Vanni Sartini hopes a quick turnaround might help the Vancouver Whitecaps halt their skid as they visit their Cascadia Cup rivals, the Seattle Sounders, on the back of two straight losses.

Vancouver sit seventh in the Western Conference with 18 points from 12 games in 2024, though they have slipped down the standings by only taking two points from the last 12 available. 

They followed up a 3-0 defeat to Los Angeles FC by going down 1-0 to the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, playing half of that game with 10 men after Bjorn Utvik's sending-off.

The Whitecaps have little time to stew on that result before Saturday's derby clash, but Sartini hopes that could be a positive thing.

"It's really hard when you don't touch the ball at all and are down on the score, so what we did was really good – until the end everyone was running and giving 100 per cent," he said.

"I'm still a little bummed that we didn't score to make it 1-1, which we fully deserved.

"But we have time and other games, so we can immediately score points. We need to get back on the plus side on Sunday."

Seattle, meanwhile, sit 10th in the West with 13 points from 13 matches, having seen their revival halted by a 2-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake in midweek.

Boss Brian Schmetzer was left to rue basic defensive errors after that loss, saying: "In the first half, we let them out – one mistake. 

"Could we have played a little bit better? Sure. We showed some glimpses in attack, and then we fell asleep. It was two plays that killed us. We have to own it."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Seattle Sounders – Raul Ruidiaz 

Ruidiaz has scored eight goals in 11 career regular-season matches against the Whitecaps, one of four teams he's scored eight or more goals against in MLS. 

Only three other players have scored eight or more goals against one opponent since Ruidiaz debuted in MLS in July 2018.

Vancouver Whitecaps – Levonte Johnson

Vancouver have been shut out in back-to-back games against Los Angeles and the Rapids since their 2-1 Canadian Championship win over Cavalry earlier this month.

Speedy winger Johnson scored twice in that game and will be desperate to get a chance here.

MATCH PREDICTION – SEATTLE SOUNDERS WIN

The Whitecaps have won three of their last five meetings with Seattle (one draw, one defeat) after winning just two of the previous 22, including going 15 straight without a victory prior to this run.

Seattle have managed just one win in five home matches this season (three draws, one defeat) with their six home points tied for the fewest of any Western Conference team.

However, the Whitecaps have failed to net in three straight regular-season matches for the first time since August 2020, so Seattle are favourites to claim the bragging rights.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Seattle Sounders – 50.1% 

Vancouver Whitecaps – 22.3%

Draw – 27.6%

The San Jose Earthquakes may sit bottom of the Western Conference standings ahead of Saturday's clash with Orlando City, but Luchi Gonzalez is certain they will be just fine.

The 'Quakes saw their mini revival halted by a 4-2 loss to the Portland Timbers in midweek, having previously won three straight games across all competitions.

Their 10 points are fewer than all MLS teams except the New England Revolution (seven) have won this season, but Gonzalez has seen positive signs.

"We're going to be fine. This is a great group, and they continue to fight for each other. It's hard when we drop points," he said.

"I expect nothing but a fire in their belly and a response against Orlando and then in the next one, and it's really fun and exciting to coach this team. 

"These guys work for each other and they want to keep getting better, and I'm confident they will keep getting better as the season continues."

Orlando have also made a stuttering start, earning 13 points from 12 games to sit 11th in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Lions did shut out a Lionel Messi-less Inter Miami side in a goalless draw on Wednesday, though, and midfielder Wilder Cartagena has seen signs of progress.

"Especially in the last few games, we've been showing ourselves to be more dangerous and attacking," Cartagena said.

"It's similar to how we were in the last half of last year but obviously there are a couple of minor adjustments that we have to make. I think we are playing a lot better in that area."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

San Jose Earthquakes – Amahl Pellegrino 

Pellegrino has scored in three straight games, becoming the first San Jose player to do so in MLS play since Cristian Espinoza between July and August last year (four straight). 

It's Pellegrino's first time scoring in three straight league matches since he netted in four in a row for Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt in 2023.

