Michael Bradley to BBC: ‘If the first game were in Cairo, I’d be there’

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In the BBC’s World Football podcast released on Friday, United States and AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley spoke at length about his club’s excellent start to the season and his father, Bob Bradley, coaching the Egyptian national team.

Here is a full transcript of the interview, which begins near the start of the podcast.

BBC (1:53 mark of the podcast): “Despite suffering an ankle injury, the USA international has been reveling in the team’s excellent run.”

Michael Bradley: “I think what you’ve seen over the past few years here at the club is that they’ve built a strong foundation for the future. Unfortunately, there have been times in the past few years where the results haven’t been what everybody had hoped. To then cap that off by losing the Italian Cup final last year to Lazio was a massive disappointment for anybody involved with the club.

“But beneath that disappointment was still a strong foundation for the future. So I think the club did very well in the summer to assess the situation, to decide which players were needed here, to decide which players had value in the transfer market, and they really did a good job of now finding the right coach, allowing him the chance to work with players who he wanted, and so far this season, what you’re seeing is the fruit of all that work.”

BBC: “The Coppa Italia final, where Roma lost to Lazio: Is it too much to say that that was an embarrassment or humiliation — just the fact that they lost to Lazio?”

MB: ” ‘Embarrassment’ and ‘humiliation’ are not words that I would use. We all know what football at the highest level is like, especially then, when you get to a final. It’s all about who, on the day, is able to make a play. The margin between winning and losing is so fine. Certainly, losing to our biggest rivals in the final of a cup, allowing them to lift that trophy in front of us, in front of our fans — I think, when I speak to my friends, who are Romans [and] supporters of the club, you’re talking about one of the darkest days in the history of the club, without a doubt.

“But from disappointment and from failure to win a cup like that comes even more determination and commitment. As I said, there’s a group of players and coaches here this year that are determined to put that right.”

BBC: “Explain how fierce this rivalry actually is.”

MB: “It’s difficult to describe to anybody, honestly, outside of Rome, outside of Italy. The only thing you can tell somebody is to come to the stadium one day and see it. Actually, better off coming to the stadium, to Rome, the week of that game, and you start to feel and start to understand what this means for the people.”

BBC: “Talk to me about Francesco Totti. I mean, he’s been here for nearly as long as you’ve been alive. Explain how much of a legend he is at this club.”

MB: “He’s the symbol for this club. He’s the symbol for every Roman, for every fan. For every person who’s grown up in this city, who’s dreamed of playing professional football, he is the idol, the symbol, the example. He obviously grew up in Rome. He’s never left. He’s won the Scudetto, he’s won Italian Cups, and really, more than anything, what people here have so much respect for him about is his loyalty. Through a career where, really, [he was] one of the best players in the world, with the opportunity to go to the biggest clubs — Real Madrid — he always chose to stay loyal to this city, to these colors, to his club. So in those ways, he is somebody who is a legend.”

BBC: “I’d just like to ask you about your dad [former U.S. head coach Bob Bradley]. He’s developed something of a hero status after going to coach the Egypt national team and refusing to leave the country, even amid all of the post-revolutionary turmoil that’s been going on there. What’s your view of his attitude and his steadfast support of the Egyptian people and their football fans?”

MB: “Incredibly proud. Incredibly proud of him, of my mother — who is there with him — and their commitment to finishing what he started. He went there with the idea, with the dream, of taking Egypt to the World Cup. In the midst of all the instability in their country, in the midst of the revolution, in the midst of massacres, in the midst of so much trouble in their country, they have managed to keep a group of guys focused and committed on really, the dream of the entire country.

“I think it’s in these ways, in these moments, that we’re all able to see how powerful football is. I mean, a country like that, with so much turmoil, maybe the only thing thing that the Egyptians can agree on is their love and support for the national team and how the dream is to see them back in a World Cup.”

BBC: “Do you ever worry about your old man and your mom?”

MB: “No. The Egyptian people have been incredible to them. There’s not been a day where they feel in any way unsafe or not at home. They’ve grown to really like Cairo. The people, as I said, have been great to them, and so we’re excited for what they’re doing and hoping that they can finish off this dream.”

BBC: “They’re two games away from doing that. You’re injured at the moment, so you can’t play in the next league fixture here or for the States in their final World Cup qualifiers. Are you tempted to go to Ghana and join your dad in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier?”

MB: “If the first game were in Cairo, I’d be there for sure. Ghana might be a little bit more difficult to get to, but I’ll be watching and cheering like every other Egyptian that day.”

Supporters Shield still up for grabs as Atlanta, NYRB both win

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The New York Red Bulls are still in the mix, but Atlanta United has taken a one-point lead into the final matchday of the season as both teams won on Sunday.

Atlanta United topped Chicago 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz stadium. Franco Escobar opened it up early and an own-goal put them ahead for good, keeping pace with RBNY’s win over Philadelphia and leaving them a point ahead at the top of the table.

Escobar’s strike came just eight minutes in, after feeding Josef Martinez near the penalty spot who whiffed and fell down, he latched back onto the loose ball and decided to take it himself, curling one inside the far post. Chicago scored in the 24th minute to level the score, but Atlanta did not relent.

Just two minutes after Chicago’s equalizer, Atlanta was back on top. Chris McCann crossed it from the left edge, and Johan Kappelhof attempted to slide and block the cross at the near post, but instead he redirected the ball into the back of his own net.

New York, meanwhile, kept pace with a 1-0 victory at Philadelphia behind a penalty from Kaku, sending Andre Blake the wrong way. The spot-kick was given on a VAR check that determined Alejandro Bedoya handled the ball.

