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Europa League Roundup: Liverpool draws at Dortmund, while Sevilla, Villarreal, and Shakhtar all win

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With the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals finishing up earlier in the week, the Europa Leg took the field Thursday as European play ramped up. Every single team playing got at least one goal, with plenty of late scoring.

Three of the four games saw a winner, with two of those three winners coming on the road. Here is a roundup of the action:

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool

Both teams had big moments just before the 20th minute. Dortmund nearly struck first when Marcel Schmelzer got around Simon Mignolet and cut back to Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the center of the box with the goal open, but Mamadou Sakho made a goal-saving block in traffic on Mkhitaryan’s shot. Liverpool then found a chance of their own on a set-piece after a Marco Reus foul, as Dejan Lovren tried to bounce a header over Roman Weidenfeller, but the goalkeeper was smart to it, earning a foul as Lovren looked to head back in the rebound.

Dortmund’s relentless press gave Liverpool plenty of problems in their own half, and Mkhitaryan was a monster in front of the box, but it was Liverpool that struck first against the run of play. Adam Lallana found Divock Origi in space up front, and one-on-one with Lukasz Piszczek, the 20-year-old turned and fired past Weidenfeller for a 35th minute lead. Weidenfeller had to make another save – off his face – on the last kick of the first half as Origi sprung free on another counter.

Just 2 minutes back after the break Mats Hummels equalized for the home side off a corner. Coutinho continued to cause the Germans problems, forcing a pair of saves, the first a quality low save after good Liverpool combination play. Dortmund poured attackers forward in the final 15 minutes, but were unable to find a way through a packed box and past Simon Mignolet. Liverpool remains unbeaten in the Europa League this season.

Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Sevilla

A pair of goals soon after halftime provided much of the action, but the winner came late as Vicente Iborra tapped home in the 83rd minute for a huge away win. Artiz Aduriz scored just two minutes after the break with a header from the far post across the face of goal putting Athletic ahead, but Sevilla leveled it back up nine minutes later through Thimothee Kolodzieczak who finished expertly into the top corner after Ever Banega sucked the Athletic goalkeeper out of net.

Iborra finished off a wonderful move from Kevin Gameiro, who tap-danced across the top of the box before threading a ball through three defenders to a streaking Iborra who ended up one-on-one Athletic goalkeeper Iago Herrerin. The win is the first of the entire season for Sevilla on the road in any competition outside of the Spanish Cup.

Villarreal 2-1 Sparta Prague

The home side dominated for much of the game, scoring three minutes through Cedric Bakambu in and should have had a few more, but the Czechs came back to even it up deep into first-half injury time as Jakub Brabec used his head to redirect a corner into the back of the net.

Roberto Soldado was a force up front, and Bakambu picked up his brace just past the hour mark on a layoff from Denis Suarez which Bakambu buried into the top corner. It’s the third brace in Europa League play this season from Bakambu, the first time that’s happened in four years.

Braga 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

The heavy favorites put themselves in good position after away goals from Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Facundo Ferreyra sent them through. The Ukranians weathered 20 shots from Braga – six on target – until the final few minutes when they conceded a header from Eduardo to give the home side a lifeline in the quarterfinal.

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

[ MORE: NYCFC teen signs for Gladbach ]

Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola