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Portland outlasts Seattle in gripping playoff second leg

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Portland and Seattle staged a second leg befitting of their rivalry, as the Timbers knocked their rivals out of the MLS Cup Playoffs with a gripping win in Seattle early Friday.

A chaotic ending put the match in extra time, where Dairon Asprilla sent a bullet header into the back of the goal off a Diego Valeri cross to make it 4-3 on aggregate only to see a penalty make it 4-4 four minutes later.

Will Bruin hit the post with Seattle’s second penalty attempt and Jeff Attinella stopped Osvaldo Alonso on the next Seattle attempt. Stefan Frei stopped Liam Ridgewell‘s winning bid, but could only get a hand on Asprilla’s winning hit.

The triumph sets Portland up for a meeting with either Real Salt Lake or Sporting KC in the Western final.

[ MORE: Louisville City defends USL Cup title ]

The Sounders entered the match down 2-1 but holding an away goal. That meant 1-0 would be enough for them to get into the conference finals, and an awful Portland mistake put them in the catbird seat.

Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella bungled a cross and left it on the doorstep for Raul Ruidiaz, who made it 2-2 on aggregate in the 68th minute. Seattle, as it stood, was headed back to the Western finals.

Enter Sebastian Blanco.

The Argentine took a lay-off from Dairon Asprilla and hit a low ball that caught Stefan Frei in a hard place.

Portland was back in front, though the Timbers were denied a bid to close the match out via Frei’s in-tight denial of Lucas Melano.

Stoppage time made it 2-1 to Seattle, when Ruidiaz unleashed this beauty following a weak headed clearing attempt from Blanco.

The match went to extra time, and Valeri’s long cross was met at the back post by the leaping Asprilla.

The score line stayed the same for less than four minutes, as a Blanco handball sent Lodeiro to the spot and the Sounders star did not miss his chance to make it 4-4.

Ruidiaz had a goal pulled back for a handball as the match continued to deliver drama en route to kicks.

Some Timbers players celebrated after extra time, apparently thinking they advanced via away goals (away goals in extra time are no longer a tiebreaker). That’s… problematic.

Watch Live: U.S. starts U-20 World Cup v. Ukraine

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The much-anticipated U-20 World Cup run for the United States begins Friday with a Group D opener versus Ukraine.

[ STREAM: U.S. U-20s v. Ukraine on Telemundo Deportes ]

Tim Weah and Paxton Pomykal lead the way for Tab Ramos’ United States, who will also meet Nigeria and Qatar in the group stage.

Winning the group likely means avoiding heavily-favored France in the knockout rounds until a potential and unprecedented final.

 

Transfer rumor roundup: Dembele to Man Utd, Fraser to Arsenal

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Manchester United will fire off a $45 million opening bid to bring Moussa Dembele from Lyon to Old Trafford.

It seems unlikely that number will do the trick for the Ligue 1 outfit which bought him from Celtic for $25 million last summer.

Prolific in Scotland after making his name at Fulham and letting his contract run out, the 22-year-old scored 15 goals with five assists in his first Ligue 1 season. He also scored three goals between UEFA Champions League qualifying and the tournament itself.

That comes from Sky Sports’ Transfer Centre, which also has the report that United remains interested in Newcastle United’s Sean Longstaff — we’ve covered that before — and has cooled on Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton due to a $45 million price tag.

Nathaniel Clyne is a man in demand after his loan stint at Bournemouth furthered his chances of leaving Liverpool.

Sky Sports says the right back’s price tag is around $20 million, and that Napoli, Crystal Palace, and West Ham are all interested in his services.

Clyne had an assist in 13 matches on loan for the Cherries, who are also worried about interest in star playmaker Ryan Fraser.

The diminutive midfielder showed a dynamic connection with Callum Wilson and rang up seven goals and 14 assists at the age of 25.

But Bournemouth is said to want $38 million for its star. Will Arsenal go that high?

Pochettino joke inspires full press release denial from Real Madrid

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Real Madrid might just be pretty soft… off the field.

Easy, Madridistas. We’re simply talking about the strongly-worded condemnation of Mauricio Pochettino‘s Friday comments about Real’s training grounds.

The Tottenham Hotspur boss, seemingly joking, claimed that Real chairman Florentino Perez would not let Spurs stay at their training ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final against Liverpool unless he signed a deal to manage the Madrid club, saying, “I asked Florentino to let us sleep in the sports centre, but he did not want to let us have the facilities.”

From reading the comments, it’d be hard to believe he was being serious (especially with Zinedine Zidane a club legend and squarely in charge). But either the public was legit enraged by Poch’s quip, or Real is very soft. Perez’s club released this strongly worded statement regarding whether it was ever asked to allow Spurs or Liverpool to stay on the club’s grounds. From RealMadrid.com:

Real Madrid CF also wants to emphasize that the accommodation of the finalist teams of the Champions League are assigned by UEFA following criteria of organization and security. And that at no time has our club been requested that these teams could be accommodated in the facilities of Ciudad Real Madrid.

Sometimes it’s better to just stay silent and roll with the punches, Mr. Perez.

PSG boss Tuchel admits Neymar, Mbappe could leave

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Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel hopes to hold onto his two biggest stars, but recognizes that both Kylian Mbappe and Neymar could leave Ligue 1 for the right offer.

Neymar has been in the headlines after his season ended early following a suspension for hitting a fan after PSG lost the French Cup Final. It would be easy to see him leaving PSG, especially with Real Madrid and Manchester United among those expected to spend big this summer.

[ MORE: Bayern confirms Sane pursuit ]

And Mbappe said he was keen on a “new project,” later saying that could be at PSG. And Les Parisiens released a statement saying he was not for sale.

Tuchel admits that hasn’t eased his concerns.

“I was a bit hesitant after what Mbappe said,” Tuchel said.

“As a coach, I do want them to continue, but this is football, we are not naive. Many clubs want to transfer many players. But if you ask me, the manager, yes, I want them here next season. But if not, we will find solutions.”

There are very few clubs on Earth which wouldn’t want either player, but few with the resources to buy and then pay them. And in terms of the Premier League, you’d almost bet on Neymar to have big interest in Manchester United if the Red Devils were in the Champions League.

Do you think either will stay at PSG?

Either player would be huge dominoes in the transfer market, and could trigger the movement of essentially anyone else to Paris: Paul Pogba? Ousmane Dembele? Toni Kroos? Almost anyone would be on the table.