Lino: Final-day win at Sociedad a big boost for Atletico

By Sports Desk May 25, 2024

Samuel Lino believes Atletico Madrid's final-day victory over Real Sociedad will provide them with a timely boost heading into next season.

Diego Simeone's side ran out 2-0 winners at Reale Arena in their final match of the 2023-24 campaign. Lino opened the scoring after just nine minutes, while Reinildo sealed the points in second-half stoppage time.

However, despite a fourth-place finish in LaLiga, it brought the curtain down on a third successive trophyless season for Atleti, who will finish at least 18 points adrift of champions Real Madrid.

Los Rojiblancos fell to Borussia Dortmund following a 5-4 aggregate defeat in the Champions League quarter-finals, while they were soundly beaten by Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

But Lino, who had his fourth direct goal involvement in three appearances (one goal, three assists), thinks a hard-earned win against their sixth-place opponents - a fourth success in five games - will give him and his team-mates positive momentum to build on next season.

"It was an important victory to finish the season well," he told Movistar Plus. "We were good, focused, played a good game and that's what we wanted.

"Overall, we were not within the club's objectives, but we finished well, and now we have to switch off. A win away from home could help us to come back strong next season."

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    As Jamaica’s senior Reggae Boyz gear up for their highly anticipated Copa America campaign, two players, Michael Hector and Wes Harding, find themselves at different junctures of their international careers. Despite their varied experiences and career timelines, both England-born defenders are eager to leave a significant mark on Jamaica's journey in the tournament.

    Hector has been a stalwart in the Reggae Boyz setup for over a decade in which he paraded his skills at three Concacaf Gold Cup tournaments –2015, 2019, 2021 –and he is now on the cusp of making his third Copa America outing.

    In fact, Hector, known for his versatility and composure, is the only player in Heimir Hallgrimsson’s current squad, who has the privilege of being a part of three Copa America squads over the years.

    “Obviously my first Copa America appearance was my debut and I’ll never forget that. Obviously, massive games, great atmosphere and I don’t get to appreciate it much, but when you’re in a tournament, you obviously know how big it is with the countries that are playing in it, so it is a special tournament to be a part of,” Hector said in an interview with Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) media, on Monday.

    As he reflected on the journey, which has been marked by consistent performances and a deep-rooted commitment to the country, Hector also shared his excitement about their prospects on this occasion.

    The 31-year-old’s leadership and defensive prowess will be crucial for Jamaica, as they rub shoulders with some of the most formidable teams in South America, as well their usual foes from Concacaf. His ability to read the game, coupled with his calm presence on the field, provides the Reggae Boyz with a solid defensive foundation.

    “For me, every cap I got, every time I can have a chance to represent this country, it's an honour and I always try do my best. The journey has been special, but it has not ended. Hopefully, there's a lot more special moments to come, special nights, and special days, but, it's been a fantastic journey, one that I always treasure and want to be a part of for longer,” Hector noted.

    Michael Hector challenges Lionel Messi during the 2015 Copa America.

    Though only two caps into his international career, Harding, like Hector, is determined to play a key role in Jamaica's campaign, aiming to do his teammates and family proud on his long-awaited return.

    “It's amazing to be back. It's been a while, over two years now, so, I’m over the moon. It's been a long, gruelling time waiting, watching from the distance, so, when he [Hallgrimsson] called me, I was really excited," said Harding, who made his debut against Serbia in 2021.

    At 27, Harding, known for his speed and aerial ability, is also rated as a strong, aggressive, and tenacious player, who can contribute to Hallgrimsson’s team in the right back or centre back positions.

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    "It certainly wasn't one of our prettiest games, but we had solutions at times, but not all the time. We were hoping to manage our game a little better in possession, but we were unable to do that. 

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    Meanwhile, Austin are eighth in the Western Conference having suffered a third consecutive defeat as they went down to the Colorado Rapids.

    Austin are winless in their last three games against their opponents, and head coach Josh Wolff expects another difficult encounter on Thursday. 

    "LAFC are one of the best teams in the league," Wolff began. "They have enough weapons, and their attacking players are ruthless and are extremely dangerous.

    "For me they are the best team in the league once again. I think they have so much talent and so much depth which goes a long way in this league. If it's a difficult day, they still have players to make plays. 

    "We have got to do better with our chances. Our key players have to perform and execute."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Austin FC – Sebastian Driussi

    The Austin captain will hope to mark his 100th appearance for the club with a goal, and is currently the top scorer for the Verde and Black's with five goals. 

    LAFC – Mateusz Bogusz

    Mateusz Bogusz has been involved in a goal in six consecutive league matches with four goals and two assists. 

    Only Carlos Vela (11 in 2019-20) has produced more in LAFC history, while only two players (Luciano Acosta - nine, Lionel Messi - eight) have had a longer streak in MLS this season.

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    The Black and Gold's are unbeaten in their last three meetings with Austin scoring at least three goals in each of those triumphs. 

    Austin's last victory over their opponents came in 2022, with the Texas side winning both of their MLS encounters with LAFC that season. 

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    Austin FC - 27.6%

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    The eight-time Olympic gold medalist, who is 37 years old and retired in 2017, suffered the injury while playing in Soccer Aid, a match played annually to raise funds for UNICEF, on June 9 at Stamford Bridge, home of English Premier League club Chelsea FC.

    “Surgery was successful,” said Bolt on social media on Monday.

    Bolt, who has been a regular fixture in the charity game in recent years, was captaining the Soccer Aid World XI against England before going down with the injury early in the second half.

     

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