Germany tops Argentina to win World Cup

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Germany tops Argentina to win World Cup

RIO DE JANEIRO -- With two quick touches, Mario Goetze ended Germany's 24-year wait for another World Cup title.

Goetze scored the winning goal in extra time to give Germany a 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday in a tight and tense World Cup final that came down to one piece of individual skill.

Goetze, who wasn't born when West Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 final, controlled a cross with his chest in the 113th minute and in one fluid motion volleyed the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Romero and inside the far post.

It was a goal that gave Germany its fourth World Cup title in its eighth final, and left Argentina star Lionel Messi still walking in the shadow of his compatriot Diego Maradona, who led his country to the 1986 title.

Goetze had come on as a substitute for Miroslav Klose at the end of regulation time and the 22-year-old midfielder's fresh legs made the difference.

Andre Schuerrle broke down the left flank, sending his cross into the area, and the Bayern Munich player did the rest with a clinical finish. The goal echoed that of Andres Iniesta's four years ago, when the midfielder scored in similar fashion but from the other side of the area to give Spain a 1-0 extra time win over the Netherlands.

For Germany, the win ends a string of near misses since winning its last major title at the 1996 European Championship. The team lost the 2002 World Cup final to Brazil and lost in the semifinals in both 2006 and 2010.

It is Germany's first World Cup title as a unified nation. It was also the third World Cup final between these countries and had been billed as a matchup between the perfect team and the perfect individual, pitting Germany's machine-like unit against the brilliance of Messi, the four-time world player of the year.

But in the biggest game of his career, Messi came up short.

He had one good chance to score when he was sent free in the area just after the halftime break, but sent his shot wide of the far post. It was a difficult angle, but still the type of chance he so often scores from.

Messi threatened intermittently throughout the match, but was effectively neutralized for long stretches. When he did try to break forward with one of his quick dribbles, he was surrounded by the German defense.

His free kick in the 120th minute went well high.

When the final whistle blew, Germany players collapsed in a pile in the middle of the pitch, while Messi walked with his hands on his hips toward the center circle.

Up until the winning goal, the game was more notable for top-class defending than creative attacking, but both teams had their share of chances.

Gonzalo Higuain wasted an opportunity by firing wide when gifted a chance in a one-on-one with Neuer, and later had a goal ruled out for offside.

Germany defender Benedikt Hoewedes hit the post just before halftime with a header from a corner, and ineffective finishing plagued both sides the rest of the way.

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

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Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.

Union's 2017 schedule released, includes early challenges

Union's 2017 schedule released, includes early challenges

The Union’s 2017 MLS regular season schedule has been released. 

Like 2016, the start to the Union’s new campaign will be a test. After opening their season at BC Place against the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 5, the Union head home to Talen Energy Stadium on March 11 to host defending Eastern Conference champion Toronto FC in the home opener.

It’s the Union's only home game in their first four matches.

But that’s not the only concern. Following that difficult start, the Union face a five-game gauntlet between April 8 through May 6. Despite hosting four of those five games, the run begins against the Portland Timbers and ends with the New York Red Bulls. In between, the Union take on 2016 playoff sides New York City FC, Montreal Impact and challenge the LA Galaxy on the road.

That difficult stretch is potentially outdone only by a deep summer three-game road swing from July 6-22, in which the Union will visit Sporting Kansas City, the Impact and Columbus Crew.

When it comes to rivalries, the Union visit DC United twice — on April 1 and May 13 — but host the Red Bulls twice, on May 6 and June 18. The Union take on NYCFC only twice in 2017.

On the expansion front, the Union’s first match against a new MLS side happens on Aug. 26, when Atlanta United comes to town. One week later, the Union travel to TCF Bank Stadium to take on Minnesota United, and eventually make the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to visit Atlanta on Sept. 26.

The Union will get to test themselves against the reigning MLS Cup champs, as the Seattle Sounders come to Talen Energy Stadium on Oct. 1. The match will be one of four on ESPN, with one match on FS1.