Serie A roundup: Napoli miss Champions League spot, Palermo stun Roma

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Week 38 of Serie A soccer has finished.

The major storyline in the the last group of matches was Rafa Benitez’s upsetting conclusion with Napoli, falling short to capture a Champions League birth before his rumored move to Real Madrid.

Napoli 2-4 Lazio: Lazio were looking good in the third-place Champions League spot prior to this match, but if Napoli were to come out victorious, a better head-to-head record would have the Little Donkeys leapfrog their opposition. In the 33rd minute, Marco Parolo made a move inside and drove a high shot that accelerated past Napoli goalkeeper Mariano Andujar. Then as half time was seconds away, Antonio Candreva, in on goal facing just Andujar, received a feed from Senad Lulic and buried the effort to give Lazio a 2-0 advantage in the first 45 minutes. Gonzalo Higuain came on fire in the second half and notched a brace, though he missed a penalty kick that could’ve drawn his squad closer. After the 80-minute mark, Ogenyi Onazi and Miroslav Klose were the final scorers to put it away.

Roma 1-2 Palermo: Even Lazio’s victory didn’t mess with AS Roma’s second-place ending, while mid-table Palermo relied on a late goal to end their season on a great note. Nicolas Spolli dampened Roma’s beginning with handball that allowed Franco Vazquez to draw first blood in the 35th minute with a PK conversion, but forward Francesco Totti applied an nicely-weighted touch to draw the game level in the 85th minute. However, Andrea Belotti made up for his missed endeavor in the 70th minute with a strong effort to bang home the game-deciding goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Being promoted into Italy’s top-tier for this year, Palermo’s mid-table campaign has finished well. Manager Rudi Garcia, in his second season with Roma, has guided his side to second place again.

[RELATED: Ancelotti weighing offer for AC Milan return]

Inter Milan 4-3 Empoli: Mauro Icardi counted a brace in this one to become top goal scorer in Serie A alongside 38-year-old Verona striker Luca Toni. In the 53rd minute, the ex-Sampdoria striker had himself in superb position for his first goal, from an applaudable Mateo Kovacic assist, after providing the service on Rodrigo Palacio’s 49th-minute tap-in. Marcelo Brozovic found the back of the net in 70th minute and seven minutes passed before Icardi’s placed shot beat Empoli goalie Davide Bassi. The away side halved the scoreline on Levan Mchedlidze’s first–his second goal in the 88th minute–and drew level in the 62nd minute when Manuel Pucciarelli outclassed Andrea Ranocchia to alter the momentum.

Fiorentina 3-0 Chievo: Fiorentina qualified for a Europa League spot last week and saw out  a five-game winning streak with this triumph. As Napoli was downed by Lazio, the Lillies moved into fourth place at the Artemio Franchi clashing with a 10-man Chievo due to Isaac Cofie’s second booking in the 69th minute. Josip Ilicic commenced the scoring in the 12th minute from Mohamed Salah’s cross, while Federico Bernardeschi and Milan Badelj added the other two in the second half, subsequent to the decisive red card. Bernardeschi pounced on the rebound from Mati Fernandez’s seething strike, and Badelj’s left-footer was the stoppage-time sealer. Cheivo settled their season on a four-match winless stretch.

Other results from Sunday

Cagliari 4-3 Udinese

Torino 5-0 Cesena

Sampdoria 2-2 Parma

Sassuolo 3-1 Genoa

From Saturday

Verona 2-2 Juventus

Atalanta 1-3 Milan

Atletico Madrid roster for MLS All-Star Game includes Felix

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Major League Soccer fans will get a good luck at one of the hottest prospects in world soccer when the MLS All Stars take on Atletico Madrid in next week’s MLS All Star Game.

Joao Felix, the $142 million 19-year-old, is among the roster announced by Diego Simeone for the match.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

Felix scored 20 times with 11 assists in 40 matches for Benfica before moving to Atleti in the summer. Those numbers include a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinals first leg.

The other stars will be there, too, provided no transfers happen in the interim. Koke, Thomas Lemar, Diego Costa, and Saul Niguez are in the squad.

New Atleti defender Kieran Trippier and longtime El Tri hero Hector Herrera will also be sure to help drive attendance in Orlando City.

The full roster is here.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.