UCL Preview: Chelsea hoping to repeat history against PSG

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The last time Chelsea returned home down 3-1 in Champions League, Edinson Cavani was there. So was Ezequiel Lavezzi. Likely starters for Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, the two South American attackers were with Napoli when the partenopei visited London two years ago. Favored to reach the quarterfinals, Walter Mazzarri’s team fell 4-1, becoming the first knockout round victim in Chelsea’s path to the club’s first European title.

Even with PSG superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured, however, Chelsea faces a more daunting challenge on Tuesday. Cavani and Lavezzi will be there, but so will Thiago Silva, one of the best defenders in the world. A midfield three of Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, and Marco Verratti offer more resistance than Napoli did, while last year’s 2-2, away goals exit at the hands of Barcelona speaks to the experience the Parisians bring into this battle. Laurent Blanc’s team is more than a plucky, hipster’s darling. They’re a threat to win this competition.

“There are players who have already won the Champions League and have a lot of experience …,” Matuidi told UEFA.com. “[T]hese aspects give us reason to believe we can make it into the semifinals.”

(MORE: Paris Saint-Germain crush Chelsea in absorbing Champions League clash)

That belief doesn’t change the fact a 2-0 loss would still send the Parisians packing, but carrying a worrisome list of absences into the match, Chelsea has more than the first leg result to overcome. Ramires, one of the likely starters in José Mourinho’s defensive midfield, is suspended after picking up a yellow card in Paris. He joins Nemanja Matic in the stands, with the winter acquisition ineligible after his time with Benfica. Samuel Eto’o’s hamstring means he’s unlikely to start, while fellow striker option André Schürrle may miss Tuesday’s game with a bad ankle.

In some respects, however, those are all ancillary parts. The core that’s pushed Chelsea into Europe’s final eight will all be present on Tuesday. That means the back five — goalkeeper Petr Cech behind defenders Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, and Cesar Azpilicueta — will start, as will the band of three midfielders that have fueled Chelsea’s attack all season: Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Willian. They’re the foundation. The rest is scaffolding.

(MORE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of PSG’s Champions League clash vs. Chelsea)

But that foundation wasn’t enough in Paris. Though Chelsea scored a potentially vital away goal, they were also outplayed by  Blanc’s side, with goals by Lavezzi and Javier Pastore bookending an own goal from David Luiz. Down within four minutes, Chelsea never led, giving the French champions taking a huge step toward a much-coveted semifinal appearance.

“We need to go into the game with the right spirit and the right motivation to qualify,” Blanc explained. “I don’t know what the probability of us going through is, but these percentages are not important – we have a match to play against a very good side and we know what went on in the first leg and we need to learn our lessons from that.”

The main lesson: Paris Saint-Germain are probably the better team. Though Mourinho teams have overcome these types of disadvantages in the past, it was always an upset when they did so. Up two goals at kickoff, the Parisians are favorites to go through.

(MORE, Preview: Lewandowski returns, but Borussia Dortmund still long shots against Real Madrid)

“If Paris are knocked out tomorrow, it will be a big disappointment for them,” Mourinho said, “If we are knocked out then it is something that a lot of people are expecting. We have to enjoy the risk of the situation.

“At 9:30 p.m. [UK time] we can be out, and we know that. But at 7:45 p.m., we have chances to be in the semifinal … we have to be ready, with smiles on our faces, to go out and see what happens … at 7:45 p.m. we believe we can do it.”

MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-1 FC Dallas (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It ended scoreless when the two sides met for the first time this season, and although there were goals in this one, it finished with the same outcome. The Dynamo and Dallas remain equal on points following the draw, with each team boasting 25 at the midway point through the MLS campaign. Goals from Erick “Cubo’ Torres and Maxi Urruti cancelled one another out at BBVA Compass Stadium, but it was the Dallas that had more of the chances in the match. The Dynamo remain one of the top sides in MLS at home, boasting a record of 7-0-2 in their opening nine matches in Houston.

