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Two from Urruti give Portland 2-1 win at New York

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AFCCEKdYt8]

When Maxi Urruti was jettisoned by Toronto late last season, some saw the acquisition of a player Kevin Payne had brought to Ontario as a boon to the Timbers. Through the first 14 games of his Portland career, however, the 23-year-old Argentine had only scored once, something that made Timbers fans wary of his persisting role as one of Caleb Porter’s number nines. His lack of production looked like part of the reason Fanendo Adi was brought in from FC Copenhagen.

After Saturday’s performance in Harrison, N.J., however, Urruti’s put the Adi acquisition in a different perspective. With the first multi-goal game of his Major League Soccer career, the Argentine helped Portland to its second win of the season, scoring both of his team’s goals in a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls.

You can catch highlights of the goals, above, but consider the implications of Portland finding a reliable striker. We’re not talking All Star-level performance. We’re just talking about somebody who can replace Ryan Johnson (who scored nine times in 29 appearances last year). Given the number of chances the Timbers create, it’s reasonable level of production to expect from an average MLS striker. To this point, however, Urruti hadn’t played at the level.

Over the last four games, however, Urruti has four goals, tripling his career production. On Saturday, that surge helped Portland take three points they weren’t otherwise going to get. Out-possessed (53-47) and out-shot in terms of overall tries (15-10) and shots on target (6-3), the Timbers lagged in all the key indicators Porter values. The Red Bulls had two goals called back, while Donovan Ricketts had to come up big on a couple of other chances. Late sub Norberto Paparatto was also called on to save the Timbers late. With some help from Luis Robles and the Red Bulls’s defense, the Timbers claimed a valuable win on the road.

For New York, that makes for a disappointing result, but for a team that’s having trouble finding somebody to pair with Dax McCarty in midfield, there were some pluses in the underlying performance. Against a Portland team that can at times flood the midfield, the Red Bulls were able to hold their own. They generated the game’s better chances. That only thing that separated them from three points was execution at a few key moments.

In theory, the Red Bulls set up as a team Portland should exploit. That didn’t happen. They didn’t get a win, either, but this low-scoring game we love isn’t always the most equitable one. New York didn’t get a win, but they may have out-played the Timbers.

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.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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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.

Emre Can back in the Liverpool side ahead of Europa clash vs. Villarreal

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Emre Can of Liverpool battles for the ball with Idrissa Gana of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Emre Can has recovered from an ankle injury and will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Europa League semifinal against Villarreal on Thursday night.

The German international has not played since April 14 when he was forced off in the Reds’ wild 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool prepping for Villarreal ]

Giving his team update on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said Can is back in the team, although captain Jordan Henderson is still out. The Reds enter the second leg trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Another positive note out of Melwood was the return of Danny Ings to first-team training. The 23-year-old striker signed with Liverpool last summer, but managed just eight appearances before having his season end to a torn ACL in October. Ings is still far away from his full return, but it was a good sight to see him back on the pitch and making progress in his recovery.

Disappointed Pellegrini rues lack of offense in Man City’s loss to Real

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
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Manchester City put in an uninspired performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, losing the match 1-0 and falling out of the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City ]

The match was decided by just one goal, but the scoreline was flattering to City as they failed to create any kind of real chances at the Bernabeu. Over the two legs, City managed just two shots on target.

While City were wildly disappointing in the second leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini did not think the match was that one-sided, saying both teams struggled on the attack.

I am disappointed because I think that was a very close game with two teams who did not create many chances. The two teams were working with no-one making a difference.

It is not the best thing changing a defender very early but I don’t think we had any problems in defence, we had problems creating, same as Real Madrid. They did not create many chances.

Real Madrid was not in top form, but they still could have scored three or four goals on Wednesday. Joe Hart had to come up with some big saves to keep things close, as the England goalkeeper was by far City’s most valuable player throughout the tie.

[ MORE: Liverpool preparing for Europa League match vs. Villarreal ]

The absence of David Silva through injury certainly hurt City’s attack, but there was very little service moving forward from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. The poor play in the midfield left Sergio Aguero stranded alone up top, nearly invisible in the second leg.

Without service, Aguero was forced to track back to try and find the ball himself, leaving City no options to hit on the counter. For a tie between two of the most expensive teams in the world, neither side was truly impressive, but City surely disappointing.