Snap Judgments: Quick reactions to Tuesday’s Champions League results

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While draws can often leave fans feeling empty-handed, today’s games in Gelsenkirchen, Madrid, and Manchester did their part to dissuade the notion an even scoreline at 90 minutes should cancel out the wonders that went into it. Those three draws, all 2-2 finals, made for one of the best nights of the Champions League season. In the process, two unexpected group leaders (Schalke, Borussia Dortmund) reinforced the notion that Germany’s Bundesliga is ready to make its long-awaited impact in European competition.

Elsewhere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic crafted another memorable night, one of his former teams (Milan) needed a late goal to salvage a home result, while Russia’s best hope to compete in this year’s competition continued to disappoint.

Group A

Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 Dinamo Zagreb – Dinamo held PSG dangerman Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoreless, but the big Swede assisted on all four Paris Saint-Germain goals, with Ligue 1’s leaders making predictably easy work of Dinamo. Carlo Ancelotti went back to an attacking trident for this one, giving the trio Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jeremy Menez a rare start.

Dynamo Kyiv 0-0 Porto – Dynamo continues to be an improved side under Oleg Blokhin, the former Ukraine national team coach who assumed Dynamo’s reins last month. Though the draw almost guaranteed their relegation to Europa League, Dynamo’s a much-improved team from the side that opened the tournament with a 4-1 loss in Paris.

Impact – Porto’s first blemish of the competition allows PSG to move within a point ahead of the teams’ round six meeting at the Parc de Princes. If form holds through the next matchday, that meeting will decide the group.

Standings – Porto 10 pts., PSG 8, Dynamo 4, Dinamo 0.

Group B

Schalke 2-2 Arsenal –Except for a 15-minute stretch of the first half (and the first moments after intermission), Schalke was the better side. Unfortunately for Huub Stevens, his team conceded twice during that quarter-hour spell. Still, after Schalke had come back, goalkeeper Lars Understall had to come up with a big, 94th minute save on Theo Walcott to preserve a draw.

Olympiakos 3-1 Montpellier – The Greek champions got the expected result, but it wasn’t easy. Left playing on the counter, Olympiakos opened the door for a draw by letting Younes Belhanda equalize from the spot in the 67th minute. Late goals from Leandro Greco and Kostas Mitroglou gave Olympiakos the win, all but assuring they’ll still be in Europe come the new year.

Impact – Two wins, and Schalke takes the group, while Arsenal face some danger with a matchday six trip to Piraeus. They’ll need a result to stay in Champions League.

Standings – Schalke 8 pts., Arsenal 7, Olympiakos 6, Montpellier 1

Group C

Milan 1-1 Málaga – Few will be surprised by the draw, an indication of the lowered expectations surrounding this Milan side. With an opening goal, Málaga was on track to close out the group, but an equalizer from Alexandre Pato salvaged a deserved draw for the Rossoneri.

Anderlecht 1-0 Zenit St. Petersburg – With the exception of Manchester City, Zenit has been the tournament’s biggest disappointment. The Russian champions were favored to come out of this group with Milan, but after losing to an Anderlecht side that had failed to score in their first three games, Zenit continues to undermine expectations.

Impact – Hosting Anderlecht to close group play, Málaga’s destined to win this group. The Milan-Zenit match on matchday six will likely determine who joins them in the knockout round, provided Milan doesn’t slip in Belgium.

Standings – Málaga 10 pts., Milan 5, Anderlecht 4, Zenit 3

Group D

Real Madrid 2-2 Borussia Dortmund – One of the best games of the tournament was very open throughout the first 45 minutes, Borussia Dortmund generating a number of chances while Real Madrid struggled to keep up. BVB may not have gotten a (arguably deserved) win, but in taking two leads at the Bernabeu while pushing Real to their limits, Jurgen Klopp’s side proved last round’s win was no fluke.

Manchester City 2-2 Ajax – Goals by Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero brought City back from two down, but fielding another team that played down to an inferior opponent, Roberto Mancini did himself no favors on Tuesday. Expect more talk about the Italian’s suitability for the City job.

Impact – Dortmund and Real Madrid are going through (eventually), and with their two matches with Real behind them, expect BVB to win the group. Real still has a trip to Manchester, but the game’s unlikely to make-or-break their knockout round hopes.

Standings – Borussia Dortmund 8 pts., Real Madrid 7, Ajax 4, Manchester City 2

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”