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Europa League: Arsenal fend off BATE; Everton draw Limassol

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A roundup of all of Thursday’s Europa League group-stage action…

[ MORE: Carlo Ancelotti out as Bayern Munich manager ]

BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal

When Arsenal learned their European fate would be the Europa League this season, midweek trips to Belarus are precisely what they would have lamented. Alas, Arsene Wenger‘s side dealt with little resistance on Thursday, as Theo Walcott provided the Gunners an early two-goal lead (9th and 22nd minutes), followed not much later by Rob Holding‘s winner in the 25th minute, and Olivier Giroud‘s 100th goal for the club (all competitions) four minutes after halftime.

Everton 2-2 Apollon Limassol

Everton’s clash with Cypriot side Apollon Limassol went far less swimmingly, as Ronald Koeman‘s side dropped a pair of points in a game (and first half, particularly) that can best be summed up as a comedy of defensive errors. Ashley Williams got things underway…

Limassol returned the favor tenfold not even 10 minutes later, gifting Wayne Rooney the easiest goal he’ll ever score…

Nikola Vlasic scored his first goal for the club, what looked likely to be the game-winning goal for quite some time, but Limassol, down to 10 men at this point, grabbed an 88th-minute equalizer courtesy of Hector Yuste.

AC Milan 3-2 Rijeka

After spending more than $200 million during the summer transfer window, AC Milan’s season has started rather interestingly, if not predictably. With so many new figures central to the club’s future brought in during the same period, they were bound to require time to gel and find their stride. Thursday’s dramatic 3-2 win over Croatian side Rijeka serves as an ideal microcosm of that process.

2-0 up after 83 minutes (Andre Silva, 14th minute; Matteo Mussachio, 53rd), Milan did everything in their power to capitulate and drop two points at home. Boadu Maxwell Acosty made it 2-1 in the 84th minute, followed by Josip Elez in the 90th. It would be 19-year-old Patrick Cutrone, who as a product of the club’s youth academy accounted for $0 of the above sum, who played the part of hero on the day, bagging his third goal of the season (all competitions) in the 93rd minute.

Notable Europa League scoreboard

Lyon 1-1 Atalanta
Lazio 2-0 Zulte-Waregem
Maccabi Tel Aviv 0-0 Villarreal
Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Zorya
Zenit St. Petersburg 3-1 Real Sociedad
Salzburg 1-0 Marseille
Nice 3-0 Vitesse
Ludogorets 2-1 Hoffenheim
Oestersunds 1-0 Hertha Berlin

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.

MLS All-Stars to face Juventus in 2018

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For the first time, Juventus will be taking on Major League Soccer’s best in the MLS All-Star Game.

MLS announced on Thursday that the six-time defending Italian champions will take on the MLS All-Stars in Atlanta United’s Mercedez-Benz Stadium on August 1, 2018. Juventus will be the second Italian club to play in the MLS All-Star Game, following AS Roma’s appearance in 2013.

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Since MLS adapted its all-stars vs. foreign club format in 2002 (with a brief return to the old East vs. West format in 2004), MLS has gone 9-6. Last year the MLS All-Stars lost 4-2 on penalty kicks to Real Madrid in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Klinsmann: “I’m sure I’ll come back” to coaching

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Jurgen Klinsmann hinted that he could return to full-time coaching after the 2018 World Cup.

Klinsmann appears to be enjoying life as a full-time soccer dad after his dismissal from U.S. Soccer in November 2016, having taken home a portion of a $6.2 million buyout from U.S. Soccer for he and his staff. Speaking to Socrates Magazine in Germany, Klinsmann gave his thoughts on the Bundesliga, the German National Team, and whether he’d be back in the hot seat one day.

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“I’m sure I’ll come back,” Klinsmann said. “Right now I’m having a nice break, I enjoy it. I do not know when I’ll take on a coaching job again. I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Russia and then I’ll be back in action.”

Klinsmann has been linked with a number of jobs over the past few years, even before he was fired as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, including with Everton, Sunderland, and Club Tijuana in Liga MX. But instead, Klinsmann has remained in the stands, cheering on his son Jonathan at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup along with the rest of the U.S. parents in their section.

Following the disastrous start of World Cup qualifying and the fact that Klinsmann never took the U.S. to the level he promised, it is hard to see where he will go next, unless it’s a lower level, with lower expectations. Based on his work with the USMNT and Bayern Munich, he has shown that he struggles tactically and is mainly a man-motivator, which is just one part of the coaching package.

The 53-year-old former German coach and player also had a bit of a warning to the Bundesliga, after a particularly tough season in Europe. Three Bundesliga teams (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig) made the UEFA Champions League, but both Dortmund and Leipzig finished third in their groups, dropping down to the Europa League. FC Koln, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all failed to advance to the knockout stages in the Europa League as well.

“The recent development at the European level is not a good sign, it is important that everyone is aware that success is lacking,” Klinsmann said. “Recently, you have lost too much ground.

“It’s a very critical moment. There is a certain amount of satisfaction after winning the World Cup in Brazil and the Bundesliga clubs having done very well in the Champions League.”