Seattle ends losing streak in LA draw, but not without controversy

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It was Seattle’s best performance since their slide began on Oct. 5, but it wasn’t enough to get them full points or jump Los Angeles for third in the West. After Sunday’s season-ending 1-1 draw with the Galaxy, the Sounders stay fourth in their conference, relegating them to a mid-week playoff game with Colorado for the right to join the West’s semifinalists.

Seattle got on the board early thanks to LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo’s mistake, though you may hear it referred to as Clint Dempsey’s first Seattle goal. Both descriptions are correct, but if the Panamanian international hadn’t grossly misjudged a Lamar Neagle cross, the U.S. captain wouldn’t have been given an empty net to open his Cascadia account. After 30 minutes, Dempsey finished from just inside the six-yard box to put Seattle up, 1-0.

They’d take that lead into halftime, though by all indications, they were lucky to do so. That’s because an Omar Gonzalez header late in the half failed to get LA on the board, even though replays clearly showed the ball had crossed the line. From 12 yards out, Gonzalez headed down toward the middle of Michael Gspurning goal, with Osvaldo Alonso attempting to clear the would be equalizer. The shot, however, bounced one foot inside the Seattle goal before the Sounder midfielder cleared it. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the lineman saw things differently and kept the score at 1-0.

The second half resumed where the first had left off, with Seattle largely controlling possession while the teams shared shots on goal. As the half bled on, Los Angeles began to assume more control as they pursued an equalizing goal. By the 75 minute mark, the Galaxy were full control of the match, a control Seattle was complicit in as they tried to preserve their lead.

That gave Robbie Keane’s equalizer the feeling of being preordained. With Seattle unable to do anything significant going forward — seemingly more and more willing to try and get the game to full time — it was only a matter of time before a goal like Keane’s. The Irish international volleyed an attempted clearance into the turf from 18 yards out, the ball hitting just inside the Seattle are before flying into Gspurning’s right side netting. Ending the pressure that’d built since halftime, LA pulled even with Seattle, 1-1.

Seattle leveled play over the match’s final quarter hour, earning a series of corner kicks that stressed Los Angeles over the match’s final moments, but Penedo was never seriously threatened before the match’s final whistle. Having recoiled to preserve their lead, Seattle gave back their chance to avoid the playoff’s first round, relegating themselves to a rematch with the Colorado team that started all of Seattle’s troubles.

Those troubles include a seven–match winless run they’ll carry into the playoffs, though Seattle’s silver-lining sees their four-match losing streak come to an end. Dempsey got his first goal, Michael Gspurning performed well in his return – there are a number of seasons to think this a step forward. Unfortunately, that step wasn’t enough to avoid a fourth place finish.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, can look at this as a point well won, particularly given the misfortunate on Gonzalez’s non-goal. But without the services of Juninho, Todd Dunivant, and A.J. DeLaGaza (still), the Galaxy still got a resultson the road, one that will ensure their potential run to a third-straight MLS Cup will be one match shorter than last year’s.

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.