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La Liga: Valencia strengthens European position, Valladolid takes massive late blow

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Valencia earned a massive three points in the race for a European place as they topped Levante 3-1 thanks to a brace from Santi Mina. The 23-year-old directed a pinpoint header inside the far post on just two minutes in to give Valencia the lead at home, and while the rest of the first half was uneventful, the second half began with excitement, especially for Valencia winger Carlos Soler.

The 22-year-old saw a Levante corner deflect off his foot and into the back of his own net to level the score 56 minutes in, then just a minute later he assisted Goncalo Guedes with a fabulous back-heel as the hosts went back in front.  Six minutes later, Soler was also involved in Valencia’s third as his shot from a tight angle was saved and fell right to Mina on the doorstep for a simple tap-in.

Real Valladolid was in position to pull themselves out of the relegation zone, leading Getafe 2-1 and up a man, but the visitors snatched a last-gasp draw as an Oscar Plano foul in the penalty area sent Jorge Molina to the spot in the 96th minute, and he buried the penalty to level the score at the death. The loss of two points is massive for the hosts as they now remain in 18th place, failing to climb out of the drop. All three points would have sent them above Celta Vigo into 17th in the table.

The game started with a bang, as Getafe’s Mauro Arambarri scored a wonderful strike from well outside the penalty area, a howitzer that found the top-left corner. The hosts came from behind to eventually take the lead, finding goals from Sergi Guardiola a half-hour in, followed by Enes Unal who put Valladolid in front on 64 minutes.

Athletic Club remained in the hunt for a European position as they topped 10-man Rayo Vallecano 3-2 behind a brace from Inaki Williams. The 24-year-old scored his 11th goal of the season just two minutes in to put the hosts up, followed by his second just five minutes after the halftime break to put Athletic back in front. Raul Garcia scored the eventual winner in the 72nd minute, able to hold off Rayo who pulled back within one as Raul de Tomas scored with five minutes to go.

Real Sociedad and Eibar played to a 1-1 draw on goals in the 1st minute and 85th minute bookending a weird one that featured total domination by Eibar, and yet they failed to do much of anything. Real Sociedad went in front right from the jump as Juanmi scored 11 seconds in, the fastest La Liga goal since 2014. That was essentially it for the hosts, who were peppered by 17 Eibar shots, but just two of those found the target. Marc Cardona should have scored in the 34th minute in the best chance for the visitors, but Joan Jordan was on hand with five minutes remaining to finally break the deadlock with an exquisite free-kick.

Villareal kept pace two points above the drop with a monumental 1-0 road win at Girona behind a seventh-minute strike from Samuel Chukwueze. The 19-year-old blistered down the field on a breakaway and finished calmly for the game’s only goal.

USMNT, Chile wrap up March window with 1-1 draw (video)

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The U.S. men’s national team wrapped up its maiden first-team voyage under new head coach Gregg Berhalter with a 1-1 draw against Chile at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Zardes-to-Pulisic gives USMNT the early lead ]

The goals came early, and came in quick succession. Christian Pulisic opened the scoring with just four minutes on the clock (WATCH HERE), courtesy of a deftly received and played ball from Gyasi Zardes to split the Chilean backline. Pulisic raced into the penalty area all alone and chipped Gabriel Arias with a touch even more deft than the one Zardes used to set him up.

Pulisic, at the age of 20 years and 189 days, became the youngest American player to double-digit goals.

The lead lasted just five minutes, though, as the ball pinballed around the USMNT’s 18-yard box, a handful of defenders able to boot it clear. Eventually, it fell Oscar Opazo at a very tight angle, but he put his left foot through the ball and fit it just inside Ethan Horvath’s right-hand post.

Pulisic’s night ended just after the half-hour mark when he was subbed off with a right leg injury. Initially, it looked as though Pulisic was favoring his knee, but once he reached the bench the trainers appeared to be examining his quad. Berhalter announced after the game that Pulisic was already undergoing an MRI>

Zardes went very close to putting the USMNT back ahead in the 55th minute, as he was quickest to react after Cristian Roldan was clattered atop the penalty area and the ball squirted free. Zardes pounced and glided past the last remaining defender, but skied his shot with Arias racing out.

