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MLS notebook: David Beckham's Inter Miami surging in playoff race; Cristian Arango spurs LAFC




It's hard to believe, but true.

For about 24 hours, Inter Miami CF was in the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference following a 1-0 win against Toronto FC on Tuesday. The events of Wednesday night's action pushed Miami down to eighth place.

However, at the moment, Inter Miami is even on points with the defending Supporters' Shield winner, Philadelphia Union, and three points back of the cut line for fourth place (that earns you home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs).

Miami - the club co-owned by soccer legend David Beckham - is in for a furious race to secure one of the playoff berths, but it's probably safe to say the club has fully rebounded from starting the season with a 2-8-2 record. Miami will continue regular-season play Saturday with a home match at DRV PNK Stadium against the New York Red Bulls.

Inter Miami CF co-owner David Beckham watches as Inter Miami CF and Chicago Fire players warms up prior to a match at DRV PNK Stadium on Aug.
Inter Miami CF co-owner David Beckham watches as Inter Miami CF and Chicago Fire players warms up prior to a match at DRV PNK Stadium on Aug.  

Here is what you need to know for the weekend in MLS:

MLS game of the week

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC (Sunday, Subaru Park, 4 p.m. ET on ESPN): In the short-term, a victory on Sunday would revert Philadelphia or Orlando back to their winning ways, after both conceding losses last week. In the long-term, however, a win feeds either club's chances of clinching a home game to begin its MLS Cup playoffs quest. With 10 regular-season matches remaining. Clubs finishing the regular season in second, third and fourth will host a game in Round 1. The No. 1 seed will have a first-round bye. Orlando defeated Philadelphia, 2-1, at home on July 22.

MLS player to watch

Cristian Arango, Los Angeles Football Club: The LAFC newcomer is providing the playoff push LAFC needs, entering the final 10 matches of the regular season. The 26-year-old Colombian made three decent appearances to start his MLS career in early August. Since then, the former Millionarios (Colombia) striker has scored five goals in his last four outings. Arango's surge has been a catalyst for LAFC's four-match unbeaten run, including quality wins over Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, paired with a pivotal 3-3 draw against cross-town rival LA Galaxy - all of whom are MLS playoff contenders. LAFC travels to the northwest to face the Portland Timbers on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1).

Los Angeles FC
Los Angeles FC's Cristian Arango shoots against Austin FC.  

By the numbers

16: Ola Kamara's hat trick in DC United's win over Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday night pushed him ahead of the Seattle Sounders' Raúl Ruidíaz in the MLS Golden Boot race, 16 goals to 14. However, there are a number of goal-scorers pacing with the leaders. Aside from Ruidíaz, five other players are within five goals of Kamara's tally: Gustavo Bou of the New England Revolution (12), FC Dallas' Ricardo Pepi (12), Sporting Kansas City's Dániel Sallói (12), Los Angeles Galaxy's Javier "Chicharito" Hernández (11) and New York City FC's Valentín Castellanos (11). This will certainly be a fun subplot to follow in the regular season's final few weeks.

D.
D.  

MLS news and notes

Seattle Sounders through to Leagues Cup finale: The Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders earned an opportunity to add to their trophy collection before the MLS Cup playoffs by edging out Liga MX's Santos Laguna, 1-0, in a Leagues Cup semifinal match Tuesday night at Lumen Field. A fast-paced, well-played match culminated with Raúl Ruidíaz pounding home the rebound from his own shot when he broke in on goal in the 93rd minute. Seattle will face Club León in the Leagues Cup final, which is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Hany Mukhtar for MVP: Voting for the Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player award is going to require some hair-splitting this year. There are many suitable names being entered into that discussion, but one you should think hard on is Nashville SC's Hany Mukhtar. His candidacy is gaining momentum quickly as Mukhtar has two named player of the week twice and received the second of those on Sept. 6 for his Week 23 performance in the 3-1 victory against New York City FC. Mukhtar's directly contributed to 19 goals this season with nine assists and 10 scores of his own. That's more than Carles Gil, a popular name in the MVP discussion (18 goal contributions) and Raúl Ruidíaz, the leader in the Golden Boot race with 14 goals (15 goal contributions). And, of course, Mukhtar's contributions have been material to Nashville's impressive second season in MLS as the club is firmly lodged in the No. 2 position in the East on a 10-2-11 record.

