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Manchester United Defeats Chelsea to Open Up Premier League Race

 Ander Herrera scored one goal, set up another and executed the perfect man-marking job on Eden Hazard to set upManchester United’s 2-0 win over Chelsea, which opened up the Premier League title race on Sunday.

United didn’t even need rested top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic to consign the leaders to their fifth league loss of the season, which left them only four points ahead of Tottenham with six games left.

Marcus Rashford — Ibrahimovic’s replacement up front — ran onto Herrera’s through-ball to give United a seventh-minute lead. A constant menace for Chelsea’s defense all game, Rashford ensured that Ibrahimovic wasn’t missed at Old Trafford.

Herrera shadowed Hazard in a tactical plan by United manager Jose Mourinho that limited the effectiveness of Chelsea’s main attacking threat. On a rare occasion he left Hazard’s side, Herrera popped up in Chelsea’s area in the 49th minute to smash a deflected shot high into the net from 18 meters.

The result didn’t

A Night to Remember, Except for the Referee

 Viktor Kassai was probably still walking off the field at the Santiago Bernabeu when someone, somewhere, decided it was time to update his Spanish-language Wikipedia page.

At the end of a brief list of the highlights of what has been a long, distinguished refereeing career — his appointments in European Championships and World Cups, his distinctions in officiating Olympic and Champions League finals — Kassai’s electronic assailant decided a postscript was needed.

“He was also appointed to the quarterfinal of the Champions League between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich,” it read, before describing Kassai as Real’s “best player” and the “game’s MVP.”

“At the end of the game, Florentino Perez, the president of the Madrid team, awarded him a diamond pin, the greatest honor the club offers to referees who help them in big games,” the passage concluded. There followed a brief, bitter explanation for the malicious edit. “And that is how I lost my bet.”

For Barcelona, the End of a Campaign, but Not of an Era

 The 87th minute came and went. The moment when the last miracle began was the point at which any hopes of another were definitively ended.

Barcelona won a free kick. Neymar did not, as he had against Paris St.-Germain last month, fizz it into the top corner. Camp Nou did not roar. AJuventus head cleared it, instead, into the sky once more. The ball came back in. It collided, yet again, with a body clad in black and white.

This was not to be another of those nights. There would be no comeback. Barcelona believed, right until the end, that it was possible. Three goals had come in the dying minutes against P.S.G. last month, after all, so why not against Juventus? If anyone could, then Barcelona could: Lionel Messi and Neymar and Luis Suárez, the finest attack ever assembled, the spearhead of a team that can touch the stars.

This, though, was a step too far; this was too

What to watch in Europe’s main competitions

ENGLAND

The FA Cup semifinals provide a brief break from the title race, but with added spice thanks to the tightening of the pursuit of the Premier League trophy.

Tottenham faces Chelsea in the first semifinal on Saturday having already reduced its London rival’s 13-point league lead to four points in recent weeks.

Chelsea still has some breathing space, with six games remaining to secure the title for the second time in three seasons. Tottenham, though, has an unexpected opportunity of winning the league for the first time since 1961.

For a club that has won only the League Cup twice and the FA Cup in the last 26 years, Tottenham is hungry for silverware. Especially, Mauricio Pochettino to have something to show for the exploits of his vibrant, youthful side.

“To beat Tottenham is a big challenge for everyone. That is very good news for us,” Pochettino said on Thursday. “It means that something is growing up here.”

North London rival Arsenal is going through more difficult times, with some fan groups wanting Arsene Wenger out next month. Sitting sixth in the league, Arsenal can ease the burden on Wenger by

Christine Sinclair sets the tone for Portland Thorns

Following a year of heartbreak and triumph, Christine Sinclair had some time in the off-season to decompress.

Sinclair lost her father just a little more than three months before she led the Canadian national team to a repeat bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Now it’s back to work for the soft-spoken forward, who wants to right last season’s disappointing finish for the Portland Thorns.

“It was probably the longest off-season I’ve had in about six years. Just being able to reflect on the past year, for me it’s been a lot with everything that’s been going on,” she said. “Reaching the podium in Rio was definitely a highlight. Losing in the semifinals here (in Portland) was disappointing. But it’s things like that that motivate you.”

Sinclair and the Thorns opened up the National Women’s Soccer League season last week with a 2-0 victory over the Orlando Pride. Sinclair, known as Sinc to her teammates and fans, scored.

Sinclair, one of the most prolific scorers of all time, has been with Portland since the league got its start in 2013. As a member of the Canadian national team, she was among

Rashford steers Man United into Europa League semifinals

Teenage striker Marcus Rashford enhanced his reputation by stepping up in the absence of the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic to steer Manchester United into the Europa League semifinals with an extra-time winner against Anderlecht.

