Leave Dana White alone! Please.

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Thanks, Jimmy, for putting this back on the menu. After all, what would we have done today if we didn’t have one of soccer’s ol’, chip-on-the-shoulder chestnuts to roast (only watch two of the most successful clubs in the world).

In case you hadn’t heard, MMA mogul Dana White isn’t a fan of soccer. If you hadn’t heard, you might not be that big a fan of soccer either, because brows were mightily furrowed last week when White’s views his the Twit-a-Blog-o-verse-a-`book.

White is one of the most successful men in modern sport. He’s helped the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)  squash its competition and become one of the most sought-after properties in the world. His accomplishments put him in the Mark Cuban-esque realm of modern sports executives, a description which may actually undersell what he’s achieved. White is truly unique.

One place where he is not unique, however, is in his view of soccer. Calling it “the least-talented sport on Earth” and asking “how untalented [do] you have to be to score three times when the net is that big,” White echoed the views we’ve heard over and over again. Soccer sucks.

If anything, White’s comments were tame, especially when we’ve become used to hearing far worse (link to utter train wreck). He didn’t use sexist language to characterize the sport. He didn’t use the words “sissy” or “cheater”. He doesn’t wrap it in red scare or break out xenophobic language. He, basically, said he didn’t appreciate soccer.

Full disclosure: I don’t appreciate NASCAR. I don’t appreciate cricket or a myriad of other sports that are really popular and have obvious virtues. I don’t appreciate golf or baseball, and I used to be good at those. And if you catch me at the wrong time and have a microphone (and prep me with a few beers), you can get me to say some hyperbolic stuff about those games. Of course, I’m not Dana White.

But beyond White’s celebrity, why is this a big deal? Well, we’re tired of hearing it, for one. It’s old and tired and unimaginative and really, if you can’t find a better way to say something that could have just as easily come out of your dad’s mouth, you don’t have much to contribute. All you’re doing is trolling a thread where the original post is over 100 years old. Good job.

We’re also tired media outlets being (seemingly) reticent to embrace soccer, and since we’re seeing MMA on our televisions more and more (be it on CBS, FOX, FX, or more exotic sources), there’s the subtext of mixed martial arts filling space created by baseball’s wane – space that could otherwise go to soccer. That White is the obvious face of MMA only helps us put two and two together.

But if you watch the video of his comments (some of which is in the clip, below), White isn’t at a podium giving some kind of UFC State of the Union on the organization’s soccer platform. He’s a guy – clearly sitting around a bunch of people who are more than willing to laugh at his jokes – that gives an opinion. It’s not a new opinion. It’s not put in a new context. It’s the same opinion that we’ve not only heard for years but one to which Dana White should be entitled.

Soccer doesn’t need to convert Dana White. Soccer is doing fine. It is, after all, the world’s most popular sport, even if it’s not the most popular sport here. Soccer has nothing to prove, and we certainly shouldn’t get our feelings hurt when Dana White doesn’t share our zeal. I never liked sharing my toys, anyway.

All of which is why I can’t get on board with latest offering from Jimmy Conrad at Kick TV:

First, props to Conrad for keeping the message largely positive, even if he’s calling a guy out. I wish I could always be as good-spirited about things.

But if I’m going to call White’s message unimaginative, I have to look at Conrad’s in the same light. Conrad’s comeback to the MMA mogul is, essentially, challenging White to a game. It’s the quarterback sneak of imaginative responses. Calling it an open letter doesn’t help, either. I think we’ve run the gambit on internet open letters (it’s the internet – everything’s an open letter).

Credit to White who – in a subtle backpedal from last week’s kerfuffle – happily embraced Conrad’s challenge, telling him on Twitter, “I’m in bro!!!” Three exclamation points, bro. That’s practically a signature on the USS Missouri.

But why the need for the challenge in the first place? Or, why the need to stir this up again, one week after boxers were bunched? And who really cares of White can play soccer? If he’s terrible, turns around and says, “Wow, you soccer guys really proved something to me,” does it mean anything? Not one person is going to say “well, Dana likes it, so I’ll give it a try,” in the same way not one person heard White’s original comments and said “oh, man. I guess can’t like soccer anymore.”

Dana White doesn’t like soccer. I’m OK with that, and in truth, I’m also OK with Jimmy Conrad getting an interesting video out of the material.

But for the rest of us, let’s just get used to it: Some people don’t like soccer. I’m sure we’ll be fine. We don’t need to blog it into the ground, and our Twitter timelines are better served talking about Mad Men’s return …

Or soccer. Leave Dana White alone.

Serie A: Roma prep for Liverpool by beating SPAL; Benevento win at Milan

Elisabetta Baracchi/ANSA via AP
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Premier League preview ]

SPAL 2013 0-3 Roma

A few hours after a reserves-heavy Liverpool side played last-place West Bromwich Albion to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League, Roma, the Reds’ UEFA Champions League semifinal foes beginning Tuesday, hammered 17th-place SPAL on the back of goals scored by Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick.

Roma shocked the world — and Barcelona — to reach the semifinals, but still have a battle on their hands to finish inside Serie A’s top-four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Following Saturday’s victory, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side is three and four points clear of fourth- and fifth-place Lazio and Inter Milan, respectively, though both of the chasing sides play on Sunday.

AC Milan 0-1 Benevento

The 2017-18 season has treated AC Milan, who spent massively last summer, far worse than Roma. Following Sunday’s home defeat to first-year top-flight (and last-place) side Benevento, Gennaro Gattuso’s side sits sixth (final automatic Europa League place) and lead seventh-place Atalanta, who play on Sunday, by just two points.

Pietro Iemmello scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-0 Fiorentina

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Cagliari vs. Bologna — 6:30 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Crotone — 9 a.m. ET
Juventus vs. Napoli — 2:45 p.m. ET

Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.

PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

LAFC erase 2-goal deficits to beat Montreal in 8-goal thriller

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): LAFC are, by definition, an expansion team; they are, to the eye, also very much an expansion team, in that they experience drastic mood swings from one game to the next and, on a number of occasions already this season, from one half to the next — or, as evidenced in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Montreal Impact, one 15-minute period to the next. 2-0 down after 16 minutes, Larent Ciman wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole as his return to Montreal wasn’t going so swimmingly. The Belgian proceeded to score a stunning free kick eight minutes later. Montreal went down to 10 men and Evan Bush saved a penalty in the 33rd minute. Ignacio Piatti completed his hat trick on 43 minutes to restore the two-goal lead. LAFC score four second-half goals to run away with all three points, racking up 26 shots (18 of which were on target) in the process. Through two games this weekend, MLS has seen 14 goals scored.

[ MORE: Sporting KC increase West lead with 6-0 win over Vancouver ]

Three Four moments that mattered

24′ — Ciman’s free kick just about bursts through the back of the net — If not for the net, this ball continues to slowly rise until it cross the U.S.-Canada border and begins to orbit the planet in outer space.

43′ — Piatti smashes past Miller for 3-1 — Piatti takes his hat trick with aplomb, letting the ball bounce across his body before pulling it back across the face of goal and just inside the far post.

52′ — Feilhaber picks out the top corner for 3-2 — The comeback is on… again.

83′ — Vela bags the winner from the spot — Bush denied Marco Ureña from the spot in the first half, and so nearly did it again in the 83rd, but Carlos Vela’s effort crept over the line to make it 4-3.

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Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti (9′, 16′, 43′), Ciman (24′), Feilhaber (52′), Raitala (57′ – OG), Vela (83′ – PK), Blessing (89′)