History’s context: Where does Bayern’s win rank among Europe’s great routs?

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If you’re having trouble establishing context on Bayern Munich’s mastery of Barcelona, that’s a good reason for that. Look back on the 57 years of European Cup competition and you’re unlikely to find a result that carries all the facets that make Bayern’s 7-0 (aggregate) rout of Barça historic:

  • 1. Magnitude – Seven-goal results aren’t unheard of, but even when they happen in Champions League’s preliminary rounds, we take notice.
  • 2. Two-legged tie – To dominate over 90 minutes is one thing. To do it over 180 minutes, home and away, giving your opposition time in between to make adjustments? It’s a higher level of difficulty.
  • 3. Level of the competition – Bayern’s rout happened in the semifinals. Not in the preliminary round, where big versus little country matchups happen. And it didn’t happen in the Round of 16, where the second place team from a weak group could be matched with one of the competition’s favorites. This was one step before the finals, long after each team had established themselves in the competition.
  • 4. Two established powers – It meant something that this was Bayern versus Barcelona. Two members of European soccer royalty, the clubs have a long and successful history to draw on. They also have resources few other teams have. I makes lopsided results like these (at least, from Barça’s perspective) that much more remarkable.
  • 5. Uncertainty before the tie – And if people were expecting Bayern to role, that would put this result in an entirely different light. But there were a lot of people predicting Barcelona would go through over Bayern, lending to the shock of Wednesday’s result.

After thumbing through history, there were a handful of results that come close to matching Bayern-Barça. These three stuck out:

1965-66 – Manchester United 8-3 Benfica

Benfica had appeared in four of the five European Cup finals, losing the previous season’s final game 1-0 to Internazionale at the San Siro. Manchester United, in contrast, hadn’t been in the European Cup since the 1957-58 season, when plane crash on the team’s return from Belgrade, Yugoslavia let to the death of nine of Matt Busby’s Babes.

Meeting in the quarterfinals, United responded to José Augusto’s opening goal at Old Trafford with three goals in 22 minutes, with only a late José Torres goal bringing Benfica, by then two-time champions, back into the tie.

It was an impressive result against a team who, along with two-time defending champions Inter and five-time champions Real Madrid, were one of the competition’s favorites. In Lisbon, however, the Red Devils blew it open. Two goals from George Best in the first 13 minutes gave United a 5-2 aggregate lead. Busby, still managing United, saw his team tack on three more as well gift Benfica an own goal on their way to a five-goal romp.

Manchester United would have to return to Belgrade for the semifinal, losing 2-0 to Partizan en route to being eliminated on aggregate, 2-1. Real Madrid went on to win their sixth title, though two years later, United finally broke through, claiming their first European title at Wembley Stadium. Their opponent that day in 1968? Benfica, who lost 4-1.

1988-89 – Real Madrid 1-6 Milan

By April 1989, Real Madrid were 23 years without a title, but their semifinal tie against Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan was still the most glamorous of the season’s competition. With both teams coming off one-goal wins in the quarterfinals, there didn’t appear to be much between the squads ahead of leg one at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Forty-two minutes in, Mexican international Hugo Sánchez put the home side up, but when Marco van Basten equalized late in the second half, Milan had their result ahead of the return leg at the San Siro. There, Sacchi’s team got goals from Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, van Basten and Donadoni – all before the hour mark. Coming at the expense of Real Madrid, Milan’s 5-0 win stands as one of the more memorable matches of the last 25 years.

The victory announced the arrival of one of the greatest club teams of all-time, a squad that was nearly eliminated in each of the previous rounds. While the team would go on to win the next two Champions Leagues (and another in 1993-94), they needed penalty kicks to get past Red Star Belgrade in the Round of 16. In the quarterfinals, a controversial penalty (converted by van Bastern) was all that separated the Rossoneri from Werder Bremen.

After Sánchez’s opener at the Bernabéu, Milan turned a corner. They scored 10 straight goals over the next 210 minutes, defeated Steaua Bucuresti 4-0 in the final in Barcelona, and went on to become the benchmark against which we measure all great clubs that have followed.

