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FOLLOW LIVE: Wolves, PSV, Frankfurt in Europa League qualifying action

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Wolves continue their Europa League journey with a chance to move into the playoff round as they look to protect a 4-0 first-leg lead over Armenian club Pyunik in the second leg at Monlieux.

Raul Jimenez was on the mark for a brace in the first leg, with Matt Doherty and Ruben Neves also on target to build the significant lead. Should Wolves reach the playoff round, they would be one two-legged tie away from the group stage.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Also in action are Rangers, PSV Eindhoven, Eintracht Frankfurt, Espanyol, Trabzonspor, and Torino, among a host of others.

Steven Gerrard‘s Rangers are protecting a 4-2 lead after a wild second half in Denmark saw them return home with a significant away goal advantage over FC Midtjylland. Rangers have been near perfect to start the new season, with six wins and a draw in seven matches, including a pair of wins in league play.

PSV will take its first go at the Europa League, having been dumped out of the Champions League in the second qualifying round by Basel. Hirving Lozano is rumored to be nearing a switch to Napoli, and it remains to be seen whether he will be available for the Dutch side that has won one and drawn one in early Eredivisie play. On the other wing, Steven Bergwijn has had a prolific start to the young campaign, as the 21-year-old Dutch international owns a goal and two assists in six matches thus far.

Ante Rebic will look to bring his recent hat-trick form with him to help Eintracht Frankfurt protect a 5-0 lead over Lichtenstein side Vaduz. Rebic scored a hat-trick in DFP-Pokal play last weekend, the first goals of the season for the Croatian international. Frankfurt owns three wins out of three in Europa League play thus far, looking to maintain momentum with its opening Bundesliga match of the season coming on Sunday.

Espanyol is also perfect in three Europa League matches and will be protecting a 3-0 lead over Swiss side Luzerne. Benfica loanee Facundo Ferreyra has scored a whopping four goals in their three games thus far, tallying at least one in each match. Like the Bundesliga, La Liga play also begins this weekend and Espanyol will look to maintain momentum ahead of their opening league game against Sevilla on Sunday.

Turkish side Trabzonspor returns home for a critical second leg against Sparta Prague with the aggregate scoreline level at 2-2. Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel made his club debut in the first leg but was yanked at halftime, and the Turkish side scored both goals in the final 10 minutes to dramatically level the score. Ghanan international Caleb Ekuban scored one and assisted the other in the comeback.

Serie A doesn’t begin play until next weekend but Torino is a perfect three-for-three in Europa League play thus far and will be protecting a whopping 5-0 lead against Belarusian side Shakhtar Soligorsk, hitting the road for the second leg. Captain Andrea Belotti scored a brace in the first leg to help Torino to the massive advantage, and he could be rested with such a large lead.

All fixtures (first leg score in parenthesis):

HJK Helsinki (1-1) Riga FC – 12:00 p.m. ET
Dinamo Tbilisi (0-4) Feyenoord  – 12:30 p.m. ET
Spartak Moscow (3-2) FC Thun – 12:45 p.m. ET
AIK (2-1) Sheriff Tiraspol – 1:00 p.m. ET
Apollon Limassol (2-1) Austria Vienna
BATE Borisov (2-1) FK Sarajevo
Bnei Yehuda (2-2) Neftchi
FC Zorya Luhansk (1-1) CSKA Sofia
FK Suduva (2-1) Maccabi Tel Aviv
Mlada Boleslav (0-0) FCSB
Shakhtar Soligorsk (0-5) Torino
Yeni Malatyaspor (1-3) Partizan Belgrade
Zrinjski Mostar (0-3) Malmo FF
Hapoel Be’er Sheva (1-1) IFK Norrkoping – 1:30 p.m. ET
The New Saints (0-5) Ludogorets Razgrad
Trabzonspor (2-2) Sparta Prague
AEK Athens (2-0) Universitatea Craiova  – 2:00 p.m. ET
Valletta (1-5) FC Astana
Viktoria Plzen (0-1) Antwerp
Aris (0-3) Molde – 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar (0-0) FC Maruipol
Eintracht Frankfurt (5-0) FC Vaduz
KAA Gent (1-1) AEK Larnaca
PSV Eindhoven (1-0) Haugesund
Strasbourg (1-0) Lokomotiv Plovdiv
Aberdeen (0-2) Rijeka – 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga (4-2) Bronby
Rangers (4-2) FC Midtjylland
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-0) Pyunik
Espanyol (3-0) Lucerne

Fan banned from all NWSL games after investigation

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A person who directed racist taunts at Portland Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch has been banned from attending National Women’s Soccer League games.

