ProSoccerTalk’s daily soccer re-set

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Soccer birthdays:

One of the game’s truly mercurial figures, Zlatan Ibrahimović, turns 31 today. He is also the only player to score in Champions League for six different clubs (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain).

Former Canadian international and current University of Texas soccer coach Angela Kelly turns 41.

Big Important Stories of the Day:

This “Match Day” thing is always a bit confusing, isn’t it? Because yesterday was Champions League Match Day 2. Which makes today … uh, Champions League Match Day 2 ½ I suppose. At any rate, the other eight group play matches of UEFA greatness are set for today.

Of course, the big talkers will be the matches out of Group D, where Real Madrid plays at Ajax and Dortmund visits Manchester City.

Closer to our shores, two MLS matches come attached to those playoff implications that we all love so much at this time of year. In both cases, the home team faces a side already eliminated from post-season action, so they will see this as chance to fully exploit. Chicago hosts Philadelphia and Vancouver hosts Chivas USA.

RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day):Tracey Leone (Tracey Bates)

Twitter daps:

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What you should watch on TV today:

Featured Champions League matches on Fox Soccer Channel are:

Zenit St. Petersburg-AC Milan at noon ET

Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund at 2 p.m. ET

Arsenal-Olympiacos at 5 p.m. ET (delay)

Ajax-Real Madrid at 7 p.m. ET (delay)

*Ahead on the blog today: We’ll dig into yesterday’s big MLS news: Erik Soler being replaced as sporting director for the New York Red Bulls.

Former AS Monaco president Jérôme de Bontin will serve as New York’s general manager in a position overseen by former France and Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier, who now serves as head of global soccer for Red Bull.

(We’ll scour the earth to find someone for whom this move – and the timing – makes a bit of sense. We are not optimistic.)

If the MLS playoffs started today (following 28 rounds):

Eastern Conference

(Wildcard round)

  • Houston at D.C. United

(Second round)

  • Sporting Kansas City vs. Wildcard winner
  • Chicago vs. New York Red Bulls

Western Conference:

(Wildcard round)

  • Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle

(Second Round)

  • San Jose vs. Wildcard winner
  • Real Salt Lake vs. L.A. Galaxy

PST background noise while blogging today: Scanning for BBC and podcast bits on Champions League.

We’ll leave you with this: Yesterday I watched (live or same-day delayed) high-quality soccer from Russia, Romania, Norway and Portugal. Today we get the top shelf stuff from Russia, England and the Netherlands. TV and technology in the modern age is absolutely, positively awesome.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we all had to wait until the next morning and check out the Champions League scores in the newspaper.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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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.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

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.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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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.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

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.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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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.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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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.