Birthdays of note: Gabriel Alejandro Milito turns 31. The former Argentina, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and Independiente central defender scored 11 goals in 350 matches. Luckily, that wasn’t his job. He was on the field to keep the ball out of the back of the net, a skill at which he excelled. He retired earlier this summer, citing mental and physical exhaustion.
Ahead on the blog today*: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying returns; other World Cup qualifiers around the globe; the Houston Dynamo-Real Salt Lake match and What It All Means; a (very brief) MLS weekend in action; Steve Davis’ deep thoughts on the European debt crisis**
Big Important Stories of the Day: U.S.-Jamaica. Can the Yanks get three points in the Caribbean? Or will The Office turn into da Fortress, mon? Does Clint Dempsey start? Can the depleted Americans thrive? Will Kyle Beckerman break out into some Buju Banton at midfield in the 60th minute?
(Also, don’t sleep on Antigua and Barbuda going into Guatemala, either. Those results are perhaps more important for the future of Group A than the Stars and Stripes-Reggae Boyz tilt.)
RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day): Sebastian Lletget
If the MLS playoffs started today:
- Sporting Kansas City vs. Wildcard winner
- New York Red Bulls vs. Houston
- Vancouver Whitecaps at L.A. Galaxy
- San Jose vs. Wildcard winner
- Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle
PST background noise while blogging today: Bob Marley. But only until the start of the U.S.-Jamaica game. Then it’s “Born in the USA” on repeat.
*Always subject to change; you know how it is…
** Especially subject to change; you know how it is…
PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.
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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”
His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”
Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.
Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.
In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.
He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.
Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.
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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.
“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.
“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”
Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.
PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.
[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]
Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.
Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.
There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.
Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.
Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.
Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.
Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.
The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.
[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]
On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.
With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.
According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.
“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.
“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”
Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.