Western New York Flash may have the last three titles (in three different leagues), but the Boston Breakers carry the claim of being the only franchise in the new National Women’s Soccer League to have also played in the WUSA and WPS, the first two attempts at professional leagues in the U.S.
The Breakers are now led by Lisa Cole, who was Tony DiCicco’s assistant in WPS and who took over as head coach last year, when Boston played in the semi-pro WPSL Elite League during the year of limbo for a women’s top flight.
Cole’s team should have no trouble scoring goals, but it lacks a proven No. 1 goalkeeper, and without that, it could be a very long season for Boston. That could prove for some high-scoring, entertaining games if the Breakers just aim to outscore the opponent.
Who you know: Boston was allocated speedy U.S. forward Sydney Leroux (pictured) and fan favorite right midfielder Heather O’Reilly to build the attack around. U.S. defender Heather Mitts announced her retirement just last month and would have been the other allocated U.S. player for the Breakers. This will be Leroux’s first professional league after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Beat in 2012 but never seeing the field due to WPS folding. O’Reilly has been in top form this calendar year, which is a good sign for Boston and the United States.
Who you should know: Besides the fact that these two players are top contenders for coolest hairdos in the league, Lianne Sanderson and Kyah Simon could end up being the life of Boston’s attack — the engines that setup Leroux and O’Reilly. Veteran defenders Cat Whitehill and Kia McNeill will be tasked with leading the backs…and the team.
What it means: Like a few other teams in the league, Boston’s outlook is something of a tossup. The Breakers are likely a middle of the table team, but whether or not that means sneaking into the Top 4 and the playoffs or dropping toward the bottom of the table will likely depend on coaching and how well the backline performs. The potent attack will need to live up to that billing, too.
Boston opens the season at home against the Washington Spirit on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
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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.
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.