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Wayne Rooney hails ‘special’ England farewell vs. U.S.

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Wayne Rooney‘s one-off return for the English national team has caused plenty of uproar but the Three Lions legend is focused on one thing: saying thanks.

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Rooney, 33, will make his 120th and final appearance for England against the U.S. men’s national team at Wembley on Thursday, in a fixture renamed the “Wayne Rooney Foundation International” as he is expected to come on as a second half sub.

A year after announcing his retirement from the international game (as England’s all-time leading goalscorer with 53 goals), Rooney has been granted an opportunity to say thanks to the England fans by current boss Gareth Southgate and the FA.

Speaking to reporters from England’s St. George’s Park training base on Tuesday, the current D.C. United striker believes this will be the perfect chance for him to say goodbye and he will wear the captains armband with pride if the opportunity arrives.

“I only knew it was going to happen a couple of weeks ago. Whether or not I would take part it was not confirmed but once we spoke with Gareth Southgate and the FA we felt it was the right game to do it and it’ll be a special moment,” Rooney said. “We both came to an understanding and we both felt the best thing was to take part. It will be my last game. My form has been good in the States and if I got called up because of that then it would be a different situation, but this will be my last game. If Harry Kane handed over the captain’s armband then great but the important thing is not wearing the armband, wearing number 10 or playing 90 minutes, it is to pull the shirt on again and that will be a special moment.”

Whatever your stance on Rooney’s return to action for England and whether or not it diminishes the value of a cap or this friendly altogether, you can’t argue that he doesn’t deserve a special sendoff. Many suggest he’s blocking the pathway for young talent, while others believe it is a nice gesture from the FA to honor his legendary 13-year England career.

“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. The most important thing is, speaking to the FA, we thought it was right, and the players I’ve spoken to think it’s right,” Rooney said. “As a country we haven’t done anything like this before but I hope that in 10-15 years’ time we’re doing it for someone like Harry Kane, who could go on to get the goalscoring record.”

With his retirement coming over 12 months ago, Rooney explained that the FA have been talking to him about some sort of farewell for a while but a viable solution wasn’t found ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

“We were speaking with the FA. We had stayed in contact, we have had the idea for 12 months. We were going to do a game before the World Cup but it was not the right timing,” Rooney said. “The players were preparing for the biggest tournament in football. Personally I didn’t think it was right to get in the way of that. We both felt it was right now though.”

Reports suggest an extra 20,000 tickets have been sold for the match against the USMNT since Rooney’s return was confirmed, but it does feel like having him on the pitch to collect some sort of trophy and then maybe going on a lap of honor before the game would have been more fitting.

The fact he still plays at a high level and was in the Premier League and in England squads last season, plus had great success in his first few months at D.C. United, makes this situation a little different and a little more complex.

Yet due to England not taking this friendly with the USMNT that seriously — they play Croatia in a crucial UEFA Nations League game on Sunday — this opportunity for Rooney to say farewell has presented itself.

Rooney has shown this season, his debut campaign in Major League Soccer, that he can still score goals and impact games and who would bet against him jumping off the bench and scoring one more time for England? The odds on him to score at any time against the country where he currently plays his club soccer stand at around 21/20 with the UK bookmakers.

There is one more opportunity for Rooney to make a name for himself on home soil, but he claims he isn’t interested in scoring one last time.

“It’s not important,” Rooney said. “It’d be nice, but the main thing is to run out at Wembley one last time and have the opportunity to thank the fans for the years they’ve supported me.”

Report: Matches in Italy could be played behind closed doors this week

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For at least the next week, we could see matches in Italy played behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus scare.

According to a report in Gazzetta Dello Sport, the Italian sports minister, Vincenzo Spadafora, has determined that clubs based in regions where there have been positive Coronavirus (officially known as Covid-19) cases will need to play matches without fans for at least the next week.

An NBC News report from Sunday cited Italian government officials stating more than 133 people had tested positive for COVID-19, and that ten cities in Northern Italy were on lockdown.

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The Italian sporting authorities are trying to keep people from congregating together in large numbers, where the virus could potentially spread.

