MLS preview: Sounders vs. Sporting KC, Revs vs. D.C. United headline Week 12

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Week 12 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, and it’s shaping up to be a weekend dominated by intra-conference matchups between current playoff teams and playoff hopefuls alike.

Predictions record through Week 11: 19-24

If you’re to watch just four MLS games this weekend — who am I to tell you to watch only four games? — might I suggest the following four:

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)

Sporting KC were downright unplayable at times during their 4-2 thrashing of the New England Revolution on Wednesday night. Likewise, the Sounders were as impressive as any team has been all season in beating the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-0, away from home last weekend.

With Roger Espinoza and Seth Sinovic likely out (injuries), Sporting come into this one shorthanded and on short rest. But that won’t be a problem MLS’s best road team the last two-plus years. They’ll go to CenturyLink Field and attack the Sounders from minute 1 to minute 90. They’ll run out of gas and fall just a bit short, but it’ll be an entertaining, even game for much of your late Saturday night.

Prediction: Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC

[ MORE: US Open Cup draw: Sounders-Timbers, NYCFC-NY Cosmos highlight 4th round ]

New England Revolution vs. D.C. United (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

The Eastern Conference’s top two teams, both coming off humbling defeats (D.C., 1-0 to lowly Philadelphia last week) and perhaps providing an early preview of the East final which is to come in November.

Jermaine Jones is a center back one game, a central midfielder the next, and a center back again three days later. Continuity is not a word known to the Revs’ defense at the moment (Jose Goncalves is back, but Andrew Farrell missed Wednesday night’s game), and they’ll likely be playing from behind again in this one. The Revs’ saving grace: Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies are in fine form of late, and they can make up the goals leaked at the back.

Prediction: Revs 2-2 United

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Toronto FC vs. Portland Timbers (Saturday, 5 pm ET, MLS Live)

Jozy Altidore is out 4-5 weeks with another hamstring injury. Somehow, this will make Toronto FC a “better” team, because in the world of TFC, that somehow makes sense. Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley are more than capable of picking up the slack on their end, but can Luke Moore replace Altidore’s hold-up play and finish at a similar rate? It’s a huge ask.

On the other side, Will Johnson hopes to return this weekend from the broken leg he suffered at BMO Field last September. How quickly — or, if — he integrates back into the Timbers’ squad, and returns to the Johnson of old, will go a long way toward pushing the Timbers upward in the bunched-up West.

Prediction: TFC 2-1 Timbers

[ EXPANSION: Downtown stadium would make STL “a contender” | NASL beats MLS to Miami ]

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo (Friday, 10:30 pm ET, UniMas)

The Galaxy were embarrassed in Orlando last Sunday, while the Dynamo were busy putting together their most comprehensive performance and dominant result of the season, a 3-1 thumping of the Timbers. And yet, it’s still too early in the season to know whether the former are as bad as they’ve looked at times, or if the latter are as good as last week’s showing.

Can the Galaxy midfield 1) keep track of Giles Barnes (6 goals, 1 assist), and 2) deny him the ball in space with room to turn and run at defenders? If the answer to both of those questions is no, then this one might look pretty similar to the aforementioned results of last week.

Prediction: Galaxy 1-1 Dynamo

Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey

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Barcelona’s four-year reign as Copa del Rey holders came to an unceremonious end on Saturday, as Valencia shocked Barcelona in the 2018-19 final in Seville.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Saturday’s upset capped off a thoroughly successful 100th season for Valencia, who finished fourth in La Liga — assuring them of a second straight season in the Champions League — and lifted the club’s first major trophy since its last Copa triumph, in 2008.

Barca, on the other hand, must make do with merely winning the league title by 11 points and reaching the Champions League semifinals.

Kevin Gameiro opened the scoring with a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area in the 21st minute. Jose Gaya’s cross came in from the left and found the Frenchman all by himself with plenty of time for a touch to settle and open up space for the shot.

Rodrigo Moreno doubled Valencia’s lead in the 33rd minute, sending a downward header past Jasper Cillessen after Carlos Soler worked his way around Jordi Alba to deliver a hard-hit ball across the face of goal.

Lionel Messi tapped home an empty-net rebound to pull a goal back for Barcelona in the 73rd minute, but that’s as close as Barca would get to mounting a comeback.

Valencia have now lifted the Copa del Rey on eight occasions (fifth-most all time), but still trail Barca’s record of 30 Copas by some way.

U-20 WC roundup: Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Man United after Portuguese duo; Spurs want Lo Celso ]

France 2-0 Saudi Arabia

While France enjoyed nearly 70 percent of possession, thanks to playing 78 minutes with a man advantage, they were anything but dominant and overwhelming in their 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.

Les Bleus‘ opener came just before halftime, when Youssouf Fofana (Strasbourg) volleyed home from the edge of the penalty area. Saudi Arabia went dangerously close to equalizing just seconds later, but Illan Meslier (Lorient) made a stellar save to his left to deny Turki Al-Ammar.

The 1-0 scoreline remained all the way until the 75th minute, when finally Amine Gouiri (Lyon) hit a shot off the hands of the goalkeeper and watched as it bounced over the goal line for a 2-0 lead and to complete the scoring.

France will take on Panama in their next Group E game on Tuesday.

Argentina 5-2 South Africa

Ezequiel Barco might have made himself — and Atlanta United — a few million dollars on Saturday, thanks to an otherworldly golazo in Argentina’s 5-2 victory over South Africa.

