Vancouver Whitecaps' Sebastian Fernandez leaps to knock the ball out of the air and gain control against the Montreal Impact during the second half of an MLS soccer game Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Seattle Sounders

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt96zfVDCLk]

 

One game, 100 words (or less): With a team depleted by absences, injuries, and suspensions, Seattle’ was in no shape to take a result out of Vancouver. With a 12th minute, 26-yard bomb from Sebastián Fernández, the Whitecaps had the only goal they’d need, holding the Sounders to two shots on target in a 1-0 win at B.C. Place.

Three Two moments that mattered:

1. 0′ – This is the Seattle team? – Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin are just returning from Brazil (and not about to be stressed on that Vancouver turf).  Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda were both suspended. Obafemi Martins and Djimi Traoré are hurt. Seven points clear in the Supporters Shield race, the Sounders had room for a night like this, but the lineups at kickoff still spoke to the imbalance:

Vancouver: Ousted; Beitashour, Mitchel, Leveron, Harevy; Laba, Koffie; Fernández, Morales, Manneh; Hurtado
Seattle: Frei; Anibaba, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez; Neagle, Azira, Evans, Pappa; Barrett, Cooper

Vancouver wasn’t perfect either, but if you are going to have absences against a team missing Dempsey and Martins, might as well be in central defense.

2. 12′ – The absence of Alonso and Pineda – When you have two midfielders who’ve rarely played together, these kinds of things happen. The Whitecaps break pressure on their right and find Sebastián Fernández alone above the arc. With the defense entrenched at the edge of the 18-yard box, the Uruguayan has room to take a touch before having a crack. With both sides of goal to choose from, he picks the right, finding net for the game’s only goal.

source: AP
Vancouver’s Sebastian Fernandez saw his 12th minute goal hold up as the Whitecaps defeated Seattle, 1-0. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

3. 13′ – 90′ – The one big moment – The rest of the match didn’t exactly blend together, but it was defined by the same story. Vancouver, having its one-goal lead, was never given an incentive to go in for the kill, though they had their chances (most notably, a remarkable Erik Hurtado breakaway in the second half where his attempted chip dribbled meekly to Stefan Frei). Without its danger men, the Sounders never gave Vancouver reason to believe a second goal was necessary.

Three lessons going forward:

1. Seattle should be well-rested for Portland – The upshot of these suspensions and absences: The Sounders will be in good shape for their upcoming matches with the Timbers. Mid-week, the rivals face-off in the U.S. Open Cup, while CenturyLink’s upper deck will be open when the teams leave Tukwila for Seattle.

2. Vancouver has a huge lead in the Cascadia Cup – The competition’s current standings, thanks to the updated Wikipedia page:

 

2014 results summary
Team Pts Pld W L D GF GA GD
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 7 3 2 0 1 7 5 +2
Seattle Sounders FC 2 3 0 1 2 6 7 -1
Portland Timbers 1 2 0 1 1 7 8 -1

 

The Whitecaps have one more home game against the Timbers (Aug. 20) before closing the informal competition at Portland (Sept. 20) and Seattle (Oct. 10).

The Timbers’ game-in-hand and two matches against the Whitecaps could swing the race, but Seattle’s in a tough spot. Even if they max out points (11), they’re at the mercy of the Whitecaps. As of now, it looks like Cascadia’s trophy will stay in British Columbia.

3. Erik Hurtado seems to be cooling off – After the former Santa Clara forward broke through earlier this season with his first MLS goal, he went on a four-game run that pushed Darren Mattocks to the bench. Tonight, however, made it clear that form is gone. Particularly on that failed breakaway, Hurtado looks like his 2013 self, and while the work rate that’s always earn him time is still there, the Whitecaps may yet need Mattocks.

Not that he’s necessarily a better option. Scoreless in his last six appearances, the Jamaican international has now gone two-and-a-half months without a goal.

Where this leaves them:

  • The win gives Vancouver a room on sixth place LA, having opened up a four-point gap thanks to this weekend’s results.
  • Seattle stays seven points up on Real Salt Lake and Colorado in the Western Conference. The Sounders lead the Supporters Shield race by the same margin.

Andy King: If Leicester can win PL, Wales can win EURO 2016

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 07:  Andy King of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Andy King is still riding high from Leicester City’s Premier League title, and that confidence is carrying over into EURO 2016.

The Foxes midfielder and Welsh international sees no reason why Wales can’t win the tournament, despite having 80-1 odds to do so.

[ MORE: England’s EURO squad ]

Of course, Leicester began the Premier League season as 5,000-1 underdogs to lift the trophy.

We’ve got to win six or seven games compared to 38.

80-1 against 5000-1. You know which one you would rather back. We are a talented group and I believe we have the best player in the tournament.

