Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 21

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Welcome back Boca – been a long time, man:  Chivas USA snapped its 14-game winless streak with a victory in Southern California against Toronto. Was it mere coincidence that former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra and Erick “Cubo” Torres made their debuts for Chivas USA? Hardly. Torres had the game’s only goal, in fact.

Vancouver’s Camilo scores. Again!: It’s Camilo world right now; the rest of us are just trying to keep up the highlights of his goals. Things did not work out well for his Whitecaps, who finished the round of matches late Saturday on the West Coast with a 2-1 loss to the Galaxy. But the Brazilian forward supplied his team’s lone strike, breaking away and finishing the confidence you’d expect of the league’s leading scorer, not with 13 goals. Camilo has 10 goals in the Whitecap’s last 8 games – and holy Cap, that is getting it done!

Lightning in Chester: Lightning delayed the second half of Saturday’s Union-Timbers match for nearly an hour outside Philadelphia.  Around the unusual delay, it was a show of goalkeepers in the team’s 0-0 draw at PPL Park.

The weekend’s “Ooops” moment – and from a highly unlikely source: Generally speaking, Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is a rock. He makes the big saves and sweeps up all the little stuff, all while providing good information to the sentinels in defense. But … what a bad moment he had in Utah, completely misjudging a ball that turned into an RSL goal – the kind of mistake we see from young goalkeepers  (like Andrew Weber in Seattle over the weekend) but so rarely from a vet like Nielsen. Here ‘tis.:

Real Salt Lake’s streak ends: All things considered, Real Salt Lake is in a great place, still well positioned and doing wonderfully in a bit of a rebuilding campaign. Still, this one smarts. Jason Kreis’ team was a goal up at home when Chris Wingert drew a second yellow card. A man down, RSL quickly conceded the equalizer and then, near the end, the telling goal to Sporting KC. And just like that, RSL’s 11-game unbeaten streak went “poof!”

The week’s ref-related controversy: It’s too bad all of Real Salt Lake’s best players could not be available for Saturday’s meeting, a matchup between two of the league’s best.

What’s really too bad is that U.S. Soccer’s referee assigning attachment didn’t understand that this match had the potential to be quite physical and tightly contested – which it most certainly was. Referee Matthew Foerster was working his 15th MLS match, and that relative lack of experience could be seen.

Long story short, things got a little out of control, RSL saw a man ejected and things(as noted a couple of paragraphs up) came apart from there for the home team.

Best goal: When we talk about “best goals,” the money moment usually arrive in the finish. Sometimes, though, it’s about the skillful set-up. Watch young Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes leave a Vancouver Whitecaps defender for dead (falling down, and then attempting some desperate, lunging gambit to get in Zardes’ way just before the far-post finish.) It’s his third MLS goal … and this is why some folks are fairly excited about the Galaxy Academy product: Well done, young man.

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Smash … grab … run!: As the final whistle approached, New England would surely have been OK with a 0-0 draw, not having created much in the way of quality chances at Columbus. But center back Jose Goncalves found goal in the 90th minute, and exciting young attacker Diego Fagundez scored his sixth this year as the Revolution sneaked out of Crew  Stadium with a 2-0 victory thanks to a couple of very late hits.

D.C. United records watch: The lastest butt-whuppin’ in this sad march to infamy (4-1 Saturday to Chicago) leaves the league’s biggest 2013 disappointment with a 2-14-4 record. S the team some picked to rule the Eastern Conference in 2013 remains on pace for second fewest points per game ever in MLS (the 1999 MetroStars hold the mark at 0.47) and for fewest goals over an entire season. Ben Olsen’s team has nine so far through 20 matches; the MLS record is 21, set by United during a 30-game season in 2010.

Week’s top save: Apologies to Donovan Ricketts for failing to hand over yet another top save to the Portland Timbers’ super sprawler, but watch this highly agile stop from New York’s Luis Robles, who had to react with ultimate speed to turn away Richard Eckersley’s deflected effort:

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Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

Champions League odds
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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.