Rio Tinto 3

Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final: How the teams got here

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We previewed the final here. But how did the teams arrive into Rio Tinto Stadium for the final of this centennial, 100th  edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup:

(Remember that MLS teams join the competition later than clubs from lower tier leagues; both of Tuesday’s finalists joined in the third round of tournament play.)

REAL SALT LAKE

Third Round: The run was almost over before it started as the visiting Atlanta Silverbacks from NASL took the MLS club into overtime at Rio Tinto Stadium. Kyle Beckerman scored early, but the men from Utah needed late goals from Devon Sandoval and Khari Stephenson for a 3-2 overtime win over the Silverbacks.

Fourth round: Sandoval, a rookie having a sensational season, mostly off the bench in league play, kept producing the Open Cup goods. He had two goals in this one as Real Salt Lake scored a 5-2 win over the Charleston Battery from the USL PRO league. This one, also at Rio Tinto, was closer that it looks, also extended into overtime.

Quarterfinal round: RSL’s outside backs roared in this one as Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert came forward to score on either side of halftime. Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio scored late in the 3-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks of NASL in Sandy, Utah.

Semifinal round: Real Salt Lake prevailed in the tightly contested and highly anticipated clash with the Portland Timbers. Saborio and Joao Plata hit goals for the home team, while Diego Valeri’s late goal for Portland provided the final margin in the 2-1 win. It put  Jason Kreis’ club into a final for the first time since the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League title game. (RSL fell to Monterrey from Mexico on aggregate in that one.)

D.C. UNITED

Third round: Following a scoreless regulation in Richmond, Va., against the Richmond Kickers from USL PRO, United advanced through a PK tiebreaker, 4-2. Dwayne De Rosario, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon and James Riley converted their penalty kick attempts for United.

Fourth round: In a meeting of MLS sides, United claimed a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in a match in Boyds, Md.  Dwayne De Rosario, in his best moment for the club in 2013, scored all three United goals. De Rosario thus established himself as the third Black and Red man to record an Open Cup hat trick; Raul Diaz Arce (2000) and Abdul Thompson Conteh (2001) were the others.

Quarterfinal round: It was De Rosario rising once again in a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution in another all-MLS meeting. Chris Pontius and Lionard Pajoy also scored for Ben Olsen’s team in the match in Maryland.

Semifinal round: Real Salt Lake never had to travel during its Open Cup pursuits. D.C. United, meanwhile, won twice on the road. This was one, as Olsen’s team took a 2-0 win from the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview, Ill.  De Rosario’s goal just before intermission was the winner, while Nick DeLeon’s 48th-minute strike helped provide the visitors some safe distance.

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(MORE: Match preview, Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United)

(MORE: A domestic soccer “Treble” could loom, but this is the first box to check)

(MORE: Where would a United win rank among Open Cup upsets?)

Report: Atletico’s Fernando Torres has interest from MLS, NASL

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 16
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
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Spanish outlet Marca claims that a number of North American sides are among the clubs chasing Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker has only scored more than 11 goals once since 2009-10, and is uncapped since 2014. But that doesn’t mean clubs from China to to the U.S. and the UAE to Japan aren’t interested in the 31-year-old.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

The Marca report claims three MLS teams are interested and also name drops the New York Cosmos of the NASL, who’ve recently brought Venezuelan legend Juan Arango on board.

It’s hard to imagine anyone outside the MLS rich sides taking a risk on Torres. Maybe Montreal would look to reunite him with Didier Drogba, and Torres certainly has experience combining with New York City’s David Villa. As for the third… Orlando City? Chicago?

Your guess is as good as ours, though it could be moot if this is solely about money. China continues to spend well.

Difficult fixture run looms as Aston Villa aims for great escape

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa (3L) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal with a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park on January 12, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Gabriel Agbonlahor is riding high, as the Premier League Player of the Week broke his duck this weekend and is thinking “great escape” for his Aston Villa side.

Villa has eight points in its last five matches, doubling its season total to 16. That’s still table bottom, but Remi Garde’s bunch would love to see their way out of the drop zone after a brutal start to the season under Tim Sherwood.

What would it take for Villa to pull that off, and avoid the first Premier League relegation in club history?

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Week ]

Turns out, a lot.

There is no easy match in the next five, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are all on the schedule after that.

Villa next five matches
Feb. 14 – vs. Liverpool
Feb. 27 – at Stoke City
March 1 – vs. Everton
March 5 – at Manchester City
March 12 – vs. Spurs

The Villans do have three relegation six-pointers left, and two of those are at Villa Park with Bournemouth and Newcastle United. Villa also heads to Swansea City.

But Villa has to make up 12 points on the Cherries, 11 on Swans and eight on the Magpies. And while they are within two goals difference of Newcastle, they have eight goals to make up on Bournemouth and 11 to make up on Swansea.

That doesn’t include Sunderland and Norwich, sides four and seven points ahead of the Villans (though both have tricky runs left as well).

If Garde’s club is to make its escape, it will be close to unbelievable. That it will close with a match against Arsenal makes it even trickier, but that would be just the final impressive note in what could only be considered a Garde-conducted masterpiece.

VIDEO: Recapping the top stories from an intense Week 25 in the Premier League

JPW at Stamford Bridge
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What a weekend. Let’s relive it.

Round 25 of the Premier League provided plenty more thrills, shocks and excitement as two unlikely title contenders — Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur — are pushing ahead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Our own Joe Prince-Wright recaps all the major headlines from what could turn out to be a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League news

Click play on the video below to join JPW as he battles the elements and checks in from outside Stamford Bridge in London following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

WATCH: USMNT’s Gonzalez nets first for Pachuca, earns exuberant “Gol” call

Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez
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Come for the goal, stay for the “Gol” call.

Or should we say the “Gol. Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Gol” call.

[ MORE: Angry Louis van Gaal rips journalists for “inventing” stories ]

USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez has opened his account for Pachuca with this 88th minute header, and it’s worth it if just for the auditory performance.

Gonzalez also pulls out the high-capacity weapon celebration, though he’s apparently opted to do the version closer to the “Scarface” finale (Spoiler alert).