Copa del Rey: Real Madrid’s winter surge continues with Atlético’s ouster

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When Real Madrid took a 3-0 lead on rival Atlético in last week’s first leg, few expected La Liga’s Cinderella story to continue into Copa del Rey‘s final. But given what we’d seen throughout the season from Diego Simeone’s Colchoneros, a play for pride seemed to be in the offing today at the Vicente Calderón. Atleti weren’t going to go on to defend their title, but with the type of unrelenting performances we’ve come to expect from Spain’s surprise contenders, Atlético could remind their rivals why they’re even with Spain’s big two in the Primera Liga.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Cristiano Ronaldo lured Javi Manquillo into a penalty in the second leg’s seventh minute. At the quarter-hour mark, combination play between Gareth Bale and Isco drew a second penalty from Emiliano Insua. Within 15 minutes, Real Madrid had quelled whatever faint hope the Calderón held before kickoff. With 75 minutes left, on their way to a 2-0 victory, they’d put Atlético in a five-goal hole.

Atleti fans showed their displeasure by hitting Ronaldo in the head with a thrown object as the teams left for halftime. It didn’t matter. Ronaldo appeared unharmed when he surfaced for the second half, with Atlético failing to make a dent in El Real’s lead before full-time was mercifully blown.

Their Copa defense over, Atlético’s left with the perception that the entire perception of contention they’ve created under Simeone is about to crumble. Though they’re still even with Barcelona and Real Madrid atop the Spanish table, they’ve lost three games in a row. Between two defeats to their rivals and the weekend upset at Almería, the Colconeros have been outscored 7-0 in their last 270 minutes. As of last Tuesday, they had only lost once all season.

But as steep as Atlético’s decline has been, El Real’s surge has been just as pronounced. Lingering behind Spain’s two leaders for much of the season, the Merengues are now the league’s form side, having finally converted January’s innocuous possession into a swarm of February goals. In a week’s worth of games against Atlético and Villarreal (who they beat this weekend at the Bernabéu), Carlo Ancelotti’s team has scored nine times, a surge that makes them contenders for three titles.

Are they a serious contender for their long-sought decima? No. Nobody’s a serious contender compared to Bayern, but in league and Copa, Real looks as strong as anybody. Of course, the main anybody is Barcelona, but with the Blaugrana also trying to shake off some winter rust, there’s little that seems to separate the two sides.

Seemingly destined to meet in Copa’s final, and having one more Clasico in La Liga, Real and Barça will get to draw their comparisons on the field. Whether Atlético can keep up is a major doubt after another multi-goal loss.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

[ MORE: Perisic talking with Man Utd? ]

The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”

MLS roundup: Outrageous dive, posts doom ‘Caps; Ramirez stays red hot

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Six matches are in the books on a busy Saturday in Major League Soccer, and five of them finished 1-0.

How they got there? Much different stories. With the Cali Clasico still to play, let’s dig into the five that followed Seattle 1-0 Portland.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]


Vancouver Whitecaps 0-1 DC United

It’s especially difficult to win on the road in Major League Soccer, unless the hosts fritter away four good chances off the woodwork — including a Cristian Techera PK — and give away a spot kick of their own. Lamar Neagle converted the 61st offering after a sinister dive from Jose Guillermo Ortiz. He was taken off soon after, and is probably going to miss sometime when the DisCo is done with him. Outrageous.

New York Red Bulls 2-1 New England Revolution

Not one, not two, nor three, but four New England players saw a low cross slide by them for Daniel Royer to finish as New York came from behind to take all three points at Red Bull Arena. Cody Cropper committed a gaffe that allowed Bradley Wright-Phillips to equalize after a Lee Nguyen PK had put the Revs ahead early.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 Sporting KC

Homegrown defender and University of Denver product Kortne Ford has his first MLS goal, as the Rapids surprised the Western Conference leaders on Saturday. SKC outshot Colorado by nearly 20 attempts (Shoulder shrug emoji).

Minnesota United 1-0 Orlando City

There were questions as to whether NASL superstar Christian Ramirez could translate his game to Major League Soccer.

Yes. The answer is yes.

Ramirez has eight goals in 13 MLS matches, and should be hearing his name from a certain Bruce Arena around Gold Cup time. Those USMNT dreams of last season should come true.

Bobby Shuttleworth made six saves for his third shutout of the season. All have come at home.

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Philadelphia Union

Joao Plata keeps shooting, and the tiny Ecuadorian menace keeps scoring, too. His 36th minute goal was enough for the hosts at Rio Tinto.

Raiola: Zlatan to “100 percent” stay in Europe for two seasons

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be 35 and coming off major knee surgery, but that isn’t stopping suitors from lining up across Europe.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]

Ibrahimovic’s agent, Mino Raiola, says that MLS is not an option for the Swede over the next two seasons. From Sky Sports:

“Many clubs have asked for Zlatan. He can play two more years and will stay in Europe, 100 per cent.”

It would make sense for Ibrahimovic to stay around Manchester United, where he is admired by Jose Mourinho and coming off a season that showed he’s still capable of contributing at a high level.

But he remains beloved in Italy, and would be effective for most clubs in the Top 5 leagues should he return at even 75 percent of the Zlatan we’ve seen regularly.

Report: Manchester United, Inter Milan keen on Perisic deal

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Manchester United wants Ivan Perisic, and both the player and his current club are all about it.

Perisic, 28, is ready to leave Inter Milan, and the Serie A mainstays are happy to accept $46 million for his services according to Sky Sports.

[ MORE: No China for Costa ]

Primarily a left winger, Perisic moved to Inter from Wolfsburg at the start of the 2015-16 season. He scored 10 goals and added nine assists in Serie A play this season, and has kept up his production pace since moving from the Bundesliga to Italy.

United needs stars and depth for its Champions League campaign, and Perisic would buttress an attack with Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan amongst others. He was a difference maker for Croatia at EURO 2016, and can do the same at Old Trafford.