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Soccer Watch

Debate over the player of the year, and more

Chelsea and Manchester United will still get to play for the FA Cup. But neither one will be there to play for the title they really wanted, the UEFA Champions League. Instead, Liverpool and AC Milan overturned first-leg losses to advance to a rematch of their great 2005 final. The Merseysiders knocked off Chelsea on penalty kicks, after splitting a pair of tense but lackluster 1-0 games. Milan-Man U was easily the better matchup – and the Italians fairly well dominated it, winning 3-0 at home.

So, who's Player of the Year? Conventional wisdom has it between Milan's Kaká and Man U's Cristiano Ronaldo, and Wayne Rooney scored two big goals in this series to put his own name in the hat. But clearly the most important player on the field – for Milan, as he was for Italy in the World Cup – was bulldog midfielder Gennaro "Rino" Gattuso, who controlled the entirety of both games and flat shut down Ronaldo and Man U on Wednesday. Give me one player in the world to be on my team? He's it.

As if the ECL exit weren't bad enough for Chelsea and manager Jose Mourinho – the self-styled "great one" – the Blues also probably lost any real chance of catching Man U for the Premiership title, as a disappointing draw on the weekend left them five points adrift, with just three to play.

Pachuca beat Chivas of Guadalajara on penalty kicks in order to win the CONCACAF Champions League final last Thursday night. They'll represent the Continent in the world club championships later in the year in Tokyo.

The Copa Libertadores round of 16 is kicking off as we go to press. Among the final 16 in the Latin American club championship are five Brazilian squads and three from Mexico. One high-profile team who didn't make it: defending world club champion Internacional of Brazil, who failed to make it out of the group stage.

The Austin Lightning kicks off its 2007 PDL season this weekend in El Paso with a new look, some new faces in the front office and on the field, and a new home field at Burger Center. The home schedule starts next Saturday night, April 12; all games are at 7:30pm.

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