Hull City 0-3 Arsenal: Full-strength lineup sees Gunners cruise

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Arsenal kept their stranglehold on the final Champions League spot as they easily dispatched Hull City 3-0 in a preview of the FA Cup final.

Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil both returned to the starting lineup following long injury spells, and they were both at the forefront of the Gunners attack that looked rejuvenated with the return of its stars.

Ramsey opened the scoring for the Gunners and Lukas Podolski poached a double as Arsenal cruised to all three points.

The opening half-chances fell to Hull City, who were determined in the midfield and gave Nikica Jelavic an opportunity on 15 minutes but he could only earn a corner.

The home side were widely the better side in the opening half, holding just 38% of possession but still outshooting Arsenal during the opening 45 by three.

However, it was Arsenal who had all the finishing quality, as Ramsey and Podolski picked up the pair of first-half goals for the visitors.

Ramsey, in his first start since Boxing Day in late December, was brilliant in the midfield.  On the half hour mark, Ozil slammed on the brakes and cut back to Santi Cazorla, who slotted a streaking Ramsey through for an easy finish and a 1-0 lead.

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Lukas Podolski wasn’t the focal point of Arsenal’s attack, but he picked up a brace to clean up the mess inside the box.

Jake Livermore came down the other end just minutes later and rattled the post of Wojciech Szczesny, but couldn’t find the finish. Ahmed Elmohamady then headed just over on the ensuing corner, and Hull’s best chance of the first half evaporated.

Arsenal would make them pay just before halftime, although the referee was in the spotlight as well. Nikica Jelavic broke towards the Arsenal box, and went down under pressure from Mikel Arteta, and with contact at a minimum referee Jon Moss let play continue.

With the ball and the push, Arsenal put on a clinical counter attack, with a ball into the box from Olivier Giroud found that Ramsey.  He likely looked to shoot himself on the volley, but his first touch was heavy. Luckily, it fell to Podolski who took the volley himself and finished powerfully for a 2-0 Gunner lead.

After the break, Arsenal wasted no time effectively putting the game away with a third.  With the ball headed for the end line, Cazorla expertly cut back across the box and found a waiting Ramsey, who fired at goal.  Harper made a kick save but it came right back to Podolski who again finished well for the three-goal lead.

Hull began to fade, even with strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long on the pitch. They will not be available for the looming cup final between these two clubs, as they are both cup-tied to their former clubs. Neither of the pair made it the full 90 minutes anyways, with Long coming off at halftime and Jelavic replaced with 20 minutes to go.

Arsenal shut up shop, and picked up a vital three points down the stretch of the season. They temporarily go four atop Everton in the Premier League standings, with the Toffees set to play at 11:10ET against Manchester United.

The Gunners still control their own destiny in the fight for the fourth spot as they look for their 18th straight season in the Champions League. Hull City, meanwhile, are


Hull City – Harper; Rosenior, Elmohamady, Davies, Chester; Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler, Boyd (Koren 84′); Jelavic (Quinn 70′), Long (Fryatt 45′).

Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil (Flamini 61′); Podolski (Sanogo 84′), Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain 74′).

Goals: Ramsey 31′; Podolski 45′, 54′

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

FC Dallas advances, giving MLS three teams in CONCACAF Champions League quarters

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Jesse Gonzalez #1 of FC Dallas throws the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Major League Soccer will have three teams in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League thanks to FC Dallas’ thrilling comeback win on Thursday.

FCD beat Guatemalan side Suchitepéquez 5-2 at the Estadio Mateo Flores after going down by a pair of first half goals.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy UEL goal ]

Carlos Gruezo and Matt Hedges helped Dallas to level terms by halftime, and Atiba Harris scored just after the break to put FCD ahead. An own goal and a must-watch Carlos Lizarazo 90th minute wonderstrike gave us the final scoreline. Gruezo also added an assist.

A tie would’ve been enough to send Dallas through atop Group H, but the big win moves it ahead of New York Red Bulls. FCD will finish seventh at worst.

FCD joins Vancouver and New York Red Bulls as the MLS representatives in the tournament, and the league will have at-worst the joint-most clubs in the quarters.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Mexican sides UANL Tigres and Pachuca are quarterfinalists, while Panamanian side Arabe Unido and Costa Rican stalwarts Saprissa advanced as well.

The field’s eighth team will be set after the 10 p.m. ET matchup between Honduras Progreso and Mexico’s UNAM.

The Whitecaps are the No. 1 seed, and could well match-up with the Red Bulls if there is a winner between UNAM and Honduras Progreso. If Honduras Progreso advances via draw, the Hondurans will be the No. 8 seed.

Florida businessman pleads guilty in FIFA corruption case

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Aaron Davidson, a sports marketing executive from Florida, leaves a Brooklyn court house with his lawyer after pleading not guilty on Friday to conspiracy and other charges resulting from the FIFA corruption scandal on May 29, 2015 in New York City. Since the case was announced earlier this week, Davidson is the first defendant to be arraigned in a U.S. court.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) A Florida businessman pleaded guilty in New York to conspiracy charges Thursday in a scheme to pay bribes to high-ranking soccer officials in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.

Aaron Davidson, 45, entered the plea in Brooklyn federal court. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen was set for April 24, when Davidson could face decades in prison. As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit more than a half-million dollars.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy goal ]

Davidson was arrested last year in the FIFA probe after prosecutors said soccer officials accepted $150 million in bribes over a 24-year period in exchange for rigging bids for lucrative marketing rights. Davidson ran a Miami-based marketing firm. He was arrested along with more than a dozen other people in a case prosecuted in the United States on the grounds that illegal payments used U.S. banks and those involved conducted meetings in the United States.

Prosecutors said Davidson negotiated and agreed to make bribe payments totaling more than $14 million, executing multiple criminal schemes including the agreement to pay bribes to a high-ranking official of FIFA, CONCACAF, the Caribbean Football Union and one of FIFA’s national member associations.

[ MORE: Why Pogba took PK over Rooney ]

The government said the bribes were paid to secure lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches for his company, Traffic USA, and its business partners.

Prosecutors said those sports events included FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League, among others.

The government said its investigation continues.

UEFA president talks up Champions League final in U.S.

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 22:  UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin poses for a picture during UEFA Euro Roma 2020 Official Logo Unveiling on September 22, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is open to the idea of the UEFA Champions League final being played outside Europe.

Specifically, Ceferin thinks about New York.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

Ceferin said Thursday that staging the first ever UCL final away from Europe would be discussed at some point.

From FOX:

“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York. For the fans it’s no problem but we should see. It’s a European competition so let’s think about it.”

Given the preseason matches played in the United States, China, and Australia, it makes sense to stage an important UEFA match outside Europe. Those first two countries especially aim to become power players in the game, and certainly it would benefit UEFA to showcase its absolute finest (if only as a reminder).

We don’t get to see entire first teams playing the game in earnest when friendlies hit U.S. soil, and the successful Copa America showed UEFA that CONMEBOL and CONCACAF trust the States with critical matches.

Selfishly, of course we want this. And selfishly, of course Europe wants to keep it. Their fans wouldn’t necessarily want to take an incredibly expensive trip to see a UCL final.