Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini's recent absences from the Los Angeles FC squad due to fitness reasons is "pretty normal", according to head coach Steve Cherundolo.

Recent high-profile signings Bale and Chiellini sat out Tuesday's 1-0 win over D.C. United, having previously also missed the 5-0 victory over Charlotte FC last weekend.

Cherundolo confirmed the pair, who have each featured four times since officially arriving at the club in June, have not been called upon for precautionary measures.

The LAFC coach will continue to play it safe when it comes to selecting the experienced duo, with Bale having yet to make his first start for the MLS side.

"Gareth hasn't been 100 per cent," Cherundolo said. "We are just kind of moving along. I think this is pretty normal – aches and pains in the middle of a pre-season for a player.

"Trying to get your body in a position where you can play 90 minutes week in, week out in the middle of a season is difficult and sometimes there are little mini-setbacks.

"That's where we currently are with both of them. But it is purely precautionary."

Substitute Mahala Opoku scored the only goal of the game against D.C. United as LAFC extended their club-record winning streak to seven matches.

Cherundolo's charges are top of the overall MLS standings and return to action on Saturday with a road game at San Jose Earthquakes.

Gonzalo Higuain would be delighted if Lionel Messi were to join Inter Miami, though the former Real Madrid striker has no inside information.

Messi has previously been linked with a switch to Major League Soccer, with a move across the Atlantic having been mooted as a potential option once the 35-year-old leaves Paris Saint-Germain, who he joined from Barcelona in August 2021.

He signed a two-year deal, with an option for a third, at PSG. While his first season in France ultimately proved underwhelming, Messi started the new campaign with a double and an assist in a 5-0 rout of Clermont, before playing the full match in a 5-2 victory over Montpellier on Saturday.

Asked if his former Argentina team-mate would be open to joining Miami, which with its Hispanic population would seem an ideal destination for Messi, Higuain said in a news conference: "With Leo I haven't spoken lately.

"He has a contract in Paris and I do not know whether he will eventually come here. I already had the opportunity to play alongside him for nine years."

 

Asked if Messi's arrival would mean Higuain, whose deal with Miami runs out at the end of the 2022 MLS season, would stay on in Florida, the 34-year-old added: "Well, I do not know, I do not know.

"If that happens, we will see what decision I will make. In December I will let you guys know my decision but now you have to be patient.

"I do not close any door, so we will see what happens. We will also see if he finally joins us, although I do not have any certainty about that."

Cristian Arango will be getting treated to dinner by his Los Angeles FC team-mate Kwadwo Opoku after the latter's winner against D.C. United.

Opoku – commonly known as Mahala – came off the bench to net his sixth MLS goal of the season on Tuesday to see off Wayne Rooney's team 1-0 in California.

That brought up a seventh straight league win for LAFC, who are well on course to win The Supporters' Shield.

Mahala's goal, the 15th scored by an LAFC substitute this season, came just five minutes after he entered the fray at Banc of California Stadium, with the hosts' leading scorer Arango turning provider.

Arango could have gone for goal himself after latching onto Carlos Vela's throughball, but instead squared for Mahala, who took a touch to steady himself before slotting into an open net.

When asked about Arango's assist, Mahala told LAFC's official broadcaster KCOP 13: "That's a great one, it's a team effort, as long as the team gets the three points, that's the most important thing. I need to buy him dinner!"

As they close in on the playoffs, LAFC look well set to go on and break the MLS regular-season points record, set by the New England Revolution last year.

"For me this is the best team I've played for," said Ilie Sanchez, who had spent the previous five seasons competing at the top end of MLS with Sporting Kansas City.

"The quality that we have in our squad is so broad. Every player that is out on the field is performing, doing a great job and the coaching staff are managing the situation perfectly. We need to improve more and more towards the playoffs."

Minnesota United lived up to their terrific away record with a 2-1 win against Nashville SC at Geodis Park on Sunday.

