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ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer rankings: Week 1

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1. Los Angeles – One defeat does not a rankings-changer make. But you’re on warning, Galaxy! Consider this a good “talking to,” and don’t make us have to re-think things with a second consecutive MLS loss. Meanwhile, important CONCACAF Champions League matters await this week.

2. Real Salt Lake – Are the Galaxy really best in the West? Kyle Beckerman, RSL’s cop on the beat in the Rio Tinto midfield, has a little something to say about that. Delicious! When your side goes into Los Angeles for a smash-and-grab like we saw last weekend (3-1), you get to say these things.

3. Seattle – They’ve got one foot in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, with only this week’s return leg at Santos still in the way. The Sigi Sounders need a tie down in Mexico. It  won’t be easy, but the MLS side should be well rested after being idle in Week 1.

4. Sporting Kansas City – Remember all that stuff about Sporting Kansas City being the class of the East, with too many offensive weapons to contain for very long? Rinse. Repeat. Peter Vermes’ side was in control in the 1-0 win at D.C. United.

5. Colorado – All the talk of new formations (4-3-3), bright coaching debuts (Oscar Pareja) and this concerning head injury to captain Pablo Mastroeni has partially obscured this: right back Kosuke Kimura looked like a world-beater out there, with both assists in the 2-0 season-opening win over Columbus.

6. FC Dallas – The Red Stripes can feel good about downing New York at home, but things are already looking perilously thin, with Brek Shea (Olympic team) out and Fabian Castillo (ankle) perhaps questionable for this week. That’s going to mean Blas Perez will have even more to do in making the Dallas offense go.

7. Houston – The Dynamo finally gets its goal inside the Home Depot Center – just a few months too late. Inside the same stadium where Dominic Kinnear’s men fell last November to the Galaxy in the MLS Cup final, Andrew Hainault’s late game-winner got the Houston season off to a good start against stadium second-citizen Chivas USA.

8. Portland – First half: Meh. Second half: “Hell, yeah!” Three strikes at Jeld-Wen after the break, including one by scoring hope Kris Boyd help take down Philadelphia (3-1) in the league’s Monday night special.

9. Vancouver – Tough to say what to make of the 2-0 win over Montreal. At home. Against an expansion team in its very first MLS contest. It’s a win, for sure, and the Whitecaps’ shape and passing looked good at times. But let’s just consider this “taking care of business” and hold off on bigger pronouncements.

10. San Jose – It wasn’t the prettiest win, and you can debate the true worth of downing a side in high transition. Still, the opening-day triumph over New England will look like just another three points by season’s end, and that’s the most important thing for a management unit that simply must get it right this year.

11. Chicago – Who can possibly enjoy being idle on MLS FirstKick weekend?  It just leaves you hungry.  Probably for Polish deli greatness or Chicago-style hot dogs when we’re talking about matters of Toyota Park. Anyway, the Fire’s season opens this week at Montreal.

12. New York – It’s come to this around the Eastern Conference’s highest profile side: they clearly miss the linking play of Rafa Marquez, who perhaps can keep Thierry Henry from dropping so far back into midfield to collect possession. Up next, a trip into Utah to face Real Salt Lake.

13. Toronto FC – Aron Winter’s men have a big advantage over Los Angeles going into tomorrow’s CONCACAF Champions League second-leg: they had the weekend off, able to rest and recuperate while nine of 11 Galaxy starters from last week’s first leg had to deal with an MLS contest.

14. Philadelphia – Last year started with a 1-0 win at Houston, immediately pushing things in the right direction for Peter Nowak’s men. This year’s reconfigured (and young) squad didn’t get anything close to the same start in a 3-1 loss at Portland. Freddy Adu was awfully quiet for the Union.

15. D.C. United – D.C. United officials are pedaling hard on the “Give us time, we’ll get better” campaign. And that’s fair enough, I guess. But just one, lonely little shot on target in your home opener? And being out-shot overall, 17-7, by Sporting Kanas City in a 1-0 loss? That’s not a great place to start.

16. Columbus – Some nifty work from replacement goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum kept his Crew in the game, but his inability to handle one routine cross was the genesis of an opening goal in the 2-0 loss at Colorado. And the hamstring injury to young midfielder Dilly Duka put another black mark on the season opener.

17. New England – There was some good (Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen off the bench) and some bad (an off night from Shalrie Joseph, a quiet debut from promising rookie Kelyn Rowe) in the road loss to San Jose.

18. Chivas USA – Forced into a makeshift lineup due to a pair of key absences – winger Michael Lahoud (hamstring strain) and center back John Alexander Valencia (quadriceps strain) – the Goats nonetheless offered a touch of promise. But when you can’t score so much as a lone goal at home, you become vulnerable – which is exactly what happened in the 1-0 loss to Houston.

19. Montréal – Using a lineup with too many men better suited as role players or backups, the Impact fell at Vancouver. Things will get better. It takes a while to truly sort out which players can hack it going forward.