On the final day of the season, the Red Bulls will host Orlando City, while Atlanta is on the road at Toronto. Atlanta can secure the Supporters’ Shield with a win, but New York can jump them with a win and an Atlanta draw or loss. Should Atlanta lose by one goal and the Red Bulls draw, the teams would be level on both points and goal differential, meaning the significant Atlanta lead on goals for would give them the advantage.

Rooney scores brace, DC United completes improbable playoff push

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They’ve done it. They’ve really done it.

D.C. United, with just two league wins through the first 19 games of the MLS season, has completed an improbable playoff bid by securing an Eastern Conference berth in the postseason with a 3-1 win over NYCFC on the penultimate matchday of the season.

Wayne Rooney, the catalyst for this amazing turnaround, fittingly scored a brace, including the opener just eight minutes in on a fabulous run from Luciano Acosta down the end line.

Acosta was there to secure the win, doubling the lead in the 24th minute with a long-distance strike into the top-right corner.

Goalkeeper Bill Hamid was required to preserve the lead, getting down low to stop a tight-angle strike from David Villa towards the end of the first half. That would spur D.C. on, as they would seal the deal with a penalty from Rooney in the 74th minute, leaving NYCFC with just a consolation in the 78th minute when David Villa ended the bid for a clean sheet.

The victory caps an improbable second-half run for D.C. United, as they have won five in a row and 10 of their last 15. Rooney has been the leader, earning the role of captain despite just signing this summer, and scoring 12 goals in 19 MLS matches. With Columbus Crew drawing, D.C. jumped all the way up into fourth place with the win.

Serie A: Icardi wins Milan derby, Lazio up to fourth

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It was a huge day in Serie A, and Mauro Icardi took the headlines with his 92nd minute winner to give Inter Milan a 1-0 victory over rivals AC Milan.

Matias Vecino whipped in a brilliant cross from way out on the right edge, and Icardi was there at the back post to head past Gianluigi Donnarumma for the late victory. The goal capped off an otherwise wasteful match, as Icardi’s winner came on just the fourth shot on target by Inter of their 18 total efforts on net, while AC Milan managed just a single shot on target of their 15 tries. It pushes Inter past Lazio into third in the table, while AC Milan remains way down in 12th.

Meanwhile, Lazio scored a pair of late goals to earn all three points at Parma and jump to third – temporarily – in the Serie A table. Ciro Immobile was on hand to dispatch an 81st minute penalty confidently into the top-left corner and send Lazio on its way to a 2-0 victory. The spot-kick came after Valon Berisha was tackled late by Riccardo Gagliolo both going for a loose ball in the penalty area, a soft giveaway but a penalty nonetheless.

With time winding down, Joaquin Correa sealed it four minutes into stoppage time by wrong-footing Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe to finish a well executed counter-attack. The win for Lazio eventually left them in fourth after Inter’s win on 18 points, still seven behind leaders Juventus but only three back of Napoli in second.

Elsewhere, Atalanta clobbered Chievo Verona at Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi 5-1 to pull out of the relegation zone. The win is the first for Atalanta since the first match of the season – stopping a seven-match winless streak – and the goal explosion marks a massive turnaround for a club that had scored a measly two times over the last six games.

The hero was 30-year-old Slovenian international Josip Ilicic who bagged a hat-trick, marking his first three goals of the season. Defender Marten De Roon actually began the scoring in the 25th minute with a laser from outside the top of the box, while Ilicic began his day four minutes later when he delivered a fabulous left-footed curler.

His left foot did it again from outside the box in the 50th minute to put Atalanta 4-0 up, and just two minutes later he had his third, tapping in a Robin Gosens ball home after Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino embarrassingly failed to collect the cross.

A huge relegation six-pointer finished in a 3-3 draw that disappointingly lifted neither Empoli nor Frosinone out of the drop- zone. 33-year-old Frosinone captain Daniel Ciofani found a brace, but Turkish international Salih Ucan rocketed home a 79th minute volley to share the points.

Torino slumped to a 2-2 draw with 17th placed Bologna on Arturo Calabresi’s 77th minute equalizer, while Fiorentina also disappointed in a 1-1 draw with 14th placed Cagliari thanks to Leonardo Pavoletti’s 69th minute strike that left the two teams even.

Bundesliga: Thorgan Hazard goes off as Gladbach jumps to second

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While Eden Hazard has torn it up in the Premier League, his brother is quietly leading Borussia Monchengladbach to a stellar season.

Thorgan Hazard scored a goal and assisted two others as Gladbach clobbered Mainz 4-0, jumping to second in the Bundesliga table. Jonas Hofmann had the hat-trick, putting Gladbach in the lead 21 minutes in, but Hazard made things happen. He threaded the pass to Hofmann through the three-man defensive line for the game’s opener.

Hofmann put them 2-0 up on another Hazard assist minutes after halftime, and then he bagged his own on a pinpoint cross from Nico Elvedi that left Hazard all alone to roof it past a helpless Florian Müller. Hofmann pulled in his hat-trick by the 63rd minute to seal the game.

Thorgan Hazard has now been directly involved in 11 goals in nine games for Gladbach this season, the same amount as his brother Eden has for Chelsea so far.

Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin and Freiburg drew 1-1 on a pair of first-half goals. Ondrej Duda scored for Hertha just seven minutes into the match thanks to an absolutely delicious feed from Per Skjelbred on a through ball from just past the halfway line. That was it for Hertha though, as they struggled to create more good chances. Freiburg knotted it up just past the half-hour mark, as Robin Koch delivered a howitzer into the top corner, a truly fantastic goal.

Hertha failed to truly take advantage of the crowded top of the table, but the point pushed them up to sixth in the table, level on 15 points with RB Leipzig. Freiburg, meanwhile, moved to nine points, just three above the relegation zone.