At home, Nashville were the betting favourites in the contest, but perhaps that should not have been the case as they entered the match with the worst home record in the Western Conference, collecting just 14 points from 12 matches.

On the other hand, Minnesota are the West's third-best team away from home, with 19 points in 13 matches, and while they have been strong recently – with only one loss from their past 10 games – Nashville have only one win from their past 10.

The road team took the life out of the crowd when Franco Fragapane put Minnesota ahead 1-0 in the 27th minute, getting on the end of a terrific ball from Emanuel Reynoso after a costly turnover in Nashville's defensive half.

Nashville would find the equaliser in the 61st minute, with Hany Mukhtar converting from close range on a sharp angle, but less than 15 minutes later Minnesota grabbed the winner.

It was another move orchestrated by Reynoso, finding substitute Joseph Rosales overlapping down the left-wing just two minutes after his arrival into the game, and his low cross made its way through a sea of legs to reach Alan Benitez for a tap-in at the back post.

The result keeps Minnesota in the Western Conference's top-four, while Nashville are now clinging onto the seventh and final playoff spot.

On the other side of the country, the Seattle Sounders had 69 per cent of the possession against Real Salt Lake, but could not make it count, ultimately going down 2-1 at home.

Salt Lake only had 36 per cent possession in the first half, but they created the only two shots on target, resulting in the game's opening goal when Sergio Cordova got over the back of the Seattle defense in the 32nd minute. 

Although Cordova's first attempt was saved, he was able to dance around a couple of defenders after the rebound came back to him and find the bottom corner.

A 62nd minute equaliser from Albert Rusnak had Seattle fans dreaming of a comeback win, but that was extinguished just two minutes later as Andrew Brody re-established the Salt Lake lead, which they defended stoutly until the final whistle.

Los Angeles FC showed why they are the MLS' best team this season as they hammered Charlotte 5-0 to move six points clear atop the Western Conference, with a game in hand.

LAFC controlled the first half, creating 12 shots to Charlotte's four, but after 45 minutes the sides went into the half-time break locked at 0-0 as the home side's attacks continued to falter in the final third.

Whatever the advice was during the break seemed to work a treat, with Jesus Murillo finding the breakthrough in the 49th minute when he headed home a stylish lofted through ball from Diego Palacios. That opened the floodgates, with Jose Cifuentes making it 2-0 10 minutes later, and Cifuentes then turned distributor in the 73rd minute to set up Carlos Vela for 3-0.

Cristian Arango got in on the fun to put home LAFC's fourth in the 76th minute, and an own goal in stoppage time from Charlotte captain Anton Walkes completed the rout.

Earlier in the day, it was Orlando City jumping up into the Eastern Conference's top-six with a 1-0 upset win away from home against New York Red Bulls.

Uruguay's Facundo Torres netted the game's only goal in the 17th minute to make it five matches without a win for the Red Bulls, who still sit fourth in the East.

In a back-and-forth contest, Cincinnati came back from an early 1-0 deficit to lead 2-1 at half-time through goals to Brandon Vasquez and Brenner, only to be denied the three points by an Andrew Gutman equaliser in the 83rd minute.

The East's bottom side DC United continued to struggle on their way to a 1-0 away loss against the New England Revolution, while the top side in the East, the Philadelphia Union, made it look easy as they treated their home fans to a 4-1 pummelling of the Chicago Fire.

Inter Miami held onto the seventh and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with their 3-2 win against New York City, thanks in large part to Alejandro Pozuelo's brace, with one assist coming from Gonzalo Higuain.

Austin FC came back from 3-1 down at half-time to steal a 4-3 win against Sporting Kansas City, with Sebastian Driussi netting the winner in the 94th minute, while Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne injected some Italian flavour with a goal each to help Toronto FC defeat the Portland Timbers 3-1.

