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Ronaldo brace, Jesé injury highlight Real Madrid’s Champions League victory over Schalke

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In a game that had all of its drama sucked out three weeks ago, Real Madrid and Schalke gave the Bernabéu’s support and an impressive visiting contingent a look at each club’s future. Yet on a day when a huge part of that future was stretchered off early, the meaninglessness of Tuesday’s game took center stage. Real Madrid, entering the day’s festivities up 6-1, added a 3-1 to their total. After a game in which neither El Real nor Schalke cared too much about the day’s result, the Merengues are still through to UEFA Champions League’s quarterfinals.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the day’s scoring in the 21st minute when Gareth Bale, on in the eight minute for the injured Jesé, set up first goal of the night. Ten minutes later, a deflection from Sergio Ramos off Tim Hoogland’s long distance shot caught Iker Casillas wrong-footed, allowing Schalke to equalize.

In the 74th minute, Ronaldo added his second, blasting home a shot from beyond the penalty area to make it 2-1. One minute later, Álvaro Morata registered his first Champions League goal, with Bale picking up his second assist of the night.

It’s the fourth straight year Real Madrid has made the final eight, but with early news of a cruciate injury to Jesé circulating by match’s end, the day’s result took on a slightly different context. Though Cristiano Ronaldo ran his season’s goal total to 41, with 13 coming in seven Champions League appearances, the Merengues are left waiting for news on the extend of their 21-year-old’s injury.

The incident occurred early as Schalke challenged the aspiring Spanish international in the right corner. Though Jesé was eventually stretchered from the field, he initially returned and seemed able to continue. By the eighth minute, however, Bale’s number was being raised by the fourth official, signaling the start to worries about the young star’s knee.

It wasn’t long before Bale, originally scheduled to rest, made an impact. Running onto the end of a Morata through ball, Bale get behind the Schalke defense to the right of goal. His square ball into the six for an oncoming Ronaldo allowed the Portuguese star to convert his 12th goal of the competition.

Ten minutes later, Schalke had tied it up, with an unexpected source bringing them to 1-1. Tim Hoogland, allowed to carry the ball to within 26 yards from his right back position, let go of a speculative shot that caught the bottom of Sergio Ramos’s outstretched boot. The deflect gave Casillas no chance to stop Schalke’s second goal of the tie.

In the second half, Ralf Fährmann stops on Ronaldo and Isco gave the impression the Royal Blues could make it to full-time at 1-1. Then, a two-goal outburst just before the 76th minute mark put the game away for the hosts.

The first came from Ronaldo, whose drive from outside the penalty area caught Fährmann’s lower left corner to put Real Madrid in front. A minute later, Bale set up Morata in front of an open net to give the 21-year-old striker his first Champions League goal.

The outburst only added to what was already an embarrassing final score. Schalke, who had entered the day down five, carried no misconceptions about their fate. No matter what, they were going out of Champions League, part of the reason they pulled striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar at half time.

But with their second half capitulation, the Miners leave Spain 9-2 (agg.) losers, with Real Madrid having further established themselves as the team most likely to keep Bayern Munich from a second straight title.

Report: NASL’s New York Cosmos terminate all player contracts

SO KON PO, HONG KONG SAR - FEBRUARY 19:  Daniel Szetela (R) of New York Cosmos and Siu Kwan Chan of South China in action during the 2015 Lunar New Year Cup match between South China and the New York Cosmos at Hong Kong Stadium on February 19, 2015 in So Kon Po, Hong Kong.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images
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As we await the future of both the North American Soccer League and its champion New York Cosmos, another dark cloud arrived regarding both.

Empire of Soccer reports that the Cosmos have terminated all of its player contracts, putting a 2017 season into the neighborhood of improbability.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs second DP ]

New York’s staff is on furlough, and the club has been “on the brink of collapse” for weeks (if not longer).

The USL avoided having its champion collapse by finding new owners for the Rochester Rhinos in the offseason. Will New York be able to do the same?

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U.S. Soccer announces Players of the Year nominees

HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 01:  John Brooks #6 of United States and teammates Clint Dempsey #8,Michael Bradley #4,Geoff Cameron #20 and Julian Green #16 wait for the corner kick in the second half against Turkey during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on June 1, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey.The United States defeated Turkey 2-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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U.S. Soccer unveiled the finalists for its top 2016 Male, Female, and youth awards on Monday.