Gareth [Bale] is probably the best player in the tournament in many people’s opinion, so why can’t we go there and do something? We are confident we can do that.

If Wales were to win the EURO this summer, the story truly would rival that of Leicester. The Dragons have never played in a European Championship before, and the nation’s only other appearance at a major tournament came back at the 1958 World Cup.

[ MORE: Payet, Milner make top-five of UEFA’s “player barometer” ]

You may not agree that Gareth Bale is the best player in the tournament, but he is surely near the top of the list. Bale’s play will likely determine how far Wales can go, drawn into Group B alongside England, Slovakia, and Russia.

Report: West Ham offer $22 million for AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 20:  Carlos Bacca of AC Milan celebrates his goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and SS Lazio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 20, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
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West Ham’s search for an elite striker continues, with their newest target AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca.

According to Sky Sports, the Hammers have bid $22 million for the striker, who led Milan with 18 goals in Serie A play last season.

However, after paying $34 million to sign the striker last summer, it is believed Milan would be unwilling to sell their top scorer for less than $30 million.

MORE: All 2015-16 PL season reviews ]

At 29-years-old, Bacca has been one of Europe’s most consistent forwards over the past few seasons. After bagging 49 goals in 108 appearances for Sevilla, he earned a move to Milan last July, finishing third in Serie A scoring in his first year with the club.

West Ham’s chairman David Gold has been open about his desire to sign a world-class striker, with Lyon confirming that they rejected a $45 million bid from the Hammers for Alexandre Lacazette.

VIDEO: Neymar takes batting practice before New York Mets game

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  Brazilian soccer player  Neymar Jr stands in the New York Mets dugout before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field on May 31, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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We all know Neymar’s skills with a soccer ball, but what about with a baseball bat?

Spoiler alert: He’s better with his feet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Copa coverage ]

The Barcelona and Brazil superstar was in New York on Tuesday night and hit up the batting cages at Citi Field before the Mets game against the Chicago White Sox.

Taking swings lefty, Neymar made some contact but didn’t necessarily have the smoothest stroke…

He then hit the field and got back to his roots, showing off some footskills while juggling a baseball.

I’m not too sure if Neymar is a baseball fan, but this may make him the Mets’ newest, most famous supporter (sorry Jerry Seinfeld).

Neymar is in the United States as he has some time off after the long Barcelona season. He is not playing in the Copa America with Brazil, but will instead play in the Olympics in August.

Messi’s tax fraud case begins with player avoiding court

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 17:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on  during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on April 17, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Lionel Messi’s tax trial began Tuesday with the player deciding not to appear in court for early proceedings.

Messi is facing a prison sentence of nearly two years on charges he failed to properly pay taxes for part of his earnings from Barcelona from 2007-09.

[ FOLLOW: All of PSTS’s Copa coverage ]

The Argentina playmaker is not obligated to appear in the Barcelona court until Thursday, when he is scheduled to testify before a judge. Sentencing is not expected until next week.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been charged with three counts of tax fraud for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of 4.1 million euros ($4.5 million).

Because of the trial, Messi is missing Argentina’s preparation for the Copa America Centenario, which begins Saturday in the United States. He is expected to fly straight to the U.S. to join his teammates after the trial ends. Argentina debuts in the tournament on Monday against defending champion Chile.

Even if found guilty, it is highly unlikely that Messi or his father will face any jail time. They have denied wrongdoing.

[ COPA AMERICA PREVIEWS: Group A | BC | D ]

“Everything is good. Everybody is calm,” said Messi’s lawyer, Enrique Bacigalupo, as he arrived at the Barcelona court on Tuesday.

The trial is centered on alleged unlawful activities of Messi’s father, but authorities said the player knew enough to also be named in the case. Officials said that although Messi was mostly unfamiliar with tax issues, there was sufficient evidence to believe he could have known and consented to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights.

In addition to each facing a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days, Messi and his father could also be fined in the amount defrauded and ordered to pay all legal proceedings and the loss of any possible tax benefits for a year and a half.

Messi is just the latest high-profile player to have to deal with Spain’s tough tax system. Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Xabi Alonso also were targeted by authorities recently.

[ MORE: Marcelo giving away UCL winners’ medal…on Facebook ]

Mascherano, Messi’s teammate with Argentina and Barcelona, earlier this year was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence for not paying nearly 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in taxes for 2011 and 2012. Brazil striker Neymar recently had to testify before a judge because of alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona. He and the club were accused of withholding the real amount of the transfer fee, in part to avoid paying the full amount of taxes.

Messi was also being investigated by Spanish tax authorities after his name was among those released in the probe of international offshore accounts, known as the Panama Papers, although he was not charged for those allegations.