1996-97 – Ajax 2-6 Juventus

Coming off quarterfinal wins over Atlético Madrid and Rosenborg, Ajax and Juventus met in a highly anticipated rematch of the previous year’s final. Then, Juventus took the defending champions to penalty kicks, eventually winning the shootout at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

With two first half goals in semifinal’s first leg in Amsterdam, Juventus jumped out early, with only a second half goal from Jari Litmanen giving Louis van Gaal’s team a chance going to Turin. There, first half goals from Attilio Lombardo and Christian Vieri put the tie away by half time. Juve would go on to win the second leg, 4-1.

Juventus faced Borussia Dortmund in the final, but two first half goals five minutes apart from Karl-Heinz Riedle set BVB’s course for a 3-1 victory. Dortmund won their first European Cup, while Juventus was denied back-to-back titles.

Marcello Lippi’s team made a third straight final the following season, returning to Amsterdam to face Real Madrid. Unfortunately for the Old Lady, the Merengues went on to claim their seventh title, with Predrag Mijatovic’s 66th goal giving El Real a 1-0 victory.


None of these results have the sway of Bayern’s performance. Munich’s dominance wasn’t built on one, lopsided leg. It extended over the entire 180 minutes, and it was done against a team many considered the continent’s benchmark.

That they make it look so easy, not allowing a goal against such a vaunted attack, adds an element of shock. Nobody’s taken back by that Bayern won. It’s how they won.

Just as Milan’s late 80s-early 90s team because a benchmark with its Champions League performances, so did Bayern became a standard with today’s win. Now, whenever there’s a lopsided result in Champions League, the accomplishment will be compared to Bayern’s. Most won’t stand up.


Others that stood out:

1977-78 – Red Star Belgrade 1-8 Borussia Moenchengladbach
1982-83 – Aston Villa 2-5 Juventus
1998-99 – Bayern Munich 6-0 Kaiserslautern
2008-09 – Sporting CP 1-12 Bayern Munich
2009-10 – Milan 2-7 Manchester United
2010-11 – Schalke 7-3 Internazionale

Benevento remains alone in Europe without a point

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ROME (AP) Benevento remained the only club in Europe’s top five leagues without a point after losing at basement rival Hellas Verona 1-0 in Serie A on Monday.

[ MORE: USA U-17s top Paraguay in convincing style ]

Romulo scored with a long volley to conclude a counterattack in the 74th minute.

Benevento center back Luca Antei was shown a direct red card for a sliding tackle late in the first half and Verona striker Giampaolo Pazzini nearly took advantage immediately when he hit the post.

With its first win of the season, Verona moved up to 16th place with six points.

Benevento has lost all eight of its matches.

All of the top-division squads in England, France, Germany and Spain have earned at least a point.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

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Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.

MLS playoff scenarios heading into the final weekend

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Time certainly has flown by, and just like that the MLS Cup playoffs are well within sight.

While the Eastern Conference is all locked up in terms of which teams will be in the postseason, seeding can change drastically on the final weekend.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

Meanwhile, the West sees three clubs vying for one final spot in what has proven to be a very intriguing battle over the last several weeks.

All eyes will be on three teams in the Western Conference as the San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake all have an opportunity to move into the sixth spot.

Below, PST takes a look at where clubs can finish in relation to the playoff race.

Eastern Conference

#1 seed: Toronto FC is locked into the top spot

#2 seed: NYCFC — clinches the two seed with a win; Chicago Fire — clinches two with win and NYCFC draw or loss; Atlanta takes two with win plus NYCFC loss/draw and Fire loss/draw

#3 seed: Fire — finishes third with win; NYCFC — takes third with loss to Crew and Fire win; Atlanta — third with win and Fire loss; Crew — finish third with win over NYCFC and don’t overtake NYCFC on GD, plus losses by Fire and Atlanta

#4 seed: NYCFC — fourth with loss to Crew and overtaken on GD, plus Fire win; Fire — finish fourth with loss and Atlanta win, plus NYCFC win or draw; Atlanta — takes fourth with loss and NYCFC/Fire wins; Crew — fourth with win over NYCFC, Fire win and Atlanta loss/draw

#5 seed: Crew — finish fifth with loss/draw; Atlanta — finishes fifth with loss and Crew win; Fire — takes fifth with loss and Atlanta/Crew victories; NYCFC — drops with loss to Crew, Atlanta win and Fire win/draw

#6 seed: New York Red Bulls are locked into sixth spot

Western Conference

#1 seed: Whitecaps — clinch top spot with win; Timbers — finish first with win and Whitecaps loss

