Spain teach Ireland a lesson, win 2-0 in friendly at Yankee Stadium

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The lesson for the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday night was the same that so many teams before them had learned – you can pack in as many defenders as you like, but eventually, Spain will get you.

That was the case at Yankee Stadium where the patience and illimitable talent of La Furia Roja earned them a comprehensive 2-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland. The Boys in Green fought valiantly, managing a few quality chances, but were undone by a clinical Roberto Soldado volley in the 68th minute and a perfectly carved through-pass by Santi Cazorla that Juan Mata stabbed home in the 88th minute.

The match was fairly tepid for the opening 12 minutes before some Matador-like footwork by Ireland right midfielder Seamus Coleman left Jordi Alba in the dust. The move put the Everton man clear through to the by-line but his shaped cross was overrun by striker Conor Sammon, whose sprawling bicycle sailed over the bar.

The half-chance shocked Spain to life and for the next 15 minutes, Ireland hardly saw the ball. Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Pedro and David Villa wove their runs in and out of each other’s space, painting the field with short one and two-touch passes that left Giovanni Trapattoni’s men clutching their ankles. It was tiki-taka football in its purist form.

Credit to Ireland, though, as they worked hard defensively, tucking the outside midfielders inside and forming a seemingly impenetrable eight man front. When the Irish did manage to recover possession, nerves set in and the typical response was to lump the ball up the park, a temporary reprieve to death by a thousand cuts. And in the 27th minute, the tactic nearly earned them a goal as Spain center-back Gerard Pique was too lax in his touch and Sammon sniped the ball off the Spaniard’s foot.

The Derby County striker tore down the left side of the field and cut into the box uncontested but the Irishman had too much speed and not enough composure to create his angle. Victor Valdes closed the striker down and Sammon’s effort skirted wide of the far post.

Spain responded with another flurry of passes before Xavi ripped a shot from 24 yards out that went right into the arms of David Forde. Vicente del Bosque’s men continued the onslaught with an array of outside shots and scoop-over passes for Pedro and Villa. In the 32nd minute the two looked poised to break the deadlock as Villa cut in from the left side of the box, skirted past Darren O’Dea and Paul McShane, and found Pedro but the 25 year old’s sliding effort went just wide.

Five minutes later Villa found his way through again but Forde made himself big to make the save. In the 41st minute Pedro showed his class yet again, collecting the ball at the penalty spot, touching right and then going behind his body and to the left before cracking a pill that crashed off the bar.

The second half began much like the first half with both sides trading possession at midfield. Ireland’s defending remained staunch and for some time it appeared Trapattoni’s side might be thinking about pulling off something special. Spain continued to enjoy the lion’s share of the possession but lacked the final entry pass to get in free on goal. Almost out of frustration, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and Pedro all hammered shots from outside that either sailed wide or failed to trouble Forde.

In the 68th minute Spain got their opener as Alvaro Arbeloa danced on the top of the 18 and found Roberto Soldado, on for Villa, to hammer home a first time volley into the bottom corner. Two minutes later Soldado nearly had his brace as Mata, on for Xavi, played a beautiful curling ball between McShane and Sean St. Ledger. Soldado raced onto it, nipping a one-touch finish that beat the Ireland keeper but inched wide of the post.

Ireland continued to fight, however, and their hard work nearly paid off in the 80th minute when James McClean found himself through down the left flank. Like Sammon, the Sunderland man sped into the box on the left side but failed to create an angle, instead opting to smash the ball on goal. And it nearly worked but for a reflexive kick save by Iker Casillas. On the ensuing corner Casillas tipped McClean’s header off the bar and it fell to St. Ledger, who poked home from 5 yards out sending Ireland supporters into hysteria. But the linesman had adjudged Simon Cox to be in an offsides position and replays showed it was the correct call.

Ireland’s dreams of a comeback were dashed in the 88th minute when Cazorla sliced an inch-perfect pass in between St. Ledger and O’Dea that Mata raced on to and hit first time, putting the ball past substitute keeper Darren Randolph. It was a classy link-up between the two Premier League men and their gleeful celebration reflected the difficulty of their work.

With the victory in hand Spain now head down to Brazil for the Confederations Cup while Ireland travel back across the pond for some time off before pre-season training begins.

Serie A roundup: Roma pips Napoli for 2nd, Lazio falls

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Francesco Totti’s legendary career came to a close in fitting fashion as Roma scored a last-minute winner to secure 2nd place in the Serie A table.

On the final day of the season, Napoli’s win at Sampdoria moved them momentarily into second, but Roma snatched the spot back as Diego Perotti scored in the 90th minute to beat Genoa 3-2. Totti had come on as a 54th minute substitute.

[ MORE: Francesco Totti’s career achievements make him an all-time great ]

The win saw Roma end the season on 87 points, one above Napoli’s 86. That puts Roma into the Champions League group stage, while the third-place finish for Napoli places them in next season’s Champions League playoff round. They finish the season with a dominating 4-2 win over Sampdoria that saw four different Napoli goalscorers find the back of the net.

Below the Champions League battle, Atalanta held onto its fabulous fourth-place finish as Lazio fell 3-1 at Crotone. With Lazio already down 2-1 midway through the first half, Angolan defender Bastos received a second yellow card. Down to 10 men, Lazio still controlled the majority of possession but saw themselves outshot, only able to pop off three shots on target. The loss has no significant bearing, as both Atalanta and Lazio qualify for the Europa League group stage, while AC Milan seven points adrift in sixth makes the Europa League third qualifying round.