Orlando City – Cesar Araujo

Orlando allowed 29 shots against the Philadelphia Union last Saturday but just seven against Miami on Wednesday. It was the first time in their MLS history that Orlando faced at least 20 fewer shots from one game to the next.

Araujo protected the backline admirably in midweek and will look to do likewise again here.

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

The home side has never lost in six all-time meetings between San Jose and Orlando. 

The first three meetings were all drawn before the hosts won each of the last three, with San Jose winning at home in 2019 and Orlando recording home wins in 2018 and 2021.

After their midweek stalemate against Miami, Orlando have been shut out five times in league play this season. That is tied for the most in MLS in 2024, while their six times being held scoreless in all competitions this term also equals the most by any MLS outfit. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

San Jose Earthquakes – 38.4%

Orlando City – 33.4%

Draw – 28.2%

Laurent Courtois has accepted that it is on him to find a winning formula as CF Montreal look to snap their winless run against Toronto FC.

Montreal were beaten 3-1 by Columbus Crew in midweek and are now without a victory in six games in all competitions.

That includes a three-game losing streak in MLS, leaving them 13th in the Eastern Conference, and Courtois is eager to get back on track.

"It's up to me to find the winning formulas and discern the phases of the game," head coach Courtois said after the loss to Columbus.

"We have to grit our teeth and find solutions. The difficult times we are going through help me identify my group. I want to know the players better. 

"From all the negative aspects we can observe, I can identify a few individual aspects to improve the game or the team itself."

Monreal's rivals Toronto have themselves lost back-to-back games ahead of Saturday's Canadian Classique at BMO Field.

Nashville SC scored twice late on to snatch a 2-0 win in the Reds' most recent match, but acting head coach Jason deVos admits there can be no excuses.

"The last ten minutes, two mistakes cost us and that's the cruelty of football sometimes - that it's a 90-minute match and you need to put in a 90-minute performance in," he said. 

"The players are aware of that. They know where the growth areas are for us as a team."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Toronto - Federico Bernardeschi

Bernardeschi missed the loss to Nashville but will hope to start this weekend in a fixture he has fond memories of. 

The Italian has scored in each of his two home games against Montreal, making him the third Toronto player to score in two successive home games against them after Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.

Montreal - Joel Waterman

Montreal have conceded three or more goals five times across their 12 MLS games this season, which is tied with San Jose Earthquakes for the most in MLS.

They quite simply need to sharpen up at the back, with Joel Waterman needing to step up and hope others around him also do so.. The centre-back led the way for interceptions (three) and clearances (four) against Columbus, yet it was still not enough.

MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

Montreal have won five successive matches against Toronto, following a run of neither side ever winning more than three on the spin in this fixture.

Toronto have won seven and drawn one of their eight matches in which they have held opponents under two goals since September, while they have lost all 13 in which they have shipped two or more.

Keeping the opposition quiet is therefore key, and this could present a chance to do just that against a Montreal side with fewer points (five) than any side in MLS since mid-March.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Toronto - 39.6%
Draw - 28.5%
Montreal - 31.9%

Trinidad and Tobago’s Head coach Angus Eve welcomed the outcome of their two-match friendly series against Guyana, but in the same breath, says he is bracing for even tougher assignments when kick off the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next month.

Though pleased that a few local-based players gave him much to think about in their 2-1 and 2-0 win over Jamaal Shabazz’s Guyana outfit, Eve again rued Trinidad and Tobago’s citizenship laws, which he believes puts them at a slight disadvantage against regional opponents, who have the luxury of importing heritage players from elsewhere around the world.

As such, Eve, who used the Guyana fixtures to fine-tune tactics and expose more players to the national team, is hoping to get the necessary support to spur his Soca Warriors on throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign, which gets under way against Grenada on June 5.

“I think when we used to play before, going against Grenada was a foregone conclusion,” Eve said as he reminisced on the twin island republic ‘s dominance in the past.

“But the immigration laws in this country do not help us. We do know Grenada has a lot of players coming back from England. They might not be the quality as those for Jamaica, but we do know they have a lot of those sort of players coming back,” he reasoned during a post-match interview.

Eve and his men will also have St Kitts and Nevis, Costa Rica and The Bahamas to contend with in Group B.

Former Soca Warriors and Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke recently joined the call for a review in the citizenship laws, which states that “A person shall not become a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, if at the time of his birth – (a) neither of his parents is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.” Until such changes are made, both Yorke and Eve believe Trinidad and Tobago will remain on the backfoot when compared to other nations.

“So, we need the 12th man to be on board with us. The guys are going to come out and give everything that they have, so it’s just for the fans to come out and support the team. The 23 players and the TTFA alone can’t qualify. We need support from corporate, the Government, the fans, the normal man in the street, because when the team does qualify, then all of us will be celebrating as a nation. So, we need a national effort to qualify,” Eve stated.

That said, the tactician quickly pointed out that the team still has much to do in terms of their technical and tactical efficiency, particularly those local players who might be included in the final squad.

“I think it could have been a bigger scoreline (against Guyana). We gave some sloppy chances, and we have to alleviate those problems when we play the next team,” Eve declared.

He named midfielders Matthew Woo Ling and Daniel David and veteran striker Kevon “Showtime” Woodley, who scored in both games, among those that impressed against the Jaguars.

“I thought when we put them on in the second half, it changed the game, and we got a little bit more tempo and we got more penetration. So, very happy for these guys. They got the opportunity and I thought that they grasped it with both hands. A number of them gave us some stuff to think about, so there is a lot of positive,” Eve noted.

 

Chris Armas is desperate to claim early-season silverware in the form of the Rocky Mountain Cup as the Colorado Rapids prepare to visit rivals Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

The Rapids are flying high in fourth in the Western Conference standings, four points adrift of top side RSL after 13 matches.

They should approach Saturday's derby in good spirits after their 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in midweek, while they have already beaten RSL once this season – by a 2-1 scoreline on the road in early March.

"I wish we were hosting this one, the Rocky Mountain Cup is such an important thing to us and to our fans," Armas said.

"It'd be nice if we maybe played one at home and one on the road. Two on the road is tricky but it is what it is.

"We have the slight edge at the moment but we have work to do, to go there and get the trophy. You can go through an entire season and not play for a trophy, and now we are."

RSL boss Pablo Mastroeni represented Colorado for 11 years of his playing career then coached them for three years upon his retirement, but he feels he has come a long way since then.

"I think the biggest thing is my evolution as a person. When I first got into coaching, I'd just finished my career and threw myself into the deep waters," Mastroeni said. 

"Over time you understand your game model and the way you want to play the game. These things take time, and it's really broadened my perspective." 

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Real Salt Lake – Andres Gomez 

Gomez scored his fifth goal of the season in Real Salt Lake's 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday. 

He and Cristian Arango (11) have now combined for 16 goals this MLS campaign, the only team-mates to combine for more are Inter Miami's Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez (21).

Colorado Rapids – Rafael Navarro 

Navarro scored the game's only goal in Colorado's win over Vancouver, becoming the first Rapids player since Diego Rubio in 2022 to score in three straight regular-season matches. 

The only Rapids player in the last 12 years to score in four straight league games was Kei Kamara in 2019.

MATCH PREDICTION – REAL SALT LAKE WIN

The Rapids ended a seven-match losing streak in the Rocky Mountain Cup (two draws, five defeats) with a 2-1 victory at Real Salt Lake on March 9. 

However, they haven't won two in a row against RSL since a pair of victories in September 2006 and April 2007.

Real Salt Lake have won three of their last four home matches, drawing the other and keeping clean sheets in all of those games. The Rapids are the only visiting team to win at America First Field this year, but RSL may just get their revenge this weekend.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Real Salt Lake – 49.2%

Colorado Rapids – 23.3%

Draw – 27.5%

Caleb Porter accepts New England Revolution must cut out the individual errors if they are to return to winning ways against Philadelphia Union.

The Revs went down 4-2 to New York Red Bulls last time out to make it four defeats in their last five games, and eight losses in 11 overall this season in MLS.

