Andres Romero, Patrice Bernier, Marco Di Vaio,

What a breakthrough year for unheralded MLS strikers

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If we look at last year’s top goal scorers in Major League Soccer, it really was a case of the “usual suspects.”

The top six were Chris Wondolowski, Kenny Cooper, Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry and Eddie Johnson. That’s kind of a who’s who of known goal producers around MLS.

Furthermore, they were men with big stores of “been there, done that.” Cooper and Johnson were 28 to end last season. “Wondo” was a year older, 29. Henry, Keane and Saborio were already into their 30s.

More to the point here, at least four of them would have been circled as preseason favorites for the 2012 scoring title. Johnson and Cooper may have been slight surprises considering their career detours (or outright derailment in Johnson’s case). But given their histories of production and the fact that both remained in a striker’s career sweet spot (late 20s), their presence among the goal-scoring elite could hardly be called much of a surprise.

But look at the top goal-getters of 2013; this is no list of usual suspects!

These guys are talented, yes, but they are all breakout players in their own ways:

Jack McInerney, Philadelphia (First in MLS, 10 goals) – given last year’s late assault, this isn’t a 100 percent jaw-dropper. But you show me someone who thought “Jack Mac” would have a league-leading 10 goals by early June, I will show you someone who needs to be on the next plane for Vegas, because they are in possession of an actual, working model crystal ball.

Marco Di Vaio, Montreal (Second, 9 goals) – The Impact striker’s first year in MLS was good (5 goals in 17 matches), but it was “nice wine” good, not “$90-bottle champagne good.” So seeing Di Vaio (pictured) hit nine times in 12 matches this year is a real eye opener.

Claudio Bieler, Sporting Kansas City (Tied for third, 7 goals) – This is exactly why Sporting Kansas City imported the veteran Argentine striker this year. But we have seen plenty of strikers utterly fail to get anywhere close to good return on the Designated Player dollar. With DP strikers, we’ve learned to believe it when we see it.

Mike Magee, Chicago Fire (Tied for third, 7 goals) – The just-traded Chicago attacker hit his first for the Fire, adding to the six Magee struck for the Galaxy. So, clearly all the magic wasn’t left back at the Home Depot Center. (And it’s not even October or November yet; Magee tends to save his best for the stretch and for the post-season.)

Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls (Tied for fifth, 6 goals) – Here’s the “outlier” of the list. Everyone paying attention expected to see the graceful Red Bull hit man up among the leaders.

 Dominic Oduro, Columbus Crew (Tied for fifth, 6 goals) – The man did have 12 goals for Chicago in that breakout 2011 season. Then again, Oduro has averaged just 4.5 goals over his other six MLS seasons, so 2011 looked like the anomaly. If he keeps this up, we’ll need to give that a re-think.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

FC Dallas advances, giving MLS three teams in CONCACAF Champions League quarters

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Jesse Gonzalez #1 of FC Dallas throws the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Major League Soccer will have three teams in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League thanks to FC Dallas’ thrilling comeback win on Thursday.

FCD beat Guatemalan side Suchitepéquez 5-2 at the Estadio Mateo Flores after going down by a pair of first half goals.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy UEL goal ]

Carlos Gruezo and Matt Hedges helped Dallas to level terms by halftime, and Atiba Harris scored just after the break to put FCD ahead. An own goal and a must-watch Carlos Lizarazo 90th minute wonderstrike gave us the final scoreline. Gruezo also added an assist.

A tie would’ve been enough to send Dallas through atop Group H, but the big win moves it ahead of New York Red Bulls. FCD will finish seventh at worst.

FCD joins Vancouver and New York Red Bulls as the MLS representatives in the tournament, and the league will have at-worst the joint-most clubs in the quarters.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Mexican sides UANL Tigres and Pachuca are quarterfinalists, while Panamanian side Arabe Unido and Costa Rican stalwarts Saprissa advanced as well.

The field’s eighth team will be set after the 10 p.m. ET matchup between Honduras Progreso and Mexico’s UNAM.

The Whitecaps are the No. 1 seed, and could well match-up with the Red Bulls if there is a winner between UNAM and Honduras Progreso. If Honduras Progreso advances via draw, the Hondurans will be the No. 8 seed.

Florida businessman pleads guilty in FIFA corruption case

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Aaron Davidson, a sports marketing executive from Florida, leaves a Brooklyn court house with his lawyer after pleading not guilty on Friday to conspiracy and other charges resulting from the FIFA corruption scandal on May 29, 2015 in New York City. Since the case was announced earlier this week, Davidson is the first defendant to be arraigned in a U.S. court.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) A Florida businessman pleaded guilty in New York to conspiracy charges Thursday in a scheme to pay bribes to high-ranking soccer officials in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.

Aaron Davidson, 45, entered the plea in Brooklyn federal court. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen was set for April 24, when Davidson could face decades in prison. As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit more than a half-million dollars.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy goal ]

Davidson was arrested last year in the FIFA probe after prosecutors said soccer officials accepted $150 million in bribes over a 24-year period in exchange for rigging bids for lucrative marketing rights. Davidson ran a Miami-based marketing firm. He was arrested along with more than a dozen other people in a case prosecuted in the United States on the grounds that illegal payments used U.S. banks and those involved conducted meetings in the United States.

Prosecutors said Davidson negotiated and agreed to make bribe payments totaling more than $14 million, executing multiple criminal schemes including the agreement to pay bribes to a high-ranking official of FIFA, CONCACAF, the Caribbean Football Union and one of FIFA’s national member associations.

[ MORE: Why Pogba took PK over Rooney ]

The government said the bribes were paid to secure lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches for his company, Traffic USA, and its business partners.

Prosecutors said those sports events included FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League, among others.

The government said its investigation continues.

UEFA president talks up Champions League final in U.S.

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 22:  UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin poses for a picture during UEFA Euro Roma 2020 Official Logo Unveiling on September 22, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is open to the idea of the UEFA Champions League final being played outside Europe.

Specifically, Ceferin thinks about New York.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

Ceferin said Thursday that staging the first ever UCL final away from Europe would be discussed at some point.

From FOX:

“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York. For the fans it’s no problem but we should see. It’s a European competition so let’s think about it.”

Given the preseason matches played in the United States, China, and Australia, it makes sense to stage an important UEFA match outside Europe. Those first two countries especially aim to become power players in the game, and certainly it would benefit UEFA to showcase its absolute finest (if only as a reminder).

We don’t get to see entire first teams playing the game in earnest when friendlies hit U.S. soil, and the successful Copa America showed UEFA that CONMEBOL and CONCACAF trust the States with critical matches.

Selfishly, of course we want this. And selfishly, of course Europe wants to keep it. Their fans wouldn’t necessarily want to take an incredibly expensive trip to see a UCL final.