Quiet Saturday for Premier League’s U.S. Men’s National Team players

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Five Americans dressed in Saturday Premier League action, though with the possible exception of Geoff Cameron’s contributions for Stoke, it was a quiet day for the league’s U.S. Men’s National Team members. Four saw action, three in starting roles, with the typical U.S. goalkeeper duo between the posts for Everton and Aston Villa.

Now more than halfway through the season, it’s worth considering which American is having the strongest Premier League season. Who you choose might be come down to how you feel about goalkeepers. If you are high on the importance of the position, Tim Howard will probably be your choice, while somebody who sees goalkeepers as either ‘great’ or ‘everybody else’ might tab Cameron.

Then there’s Clint Dempsey. Even while fighting for playing time, “Deuce” is on pace for around eight goals and eight assists in all-competitions. Cameron may be in the middle of a strong debut at the Britannia, but Dempsey’s near-double-digit pace in goals and assists is hard to overcome.

Geoff Cameron, Stoke City – The former Houston Dynamo had another strong day at right back for Stoke. Although the final score hinted Stoke’s defense had a difficult day, Cameron has no reason to hang his head. Two own goals and a penalty given up by Robert Huth contributed to the Potters’ 4-0 loss. During one first half attack by Chelsea, Cameron dispossessed the attacker, won possession, and carried the ball from the edge of his area into Stoke’s attacking half, sparking an ill-fated counter.

Clint Dempsey, Spurs – Dempsey came off the bench and provided some spark (read: good effort) for Spurs over the last 21 minutes, but in a match that ended 0-0, his contributions were inconsequential. Andre Villas-Boas’ swap of Emmanuel Adebayor for Dempsey didn’t have the desired effect, with an athletic Spurs side that controlled the middle left with little influence in the final third.

Brad Guzan, Aston Villa – The U.S. No. 2 stopped all four open play shots that came his way, but unable to save Ricky Lambert’s first half penalty kick, Guzan allowed the only goal in Villa’s 1-0 home loss to Southampton. At one point Guzan was nearly chipped from just outside the penalty area, a misread leaving his goal wide open. The shot ended up floating well wide.

Tim Howard, Everton – Howard’s defense did most of the work, limiting Swansea City to three shots on goal during a 0-0 at Goodison Park.

Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa – The former Tar Heel made Paul Lambert’s bench but didn’t see any action at Villa Park.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.