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Italy roundup: With Champions League upon it, Milan’s run out of time to turn things around

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While their UEFA Champions League opponents were rediscovering their form, Milan were persisting with theirs, but whereas that meant Atlético Madrid were back to their dogged, convincing ways, it also meant the Rossoneri were putting up another unconvincing result. Still languishing in the middle of the Serie A table, Milan needed a long distance shot from Mario Balotelli to claim a 1-0 win over Bologna. Though they claimed three points for the third time in five games, a middling result against one of the league’s bottom feeders showed little progress from the form that got Max Allegri fired.

Now, they’re out of time. By replacing Allegri with Clarence Seedorf earlier this winter, the club implicitly conceded their hopes of making into next year’s Champions League, but having drawn an Atlético team still short on respect throughout Europe, there were hopes the Rossoneri could survive another round in this year’s tournament. For a team that’s always defined itself in terms of its European achievements, a win would serve as silver lining to an otherwise depressing season. Under Seedorf, Milan might have a chance.

While the soccer’s been different and the results have improved, Seedorf hasn’t dramatically changed Milan’s fortunes. The team is now top of the charts in possession, but that control hasn’t translated into goals, however. Thought the skill of Balotelli, Kaká, and Keisuke Honda is capable of picking teams apart, Milan’s scored more than one goal only once in their last six games. They claimed full points on Friday against Bologna, but they didn’t solve any of their problems.

As a result, Milan will go into Wednesday’s game little different from the team that squeaked through the group stage. Yes, there’s a new man in charge, some new players, and the play is different, but within the context of UEFA Champions League, Milan are essentially the same. They’re a talented side with a lot of history, but they’re one of the weakest teams alive in the competition. While the Rossoneri felt fortunate to draw Atlético, Atleti were the lucky ones.

Elsewhere

  • Fiorentina 1, Inter Milan 2 – A huge win for an Inter team that had started to lose their way – one that dealt a significant blow to La Viola’s Champions League hopes. With goals from Rodrigo Palacio and Mauro Icardi, Inter put three points between themselves and sixth place Hellas Verona. At the same time, they left Fiorentina six points behind Napoli for the league’s final Champions League spot.
  • Catania 3, Lazio 1 – The boost the Aquile got after Edy Reja’s return may have finally worn off. A first minute goal from Mariano Izco followed by second half scores from Nicolás Spolli and Gino Peruzzi helped Catania climb out of last place, with Lazio losing for the first time in league since Dec. 22.
  • Cagliari 1, Livorno 2 – Three red cards left Livorno playing nine-on-10, but with Federico Ceccherini and Marco Benassi’s dismissals coming late, the Labronici had plenty of time to claim the one-goal result that pulled them out of the bottom three.
  • Sassuolo 0, Napoli 2 – Taking advantage of Fiorentina’s Saturday slip, Napoli got goals from Blerim Dzemaili and Lorenzo Insigne on each side of half time to tighten their grip on third.
  • Atlalanta 0, Parma 4 – Now 12 rounds unbeaten, Parma got goals from Cristian Molinaro, Antonio Cassano, Ezequiel Schelotto, and an own goal from Yohan Benalouane to hand their hosts their third loss in four.
  • Genoa 3, Udinese 3 – A late brace from Alberto Gilardino brought Genoa back from two down to snap Udinese’s two-match winning streak.
  • Juventus 3, Chievo 1 – A Martín Cáceres own goal brought the visitors within one early in the second half, but after Fernando Llorente’s 10th goal of the season, Juventus restored the two-goal margin they’d carry to full-time.
  • Roma 3, Sampdoria 0 – Two goals from Mattia Destro bookended a 54th minute score from Miralem Pjanic, keeping Roma from being pulled into a battle for second with Napoli.

