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College Soccer Update: Conference tourney time!

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It’s that time of year to assess whether your alma mater or favorite program is going to go dancing.

We won’t mess around with the at-large bids, which are heavily-influenced by RPI, but let’s dig into the conference tournament fields.

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America East: Surprising Binghamton will test the mettle of No. 1 Albany in one semifinal, while the other sees Brian Wright and Vermont take on last year’s NCAA darlings in UMBC.

American Athletic: SMU is the No. 1 seed, and hasn’t lost since a Sept. 13 defeat to powerhouse Stanford. If they get past No. 4 Tulas, they’ll get the winner of UConn and USF.

Atlantic 10: Still eight teams in play, including our No. 1 star of this week (See below). George Washington finished a remarkable rise to the No. 1 seed last weekend, while No. 2 Dayton looks mighty dangerous.

ACC: What a conference! In one semi, you have annual power Notre Dame against a Wake Forest side which has looked as impressive as any side in the nation this year. On the other, last year’s darling Syracuse used a Liam Callahan penalty kick to force a match-up with Clemson. Any of these four could win the national title. Game on.

Atlantic Sun: No. 4 USC Upstate and No. 2 North Florida square off Saturday for the title, with freshman Gordon Wild and his 16 goals hoping to lead the upset. And Upstate is playing with heavy inspiration after losing two teammates in a car accident earlier this season.

GoXavier.com
GoXavier.com

Big East: Some massive matches in the semis, with red-hot Xavier mixing it up with Georgetown and last year’s College Cuppers Providence going after former national No. 1 Creighton.

Big South: Sneaky-loaded Radford faces High Point in one semi, while No. 1 seed Winthrop will have to tend with one of the nation’s top scores in Brad Farias and No. 6 Campbell.

Big Ten: Columbus is the venue for No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Rutgers, with the winner earning a date with the victor of the other semi: Indiana vs. Maryland.

Big West: UCSB and Cal State Fullerton won their divisions, with UC Davis and Cal Poly the wild cards for the semis.

Colonial: Elon has dipped a bit since its lofty start to the season, but is still the favorite to emerge from a bracket with Delaware, Hofstra and James Madison.

Conference USA: Kentucky has a bye with the No. 1 seed, and Charlotte (See Star No. 3 below) is a very dangerous No. 2 seed. Five other teams are alive in the tournament, with South Carolina, Old Dominion, Marshall, Florida International and New Mexico.

Horizon: No. 1 seed UIC gets a tricky No. 6 in Wright State in one tournament semifinal, while No. 2 Oakland faces No. 4 Cleveland State.

Ivy League: Dartmouth is through to the NCAA tournament.

MAAC: Charlie Inverso’s Rider beat No. 25 Monmouth in an thrilling final to win the conference’s outright berth.

Mid American: Tantalizing bracket in one of the more under-the-radar conferences in the country. Akron is widely-expected to win the thing, but then West Virginia snuck into the tournament as the No. 4 seed. Buffalo and Western Michigan tangle in the other semi.

Missouri Valley: SIUE is the first seed and will look to go to another NCAA tournament by holding off a field which includes Bradley, Drake, Missouri State, Loyola and Central Arkansas.

Morris

PAC-12: Jordan Morris and Stanford have already clinched the conference title.

Patriot: No. 1 seed Colgate hosts Lehigh in one semi, while American and Boston tangle in the other.

Southern: Top four seeds are still alive heading into Friday’s semis: UNC Greensboro, Furman, Mercer and Eastern Tennessee State.

Sun Belt: There’s a whole five-team tournament left, but No. 1 Hartwick is favored to go to the tourney for a second-straight season.

Summit League: It’ll be decided Thursday and Saturday. Unbeaten Denver (see Star No. 2 below) is the top seed and faces Western Illinois, with the winner taking on the winner of Omaha and Oral Roberts.

West Coast: It’s win (or draw) and in for San Diego in Saturday’s conference finale at Santa Clara, which needs a win. San Francisco needs a win against Loyola Marymount and a San Diego loss.

WAC: Seattle and Utah Valley are your Nos. 1 & 2 seeds, and will get to face the winners of the 3v6 and 4v5 matches on less than a day’s rest after Thursday’s quarterfinals. No. 3 seed UNLV has a gem in striker Danny Musovski.

