Why FC Dallas’ addition of Peter Luccin looks intriguing

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Major League Soccer is not a place for 33-year-old central midfielders, generally speaking. The heat of a U.S. summer, combined with the debilitating tread wear of travel across a big land is a less-than-ideal recipe for box-to-box guys who operate centrally.

However, a holding midfielder into his 30s in MLS? Examples abound of where a smart athlete, properly placed and able to recognize his limitations, can greatly boost a club.

That’s why the FC Dallas’ signing of former Atlético Madrid defensive midfielder Peter Luccin looks intriguing.

Going all the way back to a terrific Miami Fushion side of 2001, I always thought the contributions of a smart, veteran holding presence in MLS has been underrated. Ian Bishop (pictured), I thought, never got enough credit as a real linchpin of that Supporters Shield winner from South Florida.

Same with Daniel Hernandez’s contributions to Dallas’ 2010 MLS Cup runner-up side. Heck, look at how much David Beckham, at age 37, provided to the Galaxy’s recent MLS Cup title defense.

Yes, a guy like Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso will cover more defensive ground and provide more two-day midfield drive. But Bishop, Hernandez, Beckham and others know they cannot be Alonso in terms of legginess and hard-tackling range. So they hold, smartly and reliably, knowing where to be and when to be there in defense screening capacity.

Their real value is in steady, comfortable and simple distribution, which isn’t nearly so easy as it sounds. The ability to work the angles and find just the right spot, to make things easy on defenders who want to move the ball smartly and sharply out of the back, is invaluable.

It’s why guys without much of a “wow” factor can still contribute here.

As for the 33-year-old Luccin, we’ll have to wait and see; he hasn’t played much over the last four years. But the ability to contribute certainly exists in MLS.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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League Cup wrap: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET