Meet the young American who graced the World Cup final… Lionel Messi’s mascot

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On Sunday there was one American on the pitch at the Maracana Stadium in Rio di Janeiro for the 2014 World Cup final.

Lionel Messi’s mascot.

That’s right, as the Argentine captain led his team out for the biggest game of his career, the four-time World Player of the Year was holding the hand of a Richmond, Va. native, eight-year-old Kaylie-Jade Plott.

[ RELATED: Messi wins Golden Ball ]

Plott was picked at random as the only American child to be one of the player mascots in the final, and was handed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Below are pictures of Kaylie-Jade, sent along by the company who organized the trip in conjunction with McDonald’s USA and U.S. Soccer as 26 young American kids were player mascots at the World Cup

The American youngster retells her experience of standing side-by-side in the tunnel at the Maracana with Messi, then walking out into the World Cup final with one of the greatest players the planet has ever seen. Plott and her mother, Jamie Williams, revealed plenty about the electric atmosphere inside the stadium, plus their sadness that Messi and Argentina couldn’t pull out the win.

Below, in her own words, the young American describes how the moment she realized Messi would walk her out onto the pitch. Take it away, Kaylie-Jade.

Let’s hope sooner rather than later (hopefully Russia 2018) many more Americans can repeat your feat of being involved in a World Cup final!

I was waiting in the tunnel and kept looking around to see when the Argentina team was coming in, which was so exciting. I knew I was walking out with them, but didn’t know I got him [Messi]. And then he was there, standing next to me but I still didn’t know he was my player…the one I would walk with out of the tunnel. It wasn’t until he looked over at me and then I realized “Oh my goodness, it’s Messi!” I knew he was one of the biggest soccer players in the world because of the magazines. Before we walked out, he was quiet but he smiled at me and even helped me on the field by turning me the right way, which was really cool!”

PHOTO GALLERY

Kaylie-Jade finds out in the tunnel that she will be walking out with Messi…

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Plott waiting in the tunnel with Messi as both teams heads out…

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The Argentine and American duo walk down the tunnel…

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Plott enters the famous Maracana stadium alongside Messi for the World Cup final…

source: Getty Images

Both teams stand for the national anthems…

source: Getty Images

Messi and Plott standing together in the Maracana…

source: Getty Images

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker being tracked by several teams from East

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Tim Parker’s next destination could very well be closer to his hometown, however, other MLS sides are in hot pursuit of the U.S. Men’s National Team defender.

[ MORE: CCL recap — FC Dallas falls, Club America struts its stuff ]

The Vancouver Whitecaps center back has been the subject of trade speculation recently, and Pro Soccer Talk has learned that Parker has turned down a new contract with the Cascadia side that would have kept the 24-year-old in Canada for at least three more seasons.

Multiple sources have told PST that the deal Parker rejected was worth over $1.4 million in totality. Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer was the first to report the story.

Parker was subject to make roughly $99,000 in 2017, according to the MLS Players Union, although he’s expected to receive a significant increase with any new deal that he signs. On an average basis, Parker would have made over $400,000 annually had he signed a new contract with the Whitecaps.

A New York-native, Parker has been looking to return to the East Coast after spending three seasons with the Whitecaps. The former Saint John’s University standout was selected in the first round by the Whitecaps in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, after spending all four years with the Red Storm on the collegiate level.

Sources can also confirm that D.C. United and the Montreal Impact have emerged as the leaders to obtain Parker’s services if a deal is struck with the defender, although a move to the New York Red Bulls hasn’t been ruled out.

The Red Bulls have shown interest in the young defender for some time — and would be the preferred destination for the player — given Parker’s New York roots. A combination of allocation money and a player would likely be needed from the Red Bulls if the Eastern Conference side proved to be serious about pursuing Parker.

D.C. has managed to acquire significant allocation money over recent years, particularly GAM, which would prove to be essential in signing Parker. Ben Olsen’s defense has been built around USMNT center back Steve Birnbaum — who arrived in 2014 — but an addition of Parker would surely benefit a D.C. back line that conceded 60 goals in 34 regular season matches a season ago.

Meanwhile, a move for the Impact would be logical given the fact that the Canadian side lost center back Laurent Ciman this offseason when the Belgian international was traded to expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Police officer dies after fan violence before Bilbao-Spartak Moscow

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BILBAO, Spain (AP) A Spanish riot police officer died of cardiac arrest after clashes involving Russian soccer fans before a Europa League match on Thursday between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow, raising concerns less than four months before the World Cup in Russia.

Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in hospital after the confrontations outside San Mames Stadium in the city of Bilbao, which will host matches in the 2020 European Championship.

Police also said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed. Five people were arrested – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards.

The identity of the dead officer was not immediately disclosed.

Spartak won the match 2-1 but Athletic advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

The trouble in Spain erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium and police struggled to restore order. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

There was concern ahead of the match because of the reported presence of `Ultra’ Russian fans in Bilbao, and a large police force was deployed to try to prevent fan trouble.

Six year ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.