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Atlanta’s Martinez wins MVP award in Major League Soccer

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ATLANTA (AP) Josef Martinez claimed the MVP award from Major League Soccer on Wednesday after shattering the record for goals in a season and leading Atlanta United to the championship game.

The 25-year-old Venezuelan striker received his Landon Donovan Trophy during a ceremony at the headquarters of United owner Arthur Blank.

[ MORE: Man Utd 2-2 Arsenal | Mourinho reacts ]

Martinez already earned the Golden Boot for scoring 31 goals in 34 games this season, breaking the mark of 27 shared by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

“I’m very happy because this is an award we all wanted,” Martinez said through a translator. “It is due to a lot of work by myself, my teammates, my coaching staff and my family. I just want to thank all those people.”

He credits his teammates for giving him plenty of scoring chances, including fellow MVP finalist Miguel Almiron. The other finalists were Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Wayne Rooney of D.C. United and Carlos Vela of Los Angeles FC.

“If it wasn’t for all those guys, all the passes they assisted me on this season, the spectacular year that all of them had, we wouldn’t be talking about this award or talking about Atlanta United playing in the final,” Martinez said.

He has added three goals in the playoffs. Atlanta won the Eastern Conference title and will host the MLS Cup final on Saturday night against the Portland Timbers.

The MVP is eager to add one more trophy to his collection.

“We want to be champions,” Martinez said. “We’ve been working two seasons for this opportunity. We don’t want to let it slip away.”

After coming to Atlanta United from Torino in Italy’s Serie A, Martinez made an immediate impact with the MLS expansion team in 2017. He scored 19 goals in 20 league games and might’ve broken the scoring record if not for a quadriceps injury that kept him out for two months. He was hurt while playing for the Venezuelan national team.

Atlanta coach Tata Martino came into this season with high expectations for the diminutive striker.

“When I rejoined the team in February, there was a meeting between myself and Tata,” Martinez recalled. “Tata told me all I have to do is find space and I could score 30 goals in a season. At the time, I didn’t believe him. Sometimes people say things, but you don’t expect it to come true. Thanks to everyone, I was able to do it.”

Martino will be coaching his final game with Atlanta in the MLS Cup. He is expected to take over as Mexico’s national coach.

“I just wish him the best wherever he goes,” Martinez said. “Maybe we’ll reconnect in the future.”

Martinez said he keeps his Golden Boot trophy on a table at his home, surrounded by game balls.

When asked what he plans to do with the MVP award, he couldn’t resist having some fun.

“I’m going to put it on top of my car,” he joked, “so when I leave my house, everybody can see it every day.”

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

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

New Premier League schedule for April released

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The new schedule for Premier League games in April has been released and plenty of massive games in the title race and relegation battle will take center stage in primetime slots.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Games selected for TV broadcasts have been moved to the new dates, with multiple matches involving Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Man United moved.

Below is the new schedule for April, with plenty of conditions attached if certain teams progress further in the FA Cup and Europe.


Tuesday 2 April
2:45 p.m. ET: Wolves v Man Utd *Because of participation in FA Cup semi-finals

Friday 5 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Southampton v Liverpool

Saturday 6 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Cardiff City *Subject to FA Cup participation

Sunday 7 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Everton v Arsenal
11:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Brighton *Subject to Spurs’ UEFA Champions League match date and FA Cup participation

Monday 8 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v West Ham

Friday 12 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Newcastle

Saturday 13 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Huddersfield *May move to 14 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Man Utd v West Ham

Sunday 14 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v Man City*
11:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v Chelsea*
*May move to 13 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after

Monday 15 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Watford v Arsenal

Saturday 20 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Spurs
12:30 p.m. ET: Newcastle v Southampton

Sunday 21 April 2019
8:30 a.m. ET: Everton v Man Utd
11 a.m. ET: Cardiff v Liverpool

Monday 22 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v Burnley

Wednesday 24 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Man Utd v Man City *Moved due to FA Cup quarter-final participation

Friday 26 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool v Huddersfield

Saturday 27 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v West Ham *May move to 28 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Brighton v Newcastle

Sunday 28 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Burnley v Man City *
11:30 a.m. ET: Man Utd v Chelsea *
*May move to 27 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after

Monday 29 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Arsenal *Will move to 12:00 28 April if Arsenal reach UEFA Europa League semi-finals

Martial, Lingard could be fit for Man United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United could be given a huge boost ahead of their battle against bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Rashford to Barcelona?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard are much closer to returning from injury than previously thought.

