Gervinho goal gives Roma redemption, sees Juventus out of Coppa Italia

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Clearly deprioritizing Coppa Italia, Juventus head coach Antonio Conte made six changes to his starting XI for today’s quarterfinal at the Stadio Olimpico, leaving the likes of Carlos Tévez, Fernando Llorente, Paul Pogba and Gianluigi Buffon out of the lineup for the Old Lady’s second meeting of the month with high-powered Roma. Unfortunately for Conte, Rudi Garcia did not take the competition as lightly, an approach that paid off when Gervinho’s 79th minute goal gave Roma a 1-0 win, launching the Giallorossi into the tournament’s semifinals.

There, last year’s finalists will face the winner of next week’s match between Napoli and Lazio, potentially setting up a rematch of May’s final between the two Rome rivals. Until then, however, Roma can enjoy their small piece of redemption. Having lost to Juventus 4-0 earlier this month, Roma get the pleasure of seeing Italy’s leaders out of the country’s cup competition, even if the victory does nothing for the eight point gap that separates the clubs at the top of Serie A.

In Coppa, however, Roma become favorites to lift the trophy, being the highest-placed team remaining in the competition. Third place Napoli are also alive, as are Fiorentina (hosting Siena, Thursday) and Milan (hosting Udinese, Wednesday).

On Tuesday, the match was largely Roma’s, the home side out-shooting their opposition 8-1 in the first half while having more of the ball. Given how Juventus beat the Giallorossi two weeks ago, however, there was still an underlying tension to the game. When would Juventus pounce at Garcia’s side, potentially using Roma’s control to their advantage?

That moment appeared to come just after halftime when Mauricio Isla’s cross from the right found Federico Peluso at the far post, with the Juventus wing back apparently heading the visitors in front. The cross, however, was judged to have curved across the end line before coming back into play, with the officials awarding a goal kick.

It was the closest Juventus came to a shot on target all night, with Roma’s edge in play persisting into the second half. In the 79th minute, that advantage finally translated onto the scoresheet, thanks in part to Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian international drew the defense toward him at the edge of the penalty area before playing the ball left toward the byline. Kevin Strootman tracked it down before the ball went out of play, cutting a cross back for Gervinho at the near post. The Ivory Coast international’s stab at the drilled pass punched the ball past Marco Storari, giving Roma the game’s only goal.

Come full-time, Roma’s players embraced each other, clearly cognizant of the redemption they’d earned. It was only the fourth time in 28 games Juventus has lost this season, with two of those defeats coming in Champions League. It was the first time the Bianconeri had lost to an Italian team since their Oct. 20 trip to Fiorentina.

Conte’s selection played a large part, but those are the realities of balancing league and cup competition. On Tuesday, Garcia’s management of his squad helped push Roma into Coppa’s final four. Juventus’s reserves, unable to force a save from Morgan de Sanctis, helped see their club out.

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

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Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

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The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd, USWNT
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FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.

Beckham group abandons latest plans for Miami MLS stadium

David Beckham
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All signs seemed to point toward an all-too-familiar outcome for the David Beckham-led investment group hoping to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to the city of Miami: another failed plan in their bid to build a brand new stadium.

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Earlier this month, newly-joined all-world sports executive Tim Leiweke warned that groups or individuals currently owning the various parcels of land surrounding the Miami Marlins’ baseball stadium, the latest site Miami Beckham United (MBU) had chosen, were making “unrealistic” demands and threatened to derail the project at that location.

Today, it’s been reported across South Florida that the group has altogether abandoned plans to build their stadium at that particular site. Miami city commissioner Francis Suarez confirmed that MBU were “moving in a different direction” — quotes from Local 10 News:

“It’s going to be withdrawn from the next agenda because the Beckham group has not acquired the private properties that are needed to construct the stadium on that site.”

“The residents expect us to hold these teams to the fire,” Suarez said. “A lot of times they’re financed by wealthy people and they want some sort of a public subsidy, which is very controversial as well, which is why we were going to take it to referendum.”

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

On Sunday, during halftime of the league’s Eastern Conference final, MLS commissioner Don Garber was asked about the Miami stadium situation, to which he responded, “We think Miami will be a great market. We found a reasonably good site. I’m confident that we’ll get something done there.”

MBU is reportedly being held to something of a deadline by the MLS board of governors, which meets every year ahead of MLS Cup, with this weekend’s sit-down thought of as a target date to have something concrete going forward. Meanwhile, Sacramento Republic FC, an MLS expansion hopeful currently playing in the USL (third division), announced last week they would be moving forward with building their brand new MLS-sized stadium, expansion bid or not.