Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern Munich finally fall

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After 65 Bundesliga games in which they’ve managed to score a goal, Bayern Munich were unable to find the back of the net on Saturday, the fist time they’ve missed out since April 2012. But when the title is already in hand and they need to advance in the Champions League, it matters little, right?

The biggest change in the Bundesliga table is Gladbach rising up to snatch fourth place away from Bayer Leverkusen, thanks to yet another Leverkusen struggle combined with a comfortable win for the Foals. Down at the bottom, Stuttgart’s win takes them up over Hamburg, but their safety is by no means assured just yet.

Friday Results

Hamburg 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen really don’t want to play in the Champions League next season, do they? After spending the first half of the season in second place, they’ve slipped down to fifth, thanks to one win from nine games. This time they lost to lowly Hamburg, still in the relegation zone. Hakan Calhanoglu started off the scoring four minutes in, and although Julian Brandt managed to equalize in the second half, Heiko Westermann came through with the winner for the hosts in the 82nd minute.

Saturday Results

Augsburg 1-0 Bayern Munich
Yes, it’s Bayern’s first loss of the season, and it comes at the hands of Augsburg, currently eighth in the Bundesliga table. But, with Pep Guardiola thinking ahead to the must-win against Manchester United, many of Bayern’s regular starters didn’t get much time. Still, Mario Götze, David Alaba and Thomas Müller came on in the second half, and were unable to cancel out Sascha Mölders’ opener.

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 Mainz
Mainz’s hopes of a European position may have died with this loss, their third in four games. Joselu opened the scoring with a header in the second half, while Alex Meier got on the end of a ball from Stefan Aigner to kill off Mainz’s hopes and give Eintracht the win.

Nurnberg 0-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Gladbach have slipped into Germany’s fourth and final Champions League spot, thanks to a better goal difference than the struggling Leverkusen. It was a simple enough contest for the Foals, with Juan Arango scoring before 20 minutes were up, and Max Kruse converting a penalty in the second half. Nurnberg, however, lost their chance to climb out of the relegation zone.

Stuttgart 2-0 Freiburg
Stuttgart lifted themselves into safety with their victory at home, but it’s only by virtue of a better goal difference – both sides still won’t be feeling too comfortable. Still, after three straight losses, Stuttgart will be thrilled to have found a late win. Freiburg held out until the 69th minute, when Alexandru Maxim scored, and Martin Harnik’s tap-in in the 89th doubled Stuttgart’s lead.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Schalke
Leon Goretzka’s equalizer may have canceled out Franco Di Santo’s opener, but after Sebastian Prodl provided a goalline clearance to stop Schalke from going ahead, the Royal Blues did little to threaten. The draw, combined with Dortmund’s win later in the day, means Schalke remain in third.

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Wolfsburg
It looked like Dortmund were going to miss out on an opportunity to take sole control of second place when Ivica Olić opened the scoring for the visitors. But shortly after the restart, Robert Lewandowski got on the end of a ball from Marco Reus to put in the equalizer. Reus himself became the hero in the 77th minute, slotting past Max Grün to score the winner.

Sunday Fixtures

Braunschweig vs. Hannover
The leadup to the Lower Saxony Derby has already resulted in a dead sheep being hung near Hannover’s training ground. With both sides struggling and neither safe just yet, this could very well result in a goalless draw, as the reverse fixture ended. But with the hosts currently sitting bottom, could their desperation make this a watchable match?

Hertha Berlin vs. Hoffenheim
The week wraps up with the match dubbed “least likely to cause any impact whatsoever.” Hoffenheim and Hertha are even on 36 points, which means they’re safe, but they’re also eleven points outside the European positions. Still, Hoffenheim’s 63 goals – second only to Bayern Munich – and their propensity to score on the road could make this one exciting regardless of either side’s need for points.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.

Premier League vet Scott Parker calls quits on playing career

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Scott Parker has announced his retirement from soccer after a stellar 20-plus year career in England.

[ MORE: Chile bests Portugal on PKs to reach Confed Cup final ]

The 36-year-old spent almost the entirety of his career in the Premier League, and played with seven teams during his time on the pitch.

“I believe now is the right time to move on to the next chapter in my life and career,” Parker said in a statement.

