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CONCACAF Champions League Roundup: Champions fall in Panama; Sporting slips at Estelí

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Portland’s 2,500-mile trek from Boston to Guyana did not go unrewarded. On a discolored ground in Providence, Guyana, the Timbers made a resounding CONCACAF Champions League debut, defeating Alpha United, 4-1.

The game played to the expectations that have grown from MLS’s meetings with the regions’ minnows. While trips to Costa Rica, Honduras, and, of course, Mexico can still haunt U.S. and Canadian teams, visits to the regions’ less-established leagues tend to be more forgiving.

Coming off a loss last week to Olimpia, United proved just as accommodating to their MLS guests. Steve Zakuani scored his first of the season in the 18th minute, while Maxmiliano Urruti doubled the advantage in the 34th. Through a wonderful free kick from Barbosa Murilo pulled the home side within one moments before the break, second half goals from Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell gave Portland the lopsided result.

Despite the convincing performance, the Timbers merely stayed on par. The real challenge in Group 5 will be Olimpia, who also have three points after one match. Where the winner of the teams’ head-to-head battles will likely reach the quarterfinals, it’s imperative to get three points from Alpha United.

Club América 6-1 Bayamón FC

Even without Raul Jiménez in tow, Club América remain one of the tournament favorites, a fact they hammered home at a largely empty Estadio Azteca. With goals in the sixth (Moisés Velasco), 12th (Michael Arroyo), 14th (Ventura Alvarado), and 20th (Martín Zuñiga) minutes, Antonio Mohammed’s teamtook advantage of a shaky Adrian Krul, putting the match away before the Puerto Ricans had a chance to settle.

Gil Burón’s goal just before halftime sent América into intermission up 5-0, though Nicholas Walker would pull Bayamón within four on the hour. In stoppage time, Zuñiga’s second of the game make it 6-1 – Bayamón’s second straight five-goal loss.

Real Estelí 1-1 Sporting Kansas City

A potential setback saw MLS’s champions drop points in Nicaragua, failing to take advantage of the same slip from Saprissa a week ago. Now Sporting may need to take four points from the Costa Ricans to guarantee a knockout round return.

Estelí broke through early, with a sixth minute save from Jon Kempin deflecting off midfielder Jorge Claros and in for an own goal. Ten minutes later, Peter Vermes’ side responded, with a free kick buried by Toni making it 1-1.

Estelí would go on to outshoot Sporting 11-5 on the night, prompting Vermes to eventually call on Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer to spark the attack. Ultimately, neither team was able to break through, leaving both sides reason to rue the final score at the Estadio Independencia.

Chorrillo 1-0 Cruz Azul

The upset of the night saw the tournament’s defending champions give Panama’s Chorrillo its first points in Champions League, simultaneously ruining La Maquina’s perfect record (6-0-0) against Panamanian sides. Putting home the rebound of a 70th minute penalty kick, Justin Arboleda authored Chorrillo’s little piece of history, leaving the holders bottom of their group through two matches.

Luis Fernando Tena’s team also slipped up last week, drawing at home to Costa Rica’s Alajuelense. Tuesday’s performance offered more of the same, with the Cementeros allowing the hosts to have the better of play early on.

Though the holders slowly started exerting more control, attempts by Marco Fabián, Fausto Pinto, and Gerrado Torrado failed to come good, leaving Chorrillo within a whistle of their history-making upset.

In the 69th minute, that whistle finally came, putting the pressure on goalkeeper José de Jesús Corona to keep his team even. After saving the initial try, however, Corona couldn’t prevent Arboleda from converting the rebound, leaving Cruz Azul with one point through two matches.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.