Rodney Wallace went down hard in the second leg of the Western Conference final, lasting only one half of Portland’s season-ending loss to Real Salt Lake. Turns out his 2013 campaign may not be the only thing that ended with the fall. Having suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament and a “non-displaced tibial plateau fracture,” Wallace is set for a 5-7 month recovery after undergoing surgery on Thursday.
Break out your iCals and do a little projecting, and Wallace could be back by April – one month into the new season. He could also be gone until June, in which case, he’ll miss the 2014 World Cup.
Capped 16 times by Costa Rica, Wallace would have been a left-sided option for Jorge Luis Pinto in Brazil. Now, even if he comes back by April, Wallace may not see his way into the Costa Rican squad, the 25-year-old unlikely to be fully game-fit by the time the Ticos boss decides on his 23-man squad.
That miss would be a huge disappointment for Wallace, who is coming off the best season of his professional career. The former D.C. United defender won a spot in Caleb Porter’s attack early in the season, going on to post career highs in goals (7) and assists (6) while helping the Timbers to the Western Conference’s best regular season record.
Now a long-term absence, Wallace’s recovery makes the Steve Zakuani acquisition even more important. Though the Timbers have Kalif Alhassan in reserve, the Ghanian midfielder is a completely different type of talent – more of a playmaker than a “slasher.” Zakuani, on the other hand, is somebody that can get goals when healthy, having reached double-digits in 2010 (10).
[MORE: MLS Re-Entry Draft: As predicted, Portland find a way to get Steve Zakuani]
Once Wallace recovers, he’ll team with Zakuani to go two-deep on the left, but how quickly he can compete with Portland’s newest winger could determine whether the Costa Rican appears at his first World Cup.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.