Showing coolness beyond his years, Rashford deceived two defenders in the penalty area with a Cruyff turn and slotted home a shot in the 107th minute to give United a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

United advanced 3-2 on aggregate to join Lyon, Ajax and Celta Vigo in the last four, after a tension-filled night of quarterfinal second legs in Europe’s second-tier continental club competition.

The Europa League was the competition in which Rashford made his senior breakthrough last season, scoring twice on debut against FC Midtjylland as an 18-year-old unknown. He’s now an England international and one of the hottest prospects in European soccer.

Rashford may have to take on the mantle of being United’s chief striker for the last month of the season after Ibrahimovic hobbled off in the final minutes of normal time after hyperextending his right knee on landing, having chested down a long ball into the area.

The Swedish striker appeared to be in

Stillwater caps perfect season with 2-0 victory to win 2A championship

The Stillwater boys’ soccer team left no doubt Thursday, defeating previously undefeated Wayzata 2-0 in the Class 2A state championship game. Second-half goals from Colman Farrington and Kohei Adams punctuated a special season for No. 1 seed Stillwater (22-0).

With no losses to generate adversity, players stayed focused and hungry by sharing their hopes and dreams for reaching the championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium in a team “Road to the Bank” group text thread.

Along the way, they ascended to No. 1 in the state, No. 4 in the nation and took every team’s best punch. In the end, they became the first Ponies’ team to win a title since the 1995 and 1996 teams.

“It feels awesome,” Farrington said. “It’s been such a long time. It’s awesome to be in the company of legendary teams.”

While Stillwater — 14 shutouts this fall — certainly could defend, assaults on opposing goalkeepers became its identity. The Ponies tallied 91 goals this season, an average of four per game. They scored six goals in both the state tournament quarterfinal and semifinal.

“We defend by going forward,” coach Jake

Penalty kick goal in overtime gives St. Thomas Academy 1A title

Two senior soccer players — St. Thomas Academy defender Devin Kennedy and Northfield goalkeeper Cristian Fuentes-Rivera — stood 12 yards apart in the second overtime of Thursday’s championship with a potential game-winning penalty shot at stake and so much on their minds.

Kennedy ultimately fired the ball low to the left. Fuentes-Rivera dived not quite far enough in pursuit. The goal gave the No. 3 seed Cadets (18-4) a 1-0 victory and the program’s first Class 1A state soccer title.

The Cadets’ Logan Davis drew the decisive penalty kick by getting fouled inside the 18-yard box. Before their showdown on the U.S. Bank Stadium turf, both Kennedy and Fuentes-Rivera spent time in their own heads.

“Amanuel [Bird] came up to me right before and said, ‘Are you sure you got it? Do you want me to take this?’ ” Kennedy said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it. I’ve done it in practice. Let’s do it.’ ”

Fuentes-Rivera, on the winning side of penalty kick shootouts in two previous playoff games, also felt certain.

“I’m good at PKs; I’m the best goalie in the state,” said Fuentes-Rivera, so confident that he actually made Kennedy doubt himself

Soccer (Football)

The sport of soccer (called football in most of the world) is considered to be the world’s most popular sport. In soccer there are two teams of eleven players. Soccer is played on a large grass field with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to get the soccer ball into the opposing team’s goal.

The key to soccer is that, with the exception of the goalie, players cannot touch the ball with their hands, they can only kick, knee, or head the ball to advance it or score a goal. Soccer is played at all levels throughout the world from small kids leagues to professional and international teams. Perhaps the most famous soccer tournament is the World Cup.

Held every four years, the World Cup is a soccer competition among countries and is one of the most watched events in the world. One of the reasons soccer is so popular is that it really only takes a ball and a flat open area to play. Kids throughout the world will make up fields and goals just about anywhere and start playing the game.

The game is also fun and competitive. Soccer is a great form of exercise as

COACH / DAD WHILE CRUCIAL TO YOUTH SPORTS

In the nine years Walter Berry served on the Homewood youth baseball board of directors, he heard one complaint more than any other – favoritism by the coach toward one player. That player? The coach’s kid. “It’s almost the only complaint we ever got,” Berry said.” ‘Coach So-and-so starts his son at pitcher or shortstop every game. He’s not a very good player, and we’re losing games because the coach has visions of stardom for little Todd.

