Score one for the Cosmos, using Andre Lewis to cause turmoil with MLS, Vancouver

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Andre Blake may have been the first pick in last Thursday’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft, but within 24 hours of the draft, it was another Andre that had become the draft’s most important player. Now, five days after the Vancouver Whitecaps selected Andre Lewis with the seventh overall pick, the 19-year-old Jamaican remains at the center of a first of its kind controversy, one that’s seen the New York Cosmos exploit a hole MLS’s draft system.

Late last week, news broke that the Cosmos had come to an agreement with Lewis, leaving Vancouver susceptible to being without their first round pick should the 19-year-old join the second-tier club. That speculation was quickly mitigated when the U-20 international tweeted about his excitement at joining the Whitecaps, implicitly confirming Vancouver’s claims that the midfielder was in fact part of the Whitecaps organization.

The truth is more complicated. According to Tuesday’s reports, Lewis will be allowed to join the Whitecaps even though he is under contract to the Cosmos. Though the Whitecaps picked Lewis with the assumption he was signed up, now Carl Robinson’s staff must assess whether he’s worth the extra expense. Should Vancouver decide to add him to their roster by March 1, an agreement between Major League Soccer and the Cosmos would have to be reached, essentially casing Lewis a Cosmos player who needs to be loaned or sold to  MLS.

It’s quite a coup for the Cosmos, who stand to make some money from what’s either a loophole or a failure to get Lewis signed in time, depending on how you look at the draft. With the exception of the Generation adidas class, players aren’t necessarily under contract as the draft process starts, leaving the door open for this kind of exploitation. In Lewis’s case, he attended MLS’s pre-draft combine, impressed, then returned to Jamaica. Sometime before last Thursday’s draft, he signed with the Cosmos.

It’s hard to see Major League Soccer allowing that gap to persist, but in the short-term, it’s a source of some mild embarrassment. The league is being forced to do business with a Cosmos organization it quietly loathes, one that’s engaging in some high-level trolling, picking at the margins of the league to collect any cash they might. Just as NASL investors Traffic USA picked off Tony Taylor and Gale Agbossoumonde five years ago, New York’s snared Lewis now. Though Cosmos Chief Operating Office Erik Stover has claimed the reborn team intends to compete with MLS at the highest levels, the league’s clearly not above engaging in some nickel-and-dime warfare as well.

That warfare has given the Cosmos a chance at an isolated but potentially important victory. If they intend to announcement themselves as competitors for MLS’s inbound talent, there’s no better way to do so than to fire this shot across the draft’s bow. Particularly if the Cosmos can form relationships that give their players a better chance of furthering their career, potentially jumping to Europe sooner and with less hinderance, they can become major challengers for a small but important group of talents.

That might be the next step. For now, it’s a matter of making this Lewis gambit pay off. In forcing MLS into this interim agreement, they’ve already made progress. Now if they can get the league to shell out some money to get Lewis ‘back,’ the Cosmos can celebrate a small battle won.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Man City steps towards the title, Merseyside recap

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect Derby Day, where Man City set the Premier League single season all time consecutive winning streak against rivals Man United, Jurgen Klopp had a bad day at the office against the blue half of Merseyside and Arsenal stutter again away from home.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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La Liga & Serie A: Suarez, Messi pace Barca; AC Milan tops Bologna

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

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Villareal 0-2 Barcelona

The visitors struggled to break down Villareal’s back line throughout the opening 45 minutes, but the Blaugrana were aided by Raba’s second-half dismissal on Sunday. From there, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez helped Barca pick up its 12th win of the season and restore the club’s five-point lead over Valencia.

Messi’s goal — his 525th for the club — matched Gerd Muller’s Barca record on Sunday, while the finish was his 18th in all competitions this season.

Real Betis 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Saul Niguez scored his second goal of the La Liga season to help give Atletico an important road victory against Real Betis. Atleti now sits third in Spain’s top flight, but remains six points behind league leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 0-2 Malaga
Levante 1-2 Athletic Bilbao


AC Milan 2-1 Bologna

Giacomo Bonaventura scored twice on Sunday to give AC Milan a victory at the San Siro. The midfielder opened the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes, before Simone Verdi’s finish in the 23rd minute leveled the match for Bologna. Bonaventura tabbed his second goal of the day in the 76th minute to give the Rossoneri a win and keep the team inside the top seven. Milan currently sits on 24 points through 16 matches.

 

Elsewhere in Serie A

Chievo Verona 0-0 Roma
Napoli 0-0 Fiorentina
SPAL 2-2 Hellas Verona
Udinese 2-0 Benevento
Sassuolo 2-1 Crotone

Second-half burst gives Ajax big win over Dutch leaders PSV

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For only the second time this season, Dutch Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven have lost a league match.

Ajax stormed back for a 3-0 victory over PSV on Sunday in Der Topper, the long-standing rivalry between the two Dutch powerhouses.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from the Manchester Derby ]

The victory moves Ajax up to third place on 32 points this season, while PSV remains atop the league table on 39 points.

David Neres, Lasse Schöne and Donny van de Beek each scored in a span of 11 minutes after the halftime break to five the hosts a comfortable result.

Neres broke the deadlock in the 61st minute when he stunned PSV with a long-distance volley that couldn’t be dealt with by goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.

Schone then found the back of the net three minutes later, while Van de Beek capped off the outing with the dagger in the 72 minute.

Sunday’s win also gives Ajax a slim advantage over their rival in the all-time Eredivisie series, 54-24-53.

Stanford knocks off Indiana to capture third consecutive NCAA title

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Prior to this weekend, only one team in NCAA men’s soccer history had won three or more titles in consecutive years. Now, you can add Stanford to that list.

The Cardinal knocked off the Indiana Hoosiers, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium behind Sam Werner’s extra-time winner.

[ MORE: Kamara, Zimmerman amongst biggest MLS trade moves on Sunday ]

Werner, who also scored the second goal for the Cardinal in Friday night’s 2-0 victory against the Akron Zips, provided the finish in the second overtime after powering a shot over Hoosiers goalkeeper Trey Muse.

On the cold day in Chester, PA, both sides struggled to come up with chances on goal, with the Hoosiers managing just one shot on target in the match.

Prior to 2015, Stanford had never won a College Cup in school history, however, the Cardinal are now tied for sixth in NCAA history with their third championship.

The University of St. Louis has captured the most titles in men’s soccer, with 10, while Indiana’s eight championships rank second.