And just like that, the pressure shifts off Chicago Fire manager Frank Klopas – and tumbles once again squarely onto Red Bulls rookie manager Mike Petke.
Chicago was one of the last winless clubs in MLS, and things were looking quite grim for Klopas. Had Sunday come and gone without a win, that would be three in 2013 at Toyota Park for Klopas and company without collecting all three points. In fact, the Fire had lost both home games so far this year, including an embarrassing three-goal humbler to previously unheralded Chivas USA. (Klopas’ team even blew it against second-tier Minnesota in a friendly at Toyota Park last week.)
Honestly, it’s hard to see Klopas surviving a loss Sunday on national TV.
Today, however, we won’t have to ponder that question. That’s because Maicon Santos scored twice in the final seven minutes in a 3-1 Fire win, literally rescuing a season about to slide further off the tracks. Santos (pictured) now has two goals this year, which is two more than starting striker Sherjill MacDonald, whom Klopas seems determined to ride right into the coaching graveyard. (In fairness, his general business did some good Sunday; still, strikers must score at some point.)
On the other side, a New York win last week over Philadelphia had provided temporary respite for Petke, who was winless in his first foursome of matches as a pro manager. Sunday’s loss on the road (even to previously winless Chicago) won’t be the death of his career or anything like that. But the drip effect of pressure going into the coaching offices around Red Bull Arena will get a little faster and heavier as supporters and media look five points collected over six matches for such a talented team.
Especially now with a tough trip into rival D.C. United up next for the Red Bulls, followed by a visit from Sporting Kansas City, which may have finally found its balance following a rough start.
Neither of these coaches is out of the weeds just yet; one just gets the benefit of a few easier days now.
Here are highlights from Sunday’s match at Toyota Park.
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.