• The Associated Press

    World Cup, Asian Cup qualifiers postponed to next year

    The Asian Football Confederation has postponed all men's qualifiers scheduled in October and November for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup. The AFC and FIFA issued a joint statement Wednesday saying the delay is to protect the health and safety of all participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestic leagues have resumed in China, South Korea, Japan and Australia but under strict health protocols.

  • Portland beats Orlando 2-1 to claim MLS is Back championship
    The Canadian Press

    Portland beats Orlando 2-1 to claim MLS is Back championship

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Soaked in sweat and doused in water, the Portland Timbers hoisted the MLS is Back trophy at midfield and then headed toward a giant TV screen filled with fans cheering from afar.It was a huge Zoom party. It might just be the way to celebrate championships in 2020.Dario Zuparic’s first goal of the season gave Portland a 2-1 victory against Orlando in Major League Soccer's return tournament finale Tuesday night, capping a month-long event that showed sports can be played safely inside a bubble.“I always think the more difficult the fight is the more beautiful the victory is at the end,” said Portland's Larrys Mabiala, who scored the game's first goal.Orlando was slow to react to Diego Valeri’s corner kick in the 66th minute, allowing Eryk Williamson to collect the ball, change direction and take a shot that Jeremy Ebobisse deflected to Zuparic’s feet. Zuparic didn’t have to do much to get it by Pedro “The Octopus” Gallese, who had made two fantastic saves in the lead-up to the corner kick.The goal started the celebration on Portland's sideline and sent Orlando into panic mode. The Lions had a chance in the closing minutes, but failed to get the equalizer.“It’s a group of players in a lot of pain right now," Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said. "Things didn’t bounce our way. We made a couple of mistakes.”The Timbers, who spent 39 days in the MLS bubble and remained on West Coast time, hugged and danced after the final whistle. They raised the silver trophy while hooting and hollering. But the lasting image will be players and coaches waving at a camera and reaching hundreds back home.It ended a wild month for the MLS, which managed to play 51 matches in 45 days at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.No family. No friends. No fans.But it was by most accounts a rousing success, especially considering how it started. FC Dallas and Nashville were forced to withdraw days before the start because of positive coronavirus tests.Players, coaches and support personnel were tested regularly inside the MLS bubble. The league reported just two positives out of nearly 35,000 tests following the initial setbacks that threatened to derail a tournament that came with a $1.1 million purse.“We just told ourselves we need to make it worth it," Mabiala said, adding that his son has been calling, crying and clamouring for him to come home in recent days.Portland will get $328,000 in prize money to split. The Timbers also earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, their first since 2016.Orlando settled for $150,000 to share.Orlando's appearance in the finale was a surprise considering the team finished 11th out of 12 in the East last season and fired coach James O’Connor. Pareja took over in 2020 and made an immediate impact.Pareja convinced his players, including star Nani, to settle into the bubble several days early. They won the tournament opener, a group-stage victory against Miami, and ended up spending nearly seven weeks quarantined in the bubble.Portland’s experience — the Timbers won the MLS title in 2015 and were runners-up two years ago — showed in the finale.Portland’s first shot on goal found the back of the net. Valeri delivered a perfectly placed free kick into the box that Mabiala headed past Gallese in the 27th minute. It was Valeri’s 93rd assist with the Timbers.But considering Portland has managed just three clean sheets in its last 23 matches, it was no surprise to see a defensive breakdown just a few minutes later.Nani worked the ball down the left side following a turnover and created enough room to get a crosser into the box. Mauricio Pereyra got a foot on the ball and then took advantage of a fallen defender to tie the match.The equalizer came shortly after Portland’s Sebastian Blanco exchanged words with Pareja during a hydration break. Referees stepped between them, and they later apologized and hugged it out.The league resumes its regular season Wednesday night with Dallas playing at Nashville. The league’s 26 teams will play 18 games apiece. A majority of the games will be played without fans because of local regulations. Teams will be subject to a rigorous testing protocol and will use charter flights or buses to limit outside contact.“We have to see if it works,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “If it does, we go through with it. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to adjust.”Mark Long, The Associated Press

  • Portland Timbers top Orlando City to take the MLS is Back Tournament title (video)
    Yahoo Sports

    Portland Timbers top Orlando City to take the MLS is Back Tournament title (video)

    The Portland Timbers beat Orlando City 2-1 on goals from defenders Larrys Mabiala and Dario Zuparicon to take the MLS is Back Tournament title.

  • Ocampos heads Sevilla past Wolves into Europa League semis
    The Canadian Press

    Ocampos heads Sevilla past Wolves into Europa League semis

    DUISBURG, Germany — One missed opportunity was all it took to end Wolverhampton's long European run.Raul Jimenez stepped up to take an early penalty against Sevilla in Tuesday's quarterfinal, just as he'd done to beat Olympiakos in the previous round. This time, though, his shot was too central and saved by Yassine Bounou.Sevilla dominated the rest of the game as Wolves increasingly tired in their 59th game of a long season. A goal seemed inevitable and Lucas Ocampos delivered with a header in the 88th minute to secure a 1-0 win.The loss ended Wolves' best European run since reaching the UEFA Cup final in 1972 — and its chances of qualifying for the Champions League. Sevilla, meanwhile, stayed on course for a record-extending sixth title in the competition. Manchester United is next up in the semifinal Sunday.“We knew we had to work a lot and I think my team has played a great game, exactly the game we expected,” Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui said through a translator. After the penalty save, “we had the control over the game.”Sevilla had 73% possession and seemingly endless second-half set pieces around the Wolves penalty area — so many that the grass around the six-yard box was thoroughly churned up as players jostled for position. They finally broke through when Ocampos met Ever Banega's cross with a glancing header.“I think it's justice, that goal,” Lopetegui said.Wolves forward Adama Traore earlier showed extraordinary pace in his 54th club game of the season to sprint in behind the Sevilla defence, only for Diego Carlos to cut him down with a tackle from behind for the penalty. Jimenez had 27 goals for Wolves in 2019-20 and scored against Olympiakos last week. His shot this time was within easy reach for Bounou, who said he knew Jimenez' penalty-taking style from their time together at Atletico Madrid in 2014-15.“I don’t think we can blame Raul. He’s given us so much this season,” Jimenez' Wolves teammate Leander Dendoncker said.After the penalty, Wolves didn't have another shot on target.Traore's speed has been pivotal in many of Wolves' games this season but it was a non-factor after the opening half-hour and the increasingly weary right-sided forward was later substituted.Wolves had the longest Europa League campaign of any team left in the competition, having started more than a year ago in the first qualifying round with a win over Northern Irish club Crusaders on July 25, 2019.“It’s a long journey. We wanted to go as far as we could. We had it today really, really close. Of course everybody’s disappointed, but we should not ignore all the effort. It’s almost 14 months of hard work," Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo said. “Disappointment is something that cannot take away all the good things that we’ve been doing."Sevilla's semifinal opponent Manchester United beat Copenhagen 1-0 on Monday after extra time. The second semifinal next Monday pits Inter Milan against Shakhtar Donetsk, which beat Basel 4-1 in Tuesday's other quarterfinal.All four semifinalists have already secured places in the 2020-21 Champions League group stage through their national leagues. That means that the group-stage spot allocated to the Europa League winner will pass to Rennes because it finished third in the French league.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsJames Ellingworth, The Associated Press