El Clasico: Ronaldo, Real Madrid beat Barca 2-1, end 39-game unbeaten run

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Few things in football can provide the joy of winning away to your fiercest, most hated, bitter rival, and that’s the pride beaming out of the Spanish capital this evening, as Real Madrid came back from a goal down to beat Barcelona and end their rivals’ 39-game unbeaten run on Saturday … at the Nou Camp.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs drop points, Arsenal win big ]

Zinedine Zidane’s first crack at El Clasico as a manager ended in overwhelming delight, though Barca’s La Liga lead remains six and seven points over second- and third-place Ateltico Madrid and Real, respectively.

With 10 minutes on the clock, Luis Suarez opened Saturday’s scoring chances with a truly shocking miss from the top of the six-yard box, the spot to where Neymar had played a perfectly squared ball across the box, but the Uruguayan striker whiffed with Keylor Navas’s far post gaping and the game’s first golden opportunity had gone.

On 14 minutes, a tribute to Johan Cruyff, the late, great Dutch legend. And this, prior to kickoff…

Fans hold up a mosaic of 90,000 cards with the slogan reading in Catalan: '‘Thank you Johan' during a tribute to the late Dutch soccer star Johan Cruyff. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Fans hold up a mosaic of 90,000 cards with the slogan reading in Catalan: ‘‘Thank you Johan’ during a tribute to the late Dutch soccer star Johan Cruyff. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Navas was up to the task, though, once called into action in the 19th minute, when Ivan Rakitic fired a scorching, low-hit shot on goal from the top of the 18-yard box. Navas was brilliantly quick to scramble and dive to his right, palming the Croatian’s out of harm’s way with ease.

The game’s first controversy arose in the 25th minute, when Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos came together in a challenge on the edge of the 18-yard box. Messi cut onto his right foot, behind Ramos, at which point the Spanish defender stuck out his left leg in attempt to win the ball. He missed the all altogether, but the referee swallowed his whistle and waved “play on.” The contact appeared to occur just outside the penalty area anyway, though it looked a definite free kick.

The scoring was opened at long last in the 56th minute, when Gerard Pique managed to wriggle free of his marker, Pepe, at the near post and head Rakitic’s looping free kick into the ground, past the outstretched hand of Navas.

Barca’s lead was short-lived, though, as Karim Benzema equalized for the visitors just six minutes later. Luka Modric started the entire move all the way back in midfield, but Marcelo and Benzema will receive most of the plaudits — and rightly so — for their surging run into the penalty area and acrobatic overhead finish, respectively, to beat Claudio Bravo and Co.

What’s El Clasico without a shocking refereeing decision sure to have these two fanbases at one another’s throats for another week? Gareth Bale‘s potential game-winner was, for some reason unbeknownst to human kind, ruled out as with fewer than 10 minutes remaining.

Never fear, Madridistas, for Cristiano Ronaldo has come to the rescue. Bale (right-footed) cross. Ronaldo chest control. Ronaldo right-footed strike past Bravo. A scintillating counter-attack on 85 minutes, not long after Sergio Ramos was shown his second yellow card and sent off.

To the soccer deities out there, we have but one wish: let’s settle this thing with one (or two) more El Clasico meetings in the final or semifinals of this season’s UEFA Champions League. Please. PLEASE.

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.