A fan at the Sept. 6 game between the Thorns and Utah Royals in Salt Lake City first called attention to the unidentified person on Twitter. The tweet was later deleted, but both the Thorns and Royals, as well as the league, investigated the incident.

The NWSL issued a statement Saturday saying the person was identified. In addition to being banned from NWSL matches, the person – who was not identified publicly by the league – was also banned from attending events at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“NWSL will not tolerate inappropriate fan behavior,” the league’s statement said. “Racism has no place in our sport.”

The Royals also offered “thanks in no small part to assistance from fans seated in the vicinity,” for identifying the offending party.

A few days after the incident, Franch posted a statement to Twitter: “The situation surrounding our game Friday night is not a NEW issue, nor is it a first for me. RACISM is NOT okay in any form!! We as a HUMAN RACE can be better and should be better. We as a SPORT can help show the way.”

Franch was on the roster of the U.S. national team that won the Women’s World Cup this summer in France.

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

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Here’s what we learned from MLS’ jam-packed action on Saturday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

NYCFC rally to edge San Jose, remain first in Eastern Conference 

Dominating possession and taking a healthy amount of shots, it seemed like the San Jose Earthquakes were going to pull off a Matias Almeyda-era victory in New York City on Saturday.

But in just the span of three minutes, NYCFC changed the landscape of the game completely, scoring twice right before halftime. Keaton Parks recorded his first league goal in the 40th minute. In the 43rd, the Eastern Conference leaders put together this (yes, the covered half the field just like that):

Like in the sequences that led to the home side’s goals, the Quakes’ confidence to overtake the scoreline took a hit, failing to finish a number of chances following attack-heavy substitutions in the second half. As a result, San Jose, who are fighting for a playoff spot, dropped their fourth straight game on the road.

Speaking with media after their 2-1 loss, Almeyda – despite praising NYCFC as being one of the league’s best – took shots at Yankee Stadium’s field size. Should the league care? Absolutely. NYCFC? Not at all, just look at their record.


FC Cincinnati win first game under Ron Jans

FC Cincy supporters can finally rejoice, even their 1-0 win in Montreal wasn’t ideal.

The league’s youngest team ended up with 10-men late in the game. Kendall Watson was shown a straight red card, but Ron Jans earned his first three points at the helm. Early in the game, Allan Cruz’s goal foreshadowed what was to come for the Ohioan side following the final whistle: a celebration.

 

The Impact (37 points) remain three points behind New England, while Cincinnati (21 points) look to finish strong in order to avoid the ugly side of the history books. 

Carlos Vela rejoins LAFC, scores

There’s no way around it: LAFC is a completely different team with (or without) Carlos Vela, who can’t stop scoring.

The Mexican recorded his 28th goal of the season (six behind Jose Martinez’s single-season record) in the Supporter Shield favorite’s 1-1 draw in Philadelphia. It wasn’t a Vela-esque sequence at all, but it was enough to change the score.

The Union, who played without Marco Fabian because of his absence in the team’s meeting on Friday, opened the scoring. Three minutes in, Kacper Przybyłko’s floating header surprised Tyler Miller, giving the home side a perfect start in front of a noisy Talen Energy Stadium.

Just a couple of months ago, these were the two best teams in the league. LAFC remain atop of the Western Conference. The Union, however, are now five points behind NYCFC.


Crew trounce Atlanta United 3-1 despite Josef Martinez’ goal

Caleb Porter’s Columbus Crew, arguably, play the most effective soccer out of all the teams that are on the outside looking in when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs this season.

On Saturday, despite being statistically outdone by Atlanta United, the Crew managed to execute their chances, scoring three goals on only four shots on target. Gyasi Zardes, a pivotal piece of their attack, scored his 12th goal of the season. Costa Rican Luis Diaz added one of his own in the second half, before Miles Robinson’s own-goal 25 minutes later sealed three points for Columbus.

