DC United v New York Red Bulls

D.C. United makes it two-in-a-row with 1-0 win over New York (video)

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After going eight months without a win, D.C. United has won two in a row for the first time since 2012, with a 1-0 win over the rival Red Bulls vaulting United into fourth in the Eastern Conference. Converting a corner kick in the fourth minute, Ben Olsen’s team ran its record to 2-2-1, moving within one win of its entire total for the 2013 season.

The goal came off the match’s first real chance, with D.C. executing one of the most common corner kicks drawn up. Off a short corner from Fabian Espindola, Bobby Boswell beat Roy Miller to flick a ball far post, where Eric Alexander had lost Davy Arnaud. The veteran’s diving header from beyond the upright left Luis Robles with little chance to prevent one of the most straight forward of openers,  giving D.C. a lead it’d carry to the final whistle.

All of a sudden, those “#sadstats” people were tweeting after United’s 0-2-0 start have dried up, with the current reality looking far less gloomy:

  • With two wins, D.C. United have as many victories as last year’s MLS Cup finalists (Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake) and more than the two teams that finished the 2013 regular season on top of the conferences (New York, Portland).
  • The team’s five goals are as many as Sporting Kansas City, Toronto FC, and the LA Galaxy.
  • D.C.’s -1 goal difference is better than New York (-4) or Portland (-3).

For New York, on the other hand, the excuses have started to run out. While the team was still without Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave were back after sitting out last week’s trip to Montréal. With those stars back, the Red Bulls may have actually played better than they did in the 2-2 draw at Olympic Stadium, though the result was worse. After falling to 0-2-4 on the season, only the Impact sit between the Supporters’ Shield holders and last place in the Eastern Conference.

Given how much tinkering Mike Petke’s already done, it’s unclear what else he could try. At some point, all that’s left to do is wait for Tim Cahill to get healthy, urge his team to play better, and hope the age we’re seeing on his squad is just the product of a slow start.

But he’s probably doing all of those things already, yet here we are. Though six games, New York’s team looks flawed in a way tactics, inspiration, and preparation can’t address. When you watch a Red Bulls game, you don’t sit there and think, “Wow, Petke should be doing better.” Instead, it’s “this team just isn’t that good.”

Maybe they’ll snap out of it, but having lost to a D.C. United team that didn’t exactly show a new, more dangerous side, it’s hard to see New York making a quick turnaround. The lack of quality in the middle along with an aging Henry means there’s only so much this team can do.

Maybe there’s another side we’re not seeing. Or maybe the Red Bulls front office need to try harder to address the problems it carried into the offseason. It looks like Petke needs help.

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.

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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.