The Yanks will convene again in late-May, when they begin preparations for the 2019 Gold Cup following a June 9 friendly against Jamaica.

Must-See Goals: Libertad v. The Strongest (video)

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Paraguayan side Libertad advanced to the third round of Copa Libertadores qualification on Wednesday evening by thrashing Bolivian side, The Strongest, 5-1 (6-2 on aggregate). But the highlights of the night didn’t come until well into the second half.

First, former Benfica and Paraguay star Oscar Cardozo scored from the halfway line, and then Ayrton Cougo, in the 90th minute, fired home a wicked, bending strike with the outside of his left boot. The Copa Libertadores always brings the golazos.

La Liga: Leaders Barcleona held, Sevilla rescues late draw

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Barcelona’s lead at the top of the La Liga table shrunk after they were held off the scoresheet in a 0-0 draw with Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés Stadium. Lionel Messi rattled the post in the 26th minute on what would have been a wild strike, but otherwise managed just two shots on target.

The visitors held two thirds of the possession, but they were unable to find a breakthrough. Messi sailed a free-kick over the bar in the 57th minute in another of Barcelona’s few good chances, but otherwise there was little for them to savor. Ousmane Dembele thought he had a penalty won with the last kick of the game, but referee Carlos del Cerro waved it off after a chat with his VAR team.

Athletic nearly gave Barcelona something bigger to think about in the 17th minute, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen was on hand to produce a wonderful save, denying a curling effort from Markel Susaeta that was destined for the top corner. The hosts also saw defender Oscar de Marcos sent off in the 91st minute for a second yellow after a handball prevented a Barcelona break.

The draw moves Barcelona to 51 points, six clear of Real Madrid on 45 points, with Atletico Madrid one back of their cross-town rivals in third.

Elsewhere, Sevilla saw the gap between third and fourth increase after a 2-2 draw against Eibar at home. Sevilla only rescued the point on a 92nd minute goal from Pablo Sarabia with the team down to 10 men. With Ever Banega sent off in the 84th minute for a second yellow card, Sarabia slotted home a cross from Dutch winger Quincy Promes. With Sevilla now on 37 points, they sit seven behind Atletico Madrid.

Valencia drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad in a game that featured just five shots on target, including just one by visitors Sociedad despite holding nearly 60% possession. Despite the possessional disadvantage, Valencia was unlucky not to come away with the win, with Kevin Gamiero missing right in front of goal in the 65th minute.

Finally, Leganes hammered Real Betis 3-0 on a hat-trick from 21-year-old Moroccan Youssef En-Nesyri who scored his sixth goal in the last three league matches. En-Nesyri’s hot streak has been critical for Leganes, with the team garnering seven points in that three-match stretch to jump out of the relegation scrap and into 11th, six points clear of the drop.

Luchi Gonzalez named new FC Dallas head coach

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FC Dallas announced on Sunday that 38-year-old Luchi Gonzalez, the second-youngest head coach in MLS, has been chosen to replace the recently departed Oscar Pareja as head coach.

[ MORE: Report: Chrstiain Pulisic agrees Premier League transfer ]

Gonzalez, who was seen as the favorite to succeed Pareja since the day the job came open, has been director of the FCD academy, and head coach of the program’s hugely successful U-16 team, for the last three years. Prior to that, he served as a coach on the academy’s U-18 staff.

Pareja recently resigned from his post at FCD as he sought a new challenge. He was named the new boss at Liga MX side Club Tijuana last month.

Given Gonzalez’s appointment, and his intimate knowledge of an academy system bursting at the seams with elite prospects — not to mention the payroll which FCD has managed to shed already this offseason — it seems likely that the 2019 team skew extremely young. While Pareja was always painted as a champion of academy products, an uncomfortably large number of graduates were unable to establish themselves as members of the first team during his tenure.