New England are bottom of the Eastern Conference, but Porter hopes lessons have been learned ahead of hosting Philadelphia on Saturday.

"Three of the four [goals NYRB scored] were individual mistakes that are easily correctable," Porter told The Blazing Musket. "We've gone to the training ground and corrected a few of those situation.

"But it's just individuals in those moments have to be better. It wasn't a bad team-defending performance, but three of the four goals we gave up were routine."

The Union have double the number of points compared to their opponents, having played one game more, as they occupy ninth place in the East.

The Us are themselves not in great form, though, as they lost 2-1 at home to New York City FC in their most recent game - a contest overshadowed by a raccoon that entered the field. 

They have just two points from the past 18 on offer, meanwhile, and head coach Jim Curtin admits it is on him and his players to turn things around.

"The guys fight until the end, and we have to find a way to get out of this," Curtin said. "We're the only people that are going to get us out of it. 

"The people in that locker room, the coaches, the players, they recognise that. They've shown they can beat anybody, and we're the only ones that can dig us out of this now."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New England Revolution - Carles Gil

Gil got the Revs temporarily on level terms against New York Red Bulls, with that his 100th regular-season goal contribution in MLS. That makes the Revs' attacking midfielder the seventh European player to reach that milestone, and the second Spaniard after David Villa.

Philadelphia Union - Julian Carranza

Carranza was on target for the Union in their midweek loss to New York City, coming from one of nine attempts he had on target. The former Argentina age-grade international has now registered four-or-more shots in four MLS career matches.

To put that in perspective, the two other players to have done so in the club's history - Conor Casey and Andrew Wenger - have done so in a combined two games (one each).

MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

Philadelphia have won 12 matches against the Revs across all MLS competitions, which includes MLS is Back, since 2018 - their best return against any single opponent across that period.

New England's tally of seven points from their opening 11 games is their worst-such return at this stage of a campaign in club history, with only two out of 17 teams in the post-shootout era (since 2000) managing to reach the playoffs from this position.

However, there is some hope for them this weekend as the Union's one point across their past five matches is their fewest across any five-game span within a single season since April 2017.


OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

New England Revolution - 36.1%
Draw - 28.8%
Philadelphia Union - 35.1%

Sandro Schwarz has called on the New York Red Bulls to make it a "perfect" week when they visit rivals New York City for a meeting between two of the form teams in MLS.

The Red Bulls sit third in the Eastern Conference, five points behind leaders Inter Miami with a game in hand, after back-to-back wins over the New England Revolution (4-2) and D.C. United (4-1).

Just three points further back are NYCFC, who have taken 15 points from the last 18 available to soar up the standings.

Schwarz knows a derby victory would make this week hugely significant for the Red Bulls, saying: "It's a short week and we need all our players, not only 11, 12 or 13.

"On Saturday, we know it's an important game for our club and we want to have this perfect week. We have six points already this week and we want to create that. It's step by step." 

NYCFC boss Nick Cushing, meanwhile, is pleased to see his side looking more dangerous in transition after successive victories over Toronto FC (3-2) and the Philadelphia Union (2-1).

"I think my aim at the start of the season was to have us create goal chances in every phase of play," Cushing said.

"We had good moments last year but maybe weren't great in low moments, or when counter-pressing.

"I'm really pleased that we are creating from transition moments, but if we have more possession you have control and can take the air out of games."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

New York City – Santiago Rodriguez 

Rodriguez assisted New York City's opening goal in their midweek win over Philadelphia. 

NYCFC have a record of five wins, one draw and one defeat in the seven matches in which Rodriguez has contributed to a goal this season, compared to one win, one draw and four losses when he has not.

New York Red Bulls – Lewis Morgan

Morgan, Elias Manoel and Cameron Harper have each scored in the Red Bulls' last two matches. 

The last time two Red Bulls players scored in three straight matches was between March and April 2012, when Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry each scored in the same three consecutive games.

MATCH PREDICTION – NEW YORK CITY WIN

The Red Bulls won each of their first two road games against New York City, scoring 10 goals in the process. 

