TUCSON, Ariz. – Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans scored in their first preseason appearances with Seattle as the Sounders ran the show against New England in the desert.
Both teams field something that looked like their first-choice lineups in the opener of the Desert Diamond Cup.
Here is some of what we learned:
- Johnson scored a peach of a goal, working his way free on the left side, cruising into the penalty area and curling a ball into the upper corner. In all honesty, the collecting defending wasn’t very sharp, and an MLS starting forward – not to mention a U.S. international – needs to hit that shot when provided so much room. Still, it was pretty.
- New England midfielder Juan Toja was on the field for about 20 minutes, his first appearance on the preseason, having been slowed by injury. That’s the thing with Toja: it’s not a matter of talent, it’s a matter of keeping healthy enough to bit familiarity and fitness. Plus the issue of keeping a high salary when the New England midfield is fairly well stocked. So, we’ll see.
- These preseason games get overly combative more often than you would think. It is, after all, only preseason. Osvaldo Alonso’s bad tackle on New England left back Chris Tierney summoned up the first little push-and-shove fest. Later, Sainey Nyassi slid dangerously into March Burch, eliciting a little retaliatory slap from the Sounders defender. Both players were ejected.
- Hopefully the ankle injury to Tierney isn’t significant. He was playing quite well, making Mauro Rosales really work and providing a good push from his left back spot. New England officials say Tierney has had an excellent preseason so far.
- Best player in Revolution camp? Scott Caldwell is making a heck of a case. The 21-year-old Revolution academy product was slightly more defensive in the midfield set-up Wednesday, but is naturally a two-way central midfielder.
- Unlike Evans and Johnson, who came back sharp from their periods of international training and matches, Jerry Bengtson wasn’t much of a factor. The Revs striker (and Honduran international) needs to score for Jay Heaps’ team to make progress this year.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.