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The USWNT’s lucky no. 13 saves the day once more

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Alex Morgan’s late header at Old Trafford staved off Olympic elimination and forces a rematch against Japan in the final. Really, it’s just Alex being Alex.

It’ll never get boring, but Alex Morgan’s dramatic game-winning goal against Canada has become a familiar sight. (Watch it again here.)

It’s far too early to ponder her potential legacy, but the 23-year-old has already built up a marvelous reputation. She rescued her team from an undesirable outcome (in this case, penalty kicks), just like she has time and time again. Her propensity for late heroics is what initially endeared her to the USWNT faithful.

Before the world knew her as ‘Baby Horse’, she was known as something else: clutch.

In October 2010 against China, the U.S. came perilously close to losing its first domestic friendly since 2004. Who subbed in and scored the dramatic equalizer? Alex Morgan. A month later the team looked hopeless against Italy in a World Cup qualifying play-off. (That’s right; the U.S. nearly failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup). Who netted the go-ahead goal in stoppage time? Yup. And let’s not even mention her two-goal output against New Zealand this February that secured a 2-1 comeback win or her late equalizer to draw level with Japan in a friendly this past April.

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Saving face has become standard practice for the precocious starlet. We can flag up her towering header – a rare header – in the dying moments of the U.S.’s momentous semifinal victory over Canada as the latest example.

The context isn’t the only thing that makes today’s goal noteworthy. It marked the 20th time Morgan has found the back of the net in 2012. Morgan is just the fifth player in USWNT history to convert 20 goals in a calendar year. She also becomes the youngest. And it’s barely August.

Morgan’s grown accustomed to restoring hope in desperate situations, but her timely interventions haven’t always carried the day. Take the 2011 World Cup final for instance. It was easily the biggest stage she had yet to step foot on. Her flashy goal gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead with 21 minutes remaining in regular time. In what’s now become WoSo folklore, Japan would storm back with a second equalizer to force penalty kicks. For those unaware, the spot kicks didn’t turn out in the U.S.’s favor.

Last year’s summer classic will now have a sequel, courtesy of the U.S.’s no 13. Japan rarely relinquished control in their semifinal match against France earlier today. The United States, on the back of yet another nerve-jangling comeback, will hope to foil Japan’s bid to become the first team to win the World Cup and Olympic gold in consecutive years.

It’s all teed up for another momentous Morgan moment. We’ve experienced plenty so far, but this will be on a whole new plane. The gold medal match against the defending world champions at Wembley Stadium? That would be the stuff of legend.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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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.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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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.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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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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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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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.