Juan Agudelo in New England’s starting lineup tonight

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The New England’s Revolution’s task of earning sufficient points on the road over the next few weeks got a little easier with the continued injury recovery of Juan Agudelo, who is healthy and fit enough to make an appearance in tonight’s starting lineup against the Red Bulls.

Here’s your bottom-line assessment of the Revs’ playoff chances: it’s a tall mountain to climb, with points desperately needed and three of four remaining matches on the road. Clearly, that’s not a scenario aligned for success.

So Agudelo’s presence helps, at least. His totals this year are encouraging: 6 goals in 10 games, including just seven as a starter. Those productive totals are exactly why the U.S. international is Premier League bound as of January.

So we may be watching the final four matches of Agudelo’s MLS career; Once he’s there, who knows if the man is ever coming back? The other scenario has the Revs’ talented young striker playing the hero, scoring two or three big goals over the next four weeks and then steering his team into the post-season. What a story that would be!

The other thing to note here is another Revs striker – one we won’t see tonight.

Remember that former U.S. international Charlie Davies signed on with the Revs in August. It never looked like a game-changer (although some fans may have still been expecting to see the 2009, pre-devastating injury version … although that guy just isn’t coming back.)

Davies isn’t in the 18-man game-day roster for New England. Again.

It’s only a disappointment to those who didn’t see the situation for what it was – a low-risk gambit that was probably never going to amount to much. On the other hand, this piece from the New England Revolution blog The Bent Musket did have a good point to make about Davies: “Though few expected Davies to serve as the hero of Jay Heaps’ oft-injured attack, Revolution fans anticipated something.”

What they have gotten is just 12 minutes so far. And not even an appearance on the game-day roster as the games reach desperation stage.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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