Champions! Timbers top Crew SC to lift 2015 MLS Cup

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For the first time in club history, the Portland Timbers are Major League Soccer champions after knocking off Columbus Crew SC, 2-1, in the 2015 MLS Cup final at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday.

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Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace will go down in Timbers lore as the scorers of the Rose City’s Cup-winning goals, 27 seconds and seven minutes into the game respectively, lifting Caleb Porter’s side to to the MLS mountaintop.

Valeri, who was named Most Valuable Player of Sunday’s final,  opened the scoring with just 27 seconds on the clock (fastest in MLS Cup history – WATCH HERE), when he capitalized on a shocking error by Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark inside his own penalty area. Clark let the ball run across his body in an attempt to play it out of the back, but a poor first touch saw it run behind him. He attempted to recover quickly, but Valeri sensed the gaffe and was quick to close down the space. When Clark finally attempted to boot it out wide, Valeri came in with the sliding challenge and swept the ball into the back of the net.

Portland quickly doubled their lead after another spell of poor Crew SC defending and a massively blown no-call by an assistant referee. Diego Chara played the ball out wide — too wide, in fact, as in, out of play by a two or three feet — to Alvas Powell, but the assistant referee on that side of the field didn’t signal for the throw-in that should have been given (WATCH HERE). Play continued, Darlington Nagbe weaved his way through midfield, played Lucas Melano through out wide and he crossed for Wallace at the back post, where he headed past Clark for 2-0.

[ MORE: Valeri opens the scoring with MLS Cup record-breaking goal ]

Crew SC pulled a goal back through Kei Kamara (WATCH HERE), scorer of 22 regular-season goals and three more in the MLS Cup Playoffs en route to Sunday’s final, in the 18th minute. A mad scramble inside the Timbers’ penalty area began with a failed punch by Adam Kwarasey, and finished with Kamara dancing his way around a sea of defenders and firing a low, bouncing shot past Kwarasey for 2-1.

Lucas Melano had the best chance to re-establish Portland’s two-goal lead in the 54th minute, but the Argentine newcomer dwelled on the ball far too long inside the penalty area, where he was briefly one-on-one against Clark, allowing Michael Parkhurst to recover and block the untimely shot on goal. Parkhurst came up with another massive block in the 60th minute, making a last-ditch, sliding block against Fanendo Adi.

A moment of pure madness followed on the ensuing corner kick. The ball was whipped into the Crew SC penalty area, where Parkhurst made one goal-line clearance with his forehead, then another with his left arm after the ball caromed off the crossbar. No penalty given, no red card, no yellow card, no whistle blown — nothing.

[ MORE: PST staff predicts MLS Cup 2015 — how’d we do? ]

A header by Adi went inches from doubling the lead in the 71st minute, but the big Nigerian striker could only watch helplessly as the ball hit the inside of the post and bounced back into play, catching Clark completely off-guard, hitting him in the midsection and very nearly deflecting into the goal, but ultimately only going out of play for a corner kick. Scenes. Absolute scenes.

Crew SC mustered very little late on with the game and their season on the line, with Portland effectively seeing out the game en route to lifting the Philip F. Anschutz trophy in front of more than 2,000 traveling fans clad in Green and Gold. Sunday’s MLS Cup triumph makes the Timbers the 10th different MLS franchise to win the title.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: ‘We know what we want to do’

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to monitor ‘sparingly’

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.