Oscar

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Oscar Pareja back in MLS as Orlando City SC head coach

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Oscar Pareja has been named the fourth head coach of Orlando City SC, MLS’s proverbial revolving-door job, since the franchise joined the league five years ago.

[ MORE: Spurs’ Mourinho quotes Mandela in discussing Man United return ]

After spending 18 seasons with FC Dallas as a player, academy coach and head coach, Pareja left Dallas and MLS in November of 2018 to take over at Club Tijuana in Liga MX. The 51-year-old Colombian was relieved of his duties as Tijuana boss last week.

Pareja was highly regarded for his preference to play young, academy-developed players during his time in Dallas, something the hierarchy in Orlando will be hoping he can replicate while also guiding the Lions to their first-ever MLS Cup Playoffs appearance.

[ MORE: Agents made $650 million from player transfers in 2019 ]

“Oscar is the perfect fit for the Orlando City organization, something I can say with confidence from our history of working together,” Orlando City SC EVP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi said in a team release. “He possesses the talent and passion to help our Club reach both its short term goals on the field and long-term plans for the organization. Oscar checked all the boxes we were looking to fill and his vision is aligned with the plans that we have as a Club – to invest in and develop players at all levels of our pyramid to be both proud and successful when wearing the Orlando City crest.”

La Liga roundup: Messi ties Ronaldo’s La Liga hat-trick record (video)

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Lionel Messi’s emphatic performance against Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 4-1 Celta Vigo

There’s great, and then there’s Lionel Messi great.

Against Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on Saturday, the Argentine put together one of his finest performances this season, scoring a hat-trick in 48 minutes that included two free kicks. The hat trick marks Messi’s 34th of his La Liga career (459 games), tying Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.

“It’s clear that when it’s so close we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” teammate Sergio Busquets said following the game. “He’s been improving and that’s an advantage, I hope he keeps scoring them.”

 

Messi opened the scoring in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot, only to commit the foul that would lead to Celta’s equalizer  – a well-placed free kick from Lucas Olaza – three minutes before the end of the second half.

If anything, the yellow card he earned and subsequent goal from the visitors served as motivation for Messi, because magic from Barcelona’s No. 10 was on its way.

Minutes before the whistle that would see both sides head into their respective dressing rooms, Messi netted his first well-stuck free kick. Minutes after both teams took the field after the break, his second inch-perfect free kick found the back of net. Both free kicks were fired over the wall and curled into the top corner.

Messi has scored nine goals in his last seven games throughout all competitions. With eight league goals to his name, only Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has more goals than Messi’s seven this season.

In the 85th minute, Busquets’ strike from the top of the 18-yard mark helped Barcelona seal their victory, ending a two-game winless streak in league play.

Barcelona, who are now level with rivals Real Madrid with 25 points, travel to Leganes following the international break, defending, while Celta Vigo, who continue in a crisis despite recently appointing Oscar Garcia Junyent as manager, will look for their third win of the season against Villarreal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0 – 4 Real Madrid 

Alaves 3-0 Real Valladolid 

Valencia 2-0 Granada

James back in Colombia squad for friendlies in U.S.

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BOGOTA, Colombia — Midfielder James Rodriguez will return to Colombia’s national team after a four-match absence for two friendlies in the United States against Peru and Ecuador.

However, striker Radamel Falcao remains out with an Achilles injury.

Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz announced his squad of 34 players on Tuesday for matches on Nov. 15 against Peru in Miami and four days later against Ecuador in Harrison, New Jersey.

Rodriguez has not played for Colombia since this summer’s Copa America. He returned to Real Madrid this season after a year on loan at Bayern Munich.

Queiroz also called up strikers Juan Fernando Quintero and Rafael Santos Borre, who will play in the Copa Libertadores final for River Plate against Flamengo on Nov. 23.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Napoli), Camilo Vargas (Atlas), Aldair Quintana (Atletico Nacional), Eder Chaux (Patriotas).

Defenders: Luis Orejuela (Cruzeiro), Stefan Medina (Monterrey), Santiago Arias (Atletico Madrid), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Yerry Mina (Everton), Jhon Lucumi (Genk), Jeison Murillo (Sampdoria), Cristian Borja (Sporting Lisbon), William Tesillo (Leon), Johan Mojica (Girona), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors).

Midfielders: Wilmar Barrios (Zenit), Gustavo Cuellar (Al Hilal), Jorman Campuzano (Boca Juniors), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Jefferson Lerma (Bournemouth), Steven Alzate (Brighton), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Mateus Uribe (Porto), Yairo Moreno (Leon).

Strikers: Luis Muriel (Atalanta), Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord), Steven Mendoza (Amiens), Roger Martinez (America de Mexico), Luis Diaz (Porto), Sebastian Villa (Boca Juniors), Alfredo Morelo

Suarez, Cavani set to play for Uruguay in friendly v Hungary

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are set to return for Uruguay in a friendly game against Hungary in November.

Both men missed two games against Peru in October as they recovered from injuries.

All 24 players named by coach Oscar Tabarez on Friday do not play in Uruguay.

Defender Jose Maria Gimenez is out because of muscle injury he picked playing for Atletico Madrid this week.

Uruguay faces Hungary on Nov. 15 at the Ferenc Puskas stadium in Budapest. The country’s soccer body is yet to pick an opponent for another friendly on Nov. 19.

