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MLS Saturday review: St Louis get back on track

St Louis have strengthened their grip at the summit of the Western Conference, as Cincinnati continue to run away with the Eastern Conference.

Los Angeles FC, who sit second, are struggling to find enough consistency as the campaign heats up and could allow St Louis to start pulling well clear in the weeks to come.

In the Eastern Conference, Cincinnati are not showing any signs of slowing, but the play-off picture is far from decided and should offer excitement as the season develops.

St Louis send out statement

It has been a remarkable maiden season in the MLS for St Louis - a franchise only founded three years ago - as they set the pace in the Western Conference.

After a rocky period through June when they won just two of six fixtures, losing three and drawing one, St Louis appear to be settling back into their groove and they are +1000 to win the MLS Cup.

Thursday's 3-0 loss against second-placed Los Angeles FC could have proven to be a major setback in their attempt to top the Conference, however, they responded in fine fashion on Saturday.

A home clash with Inter Miami, who sit bottom of the Eastern Conference, was just the tonic.

Samuel Adeniran, Tim Parker and Eduard Lowen all got their names on the scoresheet to seal a 3-0 triumph at CityPark.

LAFC's 1-1 draw at 10th-placed Minnesota means that St Louis have opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Conference.

For Inter Miami, Lionel Messi's debut can't come soon enough as they look to start putting some points on the board.

They have failed to win in six outings, but Miami announced that the former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain star will be available for selection when they face Mexican side Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup on July 21st.

Blanco boosts Timbers' play-off hopes

There was no shortage of drama at Providence Park on Saturday when Portland Timbers hosted Columbus Crew.

The Timbers sit 12th in the Western Conference, but still have their eyes on the play-offs, while The Crew are nestled nicely in the Eastern Conference play-off sports - holding on to sixth place.

Hosts Portland went into Saturday's game with a lot to be desired when it comes to their home record - winning four, drawing three and losing three.

But they made the perfect start as a Dairon Asprilla brace put them in the driving seat by the 30-minute mark.

Lucas Zelarayan pulled one back on the stroke of half-time for Columbus and the Armenia international levelled the game, scoring his 10th of the season, with just 25 minutes left to play.

Having failed to win in their previous five games, Portland looked like they were set to throw away the opportunity to close in on the play-offs, however, substitute Sebastian Blanco fired home in the final 10 minutes to seal a crucial 3-2 win.

It leaves Portland 12th, but just three points adrift of ninth-placed Houston Dynamo in the race to seal a spot in the post-season.

Nashville falling apart as Cincinnati march on

It's going to take something special to stop Cincinnati topping the Eastern Conference, as they hold an eight-point lead after Saturday's 3-1 win over fourth-placed Nashville.

Walker Zimmerman put Nashville in front at TQL Stadium, but things started to go downhill when Luciano Acosta equalised from the penalty spot shortly before half-time.

The game was ultimately defined by a six-minute period in the second half as Cincinnati had two players sent off and Santiago Arias scored for the hosts.

Taylor Washinghton and Fafa Picault both picked up second yellow cards and Cincinnati took full advantage, eventually going on to win 3-1 as Aaron Boupendza wrapped up the scoring deep into stoppage time on his debut.

Acosta's first-half strike - his 12th of the season - has put him firmly in the race for the Golden Boot, trailing MLS top scorer Hany Mukhtar by just one, with Cincinnati +400 to win the MLS Cup.

Nashville head coach Gary Smith admitted his players "need to take a look inside and really ask some questions", as Saturday's loss was their third in succession and fifth in their last six.

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