Three Stars

  1. 11470145Colin Phillips, Duquesne (right) — The redshirt-senior Canadian is making the most of his fifth year. Phillips still plays some back, but his great speed and size has forced coach Chase Brooks to play him up top. All the kid’s done is scored 12 goals and add five assists this season, including five goals and two assists in his last four games. The Dukes get Dayton in the first round of the A-10 tourney.
  2. Denver — Still unbeaten at 13-0-3, the Summit League’s No. 1 team has a 522-plus minute shutout streak moving into the conference tournament. Redshirt-senior Dan Jackson has been at the helm for 10 clean sheets, including the Pioneers’ last five matches.
  3. Brandt Bronico, Charlotte – The midfielder with a killer name has played a massive part in the 49ers charge to No. 24 in the nation. Bronico has 7 goals and 8 assists, and Charlotte has lost just once in its last eight games. The seven wins include victories over South Carolina and New Mexico.

Other notes

— Wake Forest maintains its status as No. 1 team in men’s Division 1, and now has 23 of 24 first-place votes. Clemson has the other.

— St. Francis Brooklyn still leads the nation with a minuscule 0.38 goals against average.

— On the flip side, Dayton has scored more goals than anyone in D-1. The Flyers have netted 46 goals in 18 games.

— Other No. 1 sides: Pfeiffer (Men’s D2), Calvin (Men’s D3), Virginia (Women’s D1), Grand Valley State (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3).

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Manchester United

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Manchester United look to leave a poor three-match streak behind as they travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea  (Watch live at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The last time both teams faced off was during the season’s opening matchweek, which saw the Red Devils steamroll Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Since, United’s quality hasn’t been the same, slipping to ninth in the league, while the Blues have maintained themselves in the European competition conversation throughout the majority of the season.

A win for either side at this point of season will provide a huge morale boost, as both teams go into Monday’s match without a win in three bouts.


Injuries/suspensions

Chelsea: OUT —  Pulisic (groin), Van Ginkel (knee) QUESTIONABLE — Abraham (knock), Giroud (knock), Loftus-Cheek (calf)

Manchester United: OUT — McTominay (knee), Tuanzebe (thigh), Pogba (ankle, 5 Mar), Rashford (back), Fosu-Mensah (match fitness), Grant (surgery) QUESTIONABLE — Ighalo (match fitness)


Probable lineups

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Tomori, James; Kante, Jorginho; Hudson-Odoi, Mount, William; Abraham.

Manchester United: De Gea; Williams, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Fred, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, James; Martial


What they’re saying

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on dropping Kepa Arrizabalaga last weekend: “It wasn’t about giving him a jolt. It was just a selection on that day. I want everyone’s reaction spot on. I know how it will feel for him. I had it in my career, it is part and parcel. I am pleased with the reaction.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Odion Ighalo: “As a striker you get thrown on out there and it might be he’ll have to come off the bench, give us a goal and he does whatever he does.”


Prediction

Chelsea will be in front of their supporters on a Monday night with Manchester United in town. That scenario tends to go well for the Blues more often than not. Chelsea, 2-1.

Mexicans Abroad: Rodolfo Pizarro’s goalscoring start headlines handful of debuts

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A handful of Mexicans abroad debuted with their respective clubs over the weekend, but none were at par with Rodolfo Pizarro’s.

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder scored on his fourth touch as an Inter Miami player, two minutes after coming off the bench. Pizarro’s right-footed strike proved to be historic, as it became the first official goal in club history.

Also on Saturday, in different regions of the United States, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Alan Pulido, respectively, made their debuts. Chicharito played 78 minutes in Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2-1 preseason loss to Toronto FC, while Pulido logged 61 minutes in Sporting Kansas City’s scoreless bout.

