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Who saw this coming? Columbus routs LA Galaxy, 4-1

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Given how Gregg Berhalter reacted to last week’s loss, noting he needed more from four or five players in his lineup, Columbus were setup for a make-or-break moment this weekend. Either the Crew would respond to their coach’s implied challenge or accept what they had become: A team that’s failed to recapture March’s promise.

In case the headline leaves any doubt, the former came out at Crew Stadium today. Against what’s been the strongest team in the league (at least, over the last few weeks), Columbus gave one of its most impressive performances of the season. Thanks to two goals on each side of halftime, the Crew beat the LA Galaxy 4-1, assuming fourth place in the Eastern Conference in the process.

Justin Meram opened the scoring 23 minutes in, turning onto his right foot to put a shot from just outside the area inside Jaime Penedo’s left post. Ten minutes later, Columbus had taken apart LA’s defense once more, with Ethan Finley finishing from the left of the penalty area.

Gyasi Zardes’s 10th goal of the season brought LA within one in the 49th minute, but an easy goal for Ben Speas in the 75th restored Columbus’s two-goal edge. Nine minutes later, Columbus completed the Galaxy nightmare when Giancarlo Gonzalez headed home a Federico Higuaín corner, giving them a 4-1 win.

It was the first time this season LA has given up more than two goals in a game – a performance that comes on the heels of giving up two at home to San Jose. In that game, the Galaxy only gave up two shots on target but were caught twice in transition. On Saturday, despite holding 57 percent of the ball, LA gave up 12 shots on target, leaving little doubt as to the justice of the result.

That the result was just doesn’t make it any less of a surprise; at least, from Los Angeles’s point of view. While Columbus deserves credit for a convincing display, one that came in the face of last week’s disappointing loss, a three-goal loss is one few thought the Galaxy had in the team. For a team that had begun to look like a championship contender, Saturday could be a setback.

It would also be a complete outlier – a one-off. Though the defense was poor today, nothing about 2014 suggests that’s part of a bigger trend. The reason why this is such a big result: Nobody saw it coming.

It does, however, give us some insight into each team’s potential. For Columbus, it’s an example of the team putting it all together, getting the disparate parts that’ve misfired for much of the season onto the same page. When that happens, the Crew can put up a big result.

And for Los Angeles, the game showed the fine line Bruce Arena’s team may be walking. Though it was the league’s best over the previous month, the Galaxy also have deficiencies in defense, weaknesses that can be exploited when the back line isn’t getting help.

Odds are Saturday’s result will be a wakeup call.

Transfer rumor roundup: Icardi’s Italian stay, Atleti still seek Costa

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 07:  Mauro Icardi (L) of FC Internazionale Milano celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Stevan Jovetic during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and Empoli FC  at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 7, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi both spent some time as potential Arsenal players in the summer rumor mills, but will the former’s move to Juventus keep the latter from the Emirates Stadium?

As we wait for official confirmation that Juventus has purchased Higuain from Napoli for $103 million, it seems Napoli is aiming to replace him with Icardi. Football Italia says Inter has rejected an offer of $22 million plus Manolo Gabbiadini that would send Icardi to Naples.

[ MORE: Messi back, blonde at Barca ]

Gabbiadini has 20 goals in 60 matches for Napoli, but Icardi is among the hottest properties in the world. The 23-year-old Argentine is signed through 2019, and the fee is obviously going to be quite high, but Napoli is ready to spend money that others may not.


Many players have been rumored for the “fourth chair” behind Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez in the Barcelona attack orchestra, but could the issue be settled with a reserve from Atletico Madrid?

Luciano Vietto, 22, is being linked with a $24 million move from the Vicente Calderon to the Camp Nou. AS says personal terms are the only obstacle remaining, and Vietto would have a lot to prove in Barcelona. After belting 20 goals for Valencia in 2014-15, Vietto found the net just thrice in 28 matches last season.


Atleti could use that money, according to Marca, as Diego Simeone’s bunch reportedly believes it can pry Diego Costa from Chelsea. The Brazilian-born Spanish international has massive success at Atleti before moving to North London, and Simeone has not quit on the idea of bringing him back “home”.


Also, we’re just going to leave this right here, with the lone add-on that Aaron Schoenfeld is tearing it up for Maccabi’s rival.

Messi returns ahead of schedule, sporting golden hair (photo)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina looks on against Chile during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi is back with Barcelona a week earlier than expected, as the Camp Nou set prepares to defend another La Liga title.

That means Messi will be on the roster for the International Champions Cup, as Barcelona is slated to play Celtic, Leicester City, and Liverpool.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby in China on Monday ]

That’s not the only surprise from the 29-year-old, who has pulled an Aaron Ramsey and dramatically altered his ‘do.

Glad to have him back on our screens a bit earlier than planned, and — although I’m far from a style icon — I’ll be just as glad when the blonde grows/washes out of his head.

Ronaldo seeking new contract, says he’ll miss UEFA Super Cup

FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL - JULY 22: Dionisio Pestana, Cristiano Ronaldo and Miguel Albuquerque (President of the Regional Government of Madeira) during the opening of the new 'Pestana CR7 Funchal' Hotel owned by Cristiano Ronaldo on July 22, 2016 in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo’s long summer has earned him an extended vacation, but the knee injury he suffered in the EURO 2016 Final would’ve kept him from this season’s first big club match anyway.

The 31-year-old star will not be available for the Aug. 9 UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla, saying he’ll be back in the mix just one day later.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

Ronaldo also said he’s going to speak with the club about extending his contract, which runs through the 2017-18 season. He’s very been vocal about his desire to finish his career at the Bernabeu, and will put pen to paper in order to prove it.

From Sky Sports:

“I spoke to the president on the phone and when I get to Madrid, we will talk about it.

“Obviously it’s something I want, I have mentioned it many times, and the club also wants it. But we only spoke briefly, and there will be more concrete things to come.”

No surprises here, though it would’ve been nice to have Ronaldo on our screens for the match-up between his Champions League winners and the Europa League champions.

Guardiola, Mourinho prepare for derby in China, shake off personal rivalry

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 16: Barcelona manager (L) Josep Guardiola shakes hands with head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid before the start of the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 16, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Preseason matches rarely have legitimate hype, let alone live up to it.

Yet Monday will see Manchester United and Manchester City tangle outside of England for the first time in history, and there are a lot of fans looking forward to the early morning match in China.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

A lot of that has to do with it being the first match-up between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as bosses of City and United, to the extent where journalists asked whether the longtime rivals would shake hands (admittedly a weird question, as if to say, “Are you a grown-up?”).

They essentially issued the same answer, and here are Mourinho’s comments, from ManUtd.com:

“Of course I will shake his hand – why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand the question to him or to me. We were opponents for three years [in Spain] but we are professionals. I don’t see why I wouldn’t shake his hand.”

Both managers also talked, understandably, about fitness and health being their No. 1 goal of the match, and there are concerns about the pitch in China due to heavy rains.

Guardiola also gave insight into Vincent Kompany‘s continued struggles with recovery from the injury that hampered him for much of last season, refusing to give a timetable for the captain’s return.