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Around The Forest: Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC set to face off in MLS Final

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Also: New NWSL team has a name, LAFC to play first match in February, Rapids embrace analytics and more!

Portland

Portland Timbers making significant changes to sports science and sports medicine departments | OregonLive.com
Portland failed to overcome mounting injuries in 2016 as it finished in seventh place in the Western Conference standings and missed playoffs by one point. The Timbers then managed to start their top lineup just three times in 2017 due to injuries, but persevered to earn the top spot in the West. Still, Portland's season was cut short after it suffered six key injuries in the span of two weeks and fell to the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference semifinals.

Major League Soccer

Boehm: TFC, Sounders face off for a claim to ownership of this era in MLS | MLSsoccer.com
From the very dawn of the league, when eight of its 10 member teams qualified, the MLS postseason has been surprising by design – an inclusive but unpredictable party where little can be taken for granted. Over the decades Cinderellas have gotten nearly as many invites to the big ball as princesses.

LAFC to play at Sacramento Republic FC in preseason friendly | MLSsoccer.com
LAFC can finally start looking forward to an actual game. The incoming expansion club made their first ever match announcement on Thursday, revealing that they’ll play at USL club Sacramento Republic FC in a friendly in February. The exact date of the match has yet to be determined.

Transfer Rumors: RBNY submit $1.7m bid for Romanian No. 10 - Once A Metro
According to reports from Romanian news outlets Liber Tatea and ORANGE, the Red Bulls have submitted a bid for the 22-year-old attacker worth 1.5 million euros (~$1.7 million). Per the sources, the Red Bulls will face competition from Turkish Super Lig giants Konyaspor, who have bid 800,000 euros (~$950k) and from Romanian Liga I outfit CS Universitatea Craiova to the tune of 500,000 euros (~$595k) and two unnamed players.

Vancouver Whitecaps sign Venezuelan international striker Anthony Blondell | MLSsoccer.com
The Vancouver Whitecaps made the first signing of their offseason on Thursday, when they announced that they’ve acquired striker Anthony Blondell from Venezuelan Primera club Monagas SC. Blondell, 23, will be added to Vancouver’s roster using Targeted Allocation Money. The Venezuelan international is signed through 2020, with a club option for 2021. Vancouver acquired the MLS right of first refusal for Blondell from FC Dallas in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money.

San Jose Earthquakes sign Anibal Godoy to new multi-year contract | MLSsoccer.com
The San Jose Earthquakes have secured one of their main contributors, midfielder Anibal Godoy, on a new multi-year contract. The news was announced on Thursday by the team. Godoy, 27, will remain with the team he joined in August 2015 and where he's established himself as a dominant presence in the Quakes' central midfield.

Rapids to fully embrace analytical approach under new coach Anthony Hudson | MLSsoccer.com
“I think we’ve been very clear in what we want to be as a club and the type of football we want to play,” Rapids interim GM and sporting director Padraig Smith told reporters at Hudson’s introductory press conference on Thursday. “I think the key for us was identifying a head coach that shared that philosophy, shared that vision, and had a true pathway to executing against it.”

Frustration and pride swirl as Houston Dynamo finally find their limit | MLSsoccer.com
A mixture of frustration and pride spread throughout the Houston Dynamo locker room after Thursday night’s 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders in Leg 2 of their Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Championship series. Frustration with the 5-0 aggregate loss, pride in simply having reached the penultimate round for the first time since 2013 – and doing so in head coach Wilmer Cabrera’s first season.

Seattle Sounders soaking in win, but already starting work on MLS Cup | MLSsoccer.com
With their ticket to a second-straight MLS Cup officially punched, it’s déjà vu for the Seattle Sounders. Thursday’s 3-0 triumph and 5-0 aggregate victory over the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Championship means the Sounders will once again head to BMO Field for the 2017 MLS Cup, where they’ll take on Toronto FC – the same team they topped in penalty kicks a season ago to bag their first-ever championship.

NWSL

Newest NWSL club Utah Royals FC unveils crest, social media presence – Equalizer Soccer
Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyals) were unveiled in the early morning hours Friday, injecting life into Salt Lake City’s NWSL club with a name, crest, website, social media presence, and season ticket information. A portion of a press release from the club described the significance of the logo.

United States

Klimkova names preliminary U20 USWNT roster for Nike friendlies - Stars and Stripes FC
The United States U20 women’s national team will play England, Finland, and Brazil in December as part of the Nike International Friendlies. Head coach Jitka Klimkova has named a 24-player initial roster, which will be pared down to 20 ahead of the games. These are the final matches for Klimkova to evaluate her player pool before 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup qualifying begins in January in Trinidad & Tobago.

World

Mexico World Cup draw: El Tri drawn into Group F with Germany for Russia 2018 | Goal.com
The two teams met in Russia in the summer of 2017, with Germany thrashing El Tri in the Confederations Cup semifinal on the way to the title. The rematch between those teams will take place June 17 at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, with El Tri then playing against South Korea on June 23 in Rostov-on-Don and closing out the group against Sweden June 27 at Yekaterinburg's Central Stadium.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte accepts FA charge after confronting referee
Antonio Conte confirmed he has accepted a Football Association charge of misconduct and will pay his £8,000 fine but insisted that the incident will not make him change his behaviour on the touchline. The FA took action against Conte after he was dismissed from his technical area by referee Neil Swarbrick during the first half of Chelsea's 1-0 win over Swansea City on Thursday, having subjected fourth official Lee Mason to a series of angry comments over what he perceived as time-wasting from the visitors.

2018 World Cup draw results
The 32 qualified teams, allocated in four pots based on their October FIFA ranking, were drawn into eight groups of four teams each. Hosts Russia were automatically the top seed in Group A despite being the lowest-ranked team.