Lamar Neagle, DeAndre Yedlin

Tracking MLS Rookie of the Year: Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown still ahead of the pack

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If we’re picking Major League Soccer’s Rookie of the Year Matchup, it’s no race at all. In fact, it’s a shellacking; it’s Seattle’s DeAndre Yedlin vs. the LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes, a one-on-one battle that played out wonderfully last week in the teams’ 1-1 draw.

Anyone else think we might be watching that little flank skirmish play out again and again over the next few years – until one of them flies the MLS coop for a more lucrative scratching ground, at least?

But we’re not talking about Rookie of the Year Matchups – who has ever heard of such a thing?

We are still dealing with regular ol’ Rookie of the Year in MLS, and that takes us right back to the same Rapids we’ve talked about for months. Zardes and Yedlin (pictured, in the center) are still hanging in there, but still behind …

Our current frontrunners …

1. Colorado Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers:

If you consider that Powers is essentially keeping Martin Rivero off the field – it’s a little complicated, all depending on how Oscar Pareja configures his midfield, but the bottom line is that Powers is starting and Rivero is mostly in reserve – that is a huge argument in his corner. Rivero was The Man for the Rapids in preseason, the hub of things at DSG Park.

Powers has four goals and five assists, which aren’t numbers that jump off the page, but are pretty outstanding when you consider that he plays frequently as a holding midfielder.

2. Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown:

It has been interesting to watch as Pareja has managed the rookie forward’s minutes, bringing him off the bench lately. That’s going to dent his Rookie of the Year chances, but the Rapids’ manager probably doesn’t care much about that. Sure, it would be nice if Brown earned Rookie of the Year, and Pareja would be rightly proud.

Then again, that’s not the manager’s main mission. Rather, it’s to get the best from Brown as it relates to the club, and to the club’s playoff pursuits in November (not just the short-term bid to get there). And Pareja’s job is to properly oversee a young player’s best interest, not subjecting him to over-use and the scourge of the so-called “rookie wall.”

Brown has not scored in almost a month, but he remains the team’s leading scorer with seven goals and four assists.

Also in the running: Seattle’s DeAndre Yedlin, New England’s Andrew Farrell, LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.