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The life of Bert Trautmann: Broken neck, Prisoner of War, Man City legend

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Today the sad news arrived that legendary goalkeeper Bert Trautmann has passed away.

The Manchester City legend died at the age of 89, after one of the most encapsulating careers soccer has ever seen.

Trautmann was a German paratrooper who was captured by British forces and became Prisoner of War.

His intriguing and incredible story starts there.

Trautmann made 545 appearances for City between 1949 and 1964 after winning over a nation with his brilliance and bravery, but the German soldier faced fierce opposition when City first signed him, as over 20,000 people signed a petition against him playing for the English club.

However Trautmann’s status as one of the bravest goalkeepers in soccer history still remains today. That’s all because of one brutal moment during the 1956 FA Cup final at Wembley.

In the second half, Trautmann dove bravely at the feet of Birmingham City’s Peter Murphy but was hit hard by the impact. However the German ‘keeper played on for the final 16 minutes of the game… with a broken neck. City won the FA Cup and it’s gone down in history as a day that belonged to Trautmann.

On that day he was immortalized into British sporting history.

Trautmann’s heroics won over his doubters and despite being German, he claimed in later life to be very proud of his time in the UK. “When people ask me about life, I say my education began when I got to England. I learnt about humanity, tolerance and forgiveness.”

Trautmann was written into soccer folklore, after playing on despite breaking his neck in the 1956 FA Cup final.

Despite people having to show a lot of forgiveness to Trautmann when he began his soccer career in England, he soon won them over with one virtuoso display after another. After soccer Trautmann became the first German ambassador to the UK following the second World War and was given an OBE for “promoting Anglo-German understanding through football.”

After that he travelled the world and coached in countries such as Burma and Pakistan, but England always remained close to his heart and he was a fan of Manchester City and attended games in recent years before his health deteriorated.

Personally, growing up and playing the game in England, you would often hear references to Trautmann’s bravery from aging coaches. “What are you crying about a scrapped knee for? There was a goalkeeper who once played with a broken neck, get up.”

Something along those lines often cropped up when youngsters feigned injury or over-reacted on the pitch. Trautmann’s legend lives on amongst many generations.

But even though his life has now come to an end, the soccer world respects his bravery on the field. Trautmann often frustratedly referred to himself as the ‘goalkeeper who broke his neck.’ He will never be forgotten in the British Isles and further afield for that.

Yet Trautmann was much more than that, as the incredible story of his life portrays.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.