ProSoccerTalk’s daily soccer re-set

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Soccer birthdays:

Portland Timbers boss Gavin Wilkinson (pictured) turns 39 today. (He’s still the boss, but a different boss today than a couple of weeks ago. Then, he was the coaching boss. Now he’s back to being the technical director boss. Or, he will be when Caleb Porter officially comes on board. It’s a bit confusing really. Except for the part about him turning 39. We double checked.)

Italian up-and-comer Marco Verratti, who signed a five-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain last summer, turns 20.

German international Cristoph Metzelder turns 33.

Longtime Swiss international center back Alain Geiger turns 52. He now manages in the Saudi Professional League.

And finally, perhaps you don’t know much of Oleg Blokhin, but he was immense back in the day in the old Soviet football. Ukrainian born, he played in two FIFA World Cups ( Spain ‘82 and Mexico ‘86) and in two Olympics (1972 and 1976). Blokhin turns 60 today.

Big Important Stories of the Day:

Major League Soccer conference semifinal series are halfway decided. San Jose has a big leg up on Los Angeles (pardon the pun). Houston holds an edge over Sporting Kansas City.

New York and D.C. are all level in their series, but the Red Bulls get the second  leg at their place. Same with Real Salt Lake and Seattle, as the return leg heads to Utah.

As Houston manager Dominic Kinnear said, “It’s ‘halftime,’ and a lot can still happen.”

RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day:  Tony Chursky

*Ahead on the blog today:

We’ll have plenty on all four MLS playoff series and begin peaking ahead to UEFA Champions League. Matches in the world’s premier club competition are Tuesday and Wednesday.

Twitter daps:

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What you should watch on TV today:

West Brom meets South Hampton as the English Premier League round comes to a close. That’s on ESPN2 starting at 2:55 p.m.

Background noise while blogging today: Watching the first half of yesterday’s Galaxy-Earthquakes contest, which I missed while traveling. (It doesn’t sound like I “missed” anything, judging from the Tweets and the reports. But, it’s the professional thing to do!)

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

Albano Angilletta/ANSA via AP
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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.