MLS stars Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey are joined by Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood as top men’s player nominees. The winner will be announced on the eve of Saturday’s MLS Cup Final.

[ MLS: Best XI has historic American low ]

Stoke City’s Cameron and Hamburg’s Wood are the European-based players on the list, while Fabian Johnson did not make the cut. Dempsey has been limited by heart problems, but still found a way to the list.

John Brooks and Christian Pulisic are also notable exceptions, though the latter is a finalist for the younger award.

The five-woman list for Female Player of the Year sees Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, and Becky Sauerbrunn vying to finish second behind Carli Lloyd (Sorry, we couldn’t resist even with Heath’s incredible season).

The Young Male award promises to be a showdown between Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), though it’s difficult to see the latter edging the former. Also in the frame are Spurs back Cameron Carter-Vickers, Atlanta United teenager Andrew Carleton and U.S. U-17 star Josh Sargent.

The Young Female nominees are midfielders Emily Ogle and Andi Sullivan, defenders Kaleigh Riehl and Karina Rodriguez and forward Ashley Sanchez.

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MLS Best XI has just two Americans (and that’s fine)

FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges, center, heads the ball near Seattle Sounders defender Zach Scott, second from left, in the second half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat FC Dallas 3-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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MLS released its season’s Best XI on Monday, and it’s the least American bunch in the history of the award.

Some have asked whether this be a concern. The short answer is: As long as you’re not a xenophobe, probably not.

There’s no question the league is better than ever, so in that sense no one should worry that only Matt Hedges and Sacha Kljestan earned nods in the league’s 3-4-3.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs second DP ]

Several times the league saw five Americans in its Best XI, and once it was four, but this year’s duo marks a new low.

MLS Best XI
GK – Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union / Jamaica)
D – Matt Hedges (FC Dallas / USA)
D – Jelle van Damme (LA Galaxy / Belgium)
D – Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids / Sweden)
M – Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas / Argentina)
M – Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy / Mexico)
M – Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls / USA)
M – Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact / Argentina)
F – Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls / England)
F – David Villa (New York City FC / Spain)
F – Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC / Italy)

Now of course the next question is, “Where do players 12-24 come from?” Let’s make a quick second XI (and include Nicolas Lodeiro despite his half-season status because, well, did you watch any MLS this year?):

GK – David Bingham (San Jose / USA)
D – Ronald Matarrita (New York City / Costa Rica)
D – Laurent Ciman (Montreal / Belgium)
D – Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas / USA)
M – Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle / USA-Cuba)
M – Darlington Nagbe (Portland / USA)
M – Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC / USA)
M – Diego Valeri (Portland / Argentina)
M – Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle / Uruguay)
F – Dom Dwyer (Sporting KC / England)
F – Ola Kamara (Columbus / Norway)

A bit better, huh? And Dwyer could be American in under a year. Next up would probably be several Americans (Dax McCarty, Luis Robles, Michael Bradley, Jordan Morris, Drew Moor).

The idea of better players shouldn’t be about Americans racking up the top spots, rather U.S. players being improved by the level of competition.

Look at the Premier League’s Best XI, the PFA Team of the Year, which had a total of four Englishmen (five if you include English-born Jamaican back Wes Morgan). While some will argue for a cap on foreign players — which MLS has — you don’t mess with what makes it great.

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After latest loss, Hull City gets blunt: “We need help”

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05:  Curtis Davies of Hull City jumps with Calum Chambers (25) and Victor Valdes of Middlesbrough (26) during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Hull City at Riverside Stadium on December 5, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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Hull City players and staff are not being bashful.

Mired in the drop zone and following yet another loss, this one a relegation six-pointer at the hands of hosts Middlesbrough, Tigers were speaking out on the talent at the KC Stadium.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Manager Mike Phelan said “hopefully” there will be action by the club in the January transfer window, as the club continues its quest to stay in the Premier League.

Phelan said the club is lacking “firepower”, and veteran defender Charlie Davies put it even more plainly.

From the BBC:

“We need help. We made signings in the summer and they have done their bit but they were all last-minute. We are thin up top and we need someone who can put the ball in the net.”

Hull went through a mess during the summer, with player acquisition problematic and manager Steve Bruce quitting the club. After a hot start led to Phelan getting the job on a permament basis it’s clear that, like Swansea boss Bob Bradley, this isn’t about who’s in the dugout.

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