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Without Warning, Fütbol Heats Up

Sebastian+Giovinco+strikes+his+game-winning+free+kick+for+Toronto+against+the+New+York+Red+Bulls.
Sebastian Giovinco strikes his game-winning free kick for Toronto against the New York Red Bulls.

Sebastian Giovinco strikes his game-winning free kick for Toronto against the New York Red Bulls.

Colin Stephenson for MLS.com

Colin Stephenson for MLS.com

Sebastian Giovinco strikes his game-winning free kick for Toronto against the New York Red Bulls.

Lawson Sumler, Reporter

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Just like always, the world of fütbol has proved to be action-packed once again. Europe’s best returned to action and Major League Soccer playoffs kicked off stateside.

Starting with the MLS, favorites Toronto FC eked out a victory over the New York Red Bulls in their series’ first leg, 2-1. Toronto took an early lead after an early Victor Vazquez goal. However, despite their shaky start, the Red Bulls caught a break. A first-half, stoppage time penalty was converted by New York winger Daniel Royer, and the teams were even at the break. The man who Toronto has turned to time and time again finally reared his mighty head. Italian attacker Sebastian Giovinco scored a monster free-kick for the game-winner. The miniscule forward has been a staple of the MLS since 2015, and led his team to victory once again.The second leg will be played in Toronto on Sunday..

Staying with the MLS, we turn to Cascadia for one of the most notable rivalry games in American soccer. American star Clint Dempsey scored a brace of second-half goals late Thursday to lead Seattle past arch-foe Vancouver, 2-0. The Sounders will play the winner of the Portland-Houston series in the next round.

Seattle and the Whitecaps played to a goalless draw Sunday. The Sounders have been a regular in the MLS playoffs for most of the league’s history and play a relatively conservative style of soccer. On the other hand, Vancouver had a breakout season. Manager Carl Robinson is a rising star of U.S. management and crafted an entertaining brand of football for the Canadian side. The combination of high pressing and an active midfield was crucial to Vancouver’s success, but also left the Caps desperately exposed to counter-attacks or quick breaks, illustrated by their finishing with only a plus-1 goal differential in the league.

Turning to Europe, the UEFA Champions League group stages continued.

In an unexpected upset, AS Roma dominated defending British Premier League champion Chelsea, 3-0. Before the game, Chelsea sat atop Group C and needed a victory to advance out of pool play. With this loss, Antonio Conte’s side has dropped to second with only two games remaining. This dip in form came at a terrible time for the Blues as the side meets title rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

French hopefuls Paris Saint-Germain smashed perennial Belgian league winners RSC Anderlecht, 5-0. PSG had contributions from record-breaking forward Neymar and a shock hat trick from left-back Layvin Kurzawa. The 25-year-old Frenchman is the first defender in the modern era to score three goals in a single Champions League game, and the feat represented the first hat trick in Kurzawa’s career. The eyes of the fütbol world are on the young Frenchman’s career and a major move may be in the cards.

Two shocking results also erupted from two giant clubs. FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid suffered draws at the hands of Olympiakos and FK Qarabag, respectively. This is a great result for any team besides FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and fans of both of those clubs should be worried. Every result counts in the Champions League and smaller European clubs show up to give it their all and often times catch bigger clubs in a draw or even a loss. These two results may end up affecting pairings in the knockout stages.

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