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Spanish Super Cup: Late goal allows Atlético to claim first leg draw at Real Madrid

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If the summer losses of striker Diego Costa, fullback Felipe Luis, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had Atlético fans worried about their team’s 2014-15 potential, today’s opening leg of the Supercopa de España served to assuage those doubts. Proving as frustrating and stalwart as they did during last year’s league title-winning campaign, Atleti earned a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu, serving a frustrating reminder to European and Spanish Cup winners Real Madrid in the process.

That reminder played out over the first 45 minutes, where a Merengues side that held 71 percent of the ball failed to muster a shot on goal. Though the home side would finally test Migueal Ángel Moyá in the 47th minute, they wouldn’t break through until the 81st, when chaos in front of goal allowed James Rodríguez to score from nine yards out.

Instead of sitting on their 1-0 deficit, Atlético responded. In the 88th minute, off a corner from the left from Koke, Raúl García converted from inside Iker Casillas’s six-yard box, flicking home an equalizer that gave Atleti a crucial away goal.

It was a reversal of last year’s Super Cup, where a first leg, second half goal from Barcelona’s Neymar allowed the Blaugrana to take a 1-1 result out of the Vicente Calderón. After a 0-0 in leg two, Barça claimed victory, with the away goals tiebreaker handing Gerardo Martino his only trophy with Barcelona.

Should that scenario play out again on Friday, Atlético will win its second honor in four months. Hold their rivals scoreless draw at the Calderón, and Atlético will have a measure of revenge for May’s Champions League final.

On Tuesday at the Bernabéu, the teams picked up where they left off this spring in Lisbon, with an Atlético team willing to rely on its defense seeing very little drawback to the approach. Unable to break though Diego Simeone’s banks of four, a Real Madrid team that started a near-full strength squad left the field without threatening Moyá. The best chances of the half fell to Atlético.

At halftime, Carlo Ancelotti was forced into one change, with an apparent back injury to Cristiano Ronaldo forcing the halftime introduction of Rodríguez. With Toni Kroos already in the team, El Real had its two big summer acquisitions on the field, while signing Mario Mandzukic (starting) and Antoine Griezmann (off the bench) also played a part for Atlético.

Though Real Madrid proved more dangerous from the second half kickoff, the game seemed destined to end scoreless as it entered the final 10 minutes. Then, off play following a corner, Real Madrid right back Daniel Carvajal tried to pick out Karim Benzema making a near post run. The ensuing scrum saw the ball roll out to Rodríguez, who beat Moyá to give the hosts a late lead.

El Real, however, proved willing to give it back. On a late corner kick, Carlo Ancelotti’s defense failed to mark Suárez, who was left with a tap-in from five yards. Helpless to stop the Atlético attacker’s flick, Casillas watched the equalizer float into the right of goal, giving Atlético a 1-1 result.

Ahead of the teams’ Monday La Liga openers, the second leg of the Super Cup will be waged on Friday, when the Vicente Calderón will welcome its champions for the first time since they claimed last year’s Spanish title. If that home field advantage leads to an improvement on today’s play Simeone’s team could raise its second trophy in four months.

Report: NASL’s New York Cosmos terminate all player contracts

SO KON PO, HONG KONG SAR - FEBRUARY 19:  Daniel Szetela (R) of New York Cosmos and Siu Kwan Chan of South China in action during the 2015 Lunar New Year Cup match between South China and the New York Cosmos at Hong Kong Stadium on February 19, 2015 in So Kon Po, Hong Kong.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images
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As we await the future of both the North American Soccer League and its champion New York Cosmos, another dark cloud arrived regarding both.

Empire of Soccer reports that the Cosmos have terminated all of its player contracts, putting a 2017 season into the neighborhood of improbability.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs second DP ]

New York’s staff is on furlough, and the club has been “on the brink of collapse” for weeks (if not longer).

The USL avoided having its champion collapse by finding new owners for the Rochester Rhinos in the offseason. Will New York be able to do the same?

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U.S. Soccer announces Players of the Year nominees

HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 01:  John Brooks #6 of United States and teammates Clint Dempsey #8,Michael Bradley #4,Geoff Cameron #20 and Julian Green #16 wait for the corner kick in the second half against Turkey during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on June 1, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey.The United States defeated Turkey 2-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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U.S. Soccer unveiled the finalists for its top 2016 Male, Female, and youth awards on Monday.

