Good Wednesday for Liverpool’s Premier League clubs

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It may have been a scheduling quirk. It may be been intentional. For whatever reason, both of the Premier League’s Merseyside clubs faced Tyneside counterparts on Wednesday, a day that turned to disappointment for the league’s northeast duo. Liverpool dominated visiting Sunderland, rolling the predictably disappointing Black Cats, 3-0, while Everton came back to post a 2-1 victory at Newcastle.

For Sunderland, at no point during Wednesday’s match at Anfield did it appear Martin O’Neill’s men would be able to keep up with Liverpool. A back line lacking speed and athleticism was exploited for two goals by Luis Suárez, his first coming seven minutes after Raheem Sterling’s 19th minute scoop over Simon Mignolet starting Liverpool’s rout.

Suárez’s first goal summed up Sunderland’s day. Running onto a long ball, Suárez touched the ball around Carlos Cuellar while the Black Cats defender overran his man, eventually stumbling to the ground. The Liverpool striker went in alone on Mignolet, blasting his shot off the keeper’s leg and into the Sunderland net.

For Sunderland, it was one of the more duor displays of a season that’s become defined by uninspiring performances. The team only managed 34 percent of the (Opta) possession, were outshot 10-2 (shots on goal), and couldn’t generate a scoring chance for Steven Fletcher, Stephane Sessegnon, or Frazier Campbell. Their only shots on Pepe Reina came from defender Matthew Kilgallon.

On Tyneside, Newcastle got off to a flying start with a second minute goal from Papiss Demba Cisse, creating a situation that should have felt familiar to the Toffess.

On Sunday, it was Everton that jumped out early on their visitors, taking a lead on Chelsea at Goodison Park. Chelsea would claim a goal just before halftime en route to a 2-1 comeback win.

At St. James’ Park, Leighton Baines sparked Everton’s comeback with a 43rd minute rocket. His left-footed blast from 28 yards out swerved into the left side of Tim Kurl’s net, the Newcastle keeper left surprised when Baines’ shot made it cleanly through the Magpie wall.

On the hour Victor Anichebe, subbed on two minutes earlier, ran onto a cross from Nikica Jelavic, his redirection giving Everton their third win in four.

Had Everton put together two good halves on Sunday against Chelsea, they’d be riding a 10-match unbeaten streak out of Newcastle. Even with that disappointment, the Toffees have only lost two league matches since Sept. 1, though their newfound ability to get three points may prove more important than their run.

During the 18 matches since September’s loss at West Brom, Everton had only won seven times, the team just now recovering from a mid-fall funk of draws.

Were they still in that phase, Everton may have drawn a game like today’s. Instead, they got a second goal, two extra points, and gave their fans reason to believe they’ll be able to keep up with Spurs, Chelsea, and Arsenal in the fight for the Premier League’s last two Champions League spots.

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

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The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd, USWNT
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FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.

Beckham group abandons latest plans for Miami MLS stadium

David Beckham
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All signs seemed to point toward an all-too-familiar outcome for the David Beckham-led investment group hoping to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to the city of Miami: another failed plan in their bid to build a brand new stadium.

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Earlier this month, newly-joined all-world sports executive Tim Leiweke warned that groups or individuals currently owning the various parcels of land surrounding the Miami Marlins’ baseball stadium, the latest site Miami Beckham United (MBU) had chosen, were making “unrealistic” demands and threatened to derail the project at that location.

Today, it’s been reported across South Florida that the group has altogether abandoned plans to build their stadium at that particular site. Miami city commissioner Francis Suarez confirmed that MBU were “moving in a different direction” — quotes from Local 10 News:

“It’s going to be withdrawn from the next agenda because the Beckham group has not acquired the private properties that are needed to construct the stadium on that site.”

“The residents expect us to hold these teams to the fire,” Suarez said. “A lot of times they’re financed by wealthy people and they want some sort of a public subsidy, which is very controversial as well, which is why we were going to take it to referendum.”

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

On Sunday, during halftime of the league’s Eastern Conference final, MLS commissioner Don Garber was asked about the Miami stadium situation, to which he responded, “We think Miami will be a great market. We found a reasonably good site. I’m confident that we’ll get something done there.”

MBU is reportedly being held to something of a deadline by the MLS board of governors, which meets every year ahead of MLS Cup, with this weekend’s sit-down thought of as a target date to have something concrete going forward. Meanwhile, Sacramento Republic FC, an MLS expansion hopeful currently playing in the USL (third division), announced last week they would be moving forward with building their brand new MLS-sized stadium, expansion bid or not.