Bale scores debut goal as Real Madrid labor to 2-2 draw

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With all the pressure, all the hype, and quite frankly all the money surrounding Gareth Bale’s drawn-out move to Real Madrid, he went a long way towards silencing the critics by scoring a goal on debut.

Los Blancos couldn’t keep two separate leads in a physical battle with Villarreal on the road on Saturday, managing just a share of the points in a 2-2 draw, but in the end Bale stole the headlines.

It came in the 38th minute as Luka Modric played through right-back Daniel Carvajal on the right edge of the penalty area. Carvajal fired a low cross along the face of the goal past Cristiano Ronaldo and fell to a streaking Bale who slid in and slotted it home.

The Welshman tweeted that he was “proud” to get a goal on debut, and that his 60 minutes of time was a sticking point for him too, as he works to get back to full match fitness.

Speaking about Bale and fellow debutant Asier Illarramendi, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said, “I think they did well. I didn’t want to run the risk of playing them for 90 minutes because it is not good for them in their first game for a while. I think Bale is happy because he has scored for the first time with Real Madrid, which is very important for him. It was a difficult game for all of us but he played well and showed a good attitude.”

Throughout most of the match Bale actually looked a bit sluggish, failing to have a serious mark on the match other than his score, but the goal is ultimately what he will be judged on and in that sense the start to his Real Madrid career should be seen as a success.

Real technical director Emilio Butragueno echoed Ancelotti’s sentiments on Bale, saying, “It is great news that he has scored on his debut. It was his first game with his teammates and he has only had three days with them, but he is a player with enormous potential.”

Madrid often looked on the back foot at Villarreal, with goalkeeper Diego Lopez making plenty of acrobatic saves to keep the visitors from their first defeat of the season.  Ancelotti said after the match that he would start Iker Casillas for the first time in the upcoming Champions League match against Galatasaray on Tuesday.

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.


Report: Whitecaps teen sensation Davies could have Man United trial

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The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup saw a lot of young faces in competition, and one name that really seemed to stick came from Canada’s national team.

[ MORE: Five players LA FC should consider selecting in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies has been doing it for both club and country since making his Major League Soccer debut in 2016, and now the young Canada international could be making a massive leap.

According to CTV Edmonton, the 17-year-old has been contacted by Premier League side Manchester United for a trial in January.

Davies would need clearance from the Whitecaps to join the Red Devils to train, however, with it being MLS’ offseason it’s hard to imagine the Cascadia club not allowing the former Edmonton Strikers player to seize the opportunity.

In 2017, Davies appeared in 26 matches for the Whitecaps and registered one assist for Carl Robinson’s side.

Davies has already become a regular with the Canada national team, after previously receiving call ups from the Under-15, U-18 and U-20 teams.