Gareth Bale blast lifts Tottenham past Southampton

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Tottenham Hotspur went 86 minutes without a shot on goal against Southampton, but when former Saint Gareth Bale broke in from the right late at White Hart Lane, one look from near-30 yards out was all the Player of the Year needed to give Spurs a crucial three points. With his left-footed blast into the corner of Artur Buroc’s goal, Bale unbalanced a match that seemed destined to keep Spurs outside the top four. Instead, the 1-0 victory gave Tottenham a temporarily hold on fourth place.

When Arsenal scored early at Loftus Road (the day’s final game kicking off half an hour after White Hart Lane’s final whistle), it appeared Spurs’ advantage would be short-lived, but with a match-in-hand on the Gunners, Tottenham maintains control of their own destiny. Though they visit Stamford Bridge next week, they’re still in a win-and-in situation. Victories against Chelsea, Stoke City and Sunderland would guarantee Spurs’ return to Champions League.

On Saturday, Spurs looked anything but a Champions League club. Against a Southampton team that’s settling into mediocrity after an early spring rush, Tottenham couldn’t distinguish themselves, drawing on memories of early season struggles that saw Andre Villas-Boas’s side break down once they hit the final third. Had you not known better, you’d have thought today’s was a “tie will do just fine” scenario, though it wasn’t. With Arsenal at QPR later in the day, Spurs needed full points, even if a draw would have served Saints just fine.

Without that point, though, Saints sit in 14th place, only four points above the drop. With a three teams between them and 18th place Wigan, it’s unlikely Mauricio Pochettino’s team can be pulled down. But unable to take advantage of an off day from Spurs, Southampton gets to spend another week in doubt.

All of which is owed to Bale, a player whose every game forces you to ask where Spurs would be without him. Today, the answer would be adrift, with only his long-range strike keeping Spurs from losing the ability to dictate their own course. With goals in short supply between Jermaine Defoe, Emmanuel Adebayor, Clint Dempsey, and Aaron Lennon, Spurs’ chances rest exclusively on the laces of Gareth Bale.

Should they fail to snare a top-four spot, Tottenham may very well find out what it’s permanently like to live without Bale. Without Champions League, Bale may be enticed to move on, and if Tottenham’s end-of-season showing provides any hint to that future, it will be back to the drawing board once the Welsh international leaves North London.

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.