Ricardo Carvalho, Carlos Ruiz

Chelsea all-departure team (2004-present)

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Clearly, I’m a bit fixated on this Didier Drogba-thing, but just let me get it out of my system. It’s not every day that one of the world’s most recognizable players leaves his club (let alone 72 hours after he helped win a European title). I’ve got one, maybe two more posts to go on this. After that, it’s back to our regular scheduled (and probably, closer to home) programming.

But I couldn’t help but thinking about al the other prominent departures Chelsea’s endured since José Mourinho’s arrival (summer 2004). After going through the last eight years’ squads, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a nice little team:

G – Carlo Cudicini

Before José Mourinho’s arrival Cudicini was one of the premier goalkeepers in England. In the summer of 2004, Petr Cech was brought in, relegating Cudicini to the bench. In 2009, after five seasons deputizing, Cudicini switched to rival Tottenham, where he has served as a backup to Heurelho Gomes and Brad Freidel.

LB – Wayne Bridge

The year before Mourinho’s arrival, Bridge was bought from Southampton for £7 million and Graeme La Soux. By 2006, he was second choice to Ashley Cole, who José had lured from Arsenal. After three years of backing up Cole for club and country, Bridge was brought to Manchester City by Mark Hughes, where he quickly lost his starting spot. He’s since been spent time on loan at West Ham and Sunderland.

CB  – Ricardo Carvalho

The best defender of the Roman Abramovich era, Carvalho come with Mourinho from Porto’s 2004 Champions League-winner. The year he arrived, Chelsea reduced their goals allowed by 50 percent, conceding only 15 times in 2004-05. In the summer of 2010, Mourinho brought Carvalho to Real Madrid, though he has since lost his place in Real’s starting XI.

CB – Alex

Alex’s cannon right foot never got a consistent run in the starting lineup, but with Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry proving fragile during Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure, the Brazilian defender proved a importnat part of a title-winning team. Though he spent three years on loan at PSV, Alex would departure for PSG this winter having played 87 times for the Blues.

RB – William Gallas

Otherwise known as Ashley Cole’s makeweight, Galas proved to be an important utility man for Chelsea, playing across the Chelsea back line before being sent to Arsenal in 2006. In five years at Stamford Bridge, Gallas made 159 league appearances, scoring 14 goals. He went on to captain the rival Gunners before travelling the rarely used road between the Emirates and White Hart Lane.

DM – Claude Makélélé

The man for whom a position has come to be named, Makélélé came to Chelsea as a casualty of Real Madrid’s Galacticos era. At Stamford Bridge he helped usher in a new chapter in contemporary soccer tactics, illustrating the value of the deep-sitting, midfield destroyer. The position has since become known as “the Makélélé role,” nomenclature adopted long before the Zaire-born midfielder moved to Pars Saint-Germain.

CM – Michael Ballack

Unfortunately, Ballack will be remembered as much for accosting officials as he will for his play in midfield, but the then-captain of German proved to be a vital to Chelsea’s transition away from its dependence on Makélélé. A starter in midfield with Michael Essien and Frank Lampard, Ballack help Chelsea claim their third Premier League in 2009-10.

CM – Lassana Diarra

This is the weakest pick of the all-departure team, but thanks to Frank Lampard’s incredibly longevity, there hasn’t been remarkable turnover in Chelsea’s midfield. Diarra’s playing time was a casualty of that stability, the French international making only 13 league appearances from 2005-07. Diarra would see similarly sporadic playing time at Arsenal before establishing himself at Portsmouth after of a move to Real Madrid.

LW – Arjen Robben

Chelsea paid €18 million to get Robben from PSV. They were repaid with nine all-competition goals during the Dutchman’s injury-filled first season. After two more seasons in a tenure that saw Robben collect five major trophies, Real Madrid’s €35 million bid was accepted, taking Robben to the Santiago Bernabeu. In 105 games at Stamford Bridge, Robben scored 19 times.

RW – Joe Cole

Before Joe Cole became an oft-ill-used metaphor, he was a pretty useful player for Chelsea. Moving from West Ham in 2003, Cole would go on to collect eight honors in seven seasons at Stamford Bridge. But as injuries started to pile up, Cole lost his regular place in the team and decided to try his luck at Liverpool starting in 2010. In his time in blue, Cole score 40 times, twice hitting double-digits.

ST – Didier Drogba

Here are the other Drogba stories we’ve put up over the last couple of days, but as you look at this list, ti’s pretty easy to see: Didier Drogba is the most important departure of the Abramovich era.

U.S. U-20s awaken in 2nd half vs. Haiti, keep WCQ hopes alive

USMNT U-20 team (Photo credit: U.S. Soccer)
Photo credit: U.S. Soccer
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With many thanks to the hat trick scored by Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake, on loan from Liverpool), the U.S. U-20 national team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2017 U-20 World Cup remain intact.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

After dropping all three points in their opening group-stage game against Panama on Saturday, Tab Ramos’ young Yanks faced elimination from CONCACAF’s U-20 Championship in Costa Rica with a defeat to Haiti on Tuesday. After 15 minutes, the Americans found themselves a goal down, the prospect of winning zero points from their first two games a terrifying possibility.

Then, Lennon struck from the penalty spot. A draw wouldn’t be enough, realistically, though, as they’d still trail Haiti by three points ahead of the final group game, against Saint Kitts and Nevis, with the top two sides from each team advancing to the classification stage.

