Spain roundup: Ronaldo hat trick, Bale double lead Real Madrid’s rout of Sevilla

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Jokes about Gareth Bale’s failed move to Real Madrid had become so odious that the Welsh international’s Wednesday performance should be seen as an act of charity. His two goals within 27 minutes at the Bernabéu not only silenced that tedious analysis but ignited a breakout from the Blancos, Real Madrid going on to win 7-3 over visiting Sevilla.

Bale, that unskilled clot truly prescient analysts rightly passed judgment on after five La Liga matches, is now up to three goals in six Primera Division game – an unacceptable one-in-two rate from a wide attacker. Though he’s only been in the Spanish capital for a couple of months, this far-fetched experiment has gone on for too long. Its time to ship him back to Tottenham — nay, Southampton — once and for all.

In the real world, Real’s world record had them up two within a half-hour, with Cristiano Ronaldo adding the first of his three goals from the spot in the 32nd minute. Sevilla, however, would respond with a pair before halftime, Ivan Rikitic (penalty) and Carlos Bacca making it a one-goal game at intermission.

By the hour, Real Madrid had restored their there-goal lead, with score from Karim Benzema and Ronaldo making it 5-2. Rakitic’s second brought Sevilla within two before a third from Ronaldo, a missed penalty kick from Rakitic, and a Stephane M’Bia sending off ended the visitor’s hopes. When Benzema completed his double in the 80th minute, Real Madrid had their highest scoring day of the season.

For Bale and Benzema, their contributions went beyond the goals column, Each player added two assists while giving their best performances of the season. For Bale, the performance helps the winger move beyond the injury-riddled start to his Real Madrid career, while Benzema’s day comes after being excluded from the starting XI for this weekend’s Clasico.

As for the team, coming into the contest El Real had scored 20 times in 10 games – a prodigious rate, but one that put them behind Barcelona and Atlético Madrid on the league’s goal scoring charts. With today’s outburst, Real temporarily pass their crosstown rivals, who will try to improve on their 26 goals against Athletic tomorrow.

Defending, however, is still a problem for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. In today’s shootout, they gave up three goals, an unconverted penalty, and 16 shots (six on target). While Barça and Atlético have held their opponents to seven goals each, Real Madrid has now conceded 14 times this season.

Elsewhere today in Spain:

Real Valladolid 2-2 Real Sociedad: A pair from Antoine Griezmann had the visitors up two by the 53rd minute, but a three-minute outburst that produced goals from Daniel Larsson and Javi Guerra left the match even in the 78th minute. Sociedad were ultimately denied their third-straight win.

Valencia 1-2 Almería: Los Che suffer the indignity of being the first team to lose to Almería, with goals from Marco Torsiglieri and Aleix Vidal giving Spain’s cellar dwellers three points at the Mestalla. Jonas opened the scoring in the first half with a conversion from the spot after a Rodri penalty, but with six saves in Almería’s goal, Esteban Suárez never conceded from open play. Already under pressure, Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic could see a pink slip after this one.

Osasuna 3-1 Rayo Vallecano: Osasuna came into the match with Spain’s second-worst attack, an ailment cured by Rayo’s league-worst defense. Oier’s first minute goal gave the home side an immediate lead, an edge Oriol Riera doubled 12 minutes later. Early in the second, Roberto Torres completed Osasuna’s scoring, with Alejandro Gálvez pulling one back after Miguel Angel de las Cuevas had been sent off.

Baroni fired by Serie A basement club Benevento

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) Benevento fired Marco Baroni and named Roberto De Zerbi its new coach after becoming the first squad in Serie A history to lose its first nine matches of the season.

The southern Italian club is the only team in Europe’s five major leagues without a point.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Benevento also announced it fired sporting director Salvatore Di Somma.

The moves on Monday came a day after a 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Benevento will have to pay Baroni 800,000 euros (nearly $1 million) as part of an anti-firing clause in his contract.

Baroni guided Benevento up from Serie B last season.

De Zerbi last coached Palermo nearly a year ago before being fired by the Sicilian club.

It’s the second coaching change in Serie A this season, after Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli at Cagliari last week.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

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34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

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All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in dual nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.