However, the Red Bulls have since won on just one of their last nine visits to Yankee Stadium (two draws, six defeats), totalling just seven goals in those games.

NYCFC have won five of their last six matches (one defeat) after starting the campaign with just one victory in seven. With home advantage on their side, they may just be slight favourites for what should be an entertaining affair.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

New York City – 45.2%

New York Red Bulls – 25.9%

Draw – 28.9% 

Sri Lanka will host West Indies for three ODIs and three T20Is from June 15-28, Sri Lanka Cricket announced on Thursday.

The tour will primarily serve as preparation for the T20 Asia Cup, which will also take place in Sri Lanka, for the hosts. That tournament starts on July 20.

As for the West Indies, they just concluded a month-long tour of Pakistan where they dominated both ODI and T20I series.

This will be the regional side’s last competitive action before the ICC Women's T20 World Cup set for October 3-20 in Bangladesh.

The last time these two sides squared off in a bilateral series was back in 2017, where West Indies swept Sri Lanka across both T20Is and ODIs.

The West Indians have dominated Sri Lanka in T20Is with a head-to-head record of 18-4 whereas in ODIs, the contest has been much closer with West Indies leading 18-14.

The ODI series will be played from June 15-21 in Galle and is part of the ICC Women's Championship, which serves as a pathway to the 2025 ODI World Cup.

West Indies are currently seventh on the Women's Championship points table and Sri Lanka eighth. Top four teams, apart from hosts India, will get a direct qualification.

The T20Is will be held in Hambantota from June 24-28.

 

Gary Smith has left Nashville SC, with the team confirming they have parted company with their long-serving head coach.

Nashville beat Toronto FC on Wednesday, moving up to 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Yet on Thursday, the team confirmed they had decided to part ways with Smith, who had been in charge for seven seasons.

Smith won 52 MLS games during his spell in charge, while also leading Nashville to the Leagues Cup final in 2023.

Nashville face Atlanta United on Saturday, with ex-player and now player development coach Rumba Munthali stepping in as interim head coach.

No reason was provided for Smith's departure. He has been joined in leaving the club by assistant coach Steve Guppy.

A Nashville statement read: "Nashville SC extends its gratitude to Smith and Guppy for their dedication and contributions to our team and wishes them and their families all the best in their future endeavours.

"Under Smith's leadership, Nashville SC emerged as a very organised and hard-to-beat team in both leagues.

"In the USL Championship, Smith guided the team to a 32-win record over two seasons, including two playoff appearances and a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2019.

"His transition to MLS with the club was seamless, leading Nashville to four consecutive MLS Cup playoff appearances, a feat only achieved by two other teams in the league's history."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nashville SC - Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar has scored five goals in nine career regular-season matches against Atlanta. Only Luciano Acosta (nine goals in 17 games) has scored more times against the Five Stripes.

Atlanta United - Thiago Almada

Almada has scored in all three of his career MLS matches against Nashville. No player has ever scored in four consecutive regular-season meetings versus Nashville, though Daryl Dike did score in four straight for Orlando City, including playoff games.

MATCH PREDICTION: NASHVILLE WIN

Despite Smith's departure, Opta's model still predicts a positive outcome for Nashville.

Atlanta are winless in 11 straight MLS away matches (D5 L6 incl. playoffs) dating back to last September. It is the longest active road winless run in MLS.

Nashville have won two straight home matches, their first regular-season home winning streak since a run of six straight last April-July. They managed just two wins in 12 home league games between the two streaks (D6 L4).

Atlanta's 4-0 home win over Nashville last August ended a seven-match winless run for them in the series (D3 L4). Atlanta won their first visit to Nashville, 2-1, in the latter's inaugural match in March 2020, but the Five Stripes are winless in five visits in all competitions since (D2 L3).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Nashville SC - 46.2%

Atlanta United - 25.5%

Draw - 28.3%

Despite watching his side beat Atlanta United in midweek, FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan still wants more from his side when they host St. Louis City this weekend.

Kevin Kelsy's seventh-minute strike was enough to earn Cincinnati a 1-0 win over Atlanta to make it five straight MLS victories.