Monday

Hellas Verona vs. Torino

Others

Roma 1, Bologna 0

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 24 20 3 1 59 19 40 12-0-0 8-3-1 63
Roma 23 16 6 1 48 11 37 10-2-0 6-4-1 54
Napoli 24 15 5 4 49 27 22 8-3-1 7-2-3 50
Fiorentina 24 13 5 6 43 26 17 7-3-2 6-2-4 44
Inter Milan 24 10 9 5 42 28 14 6-5-1 4-4-4 39
Parma 23 9 9 5 36 27 9 5-5-2 4-4-3 36
Verona 23 11 3 9 39 37 2 8-1-3 3-2-6 36
Torino 23 8 9 6 36 30 6 5-5-2 3-4-4 33
AC Milan 24 8 8 8 37 35 2 6-4-2 2-4-6 32
Lazio 24 8 8 8 30 32 -2 6-3-2 2-5-6 32
Genoa 24 8 7 9 27 31 -4 5-4-3 3-3-6 31
Sampdoria 24 7 7 10 27 35 -8 4-4-4 3-3-6 28
Udinese 24 8 3 13 28 35 -7 5-1-5 3-2-8 27
Atalanta 24 8 3 13 24 36 -12 7-2-3 1-1-10 27
Cagliari 24 5 9 10 22 34 -12 5-4-4 0-5-6 24
Bologna 24 4 9 11 22 40 -18 2-6-4 2-3-7 21
Livorno 24 5 5 14 24 42 -18 3-3-6 2-2-8 20
Catania 24 4 7 13 19 41 -22 4-5-3 0-2-10 19
Chievo 24 4 6 14 17 35 -18 2-2-7 2-4-7 18
Sassuolo 24 4 5 15 23 51 -28 3-1-8 1-4-7 17

Sam Allardyce’s England future hangs in the balance

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Sam Allardyce manager of England looks thoughtful during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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England manager Sam Allardyce has not only been publicly humiliated but now he could lose his job.

[ MORE: What now for Chelsea? ]

An undercover investigation from the Daily Telegraph, released on Monday, showed Allardyce meating with fictitious businessman and discussing how to get around rules of third-party ownership (TPO) of players and then negotiating a fee of over $518,000 for becoming an ambassador for what he believed to be a company set up in the Far East.

After just one game and two months in charge of England, it could all be over for “Big Sam” as Three Lions boss. The FA is reportedly already close to firing him as they don’t want their image and integrity questioned across the globe.

Allardyce, 61, took charge of the English national team this summer but the footage released of him discussing TPO, plus criticizing former England boss Roy Hodgson and assistant manager Gary Neville, and his employers at the FA among others, will cause the former Sunderland manager huge levels of embarrassment and it is tough to see him rebounding from the widespread criticism already flying his way.

When asked about TPO — which was banned by the English FA in 2008 and by FIFA in 2015 — and ways to get around the current system, Allardyce replied to the businessmen that it was “not a problem” and revealed he knew agents who are “doing it all the time.”

The FA have yet to open a formal investigation but multiple news outlets in the UK claim that English soccer’s governing body have spoken to the Telegraph to try and acquire all of the facts before speaking to Allardyce.

Big Sam has been silly and naive. It is not the first time he’s had allegations flung his way either, as a 2006 BBC documentary also alleged he’d been involved in taking bungs over transfers, something he vehemently denied. A subsequent investigation proved no wrongdoing but the fact that Allardyce names individuals in the footage released (censored for legal reasons) tells us that he knows ways of getting around TPO. He even admitted that Enner Valencia‘s move to West Ham, where he was manager, from Mexican side Pachuca in 2014 was via a TPO.

Now, it must be said, during the undercover footage Allardyce states that he would have to check with the FA (“the powers that be”) before agreeing to any deal to be an ambassador for the made up company. Still, it’s not good and many will view this as Allardyce being greedy and putting his own interests ahead of his main job of managing the English national team between now and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. God knows they need some focus and some inkling of being successful after their recent results in tournaments.

Just 67 days after taking charge of England, something Allardyce has described repeatedly as his “dream job” in football, he was discussing how to make extra cash with complete strangers. Allardyce already earns over $3.3 million a year as England boss and the Telegraph also state that a second meeting was held last week in Manchester to discuss plans on when the Englishman would fly over to Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Telegraph has promised more information will be released in the coming days as they say their 10-month investigation into the murkier side of English soccer has also “unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football.”

Whatever comes out in the following days, it is unlikely the English FA will look upon this episode kindly and they have to judge whether this was just poor judgement from Allardyce or something more sinister.

There’s no doubt about it, the next 24 hours is crucial and Allardyce’s future as England boss hangs in the balance.

NWSL Playoffs set: Portland, Washington, Chicago, Western New York

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The National Women’s Soccer League will crown its fourth champion in mid-October, and for the first time in three years the winner will not be FC Kansas City.

FCKC finished sixth after the 20-game regular season concluded this weekend, six points out of the final slot occupied by the Western New York Flash.

[ MORE: Allardyce on England hot seat? ]

The Flash join Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit in attempting to topple NWSL Shield winners Portland, a Thorns side which won the title in 2013 and has only missed the playoffs once.