No goal, however, had as much significance as Josef Martinez’s.

The Venezuelan scored for a 14th consecutive game, making it the third longest streak in the history of the sport. The 26-year-old is now seven games away from Lionel Messi’s world record set in 2014.

Third in the Eastern Conference, nine points away from NYCFC with six games to go, don’t count the single-season scoring king to hold back from wanting to break the record.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 4-0 FC Dallas 

Orlando City 3-3 New England Revolution

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Houston Dynamo

Serie A roundup: Inter edge 10-man Udinese

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Napoli and Inter Milan walked away winners in Saturday’s Serie A action.

Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese

After three games, Antonio Conte‘s spell at Inter Milan remains in immaculate shape.

According to the table, there is no better team than I Nerazzurri, who have won their first three league matches – notching seven goals and conceding only one along the way. In other words, the Italian’s astute coaching style remains effective.

Despite, Inter’s convincing play throughout the 90 minutes, only a goal would separate them from visiting Udinese, who played a with 10 players from the 35th minute on, following Rodrigo De Pual’s slap to the back of Antonio Candreva’s head.

In the 44th minute, Stefano Sensi – one of the smallest players on the field – headed the ball into the back of the net. Late in the game, Alexis Sanchez nearly scored in his Inter debut.

In the end, Udinese were no match for Antonio Conte and Co., who find themselves in prime form heading into their Champions League return midweek.

Up next for Inter in league play: Derby della Madonnina. Udinese, on the hand, host Brescia.

Napoli 2-0 Sampdoria

Dries Mertens is the gift that keeps on giving for Napoli.

To be exact, the Belgian gifted his team two goals on Saturday. 13 minutes in, following a perfectly-placed cross from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Mertens’ first-time strike was unstoppable for Emil Audero.
Emiliano Rigoni had Sampdoria’s best chance of the night in a one-on-one opportunity with Alex Meret. The Argentine, however, wasted one of the visiting side’s two chances all night.
Then in the 67th minute – with some luck on his corner -Mertens completed his brace off a deflected shot, giving his team their second win of the season.

Quick turnaround for Napoli as they host Liverpool midweek before traveling to take on Lecce in league play, while Sampdoria take on Torino next.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus

La Liga roundup: Real Sociedad spoil Atletico Madrid’s perfect start

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Atletico Madrid’s first hiccup of the season headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Sociedad 2-0 Atletico Madrid

La Liga had an upset of their own.

Atletico Madrid remain league leaders, but their undefeated record is no more after a 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian.

Both sides played to a quiet first half, but in the 58th minute Martin Odegaard opened the score in front of a packed Anoeta, as his left-footed shot was deflected by Stefan Savic.

Just two minutes later, in his Real Sociedad debut, longtime Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal tapped in a second chance inside the box, following an initial stretching save from Jan Oblak.

Diego Simeone’s side pushed desperately in the latter stages of the game; not enough to get passed Miguel Moya, though.

La Reala sets their sights on Espanyol, while Los Colchoneros, with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid at their heels, look to bounce back against Celta Vigo.

Real Madrid 3-2 Levante

Real Madrid conceded two goals in the second half in Saturday’s game, but their formidable first 45 minutes was enough to help them walk away a wet Santiago Bernabeu with three, precious points.

Coming on in the 60th minutes, Eden Hazard and Militao made their La Liga debuts with Zinedine Zidane’s side.

With two goals in six minutes, Karim Benzema gave the home side an early comfortable lead. Shortly before the halftime whistle, Casameiro added his own, following an assist from Vinicius Junior.

Despite falling short, Levante quickly got after evaporating Real Madrid’s first-half dominance. In the 49th minute, Borja Mayoral, cutting through Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, put one past Thibaut Courtois.

Following Benzema’s post-rattling shot and disallowed Real Madrid goal by VAR, Gonzalo Melero’s header gave the visiting side their final goal of the bout.

One point behind rivals Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid look for another victory against Sevilla. Elsewhere, Levante, who are in decent shape, host Eibar next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Barcelona 5-2 Valencia

RCD Mallorca 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

Leganes 0-3 Villareal