Posted April 23, 2014

Cruz Azul draws with Toluca 1-1, wins CONCACAF Champions League on away goals

CONCACAF Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, Liga MX, Liviu Bird
Mario Pavone (back) celebrates the goal that lifted Cruz Azul to the CONCACAF Champions League title. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Mario Pavone (back) celebrates the goal that lifted Cruz Azul to the CONCACAF Champions League title. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Cruz Azul and Toluca entered the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday as the No. 1 and 2 teams in Liga MX, respectively, and that’s how they finished the continental competition as well. A 1-1 draw at Toluca’s Estadio Nemesio Díez was good enough for Cruz Azul to win the title on away goals after a scoreless finish a week prior.

The away side received a positive omen before the match, as CONCACAF reduced starting goalkeeper Jesús Corona’s three-match suspension to a one-game ban. Corona was punished for his part in an altercation with Club Tijuana players after the final whistle in the teams’ semifinal second leg.

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Posted April 23, 2014

Watch: Real Madrid’s Benzema strikes on precise counter to stun Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich, Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
Benzema

Karim Benzema celebrates his opening goal for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. (Paul White/AP)

Bayern Munich dominated the ball in the first half of their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg encounter, out-passing Real Madrid 402-91 and making itself right at home at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Possession doesn’t always translate to the scoreboard, though.

Madrid’s Karim Benzema stunned Bayern, the defending Champions League winner, with a strike off a precise counterattack in the 19th minute. A pair of Portuguese internationals connected to spark the play, with Cristiano Ronaldo — in his return to the lineup from injury — finding Fabio Coentrao with a splitting through ball down the left channel. Coentrao placed a pinpoint cross into Benzema’s path, and the unmarked Frenchman tapped home by a helpless Manuel Neuer to give the hosts the only goal they would need in a 1-0 triumph that puts Bayern under pressure in the return leg at Allianz Arena next week.

Watch Benzema’s game-winning goal below (via Fox Soccer):

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Posted April 23, 2014

Q&A with Real Madrid, Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso

Bayern Munich, Champions League, Grant Wahl, Real Madrid, Spain
Xabi Alonso

Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso is aiming to take down mighty Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semifinals. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

God bless Xabi Alonso. The George Clooney of international soccer has won the sport’s most important trophies—World Cup, European Championship (twice), UEFA Champions League, Spain’s La Liga, etc.— yet found time on Tuesday night, just hours before the world’s biggest club game of the year so far, to take a phone call from SI.com.

Alonso’s Real Madrid takes on defending European champion Bayern Munich on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals (2:45 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1), a match-up that most neutrals were hoping would wait until the final. Bayern is slightly favored, but Real Madrid is certainly capable of dethroning the Bavarians, especially if attacking stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are fit to play after dealing with injuries. Continue Reading

Posted April 23, 2014

Watch: Rafa Marquez sent off in Copa Libertadores for kicking opponent

Avi Creditor, Mexican national team, Miguel Herrera, Rafa Marquez
Landon Donovan, Rafa Marquez

Mexico captain Rafa Marquez (4) got sent off late in Leon’s Copa Libertadores draw with Bolivar, and the club was ousted on away goals. (Rock Scuteri/AP)

On a night when Mexico manager Miguel Herrera boldly tweeted that he will release his 23-man World Cup roster on May 9 — a solid three weeks and change before he is required to by FIFA — one of the players whom he has called a lock for that roster added another dubious moment to his resume on a grand stage.

U.S. nemesis, former MLS malcontent and current Leon and El Tri captain Rafa Marquez was sent off in the 77th minute of Leon’s Copa Libertadores round of 16 second leg against Bolivar Tuesday for delivering a flying kick to the back of an opponent. Leon, level with Bolivar on aggregate 3-3 at the time but trailing on away goals, was reduced to 10 men for the final 13 minutes of the match and was unable to get a fourth goal to extend its stay in the premier South American/Mexican competition. Continue Reading

Posted April 22, 2014

Landon Donovan: David Moyes deserved more time at Manchester United

Avi Creditor, L.A. Galaxy, Landon Donovan, Manchester United, U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan, right, played for David Moyes at Everton on a pair of loan stints. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Count Landon Donovan among those who feel that David Moyes did not necessarily get a fair shake at Manchester United.

Donovan, who played under Moyes at Everton on a pair of loan spells in 2010 and 2012, said on Tuesday’s SI Now that he thought Moyes deserved a bit more time to prove himself at Old Trafford. He was fired Tuesday morning with three games remaining in the Premier League season.