“I feel incredibly honoured and proud to have enjoyed the career that I have and I’ve loved every moment of it.”

Parker began playing with Charlton after coming up through the team’s youth academy, before completing a move to Chelsea in 2004.

Throughout his career, Parker also spent time at Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham, before finishing up at Fulham this past season.

Three storylines when Mexico meets Germany in Confed Cup semis

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With a place in the final on the line tomorrow afternoon, it’s all or nothing for Mexico and Germany as they meet in the second semifinal at this summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

The two nations have had very similar paths in reaching the final four, after both accumulated seven points during the group stage and showed signs of improvement with every match.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s FIFA Confederations Cup action ]

Here are some of the key battles to watch on Thursday when Mexico and Germany square off for a place in the final.

How does Germany’s youth hold up vs. Mexico’s experience?

Even when Jurgen Low released his roster heading into the Confederations Cup, much was expected of the Germans. After a strong run of play during the group stage, Low’s men have lived up to the billing with an exciting young attack and an improving backline to match.

When Germany meets Mexico though, the defending World Cup champions will be taking on an El Tri side that has loads of international experience, and similar to that of Chile, the Europeans will surely receive all that they can handle.

At the tender age of 23, Julian Draxler captains the Germans and has been challenged with leading his nation throughout the tournament. The PSG attacker has been quality thus far, but he and his side will take on a whole different task on Thursday against a quick, feisty Mexican group.

Will Hirving Lozano be the difference in the attack?

Injuries and a key suspension will certain hinder Mexico in the semifinal round, but the bigger question is: how will Juan Carlos Osorio’s side cope with the losses?

El Tri know it will be without winger Andres Guardado due to yellow card accumulation, while striker Javier Hernandez is in question ahead of the Germany clash after reportedly training by himself on Monday.

Although Hernandez likely just needed rest after a busy season of matches in the Bundesliga, Mexico is still seeking a quality playmaker to replace Guardado on Thursday, one that they’re hoping with be Hirving Lozano.

The newly-signed PSV man has quickly become one of the top young faces in global soccer, and with three international goals for El Tri dating back to 2016, Lozano is the spark that Mexico needs.

El Tri must start fast

In all three of Mexico’s group stage matches Osorio’s side fell behind during the first half. While El Tri managed to come away unscathed to remain perfect in group play, it’s difficult to imagine that they will be able to pull off the same feat against a quality German side.

On the other hand, Mexico’s resilience has been impressive. In their opener against Portugal, El Tri pulled off a late winner against the reigning European champions, a result that likely set the tone for the team’s ensuing comebacks versus New Zealand and Russia, respectively.

Chile bests Portugal on penalty kicks to reach Confed Cup final

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Chile is on its way to the Confederations Cup final after a thrilling battle with Portugal on Wednesday afternoon.

The Chileans edged their European opposition, 0-0 (3-0 on penalty kicks), at Kazan Arena in Russia after goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a trio of saves during the penalty shootout.

Arturo Vidal hit the post in the 119th minute from close range, before Martin Rodriguez’s rebound smashed off the crossbar and stayed out of goal to the dismay of the Chileans.

Chile had a legitimate claim for a penalty kick in the second half of extra time as Jose Fonte stepped on the foot of Francisco Silva inside the Portuguese area, but the referee opted to play on.

The South Americans thought they had picked out the lead just a few minutes into extra time when Alexis Sanchez’s header glanced just wide of goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo had several quality chances to break the deadlock during regulation, but none better than in the 72nd minute when the Real Madrid star had his deflected effort narrowly miss the top corner.

Chile began to find more of a rhythm during the second stanza, and Eduardo Vargas nearly gave his side the lead in the 59th minute when he acrobatically shot on goal, forcing a reaction save out of Rui Patricio.

Vargas had the first big chance for the South Americans in the sixth minute when he found himself in on goal against Patricio, but the Portuguese goalkeeper stood tall and made the save.

Meanwhile, Claudio Bravo found himself in a similar situation on the other end just a minute later, when the Manchester City keeper kept Portugal off the scoreboard.

Chile will meet the winner of Thursday’s contest between Mexico and Germany, while the Portuguese will await the loser of the match to decide third place.