Squad:

Goakeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Campana (Independiente).

Defenders: Diego Godin (Inter Milan), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Martin Caceres (Fiorentina), Bruno Mendez (Corinthians), Mathias Suarez (Montpellier).

Midfielders: Matias Vecino (Inter Milan), Nahitan Nandez (Cagliari), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Brian Lozano (Santos Laguna), Lucas Torreira (Arsenal), Giorgian de Arrasacaeta (Flamengo), Gaston Pereiro (PSV), Diego Laxalt (Torino).

Strikers: Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Edinson Cavani (PSG), Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Jonathan Rodriguez (Cruz Azul), Darwin Nunez (Almeria), Brian Rodriguez (Los Angeles FC), Maximilano Gomez (Valencia).

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

MLS Playoffs Preview: 1st round kicks off on Saturday

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After a two-week break, MLS is back, and with some outstanding matchups as the first round of the playoffs kicks off on Saturday.

Here’s a closer look at Saturday’s matchups in the Western Conference and Eastern Conference.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


2. Atlanta United v. 7. New England Revolution — Saturday, 1 p.m. ET

Atlanta United begins its title defense against the most successful coach in MLS history, Bruce Arena.

Atlanta United heads into the match at home a bit shorthanded. Miles Robinson suffered a left hamstring strain while on international duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, leaving veteran centerback Michael Parkhurst to start alongside Leandro Gonzalez Pires. There’s also some questions over whether Ezequiel Barco and Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez will start together in midfield.

All that being said, Atlanta is still one of the best teams in MLS and as long as they have Josef Martinez, they’ll be a threat to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Revs have been a revelation since Bruce Arena took over in May, and no one knows the MLS playoffs more than he. Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou have been terrific this summer for the Revs while the defense, anchored by centerbacks Andrew Farrell and Michael Mancienne and 25-year-old goalkeeper Matt Turner have kept opponents off the board.

Atlanta certainly has the edge here, especially at home, but never count out a Bruce Arena team.

2. Seattle Sounders v. 7. FC Dallas — Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Unlike in previous years, the Seattle Sounders never needed to make a patented late-season push to make it into the playoffs. This time, the Sounders were solid throughout, especially thanks to a start that included five wins in six games. With Jordan Morris in peak form and Roman Torres and Kim Kee-Hee patrolling the middle of the backline, Seattle sure looks like an MLS Cup contender. Of course, they’d have to get past LAFC first, no small task.

For FC Dallas, in a way, they’re just happy to be here. It seems like forever, but was less than a year ago when club legend Oscar Pareja left for the Club Tijuana manager spot. In his place was local soccer legend and former FC Dallas academy director Luchi Gonzalez, and with a mostly young squad of players, Gonzalez has proven he could guide them to the playoffs. It doesn’t hurt though that one of the few veterans, Zdenek “Cobra” Ondrášek, has been on fire the last two months and just scored for the Czech Republic against England. The Sounders should take care of business at home, but Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal can create something out of nothing and could make Saturday’s match interesting/

4. Toronto FC v. 5. DC United — Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

With the regular season concluded and the start of single-elimination matches, we’re on the verge of saying goodbye to Wayne Rooney at any moment, and it could come as early as Saturday.

Thanks to a win and some other favorable results, Toronto FC jumped up in the standings and earned a home playoff match. It doesn’t hurt that it’s been very solid to close out the season, going unbeaten in its last 10 matches – though to be fair, that span only included four wins. Worryingly for TFC is that striker Jozy Altidore didn’t practice on Thursday after missing the international break with yet another muscle injury. However, his Canadian international teammates Jonathan Osorio, Liam Fraser, and Richie Laryea are returning to the club side on a high after beating the U.S.

For D.C. it’s been an up and down last few weeks. They picked up huge wins over Portland and Seattle in the final two months of the season, only to settle for scoreless draws against the porous New York Red Bulls and abject horror show in FC Cincinnati. As always, there will be plenty of pressure on Rooney to produce some magic, and his side will need it if they want to keep their season alive. Toronto, playing at home, has the edge here.

3. Real Salt Lake v. 6. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

Mike Petke was fired by Real Salt Lake in mid-August after serving a two-week suspension for berating the referee – and saying some unacceptable terms – after a Leagues Cup game in July. In his place, interim coach Freddy Juarez has done quite well with the squad, winning seven games in the final three months of the season to cruise into a top-three place and earn a home game in the playoffs.

Former Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha has been a rock at the back alongside youngster Justin Glad, and RSL may have the most underrated attack in the league. Albert Rusnak, Damir Kreilach and Jefferson Savarino have all been brilliant at points this season. If the trio put it together, RSL could be a dark horse for the title.

The Timbers beat expectations a year ago as Giovanni Savarese led his team to another final – his fourth straight final as a coach. It will be an incredible achievement if they make it this time around. Portland has elite offensive capabilities when everyone is firing on all cylanders. Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, and even Dairon Asprilla can create moments of magic, while Jeremy Ebobisse has had a breakout season with 11 goals, though he’s missed a few he’ll want back. The issue is the team defensively, and they’ll have to be on their game to slow to RSL’s front three on the road.

Of course, the Timbers did win both matchups against RSL this season, so even on the road, they should be confident they can get it done again.