“I love David Moyes,” Donovan told SI’s Maggie Gray. “Not only as a manager but as a person. He was very good to me, brought me to Everton. I was very hopeful that he would do well at Manchester United. It’s sad to see that he didn’t get a little more time, but that’s the way the world works these days. I’m sure he’ll fall on his feet and do well.”  Continue Reading

Posted April 22, 2014

Manchester United fires David Moyes; Ryan Giggs takes over as interim manager

English Premier League, Liviu Bird, Manchester United
David Moyes

David Moyes has been fired by Manchester United less than a full season into his succession of Sir Alex Ferguson. (Martin Rickett/PA Wire/AP)

After what will be Manchester United’s worst season in at least 23 years, the club fired its first-year manager David Moyes on Tuesday. Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor leaves without securing a UEFA Champions League spot for the club for the first time since the creation of the Premier League.

“The Club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role,” the club wrote in a one-sentence statement announcing Moyes’ dismissal.

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Posted April 21, 2014

Orlando City to play one season in Citrus Bowl before moving to its new venue

Brian Straus, MLS, MLS Expansion, New York City FC, Orlando City, USL Pro
Orlando City fans

Orlando City SC fans will spend one season at the Citrus Bowl before cheering on their team at the club’s new downtown stadium. (Alex Menendez/AP)

Like New York City FC, MLS expansion team Orlando City announced Monday that it will play its entire inaugural season in temporary digs. But that’s where the similarity between the league’s 2015 entrants ends.

While NYCFC couldn’t put a timeline on its stay at Yankee Stadium, Orlando insisted that it plans to spend only one year at the renovated Citrus Bowl. In 2016, the club intends to kick off in a new, 18,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium located a few blocks east.

Orlando had hoped to play only half the 2015 campaign at the Citrus Bowl, but a delay in acquiring the remaining piece of land required for the new arena on Church St. forced Monday’s announcement. Continue Reading

Posted April 21, 2014

Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI: Week 7

Liviu Bird, MLS, MLS Best XI
Nick Rimando

Nick Rimando makes a save for RSL in the club’s 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers Saturday. (Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

For the first time in April, the best individual performance of an MLS week didn’t come from Clint Dempsey. This week’s top individual is also a member of the U.S. men’s national team, though, with Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando justifying his repeated call-ups by Jurgen Klinsmann yet again.

Rimando’s role in RSL’s 1-0 win over Portland earned him Best XI recognition during a week in which one player, Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, managed to score multiple goals. But who else made the cut?

Here is the Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI for Week 7:

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Posted April 21, 2014

NYCFC announces plans to play at Yankee Stadium; no timetable given for stay

MLS, MLS Expansion, New York City FC
Yankee Stadium

One rendering of what the soccer field at Yankee Stadium will look like when NYCFC opens play there in 2015. (Courtesy of NYCFC)

NEW YORK – The New York City Football Club will play its inaugural Major League Soccer season at Yankee Stadium in 2015. Beyond that, no one at the 2015 MLS expansion club that is owned by Manchester City Football Club and the New York Yankees is willing to offer much in the way of detail.

“Yankee Stadium is the home of New York City FC until it’s not,” said Yankees President Randy Levine at a press conference held at the Stadium Monday. “If there’s a change we’ll let you know.”

When asked about last week’s New York Times report that NYCFC would play its first three seasons at Yankee Stadium, Levine said no such agreement has been reached. Continue Reading

Posted April 21, 2014

MLS Power Rankings: Week 7

Liviu Bird, MLS, MLS Power Rankings
Ned Grabavoy

RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy (20) scored the game-winner in the club’s 1-0 win over Portland on Saturday. (Steve Conner/Icon SMI)

Major League Soccer’s parity resulted in five ties on Saturday, and four of the other five games were decided by a single goal. The one consistent theme so far this season has been Real Salt Lake’s ability to get results, as RSL is still yet to lose a game.

Dallas, recovering from Clint Dempsey’s shellacking a week earlier, also got back into the win column. As for Dempsey, he played a part in two more goals for Seattle, setting up Obafemi Martins for the game-winner at Chivas USA to continue his hot streak.

New York finally won its first game, leaving just four teams without a win: Chicago, Montreal, San Jose and Portland. Plenty of time remains for those teams to reverse their fortunes, but especially for the Timbers, the trend gets more worrying by the week.

Here are the Planet Fútbol Power Rankings after seven weeks of play:

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