The struggling Colorado Rapids will be the more pleased of the two sides after a 1-1 draw against the Colombus Crew, and a first-half double from FC Dallas' Jesus Ferreira was the catalyst in a 4-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes.

CF Montreal's Romell Quioto scored a penalty and missed a penalty in a 3-2 win against the Houston Dynamo to strengthen their second-placed position in the East, and a four-goal first half from Los Angeles Galaxy – including a goal and an assist for Chicharito – was more than enough to prevail 5-2 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Carlos Vela and Raul Ruidiaz scored as the MLS All-Stars claimed victory over the Liga MX All Stars for the second straight year, winning 2-1 in Minnesota on Wednesday.

The MLS All-Stars appeared to be cruising to victory before Kevin Alvarez's spectacular late strike was followed up a decent penalty shout for a Deandre Yedlin handball which was declined.

The hosts had won last year's edition 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw and they seemed destined for another triumph when former Mexico international Vela headed home early.

Diego Palacios jinked his way to the left side of the edge of the box before delivering an inch-perfect second-minute cross for LAFC teammate Vela to nod in.

Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St Clair, one of numerous first-half substitutes, maintained the MLS All-Stars' lead from a 43rd-minute Juan Dinenno header.

The hosts added a second in the 73rd minute when Jesus Ferreira found Carles Gil inside the box, with his control bobbling up but drawing a poorly timed tackle from Jesus Angulo, with referee Joe Dickerson pointing to the spot.

Seattle Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz stepped up and sent Liga MX All-Stars goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo the wrong way.

The visitors pulled a goal back in the 85th minute when Pachuca's Alvarez drove in a thunderbolt from outside the box.

A minute later, German Berterame stooped to head a cross but was bundled over under pressure from Yedlin, whose arm was raised near the ball, but Dickerson waved away any penalty claims.

Los Angeles FC coach Steve Cherundolo said there can be "no more hiding" for Gareth Bale after the former Real Madrid star proved his quality against Real Salt Lake.

Bale scored his second MLS goal since moving to LAFC when he made it 4-1 in Utah late on during Saturday's match.

The 33-year-old, who had replaced Carlos Vela in the 64th minute, surged from inside his own half before skipping down the right flank, taking on a batch of defenders and drilling home to cap a fifth straight MLS win over RSL for LAFC.

All four of Bale's MLS appearances so far have come from the bench, with the Wales forward playing just 96 minutes in total, but Cherundolo hinted that now has to change.

"It's a great moment for Gareth, and for the team, he's a well-liked guy in the group," LAFC's coach told a news conference.

"It was a well-taken goal. We told Gareth after the game, now we all know he can run, and there's no hiding.

"Ecstatic for him, he feels healthier and more fit by the day and I'm sure we'll see more of that."

LAFC sit top of the Western Conference on 51 points from 23 games in 2022, and are well on course to beat the MLS single-season points record of 73, set by the New England Revolution last year.

Cherundolo, though, does not let such a potential feat concern him.

"RSL played well, they had a good gameplan, for sure," he added. "Every team shows up to play against us, usually plays particularly well.

"If you're in first place, there’s a target on your back, so we know that. As far as goals go, we're taking this game-to-game, sometimes half-to-half.

"We're not too concerned with records or the table at the moment. Obviously we like where we're at, we'd like to stay there, but we'll take this week-to-week."

Italy international Lorenzo Insigne netted his first goal in the MLS as Toronto won a seven-goal thriller 4-3 over Nashville on Saturday, while Gareth Bale was on the scoresheet again for LAFC.

The 31-year-old winger fired in Toronto's fourth goal to make it 4-2 in the 77th minute with a near-post strike from just outside the box.

Insigne, making his third MLS appearance for Toronto, showed his class to create a pocket of space for himself before opening up his body to fire past Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis.

The goal headlined an entertaining contest which helped Toronto claim their seventh win of the season as they seek to mount a late-season charge.

