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The Daily Dirt, June 18: MLS returns, Colombia advances, and Neymar decides

1B v 2A: Quarterfinal - Copa America Centenario Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The business end of the MLS season gets started today as teams return to league play after a break for the Copa America Centenario. No one has truly separated themselves from the pack just yet, and no one is so far back that the rest of their season is meaningless.

Three big surprises so far are the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Union, the Western Conference leading Colorado Rapids, and Real Salt Lake. All three are led by former MLS players and all three have had their struggles in recent years as their young coaches learn on the job. So far in 2016, the clubs’ patience with their young coaches appears to be paying off. The big question now is, how will they handle being the chased rather than being the pursuer?

Last year’s MLS Cup finalists are currently out of the playoff picture. Runner-up Columbus has had some turmoil in their team, trading their leading scorer and watching their talisman go down for 6-8 weeks with a sport hernia. Gregg Berhalter will truly be tested as he tries to rally his Crew. Portland has struggled mightily defensively and have yet to win away from home. They have work to do if they want to have a chance to defend their championship.

For Atlanta United fans, keep an eye on players who fall out of favor at their current clubs. They could be available in an expansion draft or trade after the season. Also keep an eye on the coaching carousel. We have already seen Owen Coyle leave the Houston Dynamo with Wade Barrett named as his interim replacement. If more coaching jobs become available, Atlanta will have increased competition to get their top choice.


Back in the USA

MLS is back today after its break for the group stage of the Copa America Centenario, here’s five stories to keep an eye on (MLS)

It is not a happy time for NYCFC as they were knocked out of the Open Cup by the Cosmos, they play Philadelphia today at 1pm and try to get things right (Hudson River Blue)

Vancouver defeated NASL Ottawa in the Amway Canadian Championship over the break and return to MLS action today at 7pm against the New England Revolution (Eighty Six Forever)

Orlando returns to MLS action at home against San Jose and hopefully the Lions provide a needed distraction from the events of the past week. (The Mane Land)

Jacksonville Armada sell another player, Matt Fondy heads to the Carolina Railhawks (FiftyFive.One)

Great finish from Seku Conneh of Bethlehem Steel in USL action last night:


Around the World

Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina saves the day and helps his country advance to the Copa America Centenario semifinals with a penalty shootout win over Peru (SB Nation)

AFC Bournemouth signs young American Emerson Hyndman after his contract ran out at Fulham (SBI Soccer)

Great story about the career redemption of Nolito for Spain (SB Nation)

Some background information on the incidents with Croatian fans, it is far more complicated than drunken hooliganism (r/soccer)


Atlanta

Local soccer action today:

  • Atlanta Silverbacks Women vs. Memphis Lobos, 4:00pm at Silverbacks Park
  • Georgia Revolution Reserves vs. Peachtree City MOBA Reserves, 5:00pm at RYSA SoccerPlex
  • Georgia Revolution vs. Knoxville Force, 7:00pm at RYSA SoccerPlex
  • Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Tobacco Road FC, 7:30pm at Silverbacks Park

As the Falcons come out of minicamp, here’s a look at three key positional battles (The Falcoholic)

Georgia legend Hines Ward chimes in on the QB situation heading into the 2016 season (Dawg Sports)

The Dream improve their record to 8-3 with a 101-97 win over the Chicago Sky at Philips Arena last night (Peachtree Hoops)