ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS Panic Quotient (®) takes the temperature of stress and distress in the streets of Major League Soccer.
Philadelphia Union players: Perhaps manager Peter Nowak is some mad scientist-type genius. We see the stark flashes, but he sees the plan – that kind of thing. Maybe. But who could blame Philadelphia players for not feeling great about the ground beneath their feet? Because the quirky personnel choices keep rolling out of Nowak’s office, this trade of popular team captain Danny Califf being the latest sharp crack of the bosses’ erratic whip. Let’s face it: If Nowak will ship Califf away, anybody’s locker is in danger of being suddenly emptied.
Panic quotient: “Hi, sweetie. What’s that? Oh … uh, sure I remember what day it is … ”
Sporting Kansas City: Whoa! What are you guys doing here? Three weeks ago Peter Vermes’ men were preening around like the bell of the MLS ball. Then a loss at Portland blotted that perfect record – but no worries there, really. Then a loss at home to Montreal raised a concerned brow – but it could still be written off as a glitch in the Matrix. But the way SKC came unraveled in last week’s loss at Chicago just cannot be dismissed. You know what they say: One might be a mistake, two is starting to look like a trend, but three is definitely a problem. It’s not that Sporting is bad, it’s just that they had such a big head start on the Supporters Shield and those up-anted playoff stakes that go with it. Well, that’s all blown out of the Midwest water.
Panic quotient: Long night. Head hurts. Now it’s morning and you can’t find your wallet … which might not be so bad if you could just remember where you were the night before.
FC Dallas: These guys do want to play, right? They are getting tossed out of games like trouble makers out of the Double Duece. (Road House!) Previously FC Dallas was hanging in there, negotiating injuries adequately and picking up points here and there. But habitually going down to 10 men (or 9 men with the match two weeks ago) is too much. Now Dallas has collected just two of a possible 15 points in its last five, and connection with the top teams in the West is getting seriously stretched.
Panic quotient: Your beautiful, wonderful, let’s-you-watch-sports girlfriend calls. “We need to talk.”
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.