Previewing tonight’s U.S. Open Cup semifinals

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Finalists for the 100th U.S. Open Cup will be decided tonight as D.C. United visits Chicago and Portland visits Real Salt Lake. They count the same in a technical sense – and yet one just feels so much larger.

There is ample history on the line at Toyota Park in suburban Bridgeview tonight. This is the only chance for D.C. United to salvage something from a season gone wildly awry. And this does look like an improved team, recently fortified by Luis Silva and loanee Donor Doyle.

Chicago can still make the MLS playoffs, but the task remains an uphill climb. Safe to say that for both of these proud clubs, each with some rich Open Cup history, tonight’s encounter rates high on the “meaningful” meter.

The Washington Post’s Steven Goff says Joe Willis will guard goal once again – we talked a little about that at PST recently – and that Chris Pontius is healthy enough to travel.

For Chicago, whatever squad rotation is in the works following the weekend’s big, confidence-inspiring win at Philadelphia, expect to see Mike Magee, a.k.a. Magic Mike, the Fire’s saving grace in 2013, against a Black and Red back line that team officials somehow refuse to improve.

Meanwhile in Utah, two giants collide in a match heavy with significant subplot.

Start here: Wednesday’s winner from Rio Tinto Stadium will host the final. Either site would be epic.

There’s Will Johnson’s return to Real Salt Lake, where he made his MLS bones. An offseason trade sent Johnson to Portland, where he has established himself as captain and a league MVP candidate.

There’s Caleb Porter vs. Jason Kreis, two of the top, young managerial minds in the U.S. game. Porter said he has “looked forward to playing them for a long time.” There are lots of similarities in the teams’ styles, both reliant on possession and disciplined spacing and movement.

RSL is currently top of the West in MLS, and Kreis’ team keeps getting closer to its best 11. Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran, the teams’ top outside backs, are expected to start tonight for the first time since late June.

Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando have played one match since returning from their essential part in the U.S. Gold Cup triumph.

Champions League score picks – Week 2

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The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off Week 2 on Tuesday, so let’s have some fun and try to predict the scores.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Feel free to join in down in the comments section, as I’m predicting another unbeaten week for all five Premier League teams in action.

[ MORE: Group stage predictions ] 

Below you will find score predictions for all 16 UCL games across the next two days.


Tuesday

Group E
Sevilla 3-1 Maribor
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool

Group F
Man City 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli 3-1 Feyenoord

Group G
Besiktas 0-2 RB Leipzig
Monaco 2-1 FC Porto

Group H
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid
APOEL 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday

Group A
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United
Basel 0-2 Benfica

Group B
Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Bayern Munich
Anderlecht 2-1 Celtic

Group C
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea
Qarabag 1-3 Roma

Group D
Sporting Lisbon 1-3 Barcelona
Juventus 2-1 Olympiacos

Court hearing opens into spectators attacking referees

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Witnesses in Uruguay’s capital testified before a judge on Monday about an attack on two referees by spectators at a soccer match.

A male and a female referee were attacked on Saturday during a second division under-19 game between Basanez and Platense.

The next day, the Uruguay Football Association cancelled all organized football as referees protested the violence by refusing to officiate. Officials are expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if they will lift the stoppage.

Witnesses told Judge Julia Staricco it started after a kid threw rocks on the field with encouragement from his father. The female referee’s partner asked the kid to stop, leading to an argument with other spectators who punched and kicked the referees.

An attorney representing the country’s referees union, Fernando de Los Santos, says the officials suffered bruises to their bodies.

“There are several people responsible here: The players, especially who are all young in the under-19 category; their parents, and their families,” de Los Santos said.

“This is not new. We’ve seen this kind of violence in the lower divisions. But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Basanez and Platense clubs have issued statements condemning the violence. Basanez also said it fired one of its players who was part of the attack.

The case is being handled by the same local judge who recently charged three people for violent acts during the Penarol-Nacional derby.

Morata has a warning for Chelsea’s Premier League rivals

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Alvaro Morata believes his fast start to life in the Premier League at Chelsea is only a taster of what is to come.

[ MORE: Who is the PL’s most complete striker? ]

After scoring a hat trick at Stoke City on Saturday in Chelsea’s 4-0 win, Morata spoke to reporters about the chances he missed and admitted he could have had five goals to his name.

The Spanish striker, 24, is clearly not content with simply replacing Diego Costa at Chelsea.

“I am happy with my start in the Premier League but I can do better,” Morata said. “I had two chances at the end of the game against Stoke [but didn’t take them]. I also need to improve my physical condition to be as good as possible.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Can do better. Six goals in your first six Premier League games is a pretty decent return, Alvaro.

Still, you can see what he’s saying. Morata has looked good in fits and starts so far this season but his undeniable quality is there for all to see. He scored three goals and added two assists with his head before Saturday’s breakout where he proved he can also score with his feet.

Morata struggled against Arsenal 10 days ago as he seemed isolated up top and the physicality of the Premier League seems to still surprise him at times.

It is still early days for the Spanish international who joined for $77.8 million (which could rise to $93.9 million) but the way in which he accelerated past Stoke’s defense on his first and second goals, then finished coolly reminded us all that of his schooling at Real Madrid and Juventus.

Morata is now undeniably a contender for the Golden Boot and looks like a more refined, agile replacement for Costa. His quickness of thought and elegance has replaced the brute force and desire of Costa and it seems like it will work out just fine.

Jose Mourinho on Man United’s midfield injury crisis

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Jose Mourinho has been speaking in Moscow ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

[ MORE: UCL team news for PL clubs ]

The Man United boss has had a positive start to the new season with seven wins from nine games in all competitions as his side are second in the Premier League table only on goal difference.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

That said, injuries are mounting up for the Red Devils, particularly in central midfield as Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Michael Carrick are all missing for United’s trip to CSKA.

“We don’t have Fellaini. We don’t have Pogba. We don’t have Carrick. All three midfield players that we lose for this match. The solutions are not many,” Mourinho said. “We are trying not to focus on individual battles in specific areas on the pitch. We are going to have a team with quality and balance to try to win the match. That’s our objective.”

What are Mourinho’s solutions to plug these gaps?

Ander Herrera will likely start in central midfield alongside Nemanja Matic which should be enough but given the extent of the injuries to both Pogba and Fellaini they will also have to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Fellaini was injured by Southampton’s Shane Long on Saturday and Mourinho confirmed the Belgian midfielder would not play again before the international break.

“Fellaini was lucky. It could be a much worse situation but in a moment where we don’t have Pogba and Carrick he becomes even more important than he always is. I expect Fellaini not to be out for a long time,” Mourinho added.

As for Mourinho, he was asked about the decision by the English Football Association to take no further action after he was sent to the stands late on in United’s 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.

“If I am not punished it is because there are no reasons for the sending off,” Mourinho said. “I am happy that it is recognized and I can do my work normally against Crystal Palace. That’s enough for me.”