Washington hosts Chicago on Friday in the first semifinal, while the Flash travel to Oregon for an Oct. 2 semi.

Portland Thorns (1) vs. Western New York Flash (4)

The two best goal differentials in the league meet at Providence Park, where Mark Parsons’ Thorns and their league-best defense will be tasked with stopping the highest-scoring offense in the NWSL. That means stopping Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams and runner-up Jessica McDonald, who’ve accounted for 21 of WNY’s 40 goals.

The Thorns are loaded. Women’s soccer legend Christine Sinclair, who once lifted a trophy for the Flash, is there with a quintet of USWNT mainstays. French star Amandine Henry, too, as well as leading goal scorer and Danish star Nadia Nadim.

USWNT regulars on each side
Portland: Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, Allie Long, Emily Sonnet, Lindsey Horan

WNY: Samantha Mewis

Washington Spirit (2) vs. Chicago Red Stars (3)

The two sides split the season series, with Chicago hosting a 3-1 victory on Saturday. Sofia Huerta had a goal and an assist, as she and Christen Press combined for nine shots. They’ve combined for 15 goals on the season, though the Red Stars have only found nine goals elsewhere.

No Washington player has scored more than five goals this year, and the Spirit haven’t had a multi-goal game in September, but Argentina national teamer Estefanía Banini’s five goals in 13 matches in an impressive haul.

USWNT regulars on each side
Washington: Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn

Chicago: Alyssa Naeher, Julie Johnston, Christen Press

UEFA Champions League preview: Spurs, Foxes, and BVB hosts Real

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 02:  Gareth Bale of Real Madrid takes on Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 2, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Leicester City gets a home Champions League match, Spurs head to Russia, and two of the world’s best attacks meet in Germany; Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League slate is pretty tasty.

[ MORE: Allardyce on England hot seat? ]

An out-of-form Cristiano Ronaldo has Real Madrid in a mini-slump, and a trip to Borussia Dortmund isn’t exactly the antidote now, is it? Normally we wouldn’t dial that up, but Ronaldo has a knack for shining brightly when folks question him. We’ve seen this one before. Expect a highlight-reel night from CR7, but perhaps the same from high-flying BVB.

Spurs are buoyed by the news that Harry Kane‘s injury may not be as serious as first thought, but could be sunk back into the depths with a loss at CSKA Moscow on Tuesday. Spurs fell to Monaco, while CSKA scooped up a solid draw at Bayer Leverkusen.

Leicester City is looking to stay perfect after an impressive UCL debut at Club Brugge, and faces a big test in Portugal. Porto does quite well in this tournament almost annually, and won’t be scared by a trip to King Power Stadium. El Tri trio Miguel Layun, Jesus Corona, and captain Hector Herrera join familiar names Iker Casillas, Yacine Brahimi, and Maxi Pereira on the Porto roster.

Tuesday’s UCL matches

all matches at 2:45 p.m. ET

Sporting Lisbon vs. Legia Warsaw
Sevilla vs. Lyon
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Juventus
CSKA Moscow vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid
Monaco vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Copenhagen vs. Club Brugge
Leicester City vs. Porto

Kei Kamara “shocked” at boos in return to Columbus

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13:  Soccer player Kei Kamara attends the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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Kei Kamara couldn’t gather his emotions after his return to Columbus as a member of the New England Revolution.

The star striker netted 27 times in 41 appearances for the Crew before a locker room falling-out found him traded to New England.

[ MORE: Harry Kane to return sooner? ]

The reigning MLS joint-top scorer and a member of the 2015 Best XI, Kamara was back at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday. The Revs fell 2-0, thanks to Columbus’  new Kamara, and Kei was booed.

There was bitter, smarmy Kei (from MLSSoccer.com):

“I was shocked,” he said after the match. “Come on. You make so many sacrifices for an organization to really boost it. But hey, if I can bring some life to the stadium for once in the season, why not?”

And there was also sad, pensive Kei:

“It wasn’t something I asked for, to move,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s been tough. It’s been really, really tough. But after today, I got the final answer to everything. It’s time to move on.”

“It’s time to move on. I’m happy where I am now and I wish [Columbus] the best of luck.”

I’ve rarely understood the booing of former players unless that player grievously harmed your club on the way out the door. Here in Buffalo, I’ve seen even the least-celebrated of ex-Sabres get the boo treatment, though, so it’s not uncommon.