#2 seed: Whitecaps — finish second with loss to Timbers; Timbers — second with loss/draw and Sounders/Sporting KC losses; Sounders — finish second with win and Whitecaps win

#3 seed: Timbers — third with loss and Sounders win; Sounders — loss to Rapids and Sporting KC/Dynamo losses; Sporting KC — finish third with win, Sounders loss and Whitecaps/Timbers draw; Dynamo — third with win, Sporting KC loss and Sounders loss

#4 seed: Whitecaps — finish fourth with loss to Timbers, Sounders/Sporting KC wins; Timbers — loss to Whitecaps, plus Sounders/Sporting KC victories; Sounders — finish fourth with loss/draw and Sporting KC win; Sporting KC — fourth with loss and Dynamo loss/draw; Dynamo — finish fourth with win and Sporting KC loss

#5 seed: Timbers — fifth with loss to Whitecaps and Sounders/Sporting KC/Dynamo wins; Sounders — loss to Rapids, plus Sporting KC/Dynamo victories; Dynamo — finish fifth with loss; Sporting KC — fifth place with loss and Dynamo win

#6 seed: San Jose Earthquakes clinch with win; FC Dallas takes sixth with win/draw and Earthquakes loss/draw; Real Salt Lake clinch with win/draw, Earthquakes loss and Dallas loss/draw

The next Pulisic? A 10-year-old American is heading to AS Roma

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With everything that has transpired since last week’s U.S. Men’s National Team debacle, American soccer fans can use a pick-me-up.

What better could there be than perhaps another young star-in-the-making? Dare I say, the next Christian Pulisic?

[ MORE: Bruce Arena is out as USMNT manager ]

Perhaps, but it’s way too early to say that.

His name is Alessandro Cupini, a 10-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri that is about to complete a dream that a soccer player of any age would be thrilled to achieve.

Less than two weeks ago, Cupini and his family announced that the Kansas City Fusion midfielder/striker would be accepting a spot in the AS Roma academy starting in the Spring 2018, after having trained with the club for the better part of two years off and on.

Pro Soccer Talk had the opportunity to speak with Cupini’s father, Eddie, ahead of his son’s big move to Italy.

“This is something that Alessandro has worked really hard for,” Eddie Cupini told PST. “There are times where I tell him that he needs to take a step back and be a normal kid, but he doesn’t have any of that. He’s an incredibly hard-working and driven kid that does more than most people regardless of his age.”

Alessandro — who recently turned 10 years old — isn’t the typically American youngster though, according to his father.

“There are times where I wish Alessandro would take a break and be a kid, but that’s just not in his desire,” Cupini said. “We built him a mini stadium downstairs where he trains basically every day after school. As soon as he gets home from school he’s doing work down there and always looking for other kids to come over to practice with.”

That’s where the comparisons to Pulisic can be worked into the conversation.

Pulisic followed a very similar path to the professional level when he left his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania at the age of 16 to sign with Borussia Dortmund. Now, he’s U.S. Soccer’s most promising star as the USMNT looks to rebuild.

“We’re very familiar with Christian’s story, and he’s certainly somebody that Alessandro looks up to,” Cupini said.

Cupini is already on the radar of U.S. Soccer and the Olympic Development Program (ODP), which helps identify young talent in the United States starting at the Under-12 level.

However, because of Cupini’s Italian heritage and his unique opportunity to move to Italy next year, Alessandro could potentially have the chance to represent either the USMNT or the Azzurri in the future.

“It’s a long ways away and we’re taking things slow in that regard,” Cupini said in regards to his son’s international plans. “We’d certainly be willing to explore our options, but I think it would be a real dream and his main goal to play for Italy.”

New Jersey-native and former Italy international Giuseppe Rossi made a similar career choice when it came down to choosing a national team. Despite living in the United States for much of his youth years, Rossi appeared for a number of Italy’s youth teams before holding a stint with the senior side from 2008 to 2014.

Prior to making the announcement that Roma would be where Cupini will ply his trade next year, the young American also had the opportunity to train with Italian academies Empoli and Atalanta.

“My father is from Rome, so for Alessandro to have the opportunity to play for his hometown club it was almost a no-brainer,” Cupini said. “We were very grateful to the other clubs for the chance Alessandro had to train with them, but Roma is a club that is very close to our family.