Cincinnati currently sit second in the Eastern Conference, but Noonan is still demanding more from his side than Wednesday's performance.

"I wouldn't say 'negatives' but [there are] things we could have done better, and here we are with the guys keeping a clean sheet and winning the game," Noonan told reporters.

"They deserve credit and to be proud of the fact that they're still walking off the field with a win tonight."

St. Louis saw a five-game unbeaten streak end as they lost 2-0 to Los Angeles FC in midweek.

The defeat leaves St. Louis ninth in the Western Conference, though they are just three points off sixth-placed Austin FC.

Bradley Carnell is looking to get players back fit and raring to go for the visit to Cincinnati at the weekend, saying: "It's about how we manage over the next couple of days to get a solid, fit line-up for Cincinnati.

"We don't have much time to sit and dwell, and we have to be brave and positive to head to Cincinnati."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Cincinnati – Kevin Kelsy

In his first MLS start, Kelsy scored Cincinnati's lone goal on Wednesday. The 19-year-old has scored in consecutive games, making him the first teenager to score multiple MLS goals for Cincinnati, and if he gets the nod from the off again here, he will once more hope to mark it with a goal.

St. Louis City – Joao Klauss

Having netted four in his previous four games, Klauss drew a blank against LAFC as St. Louis slumped to defeat. He is clearly a key man in St. Louis' attack, and he will hope to get back among the goals this weekend, and with a win too.

MATCH PREDICTION – CINCINNATI WIN

St. Louis beat Cincinnati 5-1 in the lone previous meeting between the sides last April. The four-goal margin is Cincinnati’s largest defeat since the start of last season and equals St. Louis' largest ever margin of victory.

But St. Louis are winless in eight straight away matches in all competitions (four draws, four defeats). St. Louis have won three of their last 23 on the road after winning the first three away matches in club history.

Cincinnati have won five straight regular season matches with all five wins coming by one-goal margins, the first team to do so since the Red Bulls in 2012, and though it may be a tight game again this weekend, the hosts will fancy their chances of coming out on the right side of the result and collecting another three points.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Cincinnati: 44.3%

St. Louis: 28.2%

Draw: 27.5%

The stage is set for a thrilling showcase of athletic prowess as the 2024 Grenada Invitational gears up to welcome a star-studded lineup of track and field talents. Hometown heroes Kirani James and Anderson Peters, alongside the incomparable Elaine Thompson-Herah, lead the pack of 100 athletes confirmed to compete at the prestigious event, slated to take place on Thursday, June 6, at the Kirani James Stadium in Grenada.

The excitement surrounding the meet was palpable as it was officially launched on Thursday at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort in St. George's. The presence of Olympic champions and world-class athletes promises an electrifying atmosphere for spectators and competitors alike.

Joining the illustrious lineup are Commonwealth Games 110m hurdles champion Rasheed Broadbell, set to make his season debut, and Olympic bronze medalist Megan Tapper. Their participation adds further depth and excitement to an already stacked field of competitors that will also include Grenada’s Olympic hopefuls quarter-miler Melenie Rodney, sprinter Halle Hazzard as well as decathletes Linden Victor and Kurt Felix. Both decathletes will participate in the long jump and 100m events.

The meet will also herald the celebration of a significant milestone—the 40th anniversary of Grenada's first participation in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. To honor this occasion, all 51 athletes who have represented the country at the Olympics over the past four decades will be celebrated and honored at a special ceremony scheduled for 6:00 pm on the day of the event.

The festivities are set to kick off at 4:30 pm with national segments featuring local athletes across various age categories, from U13 to U20. This segment serves as a platform to showcase the budding talent within Grenada's track and field community and underscores the nation's commitment to nurturing the next generation of athletic stars.

As the sun sets and the international segment commences at 7:00 pm, spectators can expect nothing short of top-tier performances from some of the world's most elite athletes. From sprints to hurdles, jumps to throws, the Grenada Invitational promises a spectacle of athletic excellence that will captivate audiences and leave a lasting impression on the global track and field stage.