” Mitchell McElroy, on the other hand, recalls getting no favored status on an Irondale soccer team coached by his father, Mark, several years ago. Just the opposite, in fact. “It was real important for him to avoid that at all costs,” the younger McElroy said. “It became a running joke – that it was a whole lot better to be anyone but me on that particular team. The first person that he looked to when he was about to get on somebody was me. “Berry and McElroy present two examples of the sometimes difficult dynamics that occur when parents coach their children in youth sports. That circumstance can be found on almost every team as youth baseball and softball

Building Real Confidence

Confidence and self-esteem are important for every player to have in order to be successful on and off the soccer field. As coaches and parents, one of our goals is help develop both of these in players over the course of their childhood to help them be prepared for the real world when they are off on their own to face the challenges ahead. Confidence and self-esteem help people deal with adversity by being able to make thoughtful decisions in difficult situations that are aligned with their core values. It helps people stay the course in pursuit of their goals while others tell them it cannot be done or they are doomed to fail.

Confidence and self-esteem prevent people from quitting too early. The importance of these traits in a person cannot be stressed enough. With that said, we need to be very careful in how we try to develop confidence and self-esteem in kids as they grow up. Too often, we are too focused on making kids feel confident and have self-esteem through artificial means versus developing the skills that are the foundation that confidence and self-esteem are built upon. By Tony Earp Director of Super

Mexican players finding comfort, success in Portugal

When Mexican national team players began streaming into Europe a decade ago, most landed in the predictable places: The English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.

But in the last five years, Portugal’s Primeira Liga has emerged as a popular destination. Of the 11 European-based players called up by Mexico for this week’s World Cup qualifiers, three are with Portuguese clubs.

And that number could soon be growing.

“Portugal is a good environment to avoid a big cultural and football clash for a player coming from southern or Central America,” said Fernando Gomes, a legendary Porto player and now the scouting director for the club, home to four Mexicans. “The quality of the players, mixed with the characteristics of FC Porto, can produce a good mix for Mexican players.”

The best example of that may be midfielder Hector Herrera. After two years with Pachuca in the Mexican league he jumped, at 23, to Porto, where he was named team captain en route to playing in four straight Champions League tournaments.

“One of my goals as a player has always been to

Bruce Arena reaching for the moon with call for a World Cup

Bruce Arena believes the U.S. will be doing more than just hosting the World Cup in 2026. In nine years, Arena says, the country could also be competing to win soccer’s biggest prize.

“I think 2026 will be the time where we are going to start talking about winning a World Cup,” he said.

Stranger things have happened in shorter periods. It was eight years between President Kennedy committing to put a man on the moon and the Eagle landing at Tranquility Base. Winning a World Cup should be a piece of cake compared to that.

Arena didn’t get into specifics of how that would happen, but then big-picture guys rarely do. Their job is to set the goal and provide the inspiration. It’s up to others to work out the details.

“Think about where we are going to be in nine more years,” Arena said. “Think about where we were in 1994, ’98. Keep going and think about where we will be with eight or nine more years in our league, eight or nine more years of players developing all over the world and

FanDuel Fantasy Soccer: UCL Quarterfinal Targets

MATCHES (EDT)

Tuesday, 2:45 p.m: Borussia Dortmund v. Monaco
Tuesday, 2:45 p.m: Juventus v. Barcelona
Wednesday, 2:45 p.m: Atletico Madrid v. Leicester City
Wednesday, 2:45 p.m: Bayern Munich v. Real Madrid

PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS

GOALKEEPER

Marc Andre ter-Stegen, BAR at JUV ($6,800): Ter-Stegen’s price seems a bit high, but he’s actually the second-cheapest expected starting goalkeeper, as long as Manuel Neuer($7,400) returns from his foot injury and starts ahead of Sven Ulreich ($5,800). The matchup against Juventus in Turin isn’t the easiest, but the Italian giants actually have the lowest expected goal total among the home teams, which means the odds of ter-Stegen getting lit up and not making enough saves to compensate is low. With so many great high-priced options on the slate, saving where you can will be key.

DEFENDER

Nacho, RMD at BYM ($5,700): Nacho is expected to start in place of the injured Raphael Varane (thigh) and Pepe (ribs), and he should get plenty of opportunities for clearances, blocked shots and interceptions while trying to slow down a Bayern attack that is at full throttle of late. He may not have the highest upside, but his price certainly helps fit in some of the starts of the slate.

Jerome Boateng, BYM v.

Gunmen Kill Soccer Player in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia — Angry at Colombia’s elimination from the World Cup soccer tournament, gunmen Saturday shot and killed Andres Escobar, the player who accidentally scored a goal against his own side in a match with the United States and helped seal the team’s fate, police said.

Escobar, 27, was shot to death outside a restaurant in Medellin barely 48 hours after returning home from Los Angeles, where Colombia fell 2-1 to the United States on June 22.

The unidentified gunmen confronted Escobar around 3 a.m., and one said, “Thanks for the auto-goal,” a witness told local radio stations. Then, the men opened fire, shooting Escobar 12 times as the group shouted “goal” after each shot. The gunmen then fled in two vehicles.

