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MLS (afternoon) roundup: Basti scores, Fire win again; Larin downs LA late

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The sixth MLS Saturday of 2017 is nearly halfway complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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Chicago Fire 3-0 New England Revolution

Two wins, one draw — that’s Chicago’s record since signing Bastian Schweinsteiger. Now, an asterisk (or a few): all three games were played at home; in the first game, against the Montreal Impact, Ignacio Piatti was unavailable due to injury; in the second game, against Columbus Crew SC, Gregg Berhalter pieced together one of the worst starting lineups we’ve seen all season; in the third game, on Saturday, Chicago had a man advantage for over an hour.

The answer to “How good are the Fire, exactly?” is coming soon. For now, enjoy Schweinsteiger scoring his second MLS. Nemanja Nikolic also bagged a brace, his third and fourth goals since coming to the league in the winter. So far, it’s been an unbelievable return on signings made during the offseason (Schweinsteiger, Nikolic, Dax McCarty and Juninho, to name a few).

Orlando City SC 2-1 LA Galaxy

The “Cyle Larin is going to Europe, and soon” hype train continues to pick up steam, as the 21-year-old Canadian international bagged his 35th career goal (Orlando have scored exactly 100 in 73 MLS games) and fourth this season, this time an extremely late winner to top LA and preserve the Lions’ 100 percent home record at the brand new Orlando City Stadium.

Will Johnson fired Orlando into the lead in the 9th minute, chesting the ball out of the air and unleashing a powerful volley toward the far post. LA’s Clement Diop — nor any goalkeeper in the world, for that matter — didn’t have a chance. Romain Alessandrini pulled LA level with his fourth goal in three games, in the 83rd minute, but Larin reacted quickest when the ball came to him at the top of the six-yard box, and just like that, Orlando are top of the Eastern Conference (for now).

Montreal Impact 2-1 Atlanta United

Red cards change games, no matter when they’re given, but they change games especially drastically when they’re handed out before halftime. Atlanta’s Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was shown a straight red for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity — it was questionable — in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time. That allowed Ignacio Piatti to score from the penalty spot, canceling out Kenwyne Jones‘ opener, his first MLS goal.

For the majority of the second half — as in, all but the final 30 seconds of extra time — Atlanta were hugely deserving of the draw and would have even felt hard done by given the nature of the dismissal. Alas, “deserve” doesn’t really mean much in soccer, and Anthony Jackson-Hamel scored from what can only be called a fortunate redirect after three and a half minutes of stoppage time.

Former Arsenal, Brazil midfielder Baptista announces retirement

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Julio Baptista’s time at Arsenal only lasted 12 months, but it was a memorable stint.

The Brazilian, who played the 2006-07 season for the Gunners, announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 37. The former Brazil international only managed 10 goals with Arsenal, but they came in bunches.

Baptista memorably scored four goals against Liverpool in the League Cup quarterfinal, as Arsenal finished with a 6-3 win. Baptista even missed a penalty kick that game.

Baptista cemented his legacy later in the season with a brace in the FA Cup against rival Tottenham.

Baptista, clearly an immensely talented player, suffered from being a good, but not great player. He seemed to have no perfect position other than the No. 10, and most teams he played for had better players in that position. It forces him to play along the wings, deeper in midfield or as a striker during the prime of his career.

In the end, injuries beset his career, especially a short spell at Orlando City in MLS.

 

U-20 World Cup Rewind: Italy tops Mexico, host Poland falls on Day 1 (video)

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Italy opened the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a bang, knocking off fellow Group B favorite Mexico, 2-1, in Gdynia, Poland.

It only took Italy three minutes to get on the board, as Davide Frattesi found a pocket of space in front of the El Tri backline and dribbled in on goal. The Sassuolo midfielder then decided to fire on goal from distance, hitting a rocket into the corner to give Italy a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first half Gianluca Scamacca also took a rip from outside the box, but his strike sailed just wide.

A defensive error on a corner kick gave Diego Lainez and Mexico life. In the 37th minute, AC Milan product Alessandro Plizzari committed a howler, coming out to punch away the curled corner kick. Plizzari missed the ball and it went right to the head of Roberto De La Rosa, who calmly made it 1-1.

El Tri however suffered a blow late in the match as Italy took back the lead. In the 67th minute, Luca Ranieri collected the ball on the edge of the six yard box and from a tight angle, he scored past Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Higuera.

For Mexico, it’s a rough way to start the World Cup, having to go against a perennial power in Italy and playing on European soil. Not all is lost for Mexico, but it has to rebound with a win in its next game against Japan.

Elsewhere, Colombia defeated host Poland, 2-0, Japan tied Ecuador 1-1, and Senegal beat Tahiti, 3-0.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

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