EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Faroe Islands upset Greece (again), plus a Ronaldo hat trick

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The sixth round of 2016 European Championship qualification continued on Saturday, as groups take shape and next summer’s field begins to become just a bit clearer.

Faroe Islands 2-1 Greece

Remember when Greece won EURO 2004? It seems like ages ago, but in reality it was just 11 short years ago. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. On Saturday, Greece fell to the Faroe Islands — again — a tiny archipelago nation with a population of roughly 50,000.

Hallur Hansson scored the game’s opening goal in the 32nd minute and Brandur Olsen doubled the lead in the 70th minute, before Sokratis pulled back a mere consolation goal for the Greeks in the 85th minute.

Greece currently sit bottom of Group F with just two points from six games, a total that almost certainly means there’s little or no chance of qualifying for next summer’s EURO tournament. Faroe Islands have six point and sit in fourth, five points behind Hungary for third.

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Armenia 2-3 Portugal

A hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal to a comeback over Armenia, but they sweated it out late. The hosts snatched a shock 14th minute lead when Marcos Pizzelli ripped home a free kick past Rui Patricio. Ronaldo leveled with his first 12 minutes later on a penalty as the game went into halftime 1-1. A mistake at the back led to his second, as neither goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky or defender Robert Arzumanyan dealt with a ball in the box, and the Real Madrid star picked their pocket for a second. But his third was the best, an absolute stunner from 25 yards out that roared into the top corner.

Portugal midfielder Tiago found himself with an early shower for a deserved second yellow after the hour mark, and it let Armenia back in. They pulled one back when Hrayr Mkoyan put home a shot from distance that Patricio fumbled. Armenia pummeled forward the rest of the way, but couldn’t find the last one. Portugal exhaled and earned the three points, keeping their two-point lead in the five-team Group I.

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Scotland

A huge Group D matchup with two teams trying to keep pace with Poland and Germany at the top, the hosts took the lead just before halftime through Stoke City midfielder Jonathan Walters, but Scotland pulled level just a minute after halftime as Chicago Fire designated player Shaun Maloney deflected an effort from the top of the box off John O’Shea and into the back of the net.

The second half proved entertaining, but neither side was able to break the deadlock, and each side earned a point. The draw favors Scotland, who remain in a potential qualifying position three points back of Poland and two behind Germany. Meanwhile, Ireland fails to make a move into the top half of the group, sitting in fourth just two points back of Ireland.

[ MORE: Worry starts to build for France as EURO 2016 hosts lose again ]

Gibraltar 0-7 Germany

Andre Schurrle netted a hat trick, while Max Kruse scored twice, and Ilkay Gundogan and Karim Bellarabi added one a piece for the defending world champions, who take over second place in Group D, a single point off the pace of leaders Poland.

Poland 4-0 Georgia

The Polish squad maintained its lead over Group D by breezing by Georgia. It took an hour to get going but Arkadiusz Milik finished off a fantastic big of passing in the 61st minute with a curling shot from distance. Then, as Poland pushed to put the game away, and they did more than that. Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski burst open the game as time ran down with a hat-trick in under four minutes to roar across the finish line. The win keeps Poland at the top of Group D with 14 points.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying

Finland 0-1 Hungary
Denmark 2-0 Serbia
Northern Ireland 0-0 Romania

First Leagues Cup will be an all-Liga MX affair

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Given Major League Soccer’s record against Liga MX sides when both teams are bringing their best players to the party, it’s no surprise that the former has been left out of the Leagues Cup Final.

Instead, Cruz Azul and Tigres UANL will meet on Sept. 18 for the first ever crown in the history of the competition pitting teams from Mexico, Canada, and the United States top flights.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Choosing not to play Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jonathan Dos Santos, and Carlos Pavon amongst others, the LA Galaxy fell 2-1 to Cruz Azul in Carson, California, getting an Emil Cuello goal but allowing the below delightful winner from Orbelin Pineda just after halftime.

The Galaxy were in the midst of a nasty four-match fortnight, and opted for this match — a tournament semifinal against a league which has bossed its league — to rest their men. Not a choice we love, but a fair choice given the Galaxy’s mere 4-point advantage on 7th place in the West.

Tigres needed penalties to get past Club America in an absolutely bonkers semifinal.

The match was level at 2 after regulation, with two own goals, a penalty, and a 90th minute red card doled out to Tigres’ Roger Martinez.

The second Tigres own goal, which came before the club outlasted America 5-3 in penalties, came deep in stoppage.

USWNT lawsuit goes to trial May 5

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A judge has set a May 5 trial date for the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team against U.S. Soccer.

District Judge R. Gary Klausner assigned the date at a hearing Monday in Los Angeles, which came less than a week after mediation between the two sides broke down.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

The players sued U.S. Soccer in March, alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation when compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The federation claims that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result.

The sides had agreed to mediate the dispute after this summer’s World Cup in France. The U.S. beat the Netherlands in July for its second straight title, and fourth overall.

The players and U.S. Soccer had requested a trial date after the Tokyo Olympics, which start July 25.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Zappacosta off to Roma as Chelsea trusts youth

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Tuesday was a great day to be Reece James.

Not that it hasn’t been a good summer altogether with Frank Lampard in charge of Chelsea.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Lampard sanctioned the loan of Zappacosta to AS Roma, which puts James firmly in line for first team reps at Stamford Bridge.

The 19-year-old James has earned his place after two seasons on loan at Wigan Athletic, and Cesar Azpilicueta will either need rest or time at center back at some point.

As for Zappacosta, he was a curiosity buy who was serviceable during his time at Stamford Bridge. At Roma, though, he’ll… also be second choice to club captain Alessandro Florenzi.

Lampard is definitely giving the Blues’ youth a chance to shine during this transfer ban, and this may well be the best opportunity of James’ career.

Predicting the USMNT September call-ups

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The United States men’s national team has just a pair of friendlies remaining before its next CONCACAF competition, the Nations’ League.

Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT will meet Uruguay and Mexico in September, and the looming CNL — you know Berhalter wants some sort of crown given the Gold Cup Final loss to El Tri — certainly hints at a strong XI even with players like Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Boyd (Besitkas) and Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf, on loan from Man City) settling into new digs.

[ MORE: Klopp “couldn’t afford” Coutinho ]

Before we dare to name a 23-man outfit for these matches, we should note that there’s no guarantee every big team will want to release their players in September. But this projection will act under the assumption that his best healthy men will accept invitations or that, at least, Berhalter will invite his best healthy men.

The MLS playoff push may actually force his hand in that Berhalter may respect teams in said playoff race due (though MLS does not have every team playing over the break).

We’ll assume for this exercise that DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) don’t miraculously come fit.

Now for the Big Berhalter Questions (BBQs):

  1. Since Gyasi Zardes has scored three goals and an assist in his last six MLS games and there’s no chance Berhalter ignores him, who will not get a look: Tim Weah (Lille), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas) or … wait, it’s gonna be Boyd.
  2. Wil Trapp has been poor in a USMNT jersey, but has three assists in his last six MLS matches so will he…. book his place, too.

Finally, I’m not going to say that this 23-man roster will be correct, but it will be fun.

Goalkeepers (3)

Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
Kasey Keller (Millwall)
Pick the guy who you think I should pick here and pretend you like it better than:
David Bingham (LA Galaxy)

Defenders (8)

John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Matt Miazga (Reading)
Aaron Long (West Ham New York Red Bulls)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Midfielders (6)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth)
Paxtom Pomykal (FC Dallas)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (6)

Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Timothy Weah (Lille)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Paul Arriola (DC United)
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)