The 20-year-old hit the following volley from just inside the penalty area to make it 3-1. All you can do is sit back, watch in awe and count up all the extra dollars Atlanta United are now set to make when Barco inevitably moves to Europe, following in the footsteps of Miguel Almiron and his $30-million move to Newcastle United in January.

Fausto Vera (Argentinos Juniors) opened the in just the 4th minute, followed by Barco’s first of the game — from the penalty spot — in the 63rd. The golazo came eight minutes later, followed by late tallies from Julian Alvarez (River Plate) and Adolfo Gaich (San Lorenzo) in the 78th and 90th minutes, respectively.

Next up, Argentina will face Portugal in a battle for Group F supremacy on Tuesday.

Portugal 1-0 South Korea

Much like France, Portugal were made to work mightily hard for their tournament-opening victory over South Korea.

Trincao (Braga) scored the game’s only goal in the 7th minute, when he timed his run perfectly to get on the end of Jota’s (Benfica) through ball. The counter-attack was lightning quick, and Trincao’s finish cool and precise. Portugal had the ball in the back of the net again in the 19th minute, but a look at video review revealed that Rafael Leao (Lille) was offside during the build-up before he picked out Trincao with his cross.

Elsewhere in the U-20 World Cup

Panama 1-1 Mali 0 [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Sunday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

Mexico v. Japan — 9:30 a.m. ET
Ecuador v. Italy — 12 p.m. ET
Senegal v. Colombia — 12 p.m. ET
Poland v. Tahiti — 2:30 p.m. ET

De Rossi pens emotional farewell to Roma fans before final match

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After 18 years with the club, Daniele de Rossi is playing in his final AS Roma match on Sunday before his contract expires.

Ahead of the game, the 35-year-old midfielder wrote a detailed thank you to fans, team employees, and teammates before his sendoff. “Please, let me say thank you to everyone at Roma that I came to know,” he said before beginning his list of appreciation.

First, Rossi credited his playing mentor Damiano Tommasi, who was at the club from 1996-2006 and made 262 appearances for Roma. The midfielder suffered a knee injury in 2004 which saw Rossi break into the team full-time after making his professional debut in 2002. “[to] Damiano, without whom I would certainly have made fewer appearances for this club,” de Rossi wrote.

He also thanks former captain Francesco Totti by saying, “Thank you to Francesco. The captain’s armband I wore was inherited from the arm of a brother, a great captain and the most incredible footballer I have ever seen wear this shirt. Not everyone gets to play alongside their idol for 16 years. Now, with respect, I will pass this armband on to Alessandro [Florenzi]. Another brother, one that I know is equally worthy of the honor.”

De Rossi mentions Davide Astori, the Fiorentina player who passed away tragically in March of last year, saying, “Thank you Davide, I know you will be alongside me for the rest of my life too.” He also thanks Roma academy director Bruno Conti, saying, “[to] Bruno, who saw something special in me and brought me into this club’s fantastic academy.”

Finally, he thanks the Roma supporters, saying, “Thank you to every Roma fan, my fans. Today, at least, I’ll allow myself to call you ‘my fans’ – because I was one of you, out there on the pitch, and the love you have always shown me helped me to keep on doing that. You are all the reason why I chose this city, this life, time and time again. Sunday will be the 616th time I make that choice, the right choice.”

The emotion poured out in the final paragraph of his letter, referencing a tough time in Roma history where the club finished outside the top four for the third straight season and lost in the Coppa Italia final to Lazio. “A few years ago, May 26 became a day where we all thought we would never be able to smile again. I thought that too, at least until I saw a tattoo one fan had inked that read, ’27 May 2013, and yet the wind continues to blow’. I don’t know the owner of that particular tattoo, but I do know that the wind will still blow again on this May 27. I have never felt your affection like I have done in these last few days, it has truly overwhelmed me and touched me to my core.”

“Never have I seen you all united for a cause like you have been for this. But now, the greatest gift you can possibly give me is to leave that pain and anger to one side, and start again in full support of the only thing we all care about, the one thing that comes before everyone and everything – Roma.”

What a legend this man is. Roma sure knows how to produce a type of player not seen much around the rest of the world.

Celtic win Scottish Cup to secure unprecedented domestic treble-treble

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Celtic came from behind to top Hearts 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final, completing an unprecedented “treble-treble.” They are the first team in Scottish top flight history to win each of the league title, Scottish Cup, and League Cup in three straight seasons.

After a scoreless first half, Ryan Edwards put Hearts in front in the 52nd minute, pouncing on a messy backheel from Sean Clare and scoring the first goal Celtic had conceded all competition.

That jumpstarted the Glasgow giants, with an Odsonne Edouard double leading the way. His first came from the spot in the 62nd minute, just sneaking his penalty past Zdenek Zlamal for the equalizer before he won it with eight minutes to go. The moment came off a powerful Mikael Lustig header from near the halfway line that sprung Edouard free on goal, and the 21-year-old buried the one-on-one.

The victory gave Celtic its third major domestic trophy of the campaign for the third consecutive season, marking the historic achievement. Earlier in the season they had secured the league title by an eight-point margin and beaten Aberdeen 1-0 in the League Cup final, all despite losing manager Brendan Rodgers midway through the year to Leicester City, with Neil Lennon taking over and leading the finish.

Celtic has now won the Scottish Cup a record 39 times, with 50 league titles and 18 League Cups to go along with it.