U.S. Open Cup recap: Portland, home teams advance to semifinals

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The Portland Timbers are into the U.S. Open Cup semifinal, now without a loss in 110 days after their 3-2 win Sunday night in Dallas. Thanks to second half goals from Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, and Frederic Piquionne, Major League Soccer’s Western Conference co-leaders clinched their first semifinal birth, with goals from Je-Vaughn Watson and Blas Pérez not enough to keep Schellas Hyndman’s team in the competition.

Wednesday wins by Real Salt Lake, D.C. United, and the Chicago Fire make for an all MLS semifinal, with Chicago to host D.C. on one half of the bracket, RSL welcoming Portland on the other.

Portland three goals came in an 11-minute span of the second half, with the Timbers getting their first ever Texas win thanks in large part of a goal and an assist from Darlington Nagbe. His 61st minute equalize came two minutes before assisting on Valeri’s go-ahead tally, with Piquionne’s fifth goal of the tournament taking advantage of a Walker Zimmerman error for the eventual game-winner.

The Timbers’ victory sets up an August matchup with the Western Conference’s other leaders, with Real Salt Lake rolling to a 3-0 win over the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks. Tony Beltran’s first half bomb (25-26 yards) broke through a conservative RailHawk setup and sent the home side into half time up one, with second half scores from Chris Wingert and Alvaro Saborio continuing RSL’s quest for their first U.S. Open Cup title.

In the other half of the bracket, D.C. United started the night with a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution, with second half goals from Dwayne De Rosario and Lionard Pajoy breaking a deadlock formed after Juan Carlos Toja equalized Chris Pontius’s late first half opener.

Pontius opened the scoring in with a clean up goal after a half of D.C. dominance before Toja pulled the Revolution even with a free kick. Playing with Pontius for the first time this season, De Rosario headed home his fourth goal of the competition before Pajoy converted from the spot to give D.C. a two-goal win.

United will travel to Chicago in the semifinals, with the Fire ending the Cinderella run of third division Orlando City SC with a 5-1 win.  The USL PRO side had brief hope when a second half goal from Rob Valentino pulled back Chris Rolfe’s sixth minute opener. A bit of flash from Patrick Nyarko killed the visitor’s mounting momentum, with a follow-up goal from Rolfe putting the home side up two just after the hour mark.

The match’s final half hour featured two Orlando red cards (Yann Songo’o, Adama Mbenge) along with goals by Mike Magee and Joel Lindpere.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.