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Albania soccer federation fights drone pilot’s extradition to Serbia

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation is calling on Albanian authorities to stop the extradition to Serbia of a man who reportedly flew a drone with a nationalist banner over a stadium in Serbia, a move that prompted fan violence.

Ismail Morinaj was arrested in Croatia in June based on a warrant from Serbia. A court in Dubrovnik agreed this week to extradite the 35-year-old Albanian to Belgrade.

An Albanian Football Federation statement on Saturday called on Albania’s government to intervene “to stop the extradition of Ismail Morinaj to Serbia.” The federation assured Morinaj’s family it would keep fighting to prevent his extradition.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has negotiated with Croatian authorities in the last two days on the matter, the federation said.

Justice Minister Gazmend Bardhi also has formally asked Croatian authorities not to approve the Serbian request, arguing that Morinaj could “suffer from politically motivated persecution or discrimination” if sent to Serbia.

A group of Albanians called the Red and Black Fans held a peaceful rally Saturday in front of the prime minister’s office in the Albanian capital of Tirana, urging the government to do its utmost to release Morinaj. Holding national flags, including the Croatian one, and banners they called on the government “not to betray the people.”

Albanian national team players, writing on their Facebook pages, described Morinaj’s arrest as absurd and called for his release.

Morinaj, who is from the northeastern Kukes area but lives in Italy, has been a regular at the Albanian national team’s away matches.

His brother Xhevair complained to Report TV about the government’s lack of attention to the case, saying Ismail’s life would be in danger in Serbia.

“We call on the Albanian state to intervene and stop extradition to Serbia,”

During the fans’ rally, Xhevair repeated his threat that the family would take “extreme acts” if his brother was extradited to Serbia.

Violence interrupted an October 2014 European qualifying match between the Serbia and Albania when a drone with an Albanian banner appeared over the pitch. The 0-0 game was suspended after Serbian fans injured some Albanian players who rushed a Serbian player who pulled down the banner.

UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, ultimately awarded Albania the match victory, helping the tiny western Balkan country win a spot in the Euro 2016 finals, its first major tournament.

MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-3 Toronto FC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Greg Vanney and Toronto keep on doing their thing, and the Canadian side is yet another step closer to achieving MLS glory. TFC picked up its 50th point of the season on Saturday night after comfortably handling the Chicago Fire, who have cooled off significantly as of late in the Eastern Conference. The Fire are now nine points behind the East leaders and are losers of four of their last five matches.

Three moments that mattered

54′ — Accam, Fire level it up — Toronto really does manage to get contributions from everybody…

64′ — Hasler nets first MLS goal — Toronto really does manage to get contributions from all of their players…

90′ — Giovinco says goodnight to Chicago — That’s 12 goals on the season for Sebastian Giovinco and the TFC striker continues to help his side push towards the top seed in the East and MLS.

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Man of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Marco Delgado (14′), David Accam (54′), Nick Hasler (63′), Sebastian Giovinco (90′)

Video: Watts gifts D.C. United own goal for the ages

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Not many things have gone right for either side involved in 2017, but D.C. United was the recipient of a gift early on against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night.

[ MORE: Piatti brace lifts Impact to fourth win in a row; Orlando, Crew draw ]

In the 27th minute, Rapids center back Jared Watts received the ball at the back, before making a routine back pass to USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard

Or at least, it should have been a routine back pass.

Instead, Watts’ pass was well off target and too strong for Howard to reach and landed in the back of the Rapids goal. 1-0 in favor of D.C.

Reminder: Both these teams sit at the bottom of their respective conferences on points.

MLS Snapshot: Piatti brace lifts Impact | Crew, Orlando City draw

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Montreal Impact have proven to be a second-half of the season team the last several years, and that form appears to be holding true once more. Mauro Biello’s side won its fourth straight match on Saturday, while Ignacio Piatti continues to show he’s one of the most deadly scorers in the league. Meanwhile, RSL’s six-match unbeaten run is snapped north of the border, leaving the Western Conference side three points out of sixth place.

Three four moments that mattered

11′ — Piatti nets his first of the night — The Impact made this attack look so easy, and Ignacio Piatti simply won’t miss a chance like this one.

26′ — Evan Bush left motionless as RSL equalize — Luis Silva took matters into his own hands, and boy did he connect with this effort!

29′ — Impact punish poor RSL defense — Guess who? Piatti has his second of the evening.

47′ — Hosts begin to pile it on — Anthony Jackson-Hamel played provider in the first two goals, so it’s only fair he got one of his own.

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Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Ignacio Piatti (11′, 29′), Luis Silva (26′), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (47′)


The game in 100 words (or less): Orlando City and the Crew settled for a point apiece on Saturday night, but for the former the club is running out of opportunities to pick up points in the playoff race. Giles Barnes pulled a goal back for the hosts after Lalas Abubakar netted his first MLS goal for the Crew, but Orlando couldn’t find a second. The Lions played up a man for the final 13 minutes, following Harrison Afful’s dismissal.

Three moments that mattered

35′ — Abubakar knocks in first MLS goal — Orlando City’s defensive woes are certainly notable as well, but for Lalas Abubakar this is a quality way to open his scoring account in MLS.

67′ — Barnes knots it up at 1-1 — The veteran MLS forward picked up his second goal of the season.

77′ — VAR used for red card decision — The video monitor came into play briefly in the second half, and Harrison Afful was sent off the pitch early after the referee viewed the defender’s elbow to the head of Yoshi Yotun.

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Man of the match: Zack Steffen

Goalscorers: Lalas Abubakar (35′), Giles Barnes (67′)

Atlanta United fans pack 20,000 into new stadium for training session

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Atlanta United is currently in the midst of a three-match road trip in MLS play, but that didn’t stop the club from unveiling its new home venue to a massive crowd of supporters on Saturday.

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Over 20,000 fans of the Eastern Conference expansion side filed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Gerardo Martino’s side train on Saturday as Atlanta prepares to finish out its road trip against D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union.

Atlanta will open up home play at their new stadium on September 10 when they host FC Dallas. The club will have the benefit of playing eight of its final 10 regular season matches in front of its Georgia fan base.

The first-year MLS side will share the stadium with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL.

Here are some sights from the training session