Drug traffickers reportedly lost millions of dollars in bets on the Colombian team, which went into the World Cup a favorite but performed miserably. Police said they suspected disgruntled bettors may have ordered Escobar’s murder.

One group of bettors is said to have lost $10 million on Colombia’s upset loss to the U.S. team, and an anonymous group called the television news program QAP last week threatening revenge.

The Colombian team

La Liga Gets Tough on Piracy of Its Content

La Liga needs every possible source of income to compete financially with the Premier League. So it is taking its rivalry with the mighty English organization online by starting a campaign to crack down on illegal streaming of games.

Studies indicate that digital piracy robs Spanish soccer of nearly $186 million each season, keeping it from profiting fully from clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona and players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

La Liga is using a proprietary tool to monitor the internet and has deployed a group of “online guards” to denounce illegal broadcasts of games. It also gets help from Google, Facebook and Twitter in finding, and blocking, unauthorized streaming of its matches.

It works with the authorities to have those caught stealing its content arrested, and it seeks to prosecute them in court.

The league’s latest antipiracy campaign — titled “When piracy appears, football disappears” — was recently introduced in several countries where its games are broadcast. It displays game highlights and players being gradually blocked out by black images.

Is Paulo Dybala the Next Lionel Messi? ‘He Can Go as High as He Likes’

As soon as the tears started to come, Paulo Dybala buried his face into his jersey. Lionel Messi tried to offer an arm around the shoulder as he trudged, bereft, from the field; so, too, did Angel Di Maria. For a few seconds, the defender Emmanuel Mas stopped Dybala in his tracks, swaddling him in a tender, consoling hug.

All to no avail: As Dybala would say later, his anguish was too intense for solace. All his life, he had dreamed of representing his homeland, Argentina. On Sept. 1, in a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in Mendoza, Argentina, he was given his first start. Forty-five minutes later, he was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. His dismay and his disappointment, he said, “overwhelmed” him.

It was only once he was back in the sanctuary of the dressing room that he stopped crying. But it was another hour or so before he could muster a smile, and even then only after the intervention of Marcelo D’Andrea, the team masseur known to all of the Argentine national team as “Daddy.”

Mexico and Canada Likely to Affirm Joint World Cup Bid

Top soccer officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada have scheduled what they billed as a “historic announcement” for Monday in New York — the clearest indication yet that the countries will mount a joint bid to host an expanded 48-team World Cup in 2026.

For several years, plans for a joint bid have been the worst-kept secret in Concacaf, the regional confederation to which all three nations belong. The United States lost out to Qatar in bidding for the 2022 tournament when that vote was taken in 2010, and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has worked tirelessly in the years since to cultivate the support and the personal relationships inside FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, to bring the event back to the United States.

The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994, a 24-team tournament that still holds the tournament’s attendance record (just over 3.5 million), despite a later expansion of the field to 32 teams.

The tournament will expand again for 2026, to 48 teams, under a plan approved by FIFA’s governing council in

The Apps That Make Keeping Up With Soccer Easier

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Rory Smith, chief soccer correspondent for The Times, who is based in Manchester, England, discussed the tech he’s using.

As a soccer reporter, you must be savvy about video-streaming apps and gear like antennas. What are your favorite tools for staying on the ball, so to speak?

The ones I use the most are Virgin Anywhere and Sky Sports Mobile TV, the two official apps from the two major cable networks in the U.K. Sky holds the rights to most Premier League games; subscribing to Virgin means I can watch the rest of the major European leagues, too.

I have friends, more technologically minded than me, who prefer streaming matches through a Kodi box (a set-top device that runs an open-source media app that can be used to stream pirated content, including illegal sports streams). I can see why they’re tempted: The cost of subscriptions is considerable. I can justify it — to my wife, and to myself — as

How West Ham’s Transfer Scandal Upended English Soccer

Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s chief executive, was in a hurry as he took a cab to West Ham’s Upton Park stadium in a scruffy part of East London in the first week of September 2006. The club had its heyday in the 1960s, when it produced a string of talented young players. It was in the era before the transfer market took off, when commercialism had yet to take hold in the game. In 1964, the club’s manager, Ron Greenwood, had wrapped the F.A. Cup trophy in cloth and taken it home on a London Tube train after the Hammers had beaten Preston North End in the final. Two years later, three members of his team — Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters — helped England win the World Cup, snapping the dominance of Pelé and Brazil.

However, West Ham had dropped out of the Premier League in 2003, the same year that Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and — although it returned two years later and continued to produce talented players — it did not have the financial clout to compete with the biggest