The score remained 1-1 until halftime, after which point the Yanks roared to life with three goals in a seven-minute span. Luca de la Torre (Fulham) scored the first of the bunch, an empty-net finish after a failed punch by the goalkeeper. Lennon quickly followed suit with two more to make it 4-1.

With three points from two games and a goal differential that now sits at +2, the Yanks are second in Group B, just ahead of Haiti on goal differential (+1). Panama sit atop the group with six points and a +5 goal differential. A U.S. victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis, to go with a Haitian upset of Panama, would see the Americans finish top of the group go into Group E in the classification stage, which would see them accompanied by a pair of second-place sides. The first-place side in each classification group qualifies for May’s tournament in South Korea.

Guradiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” as a club

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City reacts as Leonardo Jardim head coach of AS Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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In the past, when faced with adversity in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could do little more than wilt and crumble as their European dreams when up in smoke year after year, typically in embarrassing and/or heartbreaking fashion.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

On Tuesday, when faced with 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late into the second half of their round-of-16 first leg against Monaco, deja vu was quickly setting in for anyone who’s followed Man City’s rise from middling afterthought to mega-rich conglomerate with aspirations of world domination. Then, something strange (based on years of recent history) happened: Sergio Aguero fired City back to level at 2-2 in the 58th minute. Sure, more shocking defending saw the deficit restored three minutes later, but again, Aguero dissented.

For this reason, and perhaps this reason alone considering the putrid defensively display over the course of 90 minutes, first-year City manager Pep Guardiola should be heartened by Tuesday’s events at the Etihad Stadium. In his mind, it was a massive step forward in the club’s psyche — quotes from the BBC:

“I am so happy for the result, we are still alive. These kind of things help this club to achieve another step. We attacked in small spaces. That’s why they wanted me to come here. Everybody has to be congratulated.

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don’t score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”

UCL: Aguero, Falcao bag braces as Man City edge Monaco, 5-3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (C) celebrates with John Stones (L) and Leroy Sane of Manchester City (R) as he scores their third goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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  • Sterling gives Man City an early lead
  • Falcao hits back with a brace
  • Aguero’s brace breathes life back into City

Radamel Falcao and Sergio Aguero bagged dueling braces, while the defenders and/or goalkeepers from their respective sides engaged in dueling disasters, resulting in a bonkers UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg for the ages: Manchester City 5, Monaco 3.

Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling combined to put Man City in the lead after 28 minutes (WATCH HERE). Sane danced brilliantly and effortlessly past four defenders before playing Silva to the endline. The cross was simple for Silva, with Sterling arriving into acres of space in the goalmouth.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

That’s as good as the first half would get for City, though, as their annual Champions League meltdown commenced six short minutes thereafter (WATCH HERE). The Nicolas Otamendi-John Stones-Bacary Sanga triangle of deadly defending fell asleep in unison, which allowed Falcao all the time and space in the world to size up and head home his 23rd goal (in 29 games — all competitions) this season.

Eight minutes later, everyone else in sky blue joined the aforementioned trio for nap time. Fabinho, who also whipped in the cross for Falcao’s goal, dropped the most delicate of long balls onto the foot of Kylian Mbappe, and the 18-year-old fired his first-time shot past Willy Caballero without a single defender five yards from him in any direction.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

The second half began just as disastrously for City as the first ended. Otamendi tripped Falcao inside the penalty, and after discussing with his assistant on the endline, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz awarded Monaco a penalty kick — City felt hard done by after Aguero wasn’t awarded a clear-cut penalty in the first half — which Falcao then proceeded to hit weakly into the waiting arms of Caballero. The tide had turned back in City’s favor.

Ageuro fired City back onto level terms just short of the hour mark, with many thanks to the horrendous howler of Danijel Subasic. Aguero’s effort on goal was tame, and right at the Croatian international, but the ball went right through his hands and found the back of the net to make it 2-2, a scoreline which lasted all of three minutes.

Stones tried his very best Otamendi impression, which looked like halfhearted defending as Falcao left him for dead and chipped Caballero in the 61 minute. The renaissance of Falcao will almost certainly result in a summer full of transfer stories linking him with a move back to the Premier League.

Aguero brought City back to level terms again in the 71st minute, unleashing a stunning volley from David Silva’s corner kick. Stones tapped home at the back post six minutes later to put City 4-3 ahead, and Sane completed the epic comeback with an empty-net finish in the 82nd minute.

In the end, City still have plenty of work to do in the second leg, having conceded not one, not two, but three away goals. One thing is a near certainty: no extra time shall be needed.

UCL: Atletico Madrid blitz Bayer for 4 away goals, win 1st leg 4-2

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, front, is congratulated by his teammate Saul Niguez after scoring their side's second goal during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid in Leverkusen, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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  • Four away goals for Atleti
  • Niguez, Griezmann, Gamerio, Torres on the scoresheet
  • Bellarabi, Savic (OG) give Bayer a lifeline

If you spent your Tuesday glued to Manchester City’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, you may now direct your attention to the day’s other first-leg festival of goals: Bayer Leverkusen 2, Atletico Madrid 4.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Saul Niguez opened the scoring with a stunning curler after 17 minutes (WATCH HERE), and Antoine Griezmann doubled Los Rojiblancos‘ advantage eight minutes later to put Diego Simeone’s side in a commanding position with two early away goals.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

Karim Bellarabi pulled one back for Bayer just three minutes into the second half, but Kevin Gamerio converted from the penalty spot to restore Atleti’s two-goal lead just before the hour mark. Stefan Savic gave one back to Bayer in the form of an owl goal in the 68th minute, before Fernando Torres brought the visitors’ away-goals haul to four in the 86th minute.