday. The eight points Philadelphia have collected over that span are their fewest in any 11-game stretch of league play since 2015.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Cincinnati – 50.8%

Draw – 25%

Philadelphia – 24.3%

Portland Timbers have kept back-to-back shutouts on the road in MLS and Phil Neville is hoping that continues when his side visit San Jose Earthquakes on Thursday.

The Timbers overcame Austin FC 2-0 before battling to a goalless draw on their trip to St. Louis City, with a 2-2 home draw coming against Houston Dynamo in between.

That run of form has helped Portland climb up to 10th in the Western Conference and the improvements have not gone unnoticed by head coach Neville.

"I'm seeing improvements in the whole team defensively, not just in the back four, but the defending starts from the front," the former Inter Miami boss said.

"I think, maybe, a month ago we wouldn't have kept that St. Louis clean sheet.

"They are throwing their bodies in the way, using smart play, game management and players are confident in what they are doing, so we are really pleased."

Neville still believes his side can develop further, however.

"[Against St. Louis] we had some moments to score some goals, it was the first time our forward players just didn't have that quality in the final third," Neville added.

"It was a good point, and we've had a rest to get ready for the next one."

The Earthquakes sit bottom of the West standings after a woeful season up to the midway point.

Luchi Gonzalez's side could soon jump off the bottom of the table, however, trailing Sporting Kansas City by just three points.

Yet San Jose will need a minor miracle to save this campaign.

They have conceded nine goals in their last two matches after a 5-1 thrashing by New York City FC followed a 4-2 home humbling by FC Cincinnati.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

San Jose Earthquakes – Jeremy Ebobisse

Jeremy Ebobisse has not scored in six MLS matches against the Timbers since being traded from Portland to San Jose in 2021.

Ebobisse has played more matches without scoring against just one other opponent in his MLS career, failing to find the net in 11 career meetings with Minnesota United.

Portland Timbers – Evander

Evander remains Neville's go-to player in the Portland attack.

The Brazilian has seven goals and as many assists, with no team-mate able to match his 14 direct goal contributions this year in MLS.

MATCH PREDICTION – PORTLAND TIMBERS WIN

The Opta supercomputer struggled to split these two sides, yet Portland appear the favourites for a narrow victory considering recent form and their head-to-head record.

The Timbers have won three straight matches against San Jose in all competitions, their fifth three-match winning streak over the Earthquakes.

However, they have never won four in a row against San Jose – who head into this clash in terrible form.

The Earthquakes have lost 12 of 17 matches this year and their 11 points are tied for the third-fewest at the halfway point of a season since MLS expanded to a 34-game schedule in 2011 (D.C. United – nine in 2013, Toronto FC – 10 in 2012).

Portland have also only lost one of their last six matches, recording 11 points in those games (W3 D2), including going unbeaten in a season-high four straight (W2 D2).

The Timbers have more points in those six matches than they had in their first 12 this season (10 – W2 D4 L6) and will hope to continue that run here.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

San Jose Earthquakes – 35.2%

Portland Timbers – 38.9%

Draw – 26%

Atlanta United interim head coach Rob Valentino expressed the importance of focusing on the present ahead of travelling to DC United at Audi Field on Thursday. 

The Five Stripes have won just one of their last 12 league games, dating back to the beginning of April, but will be hoping to return to winning ways against their opponents, who they beat in May to end their last winless run in the MLS.  

Atlanta are a point above bottom side New England Revolution, having played a game less, and know a win is a must to build momentum for the rest of the season. 

However, Valentino was keen to focus on the future, and insists his side are continuing to push to get points on the board. 

“In reality, what I talked about last week was that is the past,” said Valentino. “We obviously did our evaluation and now we have moved forward.

"It is about how we can progress and get better. So, in that sense, it’s been about game one of Houston, and we have talked about being present.

"We are going to keep pushing forward on how we can continue to get better and get the outcomes we want.”

Meanwhile, DC United are enduring a losing streak of their own, having gone six games without a victory (D2 L4) following their defeat to Charlotte on Saturday.

The Black-and-Red come into the contest sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference, but have picked up their last two points in front of their home supporters. 

Despite their recent form, head coach Troy Lesesne believes improvements have been made on the pitch and is hopeful of returning to winning ways. 

"You could see that there was progress," Lesesne said. "You could see that there were areas that we wanted to identify coming out of the first half of the season. 

"We made some very good steps in a lot of ways, and we have to keep staying on that path because the difference is very small right now between realising the result we want, and feeling like how we did against Toronto.

"We have to regroup, we have to reset, and we have to again against Atlanta."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

DC United – Christian Benteke

The Belgian striker is coming up against one of his favoured opponents and scored a hat-trick the last time he faced Atlanta United.

Since his arrival in the MLS, Benteke has only scored more goals against New England Revolution (five).

Atlanta United – Xande Silva

Silva has scored in each of his last two MLS matches after having scored only twice in his first 20 career league appearances.

The only player since the start of the 2022 season to score in three straight league games for Atlanta was Giorgos Giakoumakis (twice).

MATCH PREDICTION: ATLANTA UNITED WIN

Both sides come into the contest at Audi Field in poor form, and are hopeful of returning to winning ways to move up the Eastern Conference table.

