Mix Diskerud

Bradley, Ream’s U.S. fates will remain unchanged, but Diskerud’s withdrawal could matter

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When we last saw the United States Men’s National Team in action, the midfield duo of Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud seemed on track for spots at this summer’s World Cup. The Real Salt Lake anchor’s lock on a spot in Brazil looked even more certain, while Diskerud continued to build on Gold Cup performances that distinguished him from some of the other midfielders vying for places behind Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.

But Diskerud’s spot as a midfielder who can provide a presence in the space behind the forwards puts him in a more tenuous position than Beckerman, who provides a distinct option as a holder in front of the defense. With Sacha Kljestan set to join the U.S. ahead of Wednesday’ match against Ukraine, the now withdrawn Diskerud has one obvious competitor he needs to beat out.

That’s not to say the competition is only among those two players. With Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Graham Zusi’s ability to play high in midfield, Klinsmann has a number of options that could fill that spot, should the U.S. want to play with formations or roles. Options like Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Davis, Joe Corona, and Brek Shea are also in the mix for the team’s last handful of midfield spots. With impressive camps, players like Bedoya and Shea could elevate their profiles.

(MORE: Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Tim Ream withdrawn from United States’ squad for Wednesday vs. Ukraine)

Whether somebody can pass Diskerud in this pecking order is another question, but that risk makes Diskerud’s Saturday withdrawal more important than Michael Bradley’s or Tim Ream’s. Bradley is going to Brazil, no doubt. And Ream was always going to stay home unless he had a remarkable camp. Diskerud, on the other hand, needed to continue his strong play through Wednesday’s match in Cyprus, preferably into the pre-World Cup camp that starts in May.

Diskerud’s spot isn’t going to be lost in the next five days, but now his stock is destined to stay flat this week. That opens the door for a players like Kljestan (or Bedoya, Shea, or even a Danny Williams).

That little bit of momentum that Diskerud build after spending January with Klinsmann? Maybe a different set of players carry that into May. Maybe, as Klinsmann is deciding who gets on that final flight to Brazil, some memory from this week’s camp sways his decision.

Then again, Diskerud may be going no matter what.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.