Houston and Chicago battle to 1-1 draw in crucial mid-table tie

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Cameron Weaver scored Houston’s first goal from a forward since early May and Mike Magee grabbed yet another score as the Dynamo and Chicago Fire played to a 1-1 draw.

In a match with major implications for later in the season, two teams fighting for a spot in the playoff sector both battled hard but could do no more than share the points.  With so much up for grabs, both teams will be relatively disappointed not to snatch all the spoils.

The game began possession-centric as neither team sat back but neither team wanted to risk conceding first either.

Bobby Boswell thought he had the opener in the 18th minute with a far-post header off a Corey Ashe cross, but the assistant referee’s flag went up.  Replays showed Boswell was on, although Ricardo Clark may have been barely off next to Boswell.

Both teams were forced to make first-half injury substitutes.  Houston’s Alex Driver suffered a right Achilles injury with Brad Davis coming on for his 300th MLS appearance earlier than Dominic Kinnear had hoped.  Chicago were forced to sub defensive midfielder Alex after a yellow-card challenge from Giles Davis.

The Dynamo had another near-miss in first half stoppage time when a horribly lazy back-pass from Bakary Soumare almost gave Cameron Weaver an open net but Paolo Tornaghi came out well to smother the chance.

The first half ended scoreless, with little action on goal otherwise.  Both teams had chances to build but not much otherwise.

In the second half, Houston came out with more determination and a more attacking sense, and developed many more chances early.

Chicago’s best chance of the match fell in the 58th minute when Jalil Anibaba sliced in a low cross to Joel Lindpere who skied it way over.

Weaver won the ball on the right wing at the mid line, and sent it across for Corey Ashe.  Ashe sent the ball through for a streaking Brad Davis, who cut it back across the face of goal for Weaver who sidestepped it in.

The goal blasted the game wide open.

Houston’s lead didn’t last long as two minutes later Patrick Nyarko navigated traffic in the box to send it across the face from right to left and Magee was there for the tap-in.  The goal from Magee is his seventh score in nine matches since joining Chicago in late May.

Chicago almost got a cheap goal when the ball deflected to Chris Rolfe on a breakaway but Tally Hall’s fantastic diving save kept the low shot out.

The Dynamo continued to pepper Chicago’s goal, but the Fire held well. In the 77th minute Boenik Garcia found Barnes who was smothered again by Tornaghi before being cleared. Then the 83rd minute saw a cutting bit of passing find substitute Jason Johnson but his open shot was saved by a diving Tornaghi.

Houston dominated possession the rest of the way but could not unlock the Chicago defense for a late winner.

The draw slots Houston back into the top-5 in the East after a quick dip down following New England’s win earlier in the day.  For Chicago, they remain five points back of Houston for that final playoff spot, although there’s still plenty of time to make something happen.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.