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Ex-USMNT winger Picault traded; Four selected in MLS Re-Entry Draft

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Four players found new clubs via Stage One of the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft on Tuesday, while a one-time USMNT winger found a new home by way of trade.

That player is Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, who is headed to FC Dallas in exchange for $300,000 of 2020 General Allocation Money and a conditional $75,000 in 2021.

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Picault, 28, had five goals and five assists in 35 appearances for Philadelphia this season, his third in MLS. He scored 17 times with eight assists his first two seasons in the league, and his next appearance will be his 100th in the league. He earned caps for the USMNT in 2016 and 2018.

As for the Re-Entry draft, Mikey Ambrose is headed from Atlanta United to first-year club Inter Miami CF, while fellow expansion side Nashville SC has selected Eric Miller from New York City FC.

A pair of goalkeepers are also moving, with Richard Sanchez going from Chicago to Sporting KC and Kendall McIntosh heads from Portland to the New York Red Bulls.

Lecce completes comeback in wild finish over Cagliari

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When Radja Nainggolan put Cagliari 2-0 up over Lecce, it seemed the newly-promoted side was sunk at home in an otherwise unremarkable Serie A match.

Then the last 10 minutes happened.

Three players were sent off and two goals were scored as the home side completed a wild comeback and earned a critical point in the relegation battle. Gianluca Lapadula struck from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute, and Marco Calderoni cropped up a minute into stoppage time to secure the draw.

It wasn’t just goals, however, that made the end of the match so exhilarating. Fabrizio Cacciatore and Robin Olsen were both shown straight red cards in the 81st and 85th minute respectively, which Cagliari down to nine men, while Lapadula was given an early shower soon after.

Cacciatore’s red came as he kept out an Andrea La Mantia header with his arm, reaching out to intentionally save the shot – which would have been lauded as the save of the match had he actually, you know, been the goalkeeper. The final two were particularly explosive, with Olsen sent off for shoving Lapadula to the ground immediately after the penalty was scored, while Lapadula was given yellow for his role in the scuffle, his second of the match.

Still, Lecce’s man advantage was critical in the final goal as Calderoni took a feed from Panagiotis Tachtsidis standing straight atop the box, and his through ball was met with a vicious low left-footed strike from Calderoni, leaving Cagliari goalkeeper Rafael late to react. The moment came on a mis-match as two defenders were there to cover three attackers and Calderoni made the most of the situation.

The point sees Lecce just outside the relegation area, in 17th on 11 points, one above Genoa and two on top of SPAL.

Report: AC Milan begins talks for Zlatan return

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According to a report by Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano, AC Milan has begun preliminary talks with Zlatan Ibrahimovic via his longtime agent Mino Raiola.

Ibrahimovic played the last two seasons for the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer, and lit the U.S. league on fire with 53 goals in 58 games. The Swedish international was his usual lightning rod self throughout his MLS tenure, claiming on multiple occasions that he was the best player to ever play in Major League Soccer.

Romano says that nothing is immediately imminent and that Zlatan will take his time deciding on his future, saying he could know in the “next weeks” where he will head.

While Zlatan did not release his intentions upon leaving the Galaxy, a return to Serie A has been heavily rumored for weeks. He played for AC Milan from 2010-2012, and prior to that spent three seasons with Inter Milan from 2006-2009 as well as two seasons with Juventus from 2004-2006. He won six Serie A titles between the three clubs, including the 2010/11 Scudetto with AC Milan.

There have also been significant reports linking Ibrahimovic to Serie A side Bologna where Zlatan is friends with manager Sinisa Mihajlovic. The Serbian boss has battled leukemia this season but has decided to coach through it, and Zlatan reportedly wishes to show his support by signing up to play for the squad.

Fabian downs Red Bulls in extra time, sends Philadelphia to conference semis

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A wild and wacky game saw Philadelphia come from two goals down to force extra time, and Marco Fabian bagged the eventual winner in the 105th minute to put the Union into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 4-3 win. The victory is the first in playoff action for the Union in club history.

New York held a 3-1 advantage at halftime as Josh Sims, Tim Parker, and Tom Barlow all found the back of the net for the visitors in the opening 45 minutes, while Alejandro Bedoya found the back of the net himself.

After the break, things got even more wild. New York coughed up the lead, with Jack Elliott and Fabrice Picault each striking once despite a solid display from Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. With the game level, the final 15 minutes were all Philadelphia as the Eastern Conference three seed peppered New York’s penalty area, but Robles made a fabulous save on a Jamiro Monteiro effort from point blank range at the back post.

In extra time, Fabian found the back of the net with what appeared to be a chipped cross that took a slight deflection and snuck into the top corner from a tight angle.

The Union will get a matchup with Atlanta United in the semifinals, after Frank De Boer engineered a 1-0 win over New England.

 

Real Madrid insists Courtois didn’t have anxiety attack

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Real Madrid have insisted that Thibaut Courtois did not suffer an anxiety attack during the club’s Champions League draw with Club Brugge on Tuesday, as reported by Spanish media members, saying instead the goalkeeper was treated for gastroenteritis after he was subbed off at halftime with Los Blancos trailing 2-0.

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It’s been a season of disappointing performances for Courtois, having conceded five goals in 135 minutes of Champions League action and protecting just two clean sheets in six games in La Liga. As always, the criticism from Madrid has been quick and harsh.

In response to the reports that Courtois suffered an anxiety attack, Real Madrid made the following statement on Friday:

In relation to certain information about our player Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid wants to state the following:

1. That our player has never been diagnosed with an alleged anxiety attack and, therefore, that information is absolutely false.

2. That Thibaut Courtois has been diagnosed and treated for acute gastroenteritis with dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which made it impossible to finish last Tuesday’s game against Brugge.

3. The player currently responds favorably to the treatment.

The leaks of information that led the Spanish press to report a possible anxiety attack didn’t come from nowhere, nor were they fabricated exactly the same by multiple outlets. Here’s hoping this statement isn’t what it looks like: Courtois had an anxiety attack and Madrid have made it abundantly clear they reject any such diagnosis and will not support the player to receive the treatment he requires to be a healthy, functioning human, let alone the world-class goalkeeper they demands of him.