Drilling down on: NY Red Bulls 3, at Philadelphia 2

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Man of the Match: New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara is moving up the list on my ballot for Rookie of the Year – perhaps already in the pole position. Once again Sunday he came through in the clutch with a big save at the end. It’s not just his shot-stopping, but it’s the overall management in the box, his sure hands and good choices on when to stand his ground or when to go get the ball. Other than one bobble in heavy traffic, Meara did everything right in this one.

Packaged for take-away:

  • The Red Bulls have four consecutive wins for the first time in nine years, and now sit atop the Eastern Conference after Sunday’s win at PPL Park.
  • I’m going to coin new term: The Marquez Conundrum ®. Because Rafa Marquez really is an asset on attack, but a complete defensive liability. Two Marquez passes led to goals for New York, including a sublime, perfectly weighted doozy into Kenny Cooper for the game-winner.
  • Cooper has nine goals, or one more than he had last year for Portland
  • Philadelphia defender Sheanon Williams is doing OK as fill-in at center back for Danny Califf, but he got crossed up on the game-winner, letting Cooper get into a dangerous gap. (Williams is usually Philly’s starting right back.)
  • Marquez was back in the lineup after four matches away. He took Dax McCarty’s holding midfield role; McCarty moved higher up the field, still stationed centrally but playing alongside Mehdi Ballouchy in the Red Bulls’ 4-1-4-1.
  • I’ve already had my say about Freddy Adu and his unwise choices.
  • As an addendum, no matter what you thought of Jorge Gonzalez’s choice to book Adu in that situation, here’s what the young Union attacker needs to do there: Just play! Don’t dive. Don’t fall. Don’t drag your foot and look for a call. Just try to score.
  • It really was a shame, too. Because Adu had been so dangerous in this one, probably playing his best match of 2012. Playing on the right but tucking inside as a playmaker, Adu was creating with his passes, off the dribble and through crisp set-piece delivery.
  • Union striker Lionard Pajoy has been a disappointment so far, if we’re being honest. But perhaps he’s the latest example that some players just need 10 or games to get things sorted out in MLS. Because he was quite bright in this one.
  • Whatever was missing from Joel Lindpere’s game (or in his personal life) earlier this year, the man has clearly found it.
  • At least twice, Philadelphia striker Danny Mwanga passed up opportunities to attack defenders. He hasn’t scored since last summer. Add it all up, the 2010 No. 1 draft pick just isn’t a confidence striker at the moment. Strikers who are feeling it and believing in themselves look for chances to take on defenders in 1-on-1 situations, sometimes even attacking guys along the back line when they probably should pass. Mwanga needs to call FedEx and order up a big shipment of “confidence.”
  • Meanwhile, Juan Agudelo’s 30-plus minutes off the bench for New York? Yep, not bad at all. He found good spots, kept possession well, worked well and used some athletic ability to point a couple of shots at target. All in all, that might be enough to convince Jurgen Klinsmann to bring Agudelo into the 29-man camp for a closer look-see, at least.

Cristiano Ronaldo announces birth of twin sons via surrogate

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not play in Portugal’s third-place match at the 2017 Confederations Cup this Sunday.

He has bigger things to sort out.

Ronaldo, 32, was released from Portugal’s squad late Wednesday after their defeat on penalty kicks to Chile in the Confed Cup semifinals in Russia.  The Real Madrid and Portugal superstar will now travel to visit his new twin sons, who were born via a surrogate earlier this month, with Ronaldo set to meet them for the first time after captaining Portugal in Russia over the past few weeks.

According to reports from Portuguese TV channel SIC, the surrogate mother was based on the west coast of the U.S. (I can already hear you guys asking ‘does that mean they’re eligible to play for the USMNT?’). Ronaldo is now the father of three children after already having a seven-year-old son, Cristiano Ronaldo Jr.

Reports also suggest that his 22-year-old girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez is five months pregnant, so soon he could be a father for the fourth time. He would then be able to field a five-a-side team of Ronaldo’s for indoor games…

Below is the post from Ronaldo confirming his departure from Portugal’s squad, which the national team also confirmed, as he is set to meet his new children for the first time.

“I was in the service of the national team, as always, body and soul, even though my two sons were born. Unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve the main sporting objective that we wanted, but I am sure we will continue to give joy to the Portuguese.

“The President of the Portuguese Football Federation and the national picker have today had an attitude that has touched me and I will not forget. I’m very happy to finally be with my children for the first time.”

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.