The star wingers, who have shone under Solskjaer since he arrived as caretaker boss in December, were both injured in the first half of United’s 2-0 UEFA Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Feb. 12.

Speaking to the media ahead of the massive game against Liverpool, a promising update on the duo arrived from Solskjaer.

“Jesse is looking OK. I hope with Anthony,” Solskjaer said.” Anthony’s was a different muscle, so we think he might be ready and hope that Jesse will. We’ve got two more days so they’ve got to get through these two sessions. They’ve not been part of training yet but they’ve been doing some recovery work.”

Now it is all about one thing: is it worth risking the duo suffering further injury?

Quite likely. The dropoff in United’s display against PSG was stark when Martial and Lingard went off and although the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata have stepped in well in recent weeks, the balance between Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Martial and Lingard just felt right in United’s front four positions.

You get the felling that if Solskjaer has a chance of reuniting that quartet on Sunday, even if it’s only for an hour, he will take it. And when you add in the factor that a win against Liverpool would seriously scupper the title chances of the latter, and it’s safe to say at least one of Lingard or Martial will be in the starting lineup at Old Trafford.

Both Martial and Lingard are essential to the new dynamic Manchester United playing at full throttle.

Report: Barcelona make Marcus Rashford main target

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Marcus Rashford is a local lad who is living his best life by being Manchester United’s main man right now.

[ MORE: Chelsea hit with transfer ban

The 21-year-old is yet to sign a new contract with the Red Devils though, and reports suggest some of Europe’s biggest clubs are sniffing around the United academy product.

A report from Mundo Deportivo says that Barcelona have made Rashford their “dream” target, as the Catalan club look to replace the brilliant but ageing Luis Suarez.

Per the report, it is believed it would cost Barca over $135 million to sign Rashford. If he does sign a new long-term contract over the next few weeks (expected to be worth over $250,000 per week), then we expect that transfer fee to push closer to $200 million.

All in all, this move seems unlikely for Rashford and United. Right now.

Selling the crown jewel from your academy and a local hero who is finally getting a run of games as a central striker and has improved his output under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would cause huge uproar among United’s fans. He has scored 42 goals in 155 appearances for United since making his debut under Louis Van Gaal in 2016. Under Jose Mourinho he was often played out wide and used as a sub, but Solskjaer has rejuvenated the English striker in recent months and he’s taken Romelu Lukaku‘s place in the lineup.

That said, if Rashford does stall on signing a new contract then this could turn into a bit of a saga as his current contract runs out next summer but he has the option to extend it for another year.

Rashford’s searing pace and ability to cut inside and finish from wide positions is clear and under Solskjaer he has become more clinical and has added end product to his game with some wonderful crosses for teammates to score.

His ability as a star of the future for Man United and England is undoubted, and although Barcelona would love to pry Rashford away from his hometown club it is unlikely that is going to happen.

File this rumor under “if it happens, I’ll eat my hat.”

Europa League last 16 draw: Chelsea, Arsenal avoid big boys

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Is it too early to start predicting an all-Premier League final in the UEFA Europa League…

Both Chelsea and Arsenal were handed favorable draws in the last 16 draw of the Europa League on Friday.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

Chelsea will play Dynamo Kiev, while Arsenal will face Stade Rennais for a place in the quarterfinal.

Of course, both Chelsea and Arsenal would prefer to be playing in the UEFA Champions League instead of Europe’s second-tier club competition, but with both teams battling hard to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season, winning the Europa League is becoming a very attractive proposition given the UCL spot for the 2019-20 campaign that the winners receive.

As for the other six games lined up for the quarterfinals, one in particular stands out as Eintracht Frankfurt face Inter Milan. The Bundesliga side have a young, hungry squad full of talent and Inter’s star names speak for themselves.

Below is the full list of fixtures with the games to be played on Mar. 7 and 14.


UEFA Europa League last 16 draw

Arsenal v. Stade Rennais
Chelsea v. Dynamo Kiev
Valencia v. Krasnodar
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Inter Milan
Sevilla v. Slavia Prague
Dinamo Zagreb v. Benfica
Zenit v. Villarreal
Napoli v. Red Bull Salzburg