DC United’s 3-2 win at Atlanta in May ended a six-match winless run for them against the Five Stripes (D1 L5).

However, Atlanta are unbeaten in their last four matches away at DC (W3 D1) after losing each of their first four visits.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

DC United – 35.4%

Draw - 26%

Atlanta United – 38.6%

Head coach Ben Olsen is hopeful Houston Dynamo can carry their recent form on the road into their clash with Seattle Sounders when they return to home turf on Thursday. 

Houston are now unbeaten away from the Shell Energy Stadium in their last two games with draws against Atlanta United and Portland Timbers.

However, the hosts have won just three of their last 12 league matches, leaving them seventh in the Western Conference and level on points with Austin FC. 

While Olsen was impressed with his side's display in their most recent outing, he insists that his players must put on a better display this Thursday. 

"The goals we conceded were fairly naive on our end," Olsen said. "It was two poor giveaways that led to goals, and it is something we continue to have some issues with and not maximising the points when we play this well on the road. 

"But again, then I switched to resiliency and being able to get something out of the game when it wasn't our best night. 

"We will take the point, we have Seattle now at home, and we need to get a better performance from myself and this group at home, but on the road we have been pretty good."

Meanwhile, Seattle come into the contest following an impressive win over Minnesota United, recording their fifth triumph of the season. 

The Sounders have not won consecutive regular-season matches since July 2023 but will be hopeful of doing so, having lost just once in their last five MLS games. 

Just two points separate the sides in the Western Conference table, and Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer is confident his side can continue their winning momentum.

"We have evaluated the film, and we are going to get the guys recovered," Schmetzer said. 

"We are going to come up with a strong line-up because the gap between Saturday and Wednesday is certainly better than Wednesday and Saturday. 

"So, we are going to go down to Houston to try and collect points. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston Dynamo – Latif Blessing

Blessing’s 89th-minute equaliser against Atlanta on Saturday was his third goal in his last four matches in the MLS.

Prior to that, the midfielder had scored just three times in his previous 110 league matches for the Dynamo dating back to the start of the 2020 season, and he will be hoping to continue his hot streak in front of goal.

Seattle Sounders – Jordan Morris

The 29-year-old has scored four goals in his last five league matches, including finding the net in back-to-back matches.

Morris has scored in more than two straight league games only once in his career, a four-match run he managed to achieve in 2016.

MATCH PREDICTION: HOUSTON DYNAMO WIN

Houston have recovered well after losing five of their last 12 league matches (D4 W3), and are now unbeaten in the last three matches (W1 D2), recording consecutive 2–2 draws in their previous two league games.

While their recent form in the MLS has left a lot to be desired, the Dynamo have an impressive record over their opponents heading into the contest at the Shell Energy Arena.

Seattle have won 12 of its last 13 meetings against the Dynamo (L1, incl. playoffs) dating back to June 2017. The Sounders have outscored Houston, 23 -6, during that run.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Houston – 48.1%

Draw – 25.9%

Seattle – 25.9%

St. Louis City will be desperate to snap a record six-game winless run in MLS when they host Colorado Rapids at CityPark Stadium on Thursday.

The Missouri-based side have just three wins from their 17 league matches this term, falling down to 11th in the Western Conference standings.

Bradley Carnell's men have not triumphed in MLS action since a 3-1 win over Chicago Fire in the middle of May, and were defeated 2-0 by FC Dallas last time out.

St. Louis coach Carnell referenced injury struggles, however, as his side continue to battle through a troubling period.

"Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the roster and see where we are. We're not the first team to struggle with this.

"Now we get challenged and now get to prove what we are as a group, team, organisation and unit – sticking together.

"We have a plethora of young players who are performing [for our academy] and we will keep some of those guys with us through the week."

The Rapids have enjoyed a better season, sitting sixth in the West table after returning to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Austin FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

That ended a four-game winless streak for Colorado, who secured a much-needed victory after a rocketed finish from Cole Bassett before Rafael Navarro netted his 10th goal of the season.

The next challenge for the Rapids is to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since April, though they have lost three straight on the road.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

St. Louis City – Jared Stroud

Jared Stroud was involved in a goal in both matches (one goal, one assist) against the Rapids last season.

The St. Louis man has eight assists to his name in MLS this season, too, and will hope to deliver once more when Colorado come to town.

Colorado Rapids – Djordje Mihailovic

Djordje Mihailovic has scored in each of the Rapids' last three away matches.

He is the first Rapids player to score in three straight away from home in a single regular season since Shkelzen Gashi scored in five straight on the road from June-October 2016.

MATCH PREDICTION – ST. LOUIS CITY WIN

St. Louis are the heavy favourites for victory in this encounter, considering their record against the Rapids.

Carnell's side collected four points from their two matches against Colorado last season, including a 2-0 win at home last July.

Colorado have lost their last three road matches, conceding 10 goals in those games, and that run of form comes as no surprise.

Indeed, the Rapids have lost 15 of their last 21 away from home in all competitions (W3 D3), dating back to last May.

Yet a home win is by no means a foregone conclusion.

St. Louis are winless in six straight matches (D2 L4) for the first time in club history. They have just three wins so far, tied for the fewest in MLS this season, though all three have come at home.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

St. Louis City win – 48.8%

Colorado Rapids win – 25.5%

Draw – 25.7%

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