In a sporting context, this reported decision from the Italian government will also create headaches within Juventus FC. The club has a massive match next Saturday against Inter Milan, and would likely prefer to either have it cancelled or moved to a safe location so it could be played with fans in attendance.

La Liga: Sevilla leapfrogs Getafe into 3rd place

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Sevilla leapfrogged Getafe to take third place in the Spanish league after routing the season’s surprise team 3-0 in Madrid on Sunday.

Sevilla beat Getafe at its own game, out-muscling the hosts with a suffocating defense and demonstrating clinical finishing to convert its scant scoring chances.

The Andalusian side got an opener from Lucas Ocampos in the 43rd minute. Midfielder Fernando doubled the lead in the 67th before he set up Jules Kounde to seal the victory in the 75th.

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Sevilla lost goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik to an apparent leg injury before the second half started. He was replaced by Yassine Bounou, who was never tested.

The victory ended Sevilla’s five-game winless streak across all competitions that put coach Julen Lopetegui under growing pressure to restore the team’s good form from the first half of the season.

Getafe has had an outstanding campaign, fighting for a Champions League spot for next season despite its modest budget.

Getafe’s loss was just its fourth at home in any competition this season. It lost last round away at Barcelona, but had bounced back with a 2-0 win over Ajax in the Europa League on Thursday.

Sevilla moved one point ahead of Getafe, which dropped into fourth place. Leader Barcelona is 12 points ahead of Sevilla.

Real Madrid trails Barcelona by two points before the two teams meet next weekend.

Elsewhere in La Liga action, Atletico Madrid took home a 3-1 result over Villarreal, adding to the club’s already great week. Villarreal went up first through Paco Alcacer, but Atleti hit back with goals from Angel Correa, Koke, and Joao Felix. It was Felix’s first game back after a hamstring strain, and England National Team right back Kieran Trippier made his return to the field for the first time since early January.

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Here are other scores from Sunday’s La Liga action:

Osasuna 0-3 Granada

Alaves 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

Real Valladolid 2-1 Espanyol

American’s Abroad: Strong defensive performances and an eye for the future

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It wasn’t exactly a banner week for American attackers abroad, but there were some fine defensive performances and some youngsters making a name for themselves.

Both John Brooks of Wolfsburg and Tim Ream of Fulham played the full 90 in their team’s matches this weekend. Brooks led Wolfsburg to a 4-0 rout of Mainz, while Fulham played Derby County to a 1-1 stalemate. Derby County’s only goal however came off a Wayne Rooney penalty kick, as otherwise Ream and co. kept Derby out through the run of play.

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There were some bright notes for the future, however. Both Ajax youngster Alex Mendez and Wolfsburg U-19 star Uly Llanez scored in action for their teams, as did Wisconsin native Andrija Novakovich, who assisted on one goal and scored the second in Frosinone’s 2-0 win over Crotone, lifting Alessandro Nesta’s side to second in Serie B. If the season ended today, Novakovich would be playing in Serie A next year. Former Sporting Kansas City Homegrown talent Erik Palmer-Brown also scored in Austria Wien’s 2-2 draw with Jesse Marsch and RB Salzburg

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic is still recovering from his injury and missed Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Tottenham on Saturday.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin made the bench but didn’t see action in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa — Vassilev didn’t dress in Aston Villa’s 2-0 defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic —  For a third weekend in a row Robinson did not dress for Wigan. Robinson continues to deal with a groin injury that ended the potential loan move to AC Milan.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes did not dress in Derby’s 1-1 draw with Fulham after suffering an ankle injury on February 15 against Huddersfield Town.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old is out with a hamstring injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The defender is out for the season after sustaining an injury.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender started and played 90 minutes in QPR’s 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw with Derby County on Friday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luton Town (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started and played 90 minutes in Luton’s 3-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic.

League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland — The 24-year-old American scored the game-winning-goal in Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers, which moved Sunderland into fourth place in the table, just three points behind first place Rotherham United. A strong spring could put Gooch on USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s radar.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt play on Monday at home against Union Berlin

John Brooks, Wolfsburg – The 26-year-old defender started, played 90 minutes, and helped keep a clean sheet in Wolfsburg’s 4-0 win over Mainz.

