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Major League Soccer positional Top Tens: LEFT MIDFIELDERS

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So many of the league’s premier left-sided midfielders really aren’t midfielders in the strictest sense. It makes this list even more problematic than yesterday’s roster of the best and brightest right-sided MLS men.

Chris Pontius, Fabian Castillo and Mike Magee have found themselves deployed as much at forward as along the outside, for instance. Lee Nguyen and Bobby Convey are more prototypical wingers than true midfielders.

Brad Davis and Camilo could just as easily operate as central midfielders or as left-sided mids who lean considerably to the inside, the way Fulham used U.S. international Clint Dempsey for much of his time at Craven Cottage.

But never mind all that.

All of this is just for conversation anyway. Our next ordering of positional talent in Major League Soccer, the league’s top left-sided midfielders:

1. D.C. United’s Chris Pontius >

Let’s hope this guy can stay healthy, because the sky is truly the limit. Pontius (pictured above) has the brains, the pace, the desire and the finishing ability out of midfield. Let’s just go bold here and predict a giant breakout year, not just around RFK Stadium, but in finally getting a deserved shot at Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team. (Pontius gets ahead of Brad Davis on my list only because of his age, 25, and potential upside.)

2. Houston Dynamo’s Brad Davis

3. New England Revolution’s Lee Nguyen

4. FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo >

Someday the Colombian kid’s soccer brain will catch up with those 20-year-old feet. Signs were abundant that it was happening toward the end of 2012 around FC Dallas Stadium.

5. LA Galaxy’s Mike Magee >

LA Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane is wondering openly these days about why Magee can’t generate at least a wee little chatter about U.S. national team recognition. Ummm … that’s a good question!

6. Vancouver Whitecaps’s Camilo

7. Seattle’s Steve Zakuani >

The big question, obviously, is whether the Sounders pacey blazer along the outside can regain pre-injury form? He never gained full speed in 2012 – didn’t get close, really – so this is a big year in displaying a career fully back on track. If so, expect this list to look different at year’s end, because Zakuani could easily climb.

8. Montreal Impact’s Justin Mapp >

Mapp is fascinating in that he’s been at about the same place for years now. We’re talking about a guy who is only 28, but he’s been a starter in this league for 10 years now. He still has some game-breaking ability; if Mapp could apply it a little more often, he’d be a Best XI type and a national team regular, rather than someone relegated to the outer limits of the U.S. player pool.

9. Colorado Rapids’ Tony Cascio

10. Chicago Fire’s Dilly Duka >

This one is mostly about potential. The former U.S. under-23 was unhappy in Columbus but got the move he wanted and has apparently won the starting position in Chicago. It’s on you now, kid!

(MORE: full roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

USC wins NCAA women’s soccer national championship

Southern California's Morgan Andrews celebrates after scoring a goal against West Virginia during the first half in the NCAA Women's College Cup soccer final, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Katie Johnson broke a tie in the 75th minute and Southern California won the NCAA women’s soccer title Sunday, beating top-ranked West Virginia 3-1 at Avaya Stadium on Sunday.

The second-seeded Trojans (19-4-2) also won the College Cup in 2007.

The Mountaineers (23-2-2) lost for the first time since a 1-0 setback to Georgetown on Sept. 18. West Virginia had a 17-game unbeaten streak snapped, and allowed three goals for the first all season.

Johnson, who also had the winning goal in USC’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Georgetown on Friday, was wide open in front of the net when Leah Pruitt took a pass up the left sideline, beat defender Easther Mayi Kith, and delivered a perfect cross. Johnson simply rolled the ball into the goal to the right of goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

Johnson scored again off an assist from Nicole Molen in the 87th minute.

The Trojans got on the board just 1:22 into play after Julia Bingham directed a corner kick to the top of the penalty box, where Savannah Levin headed the ball forward to Morgan Andrews, whose header from 5 yards eluded Foster.

West Virginia’s Ashley Lawrence, a member of the 2016 Canadian Olympic team, tied it in the 66th minute when she ripped a shot from the top left corner of the penalty box just inside the near post.

After USC took the 2-1 lead, the Mountaineers nearly drew even in the 81st minute on a shot by Heather Kaleiohi that was stopped on a diving save by goalkeeper Sammy Prudhomme.

The Mountaineers outshot USC 21-8 and held a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.

The Trojans joined North Carolina (21 titles), Notre Dame (3) and Portland (3) as the only multiple winners of the College Cup.

USC won its 126th national team title on the same day its men’s water polo team lost 10-8 to Cal in the NCAA final just 45 miles away in Berkeley.

West Virginia, in its first College Cup final, was hoping to claim its first NCAA title in any sport besides its co-ed rifle team, which has won 18 national titles.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN