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Has Didier Drogba played his final game as a professional?

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LOUISVILLE, KY — Didier Drogba‘s dazzling, star-studded career may have come to an end Thursday night under the bright lights of Lynn Stadium, in front of a packed house of 7,025 fans for the USL Cup final.

With eight league or cup titles and dozens of individual awards, the Chelsea legend was unable to add one final trophy to his mantlepiece, as Louisville City scored on a goal-mouth scramble off a corner kick and held on to win its second-straight USL Cup title. Drogba finished the game with six shots, but just one on target, a 40-yard free kick from the center of the field that Louisville City goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh parried away.

[READ: How will the teams line up for the Manchester derby?]

It’s a setting he likely never expected he’d finish his career in, even when he signed with Phoenix Rising in 2017 and became part of the team’s ownership group. Phoenix looked mired for a poor finish before Rick Schantz took over as coach in June, leading the team into the playoffs and on a magic run to the final, which included three goals from Drogba in the playoffs.

It looked as though the USL script writers were bringing the drama to a crescendo, with Drogba adding a USL Cup to go with his four Premier League titles, four FA Cups and UEFA Champions League trophy, among others.

Unfortunately for Phoenix Rising, and perhaps more fortunately for Louisville City, Drogba’s touch was off on Thursday evening. Four of his free kicks went flying over the crossbar and he failed to fully connect on a late-game, audacious bicycle kick attempt. Drogba also earned a frustration yellow card for a tackle from behind.

“Look, you can see as the game goes on, we were down 1-0, his desire to get the ball, his desire to be involved (is there),” Schantz said. “He’s 40-years old playing against 20-somethings in a league that’s up and coming. It’s not easy. The opportunity I got to coach him this year blows me away that I was able to share the field with one of the best players in the sport.”

Even in defeat, Drogba remained humble and gracious, staying on the field to watch the trophy ceremony with his team, congratulating the squad and coach for making it to the final and telling them to keep their heads up.

“It’s been incredible,” Phoenix Rising goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski said following the match. “His talent on the field speaks for itself but the biggest thing I take, the level he’s been at and everything he’s won, he’s one of the best people you’ll ever meet. He’s invited us to his house for team barbecues, opened his doors, cooked for us for hours, treated everyone as an equal, with respect.

“That says a lot considering the guys he’s played with. Coming to USL and treating us like that, teaching us everything he’s learned, that’s one of the most valuable things I’ll take, No matter what level you get to, you can still be humble and treat everyone with respect.”

While Drogba took much of the spotlight ahead of the game, it was a trio of unsung players who shut him down all evening; Midfielder and Louisville City captain Paolo DelPiccolo and centerbacks Paco Craig and Alexis Souahy. For all the experience LouCity returned with DelPiccolo, Craig and others, Souahy is just a 23-year-old rookie playing in his first cup final. And yet, the young defender from France who was released from Le Havre’s youth academy four years ago played as well and resolutely as he had all season. Craig, a West Ham academy alum and USL First-Team XI honoree, was strong as always against the Ivorian, and DelPiccolo and Drogba each had their share of battles in midfield.

“(They were) so good, so good,” Hackworth said about his defenders performance on Drogba. “Especially, Paco, he’s first team and everyone knows how good he is, but Alexis is a star on the rise and we might be hearing his name for a long time to come at a high level.”

Not to be lost in the talk about Drogba is the incredible achievement for Louisville City to win a second consecutive title. Louisville City lost its coach, James O’Connor, to Orlando City at the end of June, and the team ended up going with a triumvirate of player coaches for the next 6 weeks of action: DelPiccolo, George Davis and the USL Cup MVP Luke Spencer.

John Hackworth took over in mid-August and after making some little adjustments – tightening the defensive line and introducing more high pressing to force turnovers – LouCity found its rhythm. Even with five coaches this season, the team was steady all year long until down the stretch, when LouCity put on the after burners. The club finished the year winning its last ten games, including the final four in the playoffs to take the USL crown.

“The way they competed in training, and then went back in the locker room, I thought I was going to have to settle some fights,” said Hackworth, noting he knew this team could make a run for the title within the first couple days of practice. “But they’re a brotherhood. They have this high standard, they want to be pushed, they want to be coached. I thought, ‘if we can get this right…if we can clean up some things, it’s going to happen.'”

Drogba didn’t speak to the media following the match, but at the pre-match press conference, he revealed that after Phoenix Rising’s 2-1 win over Orange County for the Western Conference title, he received a few phone calls about continuing playing. He then hinted that perhaps the USL Cup final wouldn’t be the finale to his career.

When asked if Drogba revealed anything to him following the match, Schantz deadpanned and said, “That will be a separate press conference.”

Bundesliga: Takeaways from Week 29

Bundesliga takeaways
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Two teams with American players going in two very different directions met Sunday in Gelsenkirchen.

Werder Bremen beat Schalke 1-0 via a wonderful Leonardo Bittencourt goal to give it plenty of hope of avoiding its first relegation in nearly 40 years.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

The win also gave plenty of misery to Schalke, who looks absolutely rudderless. David Wagner’s men are winless in 11 league outings with five draws and a total of three goals scored. Three of those losses have come to teams currently ranked 13th and lower on the table.

Schalke has produced nine shots on target in its four matches back from the break, with Weston McKennie’s diving header its only goal in 430 minutes. Next on the docket is a trip to Union Berlin before finishing with Bayer, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, and Freiburg.

[ MORE: USMNT mid McKennie wears black armband ]

Bremen, on the other hand, can move level on points with 15th place Mainz by beating Eintracht on Wednesday.

There are still tough matches on the docket including Wolfsburg and Bayern — the latter of whom may have already won the league by that June 16 home match — but Eintracht, Paderborn, Mainz, and Koln… there are points to be had there.

Also encouraging: American forward Josh Sargent has started all three matches of Bremen’s unbeaten run. He’s getting valuable experience and mettle for a 20-year-old, even if the direction has been, “Run around like a maniac and make lives miserable.”

Sargent is covering the entire field from his striker position, and he’s being noticed by defenders. He drew five fouls in 70 minutes, won 10-of-17 duels, and posted two tackles, an interception, and a clearance (Sofascore).


Player of the Week: There’s little question here. Jadon Sancho’s return to the Starting XI was an unqualified success as the English winger collected his first hat trick in a 6-1 win over Paderborn.

It was 0-0 before Thorgan Hazard opened the scoring, but Sancho had shown signs of life even while kicking off first half rust.

Sancho went 90 minutes in getting his three goals (57′, 74′, 90’+1), completing three of his four take-ons while passing at an absurd 92 percent given he plays much of his match in the final third.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

Additionally, Sancho registered five key passes, two of which were classified as big chances by Sofascore.

He’s one of four players in Europe’s top five leagues to have double digit goals and assists (Alassane Plea, Serge Gnabry, and Lionel Messi). His price tag, rightfully, is going to be absolutely nuts, pandemic or not.

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund recap and video highlights
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

BEST XI

Hradecky (Bayer)

Hakimi (Dortmund) — Torunarigha (Hertha) — Bender (Bayer) — Angelino (Leipzig)

Klaassen (Bremen)

Sancho (Dortmund) — Bittencourt (Bremen) — Thuram (Gladbach)

Plea (Gladbach) —  Lewandowski (Bayern)

Notes:

  • Klaasen joined Hoffenheim loanee Kevin Vogt in locking down the midfield against Schalke. Yes, we exhaustively covered Schalke’s offensive ineptitude but their steely performances won the day.
  • Thuram and Plea are a dynamic duo with power and skill. Plea is now one of the referenced four players with double-digit goal and assist seasons this year, while Thuram is likely to meet him there.
  • Twenty-two year old German youth international Jordan Torunarigha was very strong, making nine clearances, two blocks, an interception, and two tackles while passing at 85 percent.

SCORES

Freiburg 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen — RECAP
Mainz 0-1 Hoffenheim — RECAP
Hertha Berlin 2-0 Augsburg — RECAP
Schalke 0-1 Werder Bremen — RECAP
Wolfsburg 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt — RECAP
Bayern Munich 5-0 Fortuna Dusseldorf — RECAP
Borussia Monchengladbach 4-1 Union Berlin — RECAP
Paderborn 1-6 Borussia Dortmund — RECAP
Koln 2-4 RB Leipzig — RECAP


UPCOMING FIXTURES (Full season schedule here)

Week 24 reschedule
Werder Bremen v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Week 30
Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
RB Leipzig v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Mainz — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Union Berlin v. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Augsburg v. Koln — Noon ET Sunday


STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 28 20 4 4 81 28 53 10-2-2 10-2-2 64
 Borussia Dortmund 28 17 6 5 74 34 40 10-3-1 7-3-4 57
 RB Leipzig 28 15 10 3 70 29 41 7-6-1 8-4-2 55
 Mönchengladbach 28 16 5 7 53 34 19 9-2-3 7-3-4 53
 Bayer Leverkusen 28 16 5 7 53 36 17 7-4-3 9-1-4 53
 VfL Wolfsburg 28 11 9 8 40 34 6 4-6-4 7-3-4 42
 1899 Hoffenheim 28 11 6 11 39 48 -9 6-1-8 5-5-3 39
 SC Freiburg 28 10 8 10 38 40 -2 6-2-5 4-6-5 38
 FC Schalke 04 28 9 10 9 34 45 -11 5-6-3 4-4-6 37
 Hertha BSC Berlin 28 9 8 11 41 50 -9 4-3-7 5-5-4 35
 1. FC Köln 28 10 4 14 44 52 -8 6-3-5 4-1-9 34
 FC Augsburg 28 8 7 13 40 54 -14 5-4-5 3-3-8 31
 1. FC Union Berlin 28 9 4 15 33 48 -15 6-2-6 3-2-9 31
 Eintracht Frankfurt 27 8 5 14 44 52 -8 6-4-4 2-1-10 29
 FSV Mainz 05 28 8 4 16 37 61 -24 4-2-8 4-2-8 28
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 28 6 9 13 31 53 -22 4-4-6 2-5-7 27
 Werder Bremen 27 5 7 15 29 59 -30 1-3-9 4-4-6 22
 SC Paderborn 28 4 7 17 31 55 -24 2-2-10 2-5-7 19

Serie A fixtures set for remainder of 2019-20 season

Serie A fixtures
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Serie A’s season will play out in 124 matches over 43 days between June 20 and Aug. 2.

The final day will see the two leaders in massive matches against traditional powers, as current leaders Juventus host Roma and second-place Lazio visits Napoli.

Those leaders also know when their final showdown with each other will take place. Lazio’s visit to Juventus is the only match on July 20.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Juve is seeking its ninth-straight scudetto and leads Lazio by one point, with the second-place side boasting a better goal differential by nine. Lazio beat 10-man Juve 3-1 in December.

The Coppa Italia semifinal second legs and final will be played in the week prior to Serie A’s resumption.

Napoli leads Inter after one leg in Milan, while Milan and Juve drew 1-1 at the San Siro. Juve had its four Coppa run broken by Lazio last season.

June 20
Torino v. Parma
Verona v. Cagliari

June 21
Atalanta v. Sassuolo
Inter Milan v. Sampdoria

June 22
Lecce v. Milan
Fiorentina v. Brescia
Bologna v. Juventus

June 23
SPAL v. Cagliari
Verona v. Napoli
Torino v. Udinese
Genoa v. Parma

June 24
Atalanta v. Lazio
Inter Milan v. Sassuolo
Roma v. Sampdoria

June 26
Juventus v. Lecce

June 27
Brescia v. Genoa
Cagliari v. Torino
Lazio v. Fiorentina

June 28
Milan v. Roma
Napoli v. SPAL
Sampdoria v. Bologna
Udinese v. Atalanta
Sassuolo v. Verona
Parma v. Inter Milan

June 30
Torino v. Lazio
Genoa v. Juventus

July 1
Bologna v. Cagliari
Inter Milan v. Brescia
Lecce v. Sampdoria
Fiorentina v. Sassuolo
SPAL v. Milan
Verona v. Parma

July 2
Juventus v. Torino
Sassuolo v. Lecce
Lazio v. Milan

The Turin Derby (Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

July 5
Inter Milan v. Bologna
Sampdoria v. SPAL
Cagliari v. Atalanta
Brescia v. Verona
Udinese v. Genoa
Parma v. Fiorentina
Napoli v. Roma

July 7
Lecce v. Lazio
AC Milan v. Juventus

July 8
Genoa v. Napoli
Fiorentina v. Cagliari
Atalanta v. Sampdoria
Bologna v. Sassuolo
Torino v. Brescia
Roma v. Parma

July 9
SPAL v. Udinese
Verona v. Inter Milan

July 11
Lazio v. Sassuolo
Brescia v. Roma
Juventus v. Atalanta

July 12
Genoa v. SPAL
Parma v. Bologna
Fiorentina v. Verona
Cagliari v. Lecce
Udinese v. Sampdoria
Napoli v. Milan

July 13
Inter Milan v. Torino

July 14
Atalanta v. Brescia

July 15
Sampdoria v. Cagliari
Bologna v. Napoli
Milan v. Parma
Lecce v. Fiorentina
Sassuolo v. Juventus
Roma v. Verona
Udinese v. Lazio

July 16
Torino v. Genoa
SPAL v. Inter Milan

July 18
Verona v. Atalanta
Cagliari v. Sassuolo
Milan v. Bologna

July 19
Parma v. Sampdoria
Genoa v. Lecce
Fiorentina v. Torino
Napoli v. Udinese
Brescia v. SPAL
Roma v. Inter Milan

July 20
Juventus v. Lazio

(Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

July 21
Atalanta v. Bologna
Sassuolo v. Milan

July 22
Parma v. Napoli
Torino v. Verona
SPAL v. Roma
Lecce v. Brescia
Inter Milan v. Fiorentina
Sampdoria v. Genoa

July 23
Udinese v. Juventus
Lazio v Cagliari

July 26
Milan v. Atalanta
Roma v. Fiorentina
Juventus v. Sampdoria
Cagliari v. Udinese
Verona v. Lazio
Brescia v. Parma
SPAL v. Torino
Napoli v. Sassuolo
Bologna v. Lecce
Genoa v. Inter Milan

July 29
Fiorentina v. Bologna
Verona v. SPAL
Udinese v. Lecce
Parma v. Atalanta
Lazio v. Brescia
Inter Milan v. Napoli
Cagliari v. Juventus
Torino v. Roma
Sampdora v. Milan
Sassuolo v Genoa

Aug. 2
Genoa v. Verona
Juventus v. Roma
Atalanta v. Inter Milan
SPAL v. Fiorentina
Bologna v. Torino
Napoli v. Lazio
Lecce v. Parma
Milan v. Cagliari
Brescia v. Sampdoria
Sassuolo v. Udinese


How to Watch Serie A

  • When: Begins June 20
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Stream LiveVia ESPN+

German federation explains review of players who honored George Floyd

George Floyd tributes in soccer
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BERLIN — The German soccer federation has defended its decision to assess whether four young Bundesliga players who made gestures in solidarity with George Floyd over the weekend must face sanctions.

The DFB also said on Monday that Jadon Sancho’s booking for removing his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the demand “Justice for George Floyd” had nothing to do with the message — rather, the yellow card was issued because the 20-year-old England forward broke a rule that says players who celebrate goals by taking off their jerseys or lifting them over their heads must be booked for “unsporting behavior.”

Borussia Dortmund teammate Achraf Hakimi, 21, who displayed the same message after scoring in the same game on Sunday, was not booked because he did not lift his jersey over his head.

The DFB control committee is looking into their gestures and those made by Schalke’s 21-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie and Borussia Monchengladbach’s 22-year-old French forward Marcus Thuram to see if the four players broke laws that prohibit players from displaying “political, religious or personal slogans.”

McKennie was the first to make a statement when he wore an armband with the handwritten message “Justice for George” around his left arm on Saturday.

Thuram on Sunday took a knee after scoring in Borussia Monchengladbach’s win over Union Berlin.

Sancho and Hakimi followed suit later Sunday.

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died on Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck. Three other officers were also at the scene. Chauvin has been charged with murder and all four were fired.

DFB president Fritz Keller on Monday showed his respect and understanding for McKennie, Thuram, Sancho and Hakimi’s gestures.

“If people are discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, it is unbearable. If they die because of their skin color, then I am deeply distraught,” Keller said in a DFB statement. “The victims of racism need all of us to show solidarity.”

Keller referred to meetings with victims of discrimination and representatives of organizations that have faced anti-Semetic, anti-Muslim or racist hostility, and said the DFB and German soccer was showing its clear rejection of all forms of racism, discrimination and violence.

Keller also praised both male and female players for taking a stand and showing their solidarity.

“I’m proud of them. I can completely understand the actions from the weekend. Nobody can be indifferent to what happened in the United States,” Keller said.

Former Mainz forward Anthony Ujah was just given a warning by the DFB in 2014 in regard to the ban on political statements when he displayed a T-shirt with Eric Garner’s name and the words “can’t breathe” and “justice,” in reference to Garner’s death after a police officer placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.

Now playing for Union Berlin, Ujah on Thursday tweeted a picture of his protest from the time, but with Floyd’s name typed above in bold.

Floyd also said “I can’t breathe” before he died.

“If the DFB’s control committee wants to investigate, then I have to ask myself if we all have the same values,” Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert said. “It’s about a global issue here: The no to racism.”

Leipzig doubles up Koln behind Werner’s 25th

Koln v. Leipzig recap and video highlights
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Timo Werner hit 25 goals for the first time in his Bundesliga career and Christopher Nkunku continued his fine season as RB Leipzig overcame hosts Koln 4-2 in a Monday thriller.

Leipzig moves third with the win, moving onto 58, after Patrik Schick scored his ninth goal in 18 league matches to open the contest. Dani Olmo also scored for the victorious visitors.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

Jhon Cordoba and Anthony Modeste scored for Koln, whose top six hopes take a big hit. The Billy Goats remain 11th and are now closer to the drop zone than sixth.

Only Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich has scored more league goals (29) than Werner.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

A great early save from Timo Horn on Timo Werner preceded Koln’s opener.

Elvis Rexhbecaj timed his run well and knifed to the near post, where he shot through the legs of Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

The ball hit the post and skittered into the box and Gulacsi could only get a piece of Cordoba’s left-footed attempt.

Leipzig leveled when Upamecano dribbled up the heart of the pitch before finding Man City loanee Angelino on the left for a perfect cross and Schick header. Angelino had an exceptional day on the left flank.

Leipzig took its lead in the 38th minute with a deft finish from Nkunku, who took Konrad Laimer’s perfect feed and popped it over a charging Horn for 2-1.

Werner finished off a lightning counter as Gulacsi collected a free kick and hit a perfect punt to the league’s second-leading scorer.

That was far from the end of the fun.

Modeste hit an absolute hammer to make it 3-2, but Leipzig restored the two-goal advantage when Olmo hit a seeing-eye shot through the traffic to cap three goals in seven minutes between the two sides.

French striker Modeste won a penalty that was denied by VAR with under 20 minutes to play, he then missed wide after beating the keeping one 1v1 break with four minutes to play.

Americans Abroad: American midfielder Tyler Adams continued his streak of playing in every Leipzig match since the break when he came off the bench just before the hour mark.

Adams hit 94 percent of his 18 passes, drawing three fouls, making an interception, and winning three of four duels.