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started but only played 55 minutes as Schalke was routed, 5-0 by RB Leipzig.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams is out with an injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is out with an injury, while Morales came off the bench and played 23 minutes in Dusseldorf’s 2-0 win at Freiburg on Saturday.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent came off the bench and played seven minutes plus stoppage time in Werder Bremen’s 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund Reyna made his sixth Bundesliga appearance this season, coming in for Jadon Sancho and played 13 minutes in a 2-0 win over Werder Bremen

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson did not dress for Monchengladbach’s 1-1 draw with Johnson’s former club, Hoffenheim.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started and played 90 minutes in Ajax’s surprise 1-0 defeat at Heracles.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker started and played all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over FC Groningen.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — After a six-month absence, Weah featured for Lille on February 16, playing the final 10 minutes in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Marseille. Unfortunately, in that game, Weah suffered another muscle injury, this time a torn right hamstring that will leave him out indefinitely.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu did not dress for Rennes in its 2-1 win over Nimes.

Honorable Mentions

Kenny Saief, Lechia Gdansk, on loan from Anderlecht — The American-Israeli made his first appearance on the field in around 10 months, playing 13 minutes off the bench in Gdansk’s 2-0 defeat to Lech Poznan. Saief’s injury problems and a falling out in Cincinnati during his loan there led to it being terminated early. However, he wasn’t in Anderlecht’s plans this fall, meaning he had to wait until the January transfer window to find a new club after he failed to move during the summer.

Ian Harkes, Dillon Powers, Dundee United — I don’t know the last time this has happened, but in the 57th minute Harkes (son of John Harkes) came on for Powers in a rare American for American substitution abroad. It’s safe to say that while rare, we could see this happening again, as both Harkes and Powers play similar positions in midfield.

Serie A: Lazio, Roma pick up important wins

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On a day when most Serie A cities were on edge as games were canceled over Coronavirus fears, two games were able to be played to their conclusion, with important results.

Ciro Immobile added another goal to his league-leading scoring mark as Lazio outlasted Genoa, 3-2, on the road. Immobile’s 51st minute goal was his 27th of the Serie A season, putting him six goals ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Lazio only needed two minutes to get on the board as Felipe Caicedo played a pass forward, which right back Adam Marusic latched onto. He then had defenders bouncing off him as he slalomed his way forward into the box and fired into the roof of the net. In transition six minutes into the second half, Immobile rifled a strike home to put Lazio up 2-0. Francesco Cassata’s golazo from the top of the box, a curling effort into the top corner, gave Genoa some life, though Lazio restored the two-goal advantage in the 71st minute through Danilo Cataldi.

Domenico Criscito scored a late penalty kick in second half stoppage time to bring Genoa within one goal again, but it was too little, too late from the hosts. With the win, Lazio keep the pressure on Juventus, sitting just one point behind the leaders on the same number of games played, 25.

Roma 4-0 Lecce

Roma returned to winning ways on Sunday with a crucial 4-0 rout of Lecce at the Stadio Olimpico.

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Coming off three straight defeats and a draw in Serie A action, it was one of the young guns, who’s had an up and down season this year, get Roma first on the board. Outside of Turkish winger Cenkiz Under, it was veterans Edin Dzeko and Henrik Mkhitaryan who stole the show.

In the 13th minute, Mkhitaryan sliced through the Lecce defense before feeding a short pass to the oncoming Under, who powered a strike past Mauro Vigorito for the game’s opening goal. In the 37th minute, Dzeko combined yet again with Mkhitaryan, finding the Armenian international running into the box before Mkhitaryan slotted home.

Dzeko then in the second half scored from close range to make it 3-0, and his former Manchester City teammate, Aleksandr Kolarov put the finishing touches on the rout with a blast from the left side of the box.

Thanks to the prior defeats, Roma currently sits outside of the UEFA Champions League slots, but the win on Sunday brought them within three points of Atalanta and the fourth and final Champions League place. However, Atalanta has a game-in-hand on Roma.