CONMEBOL declare Chapecoense as 2016 Copa Sudamericana champions

ADDS NAMES - In this Nov. 2, 2016 photo, players of Brazil's Chapecoense team pose before a Copa Sudamericana soccer match against Argentina's San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Top row from left, goalkeeper Marcos Danilo Padilha, Bruno Rangel Domingues, Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, Cleber Santana Loureiro, Willian Thiago. Bottom row from left, Guilherme Gimenez de Souza, Ananias Eloi Castro Monteiro, Tiago "Tiaguinho" Da Rocha Vieira, Matheus Bitencourt da Silva, Dener Assuncao Braz and Jose "Gil" Gildeixon Clemente de Paiva. A plane carrying the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense team that was on it's way for a Copa Sudamericana final match against Colombia's Atletico Nacional crashed in a mountainous area outside Medellin, Colombian officials said Tuesday, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
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Chapecoense have officially been crowned as the 2016 Copa Sudamericana champions.

The Brazilian Serie A club tragically lost 19 players, plus its head coach and many of its backroom staff and directors in a charter plane crash last Monday in Colombia as Chapecoense traveled to play Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final.

[ MORE: Latest on Chapecoense tragedy ]

In total, 71 of the 77 passengers on board died as the plane was reportedly short on fuel and suffered a complete electrical failure leading it to crash in a mountainous region just south of Medellin, Colombia.

Now, following a request from Atletico Nacional to award the trophy (the South American equivalent of the UEFA Europa League) to Chapecoense, the title has been officially ratified by CONMEBOL, the governing body of soccer in South America.

In a statement on their website, CONMEBOL confirmed that Chapecoense would receive the trophy and “all the honors and prerogatives of the 2016 South American Cup Champion” which go along with it.

CONMBEOL stated that the decision was made after they received a latter on Nov. 30 from Atletico Nacional asking “to hand over the title of the South American Cup to Chapecoense to honor its great loss and to act as a posthumous homage to the victims of the fatal accident.”

The governing body also confirmed that Atletico Nacional had been awarded a “Centennial Conmebol Fair Play award” for their remarkable act of fair play in such tragic circumstances.

Since the tragedy which has shocked the world occurred, the soccer community has come together to honor Chapecoense.

Last Wednesday, on the night the game between Chapecoense and Atletico Nacional should have taken place, fans of Nacional packed the stadium in Colombia and honored the victims in a memorial service and songs. Brazilian soccer has also acted to propose that Chapecoense is immune from relegation from Brazil’s top-flight for three seasons, plus plenty of the biggest clubs in the nation have said they will not charge loan fees for players if Chapecoense needs them.

The team from the small city of Chapeco in southern Brazil was on the verge of its greatest ever week as a club as they had battled up from the fourth-tier of Brazilian soccer in 2009 to the final of a continental tournament in 2016.

Now, they’ve been crowned the champions of the Copa Sudamericana to honor Chapecoense’s players, staff and all of those lost in the tragedy.

Victims in British sex-abuse scandal unite, call for justice

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  An aerial view of Wembley Stadium on November 4, 2009 in London, England. The UK's capital city is home to an population of over 7.5 million people, it has the world's oldest and most extensive underground train network and it's airspace is the busiest of any city.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) The man whose harrowing testimony of being sexually abused by a youth coach sparked an ongoing crisis in English soccer wants to take the issue to a global level.

“I can’t even begin to give you the numbers of people contacting me directly, not just footballers and ex-footballers but members of the public,” Andy Woodward told The Associated Press on Monday. “It’s everywhere.”

If he’s not too weary by the sheer scale of the scandal he helped to uncover, Woodward will fly to New York on Wednesday to speak to an American broadcaster about his 30-year journey from abused youth player to an inspiration to millions.

“I personally know that in America, there are certain things which have potentially happened there,” Woodward said. “It’s just about reaching out to everyone.”

Woodward was the first of a growing list of former soccer players to go public over the past three weeks about the ordeals they went through as youngsters.

The effect has been bigger than they could ever have imagined.

About 450 people have reported incidents of child sexual abuse at soccer clubs to 18 British police forces. A hotline set up by a children’s charity in response to sex abuse claims has taken about 1,000 calls in little more than a week. At least 55 clubs, professional and amateur, have been implicated in the story.

On Saturday, Chelsea – the current leader of the English Premier League and one of the biggest clubs in the country – apologized to a former player who was sexually abused while a member of the club’s youth team and who was paid 50,000 pounds ($77,500) to keep the matter out of the public domain.

The English Football Association, meanwhile, has started an internal review to re-examine its response to convictions of soccer coaches in the 1990s.

All this because Woodward was brave enough, after decades of anguish and soul-searching, to break his silence.

“I have no words for the emotion about how I feel about it all,” Woodward told the AP. “In my stomach, I knew there was a lot more (victims) out there.”

The scandal is sure to get bigger.

On Monday, Woodward and other victims launched an independent trust to support players – and their families – who have suffered from child abuse. The aim of the “Offside Trust” is to create a support network for victims, and establish a united front in the search for justice.

“We can’t let that happen again,” Woodward said at an emotionally charged news conference in Manchester. “We need to let players from this beautiful game we’ve got to be able to be free from (our) horrible experience and go on to be those footballers they are aspiring to be.”