The meet organizers say the full cast of athletes competing at the meet will be revealed over the next two weeks.

Gerardo Martino is expecting Lionel Messi to play for Inter Miami at home to D.C. United this weekend, though he emphasised he would not take "any risks".

Messi was absent as Miami were held to a 0-0 draw away at Orlando City last time out with what Martino described as a "bit of a niggle".

The goalless draw, combined with FC Cincinnati's win over Atlanta United, means Miami's lead at the top of the Eastern Conference has been closed to just a point ahead of this weekend's fixtures.

As Miami look to get back to winning ways this weekend, Martino believes Messi will be able to return, though he will not rush the former Barcelona man back onto the field.

"The fact is that he felt some pain in his movements and, given that we're on a run of three games in the space of a week, we felt the most sensible thing to do was leave him out of today's game," Martino told reporters.

"The plan is that he'll play on Saturday, but it’s going to depend on how he progresses. We’re not going to take any risks, and on Thursday and Friday we'll assess his fitness."

D.C. were handed a first loss in four as they were thumped 4-1 by the New York Red Bulls in midweek, but head coach Troy Lesesne believes the defeat does not cancel out the previous solid form displayed by his side.

"For the last three weeks, we can feel good about our performance, and tonight doesn’t just erase all that," Lesesne said.

“We're building still. We can recognise tonight was a setback.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Luis Suarez

With Messi absent against Orlando, Suarez couldn't make it four straight games with a goal as he drew a blank. With Messi potentially missing again on Saturday, Suarez will be keen to get back among the goals to help his team to victory.

D.C. United – Christian Benteke

Benteke was held scoreless against the Red Bulls despite taking six shots in the match. It was Benteke’s third MLS match this season with at least six shots with all other D.C. players having combined to do that once in league play in 2024 (Gabriel Pirani). The former Liverpool man certainly isn't afraid of pulling the trigger, though he will be hoping this time to find the back of the net with one or more of his efforts at goal.

MATCH PREDICTION – MIAMI WIN

D.C. are unbeaten in three all-time matches at Miami. D.C. are the only opponent that have visited Miami more than once in regular season play and never lost.

Miami’s five-game winning streak ended Wednesday with a 0-0 draw with Orlando. Miami had exactly seven shots for the second straight match, the club’s first time having consecutive MLS matches with single-digit shots since May-June 2023.

In Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls, D.C. attempted 22 shots while allowing 11. The plus-11 shot differential was United’s highest in a loss by three or more goals since a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew in April 2013 (+14).

In 2024, Miami have one win in their five MLS matches (two draws, two defeats) without Messi and seven victories in their nine games with him. The team’s goals per game average in MLS matches this season is 3.2 with Messi, and 1.2 without him.

Messi is clearly Miami's star man, then, and with him looking likely to feature this weekend, the hosts will be the favourites to return to winning ways at the top of the Eastern Conference.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami - 50.8%

D.C United - 22.9%

Draw - 26.3%

Jamaican sprinter Jonielle Smith is on a determined path to overcome adversity as she sets her sights on qualifying for her first Olympic Games this summer.

The 28-year-old athlete, who tasted victory as part of Jamaica's gold-winning 4x100m relay team at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, has faced significant setbacks following a motor-vehicle accident later that year which left her battling injuries, particularly to her back.

After a challenging recovery, Smith's journey took her back to Jamaica, transitioning from Florida-based MVP International to the MVP Track Club, where she has been steadily rebuilding her form but it hasn’t been easy.

“Trust me. I don’t think anybody trains as hard as Jamaicans. Last year, when I tell you my body went through it, not only from injuries but as simple as the workouts being exhausting. It definitely hit me hard but this year I feel like it’s more just injuries that are my problem rather than the workouts. So that’s a plus. Now, we’re just trying to get back to where we were or even better than where we were.”

Despite enduring a tumultuous period with injuries limiting her appearances in 2021 and 2022, Smith remains optimistic about her prospects, especially with the Jamaican trials approaching at the end of June.

