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For aspiring Minnesota United, ‘playoff mode’ hits now



For aspiring Minnesota United, ‘playoff mode’ hits now

The math is daunting for Minnesota United.

To host a home MLS Cup playoff game at Allianz Field in November, the seventh-place Loons need to overcome an eight-point gap over fourth-place Portland. (The Western Conference’s second, third and four seeds host first-round playoff games, while top spot gets a bye.)

Minnesota has seven regular-season games left to play, while the Timbers, fifth-place Real Salt Lake and sixth-place L.A. Galaxy each having six matches remaining. MNUFC (10-9-8, 38 points) will make up that difference when third-place Colorado comes to Allianz Field for a 3 p.m. kickoff Sunday.

So, is hosting a third straight home playoff game really attainable?

“Sure. Win seven games,” United owner Bill McGuire said during an interview Tuesday, the banner day his club was awarded the 2022 MLS All-Star Game.

Sitting across the table in the stadium’s suite level was MLS commissioner Don Garber, who replied: “Easy, peasy, lemon, squeezy.”

The commish and the owner both know how hard it is to put together a run like that. It’s the type of pace that would be out of left field for this Loons side, which has had to scrape together goals in 2021. It’s the type of streak that would set a MNUFC record, yet also not be completely unlike the eight-game unbeaten run (4-0-4) the Loons strung together at the end of the 2020 season.

With the Loons on edge of the playoff picture, just getting in at this stage of the season is the paramount goal. Three teams on the outside are within five points of Minnesota. If it goes south and MNUFC miss out on the playoffs all together, it could become, well, “stressed, depressed, lemon zest.”

By Chief Soccer Officer Manny Lagos’ calculation, the Loons’ route to a home playoff game focuses on the old adage: three points with home wins and one point with away draws. If Minnesota does that with four home games and three away to finish the year, they would average 2.14 points per game over the stretch, which would be more than half a point above their current pace of 1.41.

Manager Adrian Heath said for any of this to matter in a month’s time, Minnesota must beat the Rapids on Sunday.

“In the confines of my office, we’ve been through every sort of eventuality what we think teams are going to get,” Heath said Friday. “For the players, they just have to win the next game. Don’t get too focused on what is coming up after.”

Like a voodoo doll, the Rapids have stuck it to Minnesota in painful ways this season. Minnesota was desperately trying to get out of an 0-3 start to the season and took a 2-0 lead in Colorado on May 8 but gave up three goals in the final 33 minutes. On July 7, Minnesota came out flat and got smoked 2-0 on the road.

The club points to these games among the worst of the season.

The Rapids were on a 12-game unbeaten streak (6-0-6) before a 3-0 loss to first-place Seattle last Sunday, and Heath put Colorado coach Robin Fraser behind New England’s Bruce Arena for “manager of the year” this season.

The Loons have three starters (center back Michael Boxall, leading scorer Robin Lod and right back Romain Metanire) away on international duty, while the Rapids midfield could be a place to exlploit with two key players gone (Mark Anthony-Kaye and Kellyn Acosta).

In the Loons last seven games, six are against teams in the playoff picture, four with playoff spots. They will play five games in a 16-day stretch by the end of October.

Three points on the road against last-place expansion side Austin FC next Saturday seems like a good opportunity to offset the pending challenge of Eastern Conference third-place side Philadelphia Union coming to St. Paul on Oct. 20.

L.A. Galaxy coach Greg Vanney mentioned the higher stakes this time of the year after a loss to MMUFC in mid-September, a comment Heath brought up Friday.

“It’s like you just sense that it’s more like playoff time,” Heath said. “The games mean so much more. … I think the gravity of losing a game now and somebody behind you winning and then you are looking at everybody’s fixtures, it’s almost like we are in playoff mode now. That is how we have to approach all the games.”


Saturday — Colorado Rapids, 48 points
Oct. 16 — Austin FC, 25
Oct. 20 — Philadelphia Union, 42
Oct. 23 — Los Angeles FC, 34
Oct. 27 — Vancouver Whitecaps, 37
Oct. 31 — Sporting Kansas City, 52
Nov. 7 — Los Angeles Galaxy, 39

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Jewish leaders renew antisemitism fight after hostage case



Jewish leaders renew antisemitism fight after hostage case


Although the FBI initially said the man who held four people hostage at a Texas synagogue was focused on an issue “not specifically related to the Jewish community,” the captor voiced beliefs that Jews controlled the world and had the power to arrange the release of a prisoner, survivors said after their escape.

The gunman’s words were all too familiar to Jewish leaders and terror experts, who saw the attack on Congregation Beth Israel as yet another in the rising number of antisemitic hate crimes, a sign of the continued need of vigilance and interfaith solidarity.

The hostage-taker — identified by authorities as Malik Faisal Akram — “thought he could come into a synagogue, and we could get on the phone with the ‘Chief Rabbi of America’ and he would get what he needed,” Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told the Forward, a Jewish news site.

The hourslong standoff ended after the last hostage ran out of the Colleyville synagogue and an FBI SWAT team rushed in. Akram was killed, though authorities have declined to say who shot him.

The attack recalled recent deadly assaults on synagogues, including Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life in 2018 and California’s Chabad of Poway in 2019. Unlike those attacks, when assailants linked to white nationalist motives went on shooting rampages soon after entering, Akram took hostages to have them to use their influence to obtain the release of Aafia Siddiqui.