AC Milan finishes the season a point above rivals Inter despite a 2-1 final-day loss to Cagliari. The game was tied 1-1 down the stretch, but Gabriel Paletta was sent off with 15 minutes remaining, and Fabio Pisacane scored three minutes deep into stoppage time to give Cagliari the win.

Inter, meanwhile, finished the year on a high note as they hammered Udinese 5-2, most notably on a brace from Eder. Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic also scored in the win, while the fifth came on a late own goal. Inter finished the year on 62 points, five less than last season’s 67 which was good enough for fourth place.

Elsewhere, Fiorentina finished a disappointing season with a disappointing 2-2 home draw with last-placed Pescara, while Palermo beat Empoli 2-1 and five goalscorers helped Torino pound Sassuolo 5-2.

USMNT roster announced for pair of World Cup qualifiers

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The regulars are all aboard as Bruce Arena has announced a mostly full-strength roster for the World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago.

The only true regular missing from the 27-man list is midfielder Jermaine Jones, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered back in early May.

Leading the line are Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey up front, with Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood alongside. Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley, and Christian Pulisic headline the midfield, along with Alejandro Bedoya and Darlington Nagbe. Kellyn Acosta is called up as a like-for-like replacement for Jermaine Jones.

Along the back, Geoff Cameron is available for selection after navigating a few injuries this past season. John Brooks is back as well after his muscle tear suffered in late April. DeAndre Yedlin is back as well after missing the last pair of qualifiers with an injury and winning the Championship with Newcastle. Fulham’s Tim Ream is called in after showing improvement all season at the club level. Jorge Villafana returns at the thin left-back position, as is DaMarcus Beasley, who is listed as a midfielder.

In goal, Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, and Nick Rimando present an experienced trio, also supported by 21-year-old Ethan Horvath.

The US takes on Venezuela in a friendly on June 3rd in a warm-up to the pair of qualifiers. First, they’ll host Trinidad & Tobago in Denver on June 8th. Then, on just a three day turnaround, they head to the Azteca to play Mexico.

After earning four points in the last international break, the United States sits in 4th position in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The top three teams advance automatically to the 2018 World Cup, while the 4th placed team can qualify via a two-legged playoff against a team from the Asian confederation.


GKs: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFs: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).

MIDs: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

FWDs: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg).

Totti’s loyalty one of the great soccer accomplishments ever

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During the prematch ceremony to celebrate the retirement of Roma legend Francesco Totti, there were fans crying. There were mascots crying. There were family members crying. There were players crying. The man himself was crying.

When 25 years with one club, no celebration can keep back the tears that naturally follow such a glorious career. Instead, an entire stadium paid tribute in one massive outpouring of emotion.

He was never flashy, he was never self-concerned, he never attracted the spotlight. All Francesco Totti did was give and give and give to his club. As the Italian’s career progressed, the game changed around him, with more and more money flowing through a landscape that gave players every reason to change teams as often as possible.

Through it all, Totti stayed put.

Roma’s Francesco Totti enters the field for his final salute to his fans after an Italian Serie A soccer match between Roma and Genoa at the Olympic stadium in Rome (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino).

At the end of it all, 25 years produced 618 league appearances, and 782 appearances overall. He scored 250 Serie A goals on the nose, and another 66 amid all other competitions. Those are just numbers, and Totti gave Roma far more than a laundry list of big numbers.

But for now, we focus on the bookkeeping, because even those are staggering. 250 league goals leaves Totti 2nd all-time in Italy, behind just Silvio Piola, but even the great 1938 World Cup champion never scored more than 143 league goals for a single club. Only three active players have over 100 league goals.

Totti racked up 618 Serie A appearances, his final one a 3-2 win over Genoa that earned Roma a Champions League group stage spot. That total is good for third all-time, one (for now) behind the great Gianluigi Buffon and 29 back of all-time leader Paolo Maldini. Maldini, who retired in 2009, also spent his entire career with one club in AC Milan, an equally commendable accomplishment. But in the modern game, 8 years adrift of Maldini’s playing days, the overwhelming temptations to move clubs make what Totti has done even more remarkable. Plus, he out-lasted Maldini’s career by a year (24 vs. 25 years active).

A note: only two players in the top 30 list in Serie A appearances are still active: Buffon, and 34-year-old Alberto Gilardino, who has played for 11 clubs in his career and is still 104 appearances back of Totti.

Past all the numbers stands a humble man who served one fanbase as loyally as humanly possible. Totti’s accomplishments are not only among the greatest in the history of the game, but it also may never be surpassed by anyone as long as we live.

Mascherano out 6 weeks, will miss Argentina vs. Brazil

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano will be out of action for six weeks to recover from a right knee injury.

[ MORE: Luis Enrique leaves Barca with feeling of accomplishment ]

Barcelona’s season is over, but the injury will rule out Mascherano from Argentina’s friendly against Brazil on June 9.

Mascherano injured his leg early in Saturday’s final of the Copa del Rey, when Barcelona beat Alaves 3-1 to defend its title for a third straight season.

He also cut his head during the collision with an Alaves player that produced the leg injury. He returned on crutches to join the team celebration.

Argentina doesn’t play its next World Cup qualifier until it plays Uruguay on Aug. 28.