MLS Real Salt Lake FC Dallas Soccer

Dallas is on top of the West, but let’s reserve judgment (for now)

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Everybody’s missing players, but it seemed like Real Salt Lake was hit harder than most. Their leading scorer (Alvaro Saborío), midfield linchpin (Kyle Beckerman), and starting goalkeeper (Nick Rimando) were out. So was their first choice right back (Tony Beltran) and their current starting left back (Abdoulie “Kenny” Mansally). Javier Morales was out, and their best defender (Nat Borchers) was getting his action of the season.

I believe they call that patchwork, but FC Dallas didn’t care. After all, you don’t get docked points because your opponent’s short-handed.

Instead, it’s incumbent on you to take advantage of situations, which is what FC Dallas did in their 2-0 win over RSL in Frisco. Check out the highlights, then meet me below for the discussion.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew2kdjEAYE4]

Dallas were missing players of their own, but not in critical spots. Forward Blas Pérez was absent from a position of strength, his international duty with Panama leaving Dallas to start their a comfortable five-midfielder formation. Raul Fernandez was away with Peru, but Chris Seitz provides an enviable option in reserve. Dallas got the better of the international week trade offs.

Those trade offs paid dividends in the second half, when Fabian Castillo broke through in the 70th minute with a left-footed blast into the top of Josh Saunders’ goal. Attacking through the left side of the box, Castillo appeared to be at a sharp enough angle for Saunders to handle the shot, but when the placement gave the former Galaxy keeper little chance to keep things even, Dallas had the only goal they’d need.

But just in case there was any doubt, Saunders gave them another goal. Lovel Palmer, being harassed by Jackson, played a short backpass to his keeper. It put Saunders in a bad place, and when he elected to take a touch to try and get the ball onto his left foot, Saunders only made things worse. Jackson eventually used a hook slide to poke the ball away from Saunders and into the RSL net, adding a goal to his assist on Castillo’s goal.

The 2-0 result leaves Dallas with nine points through four games, but we still need to see more from Schellas Hyndman’s crew. Their wins have been over a depleted RSL, a gift-giving Colorado, and a Houston team left wondering where the ref’s whistle was on the game winning goal. In the middle, they lost 3-1 to Chivas USA.

You can only win the games they give you, so Dallas certainly deserve their place atop the Western Conference, but given their March schedule and the lingering question of whether they can integrate all their striking talent, let’s take a wait-and-see before re-assessing Dallas’ place in the pecking order.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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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.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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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.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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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.