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is suspected of having ties to al-Qaida and was convicted of trying to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, is serving a lengthy sentence in a prison in nearby Fort Worth.

Jeffrey Cohen, another of the synagogue hostages, said Akram “did not come there to kill Jews” but tried to use them in the belief they could get Siddiqui released.

Akram “had bought into the extremely dangerous, antisemitic trope that Jews control everything, that we could call President (Joe) Biden and have him release her,” Cohen told the Times of Israel.

Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said that while only Akram himself knew his motives, his words reflect “a misguided and conspiratorial mindset.”

“The idea that Jews are overwhelmingly, disproportionately powerful and control America is completely mainstream” in some politically Islamist factions, similar to tropes among white nationalists, he said.

And he said Siddiqui’s case is a “cause celebre” in those factions. Siddiqui herself voiced “chilling” words at her court proceedings, blaming her conviction on Israel and asking for genetic tests on jurors for possible Jewish connections, he said.

On Saturday, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office said the hostage-taker was focused on an issue “not specifically related to the Jewish community.” But on Sunday, the FBI called the ordeal “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted.”

Akram “was looking for a Jewish target,” said Nachman Shai, Israel’s Cabinet minister for diaspora affairs. “If it’s not about Jews, why didn’t he walk into a church, a mosque or a supermarket there?”

The attack resonated in Jewish communities across the country, including those that had been attacked before.

“It’s upsetting to me whenever Jews are under attack, whenever human beings are under attack,” said Beth Kissileff, a Pittsburgh author and member of New Light Congregation. The congregation was one of three meeting in the Tree of Life building that lost members in the Oct. 27, 2018, attack that claimed 11 lives.

She hopes survivors of the Pittsburgh attack — who were consoled in 2018 by Muslim survivors of a deadly mosque attack in Quebec — can offer similar support to those in Colleyville. “People reached out to us, and we want to reach out,” she said.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the denomination Beth Israel is affiliated with, noted that Muslim, Christian and other faith leaders quickly gathered to support the congregants.

“While the uptick of antisemitism is clear, we’ve never lived in a community where there’s more solidarity,” he said.

Anna Eisen, the founding president of Beth Israel, experienced that first-hand, citing support “from neighbors, strangers, churches, the governor” and others.

“I feel safer,” she said. “I know now I’m a part of this community and this country.”

Some advocacy groups and lawmakers have cited the Texas hostage situation in calling on the Senate to take up Biden’s nomination of Deborah Lipstadt to serve as a special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

The Emory University professor’s nomination languished last year, forcing Biden to resubmit her name two weeks ago. The Anti-Defamation League called on the Senate to “act now” to show the urgency of confronting antisemitism.

“We need to treat antisemitism not as an aberration but an everyday reality,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the ADL.

Rabbi Noah Farkas, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said he has been speaking with rabbinic colleagues in the wake of the Texas incident and many have trepidations about leading services.

“To be a Jew in America today, to wear Jewish ritual garb like the yarmulke or a Star of David, is an act of courage, and I would say defiance as well,” Farkas said.

The attack underscores how “the Jewish community is an affected and targeted group,” said Bradley Orsini, senior national security advisory for Secure Community Network, which consults with major Jewish organizations on security.

He took part in a weekend webinar that drew about 1,600 Jewish community leaders to update them on the Colleyville situation. “We really need to keep preparedness in front of us,” he said.


Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem; Kevin Freking, Mike Balsamo and Colleen Long in Washington; Holly Meyer in Nashville, Tennessee; Mariam Fam in Cairo; and Luis Andres Henao in Princeton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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Fatal overnight shooting in Aurora believed to be connected to crash



Colorado Springs police involved in fatal shooting, crash overnight

A man was shot at 16th Avenue and Lansing Street in Aurora late Tuesday night, dying hours later at the hospital.

Police do not have suspect descriptions and have limited info on the incident.They are investigating area surveillance footage and witnesses. But authorities do believe a two-vehicle crash at the nearby intersection of Montview Boulevard and Peoria Street was caused by the people involved in the shooting. Those people fled the scene of the shooting and collision.

The Aurora Police Department is asking for those with any information to call 303-627-3100.

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Biden to give away 400 million N95 masks starting next week



Biden to give away 400 million N95 masks starting next week

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.

The White House announced Wednesday that the masks will come from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand. The masks will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. They will begin shipping this week for distribution starting late next week, the White House said.

This will be the largest distribution of free masks by the federal government to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In early 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s administration considered and then shelved plans to send masks to all American at their homes. President Joe Biden embraced the initiative after facing mounting criticism this month over the inaccessibility — both in supply and cost — of N95 masks as the highly transmissible omicron variant swept across the country.

After facing similar criticism over a winter shortage of COVID-19 at-home test kits, Biden this week launched a website for Americans to order four rapid tests to be shipped to their homes for free, with the first tests to ship later this month.

The White House said the masks will be made available at pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its guidance on face coverings to more clearly state that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection against COVID-19. Still, it didn’t formally recommend N95s over cloth masks.

The best mask “is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long, that you can tolerate in public indoor settings,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week.

Details were not immediately available on the specifics of the program, including the sort of masks to be provided, whether kid-size ones will be available and whether the masks could be reworn.

The White House said that “to ensure broad access for all Americans, there will be three masks available per person.”

N95 or KN95 masks are more widely available now than at any other time during the pandemic, though they are often more costly than less-protective surgical masks or cloth masks.

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