Jonathan Osorio rifled Toronto in a 19th-minute lead but Hany Mukhtar's penalty squared it up in the 41st minute. Osorio restored Toronto's lead by tapping in Richie Laryea's low ball across goal, yet Nashville were level by half-time when Teal Bunbury glanced in off the post from a corner.

Filippo Bernardeschi put Toronto up again with an emphatic 54th-minute penalty before Insigne's moment with just under quarter of an hour to go. Walker Zimmerman headed in a late goal from Mukhtar's corner but Nashville could not find an equaliser as Toronto claimed their first road win in 378 days.

Bale, making his fourth appearance for his new club, netted his second MLS goal in LAFC's 4-1 victory against Real Salt Lake.

The Walsh international came on in the 64th minute with LAFC 3-1 up after Cristian Arango's double and added the fourth with a classy solo goal. Bale ran down the right flank, beating away two defenders, before tucking into the box and finding his favoured left foot for a trademark strike.

Cincinnati made a statement with a strong 3-1 home win against Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union.

All three of Cincinnati's goals came in the second half, after Brenner had a first-goal strike disallowed by the VAR. Brandon Vazquez, Brenner and Alvaro Barreal netted for Cincinnati, who move up to sixth, while Paxton Aaronson scored a late consolation for Union.

Under-performing New England snapped their six-game winless run to revive their playoffs hopes with a 3-0 victory at Orlando City.

Matt Polster, Wilfrid Kaptoum and Henry Kessler got the goals, with Carles Gil grabbing his 12th assist of the season for the latter's strike.

New York City were unable to capitalise on Philadelphia's loss, going down 3-2 at Columbus Crew, for whom Lucas Zelarayan scored a brace.

Gonzalo Higuain got on the scoresheet as Inter Miami rallied from behind to twice to manage a 2-2 draw at Montreal.

Bottom club DC United held New York Red Bulls to a 0-0 draw, while Chicago Fire made it four wins in five games with a 3-2 victory at Charlotte.

In the west, Javier Hernandez netted a late double but it was not enough for LA Galaxy who went down 4-2 at Sporting KC.

Gyasi Zardes scored a hat-trick as Colorado Rapids edged Minnesota United 4-3, Austin and San Jose Earthquakes drew 3-3 and Portland Timbers and Dallas both scored late in a 1-1 draw.

The Vancouver Whitecaps produced a miraculous comeback to treat their fans to a 2-1 home win against the Houston Dynamo on Friday.

With both sides desperately needing the three points to stay in touch with the Western Conference playoff picture, it was Houston striking first through a corner in the sixth minute.

After the initial corner was cleared, Sam Junqua's floating ball back into the box beat the goalkeeper after it bounced, although Fafa Picault was credited with the goal after claiming he got a toe on it.

Houston controlled 63 per cent of the possession in the first half and were good value for their lead, leading the shot count six-to-three and the pass count 358-to-199.

But the longer the game went, the more passive the visiting side became, and instead of dictating the play, they sat back and looked to protect their lead.

Striker Christian Benteke has signed for D.C. United from Crystal Palace as he joins up with Wayne Rooney in MLS.

The 31-year-old has penned a two-and-a-half-year deal in the United States capital as he leaves the Premier League after 280 appearances in which he scored 86 goals.

He arrived in England 10 years ago, joining Aston Villa from Belgian side Genk before going on to score 42 times in 89 Premier League appearances for the Midlands club.

His prolific spell there earned him a big-money move to Liverpool, but he could only manage nine league goals for the Reds before making a switch to Palace in 2016.

Although he scored 15 top-flight goals in his first campaign at Selhurst Park, the Belgium international never quite recaptured his Aston Villa form and has now made the move to MLS.

D.C. United sit bottom of the Eastern Conference, with former Manchester United striker Rooney having taken over in July for the sacked Hernan Losada.

And Rooney is glad to have brought a player of Benteke's quality in, telling the club's website: "Christian is a top player who has played at the highest level for a long time.

