West Brom 1-1 Everton: Missed opportunity for Roberto Martinez’s Toffees (video)

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Everton missed its chance to spend a few extra days in that enviable fourth spot of the Premier League table following a 1-1 draw Monday at West Brom, where the Pepe Mel era started with a semi-positive result.

Everton, without much pep but mostly in control, took a 1-0 lead at the Hawthorns on Kevin Mirallas’ goal before the break but gradually yielded initiative to the Baggies. Diego Lugano got the first goal in the Mel era – he took over the Midlands club just last week and was debuting Monday as West Brom manager – with a near post equalizer in the 76th minute.

West Brom will need better at home to stay well north of that relegation red line, but a draw with Everton isn’t a bad way to begin. Roberto Martinez’s side stood to have a week or so enjoying life in 4th place (and all that it implies), looking for an opportunity to leapfrog Liverpool and Tottenham with a good afternoon at the Hawthorns.

That “extra time” is because of an FA Cup weekend is ahead. But instead of seeing themselves in the fourth spot though the upcoming FA Cup spell – that 4th place would mean Champions League soccer for Martinez and Co., a high value target for a smaller club like Everton – they’ll remain in 6th, having lost ground in Round 22 to most of teams ahead in the table.

Despite playing at home, West Brom had little of the ball over the first 45 minutes, only bothering Tim Howard once as Everton’s U.S. international comfortably beat away a drive from 20 yards.

A couple other balls went scooting through Howard’s penalty area – mostly from gaps exposed along the flanks as Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines attempted to scoot forward for Everton – but surely not enough to please the new boss.

Everton held the ball enough but seemed to miss the playmaking of injured midfielder Ross Barkley, who is having such a great year under Martinez.

Newly shorn teammate Romelu Lukaku still can’t snap his troubling goalless stretch (the young Belgian hasn’t put one way for Everton since November) but did figure into the visitor’s goal. He was the target as Everton changed up a bit, going long and direct rather than keeping possession along the ground. Mirallas was rampaging into the penalty area as Lukaku was the target of a ball off Everton’s back line.

Two quality touches later, Mirallas’ goal this year was the first between these teams in more than two hours of soccer this season; they played to a scoreless draw back at Goodison Park early in the campaign.

West Brom increased the pressure gradually through the second half and it was Lugano finding the target. The Uruguayan got just a little bit of working room inside Everton defender Sylvain Distin and headed home James Morrison’s driven cross past Howard at the near post.

West Brom’s Nicolas Anelka – notorious of late for controversial quenelle celebration – was bright with ball at his feet but couldn’t find many chances near goal.

LINEUPS

West Brom: Foster, Reid, Lugano, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Morrison, Yacob, Gera (Mulumbu), Vydra (Anichebe 46), Anelka (Berahino 76).

Goal: Lugano 75

Everton: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman (Stones 79), Barry, McCarthy, Osman (Naismith 89), Oviedo (Mcgeady 80), Mirallas, Lukaku.

Goal: Mirallas 41

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.