Three two moments that mattered

19′ — Torres makes it 11 on the year! — Give Erick Torres an inch this season… Well, you know the rest of the saying…

59′ — Urruti makes Dynamo pay for missed chance on other end — The Dynamo were so close to making it 2-0 just a minute sooner, but Maxi Urruti had other plans for the visitors.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Maxi Urruti

Goalscorers: Erick Torres (19′), Maxi Urruti (59′)

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC was without some of its regulars on Friday night, but that didn’t matter much as Greg Vanney’s side avenged their loss to the Revolution from two weeks ago. Coming off of just two days’ rest, TFC continued its push towards an Eastern Conference title at BMO Field behind Drew Moor’s first goal of the season. Sebastian Giovinco was held in check most of the evening, but the Italian scorer did what he does best in the final minute of stoppage time to seal it for the home side with his seventh goal of the year. The Revs pushed and pushed during the second half for an equalizer but TFC’s resilience defensively proved superior as they kept the visitors off the scoreboard for their eighth shutout of 2017.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Moor taps in for early Toronto advantage — Even on two days’ rest Toronto looks like this…

57′ — Cheeky Nguyen keeps Revs in match — Lee Nguyen is typically known for his creativity in the offensive half but it was this clever play defensively that kept the Revolution down just one goal.

83′ — Kamara comes so close! — It’s just not meant to be on the night for the Revs.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Alex Bono

Goalscorers: Drew Moor (11′), Sebastian Giovinco (90+6′)

Video: Orlando City product scores crazy bicycle kick

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Goals like this one below never grow old.

Orlando City academy product Alejandro Pereira scored a brilliant bicycle kick for his Under-17/18 side in their 2-0 win on Thursday night during the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs.

Orlando will continue its path in the Academy Playoffs on Saturday when they face off against Players Development Academy (PDA) U-17/18, before meeting Indiana Fire U-17/18 on Monday.

Brazilian league filled with possible transfer targets

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SAO PAULO (AP) While soccer takes a rest in Europe and the Brazilian league gets going again, many local players have already caught the eyes of foreign clubs.

[ MORE: Confed Cup scenarios before final group stage matches ]

A few of them are already in Brazil coach Tite’s plans for next year’s World Cup in Russia, and signing them now instead of next season could be a real bargain.

Here are some names to know:

LUAN

A 24-year-old striker at title-favorite Gremio, Luan has yet to play abroad and his coach has already said it will be hard to keep him in Brazil until the end of the season. After eight matches, Luan has scored four goals. Gremio executives have said they won’t take less than 24 million euros ($27 million) for him. Luan was part of Brazil’s gold-medal winning team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He began the tournament on the bench, but eventually took a place in the starting lineup alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. Ronaldinho said Luan deserves to be at Barcelona. “Luan would fit in perfectly there, he is very creative,” Ronaldinho said.

GUILHERME ARANA

More than 20 percent of the goals scored by Corinthians this year have come from the left foot of 20-year-old defender Guilherme Arana. An excellent Brazilian-style dribbler, Arana had several assists in the derbies against the team’s three Sao Paulo city rivals. Arana has yet to make his international debut, but he believes his short time with Tite at the club could help him get to Russia next year. Many in Brazilian media have dubbed him “the new Marcelo.”

LUCAS LIMA

A close friend of Neymar, 26-year-old midfielder Lucas Lima has been frequently linked with a transfer to Barcelona. In the first 100 days of 2017 he had 10 assists – the same number he produced all of last season. He is in top physical shape, something that has earned him praise from coaches and a series of callups from Tite to play with Brazil. Lima has rejected a series of offers from Chinese clubs because he wants to play in Europe.

GUSTAVO SCARPA

Fluminense midfielder Gustavo Scarpa is classy and cerebral, traits he tries to mirror from his hero Andres Iniesta. But the 23-year-old Brazilian can also provide some stunning shots from long distance, like the goal he scored from his own half in February in a Brazilian Cup match against Globo. Scarpa likes to play as a left winger, but he can also be used in a central midfield position and as a left back. Tite called on him for a friendly against Colombia in February. In the 2016 Brazilian league, he scored eight goals and had 10 assists. He has just finished recovering from a right foot injury.

DUDU

A fan-favorite at defending champion Palmeiras last season, 25-year-old striker Dudu has yet to score in this year’s competition. Still recovering from injury, Dudu is fast and often runs right at goal. He played at Dynamo Kyiv without much success from 2011-14, and he admits he was not very mature when that transfer happened. In March, he was part of the Brazil team for World Cup qualifying matches against Uruguay and Paraguay, as a replacement of injured Douglas Costa.

RODRIGO CAIO

A 23-year-old Sao Paulo defender who has frequently been called up by Tite, Rodrigo Caio has played more than 200 matches for his club. Caio wants to go to Europe after a first attempt at Valencia fell through — he failed a medical check because of a now-healed knee injury. Also a gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics, the defender can play as a defensive midfielder. Although he looks a lot like Kaka, his style is more like Dunga’s: great tackles, accurate passing and leadership.