"His experience and ability to score goals and help the team will be invaluable. It's exciting for the team and myself to get him in and playing. He will make a huge difference."

The LA Galaxy have signed midfielder Riqui Puig from Barcelona on a three-and-a-half-year contract.

The Galaxy used Targeted Allocation Money to bring the 22-year-old to Major League Soccer after he was deemed surplus to requirements by Barca coach Xavi.

LaLiga giants Barca have the right to re-sign Puig and will be entitled to 50 per cent of any transfer fee he commands when he leaves Los Angeles.

Puig joined the Catalan club from Jabac Terrassa as an under-16 player in 2013 and went on to made 57 senior appearances for the Blaugrana, scoring twice.

"We are pleased to welcome Riqui to the LA Galaxy," said Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney. "Riqui is a very technical and well-educated player with incredible experiences for his age. He will fit seamlessly into our group and style of play."

Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski said: "Riqui is a very talented player with a unique profile that brings something different to our squad."

Puig won the LaLiga title with Barca three years ago and lifted the Copa del Rey in 2021.

Montreal scored twice in the final two minutes to rally from behind to claim a 2-1 victory away to Columbus Crew in the MLS on Wednesday, in a game delayed by inclement weather.

Lucas Zelarayan had fired the Crew into a 14th-minute lead with a low shot but Montreal hit back late, to help them move into third in the Eastern Conference.

Kei Kamara nodded in Alistair lex Johnston's 89th-minute corner, before Joel Waterman got in behind the defence from Lassi Lappalainen's lofted pass to squeeze home the winner in the 94th minute.

Inter Miami breathed life into their season with a 1-0 road win over San Jose Earthquakes to move up to eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Juan Mota's spectacular left-foot strike in the 12th minute was the difference, while Gonzalo Higuain's skill went unrewarded after a mazy run early in the second half.

Charlotte stayed ahead of Inter with a 3-0 home victory over DC United moving them up to seventh in the east.

Steven Birnbaum's 13th-minute own goal separated the sides, before second-half strikes from Karol Swiderski and Quinn McNeil within four minutes settled the contest.

Portland Timbers and Nashville drew 1-1 keeping both sides in the middle of the Western Conference standings.

Gaga Slonina has joined Chelsea on a six-year contract before returning to the Chicago Fire on loan until January.

The 18-year-old has established himself as the most exciting young goalkeeper in MLS since making his Fire debut last August.

Then 17, Slonina became the youngest goalkeeper to start a match in MLS history as he kept a clean sheet in a draw with New York City FC.

Slonina has gone on to keep 13 clean sheets in 34 appearances and is Chicago's first-choice keeper, playing every minute of the 2022 campaign.

The United States youth international, who rejected a senior call-up from Poland in May, will play out the rest of the season in Illinois ahead of joining a pool of Chelsea goalkeepers that includes Edouard Mendy.

Chelsea have reportedly paid an initial £8.2million ($10m) for Slonina, although that fee could increase to £12.3m ($15m).

Fire sporting director Georg Heitz said in a statement: "We're very proud and happy to see Gaga reach this milestone moment in his career.

"Since joining the club, Gaga has embodied what it means to be a Chicago Fire player.

"In addition to his incredible talent, he is mature beyond his years, extremely hard-working and a fantastic team-mate.

"Gaga is a role model to many young aspiring footballers in Chicago, and this transfer demonstrates that a player can progress to the first team from our academy before joining one of the biggest clubs in the world."

Slonina added: "I joined this club [the Fire] with ambitions of playing at the highest level, and it's been a dream come true to wear the Chicago Fire jersey.

"This club has become my second home, my second family, and there are so many people that have played a big role in helping me get to where I am today.

"I'm so thankful for all the support that I've received from my family, coaches, team-mates and everyone associated with the club. It's been an incredible honour to work alongside each one of you."

The Colorado Rapids came from behind on the road to defeat the New York Red Bulls 5-4 in a thriller on Tuesday.

Within 10 minutes New York led by two goals, with Dru Yearwood finding the back of the net first when his shot from outside the box caught a deflection to wrong-foot the goalkeeper, before Aaron Long headed home Lewis Morgan's indirect free kick.

A costly mistake deep in defence gifted a goal back to the Rapids in the 21st minute, with Diego Rubio curling his right-footed effort into the far post, but the Red Bulls seemed to have all the answers, with Morgan scoring from the penalty spot seven minutes later to lead 3-1 after a half-hour.

Colorado ensured they would go into the break only trailing by one after a well-worked move from a throw-in resulted in a powerful low drive from outside the box by Keegan Roseberry in the 38th minute.

There were over 30 minutes of scoreless action to start the second half, before the Rapids seized control of the contest with two quickfire goals. Collen Warner equalised in the 77th minute, before substitute Michael Barrios put the visiting side in front three minutes later off a Rubio assist.

Dantouma Toure completed the comeback by making it 5-3 in the 89th minute, with a stoppage-time penalty to Tom Barlow providing the game's ninth goal.

Meanwhile, it was a very different contest at Lumen Field where the Seattle Sounders defeated Dallas FC 1-0 at home.

The only goal of the contest came from a first-half penalty, with captain Nicolas Lodeira calmly slotting it past the Dallas keeper in the 39th minute.

Cristian Roldan was at the centre of everything for the Sounders. Only two players completed more than 50 passes, and Roldan separated himself from the rest with 76 completed passes at an accuracy of 93 per cent.

With the win, the Sounders jumped up to sixth in the Western Conference, still three points behind fourth-placed Dallas, but with a game in-hand.

Wayne Rooney kept his belief in his DC United team as his coaching reign in MLS started in familiar fashion, with a dramatic late win over Orlando City.

Several highlights of Rooney's playing career with DC had come against Orlando.

The former England captain had five goal involvements in three meetings with Orlando, netting in both matches in 2019 – including a stunning strike from his own half.

But the most iconic moment of Rooney's MLS stint came in his first clash with the Lions in 2018.

The forward provided two assists, including a remarkable intervention to snatch a 3-2 win in the 96th minute, with Rooney tracking down a counter-attack – as Orlando's Will Johnson raced towards an open goal – and then crossing for Luciano Acosta's decisive header.

Sunday's coaching bow was similarly sensational, as DC still trailed to Junior Urso's early strike entering second-half stoppage time.

But a pair of late goals from Chris Durkin, in the 91st minute, and Taxi Fountas, in the 95th, ensured a winning start for Rooney, who had been confident the chances would come.

"I told them they'd win the game," Rooney said of his half-time message to the MLS strugglers. "I believed we'd win the game.

"But the one thing we had to do was up the tempo. We were moving the ball across the back and with the goalkeeper side to side, and it was too slow. We were allowing Orlando to shift across and not really making them run as hard as we wanted them to.

"That was the big difference second half, the tempo with which we moved the ball and really made Orlando suffer and work and run.

"When a team's doing that, then gaps appear. We have to take advantage of those gaps, and we did."

It was just the 10th instance in MLS history of a team trailing at the start of stoppage time and still winning, with DC accounting for three of those.

Rooney acknowledged the nature of the victory could be vital for confidence moving forward.

"'Character' is a big word I've used over the last couple of weeks with the team," he said. "We need to be a team which shows a lot of character and fight and togetherness."

Rooney added: "I think [it is important] for the players, more than myself. I think the players needed that.

"This season has to start now. They've had some bad results in the first half of the season, and I think tonight the fashion we won the game – coming from a goal behind, scoring two late goals, the subs who came on were excellent...

"But we've got another tough game on Wednesday. We can't rest and think we've won a game; we have to be consistent, we have to go on a run."

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