Paco Alcacer

Europa League Roundup: After enthralling extra time in Valencia, semis set

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Cliche time: this is why they play the matches.

Valencia entered the second leg of its UEFA Europa League quarterfinal tie against Basel down 3-0 and needing extreme home magic to find renewed hope for a semifinal berth.

Well, they found that wizardry and then some. Valencia scored thrice in regulation and then watched as Basel took not one but two red cards in the first period of extra time en route to a 5-0 win, 5-3 on aggregate.

Francisco “Paco” Alcacer scored twice in regulation before finding a winner in the 114th minute to dust off the championship hopes of Los Che. Juan Bernat and Eduardo Vargas also scored for Valencia as they advanced. Alcacer now has seven goals in European competition and 14 overall this season.

They are joined by Juventus, Benfica and Sevilla in a Western Europe-heavy final four.

Juventus received a scare from visiting Lyon, but emerge with plans intact to play the Europa League final on its home pitch. Andrea Pirlo scored in the fourth minute to give the Old Lady a 2-0 lead before Lyon halved the deficit in the 18th minute. Yet it was a 68th minute own goal that gave Juve clear sailing into the semis.

Sevilla faced a 1-0 deficit to Porto entering Thursday’s home leg, but that was erased rather quickly as Los Rojiblancos struck four times on the night. Ivan Rakitic converted a 5th minute penalty to kick off a 4-1 (4-2 aggregate) win that was completed by red-hot Kevin Gameiro’s 79th minute tally. Ricardo Quaresma’s goal in the second minute of stoppage time was the only blemish on Sevilla’s day.

Benfica dismissed American forward Aron Johannsson and AZ Alkmaar with relative ease, as Johannsson’s best play actually came on a hard-charging tackle to save a scoring chance. Leading 1-0 going into the home leg, 23-year-old Rodrigo recorded a brace to send the Portuguese side through.

The draw for the semifinals will be held Friday, with the legs being played on April 24 and May 1.

Klinsmann blames Costa Rica loss on Mexico hangover

Jurgen Klinsmann

The United States lost their third straight match on home soil tonight, the first such losing streak since 1997.

Following an extra-time loss to Mexico on Saturday, the U.S. failed to compete in a friendly against Costa Rica, putting in another poor performance as the side continues to struggle.

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In his post match press conference, Jurgen Klinsmann said his team was still shaking off the loss against Mexico, and couldn’t recover in time for tonight’s game.

Yes, the United States’ match against Mexico went 120 minutes. Yes, it was a very tough game both physically and mentally. However, it’s time for Klinsmann to stop making excuses.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from the USMNT’s loss to Costa Rica ]

Of the starting XI against Costa Rica, only four started against Mexico. Of the six substitutes Klinsmann brought in today, only Bobby Wood played in the Mexico match, and for less than 25 minutes.

The problem isn’t that the U.S. lost tonight; it’s that they didn’t even show up. What Klinsmann needed to do was walk into his press conference and say, “We didn’t come to play tonight. We stunk. That can’t happen and we need to be better. It starts with me.”

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Howard’s return highlights poor performances from USMNT ]

Top teams don’t dwell on past results. Top teams rebound quickly and back up poor performances with strong performances. When a top team would have bounced back, the United States fell flat.

Clearly the argument is, well, the United States isn’t a top team. But isn’t that what Klinsmann was brought in to do? To help develop the USMNT into a top team? The least they could do is act like one, and that starts with the manager.

College Soccer Update: Tragedy strikes USC Upstate with horrible car accident

USC Upstate
USC Upstate
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No interviews today. No star players and programs. Just mourning.

USC Upstate lost four students earlier this week, two of them men’s soccer players, in an early morning car accident this weekend. A fifth was injured when the car they were driving in ran off the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.

James Campbell and Mills Sproul are the soccer players who’ve left the pitch for the final time.

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

USC Upstate’s athletic department held a candelight vigil on Monday, and honored both players with online memorials.

From Campbell’s, entitled “James Campbell Was an Intense Player Whose Competitiveness Made Those Around Him Play Harder”:

While Kyle Juell and James attended different high schools, they played club soccer together. “James was intense and passionate on the field,” Juell said. “He was the kind of aggressive player you wanted as a teammate. He was fun and warm and full of life and he cared so much about his teammates.”

From Sproul’s, entitled “Mills Sproul Put the Needs of Others Before His Own and Was Accepting of All”:

Mills’ teammate Deon Rose said that Mills was like the brother he never had.

“The first time I met him, I knew that he was special,” Rose said. “Not because he asked me if we had beaches in Canada or how Canadians survived without Chick-fil-A, but because he had an unconditional love for everyone and everything.”

Our thoughts are with the USC Upstate team, and entire community. Rest in peace.

Three stars of the week

1. University of California Santa Barbara — The Gauchos leapt from “receiving votes” to No. 14 in the nation. The Gauchos have won five-straight, all in-state, by a combined score of 13-3.

2. Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia — The midfielder leads the nation in assists with 12, one coming in Tuesday’s upset of Penn State, a match in which he also scored his first of the year. The Mountaineers shocked PSU with a 3-0 home win in Morgantown.

3. Francis Atuahene and Colin McAtee, Michigan — The Ghanaian freshman is a lightning bolt, and keeps producing goals along with the redshirt senior McAtee, who hails from San Diego. The Wolverines beat Duquesne 3-0 on Tuesday.

Other notes

— Creighton dropped two of its 24 first place votes, one each to North Carolina and Stanford, but remains the No.1 men’s team in the nation.

— Wake Forest hasn’t allowed a goal in three matches, against quality competition in NC State, South Carolina and Boston College. There were stretches in the 2-0 win over South Carolina where they looked unbeatable.

— Speaking of the Demon Deacons, they’ll face dangerous UNC on Saturday in what will be a cracker.

— Also No. 1:Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Trinity of Texas (Women’s D-3), Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3).