NASHVILLE SC: Why one of MLS' top teams is winning without playing its highest-paid players

MLS rosters frozen as of Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET: The secondary transfer window has been closed in MLS for weeks, but all manner of personnel transactions are suspended until the postseason ends as MLS reached its roster-freeze deadline Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. All 27 clubs will submit their final 30-man roster to the league office, and rosters are locked until a half-day trade window Dec. 12. The only exceptions between now and Dec. 12 are for cases of "extreme hardship." So, as far as your favorite club's roster is concerned, what you see is what you got.

Jordan Pefok slays Manchester United in Champions League play: Jordan Pefok isn't an MLS player but he does feature for the United States men's national team and he was born in Washington D.C., and all of that gives him some relevance to the overall MLS scene. Pefok, an attacker for Young Boys (Switzerland), capitalized on an errant back pass by Manchester United in second half added time to score and give Young Boys a memorable 2-1 victory in UEFA Champions League group stage play on Tuesday. If you're USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter, you love to see a player battling for national team minutes scoring on such a big stage.

MLS rankings: Top 10 power poll

1. New England Revolution: Single-season points record watch is on for the Revs, who need to maintain a level of two points per game over their remaining nine to surpass LAFC's record of 72 from 2019.

2. Seattle Sounders: One of the league's flagship franchises is Vegas-bound for next week's Leagues Cup finale.

3. Nashville SC: Want a darkhorse MLS Cup contender? Look no further than the second-year expansion team, which has exceeded expectations to sit behind the league-leading Revolution in the Eastern Conference.

4. Sporting Kansas City: Following Wednesday night's 4-0 demolition of Minnesota United, SKC has jumped ahead of the Sounders in the Western Conference standings, 46 points to 45. Seattle, however, has played two fewer games.

5. Colorado Rapids: The surprising Rapids are in contention to win the West, and have two games remaining against the conference-leading Sounders.

6. Orlando City SC: After Wednesday night's 4-2 defeat to Club de Foot Montréal, Orlando now has lost two straight following a seven-game unbeaten run.

7. Los Angeles Galaxy: While the Galaxy have two months to attempt to attain a home playoff game, their opponent on Saturday - Minnesota United - is clinging to postseason hopes. Working in the Galaxy's favor in this one? The team has never lost to the Loons.

8. New York City FC: Played to a wild 3-3 draw against FC Dallas on Tuesday night to end a two-game skid.

9. Philadelphia Union: With the Union bowing out of the Concacaf Champions League semifinals against Club America on Wednesday night, that means no MLS team will have won the competition in its 13-year history.

10. Portland Timbers: The Timbers are another team clinging to playoff hopes out West, with their opponent Sunday - Los Angeles FC - gaining ground.

Moving in: Portland Timbers

Dropping out: Minnesota United (previously: 9)

Others receiving votes: Club de Foot Montréal

USA TODAY Sports Network MLS top 10 power poll voters: Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer; Drake Hills, The Tennessean; Jim Reineking, USA TODAY.

MLS schedule: What are this weekend's games?

(ABC/ESPN games available to be streamed on Watch ESPN; FOX games on FOX Sports Live. Games also available on fuboTV.)

Friday

  • Inter Miami vs. New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m. ET (FS1)

Saturday

  • Atlanta United vs. DC United, 3:30 p.m. ET (Univision/TUDN, Twitter)

  • New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • FC Cincinnati vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Toronto FC vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Austin FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Minnesota United vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas, 10 p.m. ET (Univision/TUDN, Twitter)

Sunday

  • CF Montreal vs. Chicago Fire FC, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)

  • Portland Timbers vs. Los Angeles FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)

  • Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS notebook: David Beckham's Inter Miami surging in playoff race

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