We’ve already dropped the knowledge and science on Parts II and III; here are your top money-makers and heart-breakers right now in MLS:
6. Chicago Fire – Glass half-full: Four points of a possible six has the Fire on the very same bullet train track that Frank Klopas’ crew finished on late last year. Glass half empty: This fearsome foursome of points came against expansion Montreal and a reeling Philadelphia Union. This week’s road test at Colorado will tell us more.
5. Houston Dynamo – Odd match, last Friday in a 2-0 loss at Seattle. The Dynamo was in control in the hostile CenturyLink Field, and yet found themselves down by a pair inside the first half. Manager Dominic Kinnear said he was happy for things other than 10 minutes that went sideways. Still, all things considered, the Orange can be quite pleased with two wins from three matches on the road to start 2012.
4. Los Angeles Galaxy – The big news out of AEG Valley last week was an announced friendly for this July against touring Tottenham Hotspur. The team had a week off; New England visits the Home Depot Center this week.
3. Real Salt Lake – A disallowed goal for the home side in a 1-0 surprise setback has been a talker around MLS this week. A top MLS executive says referee Mark Kadlecik got it right. Still, questions linger about removing an attacking team’s advantage in such situations.
2. Seattle Sounders – Whether you think David Estrada’s deflected strike should be marked down as “own goal” or “another one for the kid,” Seattle’s young man is clearly brimming with confidence. Same with the team, tied with Vancouver atop the Western Conference table with San Jose making the northern hop this weekend. The keen eye of Seattle Times’ writer Joshua Mayers was particularly high last week on Marc Burch, who seems to be establishing himself as Sigi Schmid’s top choice left back.
1. Sporting Kansas City – The Kansas City Star’s Charles Gooch has some deliciously revealing numbers on the stacked-and-packed attack at Livestrong. For example, Sporting KC has outshot each opponent this season by a double-digit margin: plus-16 vs. D.C. United, plus-10 vs. New England and plus-10 in Sunday’s win over FC Dallas. So it’s not just that Peter Vermes’ men are a perfect 9 of 9 from possible points this year; the Midwest side is seriously pressing the opposition. Chivas USA is up this week in Southern California.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.