Bundesliga Roundup: Easy victories for Germany’s top three

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There were very few surprises in Germany this weekend, with Bayern Munich, Dortmund, and Leverkusen all coming away with routine wins. Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen did their best to spice things up with an eight goal thriller, but it would’ve possibly been a bit more exciting had three of the goals not come from the spot. Then on Sunday, Gladbach will try to create a little breathing room in their fourth place, fourth Champions League spot with a win over relegation-threatened Freiburg.

Friday

Wolfsburg 1-1 Hamburg
After a string of four straight wins , Wolfsburg are slipping once more, which is never good when there’s so much competition for Germany’s four Champions League spots. Hamburg took an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu, but Ricardo Rodriguez evened things up with a penalty around the half-hour mark. Both teams did their best to find a winner, but the defenses were up to the challenge and both had to be content with just a point. That’s two draws in a row now for Wolfsburg, leaving them two points behind fourth-placed Gladbach, but Gladbach don’t play until Sunday afternoon.

Saturday

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Nurnberg
Second placed team meets team second from bottom, and no surprises ensue. Leverkusen took revenge after their 5-0 drubbing at the feet of Manchester United, with Heung-Min Son scoring a brace around a goal from Stefan Kießling. Leverkusen’s third win in a row keeps them three points ahead of Dortmund, but they still remain four back of the mighty Bayern.

Bayern Munich 2-0 Braunschweig 
Yes, it’s Bayern still at the top of the table, although beating bottom-side Braunschweig by a mere two goals doesn’t feel that impressive. Perhaps they were saving themselves for a very important midweek cup date with Augsburg? No matter, Arjen Robben had a brace by the 30th minute, and it was all over for the suffering Lions. They need three points to pull them up to safety, but fortunately, have a less intense schedule prior to the winter break.

Hertha Berlin 0-0 Augsburg
The draw, combined with Schalke’s three points later in the evening, means newly-promoted Hertha have slipped out of Germany’s European spots. Augsburg, meanwhile, have hoisted themselves up to 10th, and have a fairly easy run of Hamburg, Braunschweig and Frankfurt to close out the year.

Hoffenheim 4-4 Werder Bremen
Hoffenheim sure do like high scoring games: they’ve put in 32 this season while conceding 34, which at least makes things fun for neutrals. The visitors got things off to an interesting start by conceding two penalties before fifteen minutes were up, both duly convereted by Hoffenheim captain Sejad Salihović. Then Hoffenheim generously gave one back to Werder Bremen, when Sven Schipplock handled the ball inside the area. Aaron Hunt put in the resulting penalty, with Eljero Elia finally scoring from open play less than a minute later to close out the first half. Hoffenheim came roaring back with goals from Kevin Volland and Kai Herdling early in the second half, but Niels Petersen but the visitors within one before the hour mark. That turned out poorly for Hoffenheim, as substitute Philipp Bargfrede scored in injury time to grab a point for Bremen.

Mainz 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Well, Mainz certainly didn’t make this one easy on themselves. Shortly after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the opener for Dortmund, the hosts earned themselves a penalty, but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s equalizer was canceled out by the 78th minute. That’s when Elkin Soto’s handball got him sent off, and sent Robert Lewandoski to the spot. Of course he converted the penalty, but added another for insurance purposes, a penalty given just before the final whistle.

Schalke 04 3-0 Stuttgart
Schalke might be one of the most inconsistent sides in Germany this season, but they had no trouble overpowering mid-table Stuttgart in Saturday’s closing match. Jefferson Farfán scored a brace on either side of the half and, despite a double switch from Stuttgart boss Thomas Schneider, Jermaine Jones put in a third. That’s four unbeaten for Schalke, lifting them into sixth, although they’re still far from where they’d like to be.

Sunday

Hannover – Eintracht Frankfurt
An interesting fact for you: Eintracht have yet to win at home. Hannover have yet to pick up a point on the road. If only this fixture were reversed, we could be spinning in an endless loop of frozen time. Instead, we’ll likely end up with a low scoring draw.

Borussia Mönchengladbach – Freiburg
Freiburg, another team that have yet to win at home, although they’re alright on the road, considering they’re fighting a relegation battle. It matters little, though, since Borussia-Park remains a fortress, with Gladbach having won all six of their home games thus far.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.

Premier League vet Scott Parker calls quits on playing career

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Scott Parker has announced his retirement from soccer after a stellar 20-plus year career in England.

[ MORE: Chile bests Portugal on PKs to reach Confed Cup final ]

The 36-year-old spent almost the entirety of his career in the Premier League, and played with seven teams during his time on the pitch.

“I believe now is the right time to move on to the next chapter in my life and career,” Parker said in a statement.

“I feel incredibly honoured and proud to have enjoyed the career that I have and I’ve loved every moment of it.”

Parker began playing with Charlton after coming up through the team’s youth academy, before completing a move to Chelsea in 2004.

Throughout his career, Parker also spent time at Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham, before finishing up at Fulham this past season.

Three storylines when Mexico meets Germany in Confed Cup semis

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With a place in the final on the line tomorrow afternoon, it’s all or nothing for Mexico and Germany as they meet in the second semifinal at this summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

The two nations have had very similar paths in reaching the final four, after both accumulated seven points during the group stage and showed signs of improvement with every match.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s FIFA Confederations Cup action ]

Here are some of the key battles to watch on Thursday when Mexico and Germany square off for a place in the final.

How does Germany’s youth hold up vs. Mexico’s experience?

Even when Jurgen Low released his roster heading into the Confederations Cup, much was expected of the Germans. After a strong run of play during the group stage, Low’s men have lived up to the billing with an exciting young attack and an improving backline to match.

When Germany meets Mexico though, the defending World Cup champions will be taking on an El Tri side that has loads of international experience, and similar to that of Chile, the Europeans will surely receive all that they can handle.

At the tender age of 23, Julian Draxler captains the Germans and has been challenged with leading his nation throughout the tournament. The PSG attacker has been quality thus far, but he and his side will take on a whole different task on Thursday against a quick, feisty Mexican group.

Will Hirving Lozano be the difference in the attack?

Injuries and a key suspension will certain hinder Mexico in the semifinal round, but the bigger question is: how will Juan Carlos Osorio’s side cope with the losses?

El Tri know it will be without winger Andres Guardado due to yellow card accumulation, while striker Javier Hernandez is in question ahead of the Germany clash after reportedly training by himself on Monday.

Although Hernandez likely just needed rest after a busy season of matches in the Bundesliga, Mexico is still seeking a quality playmaker to replace Guardado on Thursday, one that they’re hoping with be Hirving Lozano.

The newly-signed PSV man has quickly become one of the top young faces in global soccer, and with three international goals for El Tri dating back to 2016, Lozano is the spark that Mexico needs.

El Tri must start fast

In all three of Mexico’s group stage matches Osorio’s side fell behind during the first half. While El Tri managed to come away unscathed to remain perfect in group play, it’s difficult to imagine that they will be able to pull off the same feat against a quality German side.

On the other hand, Mexico’s resilience has been impressive. In their opener against Portugal, El Tri pulled off a late winner against the reigning European champions, a result that likely set the tone for the team’s ensuing comebacks versus New Zealand and Russia, respectively.