MLS stars Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey are joined by Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood as top men’s player nominees. The winner will be announced on the eve of Saturday’s MLS Cup Final.

[ MLS: Best XI has historic American low ]

Stoke City’s Cameron and Hamburg’s Wood are the European-based players on the list, while Fabian Johnson did not make the cut. Dempsey has been limited by heart problems, but still found a way to the list.

John Brooks and Christian Pulisic are also notable exceptions, though the latter is a finalist for the younger award.

The five-woman list for Female Player of the Year sees Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, and Becky Sauerbrunn vying to finish second behind Carli Lloyd (Sorry, we couldn’t resist even with Heath’s incredible season).

The Young Male award promises to be a showdown between Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), though it’s difficult to see the latter edging the former. Also in the frame are Spurs back Cameron Carter-Vickers, Atlanta United teenager Andrew Carleton and U.S. U-17 star Josh Sargent.

The Young Female nominees are midfielders Emily Ogle and Andi Sullivan, defenders Kaleigh Riehl and Karina Rodriguez and forward Ashley Sanchez.

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MLS Best XI has just two Americans (and that’s fine)

FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges, center, heads the ball near Seattle Sounders defender Zach Scott, second from left, in the second half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat FC Dallas 3-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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MLS released its season’s Best XI on Monday, and it’s the least American bunch in the history of the award.

Some have asked whether this be a concern. The short answer is: As long as you’re not a xenophobe, probably not.

There’s no question the league is better than ever, so in that sense no one should worry that only Matt Hedges and Sacha Kljestan earned nods in the league’s 3-4-3.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs second DP ]

Several times the league saw five Americans in its Best XI, and once it was four, but this year’s duo marks a new low.

MLS Best XI
GK – Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union / Jamaica)
D – Matt Hedges (FC Dallas / USA)
D – Jelle van Damme (LA Galaxy / Belgium)
D – Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids / Sweden)
M – Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas / Argentina)
M – Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy / Mexico)
M – Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls / USA)
M – Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact / Argentina)
F – Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls / England)
F – David Villa (New York City FC / Spain)
F – Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC / Italy)

Now of course the next question is, “Where do players 12-24 come from?” Let’s make a quick second XI (and include Nicolas Lodeiro despite his half-season status because, well, did you watch any MLS this year?):

GK – David Bingham (San Jose / USA)
D – Ronald Matarrita (New York City / Costa Rica)
D – Laurent Ciman (Montreal / Belgium)
D – Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas / USA)
M – Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle / USA-Cuba)
M – Darlington Nagbe (Portland / USA)
M – Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC / USA)
M – Diego Valeri (Portland / Argentina)
M – Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle / Uruguay)
F – Dom Dwyer (Sporting KC / England)
F – Ola Kamara (Columbus / Norway)

A bit better, huh? And Dwyer could be American in under a year. Next up would probably be several Americans (Dax McCarty, Luis Robles, Michael Bradley, Jordan Morris, Drew Moor).

The idea of better players shouldn’t be about Americans racking up the top spots, rather U.S. players being improved by the level of competition.

Look at the Premier League’s Best XI, the PFA Team of the Year, which had a total of four Englishmen (five if you include English-born Jamaican back Wes Morgan). While some will argue for a cap on foreign players — which MLS has — you don’t mess with what makes it great.

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After latest loss, Hull City gets blunt: “We need help”

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05:  Curtis Davies of Hull City jumps with Calum Chambers (25) and Victor Valdes of Middlesbrough (26) during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Hull City at Riverside Stadium on December 5, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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Hull City players and staff are not being bashful.

Mired in the drop zone and following yet another loss, this one a relegation six-pointer at the hands of hosts Middlesbrough, Tigers were speaking out on the talent at the KC Stadium.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Manager Mike Phelan said “hopefully” there will be action by the club in the January transfer window, as the club continues its quest to stay in the Premier League.

Phelan said the club is lacking “firepower”, and veteran defender Charlie Davies put it even more plainly.

From the BBC:

“We need help. We made signings in the summer and they have done their bit but they were all last-minute. We are thin up top and we need someone who can put the ball in the net.”

Hull went through a mess during the summer, with player acquisition problematic and manager Steve Bruce quitting the club. After a hot start led to Phelan getting the job on a permament basis it’s clear that, like Swansea boss Bob Bradley, this isn’t about who’s in the dugout.

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