San Jose, Colorado play to their second scoreless draw of the season

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When San Jose visited Colorado two-and-a-half weeks ago, the teams left the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park having combined for as many red cards (one) as shots on target. The 0-0 served as one of the first indications that the diamond formation Pablo Mastroeni had installed in the Rapids’ midfield could send the team in a much more conservative direction.

Tonight in Santa Clara, both teams had a chance to redeem that performance, and by some measures, hey managed to do so. Due in part of San Jose playing more aggressively at home, the teams combined for 11 shots on target, with the Earthquakes nearly claiming an opening goal on three occasions. And with Mastroeni having moved away from the diamond over the last two games, Colorado also played a more open game, with Charles Eloundou and Chris Klute providing width this year’s Rapids had been lacking.

All of which meant nothing at the final whistle. Ninety more minutes, zero more goals, and the Earthquakes and Rapids had played out another scoreless draw. San Jose remains mired near the bottom of the West, their seven points in eight games besting only Chivas USA, while Colorado stays fourth, seven points off league-leading Seattle.

I’ll admit my immediate reaction to this game was “I don’t want to see round three” (Sept. 28, in Colorado). After some time to think about it, these first games feel like two very different, coincidentally 0-0 results. The introductions of Eloundou and Kemani Hill gave the Rapids a completely different look, while San Jose started a new, more balanced midfield (Khari Stephenson and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi as opposed to Sam Cronin and J.J. Koval). Both teams are evolving. There’s no telling what we’ll see in September.

In the interim, Colorado gets a valuable road point, continuing what’s been a strong start. If this team really is evolving, improving as Pablo Mastroeni grows into the head coach’s job, 15 points from nine games will look like a boon come October (particularly since they’ve already played six times within the Western Conference).

For San Jose, the performance is another example of why the team is better than its record (1-3-4). At some point, though, the Earthquakes have to translate their competitiveness on the field into points in the standings. The season’s nearly at the quarter, and while they’re only six points back of a playoff spot, it’s a spot that Galaxy and the Timbers are also on the outside looking in on. The Earthquakes not only have to make up the gap, but they have to outplay three good teams over the next 26 games if they’re to return to the postseason.

The West, as predicted, is hyper-competitive, and while other teams will have spells like San Jose’s, the Earthquakes need to prove theirs is temporary. Form is nice. Points are better.

Rapids add longtime Bundesliga winger Aigner from 1860 Munich (highlights)

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The Colorado Rapids are hoping for an injection of offense from veteran Bundesliga right winger Stefan Aigner.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old has played 274 games between the first and second tiers of German soccer, with 25 goals and 25 assists in Bundesliga play and a further 31 and 25 in the second tier.

Most recently with 2.Bundesliga side 1860 Munich for a third time, he’s played most of his career between Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.

[ MORE: BVB’s Merino to Newcastle ]

Aigner has the resume to succeed and perhaps star in MLS, especially if he wasn’t slowed too much by a knee injury last season (He returned and produced at the 2.Bundesliga level).

Here’s what Rapids interim general manager Padraig Smith said:

“We’re excited to add a player of Stefan’s caliber to our roster for the next three-and-a-half years,” said Smith. “As an organization we are committed to fielding a forward-thinking side and bringing in Stefan – a technical and versatile player who can excel in multiple attacking roles – will help us achieve that vision.”

UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic held; U.S. GK Horvath busy

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It was a busy night in the UEFA Champions League, with clubs battling for berths in the playoff round where they could draw big names Liverpool, Napoli, Sevilla, Sporting CP or Hoffenheim.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 


Club Brugge 3-3 Istanbul Basaksehir

American backstop Ethan Horvath was under siege at home, but his Club Brugge side overcame throwing away a 2-0 deficit to claim a 3-3 draw with İstanbul Başakşehir. The three road goals will give the Turkish visitors every reason to feel good about the Aug. 2 second leg.

Celtic 0-0 Rosenborg

Brendan Rodgers‘ Scottish champions outshot the visitors 12-8, but couldn’t find a way into the goal. Now the Bhoys will have to score in Norway to advance to the next round.

Nice 1-1 Ajax

Mario Balotelli‘s 32nd minute staked Nice to a halftime lead, but the UEFA Europa League finalists snared an away goal through Donny van de Beek to send Ajax back to Holland with a slim advantage.

UCL first legs

Tuesday
Qarabag 0-0 Sheriff
Slavia Prague 1-0 BATE Borisov
AEK Athens 0-2 CSKA Moscow
Steaua Bucharest 2-2 Plzen
Vardar 1-0 Copenhagen
Partizan Belgrade 1-3 Olympiacos

Wednesday
Astana 3-1 Legia Warsaw
Dynamo Kyiv 3-1 Young Boys
RB Salzburg 1-1 Rijeka
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-0 Ludogorets Razgrad
Viitorul 1-0 APOEL Nicosia
Maribor 1-0 FH

Terim steps down as Turkey manager after restaurant fight

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) Turkey’s soccer federation says it has parted ways with national team manager Fatih Terim.

The announcement on Wednesday came weeks after Terim and his two sons-in-law were involved in a fight with a restaurant owner.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 

The Turkish Football Federation statement said Terim, 63, and the federation agreed that “it would be healthier for both sides to part ways,” saying non-football related issues were harming both Terim and the federation.

It also thanked Terim, who has headed the national team since 2013, for his services.

Terim previously managed Galatasaray, Milan and Fiorentina. There was no word on who would replace him.

BVB mid Merino reportedly undergoing Newcastle medical

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It’s been a wild year for Mikel Merino, and now the Spaniard is close to playing for a legend from his home country.

Merino joined Borussia Dortmund from Osasuna last summer, and the 21-year-old had a hard time getting playing time under Thomas Tuchel.

[ MORE: Gold Cup Final preview ]

A defensive midfielder who also plays center back and a bit further up the pitch, Merino is set to join Rafa Benitez on loan at Newcastle United for the club’s return to the Premier League next month.

Merino was photographed in Newcastle on Wednesday, and would join a central midfield with Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden. Both players thrived in the Championship last season.

The Magpies turned Christian Atsu‘s loan permanent to start the summer, and then purchased Florian Lejeune, Jacob Murphy, and Javier Manquillo.