Shipped from abroad: Reflections on an Italian Serie A Saturday

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It’s difficult for an undefeated team to sneak up on anybody, but without mid-week European soccer to keep them in on out radars, it’s been easy to lose track of Juventus. With all the draws and the lack of a prominent goalscoring threat, the Old Lady’s kept a low profile; yet, here we are, with just over a month left in the season, and not only is there still that stale bagel in their loss column, but thanks to one of their castaway attackers, they’re back in first place.

It’s unlikely Amauri was trying to do his old team any favors, yet with this 89th minute goal at the San Siro against Milan, he gave Fiorentina a desperately needed win (2-1), Milan their fifth loss of the year, and Juventus first place thanks to the Bianconeri’s 2-0 win at Palermo. Now 17-14-0, Juventus have a one point lead at the top of the Serie A and, thanks to another clean sheet, have dismissed another significant obstacle in their quest for an undefeated season.

Most wouldn’t describe Palermo as a major hurdle, but with the likes of Fabrizio Miccoli and Josip Ilicic leading one of the most dangerous attacks in the league (their 44 goals sitting seventh overall), there was always a chance the Aguile could run out on Juve the same way they did against Lazio (5-1, Feb. 19), Genoa (5-3, Jan. 22), and Inter (4-3, Sep. 11).

But since their trouncing of Lazio in February, the Renzo Barbera has not been as kind to Palermo. They’ve scored only once in their last four home games, losing to Milan, Roma and Juve while drawing against Udinese. To be sure, those are four difficult opponents (the worst sitting sixth in league), but it still seems Juventus caught the Sicilians at the right time.

Those are the kind of breaks you need if you’re going to go undefeated, and with their 17th clean sheet of the season, Juventus is one step closer to being invincible. They’ve now gone 373 minutes in league without allowing a goal ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with third-place Lazio, now the biggest obstacle between the Bianconeri and a loss-less season.

Their next biggest challenge after that: a home match with a Roma team that gave up four goals to Lecce on Saturday. No other team in their run-in sits higher than 12th.

Elsewhere in Italy

All results: Cesena 0-0 Bologna; Chievo 3-2 Catania; Milan 1-2 Fiorentina; Novara 1-1 Genoa; Cagliari 2-2 Internazionale; Udinese 3-1 Parma; Lecce 4-2 Roma; Atalanta 1-2 Siena; Palermo 0-2 Juventus; Lazio 3-1 Napoli

Stuff that stuck out:

  • Napoli was without Christian Maggio (injured) and Juan Zuniga (suspended), while Andrea Dossena wasn’t fit for 90. That meant that Walter Mazzari had to abandon his 3-4-3 for lack of defenders who could play on the wings. But on a night when Lazio honored Giorgio Chingalia, it’s uncertain Napoli’s full team could have gotten a result. The win leaves Lazio three clear of Udinese for third while Napoli, six back of the league’s last Champions League spot, looks to Europa.
  • Despite their loss, Roma is only one point behind Napoli, though Saturday’s result was beguiling. At a Lecce side seemingly set to book its place in Serie B, the Giallorossi were down four goals within an hour. It’s also the third time this calendar year Roma have given up four road goals to what you would think to be inferior competition (4-2 at Calgiari on Feb. 1; 4-1 at Atalanta on Feb. 26).
  • Michael Bradley’s sixth minute goal for Chievo against visiting Catania made him the first U.S. player to score in Serie A since Alexi Lalas during the 1994-95 season.

Up next: Mid-week action starts on Tuesday as Milan visits Bradley’s Chievo. Juventus hosts a Lazio team that has not beaten the Old Lady in league since 2003.

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.