Reflecting on her current struggles, Smith emphasized the mental fortitude required to regain her form, both in practice and competition. "It’s rough. I think this part of it is mainly mental, trying to find back myself both in practice and now in competition," she said.

“The good thing is that practice is basically picking up so now I just have to work on continuing to be consistent and then translate that into competition.”

Regarding her race on Saturday, where she finished third in the Women's 100m B final, Smith admitted it wasn't up to her expectations but recognized it as a stepping stone in her comeback. "It wasn’t what I expected. I really wanted more but we have to take the good with the bad," she shared.

“Last week was my first month back so this one was like ‘alright we are we, what can we improve on. My execution wasn’t as good as last week, which I don’t like but hopefully whenever I compete again I will be much better.”

Despite the challenges, Smith has found encouragement in her progress, particularly with her back feeling more stable. However, new issues with her shoulder and neck have emerged this year, impacting her training and race readiness. Nevertheless, Smith remains steadfast, focusing on incremental improvements each day.

 

“Thankfully, that’s why I am even more positive now is that my back is actually now behaving. I feel like I have got stronger in those areas in terms of my glutes, hamstrings, and all those supporting areas but for some reason my shoulder and neck decided to go crazy on me this year and it’s a case where we are not really sure of what is going on but it really has affected both training and competition hence why I am basically just going at it (competition) again.

“But we’re slowly making progress. I still have a couple weeks to go, practice is picking up which I am extremely grateful for so I just need to continue racing and translate training into competition.”

Smith's coach and support team are working diligently to address her physical challenges and fine-tune her race execution in preparation for the upcoming trials. With just six weeks remaining, Smith is determined to translate her training efforts into competitive success and secure her spot on the Olympic team.

 

 

Dean Smith is looking for his Charlotte FC side to build upon their 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire when they host the LA Galaxy this weekend.

Charlotte made it three wins in a row as they narrowly beat the Fire during midweek thanks to Ashley Westwood's 60th-minute winner.

The three-match win streak has taken Charlotte all the way up to fifth in the Eastern Conference, and though Smith was not enthralled by the manner of the victory over Chicago, he appreciated his side's mindset.

"I saw the mentality, but I didn’t see a game of football that I liked. It certainly won’t make the highlight reel," Smith told reporters.

"It wasn't a thriller of any sort. It was an untidy game from both teams but we showed real good mentality to limit them to few chances, and we took the one we had from a set piece."

The Galaxy, meanwhile, drew 2-2 at Minnesota United on Wednesday, leaving them fifth in the Western Conference and four points off leaders Real Salt Lake.

Minnesota equalised with just 10 minutes to play, but Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney still thought it was a solid point for his side.

"We've got to try to take this point and start to heal and start to recover and move on to the next one," Vanney said.

"[It is a] good, hard-earned point at the end of the day even though there was a chance for us to get three there at the tail end."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Ashley Westwood

Westwood scored the lone goal in Charlotte’s win over Chicago on Wednesday at the hour mark. Nine of Charlotte's 11 goals since March 23 have been scored after half-time, and Westwood will be hoping to spur his side on once more this Saturday by finding the net again.

LA Galaxy – Riqui Puig

Puig assisted both of the Galaxy's goals against Minnesota on Wednesday after also recording assists on both Galaxy goals on Saturday against Salt Lake. Puig is the first Galaxy player to record multiple assists in consecutive matches since Romain Alessandrini in 2018, and he will hope to make it three such games in a row this weekend.

MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE WIN

Charlotte and the Galaxy have each recorded a 1-0 away win against the other. Both goals were scored after the 70th minute.

The Galaxy have drawn each of their last three matches with the last two ending 2-2. In their last 22 matches, the Galaxy have scored two or more goals 15 times and allowed two or more goals 17 times.

Charlotte have won three straight matches, keeping clean sheets in all three. This is the first time Charlotte have kept clean sheets in three straight matches in club history, and with home advantage this weekend, they look the favourites to pick up the three points on Saturday.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Charlotte: 47.3%

Galaxy: 25.8%

Draw: 26.9%

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