Comments from a lawyer who sat alongside Woodward at the news conference, and who is helping to run the trust, sparked renewed concern about the scope of the scandal.

Ed Smethurst, managing director of law firm Prosperity Law LLP, said he was aware of other cases where soccer clubs have used confidentiality clauses in settlements with victims of sexual abuse. Smethurst also said he knows of people still involved in coaching who victims have spoken about and “certainly need further investigation.”

Woodward and other victims have become like a family. Clearly tense before the news conference, he and fellow victim Steve Walters embraced and nervously sipped water.

Walters – the second person to go public about sexual abuse he suffered as a young player – broke down at one stage, and didn’t want to answer certain questions.

“I’ve had over 50 different players get in touch with me (about abuse they suffered),” Walters told the AP afterward. “Some have been professionals, some are still in the game now, a lot of them have fallen by the wayside.

“There are sad stories that people have turned to drink, had broken relationships, one or two have had mental breakdowns. People don’t realize the mental torture it provides for you.”

Walters said a Belgian player contacted him to speak about his experience of being abused as a youngster, and that he has also spoken to people from Canada, the United States and Australia.

There are two things Walters and the others want to come out of all this.

“We want justice,” Walters said. “And we want our future children, especially those involved in sports, to be protected so something like this can never ever happen to a child again.”

After talks, struggling West Ham to stand by Slaven Bilic

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07:  Manager Slaven Bilic of West Ham United reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Swansea City at the Boleyn Ground, May 7, 2016, London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Slaven Bilic has been given the dreaded vote of confidence by West Ham’s owners…

[ MORE: Chelsea, Man City charged by FA ]

Reports have stated that Bilic has met with Hammers co-owner David Gold and David Sullivan following the 5-1 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday and they believe the Croatian coach can still turn things around. Other reports suggested Bilic could be fired after a dreadful start to his second season in charge of the Hammers.

In simple terms, this is season is a pretty epic sophomore slump for Bilic after he led West Ham to a seventh place finish last season with the Hammers flirting with the top four for most of the campaign.

West Ham currently sit just one point off the relegation zone and have lost three of their last five Premier League games, plus their much-maligned move to the London Stadium has added to the air of negativity engulfing the east London club.

In a statement posted on West Ham’s website, co-owner Sullivan had the following to say

I saw Slaven’s comments after the game and as always he was completely honest with his assessment. Slaven cares passionately about the Football Club and this defeat will be hurting him as much as anyone. I have no doubts that he is doing everything he can to address the situation and everyone is working together to ensure we turn our season around. We cannot forget the amazing job that Slaven did in his first season at the Club.

With a bit more luck he could have taken us into the top four. His passion, commitment and outstanding track record at the highest level were among the many reasons we appointed Slaven in the summer of 2015. Despite what some people have said, there is still a great spirit among the players and everyone is working towards the same objective. We all need to stick together and get behind the team. We are all part of the West Ham United family and in hard times families pull together.

Bilic was bullish following the defeat to Arsenal but he was also honest, questioning the lack of intensity in training from his players since the summer and he acknowledge that he is under pressure to turn things around.

“I am a very positive, open person. I tried to be open and honest here. I am very optimistic. I never give up,” Bilic told the media after the defeat against Arsenal. “I was that kind of a player, I am positive. I can turn this around. Do I enjoy being in this situation? No I don’t enjoy it. Do I feel the pressure? Yeah. But it’s not about the pressure. I don’t want to feel like I do now. Did I do enough last season for West Ham to get some credit? I think I did. At the same time, I’m 48 and I’ve spent all of my life in football. I now how it works in football. Do I like my job? Yes I like it.”

This can go one of two ways for the former West Ham defender. The backing of the owners and chairmen will be a relief to him, yet we will see just how supportive they are between now and early January as a pivotal stretch of games arrive.

After West Ham’s trip to Liverpool this weekend they face four big games against fellow relegation rivals Burnley, Hull City, Swansea City and Leicester City.

Anything other than 9-10 points from the four games against fellow strugglers and it could be goodbye Bilic.

FA charge Man City, Chelsea with failing to control players

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Following the almighty melee which broke out in the closing stages of Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, both clubs have been charged by the FA.

[ MORE: Aguero gets four games ]

Sergio Aguero’s late lunging tackle in David Luiz (which earned the Man City striker a four-game ban) sparked the mass brawl and in the melee which ensued Fernandinho was sent off for pushing and grabbing Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas around the neck as City finished the game with nine men.

The FA also stated that Chelsea’s Fabregas will face no further action for his part in the coming together with Fernandinho, as alternate camera angles appeared to show him hit City’s Brazilian midfielder in the face.

Below is the statement in full from the FA on the brawl, plus Fabregas’ involvement:


Both Manchester City and Chelsea have been charged for failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from provocative behaviour. 

It follows an incident in the 95th minute of the game on Saturday 3 December.

Both clubs have until 6pm on 8 December 2016 to respond to the charge.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas will not face any further action in relation to an incident involving City’s Fernandinho.

Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite referees.

Each referee panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

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