Qatar’s new marquee star, Marco Fabian, debuted in Al-Sadd’s hard-earned cup win.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Jimenez started and played all 90 minutes in Wolves’ 0-0 draw against Leicester City. The forward registered four shots off target and one blocked.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid —  Herrera was not called up by Diego Simeone for Atletico Madrid’s draw against Valencia on Friday.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado dressed but didn’t take the field on Sunday.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old was is out after undergoing appendicitis surgery.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo played a vital part in La Liga’s most surprising outcome of the matchweek – Celta’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid. The defender recorded eight clearances, one interceptions and two tackles throughout the 90 minutes.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  Lozano, Napoli’s most expensive player in team history, was not called up by Gennaro Gattuso on Sunday. The 24-year-old and the Italian manager seem to be on different pages, and the situation doesn’t appear to be getting better with time. It might be time to panic for Lozano’s development in Italy.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played 84 minutes in Porto’s 2-1 victory over Vitoria, which was marred by racist abuse towards Moussa Marega by Vitoria supporters.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez played the final five minutes of PSV’s 3-0 thumping of AOD Den Haag.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — After several weeks of little activity, Alvarez seems to be making his way back into Ajax’s starting lineup. On Sunday, the Mexican defender played his second set of 90 minutes in four days.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea played 76 minutes in Zulte’s 2-1 loss on Sunday.

Major League Soccer

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, LA Galaxy – In front of a semi-full Dignity Sports Park, Chicharito made his Los Angeles Galaxy debut. The storied forward, however, failed to score despite seeing a decent amount of chances. Galaxy open the MLS season against Houston Dynamo on February 29.

Rodolfo Pizarro, Inter Miami – It took two minutes for an Rodolfo Pizarro to score on his unofficial Inter Miami debut. Ironically, the brand-new MLS franchise has yet to announce the signing of the 26-year-old from Monterrey.

Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City – Pulido played 61 minutes in SKC’s scoreless, preseason draw against Real Salt Lake.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Ulises Davila, Wellington Phoenix – Davila played all 90 minutes in Phoenix’s 1-0 victory over Melbourne City. The attacker also managed to pick up a yellow card throughout the match.

Marco Fabian, Al-Sadd – Fabian debuted for Xavi’s Al-Sadd on Saturday, playing all 120 minutes in his team’s win via penalties.

Hector Moreno, Al-Gharafa – Moreno and Al-Gharafa were inactive this weekend.

La Liga roundup: Celta spoil Hazard’s return in Real Madrid draw

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Real Madrid’s draw against relegation-battling Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 2-2 Celta Vigo 

Celta’s Santi Mina scored in 85th minute to give a depleted Celta Vigo a precious point at the Santiago Bernabeu, spoiling Eden Hazard‘s return to Real Madrid’s lineup after a notable absence.

Madrid’s eighth draw of the season moves champions Barcelona just one point behind Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Returning from ankle injury that kept his out of action for three months, Hazard returned to the pitch in fine style, leading all players on the field in chances created with three and earning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Real Madrid ahead.

Hazard – and all of his flair – left the field in the 70th minute, granting Vinicius Junior the final 20 minutes of the match.

Ramos’ sixth goal of the season builded on Toni Kroos’ left-footed strike early in the latter half of the match. Real Madrid, more or less, were cruising against Celta, who had a goal to their name following Fyodor Smolov’s early opener.

Celta, who had arrived in Madrid in 18th place and had lost their last seven at the host’s home, were destined to do the unthinkable. Denis Suarez and Mina – both utilized as substitutes – paired up for the equalizer with five minutes to go, spoiling Hazard’s return.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 2-2 Espanyol

Leganes 0-0 Real Betis 

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Osasuna

Teammates appear to stop Marega leaving after racist slurs

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LIBSON, Portugal — FC Porto striker Moussa Marega, who tried to walk off the field after being the target of racist slurs from fans, faced apparent attempts Sunday by his own teammates and opposition players to prevent him from leaving.

Marega, who is black and from Mali, was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored Porto’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães in the Portuguese football league.

But when Marega started to walk off the field, several players from both Porto and Guimarães appeared to argue with him. Porto coach Sérgio Conceição also went on the field and spoke with Marega.

It took Marega several minutes to leave the field when he was substituted.

Marega held his thumbs down at the crowd as he went into the tunnel to the changing rooms. The crowd responded with loud jeers.

The attitude of the other players has drawn criticism on social media.

“We are indignant with what has happened. Moussa was insulted from warmups (before kickoff),” Conceição said after the match.

“We are a family. One’s nationality, color, or height does not matter. We are human beings. We deserve respect and what happened was despicable.”

Marega received a yellow card following his goal in the 61st minute when he appeared to respond to the slurs by pointing at his skin and by picking up a seat that had been thrown on the pitch.