Man of the Match: How much does Dax McCarty’s energy bring to the Red Bulls? His work throughout the midfield is immeasurable. McCarty’s starting positions were nominally on the right of New York’s 4-4-2, but he was all over the place, poking away balls and adding pressure in the right spots on defense, and then always motoring into good positions in the final third when the Red Bulls took possession. He had a big part in two New York goals.
Packaged for take-away:
- Mission accomplished for New York, who temporarily moved into second place in the East pending today’s result from Chicago. In all likelihood, the Red Bulls have moved out of that opening round, 4th-vs.-5th match, which was the day’s primary objective.
- The Red Bulls keep talking about high pressure and the need for more of it. It took 32 games, but they’ve finally gotten it right. Last week against Kansas City and then Saturday at PPL Park, they pressed high and as a unit.
- The net effect is that New York players are already in good, advanced positions when they take possession in midfield. That makes Thierry Henry more effective, since he receives the ball in higher positions rather than drifting back and then acting more often as a linking man.
- Henry had a strong afternoon, contributing on both sides of the ball. He looks like a man on a mission.
- A pretty shockingly poor afternoon from the usually steady Carlos Valdes. The Union’s Colombian international center back lost the plot in this one. He gave away one penalty kick, probably should have been whistled for another when he wrestled with and then threw Kenny Cooper to the ground, and he looked fairly inept as Thierry Henry maneuvered around him with ease for the visitor’s second goal.
- The Red Bulls back line wasn’t perfect, although Rafa Marquez had a nice match, almost always in the right spot and helping himself a lot with shrewd reads on the unfolding sequences. On the other hand, Jack McInerney was finding too many gaps along a back line that sometimes wasn’t as compact as it needed to be. Speaking of McInerney …
- At the top and bottom of his lineup, John Hackworth has reason to like what he has. Young goalkeeper Zac MacMath, 21 years old, started 2012 with stumbles aplenty. But the back half has been fairly smooth, and he will remember Saturday’s season finale as a good afternoon of sure-handed, composed work. And at the other end of the field, McInerney, just 20, finished with a flourish.
- He constantly troubled Red Bulls center back Markus Holgersson, and found good spots near New York’s goal. Finishing with four goals in the Union’s final six matches should send the young striker into 2013 awash in confidence.
- With a tactical switch and more energy from the home team, lots of it supplied by halftime replacement Antoine Hoppenot, the Union began finding playmaker Michael Farfan and taking control in midfield, putting the Red Bulls under real pressure for the first time all afternoon. For 20 minutes after the break, the Red Bulls ability to take all three points seemed suddenly in doubt. But Cooper’s second goal of the afternoon took all the air out of the game.
- Freddy Adu? Not in the 18 for Philadelphia. Again.
- Philadelphia average starting age Saturday: 24.7.
(MORE: Time running out for Freddy Adu)
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.